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June 2023 Trip Report: 14-Day RS Best of the Adriatic Tour

I will begin with our guide, Mariam. She embodied the best of RS’ guides - extremely knowledgeable, a fun personality and a true passion & excitement for sharing each of the locations with us! One of her fun bus activities each day was sharing an exciting treat - some type of candy she ate as a child and usually a fun story to go with it. I told her as we were parting that last evening that I was going to have my husband continue that candy tradition with me when I returned home - LOL!

Our RS travel forum is so helpful, and I especially want to mention & thank “Carol now retired”. Thank you so much for suggesting the Postojna Cave/ Predjama Castle tour! Arrive at least one full day ahead of the RS tour to go on this tremendous half-day morning tour! When the minivan headed towards the cave, one of the couples in the minivan was also in the Adriatic tour! We enjoyed being together and actually ended our RS tour sharing a taxi to the Dubrovnik airport. : )

Carol (or possibly someone else on the forum) suggested bringing some mosquito repellent. I bought the Skin-So-Soft Avon mosquito repellent individual towelettes through Amazon, and I used them at Plitvice Lakes National Park, Hvar & Korcula Islands, and Dubrovnik. And they work! I had a few hovering, but they didn’t land on me. One towelette was sufficient, and my towelettes were popular with another lady who also tends to attract mosquitoes.

Those who said, “Bring the swimsuit!” were right! I have special memories now of swimming in the beautiful Adriatic at Korcula! I also began my second day in Korcula having a long session of water aerobics in the pool next to our hotel (our hotel’s pool was closed both days for maintenance). A small group of our us also had an informal pool party at our hotel in Dubrovnik our last late afternoon as people returned from the sweltering heat in the old center!

Health: our group had one case of Covid during our time at Motovun. We had been enjoying a jovial group dynamic the day before. This dampered everyone’s mood into a very quiet bus ride the day the news was shared. Fortunately, we never had another case. One couple always wore KN95 masks on the bus. After the news, several of us wore one the rest of our bus rides, although it was still stated as an option. (I also always ate lunches & non-group dinners outdoors per my norm since 2020.)

Food: this was my fourth RS tour, and Mariam did a stellar job of selecting group meals & interesting locations! She also gave the group a lot of excellent restaurant recommendations during each of our city orientation tours. Edit: I forgot to mention gelato! Many of our forum know it’s an important topic to me. ; ) There’s ARoma gelato shops in Pula, Split, Hvar & Dubrovnik - consistently great. Vigo won out over Romantika in Ljubljana. Surprisingly, more expensive than Italy’s best!

Language: we were surprised how well everyone spoke English! It was the easiest I’ve experienced outside of England. We began with a greeting in their languages, and it seemed to be appreciated. I asked the young lady who took our Ljubljana breakfast order how to pronounce a new word each morning (I was there four mornings), to try to say the right pronunciation. Then I would use it the next morning, and she’d smile.

Rick Steves Guidebook: some people brought the entire guidebook; others didn’t bring the book. During my preparation for packing & weighing everything, I read the whole book and then sliced & eliminated unneeded sections for the tour. I went through a couple of reduction iterations as I continued to weigh everything with my kitchen scale. It was looking pretty anemic by packing day! I also brought the RS small folder binders he sells and used it to just have a few pages in my purse at all times. Honestly, I didn’t refer to the pages I brought during the tour except for my pre-tour days in Ljubljana & the handy maps for each location.

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Souvenirs: during this trip, I didn’t purchase any souvenirs. My memories, experiences and photos are what I will be treasuring. I did notice a man making a watercolor/sketch of the facade of a building in Dubrovnik that has the Venetian windows. I would have purchased it from him if it was dry and ready to go, but he said he wouldn’t be there the next day. Maybe I will try it when I’m home using one of my photos for reference.

Hotel rooms: I paid for the single supplement as did two of the other female solo travelers. Two others were friends & roomed together. I never had just a twin bed in my room; they were either a full size or larger. All of them had the heavy duvet cover/top sheet, and most had adequate air conditioning. Breakfasts were all very good. Some did eggs to order - a special shout out to Hotel Mrak in Ljubljana for both their custom orders and exceptionally nice breakfast staff! Showers were often a bathtub with a half-plexiglas partition & wand, or the quarter circle small showers. I brought hair conditioner and needed it. I also like bar soap so brought a few hotel sized ones with me.

Speaking of the single supplement, one lady didn’t pay for it, and she benefited by receiving her own room because the rest of us had paid for it. It was completely worth it to me to have some space to stretch out, hang my overnight washing and know no one would be snoring. : ) She bought us an afternoon drink & appetizer in Ljubljana in thanks for her private rooms. Later on in Split, she splurged on a nice pair of Prada sunglasses. When she showed them to me, I said, “Hey, that’s your single supplement $$ sunglasses!”- LOL!

Distance from bus to hotel: in Motovun, a small van shuttled everyone’s luggage up, up the hill! I packed very light - a backpack weighing 13 pounds and a small tote, so I don’t remember any issues with walking luggage to other hotels - others may remember differently. I think all of the hotels had an elevator.

Ljubljana - my flight from Gatwick arrived late, so I changed into a dress and was racing from Hotel Mrak after my GoOpti shuttle ride to get to the Philharmonic Orchestra concert before they started! The auditorium wasn’t full. As the orchestra began, it sounded like they were tuning their instruments for minutes, long minutes but someone wasn’t in tune……until I saw the conductor turn the page of his score! Oh, this was the music! Seriously thought it could be used in a sci-fi wasp movie. The lady in front of me was sleeping. ; ). During the intermission I decided to try for dinner, instead, and found a wonderful pizza restaurant near the water. I pointed to an item on the menu, and it was fantastic!

The next pre-tour day (Saturday) was the cave & castle tour mentioned earlier. Sunday, I met a few more people on our tour at breakfast and some of us took the funicular up to enjoy the castle. That evening was our group meet up! It’s been 10 years since I traveled with a RS tour, and I was very excited, especially with such a fantastic itinerary! My buddy was our youngest tour member - no other teenagers on the tour. Most of us were either retired or within ten years of retirement.

One activity several of us enjoyed our second evening was an outdoor concert - a huge stage with children of all ages playing in orchestras, groups of accordions & other groups. We were impressed with their abilities & their community’s support & dedication! During our time in Ljubljana, there were several genres of music - in squares, on one of the bridges, etc. The music & architecture really reminded me of Salzburg.

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Lake Bled - ahh, the perfect weather! What a gorgeous location! After the time in the castle and a perfect photo viewpoint, several of us rode the pletna boat out to the island. One of the guys commented that he thought he could row, so he was given the chance….and we just sat there, not moving! Pretty funny! Instead of climbing the 99 stairs, a couple of us walked the rim of the island - very peaceful! That gave us plenty of time to have lunch afterwards and try their delicious cake split between three of us.

Bovec - the Julian Alps are gorgeous! I enjoyed that ride through them and the thorough explanation at the WWI & WWII private museum in the strategic valley.

Motovun - Mariam is from Pula, so we had our own extra special local guide! We also drove to Rovinj, a place I have wanted to photograph! Our dinner that evening was a group dinner before heading back up to Motovun.

Plitvice Lakes National Park - this was the location I really wanted to see so much! After arriving at Hotel Jezero, I opened up my balcony door to the sounds of birds & water in the distance - anticipation of tomorrow! It poured heavy rain all night! Waking up with raincoats ready, we prepared to go, yet experienced no rain during the hike! That day is one that will always be extra special!

Split - there was so much to see in the center of Split! During one of my lunches, I climbed up the long sets of stairs to reach the viewpoint by the park and eat with a view overlooking the city. Their “tuna salad” is so much more interesting & tasty than what we imagine as tuna salad!

Hvar (I planned months ahead to have one night on my own riding the ferries, so I chose Hvar on Hvar Island & didn’t go to Bosnia.). I enquired with the RS office before I signed up to check which town on Korcula they typically stay to see if this opportunity would work for me. I purchased my ferry tickets on-line at home for the 1-hour ferry from Split to Hvar and the 75 minute ferry from Hvar to Korcula. I used the Krilo ferry company and rode the passenger catamaran ferries - very easy & convenient. I shared it with Mariam early in the tour and also gave her a paper with all of reservation details, so she wouldn’t need to worry about me. I think it’s worth mentioning that I’m very comfortable traveling alone, and I also didn’t expect my RS guide to spend any of her time working on my plan for ferry reservations, etc.

Hvar - I initially reserved a hotel on the boardwalk last Spring but later found out the biggest late night party location is next door - oops! I changed it to a small heritage hotel a few months ago, and it was excellent! The owner was waiting for me at the ferry to carry my bag up the steep sets of stairs. Since I was wearing my backpack & carrying my small tote, he carried my tote - probably his lightest load, ever!

Hvar is gorgeous! But, first, some coffee! The hotel owner recommended a couple of coffee spots along the tiny upper shady lane that parallels the boardwalk. Their shops both had a few chairs or benches on the lane, but they were full, so I kept walking. Ooh, a tiny pastry shop, Glôd, a few steps farther. It was so difficult to decide what to have with my espresso. I finally chose a glistening dome with edible violets on it with a subtle spice cake interior with apricot filling. It was almost too pretty to eat! Almost…. ; )

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Invigorated from the caffeine & sugar, I climbed all over Hvar and enjoyed the day photographing the beautiful lanes, the castle, the boats, and a few coves. Everything is so pristine, and they even fine people 500€ if they are wearing only their swimsuits in town. A speedo is an extra 100 €! I dipped my feet in the water, purchased water shoes but didn’t go swimming that day. For dinner, I ate at the Adriana Hotel’s outdoor restaurant with a front row view as the huge expensive yachts kept coming into Hvar for the night. It’s amazing how they can park them in tight rows as if they were compact cars! My waiter was very nice to me (which I especially appreciate when traveling solo), and I thoroughly enjoyed my best non-group dinner of the trip.

Hvar was so different than any place I had been - lots of night life in town, rows of yachts with party lights and just a general atmosphere of enjoying the Monday evening together. Even the young children were having fun playing with a ball in front of the church in the large town square.

I stayed at Heritage Hotel Dea Hvar and would recommend it for the handy location, the friendly staff, the cleanliness of the facility, and the excellent breakfast made-to-order.

Korcula: I took the 11:15am ferry and arrived in Korcula at 12:30pm. For ease, I just took a taxi up to the tour hotel and spent the afternoon swimming in the Adriatic and also exploring the peninsula of the historic center. The rest of the group returned from Mostar around 6pm and greeted me as they were doing their orientation walk while I was at the restaurant tables along the wall - such a pretty area to eat!

Our next day was the “no agenda day” of the tour, and I spent it with morning water exercise & relaxation, taking photos all over the old center and beyond, and generally just enjoying the atmosphere. We finished the day with a Happy Hour boat ride. Mariam teased us at first by acting like a small row boat was our hired boat for the harbor ride! ; )

Dubrovnik - our local guide for Dubrovnik was really passionate about his city and the historical aspects that shaped this area! We rode the bus to the entrance of the walled portion of the city two days to enjoy. Our last day in Dubrovnik, several of us were sweltering from the heat! An informal pool party started at our hotel as people trickled back from the city.

Our finale dinner was so delicious, and Mariam took us to a charming location where our group was under a vine covered area in a courtyard. Afterwards, we had a final toast & appreciation remarks to our guide, our fellow tour friends and the sad realization that our time together was coming to a close.

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I flew Easy Jet from Dubrovnik to Amsterdam, and stayed one night in nearby Leiden at the Boutique Hotel Steenhof Suites. Originally the plan was to stay in Amsterdam or near the airport, but the available hotels were so expensive! I was able to take a 15-minute train from the airport to Leiden and stay in a beautiful, historic building with a room with white stucco artwork, a fireplace, tall ceilings, very modern bathroom with a view on a canal street - all for less than half the price - an easy decision!

Leiden is beautiful, and the area around the university and the center provided so many options for taking lovely photos! I walked off what was left of my feet and relaxed in my spacious room, enjoying reliving my trip locations!

The last day, I took the train back to Schiphol & flew Delta from Amsterdam to Seattle, to Spokane.

I was extremely blessed that the activities my entire month (my husband & I traveled in England & Wales for two weeks before this tour) were never impacted by rain. Ironically, the morning I left Dubrovnik, it was pouring heavy rain - thunderstorm delayed the flight, and I was literally soaked plus dripping hair from the Easy Jet boarding loading process of bus to outside stairs to load the plane! LOL!

Packing: This link covers some decisions I made for the combined time pre-tour with my husband followed by this tour traveling solo:
https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/packing/packing-lessons-learned-from-my-2023-england-wales-trip

Group: we had a great group of people who jelled well together! We mixed up where we sat on the bus, and I tried to rotate who I was sitting with during our group meals & at breakfast. It was nice to have others traveling solo in the group, too!

There’s one topic I’m trying to decide how to even describe. I absolutely loved this tour, and I would do it again in a heartbeat! (I’d rank it right next to the 17-day Best of Italy tour!). But, it also taught me that I really also need some independent travel time, not just a free hour or two. When I’m taking my next RS tour, I will definitely add some days post-tour to go to some additional locations solo & independently. The day that I was in Hvar and even the train ride from Schiphol to Leiden gave me those conversations with locals that I treasure. I haven’t decided if I seem more approachable when I’m by myself for a whole day (the two teenagers I was sitting with on the train engaged me in conversation, first) or if my attitude is that I’m seeking & open to the opportunities (I started the conversation in Hvar, and we talked 15 minutes), but as soon as I was away from the tour both things happened.

Thanks again to the forum participants, and I would highly recommend these two countries for your bucket list! I’m looking forward to returning in the future!

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Thanks for sharing your trip report, Jean! What a delightful sounding tour. I also liked that you shared with what you were glad to have packed, and I agree that a swimsuit is essential! That’s great that you were able to plan a night in Hvar, too. Slovenia is one of my favorite places and I hope to see Croatia soon.

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6372 posts

Thank you, Jean, very interesting report.

The very first time we took a Rick Steves tour, we scheduled several days before the tour, then about a week or so after for ourselves. We've stuck to the pattern ever since, even expanding the "us" time considerably. We skipped this only once, this past winter, as a matter of fact, when we couldn't spare the extra time away. We did manage to sneak about 5 days in before the tour started, though, and we treasure that time.

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14247 posts

Jean!! What a fun time you’ve had! Thanks for your comprehensive report! I think it was brilliant of you to take a break in the middle and do something else.

I agree with Jane and you that time ahead and after a tour is important for me. I hate to go home on departure day. I’m usually still pumped up and not ready to quit traveling!

Thanks for taking time to post.

Safe travels for your last set of flights.

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5132 posts

Jean, thank you for taking the time to share this.
What's next?

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2508 posts

Mariam was the guide on the Adriatic tour my son and I took last fall. She was exceptional.
My son should really go on all my RS tours, he was also on the Basque tour where Francisco was our guide. Also exceptional. I had to explain to him that all the guides I have had have been good, but these 2 were a step above.

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184 posts

Thank you, Jean.

Earlier this evening I was looking at RS Trips and dreaming about which one I would take if I had the time. The Adriatic Tour was right up there with Bulgaria and Poland. Because of your wonderful report it's high on the list. Maybe someday....

Traveler Girl

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Thank you, Jean. Terrific summary. We are booked for the Adriatic tour September 2024, and I was wondering about visiting Hvar afterward. You certainly made it sound like a great spot post tour. Cheers, Mary Lou

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One topic I forgot to mention- money: Pam who lives near me & attends our monthly local RS group mentioned Apple Pay at one our meetings. Having my credit card ready on my phone was SO convenient! I never moved my physical credit card from its secure spot in my money belt. Mariam did tell our group to tip about 10%, so I had Euro bill/coins for that and also some toilets.

I ended up getting cash twice from bank ATM’s and using it in the smaller restaurants. When I stopped in Leiden overnight, the local coffee shop didn’t take cash, so I used the Apple Pay option.

Also, the restaurants asked when preparing the bill if we were paying in cash or card and one even needed to know specifically if it would be Visa or Mastercard. Once prepared, they couldn’t switch to a different pay method.

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Hi Pat & Roubrat, Italy continues to call me back! I’m planning to return to Spello to attend their beautiful Infiorate again and will add several places in Umbria & possibly farther north or south. My overnight in Leiden is also making me consider whether to also tie in a quick Easy Jet to The Netherlands and swing through some small towns, along with focusing on great museums before flying back home from Schiphol.

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Great report, Jean. My husband and I did this tour several years ago. The tour used to go to Hvar which we enjoyed. I loved your decision to skip Mostar and go to Hvar instead on your own during the tour. What a great idea! Although I don’t regret going to Mostar, I found it a bit depressing. I think you made a good choice to skip it.

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Thanks Jean! It was interesting reading your report, since we were on the June 11th BoA. Was your guide Mariam Abdelghani? We had her for our walking tour of Pula. Very good.

Interesting how you customized your tour with Hvar. I'm glad you loved your choice, because we found Bosnia to be the best part of our tour! Our guide Sanel is from Stolac, so that was special. But everyone must have the trip THEY want, and it sounds like a very nice option!

Sorry you lost someone to Covid. Everyone on our tour stayed healthy. I thought I'd hear some coughs on the bus as it progressed, but it never happened. And our group was quite cohesive, spending free time together.

I agree - I'd do the tour again in a heartbeat. Except I wouldn't, really, since cost is a factor (I'm Canadian). I'd have to be sure to have Sanel again too. But it was that good a tour that in theory I'd love to repeat it.

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Jean,
Thanks for sharing your delightful experiences on this wonderful sounding tour. It has moved up my wishlist. I even looked up tour dates that begin after my Poland tour ends in 2024. Hmm, maybe I could do back to back tours?
So many places, so little time, not to mention money. 😂 .

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Judy B I hear you about the money. I'd sign up right now for more tours but we have Canadian dollars. Eek!! But I do believe the tour absolutely was value for money.

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Jean, I am so glad the ApplePay worked for you! And I am thrilled that this spring when I was gone and they turned the Fred Meyer upside down they also added new contactless terminals at the checkout stands. Now I can scan my customer card from my Apple Wallet and pay with my CC from my phone. So easy!

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1874 posts

Maybe I missed it, but I note this tour has some 5 or 6 hour bus days. How did that go? How did your tour director make the long bus rides interesting?
Great tour report. Thanks so much.

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594 posts

Wow! You are an intrepid traveler that knows how to go places. Thank you for this great report, this tour is most definitely on our radar!

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Jean, thank you for your trip report. I so enjoyed it. May I ask what made you choose this tour?you do so much independent travel I wondered what made you do this tour? Do you have family connection to Central Europe or just always been intrigued? I have to confess a big zone of ignorance about that area before and after the end of the Cold War. I do know there would be a very complex history of different ethnic and religious history to absorb. Do you feel that the tour satisfied your expectations?

Also, did you want to go in the summer as opposed to another time of the year?

So many amazing places to go in our big wide world, eh?! I’m going on the Prague Budapest tour in October with several days independent time in both cities at the beginning and the end of the tour and then going to Vienna for a week since I’m in the ‘neighborhood’. To me that is the way to travel, to collect all the experiences of travel, the group dynamic and learn from the amazing guides and also have the quiet reflection of solo travel.

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2488 posts

I hope you do get to extend your trip to include The Netherlands, Jean.

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Andrea, yes, Mariam Abdelghani was my RS guide. Isn’t she terrific? I reviewed the scrapbooks for last year’s contest and saw one of the Adriatic entries had her as their guide and really liked her. When the final roster arrived for my tour, I was thrilled to see her name listed as our guide.

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Laurie Beth, regarding your question about the long bus ride days - by their country laws, they’re required to give the bus driver a break every two hours. Sometimes they were just a bathroom break, but many times we had something fun - a lunch at a country winery or stopping at an interesting museum or point of interest.

When I chose to skip Mostar in favor of Hvar, that decision did cut out two long bus days. I had an hour ferry both days, instead, so that gave me six extra non-transportation hours in Hvar & Korcula.

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Lyndash, yes, I do love my independent travel in Europe! : )

I’ve had this tour on my radar for a few years and even had an independent itinerary for Croatia planned several years ago. But, it’s not as easy to travel in those countries by train - especially if it’s including Slovenia. So, I was planning to do it through the RS tour. Originally, I delayed it last year because my husband was also interested. But, he decided England was higher priority for him, so that’s where we celebrated the first two weeks of June, being our 45th wedding anniversary this summer.

Everybody brings slightly different expectations to a tour. This one definitely fulfilled mine!

The short season for ferries in the Dalmatians, plus wanting to time our England travel to coincide with roses blooming in the English gardens is what drove the timing for the tour.

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Thanks so much for sharing! I am going on this tour later this summer. I appreciate all of the helpful information that you have provided.

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110 posts

we did this tour in May starting it on the same day our Village Italy tour ended. Both were great as is your summary.

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3334 posts

Thank you Jean for this great trip report. I have never considered visiting the Adriatic region - but thanks to your trip report it's on my list of possibilities!

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Pat & Roubrat, I've reserved lodging for the Spello Infiorata & now also the 3-day Festa di San Nicola in Bari, so those are the end-point dates of my next trip in 2024, flying back home from Rome. : )