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Driving Slovenia & Noerthern Croatia

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Hi fodorites, I had posted something like this on another thread, as part of an already happening chat under a more restrictive title (Lake Bled). I might get more responses if I re-post it on a new thread under a more general heading – so here it is!

We (two of us) are booked on a cruise embarking at Venice on Thursday 29 May. I’m planning a driving itinerary for before the cruise, around northern Croatia & Slovenia, and would appreciate any suggestions, criticisms, advice etc:

Fly into Venice, collect car, Treviso 1 night
Trieste 2 nights
Rovinj 3-4 nights (incl day trip to Pula)
Lovran or Opatija or Senj 1 night
Zadar 1 night
Plitvice Lakes 1 night
Zagreb 2 nights
Ljubljana 2 nights
Lake Bled 2 nights
Treviso 1 night
Venice (cruise)

Some points to mention are:

The end date of the itinerary is fixed because of having to link up with the cruise, but the start date is flexible as we haven’t yet booked our airfares.

The Treviso start/end points are about not driving too far after arriving off a long haul flight, and not wanting to be too far away the night before we join the cruise. Venice itself we’ve been to before, and the cruise stays in Venice for the first night anyway.

Koper (and Piran if we want), plus some of the more southern highlights like Split & Dubrovnik (with Trogir if we want) are visited by the cruise itself;

A guiding principle in structuring the itinerary has been to avoid certain places on certain days (e.g. Lake Bled on a weekend) because of crowds etc.

We’d appreciate comments on our choice of stops and the time allotted to each. Ideas for accommodation would also be welcome.

As a guide, we enjoy history, some museums and churches, walking and exploring, a relaxed (as opposed to loud and frenzied!) bar and café scene, and discovering places of local interest as opposed to tourist hang-outs.

Grateful for your thoughts. Thanks.

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    Hi, twoflower -

    In case I wasn't clear, I enjoyed Lovran VERY much. If faded elegance is acceptable to you -- and I take it it is -- then Lovran can be delightful. It's old town is TINY, but seemed pleasantly untouched by people trying to make a buck. The waterside hotels have a great deal of charm, even if faded. And the Lungomare is really quite lovely -- well worth a long stroll.

    I stopped in Senj only long enough to see the Nehaj Fortress and only because I wanted a break from driving. (I was driving solo and think it important to take breaks once in a while.) I thought the fortress had some mild interest and the views from the top were pleasant, but I wouldn't have stopped there JUST for the fortress. (Or rather, I think I would have been disappointed had I done that.)

    I think your plan is taking shape quite nicely!

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    Thanks again, kja. I think after our previous postings, I'm fairly well set on Lovran rather than Opatija or Senj. Your comments have been very helpful.

    My only area of doubt now is how to apportion our time, especially between Trieste, Lovran and Zadar. We've had to reduce the itinerary by a day, so have taken away the possible 4th night at Rovinj. (It was only tentative anyway). My above itinerary has 2 nights in Trieste, and 1 night each in Lovran and Zadar. Do people agree with this, or does one of these last two merit an extra night at the expense of a second night in Trieste?

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    I think 1 night in Lovran is enough, so long as you leave time to walk the Lungomare and see a bit of the town. I spent a bit over 2 hours walking the Lungomare from Lovran to Opatija, but that included stopping briefly for coffee in Ika and stopping every few steps to take some pictures. I'd guess that 1.5 hours would be more than enough for most people. Then you need time to get back to wherever you started. It's a fairly short bus ride, but how frequently the busses go probably depends on the season, so see if you can get the schedule before you start your walk. Oh, and make sure you know where to catch the bus for your return unless you plan on walking back. (Or maybe a taxi is an option? Sorry, I don't remember.) You'll probably also want 1/2 hr or so just to roam around Lovran's Old Town.

    I spent only 1 night in Zadar, but that meant that I had about a full day there -- I got there mid-day on one day and left mid-day the next. I was on the move pretty much all of the daylight time I had there, but then, I really took advantage of the opportunity to see as much as I could. If you prefer a more leisurely pace and want to see most of its museums and churches and squares, give it more than a day; if you want to be more selective in what you see, a day should suffice.

    I only spent 3 days in Istria, but that probably reflects my travel preferences and some difficult prioritizing decisions more than anything else -- having 4 days in the area would probably be much nicer. (And I'm sure many people will say that 4 days is not enough!)

    In case it helps, here's what I did: I left Lovran in the morning, stopped briefly in Bale (which I enjoyed), and then went to Rovinj (IMO, a great base for the area). I arrived in Rovinj (where I spent the night) by mid-day and spent the rest of the day there. I checked out the next morning, stopped briefly at the Limski Canal (I'm sure a boat ride would be lovely -- I just took a look); Tar (not a top-tier spot IMO); Poreč (definitely worth a few hours - don't miss the Euphrasian Basilica!); to Motovun (a lovely hill town that I was glad to visit); through Beram (worth a brief stop for it for its medieval frescoes if you are in the area); and finally to Gračišće, where I spent the night. Gračišće was then well off the beaten trail and was just then undergoing renovations to restore some of its chapels and frescoes; I have no idea what it is like now, although I see that some TA experts recommend stopping there. (If you do stop there, please tell Svetlana, at the Konoba Marino, that the woman whose car broke down while there back in 2009 still fondly remembers the help that she and her family gave me.) As that parenthetical note suggests, my car broke down in Gračišće, so I unexpectedly spent most of the next day there -- time I had planned to spend visiting Hum, Roc, and Pazin. Once the car was fixed, I left Istria for the Plitvice Lakes. SO, I had only 3 days there, each of which was very full. I had decided beforehand to skip Pule. (I'm sure I would have enjoyed it, but I have seen enough Roman amphitheaters that it didn't make my final cut.)

    I haven't been to Trieste yet and so cannot comment on it.

    However difficult the decisions, the good news is that you'll be seeing some wonderful places no matter what.

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