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Slovenia/Northern Croatia one week

Edit - I have updated my travel itinerary based on help from forum members and reposted it at https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/slovenia/5-7-day-slovenia-itinerary-suggestions-revised-plan-thanks-to-suggestions

Hi, traveling solo to Central Europe late June and I'm thinking of a week or so somewhere prior to that would be good since I'm in Europe. Slovenia & Croatia sound beautiful.

I'm a huge fan of trains but understand that Slovenia and Croatia may be better at some points in the trip with rental car. I think I'd be OK to drive a rental as I've done that in CZ. Would love itinerary suggestions for Slovenia.

Slovenia wish list below. Main interests are beautiful scenery, walkable towns/cities, good food, local flavor, history/art/museums, easy to drive to w/ rental car or take train/bus & would love a few days of seaside town or beach time.

Ljubljana
Lake Bled
Vintgar Gorge
Julian Alps - questioning this as I would love to see the views but don't do well driving in the mountains. It stresses me out a bit (have done Colorado and Northern AZ & not a big fan of driving in the mountains)
Coastal towns
Other Slovenia must sees?
Caves?
Rovinj?

Plitvice Lakes National Park - possibly saving for a future trip to Croatia

Thanks for any insight - mainly about what to see in Slovenia and whether I should skip Julian Alps. I could also flip and do south to north.

Accommodation recommendations welcome too!

Thanks!

Posted by
1245 posts

Hi. We did Lake Bled including Vintner Gorge and Ljubljana last summer and really enjoyed them. No need for a car for those; travel between them and to/from airport is easy using public transit. Both areas touristy but few Americans. Ljubljana is very walkable / user friendly; really active, pleasant night time scene along river. Have a great trip!

Posted by
967 posts

Ljubljana is such a great little city. Beautiful, chill vibe, felt like I could’ve stayed forever. Summer is amazing, absolutely everyone is out in full force enjoying the riverside. You could do four nights easy.

Lake Bled was gorgeous, but small really. I would normally say it’s day trip territory. However, with Vintgar Gorge on your agenda you could justify a night or two here. I have not been to the gorge, but it’s supposedly pretty easy to get to by bike of bus from Bled. Don’t miss the summer luge! It’s a crazy one!

If you’re heading to the coast, look into Piran. Similar “Venetian port town” to Rovinj but closer (and Slovenian.) Plitvice is not a good fit this time around. It is really a long way from everything, especially from Slovenia. You’d almost certainly be forced to rent a car and deal with all the baggage that entails. It’s a big outlier geographically, and you just don’t have the time.

Posted by
267 posts

LUB is lovely and interesting. At Lake Bled, you can use taxi or bus to visit the castle, cathedral & Vintgar Gorge. The drive over the Julian Alps is very scenic and very curvy. I don't think the big buses use it - we never saw any. You can drive it and go as fast as you feel comfortable with as there are periodic turnouts for passing and viewing. One advantage of driving is the Soca Valley, the WW1 Kobarid museum & mausoleum, and the Skocjan Caves. Skip Rovinj & Croatia this trip. Piran is OK - typical of cities in the Adriatic. Good highway back to LUB.

Posted by
223 posts

Thank you all for suggestions and advice! Maybe I’ll challenge myself to do the Julia Alps drive!!

If you have any accommodations recommendations for any of the stopes, please feel free to share!

Dana

Posted by
27450 posts

Definitely do not visit Plitvice Lakes National Park on a day trip. It gets totally blasted by day-trippers. Your other idea is much better--to spend the night there. I agree with the others, though, that you have plenty to keep you busy without going that far south.

Both the Postojna and Skocjan Caves are accessible by public transportation, but I had a bit of a walk from the bus stop to Skocjan. Postojna is more touristy; it has colored lights. Skocjan is more natural. Both are beautiful.

I liked Vintgar Gorge, but if you've been to gorges in the US, it won't be shockingly different, in which case it needn't be a top priority.

Istria is easier to visit with a car, but I managed without one. I liked Rovinj (where I stayed), Porec (colorful) and the little hilltop village of Vrsar. Not being a big fan of Roman ruins, I skipped Pula. I also took a once-a-week (Wednesday as of 2015) bus tour of Inland Istria, which I really enjoyed. It went to Motovun, Groznjan, an ethnographic museum (in Pazin, I believe) and a winery (for a tasting). But as with Plitvice, I'm doubtful you have time for Istria. It's not a one-day sort of destination.

Posted by
967 posts

Dana, I stayed at Mescanka Rooms in Ljubljana and loved it. Spacious and cozy, right on the river, with great air conditioning. You’re right in the action there, but it’s practically soundproof.

Posted by
406 posts

I did the Julian Alps drive today. In late April this year, the roads were dry, but up near the top of
the pass there was still snow on the sides of the road.

Hardly a car in sight. Relatively stressless, but, you have to be decisive about things like pulling over,
because once you pass that stop point, you can't go back to it, and, you have to be careful getting
back on the road, as you often don't get a lot of sightlines for oncoming traffic. I wonder what it is
like in high season with presumably lots more cars on the road.

The turns on the way up going southbound are all cobbled, for extra traction I assume. But not on
the descent. And most of them are switchbacks. Going southbound, you are on the inside most
of the time going up, but on the descent you're on the outside, which may make for a couple of
interesting situations but in general it's not a difficult drive.

I will say that the idea of a day trip from Ljubljana all the way around seems like a lot for one day.

Posted by
318 posts

Hi,

We had a 3 week trip to Croatia and Slovenia in 2015 or so. Had a rental car. Loved the Vintgar Gorge and was an easy drive from Lake Bled that allowed us to see some of the other things mentioned in Rick's books. The Julian Alps drive has lots of hairpin curves and some bike traffic (when we were there)--only you know what your comfort level is. It appeared a not-too-difficult drive to me, but then my husband was driving. Maybe easier with an automatic than a stick shift?

Rovinj is a dream and is a coast town. Really beautiful. It is also near/part of Istria which is sometimes called the "Tuscany of Croatia." Whatever you choose will be great. Enjoy it.