Experience the best of Croatia and Slovenia on this in-depth tour. Beginning in Dubrovnik, you'll work your way up the Dalmatian coast by land and sea before turning inland to explore Plitvice Lakes and Krka national parks, and then onward to the dynamic capital of Zagreb. Next, you'll cross the border into Slovenia to discover charming Ljubljana, picturesque Lake Bled, and the dramatic karst region with Postojna Cave and Predjama Castle.

Highlights

  • Walk the 16th-century stone walls of Dubrovnik's Lovrijenac and Bokar fortresses
  • Explore the famous Diocletian's Palace in Split, dating back to the 4th century
  • See the cascading waterfalls and emerald-green lakes of Plitvice and Krka
  • Stroll through leafy green Maksimir and sip coffee in trendy cafés in Zagreb
  • Row a boat to Bled's fairytale chapel in the center of its namesake lake

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Welcome to Dubrovnik! Dubrovnik
Day 2 Walking Tour of Dubrovnik Dubrovnik
Day 3 Sail from Dubrovnik to Šipan, Stopping at Koločep Šipanska Luka
Day 4 Sail from Šipan to Žuljana, Stopping at Mljet National Park Žuljana
Day 5 Sail to Korčula (Day Trip from Žuljana) Žuljana
Day 6 Sail from Žuljana to Pakleni Islands, Visit Hvar Town Pakleni Otoci
Day 7 Sail from Pakleni Islands to Split, Stopping to Explore Hvar Split
Day 8 Walking Tour of Split & Trogir Split
Day 9 Split to Zadar, E-Bike Tour & Krka National Park Zadar
Day 10 Explore the Historic Charm of Zadar Zadar
Day 11 Zadar to Plitvice Lakes National Park Plitvice Lakes
Day 12 Sunrise at Plitvice Lakes, Transfer to Zagreb Zagreb
Day 13 Zagreb to Ljubljana, Walking City Tour Ljubljana
Day 14 Discover Lake Bled (Day Trip from Ljubljana) Ljubljana
Day 15 Postojna Cave and Predjama Castle (Day Trip from Ljubljana) Ljubljana
Day 16 Depart Ljubljana  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Welcome to Dubrovnik!

Dubrovnik's old city walls
Dubrovnik's old city walls

Welcome to the "Pearl of the Adriatic." Upon arrival at the airport, you'll transfer to your hotel for check-in. Despite being tired from the journey, you'll likely 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

A piece of history, Dubrovnik is one of the most ancient fortress cities in Europe. And while there's evidence of settlements as far back as the Byzantine era, this area only came into its own as an important power since the 13th century due in part to its strategic coastal position. Dubrovnik's long and storied history is told in its beautiful Gothic, Renaissance, and baroque churches, monasteries, palaces, and fountains all found within its imposing fortress walls. 

After spending some time getting to know the city, duck into one of Dubrovnik's many wine bars to relax. It's a good plan, as there's no better manner in which to celebrate your first day in Croatia than by enjoying a glass of white or red wine as the sun goes down over Dubrovnik's Old Town. For dinner, there are a number of great restaurants you can choose from.

Day 2: Walking Tour of Dubrovnik

St. Blaise Church on Stradun
St. Blaise Church on Stradun

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 3: Sail from Dubrovnik to Šipan, Stopping at Koločep

Croatia - Koločep shoreline
Koločep shoreline

This morning you'll transfer the short distance to the small port village of Komolac, the starting point of your sailing adventure. Here you will meet your skipper, board your private sailboat, and chart a course west toward Šipan, stopping first to visit one of the most beautiful islands in the Elafiti archipelago, Koločep (referred to by locals as "Kalamota"). The southernmost inhabited island in Croatia, you'll have the chance to try your skill at stand up paddleboarding as well as do a little snorkeling, followed by a delicious lunch next to the sandy beach.

You'll return to your sailboat and continue to Šipan, dropping anchor in the harbor of Šipanska Luka—a quaint fisherman's village located at the apex of a deep inlet. The largest of the Elafiti islands, Šipan was once home to Dubrovnik's patricians, but today remains a peaceful and well-preserved Dalmatian island: craggy hills along the coast, fertile land in the interior, and the occasional hamlet throughout.

Once on land, admire the enormous plane tree the settlement is grouped around before continuing to explore relics of Šipanska Luka's past and finding your way to a seaside tavern to enjoy a meal. And when you're ready, you'll return to the boat for your first night of falling asleep to the gentle sway of the waves.

Day 4: Sail from Šipan to Žuljana, Stopping at Mljet National Park

Mljet National Park

Pull up anchor this morning and carry on west to Mljet Island where you'll disembark to spend time exploring Mljet National Park. Enjoy the sea breeze and the day's sun as you relax and delight your senses with the sound of the waves and a chance sighting of dolphins (if luck is on your side). Considered the greenest as well as one of the larger Adriatic islands off the Croatian coast, Mljet is a thin strip of land parallel to the Pelješac peninsula where the smell of pine, juniper, and a number of aromatic herbs perfume the air.

The park itself covers a third of the island and is made up of lakes and bays, dense forests, and olive groves. You'll ride a bike to explore the park and stop to enjoy a swim in any of the beautiful lush coves. Popular sights worth a visit include Veliko and Malo Jezero (Large and Small Lake)—two salt lakes in the park. If the mood should strike, stop for a swim in the lakes (which are invariably warmer than the open Adriatic sea). There's also the option to join a guided tour through the park to visit a 12th-century Benedictine monastery, accessed only by boat.

After the sails are hoisted, you'll cruise toward the ruggedly beautiful Pelješac peninsula to overnight aboard the catamaran in the turquoise Žuljana Bay. One of the peninsula's most dramatically situated villages, you'll disembark for dinner and a little exploration before returning to your sleeping quarters.

Day 5: Sail to Korčula (Day Trip from Žuljana)

Fortified Korčula
Fortified Korčula

Today you'll set sail for Korčula Town on the eastern tip of the island of the same name, where you'll enjoy a morning of kayaking part of the Korčula coastline and some cultural exploration. Once an important access point to the territorial waters of the Venetian Republic, you'll have the opportunity to discover Korčula'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 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.

On your return to Žuljana, you might see skillful windsurfers taking equal advantage of the winds of the Pelješac and Korčula channels adding to an exciting day of sun and sea.

Day 6: Sail from Žuljana to Pakleni Islands, Visit Hvar Town

Velo Zaraće on Hvar's southern shore
Velo Zaraće on Hvar's southern shore

In the morning you'll set out early for the rugged southern side of Hvar Island, dropping anchor for the numerous swimming, snorkeling, and paddleboarding opportunities along the way as you cruise past hidden coves and isolated islets only accessible by boat. Hvar is often considered to be one of the most beautiful islands in the world due to its countless days of sun and picturesque landscapes dotted with medieval stone villages amid lavender fields, vineyards, and olive groves.

Upon arriving at Hvar's historic port town of the same name, you'll debark to spend a couple of hours to tour Hvar Town's main square, anchored by the Renaissance-era Cathedral of St. Stephen, as well as shop and enjoy a little something to eat (gelato!). Consider a visit to any of the small galleries or for something more ambitious, hike up through the old-town streets to the 16th-century Španjola Fortress for rewarding panoramic views of the city and outlying Pakleni islands.

When you're ready, you'll leave the buzz of Hvar Town to welcome the peace and calm of a secluded bay at one of the Pakleni islands, anchoring for a night aboard the craft.

Day 7: Sail from Pakleni Islands to Split, Stopping to Explore Hvar

Old village of Brusje en route to Stari Grad
Old village of Brusje en route to Stari Grad

Start the day with a revitalizing swim before returning to Hvar Town for a morning of self-guided exploration. One great way to discover much of the island is to rent a scooter and venture inland to cover the undulating island terrain, accented with vineyard-covered hills, thick olive groves, and fragrant fields full of rosemary and lavender. Try to make your way to the UNESCO-protected Stari Grad Plain—an agricultural landscape set up by the ancient Greeks—and stop to explore small villages in the inner part of the island before visiting Stari Grad, Croatia's oldest town. 

In the afternoon, you'll board your private catamaran one last time and make your way back to the Croatian mainland and to the Split marina. Once you have settled into your accommodation take the rest of the afternoon to explore the ancient port city on your own.

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 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.

Day 8: Walking Tour of Split & Trogir

Early morning at the Peristyle inside Diocletian's Palace
Early morning at the Peristyle inside Diocletian's Palace

An ancient coastal city founded 1,700 years ago by Roman Emperor Diocletian, Split's Old Town includes a number of impressive sites, including Diocletian's Palace, one of the best-preserved Roman buildings in the world. Meet your expert guide in the Peristyle square for a walking tour, taking in the 3,500-year-old sphinxes Diocletian brought back from Egypt before exploring the 4th-century Diocletian's Palace and its ancient cellars.

From here, you'll continue to the Romanesque bell tower of the Cathedral of St. Dominus (St. Duje)—considered the oldest Catholic cathedral still in use—for stunning views over the city and Adriatic. Next, it's the former Roman temples, the famous Golden Gate, and the statue of Grgur Ninski (Gregory of Nin) for an interesting lesson on medieval history. After lunch in a local restaurant, you'll venture a brief drive along the coast to discover a wealth of Roman and medieval history not far from Split.

Set on a small island—a stepping stone between the mainland and the much larger Čiovo—is the ancient coastal city of Trogir. It's a small place, and it doesn't take longer than about five minutes to walk from any point in Trogir's historic center to reach the sea. Navigate the narrow stone streets, starting with the Garagnin-Fanfogna Palace, working your way to the Cathedral of St. Lawrence to admire Radovan's 13th-century Romanesque Portal and the bizarre creatures around the doorposts. 

Stroll along the Riva, admiring the Romanesque, Renaissance, and baroque architecture and medieval fortress walls as you find your way to the 15th-century Kamerlengo Fortress. Ascend its ramparts for sweeping views over the island. And don't be surprised if you're serenaded by traditional acapella groups called klapa, along your way.

Day 9: Split to Zadar, E-Bike Tour & Krka National Park

Aerial view over the Krka river estuary and Skradin
Aerial view over the Krka river estuary and Skradin

Today, you'll spend time exploring the Adriatic coast as you make your way from Split up to Zadar.  On your way, you'll break up the trip with a visit to Krka National Park, stopping first in Skradin. A romantic Mediterranean town with narrow cobbled streets, passages, arches, and stairs, it is best known as the gateway town to Krka National Park, though it's home to notable archaeological sites within the local vicinity. It is here you'll collect your electric bike (e-bike) to explore the captivating landscape of the area as you cover some ground on a fun tour.

After returning your bikes, you'll have time to visit Krka. With seven waterfalls—the largest and most impressive being Skradinski BukKrka National Park is 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. 

You'll follow the well-marked winding wooden paths as you traverse emerald pools and river islands to prime lookout spots in which to view the falls. Skradinski Buk is the final of the seven waterfalls, and Mother Nature saved the best for last. Cascading 78 feet (24 m) down into an emerald lagoon wider than the falls are tall, you'll have time to admire the postcard-perfect locale before exiting the park and continuing your journey to Zadar.

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 (Alfred Hitchcock is on record saying they're the best in Zadar). Take the rest of the day to relax and explore. Perhaps stroll along Zadar's Riva, a wide ribbon of stone paths that runs along Old Town’s waterfront, where it comes alive at night with vendors and Dalmatian a capella groups (Klapa) that serenade the passersby, including folks on yachts who dock there.

Day 10: Explore the Historic Charm of Zadar

St. Anastasia's Cathedral
St. Anastasia's Cathedral

Today is yours to explore the often-overlooked star of Dalmatia. The largest city on Dalmatia's northern coast, there's a lot to see and do. You can stroll the marble streets of Zadar's famous Old Town—once the mightiest fortress city in the Venetian Republic—or wander beyond its Venetian gates, past stone walls and examples of Roman and Byzantine architecture in the form of the 1st century remains of the Roman Forum, the Cathedral of St. Anastasia, and the 9th-century Church of St. Donatus.

Another noteworthy site to check out is the baroque St. Simeon Church for a sighting of the Queen Elizabeth-commissioned sarcophagus. Be sure to stop for lunch and a glass of wine in the center of town at a konoba restaurant like Stomorica

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. And in the evening, partake of Zadar's to-die-for seafood. There are plenty of great restaurants in the historic center.

Day 11: Zadar to Plitvice Lakes National Park

Walk amid travertine lakes in Plitvice Lakes National Park
Walk amid travertine lakes in Plitvice Lakes National Park

After breakfast and packing up your belongings, you'll drive east to 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.  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. Beech and pine forests surround the terraced lakes 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.

Day 12: Sunrise at Plitvice Lakes, Transfer to Zagreb

Plitvice Lakes National Park at dawn
Plitvice Lakes National Park at dawn

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 north, venturing farther inland to Croatia's capital, Zagreb.

Settle into your hotel before venturing out to spend the rest of the day 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 are 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. Alternatively, you can 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 Relationships. 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 13: Zagreb to Ljubljana, Walking City Tour

 Charming riverside scenery in Ljubljana
Charming riverside scenery in Ljubljana

This morning you will drive two hours west to cross the border into Slovenia to charming Ljubljana. Once you settle into your accommodation, you'll meet your guide for a tour of the dynamic capital. Explore the lively city center and 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 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 Central Market is also a key site for sampling local cuisine at its many stalls.

Day 14: Discover Lake Bled (Day Trip from Ljubljana)

Lake Bled
Lake Bled

Following breakfast in the capital, you'll transfer from Ljubljana to the fairytale shores of Lake Bled. This postcard-perfect lake with an island in the middle and surrounded by the soaring peaks of the Julian Alps, is one of Slovenia's main attractions. If you're up for a hike, you can choose from a variety of trails through beautiful gorges or to scenic viewpoints. The craggy walkways and waterfalls of the popular Vintgar Gorge are just 2.5 miles (4 km) from town.

You can also climb up to the Bled Castle and tour its smithy, wine cellar, and printing press before enjoying a traditional meal in the restaurant, or row 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.

After a full day of sightseeing, you'll make your way back to Ljubljana for a relaxing night at your hotel.

Day 15: Postojna Cave and Predjama Castle (Day Trip from Ljubljana)

Inside the Postojna Cave
Inside the Postojna Cave

Get an early start today to turn your attention to Slovenia's rugged and beautiful Karst region and make a point to visit the Postojna Cave. This cave is the largest show cave in Europe and is widely considered to be one of the most beautiful caves in the world. 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. 

Day 16: Depart Ljubljana

Loiter along the Ljubljanica River
Loiter along the Ljubljanica River

It's time to say goodbye to Slovenia! Savor one more local breakfast and make sure to visit any corner of the city you may have missed. 

Map

Map of Best of Croatia & Slovenia: Dubrovnik to Ljubljana - 16 Days
Map of Best of Croatia & Slovenia: Dubrovnik to Ljubljana - 16 Days