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Croatia, Slovenia and Bosnia Herzegovina in September

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Jul 7th, 2015, 09:44 PM
  #1
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Croatia, Slovenia and Bosnia Herzegovina in September

It seems that many Fodorites are planning trips to this par of the world in September. Add me to the list!

I would welcome some input on how to put all of this together. I have spent the better part of today researching and looking at a number of very helpful posts, but I am still undecided on the best options to maximize our time and to travel efficiently.

We are travelling from the west coast of North America over the Labour Day weekend. We will arrive in Chicago in the early afternoon on Saturday and our flight for Munich departs the following evening. We are very excited to have this time (albeit brief) in Chicago.

We fly into Munich, arriving in the early afternoon on the Monday. From here the choices are many. We would like to see the usual highlights in Croatia and include Ljubljana and a trip to Sarajevo. We have 16 clear days before we have to be in Munich for our flight home.

My spouse has suggested that we begin at the most distant point-flying to Dubrovnik from Munich and that we decompress there for a few days (3-4). We could include a day trip to Sarajevo as well as to Mostar from here.

We would like to go to Hvar, Split and the Plitvice Lakes. I was hoping we could use ferries and catamarans between Dubrovnik, Hvar and Split. From there we could rent a car to do Plitvice Lakes and on to Istria ( Rovinj?), Zagreb is not part of our plan.

Ultimately we would like to see Lake Bled and spend some time in Ljubljana. We would drop the car before proceeding into Slovenia.

We are prepared to pay for internal flights if necessary to save time. My spouse was hoping for a day or two in Venice at the end-I suspect we would have to do that from Pula, but it may be too much. We have been to Venice before but never just the two of us. Is this all possible within the 16 day time frame that we have?

Any input would be appreciated. We would like to do this independently and in the past we have used travel agencies in our destination countries (India, Turkey, Jordan, Egypt, French Polynesia) with great success, We are open to suggestions.
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Jul 7th, 2015, 10:02 PM
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You are trying to do far too much. You need to lay this out on a calendar, including travel time.

While you could do Mostar as a day trip, Sarajevo demands more time.

Dubrovnik can be overrun with cruise ship passengers, I would not spend more than a couple of nights there.

You can do most of what you want with public transport, but will get around faster with a car.
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Jul 7th, 2015, 10:52 PM
  #3
kja
 
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Ditto what thursdaysd said!

To elaborate a bit:

You can definitely do this trip independently: NO need whatsoever to involve a travel agent, unless that is your preference.

As thursdaysd said, Sarajevo definitely deserves more than a day trip. I spent just short of 2 full days there, and truly regret that I didn't give it more. I enjoyed Mostar, particularly after daytrippers left -- the view of the sun setting over Stari Most, with the sounds of the muezzins, in a spectacularly beautiful river-carved ravine is one of my favorite visual images of any place I have visited. I flew into Sarajevo (the starting point for my time in the area), and as I recall, I travelled from Sarajevo to Mostar by train and from Mostar to Dubrovnik by bus -- I could be wrong about those details, but I certainly found it easy to make those connections by public transportation. Sarajevo would, IMO, provide a great location for a few "decompress" days to start your trip, as it has a delightfully "laid-back" atmosphere -- or so I thought!

I wasn't as disturbed by the cruise ship passengers in Dubrovnik as thursdaysd -- but then, I spent most of my daylight hours outside of the city on day trips. I spent 3 nights there, just over 2 days, and enjoyed my time in Dubrovnik -- almost all of which was before or after the onslaught of cruise ship passengers. To plan on more than 3 nights in Dubrovnik, I would think you would need to have very specific interests in a number of day trips -- charming as this "pearl of the Adriatic" is, there really isn't that much to do there.... If you aren't planning day trips, just 2 nights (1 day) may be sufficient.

I don't see any reason why you shouldn't be able to use public transportation for everything except, perhaps, the Plitvice Lakes and Istria -- and even with those locations, there are public transportation options, they just aren't all that convenient IME.

I thought Hvar Town too rich / upscale for my tastes, but readily admit that it is beautiful. FWIW, I preferred Stari Grad (also on Hvar) and Korcula.

I loved Split, but not everyone does. Trogir provides a nearby option that allows people to take advantage of the best of both locations; Trogir is only 1/2 hour away by frequent bus.

Your plan to drop the car off before crossing into Slovenia makes sense to me, particularly because it is easy to reach Ljubljana by public transportation. And if you decide you want a car once there, you can rent another! Ljubljana is, IMO, absolutely charming and Lake Bled well worth visiting.

If your goals are Sarajevo, Mostar, Dubrovnik, Hvar (or...), Split, the Plitvice Lakes, Istria, Ljubljana, and Lake Bled -- I agree that would be a bit too much for 16 days. But it really depends on what YOU want to see and experience! Any chance that you could add a few days?

The good news: You should be able to plan a delightful trip, even if you have to cut a destination or two! The bad news: It will be HARD to decide what to cut!

Hope that helps!
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Jul 7th, 2015, 11:46 PM
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Thanks for your suggestions. We cannot add any days as we are flying to and from Europe on points. We could only get Munich as our entry destination which complicates things a little. I had wanted Zagreb and to work counter-clockwise from there, but it was not an available destination with our carrier. I based my plans (loosely) on Rick Steves two week driving itinerary, though I started from Dubrovnik rather than Ljubljana.

I will go back to the drawing board. Realistically we will need a couple days at the beginning to relax and get over jet lag before launching into our itinerary. If not Dubrovnik then I am not sure where. My spouse was prepared to stay outside the city walls closer to a beach area and we could do some shorter day trips (Mostar) returning in the late afternoon when the cruise passengers should be gone.

I am not sure where to put Sarajevo in our plans. I would be happy to spend a day or two there and we could fly, but from where?

Keep the suggestions coming-it is very helpful.
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Jul 8th, 2015, 12:09 AM
  #5
kja
 
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Good, relaxing starting (or ending!) points for your interests would, IMO, be Sarajevo or Ljubljana -- check into your options to getting to either from Munich. (I flew into Sarajevo and out of Ljubljana, but that was back in 2009 and I wasn't trying to use points or route through any specific cities.) And if you must "start" in Dubrovnik, well, you probably need to cut a few things anyways -- maybe that will help you choose?
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Jul 8th, 2015, 12:10 AM
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I would choose to relax in Ljubljana rather than Dubrovnik.

If you put Dubrovnik at the end you could go Sarajevo - Mostar - Dubrovnik.
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Jul 8th, 2015, 08:25 AM
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I know this sounds so obvious, but I never plan a trip without making a list. Then, when I so clearly see what won't work, I start eliminating places.
My sample plan eliminates Slovenia, which I have not visited. You could just as easily do a trip that encompasses Istria and Slovenia by eliminating Dalmatia.
1-3 Dubrovnik (Sarajevo seems far for a day trip--I would save it) Flying makes sense--have you checked options for flying from Munich? should be plenty.
4-6 Hvar
7-8 Split
9 Plitvice
10-14 Istria
15-16 Venice (*check ferry schedules to see if this is possible: http://www.venezialines.com/ If not, then Zagreb may be your best bet, but you could also add more time in the south, which will be fantastic in September. It just depends on your options for getting back to Munich.)
16 days is a great amount of time, so celebrate, just know you can't do it all!

Here are the official catamaran and car ferry schedules. The bus system is pretty great in Croatia. I think only inland Istria would require a car.
http://www.jadrolinija.hr/en/ferry-croatia
http://www.krilo.hr/en/
http://www.gv-line.hr/raspored.php?linija=3&lang=E (this one you may not need but potentially if you decide to include other islands)
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Jul 8th, 2015, 08:32 AM
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BTW, I agree with kja in not caring too much for Hvar. Unless you want to ogle the floating penthouses I'd choose a different island, or just settle for the coast.
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Jul 8th, 2015, 10:48 AM
  #9
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Thanks so much everyone!

I am having second thoughts about Hvar based on everyone's comments. I have ogled large yachts in Monaco, St Barts and other parts of the world and it holds little interest. Brac looks like a nice alternative, or is there some other place that we should consider? I would like to avoid any are that is full of package tour groups.
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Jul 8th, 2015, 11:12 AM
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In the off season, Hvar did not seem that bad to me (and I was completely offended by Portofino, so I have no tolerance for all that snobby nonsense)--but I was last there several years ago. Brac has its charms, I am sure, but it just did not wow me like all the other islands I have visited did. Korcula would be a nice alternative, and if you commit to three nights instead of two, then I would strongly consider Vis (the travel time makes three nights better, but note it is best to have wheels of some sort on Vis).
You don't have much to worry about package tourism in these places--just cruise hordes in Dubrovnik and Korcula, probably some other places as well. This is easily avoided by doing day trips and enjoying towns in morning and evening.
Don't rule out the northern islands--you can reach Krk, which I have not yet visited, by bridge. I had a lovely visit to Mali Losinj in 2014. It is connected to Cres by bridge, and Cres is just a short ferry hop from Krk or the mainland. Consider whether you want cultural things to see or just nature.
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Jul 8th, 2015, 11:22 AM
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I probably should not be so dismissive of Brac, based on limited time there and having stayed in Bol (famous for its beach but little else). Look into Milna, which seems quite appealing and is linked to Split by catamaran.
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Jul 8th, 2015, 11:24 AM
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Hvar is not just yachts.. its a big island and a beautiful one. Yes there are yachts in Hvar Town, but in the rest of the island, not so much. I love Hvar Town but I stay 15 minutes from the center.. living with the locals, basically. No yachts in their harbor but you can walk to the action.

Having said that, consider breaking this into two trips, because in 16 days you could go to Slovenia, Istria, Plitvice and Venice. Save Dalmatia for another trip. (Or vice versa.) Two weeks in Croatia is good to see the places you want to see there, but adding Venice and Slovenia is pushing it.

If you do want to go to Mostar from Dubrovnik, I was with a woman in May who went on a day tour to Mostar offered by a travel agency. It was not expensive, and only three people on the tour - and she LOVED it. If you want the info I can find it and post here.
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Jul 8th, 2015, 01:02 PM
  #13
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Thanks dialogue,

I would appreciate the information on Mostar. My husband is very keen to include it in our itinerary.

There are so many helpful suggestions from Fodorites! Though it is time consuming, we are enjoying the research and different perspectives of those who have visited this area.
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Jul 8th, 2015, 01:42 PM
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Here you go - the agency is Perla Adriatica:
http://perla-adriatica.com/
It doesn't look like their website is the greatest, but you can email them and they all speak English in the agency.
I found an email from the agency about this trip.. here are the details.

"We also organize trips to Montenegro every day, it is full day tour from 8 am till cca 6 pm. It is organized with small groups, by mini van not big bus, with english speaking driver who is also a guide.

From Dubrovnik to the border it takes about 45 minutes driving, we usually cross the smaller local boarder to avoid too long waiting on the main boarder.

After short drive we get to the Bay of Kotor, very beautiful area, we drive all along the coast with stop for taking a photos and listening some interesting legends about the Bay and islands in the bay.

We visit town of Kotor where we stop for about 2 hours, our driver tell to our guests what they can visit and tell them everything they should know about Kotor.

Kotor has also city walls going above the town to the top of the hill.

But on the half way to the top there is a church and from that point, there is amazing view to the whole Kotor bay, so
usually most of the guests who decide to climb the city walls go only to that point, since it can be quite exhausting to go all the way to the top.

After Kotor we go to St. Stefan island for a photo break of about 20 minutes, our driver will tell interesting stories about that island and guest can also buy some suvenirs there. Then we visit town of Budva. There we stay for about 2 - 2 and a half hours.

Driver will recomend restaurants to have lunch with excellent food and very good price.

In Budva guests can visit small old town and also to go to the beach just beside the old town.

After Budva we go back to Dubrovnik, on the way back we take about 10 minute drive by ferry across the entrance to the Kotor bay to shorten the way to Dubrovnik.

Price for the tour is 350 Kuna per person, but for guests of the villa we offer 10% discount, so it would be 315 Kuna."

As I mentioned the woman who went on the tour loved it. 350 kuna is not very much money - around fifty bucks at today's exchange rate.

The agency also handles the rooms at the Villa Adriatica, so that is why she is talking about the discount. Its a cool place to stay, funky but with great terrace views, you should check it out.
http://villa-adriatica.net/
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Jul 8th, 2015, 05:03 PM
  #15
kja
 
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"I would appreciate the information on Mostar. My husband is very keen to include it in our itinerary. "

Mostar can be easily visited on your own -- no need for a tour unless that is your preference. I thought it worth an overnight stay.

In Dubrovnik, I enjoyed the Villa Adriatica, and especially its terrace.
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Jul 8th, 2015, 05:27 PM
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When I get to Mostar you can bet I will spend the night kja! Another good reason to split this itinerary into two.
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Jul 11th, 2015, 12:56 PM
  #17
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Alright! Thank you to everyone for your suggestions. I have done some more research and checked out driving times etc. Though I am aware we could drive this ourselves, DH ALWAYS drives and it would be nice for him to relax for once and let someone else take care of it. We have planned our trip on that basis. This is our proposed draft itinerary:

Day 1: Arrive late evening from Munich to Ljubljana. Transfer to Bled, overnight;

Day 2: Bled- downtime to relax;

Day 3: Local day tour and outdoor activities on our own;

Day 4: Transfer to Ljubljana-local tour and overnight;

Day 5: Ljubljana to Rovinj via either Postojna or Skocjan caves, overnight Rovinj;

Day 6: Rovinj-downtime and local exploration;

Day 7: Rovinj to Plitvice Lakes (3 hr 20 min) Overnight in Plitvice Lakes

Day 8: Visit lakes then Plitvice to Split ( 2hr 30 min). Free evening;

Day 9: Split- local tour and free time, overnight;

Day 10: Day trip to Zadar and Sibernek, overnight Split;

Day 11: Day trip to islands: Hvar? Brac? or other optional tour, overnight Split;

Day 12: Split to Sarajevo via Mostar, overnight Sarajevo;

Day 13: Sarajevo tour, overnight;

Day 14: Sarajevo to Dubrovnik, overnight Dubrovnik;

Day 15: Dubrovnik local tour, overnight Dubrovnik;

Day 16: Dubrovnik to Montenegro/Kotor day trip, overnight Dubrovnik;

Day 17: Dubrovnik- Elaphite islands day trip, overnight Dubrovnik;

Day 18: fly home


This has taken many hours to piece together from various sources. Does it look like we will capture most of the highlights?
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Jul 11th, 2015, 04:15 PM
  #18
kja
 
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You will see a lot of wonderful things if you follow this itinerary. You will spend a LOT of time moving from place to place; at least the scenery is lovely. You can see a FEW highlights, but you will be traveling too fast to many of the things that I considered to be highlights. YMMV.

Enjoy!
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Jul 11th, 2015, 09:00 PM
  #19
kja
 
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"...you will be traveling too fast to SEE many of the things..." Oops!
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Jul 12th, 2015, 06:02 AM
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We are about at the end of our trip to Istria and Slovenia. if you do go to Ljubljana, we stayed in Apartment Emmi for 130 euros/ night. It was fantastic! Right on the river with a view of Preseren Square. I highly recommend it!
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