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Itinerary Help: 2 week road trip - Czech Republic-Slovenia-Croatia (July/August)

Hi All,
My wife and I, and 2 friends, are planning a 14 day road trip from Prague (after a self guided cycling tour) down to Slovenia into Croatia (where we think we will fly out of Zagreb back to Australia). This is our first time in Europe so we need all the help we can get! We will arrive late July.

I have listed below the places we really want to visit but would love suggestions on where to go in between and what to skip (we will be renting a car in Prague and am aware that we might have to drop it off in Zagreb which will cost extra)
- Prague to Lake Bled (3-4 nights)
- Lake Bled (2 nights)
- Julian Alps (1 night)
- Bovec (rafting)
- Ljubljana (2 nights)
- Rovinj or Pula (1 night)
- Plitvice lakes (1 night)
- Zagreb
Any thoughts on where to stop between Prague and Lake Bled? We like the idea of smaller historic towns, good food and beer/wine!
We would like to venture further down into Croatia but I'm not sure we have the time.
Any suggestions on where to stay/eat/car rental etc will be much appreciated.

Posted by
4637 posts

Stops between Prague and Lake Bled: Cesky Krumlov and Hallstatt. Small towns - very picturesque and also very liked. Stay overnight and enjoy them early morning without crowds.

Posted by
16824 posts

I can't help on the driving route to Lake Bled. Before going much farther, call AutoEurope, Kemwel and Gemut and ask about the Czechia-to-Croatia drop charge. You could do the trip by train in two not-horrendous days (overnighting in Linz or Salzburg) and use the extra time in Istria.

As it is, I like Istria, but I wouldn't divert to Rovinj/Pula for just one night. In theory the driving time to Rovinj from Ljubljana is less than 3 hours, but I think there are sometimes back-ups at Slovenia/Croatia border crossings as folks from points north head to the Croatian beaches in the summer. Istria has a lot of interesting places, but it takes some time to get to them, and you wouldn't have a great deal of time. I'd hope to see at least Rovinj, Porec, Motovun and Groznjan on a trip to Istria; I haven't been to Pula myself.

In addition, I suspect you'll be tired by the time you're in Ljubljana. A string of 1- and 2-night stops is tiring even when you're traveling by car, so I'd consider three nights in Ljubljana to relax and enjoy the very nice city.

I'm also not sure one night is all you'll want in the Alps; I haven't been beyond Lake Bohinj. I think active travelers enjoy the Soca Valley, and you fall in that category.

One night's fine at Plitvice as long as it's the night before your visit.

I like Zagreb a great deal, but it both is larger than Ljubljana and feels larger. So it may not be what you're looking for on this trip. However, it has a very nice historic district and lively streets.

Posted by
13 posts

Thanks IIja
I had always planned to stop at Cesky Krumlov but then read recently that it is a smaller, very touristy version of Prague so I thought there might be other towns nearby with less tourists. As for Hallstatt, it looks unbelievably beautiful but I have priced some accommodation and it is very expensive ($450 AUD/night and up). We might have to look for somewhere close by to stay the night.

Posted by
4637 posts

Cesky Krumlov is indeed crowded. For a reason. It's a fairy tale gem. That's why I said stay overnight and get up early to experience it without crowds. I have the same advice for Prague. Hallstatt could be expensive. When I wanted to go there I could not find any accommodation for a reasonable price to book. I went anyway, walked to Visitor Center in Hallstatt and found pension with breakfast - all for 50 Euro. Pension was about 20 minutes walk from the center. Even walking slowly would not take longer than 30 minutes, well worth the savings.

Posted by
13 posts

Cheers acraven, I think you might be right re car rental - I've called Auto Europe and they don't allow drop offs in a different country!
I will also take your advice on board about 3 nights in Ljubljana, it might be nice to stop travelling for a while, and 2 nights in the Alps sounds nice. Apart from Plitvice Lakes, we might have to give the rest of Croatia a miss and visit again.

Posted by
13 posts

IIja do you remember the name of the pension in Hallstatt? 50 euros seems very reasonable.

Posted by
353 posts

You might want to check out Gasthof Pension Gruner Anger in Hallstatt. It's about a 10 minute walk to the center of town, free parking and very reasonably priced. We had a great stay there last year! Many of the small pensions fill up quickly, so I would suggest booking as soon as possible. The Sulzbacher Family was very responsive to emails when I sent an inquiry. http://anger.hallstatt.net/?lang=en

Posted by
13 posts

Thanks TravelBug79, I've had a look at that pension and it looks great; if we decide on Hallstatt then I'll get in touch with them.

Posted by
86 posts

Hi, Adrian, This sounds like a wonderful trip! Our family lives in Prague, and our first summer we did a similar road trip. Your schedule sounds very doable. I echo some of the other comments here: Česky Krumlov may be touristy, but it's absolutely worth seeing, especially if you stay overnight so you can avoid the day-trippers. And from Ljubljana, you can also make a day trip to Piran so you can take a dip in the sea, or to one of the caves. My daughter and I toured Postojna Cave and thought it was fascinating--and it's also a very well-run operation that minimizes waiting times and handles large crowds very well. One heads-up: if at all possible, avoid driving in Croatia near the coast on a Saturday, because that is when most weekly rentals switch over, and the traffic is supposed to be horrible. We did our Croatian driving on other days and it was fine (although the roads are VERY winding and slower than they may look on a map). Good luck!

Posted by
13 posts

That's very reassuring Mari, thank you for your advice. I was getting myself in all sorts of bother trying to work out driving times and the logistics of getting from point to point (not having any experience driving in Europe makes it a challenge).

I've decided that we will fly home from Prague (to avoid the one way drop off fee) so will stay a night in Cesky Krumlov on the way to Ljubljana and base ourselves there for 3 or 4 days and do day trips to Lake Bled (and other areas)

We might then stay in Alps for 2 nights (hiking, rafting) and move to Piran for 2 or 3 (and visit Istria, Plitvice lakes etc). We can then take our time driving back to Prague and see more of Czechia that way. Two questions:
1. I've heard that the Skocjan Caves are worth a visit (instead of Postojna Caves)?
2. Any suggestions on where to stay on the way back to Prague (in Czech Republic)?
Thanks again.

Posted by
16824 posts

A day-trip to Plitvice Lakes from Piran--in the summer, no less--will not go well. The park is one of Europe's most beautiful areas, but the walkways are unbelievably mobbed during day-tripping hours. Wait to visit Plitvice until you have time to see it early in the AM before the day-trippers arrive.

Posted by
13 posts

Thanks for reminding me - we will definitely factor in one night at the national park so we can beat the crowds in the morning.

Posted by
4637 posts

Adrian, unfortunately I don't remember the name of pension in Hallstatt. Where to stay overnight on your way back to Prague (in C.R.): Look at the map and get some inspiration in the Rick Steves book: Prague & the Czech Republic. I would suggest depending on which way you would go back: Plzen, Ceske Budejovice, Tabor, Trebon, Znojmo, Mikulov, Brno.

Posted by
13 posts

Thanks IIja, I will buy Rick's book but also take on board your suggestions. Appreciate your help with this.

Posted by
86 posts

Hi, Adrian, sorry to be so late with this--I just saw your other questions. I have also heard that Skojcan cave is even more stunning than Pojstona. We didn't go there because my daughter has a disability, and you have to walk through Skojcan. On our way back from Slovenia, we stayed overnight in Salzburg at Hotel Krone 1512 and really liked it. The driving time from Salzburg to Prague is about 4-1/2 hours. Hope that helps!

Posted by
16824 posts

I've been to both Skocjan and Postojna, though the latter was over 20 years ago. They are both worthwhile. Skocjan is somewhat more natural; there are some colored lights used at Postojna, which purists may not like. On the other hand, at age 63 I found the light level at Skocjan just a bit too low to discern differences in the color of the formations.

I'm sure you'd enjoy either one, and I wouldn't agonize over the choice.

Posted by
13 posts

Thanks again Mari and Acraven - I think we'll stick with Skocjan but if we have the time we might visit both. I feel like a bit of a fool though as I've changed my mind again about flying out of Prague. We are going to now fly back from Zagreb (mainly due to our friends leaving us early) which means we have decided to cycle from Prague to Vienna (with Europe Bike Tours - be interested if anyone has experience with them) and train it from Vienna to Ljubljana.

Stay there 4 or 5 days doing day trips, a couple of nights in the Alps and then over to the coast for a week.
I should have posted this in the Slovenia Forum!