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
  • Wander the 16th-century stone walls of Dubrovnik's fortresses

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Zagreb Zagreb
Day 2 Scenic Castles of the Zagorje Region 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 Into the Heart of Istria: Grožnjan, Oprtalj, & Motovun Rovinj
Day 7 Coastal Istria: Fažana & Brijuni National Park Rovinj
Day 8 Drive from Rovinj to Plitvice Lakes National Park Plitvice
Day 9 Sunrise at Plitvice Lakes, Drive to Zadar Zadar
Day 10 Drive from Zadar to Split, Stopping in Šibenik Split
Day 11 Ferry from Split to Korčula Korčula
Day 12 Ferry from Korčula to Dubrovnik Dubrovnik
Day 13 Walking 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.

A gem of a European city, Zagreb is at once historic and new. It's filled with leafy green parks and gothic/neo-renaissance buildings, yet there's also modern shopping complexes, outdoor malls, and endless dining and drinking options. Consider heading out on a guided walking tour of the historic heart of the city. This involves walking from the main square to Zagreb's Upper Town and passing through local markets before reaching St. Mark's Square.

You can also visit one of the many museums and art galleries, like the Homeland War Museum, the Nikola Tesla Technical Museum, or the ever-popular 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: Scenic Castles of the Zagorje Region

Trakošćan Castle
Trakošćan Castle

Just a few miles northwest of Zagreb lies Zagorje, a bucolic hilly region, dotted with Renaissance and medieval fortresses, numerous baroque castles, and family-run vineyards and farms. It's a memorable, romantic landscape that will take you back in time to a sense of both the aristocratic past and the rural traditional way of life that still exists in Croatia today. A quick day trip from Zagreb allows you to immerse yourself in this beautiful region.

Find your way to Trakošćan Castle, a good example of one of these storybook locales, as it sits perched on a hill adjacent to a glassy lake. The castle, a historic landmark, was built in the 14th century as a defensive fortress but was later used as a home for aristocratic Croatian families. On a tour, you can not only visit the castle grounds but you'll go inside and explore all four floors, which function as a museum with permanent exhibitions. 

Afterward, visit Veliki Tabor Castle, which is located just southwest of Trakošćan. This gothic-renaissance castle dates to the 16th century and also sits on a green hill overlooking the fertile countryside. It was originally built for a noble Hungarian family and its fortifications were designed to defend against Turkish invaders. A tour of Veliki includes visits to the towers, guardhouses, and inner courtyard plus a small museum featuring exhibitions of medieval artifacts like armor, weapons, and paintings. 

Apart from castles, explore nearby old villages, like Kumrovec, where you'll find restored peasants' houses from the 19th century. These are great areas to browse local craft shops and enjoy some traditional country cuisine like grilled lamb, meat skewers, and veal stuffed with cheese and ham.  Kumrovec is most well known for being the birthplace of Marshal Josip Broz Tito, the communist revolutionary who was President of Yugoslavia from 1953 to 1980.

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.

Driving time (Zagreb to Ljubljana): 2 hours

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: Into the Heart of Istria: Grožnjan, Oprtalj, & Motovun

Croatia - Motovun - Istria's charming hilltop town of Motovun
Istria's charming hilltop town of Motovun

Head inland to explore the rolling hills of Istria, taste a few of the best local olive oil and wine varieties and explore some of the most charming villages in the country.

First, drive north to Grožnjan, a medieval hilltop town surrounded by terraced olive groves and vineyards. Once an important stronghold for the Venetians, the town's importance went into decline with the collapse of their empire (in the 18th-century). It wasn't until the sixties Grožnjan became what it is today: the town of artists. Lose yourself in the maze of narrow and cobblestoned streets, stopping to pop into one of the numerous art studios and galleries.

Then, continue on to Oprtalj, a medieval fort town sitting on the northern side of the Mirna river valley. Oprtalj is home to traditional narrow streets, shops, and fine examples of Istrian and Venetian architecture, including the 16th-century St. George's Church and Venetian style bell tower.

Finally, drive south to explore Motovun, an ancient sleepy town located atop a 909-foot (277 m) hill. Its present appearance, with the city walls surrounding the center of the town, dates back to the Middle Ages. Sitting opposite Oprtalj on the southern side of the Mirna river, Motovun today hosts a popular film festival for one week in the summer. Sample local wines and enjoy a meal with truffles sourced from the nearby truffle-rich forests.

Driving time (Rovinj to Grožnjan): 1.25 hours
Driving time (Grožnjan to Oprtalj): 30 minutes
Driving time (Oprtalj to Rovinj): 1.25 hours

Day 7: Coastal Istria: Fažana & Brijuni National Park

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

Take today to discover the beautiful coastal regions of Istria. You'll first head south down the coast to Fažana, 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 National ParkVeli Brijun is the largest island and the main tourist attraction. You can cycle or walk along designated paths to explore the island and choose one of a number of beaches within walking or cycle-distance to the ferry port. To see more 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 at the favored Alla Beccaccia restaurant in Valbandon on your way back to Rovinj.

Driving time (Rovinj to Fažana): 45 minutes
Ferry time (Fažana to Brijuni): 15 minutes

Day 8: Drive from Rovinj to Plitvice Lakes National Park

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: Sunrise at Plitvice Lakes, Drive to Zadar

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

Early morning is one of the best times to visit Plitvice Lakes before the mid-day crowds arrive. You can explore the park on your own or opt for a local guide who will take you on a number of defined routes of varying lengths throughout the park. After enjoying a leisurely morning in Plitvice, carry on your way south to the ancient capital of Zadar, the perfect city to arrive in after a day in the storybook wilderness. 

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 10: Drive from Zadar to Split, Stopping in Šibenik

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

This morning you'll continue south along the Dalmatian coast to Split, breaking up the journey to explore Šibenik. A true Croatian town founded by the Croat king Petar Krešimir IV in the 11th century, Šibenik is home to impressive fortresses, music festivals, and medieval gardens. Start with a visit to the famous UNESCO-protected St. James' Cathedral, before selecting a restaurant for your lunch—perhaps Pelegrini, a restaurant and wine bar just above the cathedral. 

From here, carry on your way south to Split. Upon your arrival, check into your hotel and settle in 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), 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 Voćni trg or Fruit Square. 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 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.

Driving time (Zadar to Šibenik): 1 hour
Driving time (Šibenik to Split): 1.5 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

Catch a ferry today to Dubrovnik where you will have the day to explore one of the most ancient fortress cities in Europe. Known as the "Pearl of the Adriatic", Dubrovnik is a piece of history. 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 hotel, you'll want to get out and explore. Can't-miss activities include riding the cable car up to Srđ Mountain to take in the sunset over the nearby Elafiti Islands, visiting Lovrijenac and Bokar fortresses, and walking along the smooth, limestone-paved streets of historic Old Town. And be sure to find your way to Stradun, Dubrovnik's main street to get your bearings and to choose from a number of excellent restaurants and wine bars. Alternatively, there's Buza Bar along the water's edge and outside the city walls—a great spot to enjoy a cocktail while taking in the sunset.

Ferry time (Korčula to Dubrovnik): 2 hours

Day 13: Walking Tour of Dubrovnik

Croatia - Dubrovnik - St. Blaise Church
St. Blaise Church

Start your day early (around 8 am) to avoid the crowds and to embark on a tour of Dubrovnik where you'll meet your expert guide outside the entrance to the medieval city at the 16th-century Pile Gate. Entering Old Town, 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. Come early evening, you can get stunning panoramic views over the city and Adriatic by taking the cable car up to Srđ Mountain before descending back down for dinner at one of Dubrovnik's great restaurants.

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

Map

Map of Best of Croatia & Slovenia: Zagreb, Ljubljana, Istria, & Dalmatia - 14 Days
Map of Best of Croatia & Slovenia: Zagreb, Ljubljana, Istria, & Dalmatia - 14 Days