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Now the nitty gritty - help, plse.

Hello, All. Many thanks to those of you who helped me begin to make sense of travelling in two countries I wasn't familiar with, but thought looked wonderful. Using your feedback I think I have a good order to the trip, but please let me know if the order of travel could improve still. Also, you can see that I'm beginning to flesh out the details now so I'll know if what I want to do is possible. (And my husband really appreciates it when there actually IS a hotel, train, plane, ferry.... oh, and a plan :-) I would value your input on the "Day of Departure Logistics" for each location and recommendations are certainly welcome for my other categories: Lodging, Activities, and Notable Places to Eat. I'm still researching because I love this stuff, but I know it's wise to go to those who have already been where I plan to travel. Thanks, All!

Slovenia / Croatia Summer 2019

June 1: Fly ATL to LJU

Ljubljana, Slovenia (3 nights)
Lodging:
Activities:
June 2 –
June 3 -
June 4 –
Notable places to eat:
Departure Day Logistics:
June 5 - Pick up rental car (AutoEurope or Sixt) at LJU bus/train station / Drive to Skofja Loka for brief visit; Continue to Bled via the scenic route through Drazgose, Jamnik, and Kropa / Check into hotel

Bled, Slovenia (2 nights)
Lodging:
Activities:
June 5 – Lake Bled activities
June 6 – Day trip to Lake Bohinj
Notable places to eat:
Departure Day Logistics:
June 7 – Drive to Kobarid (Soca Valley) via the Vrsic Pass (Julian Alps) / check into hotel

Kobarid, Slovenia (1 night)
Lodging:
Activities:
June 7 – list specific activities/hikes
Notable places to eat:
Departure Day Logistics:
June 8 – Drive to Portoroz to drop off rental car; On the way take the 11:00ish AM tour of Skocjan Caves and visit Piran / Take bus to Rovinj / Check into hotel

Rovinj, Croatia (3 nights)
Lodging:
Activities:
Notable places to eat:
June 8 – Enjoy Rovinj
June 9 – Pick up and rental car and visit Motovun and Groznjan (others on this day?)

June 10 – Drive to Pula to see Roman ruins...
Departure Day Logistics:
June 11 – Drive to Plitvice Lakes National Park and check into hotel/soba

Plitvice Lakes National Park (1 night)
Lodging:
Activities:
June 11 - Hike
Notable places to eat:
Departure Day Logistics
June 12 – Take an early morning hike then drive to Split; return rental car (add drop off location with phone number and address); check into hotel/soba

Split (2 nights)
Lodging:
Activities:
June 11 -
June 12 -
Notable places to eat:
Departure Day Logistics:
June 13 – Take ferry to Hvar/Korcula; check into hotel/soba (fill in the details)

Hvar/Korcula (2 nights)
Lodging:
Activities:
June 13 -
June 14 –
Notable places to eat:
Departure Day Logistics:
June 15 – Take ferry to Dubrovnik; check into hotel/soba (fill in the details)

Dubrovnik (3 nights)
Lodging:
Activities:
June 15 -
June 16 -
June 17 -
Notable places to eat:
Departure Day Logistics:
June 18 – Fly EasyJet from DBV to MXP; Stay in hotel near Milan airport

June 19 – MXP to ATL

Posted by Andrew H.
Portland, Oregon
3235 posts

Looks fine to me. I assume you are making assumptions about flights given that it's almost a year out. Not sure there will be an easyJet flight next June 18 right?

Did you find a good flight directly into Ljubljana or is that just a place holder until you find a flight that works?

I'm not sure about the connection from Portoroz to Rovinj. I doubt you'll manage by public bus especially if you plan to stop in Piran etc. on the way down. Maybe you'll use someone like GoOpti?

Posted by mcalico OP
59 posts

Thanks, Andrew. Still some work to do.

These dates are not fixed, but they give structure to a developing plan in the time frame my husband and I'd like to travel. Just putting in some random dates at the moment to compare airfare, I didn't see a big price difference flying direct from Atlanta to Ljubljana. If that ends up not being the case, I may have to consider flying into Milan, Venice, or Munich. Perhaps you have some thoughts on this. This summer EasyJet has some perfect flights from DBV into Rome or Milan so I'm expecting that will be the case next summer. Milan is especially reasonable and my husband and I could take the nonstop flight to ATL the next morning. Getting to Rovinj seems tricky. I thought about staying one night in Piran, but decided 3 nights in Rovinj made more sense. I think GoOpti runs that route. Please enlighten me if there's a better way to drop off one car in Istria and pick up another. Independent travel is great fun but the logistics can really be tough, sometimes.

Posted by Lola
Seattle, WA
9761 posts

I can highly recommend Apartments Meščanka in Ljubljana. We had the second-floor deluxe studio and it was large, bright, and comfortable. You cannot really see our the slanted roof windows, but that was OK. The first-floor studios with river view overlook the riverfront cafes and promenade, and can be rather noisy at night.

https://www.mescanka.si

At Bled, we stayed at Penzion Kaps for three nights. It was lovely, friendly, comfortable, and very inexpensive. We made use of the free bikes to ride to Vintgar Gorge and back. People who drive there may find the parking lot full.

Posted by Andrew H.
Portland, Oregon
3235 posts

You'll just have to choose the best flights available on the dates you want to fly. I have twice flown into Venice to get to Ljubljana, because that worked best for me. I'd definitely fly right into Ljubljana if that gave me shortest travel time and/or fewest connections - so far it never has from where I was starting out.

Posted by mcalico OP
59 posts

Thanks, Lola. That is very helpful information. Thanks for sharing the hotel/sobe links and both places look great...especially the place in LBJ. I always like to ask about hotels/sobe/AirBnBs because some really stand out and others simply do not.

Andrew, I'm curious...when you fly into Venice, what's your next step? GoOpti to Ljubljana? My husband and I may add an Italy piece on the front, or back, end of this trip. Not sure yet if it will be doable . We haven't seen the Italian lakes, or the Amalfi coast, and we love the Tuscan/Umbrian countryside (and those agriturismo meals!!).

Posted by acraven
Washington DC
10386 posts

I agree that the Kobarid-to-Rovinj day looks tough, but Rome2Rio.com suggests some bus possibilities, so perhaps I'm being unduly pessimistic.

I enjoyed a couple of street markets in Ljubljana. Both were near the river, but on oposite sides. I believe both fell on the weekend, but probably different days. One was more craft-y; the other, more art-y.

I skipped Pula (which doesn't exactly get ringing endorsements from the people who've been there) and instead visited the touristy but worthwhile Porec, which is full of colorful buildings (physically very different from Rovinj). I stopped in the little village of Vrsar on the way and found it blissfully quiet; I may have been lucky with my timing. I was using buses and am not sure about the parking situation in Porec. I wished for a paper map of the town; I had trouble finding my way back to the bus sfation on foot.

I saw a zip line somewhere in the Istrian interior, probably in Pazin. That city (the administrative capital of the area) also has a small ethnography museum.

Istria is known for its truffles, and there's at least one winery.

I'd be nervous about flying back to Italy the day before my transatlantic flight from a small place like Dubrovnik, which I'm guessing doesn't have that many flights to Italy.

Posted by mcalico OP
59 posts

Thanks for your input, acreven. I think the Kobarid to Rovinj day looks a bit rough, too. How might I rework that? I had read that some others wished they had allowed an overnight stay in the Soca Valley because it was so beautiful. That's what I was trying to accomplish. Is that why most people seem to start in Bled or LJU and loop back to LJU.... so that when they leave for Istria it wouldn't be such a logistical challenge?

Porec sounds nice. I'll have to add that. I'll have to look up Vrsar because I'm unfamiliar. I didn't think Pula sounded that great except the Roman ruins intrigued me. May not be much after touring Rome.

Lastly, Is there a better way to get from Dubrovnik to Atlanta? Should I pad my flight out of Dubrovnik by a day just in case something goes awry or that I should fly from elsewhere (not Dubrovnik) to elsewhere (not Italy)? I know it's good to explore such things because things can happen.

Posted by Andrew H.
Portland, Oregon
3235 posts

Thanks, Lola. That is very helpful information. Thanks for sharing the hotel/sobe links and both places look great...especially the place in LBJ. I always like to ask about hotels/sobe/AirBnBs because some really stand out and others simply do not.

Ljubljana is pretty compact. As long as you stay somewhat close to the center (near Preseren Square and the triple bridge), doesn't matter a whole lot where you stay - though if you are picking up a car at the Ljubljana train station, you may want to stay closer to that like to the north side of Preseren Square - or just plan on taking a taxi or something.

Andrew, I'm curious...when you fly into Venice, what's your next step? GoOpti to Ljubljana?

All depends. There are several ways to do it. GoOpti (heard great things, never used them myself) is a "shared transfer" service (private transfers are much more expensive), so when they pick you up, you will probably share a van with other passengers. They try to group you together based on your desired pick-up (or drop-off) time, but to get the best price you have to give them a window of several hours. You find out your exact pick-up time the day before, when they can coordinate everyone. If your flight arrives at say 9am, maybe you choose 10am for pick-up - but it may not be til 1PM (which you won't find out until the day before). Or, it could be 10am - and your flight might arrive late. (GoOpti has some sort of "guarantee for flight arrival" that adds something to the booking cost I think).

There's another service called DRD that I have used a few times. They have daily scheduled pick-ups at the Venice airports and at Mestre train station. I have used them because they had scheduled times and I didn't have to book in advance. Last time, I had planned to go to Ljubljana via Trieste and spend a few hours there, but my flight was late into Venice so I just picked up a DRD van instead, knowing from the last time what the schedule was and where it picked up.

There may also be a FlixBus now running to Ljubljana, too. Check that out.

Speaking of Trieste, that's another way to get to Ljubljana just a wee bit more complicated. You can take a train from Venice Mestre to Trieste and take a bus or train on to Ljubljana from there. This makes sense if you want to spend some time in Trieste on the way but takes longer and is a tad more complicated. (Of course, you could make it even easier by spending a night in Trieste or something.) The trains of course have scheduled times so you don't have to commit to anything - just know the schedules. (I have read that direct trains between Ljubljana and Trieste were supposed to start again this month after years of not having them - not sure if it has really happened or not.)

So maybe for you flying into Ljubljana is easier/quicker - maybe not. Last time I got a direct flight from the US to Venice. To fly directly to Ljubljana would have mean an extra connection (2-3 hour layover, perhaps much longer) and then another flight, another element of uncertainty. I prefer to get on the ground as soon as I can rather than being in airports more than I need to be. Maybe you can find a flight right into Ljubljana that works great for you - just hasn't for me. Weigh the total travel time and the inconvenience if any. Obviously, arriving in Venice as early in the day as possible. Delta has direct flights from ATL to Venice that arrive around 9am. So if I could get that flight that would probably be my choice instead of a connecting flight that got me in to Ljubljana at 1pm or 2pm (then a 30 minute ride to town - their airport isn't directly in Ljubljana) - one less flight connection, less uncertainty. I'm sure some people would take the connecting flight to Ljubljana anyway. Personal preference.

Posted by Barbara
Brooklyn, NY
904 posts

Hi, we are going to Croatia this summer for 3 weeks. I can tell you where we are staying and will do a trip report when we return. Disclaimer: my husband grew up in Croatia so we are biased.

Split - never been before - Hotel Peristil

Korcula - staying with a cousin who runs a B&B out of his home where he also lives, no breakfast. His son and grandchildren live on the island and they own a small cafe. His home is right in the center of old town, great location. Guest House Jungher

Dubrovnik - Apartments Pavisa - we have stayed here before. The owner does not live on premises. It is a small home with 3 levels, a studio on each floor, all identical. No breakfast but has a small stove top, frig, table, plates/pots, etc. very clean, on a great street.
We have also stayed at Bed&Breakfast Andio which served breakfast but was on a noisy street. Just a few steps off the Stradun. But, we would stay there again, they were not free our dates.

All hotels booked through booking.com.

We haven't been to Slovenia since 1981 or Plitvice either. In those days we were practically the only ones there. Rovinj also, been quite a few years. Haven't been to Hvar yet.

My husband actually served in the Navy in Pula. We are going there too, just for the day.

We will be back home after August 12 if you want to PM me then about anything.

Posted by acraven
Washington DC
10386 posts

From all reports the Soca Valley is worth the time to do some advance legwork. I wouldn't worry yet about getting to Rovinj, not until you've followed all the limks in Rome2Rio and checked out the bus schedules. It may turn out to be straightforward. My recent experience with transit in that area is limited to one trip on a bus from Ljubljana to Rovinj, which ran infrequently as of 2015. Cross-border buses usually do not run often, and they tend to be from one large city to another or very short hops, requiring a change in each country.

As for the link to Italy, I'd figure out which city has the most flights from Dubrovnik and try to develop a burning desire to spend at least two days there. I'd be worried about missing that transatlantic flight otherwise, which would put a bit of a damper on my last few days in Croatia. Many other people wouldn't be bothered by the prospect, though, and the odds of a problem are low. However, I've had two English Channel ferries canceled on me; I was lucky that neither event occurred when I was rushing to an airport to fly home.

Posted by mcalico OP
59 posts

Hello, All! I'm on the road until Tuesday so my response time is slower. (And I'd rather be talking about Slovenia and Croatia! :-) You have been so helpful. Barbara, I know that you are excited about your upcoming trip! I truly appreciate you sharing some things you already have in place and being willing to share more when you return. I'll be on the lookout for your trip report! Andrew, thanks for sharing the details of how you've gotten from the Venice airport to Ljubljana. I was thinking, again, about the rental car and drop off fees. Have any of you flown into Zagreb (maybe stayed a night or two), driven to Ljubljana (or Bled), and later returned the car in Split? Seems like that could be a good way to rent one car for the entire trip, avoid drop off fees, and see Zagreb (do I want to?)

Posted by Andrew H.
Portland, Oregon
3235 posts

mcalico, yes, your strategy about flying into Zagreb, picking up the car there, driving to Slovenia and back to Croatia, and dropping the car in Split makes sense. I have recommended it before. There may be a small one-way drop fee, but it should be a lot smaller than the one-way drop fee for dropping the car in another country.

The biggest reason you might not want to do this is if you have a limited schedule and just don't want to devote time to Zagreb. You could of course fly in and immediately rent the car and drive right to Slovenia - but then you have to drive jetlagged after a long flight, and that may not be a great idea. (I wouldn't want to do it.)

Also, you'll need to park the Croatian car in Ljubljana for a few days (probably in a garage), an extra expense and inconvenience, but not the end of the world.

Zagreb is most certainly worth seeing. It's not my favorite city, so personally I wouldn't spend more than a night there on a limited schedule, but some people do like it and would recommend more time. Depends on your preferences and interests. If you have the flexibility to just add another day to your trip, I'd do it almost for sure. Just make sure you buy a vignette driving sticker for driving on Slovenian highways when you get to the border with Slovenia! If you rent a car in Slovenia, it will already come with a vignette in my experience.

Could be that you'll find a good flight into Zagreb (better than flying into Ljubljana directly) so that would be another reason to start in Zagreb.

But if you just don't have the time or want to visit Zagreb, I don't think the GoOpti option to get from say Koper to Rovinj is so awful. For example, making a reservation three months out for this September, I see on GoOpti's website that I can book a fixed time from Portoroz at 18:45 (get to Rovinj by 8PM) for only 23 euros/person - even less if you can accept a sliding time window of pick-ups. So on that final day in Slovenia, just plan to visit a cave, get into Piran for a few hours, and show up at Portoroz nearby by about 6PM. Should be doable.

Picking up and dropping off a car one extra time is a bit of an inconvenience I guess. You can try pricing out the cars each way (one car in Zagreb drop in Split vs. car in Slovenia, car in Croatia. Figure you save a few nights parking with the two car option, even though you have to pay a little for GoOpti. Try on say the Sixt website. Could be the Zagreb option is cheaper overall because you get a much longer rental - but the price difference may not be significant, and if you can start in Zagreb, that would simplify things!

Posted by mcalico OP
59 posts

That is great information, Andrew. Thank you! We do have flexibility with our schedule so I'll do my homework to see what makes the most sense overall. It all looks doable with good up-front prep work. I appreciate your feedback on Zagreb. I'm on the fence with that one.

Posted by Barbara
Brooklyn, NY
904 posts

We are renting a car in Zagreb on July 28 and returning it to Split airport on August 3 (8 days) and it is costing us $1,478.26. BUT, we are 6 people so we needed a larger car, a Mercedes V-class, it is an automatic, and we are paying for a second driver. Just to give you an idea.

Posted by Barbara
Brooklyn, NY
904 posts

Zagreb is a nice city, small but nice. It is a contrast to the coastal cities. You don't need much time there, they have an old section with a beautiful church (St. Mark's) and a museum I like with naive art. They also have a tower climb for nice views. It isn't very overrun with tourist. One day would be sufficient.

Posted by Digbydog
Cincinnati
71 posts

We stayed at Apartment Emmi in Ljubljana a few years ago. It is right in the heart of things on the river and a 2 minute walk from Preseren Square. It was designed by a young architecture student and is very modern and bright. We thought it was fantastic and very reasonable priced.