Lovers of the great outdoors can squeeze the maximum fun out of Slovenia, Croatia, and Montenegro on this three-week trip across the Balkans. Between historic sights and charming towns, you'll tick off thrilling and active adventures, from ziplining and paragliding to sea kayaking and whitewater rafting. Float in a hot-air balloon above Lake Bled, pedal across the Dalmatian island of Hvar, explore the Škocjan Caves, hike around Plitvice Lakes National Park, and speedboat between Adriatic islands.


  • See Lake Bled from the basket of a hot-air balloon 
  • Go ziplining and whitewater rafting in the Soca Valley and on the Cetina River
  • Cycle the Parenzana Trail around Rovinj and pedal across the island of Hvar
  • Hike up to the summit of Debela Pec and through Paklenica National Park
  • Paddle around Dubrovnik and the nearby island of Lokrum in a sea kayak

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Ljubljana (Slovenia), Afternoon Walking Tour Ljubljana
Day 2 Transfer to Bled, Discover Bled Town & Traditional Boat Ride Bled
Day 3 Bled Hot-Air Balloon Flight, Visit Vintgar Gorge Bled
Day 4 Hike to Debela Peč Mountain Bled
Day 5 Transfer to Bovec via Vršič Pass Scenic Drive Bovec
Day 6 Soča Valley Zipline, River Rafting & Tandem Paragliding Bovec
Day 7 Transfer to Rovinj (Croatia) via Škocjan Caves Rovinj
Day 8 Walking Tour of Rovinj, Cycling on Parenzana Trail Rovinj
Day 9 Transfer to Plitvice Lakes, Guided Hike in Plitvice Lakes National Park Plitvice Lakes
Day 10 Transfer to Zadar, Afternoon Walking Tour Zadar
Day 11 Hiking Day in Paklenica National Park Zadar
Day 12 Transfer to Split, Walking Food Tour Split
Day 13 Cetina Canyon Adventures Day: Rafting & Ziplining Split
Day 14 Ferry to Hvar, Island Cycling Tour Hvar
Day 15 Full-Day Boat Tour to Blue Cave & Pakleni Islands Hvar
Day 16 Ferry to Dubrovnik, City Walking Tour & Mount Srđ Dubrovnik
Day 17 Dubrovnik Sea Kayaking Excursion Dubrovnik
Day 18 Transfer to Žabljak (Montenegro), Free Afternoon Žabljak
Day 19 Transfer to Kotor, Hike to the St. John Fortress  Kotor
Day 20 Walking Tour of Kotor & Perast Kotor
Day 21 Depart Kotor  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Ljubljana (Slovenia), Afternoon Walking Tour

Private Walking Tour of Ljubljana
After your private walking tour of Ljubljana, you'll have free time to explore the capital

Welcome to the Balkans! You've landed in Slovenia's charming capital, Ljubljana. Check into your hotel, then set out to discover one of Europe's greenest cities. Take in the classic European castle, parks, and churches as you make your way along the banks of the Ljubljanica River, where your guide will be waiting to lead you on a journey through Ljubljana's history, architecture, and cultural heritage.

Start in the Old Town, where you'll find the Ljubljana Cathedral, the Town Square, and the Triple Bridge. Pass through the central market and walk along the river toward Ljubljana Castle. The castle is protected by a dragon on top of the spire, and you'll spot other statues and imagery of this protector of the city throughout the tour. After, relax with a drink by the river, then find a local restaurant to taste Slovenian dishes, such as štruklji dumplings, or kranjska sausage with sauerkraut. 

Day 2: Transfer to Bled, Discover Bled Town & Traditional Boat Ride

Discover Bled Town and Enjoy Pletna Boat Ride
Take a traditional pletna boat out to the picturesque church on Bled Island

This morning, a private transfer will take you on the 45-minute drive to Lake Bled, one of Slovenia's main attractions. Located in the Julian Alps, the lake's eponymous town is jaw-droppingly beautiful, complete with a fairy-tale castle on the top of the hill. Check into your hotel, then meet a private guide for a special walking tour of the town. Hear about its legends, discover hidden corners, and learn about Slovenian cuisine. Then, you'll board a pletna, a traditional wooden boat, and cross to Bled Island, where you'll visit the church in the middle of the island and hear the story about the wishing bell on its tower.

After the tour, you'll return to town, where you can spend the afternoon strolling by the picturesque lake. Take a break and try the traditional cream cake called kremzšnta while soaking up tranquil views. Later, visit the oldest castle in Slovenia, where you can enjoy an atmospheric setting for dinner with sweeping views over the lake.

Day 3: Bled Hot-Air Balloon Flight, Visit Vintgar Gorge

 Hot air balloon flies over Lake Bled, Pilgrimage church, and Bled Castle in the background
Fly above Lake Bled in a hot-air balloon this morning

Rise before the break of dawn for an exciting and romantic way to welcome the day—a scenic hot-air balloon ride. Meet your pilot and climb into the basket ahead of an epic flight over Lake Bled and the surrounding rural terrain, soaking in every moment as the sun crests the Julian Alps and Karavanks. This landscape looks like something out of a children's storybook. You'll drift peacefully overhead while taking in the scene below of quaint villages, rolling hills, Slovenia's oldest golf course, and the bluish-green Lake Bled and its namesake island and cliff-clinging castle.

After the flight, help your pilot deflate the balloon, then head to an elegant rooftop terrace for coffee and cake with a panoramic view over Lake Bled. With the rest of the day ahead of you, you could make a special trip to Vintgar Gorge. Just a 10-minute taxi ride away, this is one of Slovenia's greatest natural gems and a must-visit when in Bled. Created by the Radovna River carving through the hills, you can traverse the gorge's series of pools, rapids, and waterfalls via a winding wooden boardwalk. Return to Bled later in the evening and choose a cozy spot for dinner.

Day 4: Hike to Debela Peč Mountain

View from Debela Pec
Take in views like this of Mount Brda and the Julian Alps from the top of Debela Peč

Wake up ready to conquer a mountain—today, you'll climb to the summit of Debela Peč. After meeting your guide, you'll set off together on a full-day adventure. Follow forest trails to high Alpine pastures, stopping for a break and refreshments at the plateau of Planina Lipanca. After, you'll continue to the summit, which sits at a lofty 6,608 feet (2,014 m).

From the top, you'll soak up stunning panoramic views of the Gorenska region. If the weather is clear, you'll also be able to see Lake Bled, Lake Bohinj, and the rest of the Julian Alps. Take your time enjoying the view before starting the descent. By the time to return to Bled, you'll be ready to put your feet up back at your hotel and call it a day! 

Day 5: Transfer to Bovec via Vršič Pass Scenic Drive

Vršič Pass is Slovenia's highest pass at 5,285 feet (1,611 m)

Take the scenic route today as you cross Slovenia's highest pass, the Vršič Pass (5,285 ft/ 1,611 m) in the central Julian Alps. A driver will collect you for the two-hour private transfer to Bovec. This winding, narrow road is considered one of the most beautiful mountain roads in Europe, and along the drive, you'll stop at Lake Jasna near Kranjska Gora (the Russian Chapel), or for lunch at one of the local mountain huts. 

Once you reach the small mountain town of Bovec, located in the Soča Valley, check into your hotel and get ready to explore the pristine nature of the Julian Alps. Bovec is a true paradise for adventure travelers who enjoy outdoor activities, and this afternoon is yours to take your pick. You could go kayaking along the Soča River or set off on one of many hiking trails with beautiful sights and amazing falls, such as the Virje and Boka cascades. The Soča Valley was one of the major fronts in World War I, so you can also find curious historical sights and museums to visit.

Day 6: Soča Valley Zipline, River Rafting & Tandem Paragliding

Rafting on the Soča River
In between ziplining and paragliding, you'll go rafting on the Soča River

Eat a big breakfast, as you'll need the energy for today's action-packed schedule of adventure activities. First off, ziplining over the Soča Valley. Experience a rush of adrenaline while flying through the air some 655 feet (200 m) above the valley floor. This thrilling activity sees you descend from the highest peaks over the valley, giving you a bird's-eye perspective of the Julian Alps. After seeing it from above, you'll get up close with a river rafting experience. Grab a paddle and admire the beauty of the crystal-clear Soča River as you navigate rapids and soak in the epic scenery.

Your third and final adventure for the day is tandem paragliding over the Soča Valley. This adrenaline-filled experience sees you leap from a mountain and fly over the valley and peaks, enjoying the dizzying view from up high. Meet your pilot, buckle up, and start your flight from a nearby mountain takeoff point. After, retreat to your accommodation in Bovec and relax—you've earned it.

Day 7: Transfer to Rovinj (Croatia) via Škocjan Caves

Skocjan caves
You'll explore the many layers and spaces of the ancient Škocjan Caves

Wave goodbye to Bovec when a private driver collects you for the 3.5-hour journey to Rovinj. Along the way, you'll stop at the Škocjan Caves, a UNESCO-listed underground attraction. These Slovenian caves are a classic example of the region's famous karst landscape, created by erosion of the porous limestone terrain. You'll start at the Globočak Collapse Doline and continue toward Tiha Jama (Silent Cave), pass the Great Hall, and into Šumeča Jama (Murmuring Cave), where a river passes one of the largest underground canyons in Europe.

Finally, you'll cross into Croatia and arrive in Rovinj, a seaside town on the Istrian peninsula. Walk through the narrow streets, visit the Church of St. Euphemia, the defense walls, and the town clock, and stroll through the colorful Grisia Street, where you might find an open exhibition of local painters. Rovinj is also considered one of the centers for good food in Croatia. Check into your hotel, then set out for a special dinner in one of the town's world-class restaurants. Try Istrian pasta called fuži, local truffles, and plenty of seafood, such as red scorpionfish. 

Day 8: Walking Tour of Rovinj, Cycling on Parenzana Trail

Wander the narrow streets of Rovinj, then set off to explore the area by bike

Meet your guide after breakfast and set out to explore this small coastal jewel. Though Rovinj remains an active fishing port today, it wasn't until 1763 that the town became a part of the mainland. This restricted access resulted in the labyrinth of narrow, cobblestoned streets you see today. Explore the Old Town and marvel at the centuries-old Venetian-influenced architecture as you pass archways, alleyways, and stone stairwells. Navigate your way to Balbi's Arch and the 12th-century Town Clock, noting Rovinj's skyline dominated by the Baroque Church of St. Euphemia.

After lunch, you'll set out for an active adventure of a different kind. Step into the saddle of a bike and follow your cycling guide along the Parenzana Trail. This famous trail was once a railroad connecting the town of Poreč in Croatia with Trieste in Italy. Today, Parenzana is an ideal trail for active enthusiasts who like spending their time in nature. This scenic route takes you through charming vineyards, fields, olive groves, and tunnels. Enjoy the small-town scenery as you pedal along, hearing fascinating stories about the local inhabitants from your guide.
Plan your trip to Croatia
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

Day 9: Transfer to Plitvice Lakes, Guided Hike in Plitvice Lakes National Park

Plitvice Lakes National Park
Plitvice Lakes National Park is a must-see natural wonderland

Today, you'll meet your driver and venture inland to Plitvice Lakes National Park, a three-hour drive away. A must-visit for any traveler to Croatia, the UNESCO-protected park is known for its exquisite collection of 16 glassy emerald green and blue travertine lakes, more than 90 cascading waterfalls, and numerous caves. The terraced lakes are surrounded by beech and pine forests and are home to extensive wildlife.

Upon arrival, you'll explore the park with a local guide, wandering along wooden boardwalks as you learn about the significance of its history and natural features. Afterward, check into your hotel and relax for the evening.

Day 10: Transfer to Zadar, Afternoon Walking Tour

Stroll around the waterfront of Zadar and catch one of its famous sunsets

Get back on the road this morning as your driver transfers you 90 minutes southwest to Zadar. This ancient Roman city is famous for its picturesque coastline and vibrant blue waters, as well as its fresh seafood and memorable sunsets. On arrival, meet a local guide for a two-hour exploration of this often-overlooked star of the Dalmatian Coast. Wander the walled Old Town—a treasure trove of ancient city ruins and architecture from Roman and medieval times—and discover the ninth-century Church of St. Donatus, a 16th-century Venetian city wall, and the first-century Roman Forum.

The rest of the day is yours to enjoy at your own pace. Close to sunset, venture down to the sea promenade and head to the most famous sunset spot—Zadar's Sea Organ. This urban installation/musical instrument is created with tubing within the stone steps, transforming the movement of the waves and the sea breezes into a series of haunting chords. With this musical background, enjoy views over the Adriatic Sea as you experience what Alfred Hitchcock once described as "the most beautiful sunset in the world" on his visit in 1964.

Day 11: Hiking Day in Paklenica National Park

Rugged mountains of Paklenica National Park
The rugged mountains of Paklenica National Park rise dramatically behind the coast

Nature and outdoor lovers rejoice! This morning, you'll get up early to make your way east to Paklenica National Park, the most accessible hiking area in the southern Velebit mountains. Made up of dramatic karst formations, the park is most known for two limestone gorges, Velika Paklenica and Mala Paklenica (literally "Big Paklenica" and "Small Paklenica"), which run down toward the sea and offer plenty of hiking and rock-climbing options for the active traveler.

You'll meet your expert guide, lace up your hiking boots, and set out to trek through black pine and beech forests under the 1,312-foot (400 m) craggy limestone cliffs of Velika Paklenica. After a day of hiking, return to Zadar, where you can take in a legendary sunset from Café Brazil and discover the patterned lights of the Monument to the Sun while listening to the nearby Sea Organ once more.

Day 12: Transfer to Split, Walking Food Tour

Pause in the grand Peristyle Square, in the heart of Split's Diocletian's Palace

This morning, you'll continue south along the Dalmatian Coast to Split, a 2.5-hour transfer away. Croatia's second-largest city, this ancient Adriatic port is known for its Roman ruins, fantastic seafood, historic streets, and lovely beaches. After checking into your hotel, start your explorations at Split's most famous site, Diocletian's Palace, a former Roman complex built around 300 CE, with medieval streets winding through its pedestrian-only center.

Once you've explored the cobblestone avenues of the palace, continue to the surrounding streets of Old Town, climb the bell tower of the Cathedral of St. Domnius, stroll the Riva promenade along the harbor, or make the trek up to Klis Fortress for panoramic views of the city and the coast.

In the afternoon, join a guided walking and food tour through the center of the palace to local restaurants with various culinary specialties. Try handmade makaruni pasta, accompanied by typical Dalmatian wine like plavac mali, a cousin of zinfandel. Sample Croatia's finest seafood, like an octopus salad or black risotto, then end the tour with traditional desserts from ancient secret recipes, such as fritule (Croatian doughnuts), rafioli (almond shortbread), or smokvenjak (fig and grain tart).

Day 13: Cetina Canyon Adventures Day: Rafting & Ziplining

Find your wild side while rafting the Cetina River, then zipline above the canyon

In the morning, make your way to Omiš, a historic "pirate town" and the gateway to Cetina River, a popular place for rafting and canyoning. Meet your adventure guide and venture into the hinterland. You'll begin by rafting through a protected area of the river canyon, where gentle sections alternate with second and third-grade rapids to create the perfect combination of relaxation with high-adrenaline adventure. After your rafting experience, pause for a local lunch.

In the afternoon, you'll soar through the forest canopy with a thrilling zipline over the Cetina Canyon. Tighten your harness, clip on your helmet, and get ready to fly! There are eight wires in total running a length of 6,890 feet (2,100 m), the highest wire reaching 492 feet (150 m) above the river canyon. Enjoy incredible bird's-eye views of the surrounding scenery. After the tour is complete, you'll transfer back to Split. When evening falls, the UNESCO-listed coastal city comes alive as the setting sun casts a glow on the palace walls and a maze of narrow cobbled streets. 

Day 14: Ferry to Hvar, Island Cycling Tour

Photo courtesy of Natural Hvar Tours
Step into the saddle of a bike and cycle across Hvar with a guide

Early this morning, board a 90-minute ferry to Hvar, the most popular island in Dalmatia. This Croatian island set in the Adriatic Sea is popular with tourists due to its natural setting, mild climate, and historic port town of the same name. Admire the 13th-century walls, hilltop fortress, and Renaissance-era Cathedral as you make your way to your hotel, then change into activewear for today's immersive adventure with a local cycling guide. Your half-day cycling excursion covers Hvar's undulating island terrain, accented with vineyard-covered hills, thick olive groves, and fields full of rosemary and lavender.

Start with a transfer to ancient Stari Grad, then set out to explore the north side of the island with a Hvar native. Follow an ancient trail of the Greek Hora (agricultural plains) to a family-owned vineyard where you'll taste the finest local wines. Then, follow fragrant trails toward one of the most beautiful inlets of the Adriatic—Vrboska. This small fishing village is set in a deep inlet and interconnected by numerous bridges. Continue through dense pine forests and to Jelsa, where you'll stop for a cup of coffee in the relaxing ambience of the main square. Finally, return to Stari Grad for lunch at a traditional konoba restaurant. 

Day 15: Full-Day Boat Tour to Blue Cave & Pakleni Islands

Stunning Stiniva Beach is reached through a narrow gap in the coastal cliffs

Set out on an exciting full-day outing to discover the neighboring islands of Biševo, Vis, and the Pakleni archipelago. On a private speedboat, you'll cruise to the east coast of Biševo, a popular, though often crowded island, to see the mesmerizing iridescent blue waters of Modra Špilja (Blue Cave). Transfer to a small boat to discover the natural phenomena for yourself. Next, travel to the pebble beach of Stiniva Bay on neighboring Vis. Obscured by towering cliffs, the hidden-away beach offers crystalline waters for swimming and snorkeling.

Finally, return to Hvar, stopping to sunbathe and swim in the bays and inlets of the nearby Pakleni archipelago. This collection of 14 wooded and rocky islets is considered the most beautiful part of the Hvar Riviera. After, return to Hvar Town. If you have time, hike to the Španjola Fortress for sunset. This Venetian fortress from the 1500s offers an incredible view over the city's rooftops and the deep blue sea and Pakleni Islands beyond. Inside the castle, there are displays of historic artifacts, among which are ancient amphorae from an earlier Bronze Age stronghold on this spot.

Day 16: Ferry to Dubrovnik, City Walking Tour & Mount Srđ

Admire Dubrovnik's Old Town on a guided walking tour

After breakfast, venture down to the port for a two-hour ferry to Dubrovnik, the "Pearl of the Adriatic." One of the most ancient fortress cities in Europe, the UNESCO-listed Old Town is enclosed by robust city walls, and within, you'll find well-preserved Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque structures, including the City Walls and Sponza Palace. The marble-paved Stradun, the main street, is lined with charming cafés and shops. Check into your hotel and refresh ahead of this afternoon's 90-minute private walking tour through the medieval Old Town.

Meet your private guide and enter through the 16th-century Pile Gate. Uncover centuries of history, from stories of local life and legends to the importance Dubrovnik once held in its heyday. Visit 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 the tour, venture up Mount Srđ. You can either hike up the mountain or head toward Ploče Gate and take the cable car. At the top, you'll find far-reaching views over the city and Adriatic, and you can even stay for dinner at the Panorama Restaurant

Day 17: Dubrovnik Sea Kayaking Excursion

Kayak under Dubrovnik's great city walls, then out to the island of Lokrum

Experience the beauty of Dubrovnik from the water this morning with a 2.5-hour sea kayaking adventure. From the sea, you'll discover amazing views of the Old Town, city walls, and Lokrum Island while your guide shares details about Dubrovnik. You'll start in Pile Bay, paddle around Lokrum, pause for a snorkeling break (in the summer), then continue along the city walls until you reach the point where you started.

This afternoon is yours to explore Dubrovnik, its Old Town, and the surrounding beaches. Take yourself for a walk along the top of the incredible city walls, then lay your towel down on a nearby beach and soak up sea breezes and sunshine. Later, duck into one of Dubrovnik's many wine bars to relax as the sun sets. Celebrate another great day in Croatia with a glass of white or red local wine as the day turns to night, then take your pick from the dozens of great seafood restaurants nearby.

Day 18: Transfer to Žabljak (Montenegro), Free Afternoon

Time at Leisure in Žabljak
This afternoon, you can choose how to explore the rugged terrain around Žabljak

Wave goodbye to the coast when a private driver whisks you from Dubrovnik into Montenegro's hills. The three-hour drive lands you in Žabljak, a charming Alpine town that serves as the gateway to Durmitor National Park. Žabljak is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, offering a perfect base for exploring the pristine wilderness that surrounds it—and this afternoon is yours to explore the rugged mountain landscapes and pristine wilderness. The park encompasses the majestic Durmitor mountain range, characterized by rocky peaks, deep canyons, and glacial lakes.

Žabljak beckons with its untouched landscapes and warm hospitality, making it an ideal destination for nature lovers and adventure seekers. Use your afternoon to experience the best of the great outdoors while hiking, skiing, and rafting, or simply unwind in this picturesque haven. Picture yourself hiking with a local mountain guide, or rafting down the deepest canyon in Europe, the Tara River. The choice is yours.

Day 19: Transfer to Kotor, Hike to the St. John Fortress

Follow steep switchbacks to reach St. John Fortress and unparalleled views over the Bay of Kotor

After breakfast, part ways with the rugged terrain of northern Montenegro when a private driver collects you for the three-hour drive to the medieval coastal town of Kotor. This UNESCO World Heritage Site was built on a sloping mountain and abounds with Venetian palaces and Romanesque churches. Upon arrival, you'll have the afternoon to explore as you wish.

One of the highlights of visiting Kotor is hiking up to the St. John Fortress for fantastic views over Kotor's Old Town, the Bay of Kotor, and the surrounding mountains. It's a challenging hike that takes around 45 minutes to complete as you climb 1,300 steps to reach the top. Worth it? Absolutely. From the top of the fortress, you'll be rewarded with surreal panoramic views that belong on a postcard.

Day 20: Walking Tour of Kotor & Perast

Perast is a charming town that gives you access to Our Lady of the Rocks

Today, you'll explore the beauty of Kotor with the help of a local guide. Wander around the medieval coastal town together, exploring the top attractions and stories within the UNESCO World Heritage Site. Afterward, enjoy a scenic drive around the Bay of Kotor to the enchanting village of Perast, which feels like a little piece of Venice on the Adriatic. Learn about its history through local stories and legends, and don't miss taking a boat ride to Gospa od Skrpjela (Our Lady of the Rocks), the Adriatic's only human-made island.

After the tour, enjoy exploring on your own before returning to Kotor. Use the afternoon to relax, or if you're after a challenge, hike the Ladder of Kotor. This very difficult rocky hiking trail connects Kotor with the Krstac Pass. This historic mule track has 70 switchbacks and takes around six hours, so make sure you have enough daylight after the tour. Alternatively, you could walk the Kotor City Walls or spend the afternoon enjoying the waterfront bars or people-watching in a historic square. It's your last night exploring the Balkans, so treat yourself to a special meal and a nice bottle of wine!

Day 21: Depart Kotor

Church of Saint Tryphon
Enjoy a coffee in Kotor near the Church of Saint Tryphon before your flight

It's your final morning in the Balkans. Enjoy a leisurely morning soaking up the views over the Bay of Kotor before a private driver collects you for the short drive to Tivat Airport in time for your flight. 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.


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Map of Nature & Outdoor Adventures in the Balkans: Slovenia, Croatia & Montenegro - 21 Days
Map of Nature & Outdoor Adventures in the Balkans: Slovenia, Croatia & Montenegro - 21 Days