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help with 21 days-croatia

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Hi there

I am a first time poster! My husband and I are heading to Croatia and area May 21st from Canada. We are in our early 40's and love to walk, explore, eat, drink good wine and people watch. We are into culture but more from the sit in a cafe, walk the streets and soak up the vibe way than a museum way though we do love ruins and such. We like a fairly active pace but still to feel like we are on vacation and like we've actually seen something rather than ticked "must sees" off boxes. We have travelled Europe quite extensively having been through France, Spain, Portugal, Turkey, Greece and Italy-and driven there also. So now that you know a bit about us-I need some help planning. It seems there is no much to see and do that I am having trouble prioritizing and planning an itinerary. We do have some accommodation booked -mostly apartments (with cancellation) so I am open to change here. This is what we have so far.

May 21st-arrive late Dubrovnik
May 22nd-Day in Dubrovnik (overnight Dub)
May 23rd-am explore a bit more if we want, pick up car and head to Kotor with a stop in Morinj for a nice lunch (overnight Kotor)
May 24th-full day exploring around Kotor (walk walls and chill time-overnight in Kotor)
May 25th -drive to Sarajevo (night in Sarajevo)
May 26th-explore Sarajevo (night in Sarajevo)
May 27th-head to Mostar early -explore Mostar (over night in Mostar)
May 28th-drive to split/trogir (not sure to spend the night in Split or Trogir-we are interested only in seeing the Palace and old town so thinking might be nicer to stay in Trogir)
May 29th-day in Spilt exploring Palace (overnight Split/Trogir)
May 30th-head to Hvar (overnight in apartment in Hvar town)
May 31st- Hvar
June 1st- Hvar (maybe day trip to Bol-just want to see the beach-possible?)
June 2nd -travel to Pilvtice lakes (overnight PL)
June 3rd-early am explore lakes -head to rovinj (overnight rovinj)
June 4th-day exploring Istria (hill towns etc)
June 5th-day exploring Istria-perhaps Pula
June 6th-head early to Ljubljana (we are staying here June 6th, 7th, 8th 9th and 10th and using as a base for Slovenia)
June 11th-home to Canada

So my questions are-even though we like an active pace, is this way to rushed? We only have one day for Split/Trogir-should we just pick one and see it well? Also at the beginning is only one full day in Dubrovnik too little? Should we take a day from Istria and add it to Dubrovnik, Split or even Slovenia?

Too many choices.....

Thanks for your help

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    Some people would consider it a tad rushed. But if you are experienced travelers and know that's your pace, and you like to see a lot of things when you travel, don't worry about it. If you've read my trip report from last May, you'll see my trip was about as rushed if not more so!

    In May, you'd have the option not to pre-book so much and just book places as you go, so you could stay as long as you wish in these places. But with apartments that's harder, of course - easier to book hotels at the last minute.

    There is much more to see in Split than in Trogir, which is lovely and charming but smaller. Trogir feels more touristy. I don't think it's necessarily a mistake to pick one or the other as your base and day trip to the other. Even though I liked Trogir a tad better (I've overnighted in both), I still might recommend staying over in Split, though.

    Try to stop in the lovely town of Sibenik (south of Zadar) as you drive north from Split/Trogir on the way to Plitvice. There's no great need to get in too early to Plitvice on arrival day if you'll see it the next morning, because there's nothing to do at night there (no town), so you could make the drive north a day with stops. The only reason to arrive earlier in Plitvice might be if the next day's weather forecast is rainy.

    Consider dropping your car off in Croatia before you head to Slovenia, to avoid the steep one-way drop fee you'd pay for dropping the car in another country. Instead, drop the car in Rijeka and take the direct train up to Ljubljana. You can drop it in Rovinj and take a bus, but you have fewer car companies in Rovinj, and you'd have to take a bus not a train north. Then rent another car in Ljubljana.

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    If you're prepared for a fast-paced trip and that generally works for you, this plan should in general work and should make for a great trip! Just a few comments:

    One day is very little for Sarajevo, IMO, so if you can find a way to add a day there, you might consider it.

    Trogir is lovely, but tiny -- you should be able to see it in just a half day.

    If I recall correctly, the ferry schedules change on 1 June, so be sure you have the right schedules in mind when you plan getting to and from Hvar.

    For your day in the Plitvice Lakes, keep in mind that you'll probably want 6 or 7 hours in the park, and will then have a 4.5 or 5 hour drive (not counting breaks) to reach Rovinj -- which I assume you will want to reach before sunset. So you'll probably want to be sure to start your time in the park early.

    I traveled in these areas in late May and early June back in 2009, and was very glad that I booked in advance. YMMV.

    Hope that helps!

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    Thank you Andrew and Kja. Yes this helps. Kja-I have been tossing Sarajevo back and forth for a while! We decided to not go at all at first as we felt we didn't have enough time to do it justice then on a second thought realized we may never make it back there-and something about it calls to me! I am also wondering about changing the order of Hvar and Trogir-so maybe

    May 21st-arrive late Dubrovnik
    May 22nd-Day in Dubrovnik (overnight Dub)
    May 23rd-am explore a bit more if we want, pick up car and head to Kotor with a stop in Morinj for a nice lunch (overnight Kotor)
    May 24th-full day exploring around Kotor (walk walls and chill time-overnight in Kotor)
    May 25th -drive to Sarajevo (night in Sarajevo)
    May 26th-explore Sarajevo (night in Sarajevo)
    May 27th-head to Mostar early -explore Mostar (over night in Mostar)
    May 28th-drive to Hvar-
    May 29th- Hvar
    May 30th- Hvar
    May 31st- Hvar
    June 1st- Hvar to Split-early ferry -overnight Split
    June 2nd -travel to Pilvtice lakes with stops
    June 3rd-early am explore lakes -head to rovinj (overnight rovinj)
    June 4th-day exploring Istria (hill towns etc)
    June 5th-day exploring Istria-perhaps Pula
    June 6th-head early to Ljubljana (we are staying here June 6th, 7th, 8th 9th and 10th and using as a base for Slovenia)
    June 11th-home to Canada

    AND take an extra night from Hvar and add to Sarajevo-Thoughts?

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    Could work quite well!

    FWIW, I thought Hvar Town lovely, but it was WAY too upscale for me and I was happy to have chosen to spend very little time there. With this new plan, you seem to be giving it a disproportionate amount of time, while leaving very, very little time for Split OR Trogir -- but maybe you forgot to mark your change from Hvar to Split / Trogir?

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    Personally, I was a bit disappointed in Sarajevo. I guess my expectations were too high - I had wanted to see it for a long time, so I had expected it to be the highlight of my recent trip. It wasn't, though I found some of the history essential.

    I had done a ton of reading beforehand about both the famous assassination of Archduke Ferdinand in 1914 and also about the 1990s Bosnian war and the Siege of Sarajevo. The 1914 stuff was much easier to grasp (I highly recommend reading "The Trigger: Hunting the Assassin Who Brought the World to War" by Tim Butcher if you are interested in that history at all).

    But I found the Bosnian war stuff very difficult to grasp, even after taking a Sarajevo Insider tour focused on the Siege. It's hard to imagine now that such a thing could even have happened, and walking through the city years later I could barely imagine the scenes of terror. Visiting the city didn't have the emotional impact on me that I had expected.

    Otherwise, I didn't find Sarajevo particularly charming or inviting. It was more touristy than I had expected. The 1914 stuff was compelling to me, though, and for that reason alone I am glad I went, but I don't have much desire to visit Sarajevo again. By comparison, there are places in Croatia and Slovenia I hope to visit again. Maybe you will like Sarajevo more than I did.

    I haven't been to Hvar (only to Korcula) so can't offer you any comparison there, whether you ought to cut a night from there or not.

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    Hi -Kja-yes there is a lot of time in Hvar-part of that is on purpose to make sure we have some hang out and "relax" time -the DH always likes us to have some beach time too! I do think I will take a day out of Hvar though and either add another to Sarajevo or, more likely, to Split/Trogir yes.

    Hear/Korcula-funny you should mention that-we were originally leaning towards Korcula as our island but then we thought that perhaps we will have seen a lot of walled cities between Kotor and Dubrovnik, and I have always heard that the island-not so much the town, of Hvar was gorgeous-and we could take a day trip to Bol (DH wants to see that_. A day trip looks very possible with the Catamarans I think. Either way, I can't see being disappointed though I will ask-did you find Korcula great? Kia, Andrew, I will go through an dread your old posts.

    Yes Sarajevo, I have also had so much back and forth there-to be honest it's the drive between Mostar there that appeals just as much as the city. That and really-when will we ever be back there? I think I'll have to see it and make my own judgements. I just worry about giving it so little time that we don't even give it a fair shot. That being said-we will have a full day bookended with 2 overnights so we can always leave afternoon for Mostar if we find we want to explore a bit more. Not ideal but....

    Second question -is Krka NP worth it if we are just heading to Pilvtice?

    Thanks again

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    Who knows - maybe you'll love Sarajevo and regret not having the extra night?

    See, this is why I suggested you might leave your bookings open so you don't HAVE to commit to an extra night here or there. I booked only two nights in Sarajevo at the outset; I booked the third night only reluctantly after I arrived. I stayed that extra day only because I wanted to take the Insider tour and hoped the extra day would help me enjoy the city more - but it really didn't. But at that point in my trip (I was near the end of it), I didn't really have anywhere else ahead of me where I wanted to add nights.

    Mostar is nice but really small compared to Sarajevo. You can see Mostar in just a few hours, though in daytime it is pretty touristy, nicer at night. If you are staying over in Mostar, you can leave early the next day I think unless you have specific things you really want to see. Yes, the drive between Mostar and Sarajevo is really beautiful.

    Yes, Korcula Town is yet another "walled city" like Dubrovnik and Kotor. I suppose that's a legitimate reason to avoid it for Hvar instead. Korcula Town was kind of a ghost town by the time I arrived from Dubrovnik in mid-October. I'm not sure what it would be like in May, probably still off season. I didn't have a car on that trip and didn't really get out of Korcula town to see the rest of the island.

    I did like Korcula town - I had the feeling that in the summer it would be really awesome (but also probably too busy for me). There's a local dance called the Moreška that is performed occasionally but not while I was in town. I wasn't as crazy about Kotor itself (but Bay of Kotor scenery nearby was amazing), but I saw Korcula and Kotor years apart at different times of the year - hard for me to compare them. Dubrovnik is very touristy but for me is still the best of the three. I still wouldn't say they are all exactly alike.

    Krka and Plitvice are different kinds of parks. Plitvice is kind of a big long experience of walking in a fairly cohesive park. Krka is more spread out, and you can do it as more of an "a la carte" experience. Most people see the big Skradinski Buk cascading waterfall - where they can swim (no swimming at Plitvice). When I visited Skradinski Buk in early May almost no one was swimming because it was still too cold but a few brave souls tried!

    I only saw Skradinski Buk at Krka; I took the short boat ride from the town of Skradin and spent about two hours walking up and around the big falls. There's nothing like that at Plitvice (mostly much smaller falls and big lakes; Krka is on a river). There are other attractions at Krka that you can drive to (another big falls; some Roman ruins) or take a long boat excursion between some of them. With limited time, as with my visit, you could see just Skradinski Buk if you wanted to as a short stop. Check the boat schedules from Skradin - run only once an hour I believe. You may also be able to drive right up to the falls off season and skip the boat ride - I forget.

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    I appreciate how difficult it is to make some of these decisions!

    I thought Sarajevo absolutely charming, and very poignantly so -- but if you don't like it, you can leave early even if you have already booked (think "sunk costs") or -- since you plan on driving -- take a drive or whatever. It is far afield from the rest of your trip, so leaving yourselves enough time to see it on this trip makes a LOT of sense to me.

    As for Korcula vs. Hvar Town, I'm probably not the person to ask as I was NOT looking for down time on my trip to the area, so I only spent one night on Korcula (timed to see the moresca) and 2 nights on Hvar, but in Stari Grad rather than Hvar Town. I really enjoyed Korcula. As already stated, I was put off by the club scene and ostentatious wealth of Hvar Town. JMO. Both a beautiful. Giving your planned routing, Hvar makes much more sense for you than Korcula. I just thought you were shifting the order of your visits, but keeping Split and Trogir in the mix, and so was surprised to see that you had apparently decided to give Split just part of one day. Split was one of my very favorite places in Croatia....

    Andrew has given some idea of how the Plitvice Lakes NP differs from the Krka NP. I would add that part of what makes the Plitvice Lakes so special is that each lake has unique microbiota (and a few lakes have several different regions with different microbiota), and as a result, the lakes are different colors. You don't see that at Krika.

    If you do go to the Krka NP, you don't have to take the boat from Skradin -- its a pleasant walk from there to the start of the park, maybe 1/2 hour or so -- I'm sorry, I don't recall.

    Enjoy!

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    I stayed 3 nights in Sarajevo during the peak of the rains in 2014 that led to the severe flooding in other parts of Bosnia-Herzegovina. It rained the entire time I was there. This was in the middle of a three-week trip that included Slovenia and Croatia. The entire rest of the trip, with the exception of my three days in Sarajevo, it was gorgeous weather. And now, two years later, of all the memories I have from that great trip, my time in Sarajevo stands out.

    Here's my take on Sarajevo. This city was one of the crown jewels of Tito's Yugoslavia, hosting the Winter Olympics in 1984. The Bosnian War, and the siege of Sarajevo, which lasted for almost 4 years from 1992 to 1996 and was the longest of a capital city in the history of modern warfare, reduced the city to a shadow of its former glory, and now, 20 years later, they are still struggling to rebuild in the face of a miserably bad economy. So while there are still many delightful, tourist-friendly things to see and do there, it's hard for Sarajevo to put on a great show for tourists. And that's one of the things I loved about it, although I can also understand why other travelers find it difficult to discover its charms.

    The best thing I did in Sarajevo was to hire a private guide for an all-day walking tour. (It was ridiculously inexpensive, somewhere around $50.) We spent all day walking in the rain and the chill, stopping twice for coffee, where I learned the art of the Bosnian coffee culture. My guide was a teenager during the siege and he joined the Bosnian army to fight against the Serbs. His father was injured during the siege, an injury that would not have been life-threatening in normal times, but because they were unable to get him to a hospital and get him treated, he died. He showed me places where he ran across intersections trying to dodge bullets and shellfire coming from the hills. He brought the story of the siege to life for me. But in addition, he brought the story of the Bosnian people to life, helped me understand their history and their current situation, 18 years after the Dayton Accords ended the war without a real resolution for the people or their nation.

    I love seeing beautiful sights when I travel. Plitvice, the Dalmatian coast, the Julian Alps and the Soca Valley, it was all beautiful. But coming away with a real understanding about the people of Bosnia and the struggles, past and present, of Sarajevo, is worth far more.

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    Great description, nocloset!

    I took a 1/2 day group tour of Sarajevo run out of the Tourist Information office that was led by 2 young men who sound similar in some ways to nocloset's guide: One came of age very early in the siege, and spent almost all of the siege working in defense of the city -- fighting, getting people out, bringing supplies in, etc. The other was younger. He and his mother lived in Sarajevo through most of the siege, while his father fought. When his father was killed, he and his mother moved up the evacuee priority list; they got out just before the siege ended. They took us to the Tunel Museum and MANY other places of great significance to the war and to them, and even as they spoke of people having coffee with Kafka ... meaning they made the coffee using pages from one of his books for fuel … they took us to see some of the few trees that survived the siege because the residents simply could not bear to cut down ALL the trees, no matter how badly they needed fuel. And OMG, I found the monument to the children who died during the siege incredibly moving!

    I also took a walk through the main cemetery used during the siege. Not only does it offer some stunning views, but the vast areas filled with the names of people, and especially young men, who all died within those few years hit me very powerfully.

    BTW, I don't know what the current situation is, but at least when I was there (and in Mostar, too), part of what complicated reconstruction is a lack of clarity about ownership -- so many people "vanished," along with many of the records that had been kept in archives that were destroyed -- that determining property rights became quite complicated.

    And then there were the ever-present signs of the city's history of religious tolerance -- its magnificent Orthodox and Catholic cathedrals and the Jewish buildings that survived....

    These were among my most enduring memories of Sarajevo, but I also remember the charm of many public squares, the welcoming banter of the sellers in the metalworkers' market (sorry -- I'm forgetting the name) and a lively produce market, the beauty of some of the mosques, fascinating architectural details spanning multiple centuries and cultural influences....

    I guess I got a bit carried away there -- sorry! But maybe that gives you a sense of why I enjoyed my time there.

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    Hi

    First you guys are amazing to take so much time to comment in depth. I have to say, this has been by far the most helpful forum of all that I have been visiting. Kja and nocloset-you are both so right-what will one remember a few years later....you have sealed the deal-we are making a point of going to Sarajevo now! Thanks. Do you remember the name of the guides you hired? I would like to do same.

    So then now the plan looks like below. I added a day to Slovenia and took from Istria-might change that or as Kja suggested-leave that bit open and if Istria calls simply stay.

    No closet-can you comment on your time in Slovenia? We were leaning towards Ljubljana as a base-but we also really like tourist farms and rural places so maybe allowing for a night or so on a place like that would be good too! Getting excited-and really so much thanks for all of your time!

    May 21st-arrive late Dubrovnik (10:00 pm)
    May 22nd-Day in Dubrovnik (overnight Dub)
    May 23rd-am explore a bit more if we want, pick up car and head to Kotor with a stop in Morinj for a nice lunch (overnight Kotor)
    May 24th-full day exploring around Kotor (walk walls and chill time-overnight in Kotor)
    May 25th -drive to Sarajevo (night in Sarajevo)
    May 26th-explore Sarajevo (night in Sarajevo)
    May 27th- head to Mostar early -explore Mostar (over-night in Mostar)
    May 28th- Mostar to Split (overnight in Split)
    May 29th- Day in Split (Diocletian’s Palace)
    May 30th- Split to Hvar (ferry at 8:30 or 2:30-2 ½ hours)
    May 31st- Hvar
    June 1st- Hvar
    June 2nd –Hvar to Plitvice Lakes NP (5:30 am or 11:30 am)-3 hours drive
    June 3rd-day in Pilvtice –head to istria (anywhere from 2 hours to 4 depending on where we stay)
    June 4th-explore Istria (night in Rovinj)
    June 5th –head to Ljubljana stopping along the way in hill towns etc-arrive late
    June 6th- day in Ljubljana-concert at night

    June 7th-day trip from Ljubljana
    June 8th Slovenia
    June 9th -Slovenia
    June 10th-head to London for early flight on June 11

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    My guide was Amir Telibecirovic. He does tours for Rick Steves and is a journalist and writer. You can probably find his contact information by searching the Internet, or I think maybe in Rick's book on the Adriatic he provides contact info.

    Feel free to check out my travel blog for more about my trip to the Balkans.

    http://laneisgoingplaces.blogspot.com/search/label/Balkans

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    I just went to the TI office in downtown Sarajevo and signed up for the next day's tour that included the Tunel. I was assured that they make an effort to ensure that their guides are knowledgable, preferably through their personal experiences. I have no idea whether that remains the case today.

    Oh dear -- I don't remember recommending playing it by ear while in Istria, although I think it's an idea well worth considering! As I'm reading your plan, you now expect to reach Istria on the evening of the 3rd, have the 4th there, and explore some hill towns en route to a late arrival in Ljubljana. If so, I think that could work -- again, assuming that you are comfortable with all the things you will have to skip to achieve that timing. For what it's worth, I'm glad I saw Istria and definitely enjoyed my time there. I adored Slovenia.

    BUT ... I wonder how you are estimating your drive times. You say "3 hours drive" from Hvar to Plitvice Lakes; viamichelin says 7'15" (not counting breaks). You said 2 to 4 hours from Plitvice Lakes to Istria, depending on where you stay. Again, I think that estimate overly optimistic. Have you checked viamichelin.com? IME, it gives the most reliable and accurate estimates of driving times. In contrast, google maps -- IME -- consistently underestimates that actual driving time by 1/4 to 1/3....

    Ljubljana is an absolutely charming little city, and since Slovenia's highways are largely laid out as spokes from Ljubljana, it should serve your purposes well. That said, if you WANT to spend a night in something more rural, go for it!

    With just a tiny concern about the accuracy of your estimates of driving times, I think you've come up with a great itinerary! :-) AND I think it will work, even if MY sense of your driving times is closer to reality -- I just think you would do well to be prepared for how long some of those trips might be!

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    Hi

    You guys were so helpful-I'm back:)

    Here is what we landed on-now I am wondering if we ended up with too much time on Hvar at the expense of Rovinj-perhaps 1 less day and one more to Rovinj. Is it possible to spend a Hvar trip on a day trip to another island. Analysis paralysis me thinks

    May 21st-arrive late Dubrovnik (10:00 pm)
    May 22nd-Day in Dubrovnik (overnight Dub)
    May 23rd-am explore a bit more if we want, pick up car and head to Kotor with a stop in Morinj for a nice lunch (overnight Kotor)
    May 24th-full day exploring around Kotor (walk walls and chill time-overnight in Kotor)
    May 25th -drive to Sarajevo (night in Sarajevo)-6 hours.
    May 26th-explore Sarajevo (night in Sarajevo)
    May 27th- head Mostar (over-night in Mostar)-2 hours
    May 28th- Mostar to Hvar (arrive for 2:30 ferry from Split-2 ½ hour drive from Mostar to Split)
    May 29th- Hvar
    May 30th- Hvar
    May 31st- Hvar
    June 1st- Hvar to Split via early ferry –overnight in Split and see sights
    June 2nd –Split to Plitvice Lakes NP-3 hour’s drive direct-see sights on way- or more time in Split if feel it's needed
    June 3rd-day in Pilvtice –head to istria
    June 4th-explore Istria (night in Bale)
    June 5th –day and night in Bale
    June 6th- day in Ljubljana

    June 7th-Slovenia
    June 8th Slovenia
    June 9th -Slovenia
    June 10th-head to London

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    Should be great!

    I, personally, was not enamored of Hvar -- WAY too upscale for me -- so I spent a few hours there and was ready to go. But I'm an outlier -- it seems that most people want at least 2 or 3 days there.

    In contrast, I wanted more time in Split and Trogir than you are giving it. And again, in contrast, many people think it warrants less time than that. (Isn't it wonderful that we all travel with different interests and preferences? Life would be so boring if we were all in lock-step! But it makes planning more difficult, doesn't it?)

    If I'm following, you are planning on 2 days in Istria -- June 4 and 5? Bale is lovely and TINY, so I'm assuming that your plan is to explore the hill towns in the area? Two days could be enough, depending on what you want to see and experience....

    No wrong choices here, just tough ones. ;-)

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    Kja-you have been so helpful-and I also misquoted you-it was Andrew that advised play it by ear not you-sorry:) Yes we are planning hill towns etc in Istria. My husband loved ruins so Pula too-this is why I am thinking of an extra day. You're right-can't go wrong at this point! Part of why I gave Hvar so much time is that we have a lovely apartment with kitchen and balcony with a great view there, so I thought it might be a good relax place. What I need to do is figure out ease of day trips that time of year. I think it's right before the high season ferries etc.

    Thanks for all your help

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    I'm glad you've found my comments helpful and appreciate that you've said so! No worries about misquoting -- I'm sure we've all done that.

    With an interest in visiting Pula, I can see why you are thinking of shifting a day from Hvar to Istria. That might make sense, but again, your call!

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