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Thoughts on this Itinerary for Croatia & Slovenia

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Aug 12th, 2018, 12:09 PM
  #1
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Thoughts on this Itinerary for Croatia & Slovenia

We're planning a trip in May to Croatia and Slovenia ending in Sarajevo. The number of days is flexible but would like to keep it to about 4-5 weeks. I've been playing around with various itineraries some of it based on reasonable airfare and transit times. We're 2 retirees who travel a lot, are active and enjoy the outdoors, scenic drives, museums and just hanging around and enjoying towns. Love to sample the local wine & food. Our preference is not to move around a lot, but that doesn't seem to be working out with this trip. We like driving ourselves, taking trains and buses. We typically do a mix when we travel. Our preference is not to move around a lot, but that doesn't seem to be working out with this trip. I don't mind short day trips, but am not interested in spending 5 hours in a car to come & go to a destination. Your thoughts on what I have figured out on this first attempt at an itin so far are wanted.
Fly into Zagreb - spend 4 nights
Pick up a Car in Zagreb
Drive inland Croatia - 3 nights
Drive to Ljublijana - 3 nights
Lake/Bled/Lake Bohinj - Julian Alps - 3 nights
Piran & Istria Peninsula - 4 nights
Plitvice Natl Park - 1 night
Zadar - 2 nights
Return car in Split
Split - 3 nights
Ferry to Korcula - 3 nights
Ferry to Dubrovnik
Dubrovnik with day trips to Mostar and Kotor, Montenegro - 4 nights. I know this is supposed to be very crowded but given we are going to do day trips we figured we needed the 4 nights.
Train to Sarajevo - 3-4 nights
Fly home from Sarajevo

Really appreciate your comments and recommendations.
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Aug 12th, 2018, 12:34 PM
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As much as you hate moving around, I think I'd spend a few nights in Montenegro instead of day tripping there. I think you will be glad you spent more time there. Dubrovnik is wonderful, but it does get very crowded during the daytime and is pretty small.

My suggestion would be instead: pick up another car as you leave Dubrovnik, drive to Montenegro (I stayed in Kotor but might recommend smaller Perast instead). Then drive to Sarajevo via Mostar. If you could violate your "not move around much" rule, spend a night in Mostar - it is much less crowded at night but very busy now, as I understand it, during the day (I visited Mostar for a night in 2009). You might stop in Trebinje on the way from Montenegro and perhaps also at the monastery at Blagaj (near Mostar). Mostar is probably not worth two nights.

Then spend your nights in Sarajevo and drive back to Zagreb and fly out from there. I think you'll will probably find better flight connections out of Zagreb than Sarajevo, anyway. On the way to Zagreb, you can stop in some neat little Bosnian towns like Jajce and Travnik.

You would miss the lovely train ride from Mostar to Sarajevo, but you drive on the other side of the river from the train tracks most of the way, so you get to see the same scenery. (If you follow your original idea, you'll have to get a bus to Mostar if you want to take the train on to Sarajevo...or just take a direct bus from Dubrovnik to Sarajevo, which may take you through Mostar anyway.)

Some personal preferences: not a big fan of Zagreb, so I wouldn't spend four nights there myself. Some people do like it - maybe you will. But your time there is disproportionate to your time everywhere else. Are you just trying to adjust to jet lag, or do you have some special interest in Zagerb?

I also wasn't a big fan of Zadar (again - some people are, maybe you will be too). It was one of those towns that sounded a lot more interesting and charming than it turned out to be. I spent one night there and then stopped in Sibenik for a few hours on the way south and preferred it to Zadar. You might also sneak in a visit to Krka National park near Sibenik. No, Krka isn't redundant to Plitvice in my view, but perhaps your interest in national parks is limited vs. towns. You can see just the big Skradinski Buk waterfall at Krka if you want - much bigger than any individual waterfall at Plitvice (which I nonetheless preferred overall to Krka).

You could probably add another night to Slovenia, depending on your interests. There are neat little towns, caves, scenic drives, etc. and one more night might let you slow it down - especially if you have the time.
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Aug 12th, 2018, 01:07 PM
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I know it is all a matter of personal preference but we liked Hvar more than Korcula and I might add a day to Plitvice. We just spent one night there and felt sort of rushed through the park. Do visit the Buza Bar in Dubrovnik!
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Aug 12th, 2018, 01:43 PM
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Should be a great trip! Some specific comments:

I would strongly encourage you to spend a night in Mostar – it is much more delightful after day-trippers leave!

You might consider reversing the order of your trip, which I think would minimize the chance of outrageous heat in Mostar and maximize the chance of lovely evenings in the northern portions of your journey.

I enjoyed Zadar and Zagreb (and think your time there quite reasonable), but also enjoyed Sibenik and the Krka National Park (which is, indeed, quite different from the Plitvice Lakes). I’m glad I saw Hvar, but a few hours in Hvar Town were more than enough for me.

As you are learning, there simply is no way to fit all of the delights of this area into even one long trip, and it is not a part of the world that readily lends itself to base locations.

Hope that helps!
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Aug 12th, 2018, 01:52 PM
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You know, reversing the order makes sense. We flew into Zagreb, spent the night at nondescript B&B outside of the airport and flew to Dubrovnik to get over jet lag. A day or two in Zagreb going in the other direction is plenty in my opinion.
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Aug 12th, 2018, 02:09 PM
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Thanks, all! I have been mulling over reversing the order mainly to avoid the crowds in Dubrovnik & possibly to have cooler weather in the south. We could even leave last week of April. The problem reversing it is the flight connection from IAD to Sarajevo is not as good as the return flight, but it still may be worth it.

Judy - wasn't sure about spending 2 nights in the park. I am glad to hear your opinion. I hate feeling rushed!

kja, Will not miss the Buza Bar. I have read so many good things about it. How long did you stay at Plitvice Lakes? Isn't everywhere much nicer after the day trippers leave? That's another reason I prefer not to do day trips.

Andrew, we do like to spend longer on our first stop after an overnight flight. You've given me some good ideas to explore. Fortunately, we do have as much time as we want. Although we are finding that in general 4-5 weeks is a nice amount of time for us.

I welcome more comments.
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Aug 12th, 2018, 02:15 PM
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I found I could get the gist of Plitvice in 6-7 hours. (You can't see every inch of every trail in that time, but at some point you've seen the highlights and seeing more just feels redundant.) A good strategy might be to arrive mid-afternoon the first day, see some of the park, stay overnight, and see more in the morning. It's really best to get into the park at 7am when it opens to avoid the big crowds later (by mid-morning, maybe not quite as bad in May). FYI, if you stay in one of the overpriced park hotels, you do get one benefit (besides being able to walk right into the park) of getting your park ticket stamped from the day before so you can enter the park a second day without paying again. Only the few park hotels can do that.

The problem with two nights in Plitvice is, there isn't really much of a town there, so there's not much to do at night. I'd rather have the second night in any other town on the Dalmatian coast myself instead of another night in quick a quiet place.
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Aug 12th, 2018, 02:17 PM
  #8
kja
 
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Originally Posted by yestravel View Post
kja ... How long did you stay at Plitvice Lakes? Isn't everywhere much nicer after the day trippers leave?
IMO, not so much -- once the park closes, around sunset, there isn't much to do -- except enjoy a long, leisurely delicious meal of fresh fish wherever you're staying. (I enjoyed the Villa Mukinja, which still gets good reviews; I think rialtogrl has recommended another place that would, IMO, be worth investigating.) I only spent one night at the Plitvice Lakes -- but I don't mind one-night stays and I was happy with a very full, busy-every-waking-moment kind of trip.
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Aug 12th, 2018, 10:29 PM
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Whatís inland Croatia for 3 nights at beginning?
i believe Mostar is a VERY long day trip from Dubrovnik. If you go to Hvar instead of Korcula - as someone else suggested - you could drive from Split to Dubrovnik with a stop in Mostar.
We did enjoy Krka and itís only just over an hour from Split or stop on your way from Zadar to Split.
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Aug 13th, 2018, 12:16 AM
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I like your itinerary - very cool that you have so much time.

The day tours from Dubrovnik to Mostar and Kotor leave early in the morning - are you cool with that? If you start in Dubrovnik, you might want to sleep in. If you arrive in Dubrovnik in late April/early May one of the Buza bars might not be open yet (the one Maitaitom always posts pictures of.) But the Buza kja went to (the one that has a sign "cold drinks") should be open. Starting south and heading north is a good idea.

Whether you decide on Korcula or Hvar, with this much time would be nice to rent a car so you can explore.

Regarding Plitvice, there are a lot of hiking and walking trails not in the main part of the park. That time of year, it could be cloudy and in my opinion it is better to have more time (especially because you can spare it) to make sure you can get to the waterfall and pool part of the park on a sunny day. I always stay at Plitvice Miric Inn -
Plitvice Miri? Inn
If you stay there, they have a bocce court and serve excellent meals. The family can advise you on other hiking trails and things to do in the area.

For Ljubljana try to stay on a Friday night so you can go to Open Kitchen.
Odprta kuhna
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Aug 13th, 2018, 05:38 AM
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Thanks again! Everyone's comments are so helpful. I'm thinking of doing Zadar as a day trip from Split which would cut down on the moving around.

kja, you do move faster than we do these days.

alison, Inland Croatia is described as "enticing, no tourists, Baroque villages, funky art galleries and outstanding wineries." One village, Hiebine , is the birthplace of the naive art movement. It looked like a little different area to visit. Yes, its 2.5 hours to Mostar from Dub. Further, then we generally like to go for a day trip. Good idea to think about going from Split. Although that would involve changing our island trip. Will look to add in the second park as a day trip from Split.

rialtogrl - yes, it wonderful to have so much time. But as I have found out it doesn't matter how much time you have, there never seems to be enough. Yes, we would likely rent a car on whichever island we choose. Good point on the sun in Plitvice. We have had that happen with clouds or fog and it does make a difference. I'm thinking of the Buza Bar Maiton loves so much. The views look fabulous. Didn't know there was more than one. Thanks for the recs.

Now I looked at google flights and the flight I saw going from IAD to Sarajevo that wasnt so bad is not showing up!
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Aug 13th, 2018, 06:18 AM
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Zadar is full 2 hours from Split and you want to be there in the evening. It is I think right on the way from Plitvice to Split.
I would double check with someone about those inland villages!
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Aug 13th, 2018, 08:43 AM
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Originally Posted by alison View Post
I would double check with someone about those inland villages!
I'm working on it.
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Aug 13th, 2018, 06:51 PM
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How funny about the Buza Bars – I saw both (but only stopped at one); and would have sworn that I got the directions from maitaitom! But I just checked, and (of course) rialtogrl nailed it. Yes, I went to the original one, the one reached by followiong a “cold drinks” sign through a hole in the wall. And I’m very glad that’s the one I chose for my wine break! Of course, trying them both would be far better -- perhaps multiple times, just to be sure.

I think it’s wonderful that you’re planning some time in inland Croatia! I didn’t make it to Hlebine, but I thoroughly enjoyed Varazdin (which I think is seriously underrated) and was glad to have stopped for a few hours in Cakovec, which has an ethnography museum that I thought quite good, not to mention a very interesting Art Nouveau building called the Casino or Dom Sindikata. The region has quite a few interesting castles, too. FWIW, the cities I visited showed a decided Austro-Hungarian influence, and the churches – particularly the interiors – tended to be Baroque, but Baroque is not the word that would have come to my mind when thinking of the architecture of the region, which I thought quite varied, but if anything, tilted toward the medieval. But I’m no architect!

As for routing – another option would be to fly into Sarajevo, train to Mostar, bus to Dubrovnik, and then – after some time in Kotor – work your way back north. That worked really well for me!

You probably already know that Zadar is not on the way from Split to the Plitvice Lakes. Some people go that route, specifically so they can see Sibenik or the Krka National Park or Zadar.
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Aug 13th, 2018, 11:47 PM
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Unfortunately the Buza Bar (not the "cold drinks" Buza) is not the same fabulous place it used to be. Hopefully things will have gone back to normal this year. Last August they were just selling beer to people swimming and laying on the rocks or willing to sit with no table. They used to have Spritz, no more. One of the guys told me the owner of the rock area wants the area back to put a restaurant there and they were fighting him. (Not sure how a restaurant could work there, but whatever.)

I still drank something, sitting on the rocks, in solidarity. Went back in October and still found it a shell of itself but it was the end of the season by then.

Anyway early May they might not be open for the season yet but the other one should be. It is always packed.

I'll be back in mid May and hope to find the old Buza I know and love to be around.

I have always wanted to go to the inland part of Croatia east of Zagreb to explore the pinot noir scene there but have not yet got around to it. One of these days.
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Aug 14th, 2018, 01:28 AM
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Originally Posted by yestravel View Post

Now I looked at google flights and the flight I saw going from IAD to Sarajevo that wasnt so bad is not showing up!
This happens to me if I change one of the dates. Some of the routes only have 4 flights a week. Use the arrow and try shifting the dates. TAP, Newark to Porto direct is like that.

Thanks to all replies, my wife and I plan a 14 day trip in late Sept 2019, so am bookmarking. Probably just hitting the Northern half of this route. For this route, Airtransit from Toronto direct to Sagreb is a 2 day a week option for us right now.

Enjoy your trip.
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Aug 14th, 2018, 04:20 AM
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rialtogirl & kja -- who knew the Buza Bar could have so much conversation? -- We need Maitaitom! Maybe we'll run into you rialtogirl there.
kja - glad to hear you enjoyed inland Croatia. It sounds interesting, but I've just started researching it. The naive art scene is fascinating so that makes Hlebine worth a visit for us. Which of the towns did you stay overnight? Did you drive? thanks! The routing you did starting in Sarajevo would work if I can get airfare that is satisfactory flying into Sarajevo. I have a tracker on it, so we'll see.

bdokeefe - yes, that can happen with flights only going on certain days. I was able to find the flight, but it has gone up substantially since I first saw it which, of course, happens regularly with flights.
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Aug 14th, 2018, 05:23 AM
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We loved Groznjan on the Istrian peninsula for art galleries. We used the car GPS to access and went up a gravel, one lane, switchback road which was horrible. Arrived at the top to find paved streets and a parking lot!
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Aug 14th, 2018, 07:02 AM
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Judy -- don't you just love that with GPS? That has happened to us several times. Where were you staying when you visited Groznjan?
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Aug 14th, 2018, 08:24 AM
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Yestravel, no more "shortest route" for us! We were staying in Rovinj when we visited Groznjan.
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