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jjmmll Jan 14th, 2017 10:48 PM

driving the coastline of Croatia
 
I would like advice on whether it is best to drive north to south or south to north when exploring the coast of Croatia. I assume that north to south is preferred so the car is closer to the coastline but how much does it matter? I am trying to use frequent flyer miles for my tix (in May) and the flights into Dubrovnik and out of Ljubljana are better than the opposite. Any thoughts would be appreciated! Thank you!

kja Jan 14th, 2017 11:36 PM

Frankly, neither -- take the bus so you can actually pay attention to the scenery! The bus uses that same road and is very comfortable, and really, it's the kind of road that requires the driver's attention. And FWIW, I didn't think the coast north of Split anything as spectacular as the coast south of Split. (But yes, a passenger would have a better view traveling south from Split and sitting on the right.)

Before committing to flights into and out of Dubrovnik and Ljubljana, I would urge you to make sure that you have enough time to take that extensive a part of the world. I've spent a lot of time providing advice to people who book, only to realize that they don't have sufficient time and then have to make some very painful choices about what to skip. Although people's choices differ a lot, and so what -- exactly -- they do differs dramatically, I think it is not unreasonable to say that Dubrovnik through Split (and surrounds) generally takes about 2 weeks, and Split through Ljubljana (with Istria) also generally takes about 2 weeks.

If traveling in May, I recommend starting in Dubrovnik and heading north -- that way, you'll be starting in the warmer part and keeping apace with the weather to at least some extent. Be mindful that ferry schedules through much of Croatia change around 1 June.

Hope that helps!

jjmmll Jan 16th, 2017 10:13 AM

Thank you very much for your insight, kja! I think you helped me plan another trip a few years ago. My daughter and I went to Croatia (Zagreb, Plitvice, Split, Hvar and Dubrovnik) in April of 2014. We were there for 11 nights and loved it so much that now we want to return with my husband. He needs to see Plitvice, one of the most amazing places I've ever been. So we wanted to add some other sites in Slovenia and northern Croatia because we have 16 nights this time. But perhaps we are trying to add too much. We are planning to skip Zagreb and Krka National Park, (although we did enjoy our time there), to free up another night or two. We found this Rick Steve's suggested itinerary on line and were planning to use it as a guide. His itineraries are often too fast for us but we thought with 16 nights it might work. I would appreciate your thoughts and those of any other travelers.

3 days: Dubrovnik
5 days, add: Mostar, Split (We would add Split not Mostar)
7 days, add: Korčula or Hvar (for a relaxing island experience);
8 days, add: Plitvice Lakes
10 days, add: Lake Bled and the Julian Alps
12 days, add: Ljubljana, more time for Dalmatian islands
14 days, add: Istria

I have not purchased tix yet so I am still very flexible. I have also considered flying into Trieste, Italy and just going to Croatia. Thank you again for your help!

kja Jan 16th, 2017 10:28 AM

Yes, that itinerary is, IMO, too rushed. It's doable, but at a very rapid pace and it would mean skipping a lot.

As you know, Croatia is delightful; the trick is figuring out a way to minimize the amount of time you spend in transit so you have more time to actually see places. No bad choices -- just some hard ones!

jjmmll Jan 16th, 2017 04:53 PM

Very true! So maybe we will fly into Zagreb (Ljubljana is actually closer but we wouldn't drive across the border), as we did last time, and then spend time in Istria and leave out Slovenia altogether. Or maybe we will fly into Dubrovnik and fly home from Zagreb or Ljubljana. We can change our dates to later in May and into June if it is better. We wanted to avoid the crowds, thus our choice of May. Is June usually crowded? What would be your recommended highlights in Istria? We like to make bases and take day trips to prevent too many moves. I have read that Rovinj makes a good base. Do you agree and can you suggest another one? We enjoy exploring nature, small towns, cultural events and trying new food. We don't relax much when we are traveling. Thank you for your quick response!

kja Jan 16th, 2017 05:45 PM

My trip was from mid-May to mid-June, starting south and moving north, and I thought it was a perfect time for the area. Lots of blooming wildflowers, comfortable temperatures, etc. Unfortunately, of course, things can change from year to year.

Rovinj is a logical base for Istria and is, I think the most commonly selected one. As an alternative, you might consider Poreč, but as with everything, it depends on what you want to see and experience. You should be able to learn about the highlights in any decent guidebook – I found the <i>Rough Guide</i> the most useful of the half-dozen or so I used when planning my time in the area. Standouts for me are not the ones that most travelers mention; they included the Euphrasian Basilica in Poreč, the medieval frescoes in Beram, and the hill town of Gračišće (but there was a lot of work going on to restore parts of that town when I was there, and I have no idea what its like now). And although it's not actually in Istria, I also thoroughly enjoyed the lungomare from Lovran through Preluka (although I made it only as far as Opatija).

As you decide on your starting airport, note that if there is <b>any</b> chance that you will have jet lag, then you would do well to consider a place that you are willing to spend a night or two or a place from which you can take public transportion. (For example, Ljubljana and Zagreb are connected by frequent and comfortable trains.) Although many people are unaware of it, there is mounting evidence that driving with jet lag is just as dangerous -- to yourself and others -- as driving drunk, and <b>nothing</b> you can do will prevent the microsleeps (which you might not even notice) that are the apparent culprit.

Andrew Jan 16th, 2017 05:49 PM

Not sure it matters much whether you drive north or south. Unless you are planning to drive the slow coastal highway all the way up from Dubrovnik to Split instead of the fast A1/E65 (doesn't go all the way south to Dubrovnik), you won't be driving along the water anyway for a good portion of the time. Look at a map online to see what I mean. You can always pull over now and again at viewpoints or little towns.

Rovinj is a great base in Istria. In fact, it was the highlight of Istria for me by far - I loved it, but the old town is small - easily explored pretty quickly. It's a great place to come back to at night. Magical. Grožnjan was my favorite hill town, but it was really tiny. Motovun is bigger but more touristy. Many day trip to Pula largely for the Roman ruins, but I was not so impressed: I guess I have seen enough Roman ruins (in Rome and Pompeii, etc.)

My last visit to Croatia was in May 2015 (click on my name to read my trip report, see pics, etc.). It didn't seem crowded in May especially on the roads, but there were still plenty of tourists in some of the places. I was only in Dubrovnik one night (my second visit to the city) and missed the crowds because I arrived past mid-day, but if there are cruise ships docked, expect Dubrovnik to be crowded in the daytime, even in May. (You may remember the big tour groups from your first visit?)

I loved Slovenia, but you can't see everything on every trip, and if you think you'll be able to go back, do it. Another option is to get a taste of Slovenia as I did on my first trip in 2009: I took a bus from Venice to Ljubljana, spent just a few nights, then a train to Zagreb and drove my rental car to Dubrovnik. (I found driving in Croatia very easy - did you drive on your first trip?) I loved Ljubljana so much that I came back for another visit in 2011 and added many more places in Slovenia. If you have the ability to come back - no need to pack everything into one trip. Slovenia is very much worth a longer visit than a few days.

The itinerary above would work fine for me, but I do tend to move pretty fast. Because you've been to many of these places, you can probably decide where you might get away with fewer nights or want more.

FYI, you might have better frequent flyer options to fly into Venice than Trieste. You can bus/shuttle to Ljubljana (poor train options) or take a train to Trieste, bus to Rovinj, or a ferry to Rovinj (maybe not daily in May, not sure). Last trip, I started in Ljubljana and took the direct train to Rijeka and rented a car there to visit Rovinj. (there are direct buses between Ljubljana and Rovinj, but personally I prefer trains and dislike long bus rides.)

jjmmll Jan 16th, 2017 09:37 PM

Thank you both so very much for your extremely helpful and specific advice!

My daughter and I actually were in Dubrovnik along with 30,000 Christian youth who were attending a spring event. If there were cruise ship passengers, they too were lost in the masses! Luckily, we had 2 days there before their arrival and took a drive to Ston and the peninsula. (Yes, we had a car.) We loved Dubrovnik but were glad to escape the craziness. This time we hope to drive to the Bay of Kotor. Is it practical to go for the day?

Our rough itinerary is now:
nights 1: Zagreb (or possibly Lju if the flights are better)(Our daughter lives in London and will be meeting us so finding flights is more tricky.)
2, 3, 4, 5, 6 Istria (base in Rovinj)
7,8 Plitvice (We want a full day in the park)
9, 10, 11 Split or Trojir
12, 13 Hvar (Last time we took the car ferry to Drevnik but I'm wondering if we should go back to Split from Hvar so we drive the coastline south of Split.)
14, 15, 16 Dubrovnik

Would it be reasonable to to take a night from Istria or Split and stay on the peninsula near Orebic. Or should we stop between Plitvice and Split?

Again, thank you for your help!

kja Jan 16th, 2017 09:48 PM

If you end up flying into Ljubljana, I would strongly encourage you to spend a least a day there -- IMO, it is unique and delightfully charming.

Trogir is well worth seeing, but it is tiny -- you can walk basically every single street in two or three hours. Some people prefer to base there and visit Split; as someone who adored Split, I would do the reverse. Your call.

It might be worth considering shifting a day from Istria to Hvar.

I did not think the views from the ferry all that spectacular. As already noted, I would not drive the coast, but instead take the bus -- particularly because a car could be a detriment while in Dubrovnik. So you might consider returning to Split from Hvar long enough to return your car and then take the bus to Dubrovnik so that all of you -- including the driver -- can enjoy the scenery.

Your call about Orebic or other possible stops.

Your plan is shaping up!

jjmmll Jan 18th, 2017 08:51 AM

Thanks again, kja. As I continue to gather information, I am sure I will have more questions!

jjmmll Feb 1st, 2017 08:37 AM

Our flights are finally booked using f/f miles!

nights 1-4 Ljubljana: Explore Ljubljana. Day trips to Lake Bled and the alps and perhaps lake Bohinj, Kranjska gora, Vintgar gorge, or Mostnica gorge if time allows. We are still trying to decide if we will rent a car in Slovenia or only in Croatia.

nights 5-7: Rovinj: Explore Istria. Walk on the lungomare. We are considering taking a night from Dubrovnik and adding it to Rovinj so we have 4 nights there. Opinions?

nights 8,9: near Plitvice. We want to spend a whole day in the park. Visit Sibenik and/or Trojir on the way to Split.

nights 10,11: Split: Explore Split on our full day there. (We would like spend more time in Split but my daughter and I were there before so we are trying to add new things to our itinerary.)

nights 12, 13: Hvar Keep the car so we can explore the island. When leaving, take the car ferry to Drvenik on the mainland and then hopefully from Ploce to Trpanj if the ferry timing is good. We would love to drive to Dubrovnik via the peninsula. We went to Ston and Mali Ston last time and it was so beautiful! I am also wondering if we should skip Hvar and go to Korcula this time. We loved Hvar so it's hard not to go back!

nights 14-16: Dubrovnik: (unless we take one night away and add it to Istria.) We will return the car upon our arrival and take a taxi or the bus to the airport.

Any other suggestions? I appreciate all of your valuable advice!

yorkshire Feb 1st, 2017 08:51 AM

Looks great! I just have this hangup about wanting three nights on an island so you have two full days, especially after paying to take the car on the ferry. Tough call, but since you have seen Dubrovnik before, I think you would be okay with one night there, freeing one night up for the island or for the Rovinj bit (depends on if you want to day trip through Istria or roam an island). Hvar and Korcula are both wonderful, particularly with wheels. Like you, I was wowed by the beauty of the Peljesac peninsula.

kja Feb 1st, 2017 11:00 PM

I think it would be hard to accomplish your priorities in Slovenia in that time frame without a car. Just be sure to wait at least a day or so to pick it up, to make sure you recover from jet lag (including the symptoms you don't even recognize) first, and return it in Slovenia to avoid hefty cross-border drop off fees.

The lungomare outside Rijeka is lovely. For what little it's worth, it's not technically in Istria -- it's in the Kvarnar Gulf area. You might notice the transition from the decidedly Italian character of Istria to the Austrio-Hungarian character of the area around the lungomare.

I have to admit that I'm not a great fan of Hvar Town -- it is beautiful, but way too party-hearty for my tastes. I far preferred Korcula, but it is quite different, with a much older and less refined (if I thought nonetheless fascinating) style of architecture. If you decide to switch, see if you can visit on a night when the moresca is performed.

Switching a day from Dubrovnik to your transition to Istria might make sense -- you'll lose a chunk of a day returning your car, taking a bus or train into Croatia, then picking up another car.

Enjoy!

dugi_otok Feb 2nd, 2017 11:05 AM

>> nights 12, 13: Hvar Keep the car so we can explore the island. When leaving, take the car ferry to Drvenik on the mainland and then hopefully from Ploce to Trpanj if the ferry timing is good. We would love to drive to Dubrovnik via the peninsula. We went to Ston and Mali Ston last time and it was so beautiful! I am also wondering if we should skip Hvar and go to Korcula this time. We loved Hvar so it's hard not to go back!<<

If you want to go to Korcula this time. nights 12.13:

Car ferry Split to Vela Luka (Korcula)

http://www.jadrolinija.hr/en/schedul...31807/25052017


Drive Vela Luka to Korcula town (45 min)where you will spend 2 nights.

https://www.viamichelin.com/web/Rout...=&arrivalDate=

When leaving, take the car ferry Domince(near Korcula town) to Orebic on the Peljesic Peninsula.

http://www.jadrolinija.hr/en/schedul...31768/02022017

Drive the Peninsula to Dubrovnik stopping in Ston en route.
You might even consider stopping in Ston for the night.

http://www.booking.com/hotel/hr/holi...fs=1&#tab-main

jjmmll Feb 6th, 2017 12:07 AM

Thank you all for your suggestions. You are very much appreciated!

We are planning to rent a car in Slovenia but not until our second morning after spending our first day in Ljubljana. We will have two full days for day trips from our base in Ljubliana so I think one for Lake Bled and one for the drive through the alps. Do you recommend returning the car in Ljubliana and taking the train or bus to Istria? Or is it better to drive to Piran or Portoroz, return the car and then take the bus to Rovinj or somewhere in Istria where we can rent another car. (The fee to return the car in Croatia instead of Slovenia was about $475.) Are there places that we should/could stop if we keep the rental car until we get near the border that we would miss if we take the train/bus from Ljubliana?

In Istria, we hope to visit some combination of Pula, Groznjan, Porec, Motovun, Beram and take the walk on the lungomare in the Kvarnar Gulf area. When we leave Rovinj, we will have the whole day to get to Plitvice. Is there a suggested drive or are there suggested stops along the way? Perhaps we could see more of Istria on our way east.

We are still debating staying in Dubrovnik 2 or 3 nights....so many hard choices! We would like to see the Bay of Kotor, if possible, but it would mean staying 3 nights in Dubrovnik for sure and keeping the car. But then we could return the car at the airport on the way back from the Bay of Kotor, which may be easier than returning it in town upon our arrival.

We are also still researching Hvar and Korcula, trying to make that decision but I think we are leaning towards Korcula since my daughter and I visited Hvar last trip. If we choose Korcula, is it better to ferry from Split to Korcula or drive the coastal route from Split to Ploce and then take the two short ferry trips? According to google maps, it takes about the same amount of time. Also, does anyone know if the moresca will be performed in late May? One website says yes, one says performances don't start until June.

Thank you, again!

dugi_otok Feb 6th, 2017 12:49 PM

>> Do you recommend returning the car in Ljubljana and taking the train or bus to Istria? Or is it better to drive to Piran or Portoroz,(Koter), return the car and then take the bus to Rovinj or somewhere in Istria where we can rent another car.<<

I have not traveled Ljubljana to Rovinj.But my 1st thought is to take the train from Ljubljana to Pula. There is a train that leaves Ljubljana at 8:10 and arrives Pula at 13:11, with transfers at Divaca and Buzet.Spend a couple of hours in Pula. Then drive a rental car to Rovinj. Or you could take a bus to Rovinj.

>>Are there places that we should/could stop if we keep the rental car until we get near the border that we would miss if we take the train/bus from Ljubliana?<<

I do not think you will have much time to stop anywhere even though you are driving by Postojna caves.

dugi_otok Feb 6th, 2017 01:10 PM

>> When we leave Rovinj, we will have the whole day to get to Plitvice. Is there a suggested drive or are there suggested stops along the way? Perhaps we could see more of Istria on our way east.<<
I would drive direct to Plitvice, spend the afternoon in the Park.Sleep night 8 in the park. Spend another half day in the park and drive to Split for 2 nights. This would give you another night/day for the rest of your trip.

dugi_otok Feb 6th, 2017 02:06 PM

>> We are still debating staying in Dubrovnik 2 or 3 nights....so many hard choices! We would like to see the Bay of Kotor, if possible, but it would mean staying 3 nights in Dubrovnik for sure and keeping the car. But then we could return the car at the airport on the way back from the Bay of Kotor, which may be easier than returning it in town upon our arrival.<<

You could drive from Korcula to Kotor spending night 14 in Kotor. Then return the car at the airport on the way to Dubrovnik from the Bay of Kotor. Then nights 15 and 16 in Dubrovnik.

jjmmll Feb 6th, 2017 02:51 PM

These are really helpful, creative suggestions! Thank you so much!

kja Feb 6th, 2017 04:23 PM

Re: your transportation options from Slovenia to Istria: Your call – depends on what works best for your schedules! Other options in Istria include Porec and Pazin. You should be able to get a preliminary sense of your public transportation options with rome2rio.com, but check whatever you learn there, as it isn’t always up-to-date or in line with the actual time you will be there.

I agree with dugi_otok that your timeline leaves you with very few (if any) options for stopping elsewhere in Slovenia, but would note that if you do have time, you actually have two options for caves – Postojna and Skocjan. The latter are a UNESCO World Heritage Site; to my knowledge, the former are not.

Your wish-list for Istria sounds quite full. Does that mean you committed to an extra night there? Regardless, you might consider walking the Kvarnar Gulf lungamare on your way to the Plitvice Lakes.

If the weather forecasts are promising, you might want to consider a single loop through the Plitvice Lakes National Park, rather than the two half-days dugi_otok recommended. I say that because part of what makes this park so special is that the lakes are not only connected by travertine waterfall formations, but what’s more, each lake has unique microbiota, and as a result, the lakes are different colors. The best way to see that is to make a single, long loop through the park -- something on the order of 6 hours or more (including time for the boat that connects the lower and upper lakes). On two different days, it will be harder for you to tell whether the differences you are seeing are simply the result of different weather conditions, etc. BUT it’s hard to tell, so the idea of spending two half days and having more time to move on is also worth considering. By all means, start at the lowest part of the park so you are facing the falls as you proceed.

You can, of course, take public transportation – or a group tour – from Dubrovnik to Kotor; no reason to keep a car just for that. Or if you insist on keeping the car for Kotor, go there before your stay in Dubrovnik, as suggested by dugi_otok.

Or again, return the car in Split; ferry to Korcula (or Hvar, if you decide to return there); ferry to Dubrovnik, public transportation / tour / one-day car rental for Kotor….

I thought the differences between Korcula Town and Hvar Town fascinating. Each is beautifully situated, but Hvar Town is FAR more upscale and holds architecture of a more refined Renaissance style than much of what you would see in Korcula Town. Korcula Town’s main architectural features are older, and IMO, quite fascinating. And IME, Korcula Town is much more laid back. Your call.

When I was there, the moresca was performed in late May, but only on Thursday evenings. You might try e-mailing the tourist information office.


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