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Would love your feedback on the Slovenia-Croatia pace

Happy Friday, All!

My husband and I returned about a month ago from a wonderful three week trip to Italy. (Thanks RS participants for your help with that!) I'm still on a travel high and am starting to plan our next trip to Europe -- Slovenia and Croatia. (I will post this on the Slovenia forum, too.) I am in the process of reading the RS guidebook, but I've already studied enough to know that I like his two week itinerary overall. Still, I would like your input because I think there's some tweaking to be done. RS has a two week schedule, but we could stay for 3 or so. We can travel in May, June, or July.

RS guidebook slightly tweaked
Day 1 - Arrive in Ljubljana and take a taxi to Lake Bled
Day 2 - Lake Bled
Day 3 - Kobarid
Day 4 - Kobarid
Day 5 - Ljubljana
Day 6 - Ljublijana
Day 7 - Ljublijana
Day 8 - Rovinj
Day 9 - Rovinj
Day 10 - Motovun
Day 11 - Motovun
Day 12 - Plitvice
Day 13 - Split
Day 14 - Split
Day 15 - Hvar
Day 16 - Hvar
Day 17 - Hvar/Korcula
Day 18 - Dubrovnik
Day 19 - Dubrovnik
Day 20 - Dubrovnik
Day 21 - airport stay wherever we fly home OR visit another country (see below)

My husband and I are nature lovers who simply enjoy being outdoors hiking, strolling, swimming, seeing the sites. Good food and good wine are nice, too. Well, I like good wine and my husband likes history. ;-) May I go ahead and ask your first impressions of this tweaked itinerary? I would appreciate your feedback!

Posted by David
Seattle, WA, USA
2548 posts

First - posting the same thing in more than one forum is discouraged. Best to just keep stuff in a single place.

About your proposed itinerary...

You are not accounting for the time it takes to pick up, move to another place, settle in, and go do/see stuff. That "overhead" is implied in some of your itinerary, but not consistently. For example: you have a lot of places listed like so:

  • Day 10 - Motovun
  • Day 11 - Motovun
  • Day - 12 - Plitvice
  • Day 13 - Split
  • Day 14 - Split

This suggests you will have one day in Motovun, one day in Split, and something less than a day in Plitvice.

Especially since you say you're nature lovers, want to be outside, strolling, etc. - you need to change your plans for Plitvice. Arrive there mid-day, check into your hotel in the park, do a few hours in the park late that day. Get up the next morning, do a few more hours, then check out and move on. That, including getting there and getting to your next place will consume two full days. But it's the best way to see the park (you also minimize the impact of crowds).

Personally, I'd take issue with your allocation of 2+ days in Hvar and less than a day in Korcula. Hvar (at least Hvar town) seemed a lot more developed (and crowded and party-ish) to me than Korcula. I'd flip that allocation and spend more of my time on Korcula.

Question: have you figured out how to get around? Most of this area is best done by car, but you will get whacked with a large dropoff fee if you rent in one country and return in another. There are ways to deal with that but you need to take that into account or your plans may not work.

Posted by mcalico OP
59 posts

Thanks, David. I much prefer to post in one forum and I appreciate your input.

I basically listed the overnight stays as listed in the RS guidebook or on his tour itinerary. In his guidebook, RS suggested flying into Ljublijana and taking a taxi straight to Lake Bled. That sounds expensive but I'm guessing that's the best way to go since he suggests that. It seems it could be just as well to land in Ljublijana and stay there the first three nights. We drove throughout Italy so we do plan on getting a car and avoid drop off fees by renting one car in Slovenia and another in Croatia as RS suggests. We also plan to get to Plitvice after lunch to hike late afternoon, then hike early the next morning before we leave (again following the RS guide). I listed the days above, but perhaps I should have said "night 1, night 2, etc." to be clear. We can add, or subtract, nights from this skeletal itinerary to have a reasonable, and enjoyable, pace in Slovenia and Croatia. Korcula sounds more to our liking than, Hvar. Perhaps 3 nights on Korcula and visit Hvar on day?

Posted by David
Seattle, WA, USA
2548 posts

Your reasoning above sounds good to me.

The Ljubljana airport is some distance from the city, so I can understand the rational for heading straight to Lake Bled (not sure about a taxi, though). But then how do you get back to Ljubljana? If you are flying in from North America, I suggest not driving yourself upon arrival (you'll be tired and it's dangerous) - so that quashes the idea of renting a car at the airport and heading for Bled (even though you're half-way there). FWIW we liked Ljubljana, it's a very nice small capital city.

Definitely, if you plan on renting a car, do it twice to beat the fee.

Tastes vary but we were not wowed by Hvar, I found it pretentious and touristy (we didn't venture much beyond the town - I'm told the rest of the island is more authentic, but you may need a car for that, and we didn't have one on the island). Some folks love Hvar. We loved Korcula.

Posted by Digbydog
Cincinnati
59 posts

Not sure what you plan to do in Kobarid for 2 nights. The WWI museum is very interesting, but the town itself is tiny. We stopped on our way from Ljubljana to Lake Bled, saw the museum, had lunch, and moved on through the Julian Alps.

We are planning to visit Dubrovnik in September. From everything I have read, 3 nights there may be too much unless you are planning to go to Montenegro or Mostar for a day trip.

Posted by mcalico OP
59 posts

Hello, Digbydog. What I was thinking of doing was driving the Julian Loop and staying at a location, or two, to do some hiking. Kobarid may not be the best location. I'm not as familiar with Slovenia yet because my travel interest was always Croatia. Lately, I read so many good things about Slovenia I thought I'd add it to the mix. In addition to staying at Lake Bled, sounds like we would want to stay a couple of nights in the Soca Valley and do some hiking. That may be overkill but I'm not sure.

David, My husband and I would rent a car in the Lake Bled area (again, simply going by RS guidebook at this point). It's looking like we would fly into Ljubljana > taxi or bus to Lake Bled, stay two nights, and get a rental car > drive the Julian Loop > return to Ljubljana for 2-3 nights > head to Istria, dropping off the car before going into Croatia and renting another in Croatia. It would seem that we'll be stuck with a rental car the 2-3 nights while in Ljublijana even though we wouldn't need it while there, but we would need a car to get to Istria. Perhaps we should stay in Ljublijana first. What logistically makes sense? Thanks!

Posted by acraven
Washington DC
8770 posts

I think you have your answer: To avoid paying for an unneeded car, and to park the car while you're enjoying Ljubljana, it makes sense to begin your trip there.

I found taxis quite reasonable in Slovenia in 2015, but I didn't need to visit the airport.

Posted by Andrew H.
Portland, Oregon
2651 posts

Start in Ljubljana, pick up a rental car as you leave Ljubljana. Having a car isn't necessary just to get to Lake Bled but will make it much easier to get around and see more, at your convenience. I'd probably drop a night from Ljubljana and add it to Bled if you are nature lovers. (Although I LOVE Ljubljana.)

Drop the Slovenian car in Koper or Portoroz and take a GoOpti shuttle (or a bus if you can) to Rovinj, pick up the Croatian car there. Return it in Split.

I would travel in May to avoid the summer crowds in Croatia - but I hate crowds, and you are risking more rain the earlier you go. I did my last trip to Slovenia-Croatia in late April/early May and did great with the weather - a few rainy days but not many.

Posted by mcalico OP
59 posts

Thanks, Andrew. I was just looking at the map and the GoOpti shuttle schedule when your post came through. What you shared lines up with what I was seeing. Thanks for confirming that! And thanks to acraven as well. It seemed obvious to me to begin the trip in Ljubljana, recover from jet lag, and get a car when leaving. I guess RS did it another way because his stays are briefer than mine will be. I'll continue with my research and post an updated itinerary with more specifics soon. Is my assumption correct that I need to book rooms well in advance if my husband and I go to Slovenia and Croatia in June? Last year I didn't get a couple of my choices when booking Italy 9-10 months out! We like to stay in small mom-and-pop BnBs or hotels and AirBnB. So do a lot of others. :-) Thanks, again, all. This trip is really starting to shape up already!

Posted by Andrew H.
Portland, Oregon
2651 posts

I haven't been to Slovenia-Croatia in June, but that is when the season really picks up I guess. Slovenia might be easier. I never commit to my vacations very far in advance, so I tend not to book stuff very early, unless I can change/cancel for free. Some people lock down their lodgings months in advance. Just a personal preference.

Posted by David
Seattle, WA, USA
2548 posts

Andrew's and acraven's advice above is spot-on. Start in Ljubljana, it's an easy, relaxed, even delightful city, and a good place to get over your jet lag. Get the car upon departure and head for Bled. Yeah, Bled is a little north of the city so you will end up doubling back as you head south for Croatia, but those are small distances, so no biggie.

Maybe Rick says take a taxi to Bled upon arrival because he doesn't want jet-lagged, exhausted drivers crashing and suing him. :)

We did Slovenia/Croatia in May. The weather was mostly fine (we got intense thunderstorms for a couple hours while we were in Bled, but it passed quickly and was delightful after - I heard reports of snow in the mountain passes but the roads were perfectly clear). We experienced no crowds at the beginning of the trip, but as we worked our way south into coastal Croatia, we could sense the impending "high season" tourist boom coming soon. Plitvice and Rab were not crowded (mid-May) but we could see everyone getting ready for "high season" - it was like you could feel it coming. A few days later, Hvar and Korcula were still pretty quiet but with the same sense of approaching thunder. Split and Dubrovnik, which we reached in the last few days of May, were quite crowded.

This was 4-5 years ago. I'd expect crowds to be up a bit since then (thank Game Of Thrones for that) but I suspect our experience was probably still mostly valid, crowd-wise.

Posted by garywboydstun
8 posts

Just got home from the best of the Adriatic tour. at lake bled try the Vintgar gorge it was closed due to a slide from heavy rains in May. Would love to hear a report about that walk supposed to be beautiful. Half day at plitvice is good but if you are a hiker there are lots of additional hikes available there might allow a day there if the additional hikes interest you.A beautiful place you are guaranteed to enjoy.Your husband will enjoy the museum at soca valley the ww1 museum is there in the Kobarid. One million men were killed or wounded in this valley over 20 nationality’s fought 12 battles here. Easy pace is friendly, mostly everyone speaks English.

Posted by garywboydstun
8 posts

A few mentioned taxi service in Ljubljana if you are considering a taxi please call Boris or his wife Andrea their number is 386041766540 they were recommended by the hotel Mrak for our tour stay in Ljubljana Boris went three times to the airport to pick us up only to have flight delays move our arrival .then Boris helped us file a damaged bag claim and drove us around Ljubljana looking for new baggage.all at a very fair price. He will take you to lake bled or to postojna caverns ,and or Predjama castle. Very nice honest man

Posted by Andrew H.
Portland, Oregon
2651 posts

I hiked Vintgar Gorge in 2011. Maybe my expectations were too high - I mean, it was really nice, but it didn't "Wow!" me like Plitvice did. It reminded me more of hiking at home here in the Pacific NW in the US than Plitvice did. People rave about Vintgar Gorge so clearly others think it's more amazing than I do. I think (when it reopens) it is worth hiking for sure, if you are in Bled and have the time (and really want to a hike). But some people put it higher on their priorities than I would. One of my absolute favorite things in Slovenia - as I've mentioned many times here now - is the scenic drive between the town of Skofja Loka and Bled through the mountains via Jamnik and Kropa (not mentioned in the RS guidebook as far as I know). That for me was far more rewarding than the Vintgar Gorge hike - but a hike isn't the same as a scenic drive, either.

Posted by acraven
Washington DC
8770 posts

Completely agree with Andrew. Vintgar is very pretty but similar to many gorges in the US (NY, NC, etc.), though it may be a revelation to people from pancake-flat areas. It doesn't remotely compare to Plitvice. Vintgar is more a walk than a hike. I believe there's just one basic walk you can take through the park (perhaps 45 minutes?). You have a lot more options at Plitvice, and the latter is many times larger.

Both experiences are worthwhile, but I'd make any sacrifice necessary for some early-morning time at Plitvice; I wouldn't do that for Vintgar.