This 12-day self-driving tour is a great option for travelers visiting Slovenia and Istria for the first time. Discover all of the country's highlights, including Lake Bled, the Julian Alps, and a detour into Croatian Istria, before finishing up in Ljubljana, Slovenia's charming capital. Self-driving tours are great for travelers who want to explore on their own and also make sure they don't miss any must-see sights on the way.

Highlights

  • Admire the colorful waters of the Soča River
  • Taste some of the best wine Slovenia has to offer in Goriška Brda
  • Experience the charms of Istria and the beautiful coastal town of Rovinj
  • Have a drink on the riverbanks of Ljubljanica River

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Ljubljana, Drive to Lake Bled Bled
Day 2 Enjoy walking at Lakes Bled and Bohinj Bohinj
Day 3 Explore Lake Bohinj (Day trip from Lake Bled) Bled
Day 4 Drive from Lake Bled to Bovec Bovec
Day 5 Explore around Bovec Bovec
Day 6 Drive from Bovec to Goriška Brda Wine Region Goriška Brda
Day 7 Culinary adventure in Goriška Brda Goriška Brda
Day 8 Drive from Goriska Brda to Rovinj Rovinj
Day 9 Full day in Istria Rovinj
Day 10 Drive from Rovinj to Ljubljana Ljubljana
Day 11 Full Day in Ljubljana Ljubljana
Day 12 Depart Ljubljana  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Ljubljana, Drive to Lake Bled

Legend has it the church bell on Lake Bled's island grants wishes

Welcome to Slovenia!

Upon arrival at Ljubljana's Jože Pučnik International Airport, you'll pick up your rental car and drive to Lake Bled (30 minutes away). 

Located in the foothills of the Julian Alps, this postcard-perfect lake and its island are one of Slovenia's main attractions.

Touring Bled Castle and visiting Bled's island are two of the most popular activities in the area. Bled is also a great place for outdoor sports, like hiking and biking through the surrounding mountains to see forests, gorges, and old villages. 

Have a stroll around the lake, and make sure to visit a local cafe and try a traditional Bled cream cake. You will also meet our team over a welcome drink and discuss all trip details.

Day 2: Enjoy walking at Lakes Bled and Bohinj

Lake Bled is beautiful to visit in any season

Venture into the surrounding countryside, where you can choose between a variety of shorter hikes through 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 castle and tour its smithy, wine cellar, and printing press before enjoying a traditional meal in the restaurant, or row or paddleboard across the lake's 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 terrain or simply sunbathe on the lakeside with a slice of the famous Bled cream cake at a local bakery.

Another option is to go hiking around Lake Bohinj, a lake 30 minutes away from Bled that's less well-known but just as beautiful. 

Day 3: Explore Lake Bohinj (Day trip from Lake Bled)

Lake Bohinj
The clear waters of Lake Bohinj

Bohinj is located in Triglav National Park, only 30 minutes away from Bled (by car). What makes Bohinj different from Bled is the unspoiled surrounding nature and its aura of tranquility, which really allows you to relax and enjoy the moment. There are several easy hikes up to different viewpoints in the area that take you through gorges and past beautiful waterfalls. 

Here are some other suggestions: 

  • Take the cable car up to Mount Vogel, from where you'll have beautiful views of the lake and its surroundings. 
  • Go paragliding on Mount Vogel for a truly unique view of the valley. 
  • Rent a bike and explore nearby alpine villages. You can do one of several mountain biking tours, either on your own or with a guide.
  • Rent a canoe, kayak, or stand-up paddleboard and go out on Lake Bohinj's smooth water. 
  • Go on a horseback riding tour.

You'll return to Bled in the late afternoon.

Driving time: 1 hour (both ways)  
Driving distance: 31 miles (50 km)

Day 4: Drive from Lake Bled to Bovec

The view of the Julian Alps near Vršič Pass 

 

After breakfast, check out of your hotel and get back on the road. You'll drive across Vršič Pass, Slovenia's highest pass (5,285 feet / 1,611 m) in the central Julian Alps.

Admire the surrounding limestone slopes as you wind your way through the mountains. You'll be able to make lots of detours and stop for shorts, scenic hikes, including one a path with a dark history that was built by Russian prisoners of war. 

After you've stretched your legs and admired the views, stop for lunch and a coffee at a cozy alpine hut. Then, in the afternoon, drive to the Soča Valley and explore the area, including WWI forts, river gorges, and the mountain town of Bovec, where you'll be spending the night. Grab a beer at one of the town's microbreweries before calling it a night. 

Driving time: 2 hours
Driving distance: 54 miles (87 km)

Day 5: Explore Around Bovec

The Soča River is famous for its colorful waters

Enjoy a full day exploring Bovec and its surroundings. Bovec is the base for most adventure sports in the area, including river rafting on the Soča River's famous blue-green waters. There are also several hikes, some of which take you to nearby waterfalls and gorges.

Here are some suggestions:

  • Go hiking on your own or with a guide and explore hidden spots of Soča Valley.
  • Rent a bike or book a biking tour. There are several biking routes on designated roads and paths.
  • Go whitewater rafting or kayaking. Soča is the most popular river for white water rafting in Slovenia.
  • Go canyoning, slide down waterfalls, and swim in natural pools. 
  • Ride down a zip-line.
  • If you're a foodie, book a table at House Franko—home of Ana Ros, named world's best female chef 2017.
  • Rent a car and drive to Kobarid, where you can visit the Italian Charnel House, a WWI museum, and a stunning waterfall.

Day 6: Drive from Bovec to Goriška Brda Wine Region

A view of Kobarid on a sunny day

After breakfast in Bovec, you'll have the chance to see more of the Soča River as you drive south. Raft or swim in spectacular pools and walk along the Soča, which is also called the "Emerald River" for its colorful hues. Then, drive south to the town of Kobarid to learn about the town's WWI history, immortalized in Hemingway's novel A Farewell to Arms

Afterward, the steep mountains of the alps will give way to rolling hills as you enter Goriška Brda, Slovenia's wine region. Dotted with family vineyard estates, tiny churches, and cypress trees, you'll see why the area is called "Slovenian Tuscany."

After arriving in Goriška Brda, relax and have a lovely dinner. 

Driving time: 1.5 hours
Driving distance: 45 miles (72 km)

Day 7: Culinary Adventure in Goriška Brda

The vineyards of Goriška Brda

Embrace a different type of adventure with a culinary tour of the Goriška Brda wine region. The low-traffic, country roads around Goriška Brda offer plenty of scenic overlooks, from where you can look down on peaceful villages.

Gorgeous vineyards and fruit plantations dot this hilly region, with plenty of options for local wine and food experiences.

If you want to keep up the active pace, there are numerous options for hiking and cycling. Tour a few wineries in the afternoon, or enjoy a wine tasting with dinner. Discover the medieval village of Šmartno or the beautiful scenery of Dobrovo.

Day 8: Drive from Goriska Brda to Rovinj

The coastal town of Rovinj at sunset

After breakfast, visit the Slovenian Karst region and the Adriatic Coast, with a stop underground in the limestone Škocjan Caves, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Boardwalks will lead you through the specialized ecosystem of one of the world's largest known underground caverns. It's believed that humans have been visiting the caves since the Iron Age. 

In the afternoon, continue driving towards the Adriatic Coast, cross the border into Croatia and check in to your hotel in Rovinj. Though Rovinj remains an active fishing port today, it wasn't until 1763 that it became part of the mainland. As such, its restricted access created in the narrow cobblestoned streets you see today. Here are some options for what to see: 

  • Explore the town and climb up the tower of Saint Euphemia's Church and enjoy the view.
  • Discover the Bronze Age ruins of Monkodonjo outside of the city.
  • Sample some of the seafood the city is known for in the tavernas of Old Town.
  • Stop to watch the sunset at La Puntulina.

Driving time: 3,5 hours
Driving distance: 115 miles (185 km)

Day 9: Full day in Istria

Oprtalj
Oprtalj, a small village in Istria

Drive through the Istrian Peninsula—often referred to as "Terra Magica" (magical land), and explore a region full of vineyards, olive groves, stunning coastlines, and hilltop towns.

Here are a few suggestions to see in the area:

  • Explore inland and visit Grožnjan (Grisignana), an Istrian medieval hilltop town known for its artists, and Motovun (Montona), an ancient little town located atop a 909-foot hill (275 meters). 
  • Visit Pula’s 2nd-century amphitheater and its underground museum, or take in an evening concert from the stone stadium seats.
  • Hop on a water shuttle to see the artifacts on Briunji, Tito’s private resort island.
  • See intricate mosaics on Poreč’s Euphrasius Basilica, another of Croatia’s seven UNESCO World Heritage sites.
  • Drive to tiny Beram and go to St. Mary of the Rock, deep in the woods. The vibrant “Dance of the Dead” fresco inside is still alive with color.
  • Pick up a map showing Istria’s wine and olive oil routes and spend a day (or two or three) tasting and even picking a few grapes and olives.

Day 10: Drive from Rovinj to Ljubljana

Finish your trip in Ljubljana, Slovenia's capital

After breakfast, drive to Ljubljana. There are several interesting spots to stop on your way:

  • Explore the historic city of Piran.
  • Visit Lipica, home of the world-famous Lipizzaner horses.
  • Visit Predjama Castle, the cave castle, and learn the story of Erasmus, the Slovenian Robin Hood.

After reaching Ljubljana, you will check into your hotel and return your rental car.

Ljubljana is the capital of Slovenia, and with a population of around 300,000, it's also the country's largest city. Ljubljana is so old that it even predates the Romans, but its city center was shaped much later, during the Middle Ages. The area is a pedestrian zone and is very easy to walk around. You can explore the narrow streets or stroll along the banks of the Ljubljanica River.

At the top of the hill above the city, Ljubljana Castle is another great place for a short walk with a beautiful view. Have a drink along the riverbanks or take the funicular up to the castle. Then, have dinner in one of the city's many restaurants, which are run by young talented chefs. 

If you arrive early, you can also join a biking tour and explore Ljubljana on two wheels or have a food expert take you around the best local bars, bistros, and cafes to discover the local food scene. 

Driving time: 2,5 hours
Driving distance: 115 miles (185 km)

Day 11: Full Day in Ljubljana

Stroll along the banks of the Ljubljanica River

Take a full day to explore Slovenia's charming capital. You can walk around on your own, visit the castle and Tivoli Park, or choose a guided tour to explore the city on foot or by bike. Another option is to book a tour with a food expert, who can introduce you to the city's culinary scene.

Here are some suggestions:

  • Stroll along the riverbanks of the Ljubljanica River on your own or with a local guide.
  • Check out Metelkova Mesto, the capital of alternative culture. Every year Metelkova Mesto hosts more than 1,500 alternative events and is considered to be one of the most successful urban squats in Europe.
  • On the way to Metelkova, stop by the Ethnographical Museum and learn about Slovenian culture.
  • Book a bike trip around Ljubljana to see some interesting parts of the city that you would otherwise miss. 
  • Meet a food expert and try local specialties.
  • Rent a canoe or a stand-up paddleboard and paddle on the Ljubljanica River. You can also paddle upstream, as the river is very slow.
  • Have a walk in Tivoli Park, Ljubljana's largest green space, and a great place to get away from the busy streets. If you have the energy, you can walk all the way to Roznik Hill.

Day 12: Depart Ljubljana

The riverfront promenade
The riverfront promenade

Depending on your departure time, you may have time to visit a local museum or enjoy an ice cream on the riverbank before it's time to go to the airport for your flight home.
 
Driving time: (Ljubljana to the airport) 30 minutes

Map

Map of The Delights of Slovenia and Istria: Bled, Bovec, Istria, & Ljubljana - 12 Days
Map of The Delights of Slovenia and Istria: Bled, Bovec, Istria, & Ljubljana - 12 Days