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Itinerary help? Can't decide!

My family of four (two girls 8 and 10) are renting a car in Istria and doing a loop up and through Slovenia and back down to Pula to fly out. We love nature, walking around sites, kayaking/swimming, etc. We like to walk to restaurants. I have about 5 or 6 nights total and don't want to move constantly. Ideally one base or two. I'd like to see Postojna Caves on the way to Ljubljana and am debating whether to stay there or keep going up to Bled or Bohinj. I found a lovely apartment in Bohinj but have heard it's not a great base because it's off the beaten path from Bled etc. Or would that be good to stay there (we don't need nightlife with kids and love to hike and walk and there are a few restaurants walking distance from the apartment I found) - or Should we go straight to Bled for three nights, then do the Julian Alps and over to Soca Valley and stay in Bovec or close for thee nights? Or I could break it up to four and two nights? The drive back to Pula is over three hours from there and appears to go through Italy as well. Is this a good idea or is it too much and should I choose between Soca and the Bled/Bohinj area? Is an afternoon in Ljubljana enough or do we need a night there? The other option is to base in Ljubljana instead of bled and do day trips up to Bled, etc. Or could I hit it on the way up and somehow loop back through it on the way back down to Istria? We will be heading up from Istria most likely from Opatija. My last thought is that the wine tasting area may be a good break up for the trip or can that be done from Bled or Ljubljana as driving after wine tasting back down to Istria is probably not a fabulous idea! Thank you for any help - I"m really struggling with this itinerary and have heard amazing things about Soca and have seen some insane photos so hate to miss it, but also don't want to stress ourselves with constant moving with two children and packing/unpacking. Any help would be greatly appreciated!
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Posted by
336 posts

Hello Jenny,
I spent 5 nights in Slovenia last year(we loved this country), and were based in Bled.
We did everything from there.
Going to bohinj lake, the soca river, vrsic pass and the julian alps, ljublijana, Skocjan cave, velika planika for a great walk,
For the soca river, we spent the day, going north, cutting thru the alps with the vrsic pass and followed the river down to Kobarid, bovec, amd ending in bohinj.
We spent 4-5 hours in Ljublijana, we thought it was enough, but it's a very nice little cool town.
In bled, the vintgar gorge, 20 minutes from Bled is a very nice walk.
Don't hesitate if you have other questions.
I have a blog, it's in french but maybe you can use google translation, it will show you in text and pictures what we did. Change days on the right. This is the first day we arrived. After Slovenia was Croatia
http://famillecyrstgeorges.blogspot.ca/2016/06/13-juin-arrivee-au-lac-de-bled-en.html

Posted by
433 posts

Adding a thumbs up for Vintgar Gorge and Skocjan Caves. Predjama Castle is interesting as well. We only saw the exterior. You should plan to see the amphitheater in Pula before you fly out.

Posted by
336 posts

Agree with Predjama castle.
Pula also, unless you've seen some other coliseum before such as Rome, Verona, Arles or Nimes.
I'd put those as 3 stars and Pula a 2 stars.

Posted by
20802 posts

Ljubljana has a castle (heavily visited) and a number of worthwhile art museums, plus some early-20th century architeccture just outside the historic district. To me it was a multi-day destination, but it all depends in what you're interested in.

Posted by
1277 posts

If you are interested in basing yourself in bled, i would highly recommend mulej bled turist farm. It's about a mile outside of bled, but we walked to town. (Check out castle and of course boat to the island in middle) Hearty breakfast, horses and dogs and cats and ducks to feed. Its a family operated dairy farm so homemade yogurt,etc for breakfast. We stayed there for 2 nights in the portion that has hotel quality rooms. They also have apts for families in an adjacent building. Pm me if you have difficulty finding their website.

Posted by
12 posts

Thank you for all of your advice! If we base in bled I will check out that lovely farm. Our girls love a farm so that would be fun. You said you can walk to town for dinner, etc? I am still struggling with what I think may just be a too overpacked itinerary but will decide today or tomorrow!

Posted by
12 posts

Also thank you to Claudecr65 - I put your blog through google translate after trying to translate myself in my school French from years ago. I did alright, but translation helped and your trip photos are incredible. Will definitely hunt down that lemon dessert! Do you feel that doing Soca Valley from Bled was a lot and is there one part of that trip that you wish you could have extended now getting a taste of so much? I'm wondering if I am trying to fit too much in and should focus more one side of the alps or the other. I am debating staying in Bled after reading your blog and doing the same (you hit essentially everything we want to do except maybe one cave and wine country), or whether to do a couple of nights in Bovec and then around the pass to a few nights in Bled and then popping in to Ljubljana on our way back down. My issue is that I keep hearing (including the post - thank you for the multi-day advice) that it's a pretty great little city so I don't want to pass it up. Although hearing you spent 4-5 hours makes it feasible to leave Bled early and spend time all day before heading straight back to Pula. I clearly need another week in Slovenia, but I can't give up Istria considering that's why I originally planned this trip and I've heard it's amazing too. I just can't seem to give up either country although doing that might make these trips more relaxing and enjoyable. Because we have to come up from Istria and get back down there's a bit of driving involved and I'm still trying to figure out how to maximize, but your blog was very helpful in seeing exactly what I might be missing so making it harder to give up things I've now seen on your blog and want to visit!!
Any other thoughts would be appreciated.

Posted by
336 posts

My pleasure Jenny,
I only wish i could have had time or better weather to hike in the montains for 2-3 hours, maybe on top where we took the cable car in Bohinj.
The soca river, i think you can do kayaking somewhere, but us too we had to make choices, so we didn't look for it.
I would definitly still stay in Bled
I enjoyed the war museum in Kobarid.
The only drive I found long is the last 90 minutes coming back from Bovec-Kobarid to bohinj. Small roads with not much interest.
I did see a cave, the scokjan one which was very spectacular. We also did the horse show not too far. Not as spectacular as in Jerez in Andalucia which is the mecca for that.
ljublijana, all depends on the type of traveller you are.
We visited the castle above the city(one of the great restaurants of the city is there. We walked the city and enjoyed it a lot. But when i see your schedule and stuff you want to see, i feel 4-5 hours should be close to fine for you as well. It's a must see city though.
The toughest part of organising a trip is always to see how many things we have to cut...
tought choices
Do you have 5/6 night total in Slovenia or 5/6 nights total for both Istria and Slovenia?
That would change the schedula a lot if it's 5/6 total.

Posted by
12 posts

We have fourteen nights total for Croatia and Slovenia coming from Venice. Thinking of four nights of Opatija, then up and around Slovenia, Postojna Cave on the way to Vipava valley (wine tasting) one night, then drive up to Bovec for two nights and see the surrounding areas with maybe rafting, etc. Then over Vrsci pass for three nights in either Bled or Bohinj - which would you recommend having seen both (I know you stayed in Bled - were there good walking distance restaurants in both or either?), then straight back to Rovinj for four nights before flying out of Pula. Or the other way... Deciding whether to skip the wine country night and add a night at Ljubljana on the way back... thoughts? Apparently there are wine tasting places in Ljubljana too so maybe we just drive through the beautiful countryside without spending the night on the way to Bovec? Would you have thought three nights in Bovec were good instead of two or- one night in Ljubljana on the way home?Thanks for any thoughts?

Posted by
336 posts

Busy day today, i won't be able to respond, but Imwill rellok at yiur agenda and come back with some answers by tomorrow.
Ciao.

Posted by
336 posts

Ok, so
1-So is there any particular reasons for Opatija? I know the popular sites to visit in the regions would be Rovinj, which is a very nice, yes touristy coastal little town, PUla for the amphitheater and Porec, especially for the great Euphrasian basilica.
We also spent a bit of time around Motovun, looked like a small Tuscany. and It's a wine place as well.
2-If you don't go to Vipava valley, I would go straight to Ljubljana spend whatever time you feel you need. It's a 1:40 drive.
3-When done, go to Bled for some nights. If you like restaurants, I would certainly stay there instead of Bohinj, which is more nature oriented.
I found Bled to be very central, even if you want to go back to Ljubljana just for a dinner, it's a 40 minute drive.
From there you can do Bohinj, Velika Planina, Skofja loka(nice little town), vintgar gorge, etc.
4-When done you can head to Bovec thru Kranjska Gora and the Vrsic pass, for kayaking or trekking(I didn't do but it's the place for kayaking I believe)
5-stop in Kobarid if you are into WW1 history.
Also a friend of mine told me that if you are into high end restaurant, this one is a true must:
https://fr.tripadvisor.ca/Restaurant_Review-g319788-d1059106-Reviews-HISA_FRANKO-Kobarid_Slovenian_Littoral_Region.html
6-then straight to Postojna cave( 2hours from Bovec), and from there to Rovinj or Piran

Are you considering Plitvice lakes, or Split or Dubrovnik(both much further south)?

Posted by
12 posts

Hello again,
Wow!!! Thank you for taking so much time to help me! You may be reading my mind.

1) I agree with you idea - I was just thinking to maybe get rid of Vipava (I love wine but like you said - I can find it all over and do plan to do Motovun, etc. so maybe could fit in wine tasting in Croatia. Also I was told there is a wine tasting spot it there to get the Slovenian wines) and spend the night in Ljubljana instead. I was thinking Vipava would be a good break from Istria to Bovec but I think I might not want to lose a night in Ljubljana and one longer drive won't kill us. It's beautiful I've heard and we could get out and stop along the way, maybe even Koribad for the museum if it's not too late by the time we get up there. I could do the itinerary in either direction and maybe hit both caves that way if I leave Istria and do Skocjan on the way up to Bovec and at least get to drive through the wine country (maybe stop for lunch or afternoon snack in Vipava so we can see it a tiny bit), then 2 nights Bovec, over the pass to Bled, three nights there to explore all you said including Bohinj, then one night Ljubljana and back down through Postojna cave and predjama castle on the way back to Istria. Or the other way around? Would have to decide what end I want to do the longer drive (Bovec-Istria or Istria-Bovec).

2)I'm not sent on Opatija, I was thinking of doing Cres/Losinj Islands one day trip from there, and Krk for the waterfalls, etc. on one day also with rental car. I am also considering just staying on Cres or Losinj for three nights and then heading to Istria. Opatija just seemed to be in a good location for that and is a straighter shot up to Slovenia. It may be easier to stay in Opatija and day trip? I haven't quite figured out that portion yet if you have any advice. I may do 4 nights in Rovinj and then 3 nights on either Cres/Losinj (I heard Mali Losinj is fabulous) or 4 for Rovinj and 3 or 4 Opatija if day tripping. Advice would be appreciated?
3). We've done a two week trip in Croatia with the kids two summers ago and it was spectacular which is why we have chosen to return. We saw Zagreb, Plitvice, Split, Hvar (Ivan Dolac), Korcula, and Dubrovnik. So I"ve covered those areas and was hoping to do Kvarner Bay and Istria along with obviously Slovenia. I keep wondering if I should skip the Islands and Opatija and spend more time in each spot in Slovenia. Have you seen Kvarner Bay and if so, would you recommend skipping it? I keep hearing how amazing Krka is, but we have seen Plitvice so is it still worth it relatively speaking?
Thanks again for your help!!!!!

Posted by
336 posts

Hello Jenny
Now I understand what you are doing. You've done a lot of the major sites already.
I wouldn't be able to help you out more as I haven't done the sites you want to do in Istria, aside from the ones I mentionned.
I didn't do Krka as it would have been the day after Plitvice and I thought it wouldn't match, so I passed.
Maybe a year after is a different thing.
I wish you a wonderful trip and please keep me posted on how it's been.
Claude

Posted by
12 posts

Thank you so much again Claude!,
One last question for you or anyone who has been of course! If I were to choose either Bovec or Bled to add a third night (two nights in each Bovec an Bled at this point and one in Ljubljana on the way back to Istria) which would you choose? We may now come straight from Venice so wouldn't see the Vipava area, but could add one night because of it. Or would you stay one night longer in Rovinj and stick with two and two for Bovec and Bled? I think you went there too? I know I just need to choose, but it's a lot of driving for two nights so wouldn't mind making it a tiny bit more relaxing on that end... Thanks to all, but especially Claude, for the information and patience with all of my questions!
Regards,
Jenny

Posted by
4872 posts

Optaija is an old Austrian resort town for the wealthy and royalty, full of big villas and some fancy hotels - not personally to my tastes. I had only a brief stop there and enjoyed it more than expected (the waterfront area is nice), but I would never want to spend a night there. On the other hand, I adored little Rovinj, which is touristy but quieter at night. I thought Rovinj was a great base for exploring Istria.

I didn't care for the town for the town of Bled much, but it can make a convenient and not unpleasant base for exploring the area. Ljubljana is a lovely little city, one of my favorites, and it's not a bad base, either, just a little further from the nature stuff. An option might be to base in a little town like Radovljica, which is tiny but near Bled and in my view much more appealing as a town.

Posted by
12 posts

That might be a great alternative to Bled. Would you consider Bohinj a place to spend two nights in instead of Bled (we will have a car)? I did find an apartment there that is 5 minute walk to a few restaurants. We would like to see Radovljica though (I heard the beekeeping museum is worth a visit) so I will look at accommodations there as well. Do they have restaurants etc. that we could walk to? We don't like to drive to dinner - especially after driving all day! Then we could drive to Bled and Bohinj and Vintnars Gorge in one day before heading to Ljubljana. I keep thinking we can drive through Ljubljana for a few hours, but I'm beginning to think a night there would be a good idea - so many people seem to love it and it would help break up the drive all the way back to Rovinj (we also want to see Skocjan cave on the way down!). Thanks for any advice and appreciate the suggestion. I have heard more than once that Bled's not a fabulous place to stay.

Posted by
336 posts

Tough to answer your question Jenny, as we don't come from the same place, and we don't necessarely do the same things. I would spend more time centralised(bled or radovljica), but that's just me.
As far as Radovljica, it might be a nice base, I didn't visit the city.
I'm not sure why people would complain on Bled. It is touristy, but this means also plenty of restaurants to choose from, lots of little bakeries, etc.

Posted by
4872 posts

The town of Bled is a convenient, practical base for exploring the area. There's nothing wrong with it, other than being a bit touristy, but it isn't particularly charming. I don't think it's a mistake to stay there, but there are alternatives.

Bohinj is much less developed than Bled, and some people like that.. I'm sure there are some restaurants there, but you'd have many more choices in Bled or elsewhere. I chose to stay in Bled the first time I was in the area and day trip to Bohinj, and that worked better for me, because I am not a "rough it in the outdoors" kind of traveler, and I like towns. A few weeks ago, I spent a few nights in Ljubljana and did just a day trip (by train) to Bled and Radovljica, where I spent only a few hours. Radovljica is a small town and not very touristy, but it has a bit more "old town charm" than Bled has, if you want to call it that. I'm sure there are restaurants you can walk to if you stain the center, but I wasn't there at night - could be the town is pretty dead in the evening. On this recent trip, I also rented a car just for a day (not to visit Bled). I found Ljubljana made a good base for me - it's a lovely place to come back to at night, really - very pretty when all lit up and many restaurant choices to walk to.

If you want to know more about Radovljica, you might post on the Trip Advisor Slovenia forum. There's a gal there who is an expat living in Radovljica and she can tell you as much as you want to know about it. I am not particularly keen on museums, but I did do a quick visit to the bee keeping museum, which is pretty small. I'm not sure it's worth a special trip to Radovljica just for the museum, unless you really have a special interest in bees or something.

Ljubljana isn't really a city you can "drive through." You park your car in a lot and walk through it - there are huge pedestrian areas.

Another great town in the area that you might try to visit at least briefly is Škofja Loka, which I really loved, though it's not an ideal base for Lake Bled. In particular the scenic drive from Škofja Loka up through the hills up to Jamnik and down into Kropa (NOT along the freeway via Kranj) is breathtakingly beautiful. You might need a couple of hours for this detour between Bled and Ljubljana, because you will probably feel compelled to stop a few times e.g. at the church at Jamnik or just get out and take pictures of the scenes that take your breath away.

Posted by
4639 posts

A few general comments as we have been to most of these locations at least once, if not twice, with our two kids of similar age.

Don't stay in Opatija. Stay somewhere central in Istria. We like to rent a villa in a village like Zminj. From a place like Zminj, you can easily get to anywhere in Istria in less than an hour. Our kids favorite places include Dvigrad, Kamenjak Peninsula (Safari Bar), Porec (cat sanctuary), Novigrad and the beachfront in Fazana.

As for Cres, we've been there too for a day. Lovely island, very sparsely populated. Felt like a lot of driving, though, for something that looks very much like what you find on the Istrian coast. If we went back, we would make it a beach holiday and just stay there for a week vegging out.

On Slovenia, we actually just got back from a long weekend in Lake Bohinj. We had previously been to Bled. I can't tell you how happy I was that we didn't stay in Bled. Bled is nearly overrun now and lacks character, in my opinion. Vintgar gorge is lovely, but shoulder to shoulder people. The hikes we took in the Lake Bohinj area were so much better than Vintgar for so many reasons. The scenery was more beautiful, less people and more diverse (mountains, meadows, waterfalls, farm).

If I had 14 nights, I'd spend 7 in Istria (be sure to pass through Piran on the way out), 3 in Ljubljana (day trip to caves), 4 nights in Lake Bohinj area. Do it slow and do it well. Your kids will thank you.

Posted by
1444 posts

Piggybacking on Emily's post, I didn't get to Vintgar Gorge when I was in Slovenia (May 2014) because it was closed due to winter damage.

But I did visit Tolmin Gorge, and it was fabulous and hardly anyone was there. It only take about an hour to maybe 90 minutes to walk through, depending on your pace.

Tolmin is a little ways south of Kobarid. Definitely worth a stop, especially hearing about how Vintgar is overrun with tourists.

Posted by
12 posts

Thank you all for your advice! I am wishing we were doing it a little "slower", but for our first trip, I just can't give up that Bovec white water rafting draw... We will come from Venice to Bovec, spend 2 nights, then 3 nights on the outskirts of Bled (we found a lovely apartment with acres of green space around it, but still able to walk to dinner and the lake so hopefully this will suit as a base, but still being in nature). I considered Bohinj and that is where I originally planned to stay, but with only three nights I thought Bled would be just a little bit closer for all of the driving to and from those lovely towns, etc. in the area. We will plan to explore Bohinj as our first priority and then see if Vintnars Gore, etc. isn't too crowded! We can only afford one night in Ljubljana in order to get our full week in Istria, and it's the one stop I really wish I could extend. If we love it, we will just have to come back as I'm sure there are a
TON of things in Slovenia we are missing (like Vipava!) and the Postojna Caves. The plan is to leave Ljubljana and get to Skocjan caves, do the tour, then drive all the way to Mali Losinj for four nights. Explore the islands and have a beach holiday! - not quite a week but with three full days there, hopefully we can relax. Then on to Rovinj for four nights - we have an apartment in the old town which looks lovely, but I just found out that the Salsa Festival is in town that week, so now I'm second guessing how overrun it will be. I'm debating about looking at another town, so will check out the others you mentioned in your post. Also, does the little town (Zminj) have access to water? Our girls love to swim any chance they can get, and although we do a lot of exploring without water, and perhaps will have gotten our fill in Mali Losinj, I'm wondering about staying in a small town. Can you walk to restaurants in Zminj and does it have enough to occupy four nights? I will look into that idea as I'm more and more worried about Rovinj now. Maybe I will post and ask if I'm crazy to stay during the festival, or if it really won't affect us at all! Thank you again for all of your help - I am almost there!

Posted by
4639 posts

If you do visit Lake Bohinj, the hike to Slap Savica was well worth it, but the hike along Mostnica Gorge was the best walk/hike I've every done. Simply spectacular. Our kids loved it too.

As for Zminj...Zminj is located at the very center of Istria making it a great base for the entire peninsula. We have always stayed out in the middle of nowhere in super nice villas with pools. Honestly, this is the way to do Istria (I can give you the website of the villa rental agency we have used with great success). You can be in Rovinj in about 20 minutes, Fazana also in 20 minutes, as well as other places such as Kamejak peninsula. As someone who has been to Istria four times, I would definitely recommend somewhere central for reaching all the sites. If you stay in Rovinj, for example, you'll run out of things in an afternoon and want to drive around anyway - so why not stay somewhere you can get more bang for buck? I find Rovinj to be lovely, but not a place I'd want to stay. There is also no real beach there unless you move away significantly from the town to one of the resort areas. Basically, in Istria there is no town that will occupy you for 4 full days, so you have to make short day trips.

Posted by
12 posts

That does sound lovely! I hadn't thought about a pool at our apartment/villa! Could u please share the name of the rental company and perhaps your favorite villa? Thanks so much.

Posted by
4639 posts

I just sent you a private message with the details.

Renting a villa is great with kids - swim in the morning, afternoon activity, dinner out, evening swim, bed. Repeat.