Experience Slovenia and Croatia's coastal and culinary scenes with this ten-day road trip that goes from sprawling vineyards to seaside towns. You'll start and end in Ljubljana, doing a circuit through the Slovenian rivers and lakes to the cypress hills of wine country. From there, approach the Istrian peninsula for both a taste of one of the best-known culinary scenes on the Adriatic and a dip into its waters.

Highlights

  • Explore Ljubljana on foot or by bicycle
  • Swim in the emerald waters of the Soča River
  • Hunt for truffles in Rovinj
  • See the majestic Lipizzan horses at Lipica Equestrian Park

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Ljubljana Ljubljana
Day 2 Explore Ljubljana Ljubljana
Day 3 Drive from Ljubljana to Lake Bled Bled
Day 4 Lake Bohinj (Day Trip from Lake Bled) Bled
Day 5 Drive from Lake Bled to Bovec Bovec
Day 6 Free Day in Soča Valley Bovec
Day 7 Drive from Soča Valley to Goriška Brda Goriška Brda
Day 8 Goriška Brda to Rovinj, Stopping at Lipica & Škocjan Caves Rovinj
Day 9 Explore the Istrian Peninsula Rovinj
Day 10 Drive from Rovinj to Ljubljana, Depart!  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Ljubljana

Ljubljana castle
Ljubljana Castle

Welcome to Slovenia! Once you land at Ljubljana Jože Pučnik Airport, a driver will pick you up to take you to your accommodation. Get settled with a welcome drink before heading out to explore Ljubljana's lively city center.

First, stroll down the main street along the banks of the Ljubljanica River, which is lined with lots of small boutiques, outdoor cafés, and wine bars. Ljubljana is one of the greenest cities in Europe and is just the right size to explore on foot or by bicycle. You'll have the chance to see Ljubljana Castle, churches, parks, and more. As you explore more, you'll notice the work of modern architect Jože Plečnik all around the city, including the National Library, Central Market, Triple Bridge, and Plečnik's own home-turned-museum, all of which sit under the watchful eyes of the city's many signature dragons.

When you get hungry, head to the Central Market to sample local cuisine at one of the many stalls.

Day 2: Explore Ljubljana

Stroll along the banks of the Ljubljanica
Stroll along the banks of the Ljubljanica

Explore the city by foot or bicycle, and enjoy some city sightseeing. Guided tours are available if you'd like to learn more about Ljubljana's history and culture and secret food spots. You can also explore on your own to make your own discoveries.  

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. 

Day 3: Drive from Ljubljana to Lake Bled

Make a wish at Lake Bled
Make a wish at Lake Bled

After breakfast in the capital, you'll hop in your rental car and drive to the fairytale shores of Lake Bled, a destination for guests from honeymooners to adventure-seekers alike. 

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 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.

Driving time: 40 minutes
Overnight: Bled

Day 4: Lake Bohinj (Day Trip from Lake Bled)

The lake's scenic surroundings
The lake's scenic surroundings

Nearby Lake Bohinj deserves time to be explored—its beautiful landscapes give neighboring Lake Bled some serious competition.

There are countless walks in the area suitable for all levels. You can choose one that suits you, or choose a different kind of challenge and go rock climbing instead. Don't forget to pay a visit to the statue of the Zlatorog, or Golden Horn, a mythical stag believed to live in the mountains.

If you feel like spending time on the water, you can also canoe, kayak, or stand-up paddleboard on the smooth water before your return to Lake Bled. If you haven't visited Bled Castle yet, consider splurging on a royal dinner with a view at its restaurant.

Driving time (Lake Bled to Lake Bohinj): 30 minutes

Day 5: Drive from Lake Bled to Bovec

One of many scenic detours along the way
One of many scenic detours along the way

After breakfast, you'll check out of your hotel and get back on the road.  Drive across Slovenia's highest pass, the Vršič Pass (5,285 feet / 1,611 m) in the central Julian Alps. Admire the nearby limestone walls as you make your way up the winding road, with potential detours to several scenic walks of varying lengths, including a stroll into the region's history on paths built by Russian prisoners of war.

After you've stretched your legs, have a coffee with a view of the mountains, along with a typical alpine lunch in a cozy hut. In the afternoon, drive to the Soča Valley to explore its hidden spots, including WWI forts, river gorges, and the mountain town of Bovec, where you can relax in a microbrewery when you settle in for the night.

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

Day 6: Free Day in Soča Valley

Village of Kobarid in the Soča Valley
Village of Kobarid in the Soča Valley

Explore the shores of the Soča River, also known as the Emerald River for its bright colors. Raft, zipline, swim, or go on a canyoning excursion. If you prefer to stay dry, walk along the banks or bike the area. One option is to visit the nearby WWI Museum in Kobarid

You can also cast your rod in search of the tasty Soča trout, or try it at cooked at a local traditional restaurant. 

Day 7: Drive from Soča Valley to Goriška Brda

A house in Goriška Brda's Smartno village
A house in Goriška Brda's Smartno village

Learn about the area's WWI history and influence as you continue south toward Goriška Brda wine country. Learn about the region's involvement in the war, also featured in Ernest Hemingway's novel "A Farewell to Arms."

The mountains will make way to rolling hills as you approach your next stop. Dotted with family vineyard estates, tiny churches, and cypress trees, the region is sometimes called "Slovenian Tuscany." Climb a view tower to enjoy the best view of the area, bike through the hills, and visit a winemaker (or four).

Day 8: Goriška Brda to Rovinj, Stopping at Lipica & Škocjan Caves

Lipizzan horses in Lipica
Lipizzan horses in Lipica

Get an early start this morning and visit the Lipica Equestrian Park, home of the graceful Lipizzan horses. As the original stud farm of the breed dates back to the 1500s, Lipica holds a place in Slovenia's history. Here you can visit their museum in a centuries-old manor house, enjoy a carriage or horseback ride of the estate, and watch a performance starring the majestic white horses first bred by the Hapsburg royal family. 

Next, turn your attention to Slovenia's rugged and beautiful Karst region and visit the Škocjan Caves, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You can go underground and follow the boardwalks that lead you through the specialized ecosystem of one of the world's largest known subterranean caverns. The caves are believed to have been visited by humans drawn to their majesty since the Iron Age. When you're ready, return to the coast and head south into Croatia's romantic Istrian peninsula and onward to your accommodation 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 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 Church of St. Euphemia.

Visit churches, galleries, and pebbled beaches, ending your day with a delicious dinner of fresh fish paired with a bottle of local wine, like Teran or Malvasia.

Driving time (Goriška Brda to Lipica): 1.5-2 hours
Driving time (Lipica to Škocjan): 1 hour
Driving time (Škocjan to Rovinj): 2 hours

Day 9: Explore the Istrian Peninsula

Houses along the interior
Houses along the interior

Drive to the Istrian interior, famous for its refined local food and wine scene. You'll discover hilltop towns full of artisans and pay a visit to a winemaker, olive oil producer, or cheesemaker. Then, search for some delicacies of your own on a truffle hunt, travel back in time at the Roman amphitheater in Pula, or kayak up the Adriatic coast. 

Day 10: Drive from Rovinj to Ljubljana, Depart!

Wave farewell to the Croatian countryside
Wave farewell to the Croatian countryside

Enjoy one last taste of Istria at breakfast, then drive back to Ljubljana Jože Pučnik Airport* to return your car and catch your flight home.

Driving time: 2.5 hours

Map

Map of Slovenia & Croatia Scenic Road Trip: Ljubljana, Lake Bled,  Soča Valley & the Istrian Peninsula - 10 Days
Map of Slovenia & Croatia Scenic Road Trip: Ljubljana, Lake Bled, Soča Valley & the Istrian Peninsula - 10 Days