Explore the magical coast of Croatia and feel the diversity of Slovenia during this 16-day  journey. Stretched between two of Europe's biggest treasures - Dubrovnik and Bled, you'll see many of the most beautiful cultural and natural sites. Sandy beaches, hidden coves, crystal clear rivers, lush forests and Alpine peaks await you. For a more detailed description of each day, see the full itinerary below.

Highlights

  • Walk the stone streets within Dubrovnik's fortified walls
  • Wander among emerald lakes and cascading waterfalls
  • Explore stalagmites and stalactites in Škocjan Caves park
  • See dramatic Lake Bled and the picturesque island that sits in the middle
  • Walk Ljubljana and see the dragon-punctuated bridge over the water

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Welcome to Dubrovnik! Dubrovnik
Day 2 Explore Dubrovnik, the "Pearl of the Adriatic" Dubrovnik
Day 3 Discover Pelješac Peninsula and Ston Korčula Town
Day 4 Escape to Korčula's Old Town and Nature Korčula Town
Day 5 Korčula to Split Split
Day 6 Walk the waterfalls of Plitvice Lakes National Park Plitvice Lakes
Day 7 Plitvice to Piran Piran
Day 8 Uncover Piran, a Slovenian Gem Piran
Day 9 Coast and Karst Štanjel
Day 10 Roam the Soča Valley Lake Bled
Day 11 Bled, Bohinj, Škofja Loka, Ljubljana Ljubljana
Day 12 Explore Slovenia's Capital, Ljubljana Ljubljana
Day 13 Kamnik and Velika Planina Ljubljana
Day 14 Slovenian Styria, The Land of Hops and Vines Maribor
Day 15 Kumrovec, Trakošćan and Varaždin tour from Zagreb Zagreb
Day 16 Departure from Zagreb  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Welcome to Dubrovnik!

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

Welcome to Dubrovnik, 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. Celebrate your first day in Croatia 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: Explore the Fortress-City of Dubrovnik

Fort Lovrijenac
Fort Lovrijenac perched alongside Dubrovnik's Old Town

Spend the day as you like, exploring this ancient medieval city. Get up early to take advantage of all that Dubrovnik has to offer, starting with a visit to the quaint, open-air Gundulić Square Market for authentic Dubrovnik wares, like dried lavender, local brandies known as rakia, and dried fruits. From there, take a stroll through the narrow streets of Old Town, walk atop the encircling city walls, or head to Lovrijenac fortress and Orlando Column.

Be sure to break up your walk by sampling the local cuisine. Dubrovnik's location on the border with Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro means there are some unique fusion cuisines as well as downright wild fast food options (think octopus burgers). But you can also find good-old comfort food like pasta in meat sauce, black risotto, and basic but hearty meat-and-potato dishes.

In the afternoon, head to Banje Beach for a swim and some relaxation on the sandy stretch of beach close to Old Town. There’s also the option to join a kayak excursion to the islands facing the city. A great way to end the day is to catch the sunset from the water on a dinner cruise that replicates a traditional karaka ship. Enjoy the view of Old Town from this vantage point.

Day 3: Discover Pelješac Peninsula and Ston

The Pelješac ridge
The Pelješac ridge

Collect your rental car from the Čilipi airport and head north towards the town of Ston, where one of the largest fortification systems in Europe still stands and guards this stone-made town. It was built on salt which is still produced in the pans seen from the walls and is also known as one of the prime spots for oysters which you can taste in restaurants around the old town.

Continue along the spectacular mountainous Pelješac Peninsula, home to some of the finest Croatian red wines and truly unspoiled nature. Stop for a swim in any of the numerous secluded bays such as gorgeous Praprotno, urban Trstenica or tiny Borak. If you prefer to be active, try hiking to Mount St. Ilija for some spectacular views or try the more moderate (but still scenic) walking route from Viganj via  Žukovac and Bilopolje to Orebic.

Pelješac is also the home to some of the finest wineries in Adriatic such as Grgich winery in Trstenik, which has established itself first in California before returning to their roots in Croatia. Catch the evening ferry from Orebič to Korčula island and check-in at your accommodation.

Day 4: Escape to Korčula's Old Town and Nature

Korcula old town
Wander the cobblestone streets of Korčula Town

Korčula is Croatia's second-most populous and sixth-largest island in size. Its surface is a mixture of rocky limestone hills and fertile plains and offers numerous scenic hiking and biking trails making the island perfect for thrill-seekers. Consider renting a sea kayak to see the island from the water too.

There is also a vast selection of hidden pebbly beaches and coves filled with the crystal clear Adriatic waters offering peace and serenity not easily found in Croatia during the summer. Korčula Town will enchant you with its old, cobblestone-covered alleys and squares in which Marco Polo played as a child. Don't leave the island without trying a glass of the fantastic Pošip or Plavac mali wine.

Day 5: Korčula to Split

Split
Stroll along Split's waterfront promenade

After a scenic drive across the island of Korčula take the ferry from Vela Luka port to Split in the afternoon. Check-in at your hotel and stroll the magnificent Riva, the famous waterfront promenade. Find a nice table for a drink and enjoy the spectacular sunset.

Day 6: Walk the waterfalls of Plitvice Lakes National Park

Climb around more than 90 cascading waterfalls in Plitvice

Depart Split early in the morning for the two and a half hours the drive to Plitvice Lakes. Arrive before 10 a.m. to beat the crowds. Usually, visitors need around four hours for walking the paths between the 16 emerald lakes and more than 90 cascading waterfalls. Check-in to your accommodations in the afternoon, and plan some rest after an active day. 

Day 7: Plitvice to Piran

Cross the Croatian border to charming Piran, Slovenia

After breakfast, head towards Opatija, Austrian aristocracy's favorite seaside resort prior to the 20th century. Walk along the seaside promenade to stretch your legs and admire the glamorous hotels and villas. Grab some coffee before hopping back into the car and continuing your drive across the Istrian peninsula to Grožnjan.

The hill-top village was abandoned after World War II and is now home to a rich tradition of jazz festivals and other cultural events in the summer. It's a maze of tight streets and squares hiding delicious restaurants and craft art galleries. Mirna Valley below the city is known as one of the best truffle-hunting hotspots which you can taste in one of the local taverns.

After lunch, continue your drive and cross the border with Slovenia to reach charming Piran. The old town has limited access for cars so, public parking is necessary due to very limited space. Piran is situated on a narrow peninsula with bars and restaurants dotted along the coast. After a long day, nothing beats relaxing on the waterfront admiring the view with a glass of cold beer or a nice local wine (try Istrian malvazija). 

Day 8: Uncover Piran, a Slovenian Gem

Piran
Bird's eye view of Piran

This Slovenian gem is situated at the tip of the peninsula and is known for its Venetian art, narrow stone-paved alleys and tightly-packed homes. Piran is considered to be one of the most beautiful and oldest towns in Slovenia. The settlement was established in the 7th century when Piran was mentioned for the first time.

Today Piran continues its tradition of salt-making, which the Venetians once praised for its high quality and brilliant white color. Take time to climb the fortification wall or St. Georg belfry for excellent views of the city. Consider visiting the Saltpans of Piran in Sečovlje, one of the oldest saltpans in Adriatic, where salt is still produced by hand according to the 13th-century practice.

Day 9: Coast and Karst

Skocjan Caves
Skocjan Caves

Depart from Piran after breakfast with an optional stop for coffee in Koper, the largest town on the coast which was once an island and the administrative seat of the Slavic territories controlled by the notorious Venetian republic. There are beautifully preserved historical buildings dating back to the times of the Venetian republic, scenic promenades and parks by the sea.

Take a walk to the romantic Tito's square, the main square surrounded by magnificent buildings unmistakeably representative of Venetian architecture. Continue to the majestic UNESCO protected Skocjan Caves, one of the largest and most fascinating karstic sites in Europe. Reka river runs below the surface of enormous carved tunnels and caves. Don't miss out on visiting the viewpoint above the collapsed doline as well at the end of the tour.

Inn Gostilna Muha provides some truly authentic food to try before continuing to Lipica stud farm, the one true home of the white Lipizzaner stallions. Since the 15th century, when the stud farm was established by the Habsburg monarchy, the dancing horses have been trained in this location. You may join a guided tour, take a carriage ride or have coffee on the terrace above the pastures.

Day 10: Roam the Soča Valley

The magnificent Soča River Valley
The magnificent Soča River Valley

Drive north to the magnificent Soča River Valley. There are several magnificent stops along the way, such as the majestic Boka waterfall, the mysterious Velika korita gorge and Soča's spring. Note that all these natural sites are situated in a rough natural environment, so don't forget to pay attention to slippery rocks.

Continue your trip by driving over one of the most scenic roads in Slovenia, the Vršič pass, which has some charming Alpine huts serving great home-cooked food along the road. Stop at the Russian chapel before descending further to Kranjska Gora. Keep driving in the direction of Ljubljana, and check into your hotel once you arrive at Bled.

Day 11: Bled, Bohinj, Škofja Loka, Ljubljana

Visit popular Lake Bled 

Climb higher in the mountains to explore Bled more or spend the day exploring the lake Bohinj area. It's a short half an hour drive away and offers some incredible hiking to Savica waterfall, canoeing on lake Bohinj or rafting the Sava Bohinjka river.

Alternatively, take a scenic gondola to Vogel, a ski resort above Lake Bohinj. Up there you can just enjoy the views, do a short hike on some of the nearby peaks or enjoy some fine Alpine food in an Alpine hut. 

Continue over the Sorica mountain pass to reach the medieval town of Škofja Loka, where you can walk through this beautifully-preserved medieval town and enjoy coffee in the beautiful garden of Homan cafe.

Day 12: Explore Slovenia's Capital, Ljubljana

See Ljubljana Castle hovering above Old Town

Ljubljana is Slovenia's capital and is a city with a green soul thanks to its exceptional environmental awareness and many parks. The old town sits by the Ljubljanica river which is characterized by numerous bars, fine restaurants, wine bars, artisan shops, and galleries. The Ljubljana castle is a fortress dominating the town from its looming hill-top position. Visit it for a spectacular sight from the view tower and a great lunch.

Ljubljana's delicacies such as flying žganci, tarragon cottage cheese pancakes or fried frog legs can be tasted in some of the restaurants along the river. Take a walk in the evening and enjoy the funky vibe of the bars and explore Slovenia's craft beer scene, especially around Petkovškovo nabrežje (Petkovšek embankment).

Day 13: Kamnik and Velika Planina

Explore Velika Planina

Depart from Ljubljana in the morning and pass Kamnik to reach the bottom station of the cable car to Velika Planina. This majestic sub-Alpine highland plateau is covered with vast pastures and forests and is one of the last preserved settlements of its kind in Europe. Numerous hiking trails cater to enthusiasts of almost all tastes and many huts provide refreshments (sour milk and žganci).

Upon return to the valley, hop back into your car and continue your drive further up the valley to reach the spring of the Kamniška Bistrica before heading back towards Ljubljana. If you have more time, stop in Kamnik, a quiet medieval town with a historical core, a nice chapel, and ruins of a fortress providing some great views. 

Day 14: Slovenian Styria, The Land of Hops and Vines

Taste the best of beer and wine in Slovenia

Drive to Žalec, the capital of hop-growing in Slovenia, which is the fifth-largest hops producer in the world. Žalec is at the heart of the hops growing region and is famous for the world's first beer fountain

Continue to Maribor, Slovenia's second-largest city, home to the world's oldest grapevine. It is known for the wide Drava river flowing through the town that gives it a familiar feel of large European capitals. The nearby mountain range of Pohorje caters to all adrenaline junkies with a vast selection of sports activities in all four seasons.

Day 15: Kumrovec, Trakošćan and Varaždin tour from Zagreb

See the villages and castles of Croatia's Zagorje region

Depart from Maribor and continue over the border to Croatia to visit Trakoščan, a picturesque castle with an extensive antique exhibition and a romantic park with forested surroundings.

The next stop is Kumrovac, the birth-place of Josip Broz Tito, the Yugoslav leader from the post-World War II period and an authentic example of a Zagorje village. It's also home to a completely preserved architectural and ethnological heritage of villages in the area.

Day 16: Departure from Zagreb

Zagreb's International Airport, built in 2017

Enjoy your last hours in the heart of Croatia's capital, Zagreb. Take a stroll through the Green Horseshoe or have one last cup of coffee at one of the leisurely cafés. Drive to the airport which requires a half-hour transfer in normal traffic.

Map

Map of Self-Drive Croatia & Slovenia: Dubrovnik to Zagreb - 16 Days
Map of Self-Drive Croatia & Slovenia: Dubrovnik to Zagreb - 16 Days