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Itinerary help with Slovenia and Croatia

Hello all, my spouse and I will be traveling from Madrid to Slovenia/Croatia this September. Currently our possible itinerary is this:
1. Fly from Madrid to Zagreb. Spend 2 nights in Zagreb
2. Rent a car and drive to Slovenia. Base in Ljubljana for potentially 4 nights with day trips to:
Lake Bled, Italian alps, Postojna caves. Is this about the right time frame for this?
3. Drive to Piran or Rovina (have read mixed reviews of each of these). Spend one night and then go to Plitvice in time to do part of the park on the afternoon (is this realistic?)
4. Spend the night in Plitvice area, finish the park in the AM and drive to Split. Return rental car. 1-2 nights in Split ( 2 if we do a day trip to Hvar).
5. Dubrovnik for 3-4 nights (depending on #4 above. Day trip to Montenegro. Is this too much time?
6. This is where it gets especially tricky. We would like to from Dubrovnik to Sarajevo and spend 2-3 nights there before flying to Vienna. Best way to get to Sarajevo?
7. Vienna for 3 nights before flying home to the USA
Thanks for any advice, insights you can share

Posted by
404 posts

I'm doing much of the same trip (in a different order) this summer. I think #1-2 are fine. 1 night in Piran is probably enough if you choose that, but there's a lot to in Istria around Rovinj. I'm basing myself there for 3 nights to see all the little towns in the area. I think you will want 2 nights in Split, whether or not you go to Hvar (which is well worth it). 3 nights is plenty in Dubrovnik, it's a tiny little town and unless you do trips out to the nearby islands or go to Kotor, more is not really worth your time. I'll let others comment on how to get to Sarajevo, since I've not done that. 3 nights is pretty short for Vienna, but if that's the time you have, you will be able to fill it easily with lots of stuff to do. Slovenia and Croatia are gorgeous, you're going to love this trip!!

Posted by
902 posts

I’m not sure Piran or Rovinj is worth it for just the night. They’re both out of the way from the rest of the trip, and since you’re heading to the coast later I would just put that night there. Or if you’re dead set on all these day trips in Slovenia, add that night to Ljubljana or spend a night in Bled.

I like 2 nights in Split and 3 in Dubrovnik. September is out of season, but both cities will be active and enjoyable. Personally, I would skip Kotor only because your itinerary feels really busy, and just slowing down for a minute in Dubrovnik sounds right.

All things being equal, I would look into a flight to Sarajevo. I would take the expense over the time/comfort factor of ground transportation. Dubrovnik airport is small and easy to get to.

Posted by
14 posts

Thanks for your help Bill and awrzesinski. We appreciate your advice! We will probably shorten our nights in Dubrovnik. We will look into flying to Sarajevo. That makes a lot of sense, considering the time and distance.
We are trying to sort out how best to use our days in Slovenia. Is it best to stay in Lake Bled to do the Julian Alps or can we do lake Bled and Julian Alps together in one day trip from Ljubljana? From what I have read, it sounds like Lake Bled can be done in a fairly short period of time. The Julian alps drive will take us at least five hours plus stops.

Posted by
831 posts

I would have to disagree with one of the previous posters. September is no longer "out of season". During our visit this past September, both Slovenia and Croatia were very crowded with tourists. Restaurants were packed, as were attractions. You may also want to check your dates to determine how many cruise ships will be in port when you are there.

As far as your suggested itinerary... I would drop Piran, in my view it is out of your way, and one night would not be enough time to see it. Full disclosure, we did not visit Zagreb or Postojna Caves, so I can not speak to that. If you want to minimize packing/unpacking and moving hotels, then you could base yourself in Ljubljana and do day trips. I do not think that 1/2 day in Bled is enough, so my suggestion is one day there. (hike to the castle, pletna boat to the Church of the Assumption & walk around the lake) Another day trip could be to see the Julian Alps and the Soca Valley. Leave LJU and drive the Vrsic Pass to Soca, (stop at the Church of St. Joseph with its WW1 cemetery) and you will also be close to the beautiful Triglav National Park. You could also visit the wonderful WWI Museum in Kobarid. Rick's book gives an in-depth description of the Vrsic Pass drive and the stops along the way. If you are lucky, the beautiful Russian Orthodox Chapel will be open, and a charming, local gentleman will explain its history.

For your stay in Plitvice, I can recommend Zrinka House which you can find on Booking.com It is one of the nicest B&Bs in all of our travels. Zrinka and her daughter, Barbara have mastered the art of hospitality. Their breakfast is delicious, and they will pack you a lunch for the following day. When we visited Plitvice, the tickets were timed entry, so be sure to check if that is still the case. Forewarning also, that the roads to and from Plitvice are heavily monitored by police and radar, so stay mindful of your speed. You may also want to ensure that the rental car company will allow you to travel from Croatia to Slovenia. Some of them have restrictions about crossing country borders.

As to visiting Montenegro and traveling to Sarajevo, I can highly recommend Petar Vlasic who owns Dubrovnik Riviera Tours. He is a terrific guide, and he conducts tours and transfers to both places. https://www.dubrovnikrivieratours.com/category/tours/
Another option for Dubrovnik to Sarajevo would be to contact My Day Trip https://daytrip.com/all-routes We have used them several times on our travels. Drivers are prompt with clean, comfortable vehicles. The earlier you book with them, the better price you will receive, and their cancellation policy is good. They will send you an email a few days ahead with a photo of the driver, and he will text you the morning of pick up. Their transportation is door-to-door.

How do you plan to get from Split to Dubrovnik? Enjoy your trip!

Posted by
14 posts

Thanks for all the good information. So much to think thru so this does help. I am not surprised to hear it was crowded last September but it is good to have that confirmed so we can be ready for that. Unfortunately we cannot go later in the fall. We will definitely try to book at Zrinka house- hopefully it will be available.
As far as getting from Split to Dubrovnik, I am rethinking returning the car at Split and instead keeping it and driving to Dubrovnik and returning it there. if you have other suggestions, I would appreciate it.

Posted by
261 posts

Brownbin:
We had 3+ weeks in Croatia & Slovenia - and that was not enough! However, you do what you can. My suggestions are: 2 nights in Zagreb; drive to Ljublijana & stay 2 nights; one night in Lake Bled (include Vintgar Gorge); drive over Julian Alps (you will stop many times); one night in Kobarid (WW1 museum & Italian Mausoleum); one night near Post. or Skocjan caves; cave next morning then drive to Plitvice (if time, go into Park that afternoon); Park (again) in morning. Then Split, Hvar (ferry to/from Drvnek), Dubrovnik or where you wish. Keep the car 'til Dubrovnik - taxi or bus to airport easy. Add days where you want as it will be worth it no matter where. Dubrovnik is interesting - best to do most sightseeing in early morn and enjoy the lively & lovely evening scene later. During the day wander town away from the Stradun or relax in a cafe. To mix the reviews further, we enjoyed Rovinj enough to want to return.

Posted by
831 posts

I would advise that you walk the walls in Dubrovnik as soon as they open in the morning. This will help to avoid the crowds and you will be there before the heat of the day. Last September, temps reached the high 80s. You may consider taking a late afternoon cable car to Mount Srd where you can visit the Homeland War Museum and then enjoy a gorgeous sunset. If there is a particular restaurant in Dubrovnik that interests you, then reservations would be prudent.

Posted by
14 posts

Thank you Larry 42 and Travel Bug 79
What were your highlights over your time in Slovenia and Croatia? Larry- what about Rovinj made you want to go back?
Ideally it would be wonderful to have a totally flexible schedule for this portion of our trip. But with these being popular destinations it doesn’t seem wise not to have our hotel accommodations booked quite a bit ahead of time.

Posted by
3913 posts

I agree that Rovinj is not worth the trouble to get to for one night. If you want to add another coastal town, you could stop in Šibenik before getting to Split. Or, add a night or 2 to Split and visit the lovely, small town of Trogir for a day.
You could also take the ferry from Split to Korčula for 2 nights then ferry to Dubrovnik.

Posted by
261 posts

Brownbin:
We enjoyed most everything we saw, did or tasted in both countries - some things more than others. *** Plitvice even in the drizzle! Vintgar Gorge near Lake Bled. Dubrovnik especially evenings. Julian Alps and Soca Valley (including WW1 places). Rovinj - we appreciate fresh sea food well prepared, the truffle stuff, and walkable picturesque old town. Hvar island & town ( +pasticada at Cafe Alviz). Lots of other places also. And everywhere, the people - they were initially a bit reserved (probably from years of Tito) but usually opened up after we expressed interest in their lives. If we didn't have so many new places to see in the world, we would have already been back. We didn't have time to see or do it all. But that is likely true all over. I almost forgot - all the colorful shoe stores in Zagreb near Jelicac Square. A local shoe fetish?

Posted by
831 posts

Brownbin...Our highlights in Slovenia were driving the Vrsic Pass, the WWI sites in the Soca Valley, the museum in Kobarid and light hiking in the Triglav National Forest. (look for the "Bear's Head" rock if you hike)

In Croatia, we absolutely loved the time spent in Korcula. We stayed in an amazing apartment that overlooked the harbor. Our hosts were terrific to the point, that we had a very difficult time leaving. On Korcula, you can take the hop on/hop off water taxi to the islands of Badija and Vrnik, as well as to Lumbarda on the opposite side of the island. An evening spent watching the Moreska Sword Dance was also great fun. Aterina was a delightful place for dinner! For a variety of reasons, we were not big fans of Split, so IMO you could cut that from your itinerary. You may want to entertain the idea of dropping off the car in Split, and immediately taking the ferry to Korcula. After a few days there, you could ferry to Dubrovnik. One of the ferries will take you directly to Dubrovnik. The other is a very short ride from Korcula to Orebic. Once in Orebic you can do a tour of the Peljesac Wine Peninsula on your way to Dubrovnik. We did this going in the opposite direction with Petar Vlasic. (see my previous post with his information) While in Dubrovnik we thoroughly enjoyed dining at Tavulin and Lucin Kantun; reservations suggested. Conversely, our evening at Zuzori was terrible; rude, arrogant, poor service and overpriced food.

If you do not have your accommodations reserved for this trip, I would advise that you complete these ASAP. The better places will book up quickly. Enjoy your advantures!

Posted by
14 posts

Thanks so much for your replies! So helpful and informative. We do need to book ASAP!

Posted by
442 posts

We started in Ljublijana with no car, then rented a car to drive to Lake Bled, vrsic pass and spent two nights in Kobarid to see the WW1 museum and take a whitewater kayaking lesson. We returned the car to Ljublijana and took the train to Rijeka where we rented a car for 10 days spending 2 nights in Rovinj which we loved, to visit the hill towns. Being in Rovinj for dinner and at night is quite magical, but I agree that just one night may not be worth the drive. We went on to spend a night at Plitvice, visiting one afternoon and one morning which is perfect. Then Split (2 nights), Dubrovnik (2 nights including a bike tour and a kayak trip, so that was plenty of time there), Mostar (1 night), and Kotor (2 nights so we could take a boat to the island and relax - it's also lovely at night). We returned the car and few out of Dubrovnik to Vienna. This had the advantage of renting and returning the car in Croatia instead of doing a second country return since we didn't start in Zagreb. But, it meant we had to pay to park the car in Split, Dubrovnik and Kotor where we didn't need it once we were there. The rental price with a wifi hotspot was pretty cheap and it was the best way we could find to do the trip.

I can't help with the travel to Sarajevo, but your trip sounds great.

Posted by
14 posts

Thanks for sharing- it is so good to hear from those who have travelled there and get good advice!