Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia in Winter?

Old Nov 8th, 2016, 07:29 PM
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Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia in Winter?

Hi guys
Need some help with my itinerary. I understand that the Balkans are well known for summer, but we are only available to travel in Winter. I'll be traveling with my parents, both 50+, so we're more into just discovering the culture and sights, not so much partying or beach hopping. We'll most likely be taking public transport but are considering renting a car if it's possible to drive across these states - is cross-border allowed with rental companies in EU?

20/12 Fly into Ljubljana (AM)
21/12 Lake Bled (overnight in Ljubljana)
22/12 Ljubljana --> Zagreb (PM)
23/12 Plitvice Lakes (overnight in Zagreb)
24/12 Zagreb
25/12 Zagreb --> Split (AM)
26/12 Split
27/12 Split --> Dubrovnik (AM)
28/12 Dubrovnik
29/12 Kotor (overnight in Dubrovnik)
30/12 Dubrovnik --> Mostar (AM) --> Sarajevo (PM)
31/12 Sarajevo
1/1 Sarajevo --> Belgrade (PM)
2/1 Belgrade
3/1 Belgrade
4/1 Fly home from Belgrade (AM)

But, I'd like to know which of these cities I could give a miss due to winter? I'd like to shorten the trip to 14 days if possible, so if there are any cities I should exclude or spend less time in (again, mainly due to winter), please let me know!
Any help would be much appreciated thanks!
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Old Nov 9th, 2016, 04:57 AM
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Personally, I think you'll have to cut the number of places you visit. Your plan is so tight that it will only take one snowstorm to disrupt transportation for a day (not unlikely at all in winter) and everything will fall apart.

Currently, 10 out of your 16 days include at least some intercity travel. I recommend you aim to travel between cities on every third or fourth day, not just to have some time reserve but also because right now most of your time will be spent not sightseeing but packing, unpacking, checking in/out, getting to the train/bus station, etc.

If you wish to rent a car, consider that you will have to return it to the same country or else face a steep drop-off fee. Drop-offs between Slovenia and Croatia are less expensive, but still costly.

I can't comment on how some places are in December, but generally, the larger cities (Ljubljana, Zagreb, Split, Sarajevo, Belgrade) are fine with Christmas markets in Ljubljana and Zagreb, at least that I'm familiar with. Lake Bled will also be fine to visit, especially if you happen to catch it covered in snow.
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Old Nov 9th, 2016, 04:09 PM
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Dubrovnik will likely be very quiet and much -- but not everything -- will likely be closed.

Weather might not be good for the Plitvice Lakes. (More on them below.)

I'm not sure about Bled or Mostar in winter.

Everything else you list should be OK -- they are all "real" cities and/or have universities and are not completely dependent on tourism.

For the Plitvice Lakes, assuming the weather is good enough, you might want to consider an overnight, which would give you a bit of a chance on each of two days. IMO, there's plenty to see in Zagreb, so if the forecast is not good for the first day, you could linger there (just making sure to reach the Plitvice Lakes before nightfall if leaving that day), and there's plenty to see in Split, so you could leave as early as you want on your second day. Just a thought....

As noted above, I'm not sure what Mostar is like in winter, but during the summer, I was glad to spend a night there -- it was absolutely magical after daytrippers left.

You aren't giving yourselves much time for Zagreb, Split, or Sarajevo (I don't know about Belgrade)-- though how long to spend really depends on what you want to see an experience. When planning remember that your hours of daylight will be short and some places may be closed or have unusually short hours on the holidays.

You are trying to cover a LOT of territory in VERY little time. You would do well to have a rental car for the stretch from Zagreb through Split, but do consider using public transportation for the rest. And by all means, if you aren't accustomed to driving in the winter (when snow and sleet can pose life-threatening risks to you and anyone else on the road with you), give some serious thought to skipping the Plitvice Lakes on this trip.

Another thought -- Dubrovnik and Kotor are geographic outliers for your itinerary, so you might want to defer them.

Lots of difficult choices, but no really bad ones among those you've identified. Good luck!
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Old Nov 9th, 2016, 05:40 PM
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I travelled by bus from Sarajevo to Dubrovnik via Mostar in September. Luckily the weather was beautiful but I didn't realize it was so mountainous. In poor weather this road could be dangerous even if it is foggy and rainy.
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Old Nov 9th, 2016, 06:53 PM
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Thanks for the advice!
I've cut Belgrade out in the interest of time, and here's my updated itinerary (14 days now!):

19/12 Fly into Ljubljana AM - day in Ljubljana
20/12 Day trip to Lake Bled
21/12 Ljubljana
22/12 Ljubljana train to Zagreb (PM)
23/12/ Zagreb
24/12 Zagreb
25/12 Zagreb -> Plitvice Lakes
26/12 Plitvice Lakes -> Split (AM)
27/12 Split
28/12 Split -> Dubrovnik (AM)
29/12 Dubrovnik - potentially Kotor day trip??
30/12 Dubrovnik -> Sarajevo (stop at Mostar otw, yes or no?)
31/12 Sarajevo
1/1 PM flight back home

*planning to drive in Croatia to save time

So essentially I have about
2.5 days in Ljubljana,
2 days in Zagreb,
1.5 days in Split
1.5 days in Dubrovnik,
1.5 day in Sarajevo

- does this breakdown look ok or should I be reallocating?

So my questions are:
1. Should I skip Mostar and Kotor?
2. Does the breakdown look ok or should I be reallocating the days?
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Old Nov 9th, 2016, 07:40 PM
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kja
 
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Better!

But still, seriously, consider using public transportation, which is convenient and, IME, comfortable. Even when people are planning trips in summer, I recommend public transportation because some of the scenery you will encounter is among the most beautiful you will experience anywhere in the world – and the driver will not be able to see it, because many of the roads really do require one’s full attention, even in perfect weather conditions. And as someone who is very experienced in travel on snowy and icy mountain roads, trust me, I would NOT want to be on those roads if weather turns bad! Too, note that driving won’t necessarily save time – with the difficulties of parking in many of these cities, and the difficulties of driving within them, driving could actually prove to be more of a problem than it is worth.

I’ve already mentioned that I your distribution of time would not suit my interests, but since you ask again, I’ll comment again. 2.5 days is on the high end for Ljubljana and Bled, but it depends on what else you want to do in that part of the world, and that allocation could be perfect since it includes whatever time you will need to recover from jet lag. For Zagreb, I wish I’d had more than the 2.5 days I gave it; others give it just a part of a day and are satisfied. Split is my favorite city in Croatia, so for Split and a day trip to Trogir, I’d want at least 1.5 days, if not more. 1.5 days is about right for Dubrovnik – but it really isn’t a very good time of year to go there, and really, you are going to spend a LOT of time getting there and on to anywhere else. Your call. I gave Sarajevo 2.5 days and thought I seriously shortchanged it. Should you skip Mostar or Kotor? Your call – depends on your interests. Does this breakdown look OK? Maybe, but if so, the interests that are leading to your choices are not clear to me, as your allocations seem inconsistent (too much in some places, too little in others – but maybe you have specific interests that make your choices wise).

So here’s my recommendation: Get some good guidebooks (or spend some time with a few in your local library), identify the things you most want to see in each location, check their opening/closing times on the internet, and mark them on a calendar. Pencil in your transportation, add some time on either side (for getting to/from your lodging, checking in/out, packing/unpacking, getting oriented, etc.). Then see how things fit together.

And for goodness sakes, if you actually want input from Fodorites, give them at least 24 hours from your original post to let them respond!
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Old Nov 9th, 2016, 10:34 PM
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Ljubljana and Zagreb will be buzzing with events leading up to Christmas, so I personally think 2.5 days in each (with a side trip to Bled from Ljubljana) is fine.

I think the Plitvice Lakes can be beautiful in the winter, but I would have an alternative option in store in case the weather isn't conducive to a visit. You should visit on a dry, possibly sunny, day to do them justice and there can be few of those in December.

The Ljubljana-Zagreb-Split and the Dubrovnik-Sarajevo legs of your trip are also where you're most likely to encounter snow, so having a comfortable timeframe there is essential to prevent any headaches. I recommend you follow the weather forecast and adjust your plans accordingly.

As a possible alternative to going all the way down to Dubrovnik, for which I agree with kja that it's really quite a long way, consider a day trip to the Istrian peninsula when in Ljubljana. Piran or Rovinj are lovely historic towns and while not exactly like Dubrovnik, they would provide a nice contrast to the continental towns you'd be visiting, while being easier to reach.
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Old Nov 10th, 2016, 04:12 PM
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kja
 
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Would most things in Rovinj be open at that time of year? I would think the chances would be greater in Porec. Either way, though, I'm not sure I would make Istria a priority in winter. JMO.
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Old Nov 11th, 2016, 03:55 AM
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I've been to Istria (granted Piran, not Rovinj) on sunny winter weekends before and it was a lovely experience. Few tourists but lots of locals and people from neighbouring cities/towns going on walks, enjoying the winter sun, having coffee with friends and family, etc. It's a very different experience than in the summer season, but the main sights are still there and can be easily visited. You are right that you wouldn't want to spend a whole week there or go there if the weather is bad, but as a day trip it's perfect, perhaps even combined with a visit to the Postojna Caves and their undeground living nativity scene. On the other hand, the Christmas period is pretty busy in Portoroz and I'm sure Piran gets some more attention than usual, too.
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Old Nov 13th, 2016, 07:07 PM
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Just did some research on Split and it looks like most of the activities operate in summer. I'd really like to visit the Blue Caves but again, that's only available in Summer. I'm thinking of cutting out Split altogether - what do you think?
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Old Nov 13th, 2016, 07:23 PM
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Your call! Split is my favorite city in Croatia -- I found it lively and energetic and dynamic, with lots of nooks and crannies from Roman through modern times and in a variety of architectural styles. The Lungamare and markets are, IMO, glorious. And the city has a few small museums that I thought worth visiting; the Ivan Meštrović Gallery (and associated Kaštelet) was my favorite of them.

If you are looking for "activities," winter is really not the time to visit any of the places you are considering, IMO.
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