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Need help with Croatia/Slovenia & bit of Montenegro Itinerary

Need help with Croatia/Slovenia & bit of Montenegro Itinerary

Old Aug 19th, 2018, 04:28 PM
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Need help with Croatia/Slovenia & bit of Montenegro Itinerary

Hello Fellow Travelers,

Last spring I posted for people’s impressions/opinions on where to go April/May 2019. My 3 choices were Croatia, Amalfi Coast, and Greece. We have decided to go to Croatia! I would love advice/feedback on my preliminary itinerary. This will be our first trip to Croatia.

I have been reading trip reports on Fodors, and I have purchased 3 guidebooks: The Rough Guide to Croatia, Fodors Essential Croatia, and Rick Steves Croatia and Slovenia.

First a little bit about ourselves. By the time we take this trip, I will be 69 and my husband will be 72. We love just about everything: beautiful scenic drives, especially coastal scenery and mountain scenery; big cities, little cities, and small villages; art museums and history museums; churches and cathedrals; ethnic food and wine; and we try to find time for just wandering around neighborhoods, taking photos, relaxing at cafes. We aren’t in shape to do any strenuous hikes.

We try to visit our daughter who lives in Southern France a few times a year for 2 weeks, and now that we are retired, we want to add one or 2 weeks to each France trip to visit another country. Last September we spent 15 nights in Spain after visiting our daughter & her family, and in April we spent 5 nights in Lisbon. This trip in 2019 will be for about 13-14 nights. I don’t think we can increase the nights because of money constraints, and we each have an elderly parent at home, so we don’t want to be away for more than a month.

We will be in France from April 5 to April 23. These dates are not flexible.

So please let me know about the following itinerary. Should I add days or decrease days from certain destinations? Does it make sense logistically? Plitvice Lakes NP and Dubrovnik are must-sees. And Ljubljana and the drive over the Julian Alps to Lake Bled are close to being must-sees. This has been a very difficult trip to plan; so much to see and not enough time! Also, my husband doesn’t mind driving in foreign countries, so we plan to rent a car instead of rely on public transportation.

Brief itinerary: Zadar (2 nights), Plitvice NP (1 night), Split (4 nights), Dubrovnik (3 nights), and Ljubljana (3 nights).

April 24 – fly from Marseille to Zadar via Ryan Air. This is the only non-stop flight I could find from Marseille to Croatia. Otherwise, we have to change planes if we want to go to Dubrovnik first, and that would take up a whole day. Depart Marseille at 3:50pm and arrive in Zadar at 5:25pm. Overnight in Zadar. Question: Does anyone know when Ryan Air will post their schedules for April 2019? Right now their schedule to Zadar ends in October. I assume they will have the same flight schedule in April???

April 25 – sightseeing in Zadar. Overnight in Zadar

April 26 – Pick up rental car. Drive 2 hours to Plitvice Lakes NP. Depending on when we arrive, we might visit park in late afternoon. I assume the park won’t be too crowded in late April? Overnight in Plitvice Lakes NP.

April 27 – Visit Plitvice early in the morning. Spend about 4 hours in the park, depending on if we had time on the 26th to visit the park. Drive from Plitvice to Split. About a 3 or 4 hour drive? Overnight in Split.

April 28 – Sightsee in Split. Overnight in Split.

April 29 – Day trip to an island. I can’t decide between Brac or Hvar. Is it worth it to visit an island in late April? We would not want to visit during the summer when it is super crowded, but I’m not sure if we want to visit if it’s a “ghost town” this early in the season. Will restaurants, cafes, sites be open? Overnight in Split.

April 30 – Day trip to Trogir and Sibenik. Do we have time to see both places in one day? Overnight in Split.

May 1 – Drive from Split to Dubrovnik – about a 3 hour drive? Overnight in Dubrovnik.

May 2 – Sightsee in Dubrovnik – Definitely want to “walk the walls” and visit the Buza Bar. Overnight in Dubrovnik.

May 3 – Drive to Bay of Kotor in Montenegro for the day. We would do the Rick Steves Bay of Kotor Driving Tour. It sounds like a scenic drive. Am I right? I know that Andrew who posts on this forum drove up into the mountains, but I don’t think we have time for that, and it does sound a like a white-knuckle drive! Overnight in Dubrovnik.

May 4 – Return rental car in Dubrovnik. Fly from Dubrovnik to Ljubljana, Slovenia, via Adria Airways. Depart Dubrovnik at 3:05PM and arrive in Ljubljana at 4:20PM. Overnight in Ljubljana.

May 5 – Sightsee in Ljubljana. Overnight in Ljubljana. Perhaps pick up rental car tonight so that we can leave early the next morning. Or should we pick it up on May 6?

May 6 – Drive to Lake Bled via the Julian Alps for a day trip. Stop in Skofja Loka. Overnight in Ljubljana.

May 7 – Fly home from Ljubljana to Boston.

Right now we have 13 nights. Not sure if I should add an extra day. If so, where? A day trip along the Peljesac Peninsula sounds like it would be beautiful. But I haven’t heard too much about it on this forum. The Rough Guide describes it as an exceptionally beautiful place! And we love red wines and oysters!

I have omitted Mostar because a day trip from Dubrovnik would be too long of a day trip. It’s 2.5 – 3 hours one-way, right? I’d rather leave Bosnia for another trip when we can stay in Mostar one night and spend several nights in Sarajevo. I’m sure we would enjoy Zagreb and Istria, but we don’t have the time.

I apologize for such a long post! I appreciate any comments/advice/feedback. Thank you very much!
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Old Aug 19th, 2018, 07:26 PM
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Croatia and surrounds are delightful! I'm sure you'll have a wonderful time there.

Some comments:

I recommend a total of at least 6 or 7 hours in the Plitvice Lakes. If you do that as two separate visits, you might want a bit more, as you would then need to include time to get from some mid-point back to an exit.

For driving times, consult google maps or viamichelin

I don’t know about Brac, but Hvar Town and Stari Grad (the two larger cities on Hvar) are year-round locations.

I wouldn’t have been able to see what I wanted to see in both Trogir and Sibenik in the same day-trip from Split; YMMV. A half day is reasonable for Trogir, IMO. I wanted more than a day for Sibenik (and I stayed there), but as always, it depends on what you want to see and experience.

Re: the drive from Dubrovnik to Kotor: I drove from Dubrovnik to Kotor;, and seriously wish I hadn’t! The traffic was incredibly heavy and was moving well above the speed limit and without leaving ANY space between vehicles, so I was absolutely white-knuckled through the southern part of Croatia and well into Montenegro. I was aware that the scenery was among the most jaw-droppingly beautiful of any I’ve ever seen – and I could not allow myself to look, as I felt I needed to devote my full and undivided attention to the roads and the traffic. There were some pull-offs, and I managed one – but (despite appropriate use of signals), it involved such screeching of horns and veering of traffic from behind into the single oncoming lane and emergency maneuvers by those drivers that I could barely stop shaking until well after I was finally able to stop safely. Then, trying to get back onto the road was another nightmare. I sincerely wish that I had been in a bus, so I could have actually enjoyed that stunning scenery. My trip was in mid-May in 2009. Maybe things have changed.

As for when to pick up your rental car in Ljubljana, I think you need to figure out where you would park the car if you pick up the day before you need it and whether you can pick it up early enough to suit your needs the next day.

Doesn’t sound like you are giving yourselves much time for Bled, but perhaps that’s intentional.

I agree that leaving Mostar, Sarajevo, Zagreb, and Istria out of this plan makes sense.

If you can add a day, I’dd add it to Split or Bled or the Plitvice Lakes (giving you a bit more time in Zadar and/or a bit more latitude if weather is not conducive to a visit) or wherever! IMO, most of your stops are for reasonable, but not generous, amounts of time.

Hope that helps!
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Old Aug 19th, 2018, 09:21 PM
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"May 3 – Drive to Bay of Kotor in Montenegro for the day. We would do the Rick Steves Bay of Kotor Driving Tour. It sounds like a scenic drive. Am I right? I know that Andrew who posts on this forum drove up into the mountains, but I don’t think we have time for that, and it does sound a like a white-knuckle drive! Overnight in Dubrovnik."

You are correct; the drive is scenic. My notes from our trip last summer (June): "The road from Dubrovnik to Kotor is paved with scenic overlooks, and we stopped and snapped at each and every one. From the clifftop views of Dubrovnik, its chalky walls and red-tiled roofs a more than perfect contrast to the sea blue; to the grey-blue peaks of the Montenegran rias (don’t call them fjords!), the 90 minute drive took almost twice the time. After nearly 25 years of married bliss, DH knows to be ready to brake at little notice because I am hopping out of the vehicle to snap something. It is what keeps our marriage fresh."

The route is winding and elevated for a stretch leaving Dubrovnik, but settles down soon enough. With Perast (the village is beautiful) and Kotor, and stopping along the way as many times as we did, you'll have a full day.
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Old Aug 20th, 2018, 01:45 PM
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Kja, thank you so much for your detailed and helpful response. I did consult google maps for driving times. The reason I put a question mark next to the driving times is because I've heard some people say google maps are sometimes wrong. Drives can sometimes take longer than Google says.

So it looks like we need at least a whole day to see Sibenik, if not more. I am definitely interested in seeing the Renaissance cathedral and St. Michael's Fortress. I could delete a night from Split (decrease from 4 nights to 3) and add it to Sibenik. But it might make our time in Split hectic because I would like to see at least one island, such as Hvar. I am also trying to minimize the number of times we have to change hotels.

I'm still not sure about adding a night to our overall trip. As it is, we are staying in France with our daughter about 2 or 3 nights longer than usual, which is a good thing! We will babysit our grandson while he has vacation from pre-school, and he and his younger sister will be christened on Easter Sunday (April 21). And if Ryan Air has the same schedule it has now, the only flights from Marseille to Zadar are on Sundays and Wednesdays. Also, at our age, I find being away from home for longer than 30 days is tiring. We lose energy at the end. But I understand why you suggest adding a night to Split. Or we could add a night so we can stay overnight in Sibenik. Need to ponder this more.

The reason we aren't staying overnight in Lake Bled is also because I want to minimize changing hotels. And Llubljana sounds wonderful! I love Andrew's photos! I think Ljubljana would be a nice city to return to at night and spend the evening.

Fourfortravel, thank you for your response and for your description of the drive around Bay of Kotor. Did you encounter the same crazy traffic that Kja did?

Does anyone know when Ryan Air will post its flight schedule for April 2019? Right now my itinerary is based on the fact they only have flights from Marseille to Zadar on Sundays and Wednesdays. I hope that will be the case for April.

Has anyone spent any time on the Peljesac Peninsula?
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Old Aug 20th, 2018, 01:57 PM
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I forgot a question about Hvar. I know that Hvar Town is known as a party place, which we aren't interested in. Will it be quiet and more enjoyable the end of April?
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Old Aug 20th, 2018, 07:04 PM
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I always add time to any on-line driving-time estimate, because I don’t know the roads and would rather expect more time than too litte. That said, I think google maps has gotten better with time estimates and is now generally in the ballpark – assuming you specify the time you plan to take the trip correctly -- but potentially WAY off if you don’t! You can check to see if the estimates seem reasonable by comparing them to viamichelin estimates, which are also generally correct, IME, as long as the time is considered.

I understand that some people quite reasonably prefer to spend the night in Ljubljana than in Bled – Ljubljana is charming! But when I commented on your time in Bled, it was because you said you plan to vist Lake Bled, the Julian Alps, and Skofja Loka in a single day trip. It took me about 12 hours to see what I wanted to see just in Bled. Your interests could be quite different.

And BTW, part of what made my drive from Dubrovnik into Montenegro was that much of the traffic consisted of buses and big-rigs. I absolutely abhor having an 18-wheller barrel up to me until it is just yards behind, blaring its horn, and then swerving into oncoming traffic, and forcing other big-rigs and buses to swerve in turn.

My understanding – which could easily be wrong – is that Hvar Town would not likely be into its full party swing in late April.

I haven’t been to the Peljesac Peninsula. What would you skip to make time for it?
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Old Aug 20th, 2018, 10:50 PM
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KarenWoo, we did not encounter crazy traffic like kja described. In 2009 Croatia was not yet part of the EU (they joined in 2013) and thus truck drivers/buses in the country were not subject to EU regulations on daily driving times and speed limits; perhaps this may have contributed to the driving tension described? On our drive there were trucks and buses, certainly, but nothing that I would describe as terrifying.

Also, in looking once again over my notes I spotted a mention of needing a "cross-border" card to take a rental car into Montenegro from Croatia. I do not know if this requirement is still in place, but it might be something to investigate. We also collected our rental car from Dubrovnik proper (not the airport) around 0800 for our day trip and were able to enjoy the day and return the car later that evening, for whatever help this anecdote might be.
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Old Aug 21st, 2018, 06:44 PM
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It would be great if a change in regulations has curbed the problems with trucks and buses that I experienced on that stretch of road! My experience there was terrifying -- it's even caused a few nightmares in the last few nights as I've thought about it. Thanks for the reason to hope that others won't have to face the same problems, fourfortravel.
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Old Aug 21st, 2018, 07:49 PM
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kja, I'm not sure what I would delete in order to spend a day on the Peljesac Peninsula. If we add an extra night to our itinerary, I might add it to Dubrovnik so we could do the Peljesac Peninsula as a day trip. Or I would skip it and spend the extra night in Sibenik. So much to see and not enough time! That is always the problem. And thanks for the suggestion about checking with viamichelin. I also need to look up ferry schedules, which I haven't done yet.

Fourfortravel, thanks for the tip about the car. That is a possibility if we return our rental car as soon as we arrive in Dubrovnik. That way we don't have to worry about finding a hotel with parking. And I will ask about the "cross border" card when I rent the car. BTW, I don't know if you remember me, but you responded to a post I made earlier in the summer asking for restaurant and beach recommendations for Brewster on Cape Cod. We had a fabulous time with our children and grandchildren. We ate at Cobies and Kate's Seafood in Brewster, and at the Bookstore Restaurant in Wellfleet. We did a lot of cooking at the rental house. And enjoyed Breakwater Beach, Paine's Creek Beach, Ellis Landing, and Crosby Landing beaches. This is the first time our French son-in-law was on the Cape, and he loved it.

Thanks to the both of you for your helpful information!
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Old Aug 21st, 2018, 11:09 PM
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Hi Karen
Your destinations are great for the most part.. But your itinerary needs help. The flight from Dubrovnik to Ljubljana can be eliminated. So can the two car rentals. Hubby needs a little relief driving the long day trips which can be solved by some one night stays and some guided tours. I would drop Zadar( your only justification is there is a direct flight from Marseille) and add a day to the Croatia trip (Can you leave your daughter's on Tue?).
Then you might do something like this:
1. Fly into Ljubljana on Air France or Lufthanza. I know one stop, but saves another flying day).
2. Ljubljana
3. Ljubljana. Take an organized tour Lake Bled + Julian Alps + Skofja Loka for $66pp.
4. Train to Zagreb for 1 night. Stay at 5 star ( less than $200) Esplanade of Orient express fame. Afternoon in Zagreb.
5. Rent a car. Drive to Plitvice Lakes for one night.
6. Drive to Split for 4 nights.
7. Split
8. Split
9.Split
10.Drive to Mostar for 1 night. You may not get back to Bosnia.
11. Drive to Mali Ston for 1 night. Stay at Hotel Ostrea(booking.com) and eat at Kapetanova Kuca (next door, same owners)
12. Drive to Dubrovnik for 3 nights.Turn in car.
13. Dubrovnik
14. Dubrovnik. Take an organized tour to Montenegro- Kotor, Perast, Budva
15. Fly home to Boston
https://goo.gl/maps/RdVEGjQjKs62
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Old Aug 22nd, 2018, 10:29 PM
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KarenWoo, thank you for the memory-jog. I don't often visit the US page because we're six years removed from living there and so I usually do not have much wisdom to share. So glad to read that your Cape Cod holiday was enjoyed by all, and jealous that you've eaten recently at Cobie's...
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Old Aug 23rd, 2018, 06:12 AM
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Hi dugi-otok,
Thank you for taking the time to outline a new itinerary option for me. The advantages to your proposed itinerary is that we would see a few more places. However, I really don't want to have 4 one-night stays. At our age, changing hotels so frequently is tiring and time-consuming. I did look up flights from Marseille to Ljubljana on AF and other airlines, and they are more expensive than RyanAir would be. We are not opposed to taking guided day tours if we are tired and don't want to do it on our own, so your suggestion of the organized tours are a good one. If my husband decides he is too tired to drive all day, we can always decide at the last minute to sign up for an organized tour for the day. Thanks!
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Old Aug 23rd, 2018, 08:56 AM
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The highlight of our full day out from Split to Hvar [Stari Grad] was the 2 hour [each way] ferry crossing. We did it last September, and only visited Stari Grad. It was fairly quiet, but there was plenty open. I can't see Hvar Town rocking when you visit.
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Old Aug 23rd, 2018, 01:12 PM
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Originally Posted by LancasterLad View Post
The highlight of our full day out from Split to Hvar [Stari Grad] was the 2 hour [each way] ferry crossing. We did it last September, and only visited Stari Grad. It was fairly quiet, but there was plenty open. I can't see Hvar Town rocking when you visit.
Was the ferry crossing the highlight of your day trip because of the coastal scenery and island scenery as your sailed past the islands? How long were you in Stari Grad? What did you do?

Can you or anyone else let me know if I am reading the ferry schedules correctly? If I keep my current itinerary, we will do a daytrip to an island from Split on April 28, 29, or 30, so there aren't too many voyages available.
It looks like we could leave Split for Stari Grad at 8;30am and depart Star Grad at 5:30pm. That should make a nice day trip.
Or we could leave Split at 9AM for Supetar, Brac, and depart Supetar at 6PM (or 8PM if we want to stay longer).

It looks like we cannot take a ferry to Hvar Town unless we want to stay overnight. Or I adjust my itinerary by a day.

Am I reading the ferry/catamaran schedules correctly?

Thank you LancasterLad and everyone else who has responded!

Last edited by KarenWoo; Aug 23rd, 2018 at 01:38 PM. Reason: I had the incorrect date.
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Old Aug 23rd, 2018, 01:45 PM
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BTW, the schedules are for 2018. 2019 is not posted yet.
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Old Aug 23rd, 2018, 03:11 PM
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>>Am I reading the ferry/catamaran schedules correctly? <<
Which website? Which Company? Which voyage number? Which date? are you reading?
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Old Aug 23rd, 2018, 03:22 PM
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Originally Posted by dugi_otok View Post
>>Am I reading the ferry/catamaran schedules correctly? <<
Which website? Which Company? Which voyage number? Which date? are you reading?
I'm so sorry I wasn't more specific. The dates would be April 28, 29, or 30.
For Split to Stari Grad, the website is for Jadrolinija. The car ferry line is No. 635.
For Split to Supetar, Brac, the website is Jadrolinija. The car ferry line is No. 631.
For Split to Hvar Town, it's the Jadrolinija website. The catamaran line No. is 9604 and 9604S.
I also checked the Krilo ferry website, Split-Hvar-Split for the dates from April 1 through April 30.
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Old Aug 23rd, 2018, 03:51 PM
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Originally Posted by LancasterLad View Post
We ... only visited Stari Grad. It was fairly quiet, but there was plenty open. I can't see Hvar Town rocking when you visit.
Note that Stari Grad is very different from Hvar Town. With the possible exception of Croatia playing in the final rounds of a world cup, I can't imagine that it would ever be anything other than on the quiet side.
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Old Aug 23rd, 2018, 05:44 PM
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4 nights in Split seems more. We loved Korcula in terms of islands in Croatia and it can be easily visited enroute between Dubrovnik and Split.
For more information and ideas on Croatia check out my blog diyfamilytravels.
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Old Aug 23rd, 2018, 07:22 PM
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>>It looks like we could leave Split for Stari Grad at 8;30am and depart Star Grad at 5:30pm. That should make a nice day trip.
Or we could leave Split at 9AM for Supetar, Brac, and depart Supetar at 6PM (or 8PM if we want to stay longer).
It looks like we cannot take a ferry to Hvar Town unless we want to stay overnight.

Am I reading the ferry/catamaran schedules correctly?<<

You are reading the 2018 schedule correctly.
Note that the 8:30am ferry arrives at Stari Grad at 10:30am.
You may want to take your car $$ on your visit to Hvar. It is a nice island to explore.
Ferry rides are very scenic as you cruise through the crystal clear Adriatic Sea. Views are better from ferries than are from Catamarans.
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