Discover the best of the Balkans across three epic weeks as you make your way between the historic cities and UNESCO-listed wonders of Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Montenegro. This trip includes a whirlwind mix of culture, history, nature, and food experiences, and combines bucket-list destinations like Dubrovnik, Lake Bled, and Sarajevo with visits to off-the-beaten-path treasures like underground caves, sleepy Adriatic islands, and spectacular national parks.


  • Witness the beauty of Lake Bled, then cross the soaring Vršic Pass
  • Visit Istrian hill towns and taste truffles at a family estate
  • Explore Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia's natural masterpiece, with a guide
  • Cruise around the Dalmatian island of Šolta with a full-day private boat excursion
  • See a different side of Montenegro with a day trip to Cetinje and Lovcen

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Ljubljana (Slovenia), Free Time to Explore Ljubljana
Day 2 Ljubljana Guided Walking Tour Ljubljana
Day 3 Transfer to Bled via Radovljica Bled
Day 4 Discover Bled Tour & Island Boat Ride, Visit Vintgar Gorge Bled
Day 5 Transfer to Bovec via Vršič Pass Scenic Drive Bovec
Day 6 Transfer to Rovinj (Croatia) via Škocjan Caves Rovinj
Day 7 Half-Day Trip to Pula, Free Afternoon in Rovinj Rovinj
Day 8 Explore Istrian Hill Towns & Truffle Lunch, Transfer to Plitvice Lakes Plitvice Lakes
Day 9 Plitvice Lakes National Park Tour, Transfer to Split Split
Day 10 Split Walking Tour, Half-Day Tour to Klis Fortress & Trogir Split
Day 11 Day Trip to Hvar: Croatia's Sunniest Island Split
Day 12 Full-Day Boat Tour to Blue Lagoon & Island of Šolta Split
Day 13 Transfer to Sarajevo (Bosnia & Herzegovina) Sarajevo
Day 14 Sarajevo Food & Culture Tour, Free Time to Explore Sarajevo
Day 15 Transfer to Mostar, Afternoon Walking Tour Mostar
Day 16 Transfer to Dubrovnik (Croatia) via Blagaj & Buna Spring Dubrovnik
Day 17 Dubrovnik Walking Tour, Visit Lokrum Island Dubrovnik
Day 18 Cable Car Ride or Hike Mount Srđ, Konavle Region Culinary Experience Dubrovnik
Day 19 Transfer to Kotor (Montenegro), Explore Perast & Our Lady of the Rocks Kotor
Day 20 Day Trip to Cetinje & Lovčen Kotor
Day 21 Depart Kotor  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Ljubljana (Slovenia), Free Time to Explore

The capital's romantic city center
The capital of Slovenia has a romantic city center that's easy to walk around

Welcome to the Balkans! You've landed in Slovenia's capital, the charming Ljubljana. Check into your hotel, then use the rest of the day to explore this lively city. 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.

Do as the locals do and enjoy potica cake and coffee at the Petkovšek embankment, the most popular riverside promenade in Ljubljana. 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.

Day 2: Ljubljana Guided Walking Tour

Private Walking Tour of Ljubljana
After your walking tour of Ljubljana, you could spend the afternoon at the castle on the hill

Dive deeper into Ljubljana's atmospheric Old Town today with a guided walking tour through its highlights and hidden corners. Along the way, you'll see landmarks like the Baroque Ljubljana Cathedral, the central Prešeren Square, the candy-pink facade of the Franciscan Church of the Annunciation, and the famous Triple Bridge. Pass the bustling central market and walk along the river to Ljubljana Castle, where your guide will point out its many dragons, which have become an iconic symbol of the city.

Spend the afternoon relaxing or exploring at your own pace. You could keep learning about the city's history with a visit inside Ljubljana Castle, sample some Slovenian cuisine in a local restaurant, or spend time simply soaking up the atmosphere of the romantic capital. Slovenia is a small country, so if you're itching to explore farther afield you can reach interesting towns and locations nearby, such as Škofja Loka, one of Slovenia's most preserved medieval towns that looks straight out of a fairy tale. While there, don't miss visiting the Škofja Loka Castle and museum.

Day 3: Transfer to Bled via Radovljica

Bled Island is one of Slovenia's most famous sites

Say goodbye to beautiful Ljubljana when a private driver collects you for the 45-minute journey north to Lake Bled this morning. No matter the season, this picture-postcard lake with its solitary island is a sight to behold. En route, you'll stop at Radovljica, a medieval Slovenian town with a romantic moat and views of the Karavanke and Julian Alps. The town is known today as Radol'ca (Sweet Radovljica) thanks to beekeeping and chocolate traditions. Enjoy a traditional Slovenian lunch, or meet a beekeeper to learn why Radovljica is the world capital of apiculture.

Return to the road until you reach Bled Town. Located in the Julian Alps, surrounded by clear turquoise water, and topped with a storybook hilltop castle, Bled is considered one of the most beautiful places on Earth. Check into your hotel, then go for a relaxed stroll by the lake. Later on, you could visit the oldest castle in Slovenia to enjoy dinner with stunning views over Lake Bled and Bled Island.

Day 4: Discover Bled Tour & Island Boat Ride, Visit Vintgar Gorge

Discover Bled Town and Enjoy Pletna Boat Ride
Take a traditional pletna boat out on Lake Bled, then cruise back to the mainland and visit the hilltop castle

Awake ready to explore more of Bled today with a private guide. 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, enjoy free time to stroll by the lake or try a traditional cream cake called kremzšnta. After the two-hour tour, return to Bled Town for a leisurely lunch.

In the afternoon, you might like to take a 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 and choose a cozy spot for dinner—for a memorable experience, climb to the hilltop medieval castle and enjoy Slovenian specialties with views over the lake.

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 that is often 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: 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 lanes, visit 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 7: Half-Day Trip to Pula, Free Time in Rovinj

Pula, Croatia
The Pula's amphitheater is among the world's six largest surviving Roman arenas

This morning, you'll meet a private guide for a half-day adventure to Pula, the largest town in Istria. Located 45 minutes from Rovinj on the peninsula's southern tip, its strategic location means Pula has been occupied throughout the centuries by everyone from the Romans to the Allied Forces in World War II. Beyond its beautiful beaches and harbor, it's most famous for its Roman amphitheater, the Pula Arena, dating from the first century. Make a beeline for the arena, which is one of the 10 largest colosseums the Romans ever built.

Return to Rovinj and enjoy the rest of the afternoon at leisure. Located on Istria's west coast, this picture-perfect seaside town is an ideal place to unwind. The romantic Old Town occupies a small peninsula that protrudes into the Adriatic Sea. Twisting cobblestone lanes, polished by millions of footsteps, weave through the dense space where laundry crisscrosses overhead. Visit the St. Euphemia Church—the highest point in the city. Completed in 1736, you can climb the church bell tower for phenomenal 360-degree panoramic views.

Plan your trip to Croatia
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

Day 8: Explore Istrian Hill Towns & Truffle Lunch, Transfer to Plitvice Lakes

The idyllic medieval town of Motovun, Istria
See why Istria is called the "Croatian Tuscany" as you explore medieval hill towns like Motovun

Today, you'll venture inland and east to Plitvice Lakes, turning a three-hour transfer into a full day of adventure across Istria. This region is often called "Croatian Tuscany" thanks to its picturesque medieval hilltop towns, forests, and vineyards. Your first stop is Motovun, a sleepy town located atop a 909-foot (277 m) hill. Within the medieval city walls, find buildings of Romanesque, Gothic, and Renaissance style, all in a beautiful location with views over the Mirna Valley. Your next stop is Grožnjan, another medieval hilltop town surrounded by terraced olive groves and vineyards.

Once an important stronghold for the Venetians, the town's importance declined with the 18th-century collapse of the empire. Today, Grožnjan is popular with artists and their galleries and studios. For lunch, you'll visit a family estate for a special truffle lunch. Meet a truffle hunter to hear how the prized fungi are found, prepared, and served. You'll snack on homemade cheese with truffles, truffle oil, and truffle honey, as well as truffle frittata (scrambled eggs with truffles), which you'll help prepare. The family will share local wines and brandies before you continue to Plitvice Lakes.

Day 9: Plitvice Lakes National Park Tour, Transfer to Split

Plitvice Lakes National Park
Croatia's largest national park is home to spectacular waterfalls, lakes, and diverse flora and fauna

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 home to 16 glassy emerald green and blue travertine lakes, more than 90 cascading waterfalls, and numerous caves. This morning, you'll explore the park with a local guide, wandering wooden boardwalks as they show you the most interesting places and explain the significance of its history and natural features. You'll admire the unspoiled beauty and learn about its extensive wildlife.

After the visit, you'll transfer three hours south to Split, the second-largest city in Croatia and the largest on the Dalmatian Coast. Split's UNESCO-protected Old Town is set within the walls of the ancient Diocletian's Palace, one of the best-preserved Roman buildings in the world. Check into your hotel, drop your bags, and set out to find some fun. In the evening, Split's Old Town comes alive with restaurant terraces spilling out across marble squares and along the seafront Riva.

Day 10: Split Walking Tour, Half-Day Tour to Klis Fortress & Trogir

Explore the heart of Split, learn about the Roman emperor Diocletian, then wander the waterfront Riva

Founded 1,700 years ago by the Roman emperor Diocletian, Split is a dynamic coastal city full of history. You'll learn more about Diocletian's legacy this morning on a private two-hour walking tour with an experienced local guide. See life in Split through the eyes of a local and venture back in time with thrilling stories about the emperor and his palace. Then, discover how tradition is mixed with the present as you stroll through the buzzing streets of the city center.

This afternoon, you'll take a private half-day tour to nearby Trogir, an ancient city set on a tiny island that acts as a stepping stone between the mainland and Čiovo Island. Visit the Garagnin-Fanfogna Palace and the Cathedral of St. Lawrence, and admire Radovan's 13th-century Romanesque Portal and its bizarre creatures. Climb the ramparts of the 15th-century Kamerlengo Fortress for views. You might even be serenaded by the local a cappella groups called klapa along the way. On the return journey, detour to the impressive medieval Klis Fortress, then enjoy a free evening back in Split. 

Day 11: Day Trip to Hvar: Croatia's Sunniest Island

Stari Grad Town
Stari Grad is Croatia's oldest town, located on the island of Hvar

This morning you'll board a one-hour catamaran ferry to Hvar. The most famous Croatian island in the Adriatic Sea, Hvar draws visitors with its natural setting, mild climate, and historic town of the same name. On arrival, set out on a half-day private excursion to cover the undulating island terrain, accented with vineyard-covered hills, thick olive groves, and fragrant fields full of rosemary and lavender. Your guide will lead you to the abandoned 16th-century village of Malo Grablje before carrying on to the slightly older Velo Grablje.

Once home to a thriving lavender industry, Velo Grablje is slowly undergoing a revival. Stop at a family-owned vineyard, where you'll have the opportunity to try the finest local wines. Afterward, enjoy an authentic and traditional lunch at a family-run konoba (tavern). Explore a UNESCO World Heritage agricultural landscape set up by the ancient Greeks, and meander amid small villages in the inner part of the island. Stop in Stari Grad, Croatia's oldest town, then return to Hvar Town and take an afternoon ferry back to Split.

Day 12: Full-Day Boat Tour to Blue Lagoon & Island of Šolta

Šolta Island
Spend today cruising around the lesser-known island of Šolta near Split

Today's full-day private sailing adventure involves swimming, snorkeling, and admiring the stunning nature and quaint villages of the Dalmatian coast. You'll start with a cruise to the picturesque Blue Lagoon, which gets its amazing turquoise color from the combination of crystal-clear sea and limestone sand. Stop to snorkel and swim, then continue to Šolta, a small island covered in forests, olive trees, and vineyards. You'll step onshore to visit the island's small Maslinica village, famous for its olive oil and beloved for its relaxed vibe.

Then it's on to Nečujam Bay, where the innermost cove hides a shipwreck. The old sailing boat that sank a decade ago has become a snorkeling hotspot close to the surface, and you'll have time to dive under the waters and explore. Cruise on to Stomorska, another of Šolta's peaceful villages, and hop off the boat and onto the terrace of a local family restaurant. Enjoy a leisurely late lunch of Croatian classics with a view, then cruise back to Split later in the afternoon.

Day 13: Transfer to Sarajevo (Bosnia & Herzegovina)

Sarajevo Old town
Sarajevo is one of Europe's most interesting cities, with a unique cultural and religious history

It's time to discover another Balkan country today, as your private driver arrives for the four-hour transfer to Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Nestled in a valley surrounded by mountains, this extraordinary city has a beautiful setting and a rich and complex history that reflects the cultural and religious diversity of its people. It still bears the scars of the Bosnian War in the 1990s, evident in the rebuilt structures alongside reminders of the conflict.

Sarajevo is often called the "Jerusalem of Europe" as this city is a place where Jews, Christians, and Muslims coexist, creating a unique cultural and religious life with links back to the Ottoman Empire. The afternoon is yours to start exploring at your own pace. Take a stroll around the Old Town, or visit the historic bazaar of Baršćaršija to enjoy a traditional Bosnian meal and taste delicious sweets inspired by Middle Eastern cuisine at local pastry shops. 

Day 14: Sarajevo Food & Culture Tour, Free Time to Explore

Food & Culture Tour of Sarajevo
Stop for a traditional Bosnian coffee as you wander Sarajevo's historic bazaar

Glimpse another side of Sarajevo when you meet your local guide for a special food and culture tour this morning. Together, you'll navigate historic streets to taste delicious traditional specialties, both sweet and sour, and learn more about the city's history. Try fresh baked goods and local produce at the market, wander the colorful stalls of the central bazaar, and fall in love with the diversity of Sarajevo and its food.

After the 2.5-hour food tour, spend the rest of the day exploring Sarajevo's rich history, diverse culture, and scenic beauty. Stroll along the Miljacka River, visit iconic sites like the Sebilj and Gazi Husrev-beg Mosque, or dive deeper into history at the Sarajevo War Tunnel Museum. Wander through charming streets, shop for local crafts, and try the traditional ćevapi (grilled sausages) for dinner. Wrap up your day with a scenic hike to the Yellow Fortress for panoramic views over Sarajevo.

Day 15: Transfer to Mostar, Afternoon Walking Tour

Stari Most, Neretva River, and surround Mostar
Mostar's famous Ottoman-era bridge serves as a symbol of unity after the Bosnian War of the 1990s

Today a private driver will take you 2.5 hours from Sarajevo to Mostar, a small city known for its old Turkish-style houses and its iconic Stari Most bridge. Check into your hotel, then set out to find lunch and explore the small city. Most of the attractions are conveniently located within walking distance of each other, so exploring on foot is the easiest way. For lunch, you could try ćevapi, which is a type of kofte that's usually served with a bread called lepina. It's delicious, cheap, and filling.

Mostar is a fascinating place where culture and religion collide, and the city is often described as a place where "East meets West." Spanning a deep valley of the Neretva River, Mostar developed in the 15th and 16th centuries as an Ottoman frontier town. You'll meet a local guide who will share its rich history as you explore the highlights. Visit the UNESCO-listed Stari Most and wander between the Franciscan Monastery, Kajtaz House, and the shops and restaurants along Kujundžiluk Street. You'll also stop for a taste of true Bosnian coffee.

Day 16: Transfer to Dubrovnik (Croatia) via Blagaj & Buna Spring

Discover Blagaj and Buna Spring
Discover an enchanting natural spring overlooked by a 16th-century monastery in Blagaj

This morning, after breakfast, a private driver will collect you for the 2.5-hour transfer to Dubrovnik, one of Croatia's most famous coastal cities. En route, you'll stop at Blagaj, a small and historic village home to the Vrelo Bune. At this Bosnian spring, nestled in front of towering cliffs, stands the beautiful 16th-century tekija, a Dervish monastery from the Ottoman period. Take a few photos and enjoy the pristine nature that surrounds you.

Continue to Dubrovnik, the "Pearl of the Adriatic." This Croatian coastal destination is one of Europe's most ancient fortress cities. Robust city walls enclose its UNESCO-listed Old Town, and within, you'll find well-preserved Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque structures, including the City Walls and Sponza Palace. Check into your hotel, then set out to explore the ancient city at your leisure. End your first day in Dubrovnik at one of the city's many wine bars with a glass of white or red as the sun goes down.

Day 17: Dubrovnik Walking Tour, Visit Lokrum Island

Lokrum Island is a green paradise off the coast of Dubrovnik, a short hop from the Old Town

This morning, you'll set out to explore your surroundings on a private guided walking tour of the old city. Entering the medieval Old Town through the 16th-century Pile Gate to 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. This 90-minute walk includes highlights such as 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.

This afternoon, you could visit the car-free island and nature reserve of Lokrum. Located just offshore from Dubrovnik's Old Town, the island makes a peaceful escape from the city. Take a 15-minute boat ride from the port out to the small island, which offers beautiful beaches, scenic lookouts, pine forests filled with peacocks, and an internal lagoon. This blue-green lagoon is super salty, making it easy to float!

Day 18: Cable Car Ride or Hike Mount Srđ, Konavle Region Culinary Experience

Sit down to a farm-fresh meal in the countryside outside Dubrovnik this evening

Spend a relaxed morning in Dubrovnik and explore the Old Town on your own. Either lace up your walking shoes and get ready to hike, or head toward Ploče Gate and take the cable car up to Mount Srđ. From the top, you'll enjoy stunning panoramic views over the city and Adriatic. If you plan ahead, make a booking at Panorama Restaurant for a special lunch with the same views before taking the cable car back down.

Use the rest of the afternoon to relax. In the evening, you'll be whisked out to a family farmhouse in the countryside. Meet your hosts and learn about regional gastronomy and Croatian culture and history. You'll help pick fresh vegetables and prepare a four-course Croatian dinner. When it comes time to sit down and taste your efforts, you'll get to pair each dish with homemade wines. Živeli!

Day 19: Transfer to Kotor (Montenegro), Explore Perast & Our Lady of the Rocks

Time at Leisure - Suggestion: Explore Perast & Visit Our Lady of the Rocks
Take a quick trip out to Our Lady of the Rocks near Perast

Check off one more country on your travel bucket list when you cross the border to Montenegro today. This tiny Balkan nation borders Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina to the south and is known for the beautiful beaches and medieval villages along its Adriatic coastline. A private driver will collect you for a transfer to Kotor, which includes a border crossing. Check into your hotel, then set out to explore the charming medieval coastal village.

This UNESCO World Heritage Site is built on a sloping mountain and abounds with Venetian palaces and Romanesque churches. Among the highlights you'll see are the well-preserved Old Town and its city walls, as well as the 12th-century Cathedral of Saint Tripun. You could also organize 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.

Day 20: Day Trip to Lovčen National Park & Cetinje

Day Trip to Cetinje & Lovčen
Stand on top of the world in Mount Lovčen National Park

Montenegro isn't a huge country, but there's more to explore than meets the eye. Today, you'll take a full-day trip into its hinterland, stopping first in Mount Lovćen National Park. Here you'll take in incredible panoramic views over the countryside and visit the world's highest mausoleum. Located at the top of a mountain, the monumental Mausoleum of Petar II Petrović Njegoš is dedicated to the 19th-century prince-bishop of Montenegro; a poet and philosopher who's considered a bit of a local hero.

Continue your journey to Cetinje, a historic town where the Montenegro royals once lived and ruled over this small country. Rich in cultural heritage, Cetinje is set in a lush valley and boasts well-preserved examples of various architectural styles, including the Cetinje Monastery and the Presidential Palace. At the end of the day, your driver will take you back to Kotor, where you can savor the final Adriatic sunset of your trip.

Day 21: Depart Kotor

Scenic Views of Kotor
Hike up to the St. John Fortress for views like this over the Bay of Kotor

It's your final morning in the Balkans. If you have time before your flight, lace up those sneakers and hike 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.

Return to town and sneak in a final coffee overlooking an ancient square 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.


A note on diacritical and retroflex markings: In order to support the best technical experience and search functions, diacritical markings have been omitted from this article.


Map of Ultimate Balkan Highlights Tour - 21 Days
Map of Ultimate Balkan Highlights Tour - 21 Days