- Explore the baroque-infused architecture of Vienna and Salzburg
- Admire the natural wonders of Austria's Alpine Lake District
- Enjoy an epic hot air balloon adventure over Slovenia's Lake Bled
- Walk amid beech and pine woods to marvel at Plitvice Lakes
- Tour centuries-old streets of Split and Dubrovnik along the Dalmatian coast
|Day 1||Arrive in Prague, Private Walking Tour||Prague|
|Day 2||Private Vltava River Cruise & Mala Strana Food Tour||Prague|
|Day 3||Prague to Vienna, Walking Tour of Brno||Vienna|
|Day 4||Private Walking Tour of Vienna||Vienna|
|Day 5||Vienna to Salzburg, Walking Tour of the City||Salzburg|
|Day 6||Lake District & Hallstatt (Private Day Tour from Salzburg)||Salzburg|
|Day 7||Salzburg to Lake Bled||Bled|
|Day 8||Lake Bled Hot Air Balloon Adventure & Vintgar Gorge||Bled|
|Day 9||Bled to Ljubljana, Afternoon Potica-Making Class||Ljubljana|
|Day 10||Postojna Cave and Predjama Castle Tour (Day Trip from Ljubljana)||Ljubljana|
|Day 11||Ljubljana to Zagreb, Private Walking Tour||Zagreb|
|Day 12||Zagreb to Zadar, Private Guided Tour of Plitvice Lakes||Zadar|
|Day 13||Private Guided Walking Tour of Zadar||Zadar|
|Day 14||Zadar to Split via Krka National Park||Split|
|Day 15||Split to Hvar, Half-Day Private Island Tour||Hvar Town|
|Day 16||Private Speedboat Tour: Blue Cave, Vis Island, & Pakleni Islands||Hvar Town|
|Day 17||Hvar to Dubrovnik, Private Walking City Tour||Dubrovnik|
|Day 18||Cavtat & Konavle Region Private Culinary Experience||Dubrovnik|
|Day 19||Depart Dubrovnik|
Day 1: Arrive in Prague, Private Walking Tour
Welcome to the Czech Republic! From the airport, you'll transfer to your centrally located hotel in the heart of Prague. You'll have time to unwind after your journey before embarking on a private walking tour of the capital, a genuine European hotspot of history, culture, nightlife, and beer. Together with your expert guide, you'll walk the maze of cobbled streets and narrow passageways as you learn of the city and surrounding area's turbulent history.
You'll venture your way up to the 9th-century Prague Castle, a 17-acre sprawling castle complex of historical buildings, some over a thousand years old, creating one of the most important sites in the Czech Republic. Take in the jawdropping vistas before making your way to the iconic Karlův most (Charles Bridge) and continuing toward the medieval Astronomical Clock, the oldest operating clock in the world.
Your guide will take you off the beaten path to show you some of the best shops for traditional Bohemian glass and Czech porcelain, as well as introduce you to excellent restaurants offering local fare and charm.
Day 2: Private Vltava River Cruise & Mala Strana Food Tour
Enjoy a leisurely morning before readying yourself for a three-hour private boating venture along the Vltava River. You'll meet your captain at a pre-designated dock to board your luxury motorboat and cruise beneath the famed Charles Bridge, navigating a network of canals, all the while taking in the postcard-perfect scene from another vantage point.
Following the tour, you can choose to explore more of Prague's historical sites and fascinating museums, or perhaps visit the Prague Zoo. Though another excellent option to consider is to join a guided food tour through the lively Mala Strana neighborhood where you will get to sample local delicacies including homemade sauerkraut, traditional bohemian soup, cakes, and crêpe-like pancakes.
Day 3: Prague to Vienna, Walking Tour of Brno
Get an early start today to make the journey south toward the Austrian capital of Vienna. Along the way, you'll make a stop to spend a little time exploring the charming city of Brno with an expert guide. The capital of the Czech Republic’s eastern province of Moravia and the second-largest city in the country, you'll meet your guide to discover Brno's UNESCO-protected Villa Tugendhat, the Gothic Town Hall, and the nearby Zelný trh (Cabbage Market), a lively site of the local farmer's market and perfect locale to pick up something to eat.
After lunch, you'll cross the Czech-Austria border and make your way to Vienna. Full off imperial grandeur you can easily lose yourself amid the imperial buildings and pristinely manicured gardens and boulevards that remain from the Habsburg legacy. Check into your accommodation before taking to the baroque ornamented streets to get acquainted with the enchanting city.
Day 4: Private Walking Tour of Vienna
You'll begin the day on a guided half-day walking tour to check out some of Vienna's most notable sites as you follow along the Ringstrasse, a tree-lined boulevard that encircles the city center.
You'll get to admire the Gothic details of St. Stephen’s Cathedral, noting its iconic patterned roof, visit the Hofburg Palace where you'll likely encounter Lipizzaner horses, and treat yourself to a slice of history with sachertorte, a delicious chocolate cake handmade from a centuries-old recipe. The tour continues with a visit to the 19th-century Wiener Rathaus (Vienna City Hall) and Parliament and ends at the Kunsthistorisches and Natural History Museum, home to world-famous artifacts and artworks.
Not far from Ringstrasse, you'll transfer to the Schönbrunn Palace, one of Austria’s most important cultural assets. Here you'll take a stroll through the gardens and learn more about the Habsburg dynasty. The afternoon is yours to explore Vienna as you like, though it wouldn't be a visit to one of the most culturally-rich cities of the world if you didn't get yourself to the State Opera to see an opera or classical music concert.
Day 5: Vienna to Salzburg, Walking Tour of the City
This morning you'll transfer to the train station to board a train headed for Salzburg. A compact baroque-infused city that rests in the foothills of the Alps at the German border, Salzburg looks like a page straight out of a storybook. The Altstadt, or historic old town of Salzburg, is easily walkable where all the main attractions are within walking distance, including Mozart's birthplace and residence, several Sound of Music filming locations, and the 11th-century Hohensalzburg Fortress.
Meet your guide for a two-hour tour of the UNESCO-protected city after settling into your accommodation. You'll start first with a stroll through Schloss Mirabell's manicured gardens (Sound of Music fans may recognize the Pegasus fountain featured in the classic movie). From here, you'll pass by Mozart's residence, noting the butter-hued Kapuzinerkloster (Capuchin Monastery) as you work your way across the Salzach River to his birthplace (Geburtshaus) and museum along Salzburg's picture-perfect shopping street, Getreidegasse.
If you have time to spare, consider riding the funicular (Festungsbahn) or trekking up the steep path to Festung Hohensalzburg for captivating views over Salzburg and the countryside. And if you're after more cultural pursuits, you'll want to check out a performance at Marble Hall within Schloss Mirabell, one of the most beautiful concert halls in the world where Mozart concerts are frequently held.
Day 6: Lake District & Hallstatt (Private Day Tour from Salzburg)
With your guide, venture southwest through the Salzkammergut, a landscape of lakes and unspoiled Alpine ranges, as you work your way to the tiny town of Hallstatt. You'll admire the emerald-green crystalline waters of Fuschlsee (Lake Fuschl in German) and its nearby castle, drive by the quaint village of St. Gilgen at the edge of another lake, Wolfgangsee, and stop to check out Dachstein Glacier before arriving in the fairytale locale that is Hallstatt.
Surrounded by lofty mountains, Hallstatt's pastel-colored gingerbread homes reflect into a glassy lake, a postcard-perfect image that offers drool-worthy photo opportunities everywhere you turn. Head to the Skywalk for sweeping vistas over Hallstatt and its surrounds or get yourself to Aussichtspunkt and Badestrand for two viewpoints that overlook the city from the north and south. You might also like to dedicate a little time to tour the salt mine, followed by a satisfying lunch before returning to Salzburg in the late afternoon.
Day 7: Salzburg to Lake Bled
In the morning check out from your hotel in Salzburg to continue the next leg of your journey across Austria and to the romantic shores of Slovenia's Lake Bled. Surrounded by the soaring peaks of the Julian Alps, Bled draws honeymooners and adventure-seekers alike with its picture-postcard lake, quaint church on an islet, and medieval castle high on a sentinel cliff. You'll have the day to yourself and can choose from a plethora of activities. Consider going for a hike through gorges or to scenic viewpoints.
You can also climb up to the castle and tour its smithy, wine cellar, and printing press before enjoying a traditional meal in the restaurant, or row a pletna or paddleboard across the placid waters. Once you reach the fairytale island at the lake's center, climb up the church's 99 steps, where legend has it the ringing of the bell can grant your wishes. If that's still not enough, enjoy cycling on side roads through typical Slovenian countryside, or simply sunbathe on the lakeside with a slice of the famous Bled cream cake at the Park Hotel or Slascicarna Zima bakery.
Day 8: Lake Bled Hot Air Balloon Adventure & Vintgar Gorge
Today is reserved for an exciting and unique way to welcome in the day: a hot air balloon ride.
You'll rise before the break of dawn to meet the pilot and climb into the basket of your personal hot air balloon for a flight over Lake Bled and the surrounding rural terrain as the sun crests the Julian Alps and Karavanks. Looking like something out of a children's storybook, you'll drift peacefully overhead while taking in the scene below: scattered villages, rolling hills, and Slovenia's oldest golf course, as well as the bluish-green Lake Bled and its namesake island and cliff-clinging castle.
Following the 60-90 minute flight, you'll help your pilot deflate the balloon but not before sharing in a celebratory glass of champagne—a tradition that dates back to the early days of ballooning—and receiving the honorary title of Baroness or Baron of Bled to commemorate your flight. And if that wasn't decadent enough, you'll find your way to an elegant rooftop terrace to enjoy a slice of the famous Bled cream cake, affectionately known as Kremšnita, with a gorgeous panoramic view over Lake Bled.
From there, you'll mix things up and transfer the short distance to the attractive Vintgar Gorge to explore the mile-long (1.6 km) gorge. Carved by the Radovna River, you'll stretch your legs and follow the wooden boardwalk that leads you through craggy passes to viewpoints over waterfalls, pools, and rapids. Built in 1893 (and thankfully continually rebuilt since), the walkway crisscrosses the river four times until you reach the Šum waterfall, Slovenia's most significant river waterfall at 52 feet (16 m).
Day 9: Bled to Ljubljana, Afternoon Potica-Making Class
You'll make the short journey south to charming Ljubljana where you'll check into your hotel before taking some time to explore Slovenia's capital.
Saunter down the main street along the banks of the Ljubljanica River, stopping in whatever small boutique, outdoor café, or wine bar terrace that strikes your fancy as you breathe in the fresh air of one of the continent's greenest cities. A classic European castle, parks, and churches are all on offer as you wind your way around town by foot or bicycle. You'll notice the legacy of modern architect Jože Plečnik around the city at worthwhile stops such as the National Library, Central Market, Triple Bridge, and Plečnik's own home-turned-museum, all under the watchful eyes of the city's many signature dragons.
The afternoon is reserved for a potica-making class where you'll learn how to bake like a true Slovenian. Potica, a nut-filled pastry made with paper-thin dough, is one of Slovenia's most famous dishes. Slovenes often remark that in order to be a true Slovenian, you have to climb Mount Triglav and make potica at least once in your life. Thanks to this class, you'll be halfway there. The rest of the afternoon and evening are yours to spend as you like.
Day 10: Postojna Cave and Predjama Castle Tour (Day Trip from Ljubljana)
Get an early start today to turn your attention to Slovenia's rugged Karst region and make a point to visit the Postojna Cave. You'll get to ride the miniature electric train down the cave's long tunnel and take an hour-and-a-half-long guided tour, where you'll see and learn about the cave's unique karst topography—dangling stalactites and rising stalagmites.
On the tour, you'll be able to see the over 16-foot high (5 m) stalagmite known as Brilliant, visit the oldest underground post office in the world, and if luck is on your side, see the olm, a type of pale-bodied salamander endemic to the karst caves of Croatia and Slovenia.
Next, you'll head to the nearby Predjama Castle, a medieval castle built right into the mouth of a clifftop cave. Predjama is the largest cave castle in the world, and inside you will see just how many of its walls were hewed straight out of the rock. From here, you'll make the return trip back to Ljubljana and if you're up for it, you might like to check out Križna Cave, a lesser-known karst phenomenon not far from Postojna.
Day 11: Ljubljana to Zagreb, Private Walking Tour
You'll say farewell to Slovenia this morning and make the two-hour venture southwest into Croatia and to its dynamic capital, Zagreb. A gem of a European city, Zagreb is at once historic and new. It's filled with leafy green parks, museums, and gothic/neo-Renaissance buildings, yet there are also modern shopping complexes, outdoor malls, and endless dining and drinking options.
To begin the tour, meet your guide at the main square of Ban Jelačić and then wind your way through the network of small streets through the oldest part of Zagreb, Gornji Grad (Upper Town), an area that stretches between two hills: Kaptol and Gradec. You'll visit the Cathedral, Tkalčićeva Street, the Kamenita Vrata (Stone Gate), and St. Mark's Church with its famed multi-colored roof as well as learn why the Grič cannon fires from the Lotrščak Tower every day at noon.
You'll then take the funicular down to Donji Grad (Lower Town), an area made up of spacious parks and boulevards, like the impressively grand, Lenuci Horseshoe (or Green Horseshoe) capped by the neo-baroque Croatian National Theater. Here you'll have the opportunity to explore part of Ulica Street, one of the longest streets in Zagreb and a great place for shopping, cultural sites, and finding a restaurant to grab a bite.
Following the tour, consider heading to vibrant Tkalčićeva—a café and restaurant-lined street that comes alive at night and offers an energetic nightlife scene. Choose between a variety of pubs and bars for a local craft beer or cocktail a perfect way to cap off the day.
Day 12: Zagreb to Zadar, Private Guided Tour of Plitvice Lakes
Today, you'll head south to the sunny shores of the Dalmatian coast and the town of Zadar. En route, you can stop to visit one of Croatia’s most popular national parks, Plitvice Lakes.
Plitvice Lakes National Park is Croatia’s natural masterpiece, gorgeous at any time of year. A must-visit for any traveler to Croatia, the UNESCO-protected park is comprised of an exquisite collection of 16 glassy emerald green and blue travertine lakes, more than 90 cascading waterfalls that seemingly cover every corner of the park, and numerous caves. The terraced lakes are surrounded by beech and pine forests and are home to extensive wildlife.
You'll walk throughout the park along wooden paths and bridges following your guide as they show you the most impressive points of interest and explain the significance of its history and natural features. After your tour, you will have some free time to continue exploring or you may wish to bring a bought lunch (and a bottle of wine!) with you to enjoy a picnic
Following lunch, your journey south to the ancient capital of Zadar will continue. A historical center of the Dalmatian Coast, Zadar is famous for its coastline full of islands and vibrant blue waters, as well as fresh seafood and unforgettable sunsets. Take the rest of the day to relax and explore. You may wish to stroll along Zadar's Riva, a wide ribbon of stone paths bordered by a grassy park on one side and the sea on the other. It runs along Old Town’s waterfront, where it comes alive at night with vendors and Dalmatian a capella groups called Klapa that serenade the passersby, including folks on yachts who dock there.
Day 13: Private Guided Walking Tour of Zadar
Today you'll meet your guide for a private walking tour to discover the often-overlooked star of Dalmatia. Set on a peninsula surrounded by the sparkling Adriatic Sea, today Zadar is home to a tidy network of polished stone streets and public squares. Explore the walled Old Town—a treasure trove of ancient city ruins and architecture from Roman and medieval times—and discover the 9th-century Church of St. Donatus, a 16th-century Venetian city wall, and the Roman Forum dating back to the 1st century.
Carry on to the popular Gold and Silver Museum and its exhibit of bejeweled vessels in the shapes of various body parts, each containing a bone or other relic. Paintings, church artifacts, and other artwork are on display, too. From there, visit the modern Museum of Ancient Glass showcasing ancient glass artifacts and glassblowing demonstrations.
After touring the city by day, come to the waterfront just before dusk to witness another of Dalmatia's most beautiful sunsets. During this time, you can marvel at Croatian artist, Nikola Bašić's 72-foot Monument to the Sun art feature while you listen to the nearby Sea Organ play its unending melody, fueled by the ebb and flow of the Adriatic Sea's current. Return to the historic center to choose between a number of excellent to-die-for seafood restaurants, followed by a stroll along the Riva, a wide ribbon of stone paths bordered by a grassy park on one side and the sea on the other.
Day 14: Zadar to Split via Krka National Park
Krka National Park is a couple of hours away from Zadar and is a nice place to visit in the morning before the crowds arrive. With seven waterfalls—the largest and most impressive being Skradinski Buk—Krka National Park is one of Croatia's top-rated parks home to a network of striking waterfalls. The Krka River, another highlight of the park, carves through the limestone and creates a spectacular canyon on its 44-mile journey (70 km) from the foothills of the Dinaric Alps to Šibenik.
Follow the winding boardwalks that traverse emerald pools and river islands to prime lookout spots in which to view the falls where you'll also be able to take a dip in one of the lagoons as Krka is the only national park in Croatia where swimming is allowed. Mother Nature saved the best for last with Skradinski Buk. Cascading 78 feet (24 m) down into an emerald lagoon wider than the falls are tall, you'll find restaurants, snack stands, and ice cream shops at the base of this picture-perfect locale to satisfy any food-related cravings.
Come mid-afternoon, travel further south to Split, settling into your hotel before taking the rest of the afternoon to wander its historic center. Start at Pjaca Square for pretty views of white marble tiles, the Iron Gate (the western entrance to Diocletian's Palace), a Romanesque clock tower with the remains of a medieval sundial, and the 15th-century Town Hall. Next, visit the popular Voćni trg (Fruit Square) to enjoy Renaissance architecture, influenced during Split's Venetian era.
For a bit of shopping and a bite to eat head to Marmont Street, though you'll want to make your way to the waterfront to catch the sunset. In the evening, take a stroll along Split's seafront Riva to admire the views over the Adriatic before finding the off-beat Konoba Dioklecijan restaurant, just to the left of the Bronze Gate for dinner, its outdoor terrace built into the walls of famed Diocletian's Palace.
Day 15: Split to Hvar, Half-Day Private Island Tour
This morning you'll leave the mainland behind and board a catamaran from Split to Hvar. A Croatian island in the Adriatic Sea, Hvar draws visitors for its natural setting, mild climate, and its historic town of the same name. Highlights of Hvar Town include its 13th-century walls, the 16th-century Španjola Fortress, and the main square anchored by the Renaissance-era Cathedral of St. Stephen.
You'll check into your hotel to drop off your luggage before joining your local guide and setting out on a half-day private excursion to cover the undulating island terrain, accented with vineyard-covered hills, thick olive groves, and fragrant fields full of rosemary and lavender. You'll work your way to the abandoned 16th-century village of Malo Grablje before carrying on to the slightly older, UNESCO-protected Velo Grablje. Once home to a thriving lavender industry, Velo Grablje is slowly undergoing a revival.
Stop for an authentic lunch at a family-run konoba for a traditionally prepared meal in the peka, a bell-shaped lid that is covered in coal. Next, you'll head up Vidikovac to admire views over the Stari Grad Plain, an agricultural landscape that was first colonized by the Greeks and is still maintained today, from where you'll then venture amid small villages in the interior of the island stopping to visit Stari Grad, Croatia's oldest town.
After the day's adventures, treat yourself to a drink in the Hvar Town's ancient piazza that overlooks the Venetian loggia, 7th-century fortification walls, and the oldest municipal theater in Europe.
Day 16: Private Speedboat Tour: Blue Cave, Vis Island, & Pakleni Islands
Today you'll set out on an exciting full-day outing to discover the islands of Biševo, Vis, and the Pakleni archipelago. On a private speedboat, you'll first cruise to the east coast of Biševo Island, a popular, though often crowded destination, to see the mesmerizing iridescent blue waters of Modra Špilja (Blue Cave). Upon landing on the island, you'll transfer to a cave friendly boat before floating inside the cave to discover the natural phenomena for yourself.
From Biševo, you'll then travel to the southern coast of nearby Vis Island and the pebble beach of Stiniva Bay. Obscured by towering cliffs, the hidden-away beach offers excellent crystalline waters for swimming and snorkeling as well as shade for a respite from the mid-morning sun.
When you're ready, you'll hoist anchor and return toward Hvar, stopping to sunbathe and swim the bays and inlets of the nearby Pakleni Islands archipelago. A collection of 14 wooded and rocky islets, the Pakleni Islands are a lovely part of the Hvar Riviera and are a favorite retreat for locals and the rich-and-famous seeking to escape the summer heat. After a full day, you'll return to Hvar Town in the late afternoon for an evening of your own making.
Day 17: Hvar to Dubrovnik, Private Walking City Tour
In the morning you'll embark on a catamaran to the far south of Croatia and to one of the most ancient fortress cities in Europe. Known as the "Pearl of the Adriatic," Dubrovnik is a world-renowned city of exceptional charm. While there's evidence of settlements as far back as the Byzantine era, this area only came into its own in the 12th and 13th centuries when it was under the rule of the Venetians. Throughout the middle ages, it was a fortress port encircled by stone walls and filled with baroque churches and Renaissance/gothic palaces that still stand today.
After checking into your accommodation, you'll set out to explore your surroundings on a private guided walking tour of the old city. Entering the medieval Old Town through the 16th-century Pile Gate, you'll uncover centuries of the city's rich history as you listen to stories of local life and legends and of the importance Dubrovnik once held in the era of the Republic. Highlights include Onofrio's Fountain, the 15th century Rector's Palace, Luza Square, the Church of St. Blaise (St. Vlaho), and the café-lined streets of Brsalje Street.
After touring the streets and alleys, you'll head for Lovrijenac Fortress as well as the city's impressive defensive walls, the second-largest set of city walls in the world. At certain places the wall rises 75 feet high, offering excellent vantage points for photos of the coastline.
For the rest of the afternoon, explore Dubrovnik and its surroundings on your own or enjoy the afternoon sun on the nearby beaches. Alternatively, you might like to join at Game of Thrones tour or opt for a kayaking tour around the city walls. Come early evening, however, it's an idea to take the cable car up to you Srđ Mountain for panoramic views over the city and Adriatic before descending back down for dinner at one of Dubrovnik's great restaurants.
Day 18: Cavtat & Konavle Region Private Culinary Experience
Enjoy a day reserved for exploring the towns and villages to the east of the "Adriatic Pearl."
Your first stop will be the small town of Cavtat, just 30 minutes southeast of Dubrovnik. This gorgeous harbor village enjoys a postcard-perfect location nestled in a peninsular cove on the Adriatic. It also has quite a bit of history. It was founded in the 7th century as a haven for ancient-Greek Epidaurum refugees after invaders sacked their colony. Enjoyable activities here include strolling the waterfront promenade, lazing on pebbly beaches, and whiling away the hours in cafés and restaurants after navigating the network of charming streets and cobbled alleys of its Old Town.
From here, the tour takes you through the Konavle countryside, a famous wine region that stretches from Cavtat to the south-easterly tip of Croatia at the Montenegrin border. Its small population lives in some 32 villages scattered across the fertile land where you'll have the opportunity to visit a local family estate and participate in a cooking class.
You'll board your private transfer and head out to a family-run farmhouse where you'll meet your hosts and soon learn about the regional gastronomy as well as Croatian culture and history. Together with your hosts, you'll take in the scene as you explore the grounds by bike before picking fresh vegetables from the garden and preparing a four-course dinner. And when it comes time to sit down and taste your efforts, you’ll have the added pleasure of sampling homemade wines paired appropriately with your meal.
Day 19: Depart Dubrovnik
Depending on when you depart, you may have time to visit one of Dubrovnik's museums, like the Franciscan Monastery and Museum. This large complex houses many treasures, including the world's third oldest pharmacy dating from 1317.
Alternatively, for a collection of 15,000 pieces of interesting works, visit the Rector's Palace and Cultural Historical Museum. Wander this well-preserved palace-turned-museum and explore its exhibits, some detailing life in the Republic of Ragusa during medieval times.
The drive to the airport from Dubrovnik takes around 45 minutes with normal traffic.