Experience the best of Slovenia and Croatia on this in-depth tour. Beginning and ending in Zagreb, you'll work through Slovenia from relaxed Ljubljana to its pristine lakes and rugged mountains of Triglav National Park, before turning your attention to Croatia's Istrian Peninsula and the Dalmatian Coast. You'll wander ancient Roman ruins and medieval town centers, dine on fresh seafood and traditional Central-European fare, and climb centuries-old ramparts and parapets.

Highlights

  • Visit the open-air markets of Ban Jelacic Square in Zagreb
  • Row across Lake Bled to the iconic island at its center
  • Explore the Istrian Coast, from the streets of Rovinj to the ruins of Pula
  • Watch the Monument to the Sun's colorful displays of light
  • Explore the 16th-century stone walls of Dubrovnik's fortresses

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in Zagreb Zagreb
Day 2 Day Trip to Trakošćan Castle and Varazdin Zagreb
Day 3 Drive from Zagreb to Ljubljana Ljubljana
Day 4 Day Trip to Lake Bled & Lake Bohinj Ljubljana
Day 5 Drive from Ljubljana to Rovinj Rovinj
Day 6 Drive from Rovinj to Pula Pula
Day 7 Pula Day Trip: Visit Fažana & the Brijuni Islands Pula
Day 8 Ferry from Pula to Zadar Zadar
Day 9 Day Trip to Plitvice Lakes National Park Zadar
Day 10 Drive from Zadar to Split Split
Day 11 Ferry from Split to Korčula Korčula
Day 12 Ferry from Korčula to Dubrovnik Dubrovnik
Day 13 Private Guided History Tour of Dubrovnik Dubrovnik
Day 14 Depart Dubrovnik  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in Zagreb

Zagreb is Croatia's capital and largest city
Zagreb is Croatia's capital and largest city

Start your adventure from Zagreb, the capital of Croatia. Upon arrival at the airport, you'll be transferred to your hotel to settle in. The rest of the day is yours to spend as you like. The city center is easily walkable and the streets and parks are easy to navigate by foot. All the main attractions and restaurants are within walking distance.

Zagreb is a distinctly central European city situated in the middle of the triangle of Vienna, Budapest, and Venice. It has always been, and remains, a part of the cultural circle of central Europe. Consider visiting the Homeland War Museum or The Museum of Broken Hearts, or stroll through the city center, enjoying 17th-century neo-baroque architecture found at Zagreb's Art Pavilion and Croatian National Theater.

Zagreb also has a number of beautiful city parks which are great for exploring and people watching, especially in the late afternoon. Maksimir is a great option, with a variety of cafés nearby to pick up a coffee for your stroll.

Day 2: Day Trip to Trakošćan Castle and Varazdin

Trakošćan Castle
Trakošćan Castle

You're in for a treat because this morning you'll embark on a day trip to the impressive Trakošćan Castle. After breakfast, you'll hop in a vehicle for the hour-long drive from Zagreb towards Croatia's northern border, where Trakošćan is located in a storybook setting adjacent to a glassy lake. The castle is a historic landmark as it was built in the 14th century as a defensive fortress but was later used as a home for aristocratic Croatian families. 

But Trakošćan is more than an attractive place to take selfies. Not only will you tour the castle grounds, but you'll go inside and explore all four floors, which function as a museum with permanent exhibitions. You'll see items that represent the heyday of Croatian nobility such as historic oil paintings, antique furniture in the baroque, rococo, and neo-classical style, and even medieval weapons like swords and cannons. You'll also enjoy a romantic boat ride around the lake. 

Plus, you'll visit the city Varazdin, also called “Little Vienna" due to its abundance of baroque and rococo architecture. In Croatia, Varazdin is known as the city of music and flowers, and there's no shortage of festivals and floral exhibitions. On a walking tour of the city, you'll pass by its baroque palaces, churches, and monasteries. Be sure to stop at Varazdin's historic Old Town, which is actually a castle that dates to the 14th century.

Day 3: Drive from Zagreb to Ljubljana

Charming riverside scenery in Ljubljana
Charming riverside scenery in Ljubljana

This morning you will drive two hours west to charming Ljubljana. Check into your hotel before taking the rest of the day to explore Slovenia's lively capital. 

Saunter down the main street along the banks of the Ljubljanica River, stopping in whatever small boutique, outdoor café, or wine bar terrace 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 LibraryCentral MarketTriple Bridge, and Plečnik's own home-turned-museum, all under the watchful eyes of the city's many signature dragons. The Central Market is also a key site for sampling local cuisine at its many stalls.

Day 4: Day Trip to Lake Bled & Lake Bohinj

Lake Bled and Bled Island in the winter
Lake Bled and Bled Island in the winter

After breakfast in the capital, you'll drive to Lake Bled. This picture-postcard lake with its island is one of Slovenia's main attractions. 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 small pletna boat 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. 

In the early afternoon, drive to Lake Bohinj. You'll have the option to ride the cable car up to Mt. Vogel for spectacular views over Lake Bohinj, the Julian Alps, and Triglav National Park or take a boat ride across Lake Bohinj. Next, choose from a number of walks in the area, though you'll want to trek to the famous Savica Waterfall to admire its 256 feet (78 m) cascade into the crystal waters below.  

Driving time (Ljubljana to Lake Bled): 45 minutes
Driving time (Lake Bled to Lake Bohinj): 30 minutes
Driving time (Lake Bohinj to Ljubljana): 1-2 hours

Day 5: Drive from Ljubljana to Rovinj

St. Euphemia church stands out amid Rovinj's colorful buildings
St. Euphemia church stands out amid Rovinj's colorful buildings

Today you will journey south into Croatia and to the coastal town of Rovinj. Settle into your accommodation before taking the rest of the day to explore this small jewel on the west coast of the Istrian Peninsula.

Though Rovinj remains an active fishing port today, it wasn't until 1763 that it became a part of the mainland. As such, its restricted access resulted in the labyrinth of narrow, cobblestoned streets you see today. Explore Old Town and marvel at the centuries-old Venetian influenced architecture as you pass under archways, through alleyways, and up stone stairwells. Navigate your way to Balbi's Arch and the 12th-century Town Clock, noting Rovinj's skyline dominated by the baroque St. Euphemia Church.

Seek out your choice of interest from churches to galleries and pebbled beaches, capping off the evening with a delicious dinner of fresh fish and local wine. Return to your hotel on one of the 14 small islands just off the mainland. 

Driving time: 2 hours, 45 minutes

Day 6: Drive from Rovinj to Pula

Roman ampitheater ruins blend in with modern Pula
Roman ampitheater ruins blend in with modern Pula

When you're ready to leave Rovinj behind, head the short distance south to the coastal city of Pula. The rest of the day will be yours to discover Istria's commercial heart, a combination of a working port and idyllic Riviera, dotted with remains of the Roman Empire.

Begin your tour with the ampitheater, Pula's main attraction just north of the city center, before working your way back, stopping to explore the Roman Wall and Zerostrasse. If you're in need of lunch there's Jupiter for decent pizza or Dva Ferala for more authentic Dalmatian cuisine (try girice a seafood staple or their ombolo-style pork chops). For compelling views of Pula and its port, head to the Venetian-built fortress to explore its ramparts. From there, direct your attention to the Archeological Museum for insight into Pula's Roman and Illyrian past.

Continue to the ancient Roman Forum, now Old Town's main square and admire the Town Hall, formerly the Temple of Diana before it was modified and rebuilt over the centuries. Next door is the Temple of Augustus, worth checking out as it is one of the finest examples of Roman temples outside of Italy. Walk along Via Sergia, stopping to take in the second-century Roman floor mosaic, to Sveta Srca, the next visited places in town after the ampitheater. Sveta Srca is an impressive gallery space that puts on a variety of exhibitions from local history to contemporary art and also houses the 

End the day enjoying a drink on the terrace of Uliks, a café-bar that once housed a language school James Joyce taught at as a young man—a small glass case inside contains Joyce-related memorabilia for your viewing pleasure. In the summer, you may wish to stroll along the Riva for a light show when the cranes of the Uljanik shipyard—the Lighting Giants—are illuminated, sometimes with musical accompaniment

Driving time: 1 hour

Day 7: Pula Day Trip: Visit Fažana & the Brijuni Islands

Enjoy a drink along Fažana's waterfront
Enjoy a drink along Fažana's waterfront

Take today to discover the charming fishing village of Fažana and the attractive Brijuni islands. Head up the coast from Pula to Fažana (20 minutes), where you'll want to spend a little time exploring this port village, popular with families and camping types holidaying in the summer months. Grab a bite to eat at the Stara konoba along the waterfront and try the local pilchards before you board your 15-minute ferry to Veli Brijun. 

One of fourteen islands belonging to the Brijuni archipelago, Veli Brijun is the largest island and the main tourist attraction. You can cycle or walk along designated paths to explore the island—given national park status and opened to tourists in 1983—and choose one of a number of beaches within foot or cycle distance to the ferry port. For fuller coverage of the island and its interesting political history, you can purchase tickets in Fažana for the option to tour the island's main points of interest, including Roman ruins, a Byzantine fortress, safari park, and the once infamous White Villa by a miniature tourist train. 

In the late afternoon return to the mainland, stopping on your way back to Pula at the favored Alla Beccaccia restaurant in Valbandon.

Day 8: Ferry from Pula to Zadar

Waterfront views of Zadar
Waterfront views of Zadar

Get up early to catch the six-hour ferry to Zadar. You'll arrive in the early afternoon where you'll check in to your hotel before setting out to familiarize yourself with the ancient capital of Dalmatia.

A historical center of the Dalmatian Coast, Zadar is famous for its picturesque 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. 

Take in a legendary sunset (Alfred Hitchcock is on record saying they're the best in Zadar) from Café Brazil before discovering the pretty patterned lights of the Monument to the Sun while listening to the nearby Sea Organ

Day 9: Day Trip to Plitvice Lakes National Park

Boardwalks lead you throughout the park
Boardwalks lead you throughout the park

First thing in the morning, depart for Plitvice Lakes National Park, the first Croatian national park—and one of the most popular parks in the country.

Plitvice Lakes National Park is Croatia’s natural masterpiece, gorgeous at any time of year. The park is home to an exquisite collection of 16 emerald green and blue travertine lakes, more than 90 waterfalls, and numerous caves, which together comprise a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The lakes are surrounded by beech and pine forests and are home to extensive wildlife.

Here, you can request a private, expert local guide to lead you throughout the park along the wooden paths and bridges to 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. 

Driving time (Zadar to Plitvice): 1.5-2 hours

Day 10: Drive from Zadar to Split

Split and Marjan Hill in the distance
Split and Marjan Hill in the distance

In the morning, continue your drive along the Dalmatian coast and further south to Split. Upon arriving in Split, check into your hotel and settle into your accommodation before taking the rest of the afternoon to wander Split's 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. Stop for lunch at Trattoria Bajamont, just north of the Iron Gate. From there, visit the popular Voćnitrg or Fruit Square—a square that got its name from centuries of selling fruit. Here you can 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 head to the waterfront to catch the sunset.

In the evening, take a stroll along Split's seafront Riva to admire the waterfront views before finding the off-beat Konoba Dioklecijan restaurant, just to the left of the Bronze Gate for a bite to eat, its outdoor terrace built into the walls of Diocletian's Palace.

Driving time (Zadar to Split): 1.5-2 hours

Day 11: Ferry from Split to Korčula

Colorful boats line a marina on Vineyards at Smokvica village on Korčula
Colorful boats line a marina on Vineyards at Smokvica village on Korčula

Take the morning to check out Split's Green Market (Pazar Market), a lively fruit and vegetable outdoor market just east of the Diocletian Palace. This is a great place to see how the locals shop and to pick up some fruit for your ferry ride to Korčula.

Once on Korčula, the afternoon and evening are yours to discover this little island's numerous restaurants, taverns, shops, and bars as you roam the maze of gray stone houses, alleys, churches, and squares. 

Enjoy a traditional lunch of lamb and goat in Korčula's Old Town, one of the finest examples of Venetian architecture on the Dalmatian coast. Next, visit the 14th-century Land Gate on top of an elegant staircase, before heading to the St. Mark's Cathedral to admire its strange sculptures of beasts and people. Art enthusiasts will appreciate a visit to the Bishop's Treasury next door for a small but impressive art collection, including works from Carpaccio, Bassano, and Tiepolo. From there, you may wish to visit the unremarkable house thought to be the birthplace of Marco Polo.

If beaches are what you're after, rent a bike or scooter or ride the bus the 5 miles (8 km) to the sandy beaches of Lumbarda. Afterward, grab a bite to eat and pair it with the local dry white, Grk, indigenous to Lumbarda and nowhere else. 

Ferry time (Split to Korčula): 4 hours

Day 12: Ferry from Korčula to Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik's Old Town
Dubrovnik's Old Town

After breakfast, catch a two-hour ferry to Dubrovnik where you will have the day to explore on your own. 

Often referred to as the "Pearl of the Adriatic", Dubrovnik is a world-renowned city of exceptional charm. Take the time to explore its 16th-century stone walls, including the Minceta, Lovrijenac and Revelin fortresses, visit Onofrio's Fountain and St. Vlaho's Church, and stroll along the limestone-paved Stradun, Dubrovnik's main street to get your bearings. Dubrovnik offers excellent nightlife and some of Croatia's best restaurants and wine bars. 

The remainder of the day will be at your leisure, allowing time for you to wander and explore this magical city. Depending on when you arrive, you may have time to hop aboard a cable car and ride to the top of Srđ Mountain for stunning vistas of Dubrovnik and the nearby Elafiti Islands. Here you can explore the 19th-century Fort Imperijal (built during the Napoleonic Wars) before stretching your legs to enjoy unobstructed views of the city as you walk back down the hill. Be sure to take the path going down for the best views and the most direct route home. 

 

Day 13: Private Guided History Tour of Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik- Stradun main street
Dubrovnik- Stradun main street

Today, it's all about the famous medieval city of Dubrovnik. You'll have a private guided tour of the Old City from a knowledgeable local guide to learn about its history, legends, and local life. You'll meet your guide at the main Pile Gate, the entrance to Old Town, and start to walk through centuries of the rich history of this unique place. Best to get an early morning start to avoid the crowds.

As you walk inside the walled city through the main gate, you'll learn about the local stories and legends and of the importance this city once held in the great Dubrovnik Republic. You will pass by highlights as the Onorfious fountain, Rectors place, Old port and more!

After touring the streets and alleys, you'll head for the city walls, the second-largest set of city walls in the world. At places, the wall rises 75 ft. high, offering great vantage points for photos of the coastline.

Before sunset, take the cable car up to Mt. Srđ for panoramic views over the city.

Day 14: Depart Dubrovnik

Old Town glows at dusk
Old Town glows at dusk

Depending on your departure details 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. Or, 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.

Driving time (Dubrovnik to the airport): 45 minutes