Over three grand weeks, you'll explore the beautiful Balkan capitals of Podgorica, Sarajevo, Ljubljana, and Zagreb, along with smaller cities, charming towns, and fairy-tale villages. Hop from Montenegro to Croatia, exploring the Bay of Kotor and Dubrovnik before crossing into Bosnia and Herzegovina. After Mostar and Sarajevo, carve a path back across Croatia, from Split to the Istrian peninsula via Plitvice Lakes. Finally, you'll reach Slovenia, with stops at Lake Bled and Predjama Castle.


  • Explore four of the most beautiful and interesting capital cities in Europe
  • Join an exclusive food tour in Sarajevo and discover Bosnian cuisine
  • Experience the beauty of Plitvice Lakes National Park with a guide
  • Visit both Predjama Castle and Postojna Cave on the way to Ljubljana
  • Take a walking tour of Zagreb and discover the Croatian capital

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Podgorica (Montenegro), Self-Guided City Tour Podgorica
Day 2 Transfer to Kotor via Skadar Lake Kotor
Day 3 Full-Day Tour of Lovčen National Park & Historic Cetinje Kotor
Day 4 Transfer to Dubrovnik (Croatia) via Perast & Our Lady of the Rocks Dubrovnik
Day 5 Dubrovnik Walking Tour, Authentic Konavle Cooking Class & Dinner Dubrovnik
Day 6 Full-Day Cavtat & Konavle Valley Tour Dubrovnik
Day 7 Transfer to Mostar (Bosnia & Herzegovina) via Blagaj, Afternoon City Tour Mostar
Day 8 Free Day in Mostar: Explore the Old Town & Visit Kravica Waterfall Mostar
Day 9 Transfer to Sarajevo, Free Time to Explore Sarajevo
Day 10 Sarajevo Food & Culture Tour Sarajevo
Day 11 Transfer to Split (Croatia) via Međugorje, Split Walking Tour Split
Day 12 Half-Day Klis Fortress & Trogir Tour Split
Day 13 Day Trip to the Island of Brač Split
Day 14 Transfer to Plitvice Lakes, National Park Walking Tour Plitvice Lakes
Day 15 Transfer to Opatija, Free Time to Explore Opatija
Day 16 Explore Istria's Medieval Hill Towns Opatija
Day 17 Transfer to Ljubljana (Slovenia) via Predjama Castle & Postojna Cave Ljubljana
Day 18 Day Trip to Lake Bled & Škofja Loka Ljubljana
Day 19 Transfer to Zagreb (Croatia), Afternoon City Tour Zagreb
Day 20 Half-Day Trip to Varaždin, Croatia's Former Capital Zagreb
Day 21 Depart Zagreb  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Podgorica (Montenegro), Self-Guided City Tour

Leisure Time in Podgorica
You must step inside Podgorica's relatively new Orthodox Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ

Welcome to the Balkans! You've landed in Podgorica, the capital city of Montenegro, where a private driver will be waiting to transfer you downtown. Podgorica has a rich cultural heritage with remnants of Ottoman, Austro-Hungarian, and Yugoslav influences evident in its architecture and cuisine. That history blends with the youthful vibe of a modern, growing city. Despite being relatively small in size, Podgorica captivates visitors with its laid-back atmosphere, welcoming locals, and emerging arts scene.

This afternoon is yours to explore as you please. Start with the city's historical landmarks, such as the Millennium Bridge and the iconic Clock Tower in the Old Town. Then, wander through a scenic park or along the banks of the Moraca River, where you'll enjoy views of the surrounding mountains. Finally, stop to sample local delicacies at one of the cafés or restaurants dotted around the city. Have your first taste of traditional Montenegrin cuisine paired with a glass of local wine or rakija, a type of brandy.

Day 2: Transfer to Kotor via Skadar Lake

Leisure Time at Skadar Lake
Skadar Lake is the largest lake in Southern Europe

Today, after breakfast, a private driver will collect you for a scenic 1.5-hour transfer to Kotor, stopping at Skadar Lake en route. This vast freshwater lake straddles the border between Montenegro and Albania and is renowned for its wild natural beauty, biodiversity, and mirror-like waters. It's a haven for nature lovers, photographers, and bird-watchers, with 260 avian species to be found locally. Explore the lake's tranquil shores and take a boat ride before continuing on to Kotor.

The medieval coastal town of Kotor is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and abounds with Venetian palaces and Romanesque churches. Check into your hotel, and the afternoon is yours to explore at leisure. Wander the well-preserved Old Town and ascend the ancient city walls to reach the top fortress. Here, you'll be rewarded with panoramic views of the bay and surrounding mountains. Don't miss a visit to the Cathedral of Saint Tripun, built in 1166. Later, stroll along the waterfront, where you'll find cafés and restaurants serving delicious seafood.

Day 3: Full-Day Tour of Lovčen National Park & Historic Cetinje

Day Trip to Cetinje & Lovčen
You'll feel like you're standing on top of the world in Lovčen National Park

Montenegro isn't a huge country, but there's more to explore than meets the eye. Today, you'll take a full-day trip into its hinterland, stopping first in Lovćen National Park. Here you'll take in incredible panoramic views over the countryside and visit the world's highest mausoleum. Located at the top of a mountain, the monumental Mausoleum of Petar II Petrović Njegoš is dedicated to the 19th-century prince-bishop of Montenegro; a poet and philosopher who's considered a bit of a local hero.

Continue your journey to Cetinje, a historic town where the Montenegro royals once lived and ruled over this small country. Rich in cultural heritage, the town is set in a lush valley and contains well-preserved examples of various architectural styles, including the Cetinje Monastery and the Presidential Palace. At the end of the day, your driver will take you back to Kotor, where you can savor a relaxed evening and another Adriatic sunset.

Day 4: Transfer to Dubrovnik (Croatia) via Perast & Our Lady of the Rocks

Time at Leisure - Suggestion: Explore Perast & Visit Our Lady of the Rocks

You'll pass by the historic town of Perast and its famous island on the journey toward Dubrovnik

After breakfast, a private driver will collect you for a two-hour transfer to Dubrovnik, which includes crossing the border into Croatia. En route, you'll enjoy a scenic drive around the Bay of Kotor, stopping at the charming village of Perast, which feels like a little piece of Venice on the Adriatic. Explore its cobbled streets and picturesque small squares, and don't miss taking a boat ride to Gospa od Skrpjela (Our Lady of the Rocks), the only human-made island on the Adriatic. Once in Dubrovnik, check into your hotel, then enjoy the rest of the afternoon at your own pace.

Venture beyond the Old Town seeking sun at one of Dubrovnik's nearby beaches, or hire kayaks and paddle around the imposing City Walls. Alternatively, join a "Game of Thrones" tour and go behind the scenes at locations featured in the popular series. As evening falls, you hike up or ride the cable car to Mount Srđ for panoramic sunset views over the city and Adriatic. Make a dinner reservation at Panorama Restaurant, or ride the cable car back down for dinner at one of Dubrovnik's great restaurants.

Day 5: Dubrovnik Walking Tour, Authentic Konavle Cooking Class & Dinner


Explore life within the fortified City Walls of Dubrovnik's Old Town with a guide

Set out to explore the "Pearl of the Adriatic" on a private guided walking tour of the historic center. Enter the medieval Old Town through the 16th-century Pile Gate while your guide shares stories of local life, legends, and the importance Dubrovnik once held in the era of the Republic. Over 1.5 hours, you'll see highlights including Onofrio's Fountain, the 15th-century Rector's Palace, Luza Square, the Church of St. Blaise (St. Vlaho), and the café-lined sidewalks of Brsalje Street.

Afterward, treat yourself to a luxurious seafood lunch in the atmospheric streets of the Old Town, then relax or explore at leisure. In the evening, you'll be whisked out to a family farmhouse in the countryside. Meet your hosts and learn about regional gastronomy and Croatian culture and history. You'll help pick fresh vegetables and prepare a four-course Croatian dinner. When the time comes to sit down and taste your efforts, you'll enjoy a pairing of homemade wines alongside your dishes. Živeli!

Day 6: Full-Day Cavtat & Konavle Valley Tour

Cavtat, Croatia
Wander the streets of beautiful Cavtat, a pretty town at Croatia's southernmost tip

Today's private day trip takes you along the coast to Cavtat, a pretty little town backed by the wine-producing Konavle Valley on Croatia's southernmost tip. It doesn't take long to see how Cavtat is, in many ways, Dubrovnik in miniature—only without the crowds. The beautiful medieval coastal settlement is nestled on a similar double-pronged peninsula, filled with relaxed bars and cafés with sea views. Don't miss the House of Vlaho Bukovac, the childhood home of one of Croatia's most famous painters, filled with a lifetime's worth of paintings and murals.

Later on, walk along the promenade and around the bay to see the beautiful Our Lady of the Snow Monastery, which has paintings by Croatian artists. Then, hop back in the car and stop for sweeping views at the Sivi Soko Viewpoint before continuing into the Konavle Valley. This fertile landscape, blanketed in vineyards, olive groves, and fig and mulberry trees, is where much of Dalmatia's wine and fresh produce is harvested. Here, you'll sit down to a delicious late lunch showcasing the region's excellent local produce. Afterward, you'll return to Dubrovnik.

Day 7: Transfer to Mostar (Bosnia & Herzegovina) via Blagaj, Afternoon City Tour

Discover Blagaj and Buna Spring
Discover an enchanting natural spring overlooked by a 16th-century monastery in Blagaj

This morning, a private driver will collect you for the 2.5-hour transfer to Mostar, a medieval Bosnian town located on the banks of the Neretva River. En route, you'll stop at Blagaj, a small and historic village home to the Vrelo Bune, an enchanting natural spring. In front of the towering cliffs, you'll see the beautiful 16th-century tekija, a Dervish monastery from the Ottoman period. It's the perfect spot to stop for photos and take in the tranquil surroundings. From here, it's a short 20-minute journey to Mostar, where you'll explore the city's old Turkish houses and iconic bridge, Stari Most, with a private guide.

Mostar is a fascinating site where culture and religion collide, and the city is often described as a place where "East meets West." Spanning a deep valley of the Neretva River, Mostar developed as an Ottoman frontier town in the 15th and 16th centuries. Meet your local guide, who will share its rich history as you explore the highlights. Visit the UNESCO-listed Stari Most and wander between the Franciscan Monastery, Kajtaz House, and the shops and restaurants along Kujundžiluk Street. You'll also stop for a taste of true Bosnian coffee.

Plan your trip to Croatia
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

Day 8: Free Day in Mostar: Explore the Old Town & Visit Kravica Waterfall

Time at Leisure - Suggestion : Explore Mostar Old Town and the area
Walk across the reconstructed Stari Most bridge, which now hosts an annual international diving competition

After seven full days of travel, today is yours to slow down, relax, and enjoy Mostar. Use your day to wander the ancient city where it feels like life is frozen in time. Walk across the famous Stari Most again, which, together with the surrounding Old Town, is part of the UNESCO World Heritage List. Visit the Koski Mehmed-Pasha Mosque and climb its minaret for unparalleled views of the city. Shop for souvenirs in the Old Bazaar, a colorful place that's full of life.

For lunch or dinner, you could try ćevapi, a grilled minced meat usually served with a bread called lepina. It's delicious, cheap, and filling. In the afternoon, relax with another Bosnian coffee and a spot of people-watching, go for a massage, or organize a half-day trip to the nearby Kravica Waterfall, where you can swim in the pools beneath the cascade.

Day 9: Transfer to Sarajevo, Free Time to Explore

Sarajevo Old town
Take a stroll around the squares and streets of Sarajevo's Old Town

Today, a private driver will take you 2.5 hours to Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Nestled in a valley surrounded by mountains, this interesting city has a beautiful setting and a rich and complex history that reflects the cultural diversity of its people. Sarajevo bears the scars of the Bosnian War in the 1990s, evident in the rebuilt structures alongside reminders of the conflict. Drop your bags at the hotel, refresh, and set out to explore the "Jerusalem of Europe" at your own pace.

Sarajevo earned this nickname as the city is a place where Jews, Christians, and Muslims coexist. This unique cultural and religious heritage links back to the time of the Ottoman Empire. Get your bearings on the curious capital with a stroll around the Old Town, then visit the historic bazaar, Baršćaršija, to enjoy a traditional Bosnian meal and taste delicious sweets inspired by Middle Eastern cuisine at local pastry shops.

Day 10: Sarajevo Food & Culture Tour

Food & Culture Tour of Sarajevo
Taste traditional Bosnian coffee and other regional specialties on a food and culture tour

Glimpse another side of Sarajevo when you meet your local guide for a special food and culture tour this morning. Together, you'll navigate historic streets to taste traditional specialties, both sweet and sour, and learn more about the city's rich history. Try fresh baked goods and local produce directly at the market, wander the colorful stalls of the central bazaar, and fall in love with the diversity of Sarajevo and its food.

After the 2.5-hour food tour, spend the rest of the day exploring Sarajevo's rich history, diverse culture, and scenic beauty. Stroll along the Miljacka River, visit iconic sites like the Sebilj and Gazi Husrev-beg Mosque, or keep exploring history at the Sarajevo War Tunnel Museum. Wander through charming streets, shop for local crafts, and try the traditional ćevapi (grilled sausages) for dinner. Wrap up your day with a scenic hike to the Yellow Fortress for panoramic views over Sarajevo.

Day 11: Transfer to Split (Croatia) via Međugorje, Split Walking Tour

Leisure Time in Međugorje
In Međugorje, pilgrims can climb the hill where the Virgin Mary appeared to six children in June 1981

Međugorje has been a pilgrimage site since June 24, 1981, when six children claimed to have seen an apparition of the Virgin Mary. On today's four-hour private transfer to Split, Croatia's second-largest city, you'll make a special stop at Međugorje with free time to climb Apparition Hill and visit the St. James Church. Afterward, continue to Split, an ancient coastal city founded 1,700 years ago by Roman Emperor Diocletian. Check into your hotel, then step out to explore the UNESCO-protected Old Town with a private guide.

This afternoon, you'll learn more about Diocletian's legacy on a two-hour walking tour. You'll see life in Split through the eyes of a local and venture back in time with thrilling stories about the emperor and Diocletian's Palace, one of the best-preserved Roman buildings in the world. You'll discover how Croatian traditions are mixed with the present as you stroll through the buzzing streets of the city center. Later, find somewhere along the waterfront Riva for a seafood dinner with a view.

Day 12: Half-Day Klis Fortress & Trogir Tour

SPlit, Croatia
Split's Old Town is set within the walls of the fourth-century Diocletian's Palace

Set out on a private half-day tour to nearby Trogir, an ancient city set on a tiny island that acts as a stepping stone between the mainland and Čiovo Island. Visit the Garagnin-Fanfogna Palace and the Cathedral of St. Lawrence, and admire Radovan's 13th-century Romanesque Portal and its bizarre creatures. Climb the ramparts of the 15th-century Kamerlengo Fortress for views. You might even be serenaded by the local a cappella groups called klapa along the way. On the return journey, detour to the impressive medieval Klis Fortress.

The rest of the day is yours to explore Split your way. The coastal city's vivid and unique Old Town is loaded with galleries, boutiques, cafés, and bars to discover. Relax after the tour, then venture out when evening falls and the UNESCO-listed site comes alive. Watch as the setting sun casts a glow on the palace walls and a maze of narrow cobbled streets. You'll find one of the best restaurants set within the historic walls of Diocletian's Palace.

Day 13: Day Trip to the Island of Brač

Enjoy the relaxed coastal charms of Brač Island today

This morning, board a 40-minute ferry bound for Supetar on Brač, a relatively undiscovered island and the third-largest on the Adriatic coast. Brač is full of small historic villages and bays, with historic tales of invaders and conquest, though you wouldn't know it from the relaxed local pace. Meet your guide, who will show you the real spirit and flavors of this area. Jump into an all-terrain 4WD vehicle and cruise over to Škrip, where you'll visit the Olive Oil Museum to learn about the island's traditions and history.

Next, you'll drive to Vidova Gora, the highest point on Brač at 2250 feet (778 m), where you'll enjoy the spectacular view of Bol and the surrounding islands. Visit a local farm for an authentic Croatian lunch with local produce. Then, continue toward the beautiful bay Smrka, where you can swim and relax for a while. Late in the afternoon, you'll be dropped back at Supetar for the return ferry to Split. 

Day 14: Transfer to Plitvice Lakes, National Park Walking Tour

Plitvice Lakes
Plitvice Lakes National Park is a wonderland of lush greenery and vibrant pools

Today, a private driver will collect you in Split and take you on the 2.5-hour drive to Plitvice Lakes National Park. Croatia's natural masterpiece is gorgeous at any time of year, and a must-visit for any traveler to Croatia. The UNESCO-protected park is home to 16 glassy emerald green and blue travertine lakes, more than 90 cascading waterfalls, and numerous caves.

Upon arrival, a local guide will meet you for a private tour of the best sights around Plitvice. As you explore the waterfalls and terraced lakes surrounded by beech and pine forests, your guide will explain the significance of its history and natural features. Make sure you keep an eye out for local wildlife who call the park home! After, return to your hotel and enjoy dinner nearby.

Day 15: Transfer to Opatija, Free Time to Explore

See historic Italianate villas along Opatija's Adriatic coastline

Your grand trip across the Balkans continues west today with a two-hour private transfer toward the Istrian peninsula and the coastal town of Opatija. A private driver will collect you for the straightforward journey. A tourist destination since the 19th century, Opatija is known for its Mediterranean climate and historic Habsburg-era buildings, remnants of its touristic past. Check into your hotel, then set out to find lunch and explore.

This afternoon, you should stroll along the famous Lungomare, a promenade that follows the Adriatic coastline. After, you can explore Angiolina Park, where you'll find exotic plants, a beautiful fountain, and the neoclassical Villa Angiolina. You could relax on one of many nearby beaches or wander over to the famous statue of a young lady holding a seagull. From here, you'll be rewarded with panoramic views of Opatija and the surrounding coastline. Return to town and find a restaurant for dinner with views that overlook the Kvarner Gulf.

Day 16: Explore Istria's Medieval Hill Towns

The idyllic medieval town of Motovun, Istria
The idyllic medieval town of Motovun is famous for Istrian truffles

Get an early start this morning for today's private day trip through the heart of the Istrian peninsula. The area has earned the nickname "Croatian Tuscany" thanks to its picturesque hilltop towns, forests, and vineyards. Your first stop is Grožnjan, a medieval hilltop town surrounded by terraced olive groves and vineyards. Once an important stronghold for the Venetians, the town's importance declined with the 18th-century collapse of the empire.

Lose yourself in the maze of narrow cobblestone lanes and pop by the numerous art studios and galleries, then continue on the road to Motovun, an ancient sleepy town located atop a 909-foot (277 m) hill. Within the medieval city walls, you'll find buildings of Romanesque, Gothic, and Renaissance style, all in a beautiful location with views over the Mirna Valley. Use your time here to sample truffles sourced from the nearby forests. There are also numerous shops selling local handicraft products as well as gastronomic delicacies.

Day 17: Transfer to Ljubljana (Slovenia) via Predjama Castle & Postojna Cave

Transfer to the Slovenian capital and take a stroll around its charming streets and storybook castle

Your two-hour private transfer to Ljubljana this morning includes stops at two famous Slovenian attractions. The first is Postojna Cave. You'll take a 90-minute tour of the subterranean wonder, including an underground train ride, to view its magnificent cavern halls and learn about the cave's karst topography—like dangling stalactites and rising stalagmites. Afterward, visit nearby Predjama Castle, a medieval castle built right into the mouth of a clifftop cave. Perched in the middle of a sheer 400-foot-high (122 m) rock face, you can venture inside to enter the medieval world.

Finally, continue to Ljubljana, the charming capital of Slovenia. Check into your hotel, then stroll the colorful streets toward Prešern Square. Pass the Three Rivers Fountain, visit the Cathedral and Franciscan Church, and enjoy the Ljubljanica River from the Dragon Bridge. Then, stop for a potica cake and coffee on the Petkovšek embankment, the city's popular riverside promenade. For a special treat, make a reservation at the restaurant inside the Ljubljana Castle for dinner. 

Day 18: Day Trip to Lake Bled & Škofja Loka

Time at Leisure in  Ljubljana - Suggestion: Visit Bled Lake
Lake Bled appears to be straight from a postcard, no matter the season

Located in the Julian Alps, Lake Bled is one of the most famous places in Slovenia. This morning, a guide will take you on a day trip to Bled Town. Surrounded by the clear turquoise water and a fairy-tale castle on the top of the hill, it's one of the most beautiful places on Earth. During your free time, take a relaxed stroll by the lake, try a traditional cream cake called kremšnita, or visit the oldest castle in Slovenia on the hill for the most stunning view of the lake and Bled Island

After, continue to Škofja Loka, one of Slovenia's most well-preserved medieval towns. This lesser-known gem has tiny alleys with ancient buildings, picturesque roofs, and colorful frescoes. While there, visit the Škofja Loka Castle and museum, where many historical objects with interesting stories are found. Take a stroll through the streets and pass over the Capucin Bridge, constructed 600 years ago and still in use today. Before returning to the capital, stop for a coffee with a view of the colorfully-painted frescoes in the Town Square.

Day 19: Transfer to Zagreb (Croatia), Afternoon City Tour

Aerial view of Zagreb historic city center
The center of Zagreb is always lively, especially on Tkalčićeva Street

Rise early before a private driver collects you for a two-hour transfer to Zagreb, Croatia's capital. Chock-full of museums, great architecture, trendy neighborhoods, and delicious food, Zagreb is an exciting city to explore, and today, you'll go beneath its skin on a private guided walking tour of the city's top sights. Start in Ban Jelačić, the main square, and wind through the oldest part of Zagreb, Gornji Grad (Upper Town), to taste fresh produce at the buzzing Dolac market. You'll visit the Cathedral, Kamenita Vrata (Stone Gate), and St. Mark's Church with its famed multicolored roof.

Take the funicular down to Donji Grad (Lower Town), an area of spacious parks and boulevards, like the impressively grand Lenuci Horseshoe (or Green Horseshoe) capped by the neo-Baroque Croatian National Theater. After, stroll over to Tkalčićeva Street to experience Zagreb's café culture and street-side pub scene. North of the city's main square, this famous vibrant strip is filled with small boutiques, traditional stores, and places to eat and drink, making it the perfect day-to-night destination for a laid-back Croatian dinner.

Day 20: Half-Day Trip to Varaždin, Croatia's Former Capital

Varaždin has a cute and compact core, perfect for exploring over an afternoon

Enjoy a slow morning exploring Zagreb's many museums and art galleries, like the Homeland War Museum, the Nikola Tesla Technical Museum, or the ever-popular Museum of Broken Relationships. Later, a guide will collect you for a special half-day adventure to Varaždin, a small city also called "Little Vienna" due to its abundance of Baroque and Rococo architecture. The former capital of Croatia is also known as "the city of music and flowers," and there's no shortage of festivals and floral exhibitions.

A stroll through the old center of town reveals the former palaces of noble families, Baroque facades, parks, and palaces, the Old Castle, and the historic feudal fort—the highlight of your visit. After a 90-minute tour of Varaždin with your guide, you'll return to Zagreb. The capital has several beautiful city parks, which are great for exploring and people-watching, especially in the late afternoon. Maksimir is a great option, with various cafés nearby to pick up a hot drink for your stroll as you watch day turn to night on your final evening in the Balkans.

Day 21: Depart Zagreb

Wander around the Upper Town and past St. Mark's Church one last time

If you have a free morning before departing, make like a local and visit one of the many café-bars in central Zagreb. Try the pedestrianized section around Bogovićeva and Preradovićeva for a morning coffee and pastry and to people-watch before you say farewell to Zagreb and head to the airport.

When the time is right, a private transfer will collect you for the 30-minute drive to the airport with enough time to check into your departing flight home or onward. This concludes your grand Balkan adventure. Safe travels!

More Great Croatia Itineraries

Looking for more inspiration for your trip to Croatia? Check out these other Croatia itineraries, explore different ways to spend three weeks in the Balkans, or discover the best time to visit Croatia.


Map of Balkan Capitals & Culture: Podgorica, Sarajevo, Ljubljana & Zagreb - 21 Days
Map of Balkan Capitals & Culture: Podgorica, Sarajevo, Ljubljana & Zagreb - 21 Days