Last April we only had a 12-day holiday and we wanted to visit Croatia and Slovenia. But what can you see in 12 days? Actually a lot, this is our itinerary:
What to expect in this article:
Day 1: Arrive in Zadar
Arrival in Zadar by plane. We rented a car, which we took directly to our hotel. Next to that, we reached around 9PM, so we did not have much time to explore and were exhausted because of the plane.
Day 2: Zadar
Day 1: Arrive in Zadar and spend the day exploring the Old Town. Visit the Sea Organ and Sun Salutation, two unique art installations on the waterfront, and stroll through the Roman Forum and St. Donatus Church. I suggest just walking around the cute streets of Zadar.
The Sea Organ is a thing you really have to visit, as it is a unique art installation on the waterfront that uses the sound of the waves to create music. Very unique and soothing to hear!
Next to that, you have to visit the Bell Tower and have this beautiful view of the center of Zadar, with its orange roofs and the port + sea.
Don’t forget to visit the ‘Greeting of the Sun’ after sunset, it shows pretty lights and it is fun for children to play on it and chase the lights.
Day 3: Novigrad
Day 3: Zadar to Plitvice Lakes National Park. On Day 3 we drove to Plitvice, but not without stopping at Novigrad. If you want to spend more days in Plitvice, I recommend you to stop in Novigrad. We found 1 day enough and had seen beautiful photos of Novigrad.
I am happy we spend a few hours here and the road is ab-so-lutely STUNNING! You will drive next to the lake and on the way back, towards Plitvice, you will drive in the mountains that you just have seen in the little town. This is one of the most beautiful roads I have driven on.
Novigrad, is a small coastal town close to Zadar (30 minutes drive), and it is known for its beautiful scenery: Novigrad is located in a picturesque setting with stunning views of the Adriatic Sea, Velebit Mountain, and the surrounding countryside. The town is surrounded by lush forests, green hills, and clear blue waters, making it an ideal destination for nature lovers. It also has a rich history and you can explore the town’s medieval walls, old churches, and historic fortifications, which provide a glimpse into the town’s past.
Lastly, it has a relaxing atmosphere: Novigrad is a quiet and peaceful town that offers visitors a chance to unwind and escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. When we visited, there were literally no other tourists
Day 4: Plitvice National Park
On Day 4 (and maybe earlier or later) you will have to visit Plitvice National Park. A place you might (or not) have heard of, as it is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country, attracting millions of visitors each year. It is a beautiful natural wonder located in the heart of Croatia.
The park is known for its stunning natural beauty, with crystal clear lakes and cascading waterfalls surrounded by lush forests and mountains. The lakes are a stunning blue-green color, and are fed by a series of waterfalls and underground springs. The park is home to a wide variety of flora and fauna, including bears, wolves, and rare bird species. The waterfalls are most important, as they are really imposing and there are many of them in the park.
Some tips for visiting this park:
- Buy your tickets a few days, maybe even weeks beforehand online. Nowadays they only allow a number of visitors per day and it would be a pity if you had to miss this park because of that.
Also, try to avoid weekends if you can. We visited on Easter Sunday and were walking in a line, there was barely any space to take photos.
- Enter the park (+ buy tickets) through Entrance 1, if you enter from here, you will walk towards the waterfalls instead of approaching them from the back. I did not regret this.
- Wear comfortable shoes and clothing: The park has a lot of walking trails, stairs, and boardwalks, so it’s important to wear comfortable shoes and clothing that can handle uneven terrain and changing weather conditions.
- Bring plenty of water and snacks: There are limited food and drink options within the park, so it’s a good idea to bring your own water and snacks to stay hydrated and energized throughout the day.
- Lastly: Enjoy! It is incredible to walk around here and I totally understand why it is one of the most touristic places in Croatia!
Day 5: Rijeka
On this day we drove to Rijeka. Mainly because it is a great stop to go to Slovenia later by bus, but also because I wanted to visit my Postcrossing friend for the first time.
About that bus; we rented a car from Enterprise, but only for Croatia, as you have to pay a lot of there are certain rules about going ‘abroad’. So from Rijeka, we took a Flixbus to Ljubljana (Slovenia) a couple of days later.
Going back to Rijeka; I thought it would be a boring city, but none of that. It is the third-largest city in Croatia. While it may not be as well-known as some of Croatia’s other tourist destinations, it still has plenty to offer visitors.
You have to visit Trsat Castle, which is a medieval fortress that overlooks the city of Rijeka. It offers stunning views of the city and the Adriatic Sea and is a popular tourist attraction. It is free to visit and you can even sip your coffee while having a gorgeous view.
Next to that, you can chill at the port, relax on a beach, stroll through the center, and take a look at some of the street art. Rijeka has influences that reminded me of either Budapest, but also Vienna, very different from the other cities/ towns we were before.
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Day 6: Pula
On Day 6 we visited Pula for a couple of hours. It is only 1.5 hours by car (from Rijeka) and easily reachable by highway, be careful that you will have to pay a toll of 10 euros.
On your way back you should try to use the road near the ocean, you will drive towards Rijeka and have beautiful views along the way. What is even better, is that you don’t have to pay to use this road, but it will take you around one hour more to reach Rijeka (so 2.5 hours in total).
Now a little about Pula and why you should visit it:
Pula is a historic coastal city in Croatia, known for its stunning Roman ruins and beautiful beaches. You should mainly visit this town because of the Arena if you have not been to Rome yet, this will be a sneak-peak of the beautiful Colosseum in Rome.
The Pula Arena is a Roman amphitheater built in the first century AD, and is one of the best-preserved Roman arenas in the world. It is an impressive example of Roman engineering and architecture, and visiting it allows you to step back in time and learn about the city’s ancient past.
Lastly, Pula’s Old Town is full of charming historic buildings, narrow streets, and quaint cafes and restaurants. It’s a great place to wander and discover the city’s hidden gems.
A few hours is enough to explore Pula, I did not find it that interesting, to be honest. But it can be a great base for some nice excursions or beaches.
Day 7: Ljubljana
On Day 7 we took a Flixbus from Rijeka to Ljubljana, we left around 7.30 and reached around 10.00. So after that, we had a whole day to explore the capital of a new country: Slovenia!
P.s. one tip: Store your luggage at the train station in Ljubljana, you will have to pay 4 euros per day. We had no other choice, as we could only check in after 3 pm.
Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia, is a beautiful and charming city that can easily be explored in a day. Here are some ideas for how to spend your day and must-sees when you’re in Ljubljana:
1.Start with a (free) walking tour: Ljubljana’s Old Town is full of historic buildings, charming squares, and hidden alleyways. Join a walking tour to learn about the city’s history and get an overview of its major attractions.
2. Visit Ljubljana Castle: Perched on a hill overlooking the city, Ljubljana Castle offers stunning views and a glimpse into the city’s past. You can explore the castle’s interior, including its tower, chapel, and museum.
We paid for the funicular to go up (3 euros pp), but not for the castle. We only went for the amazing view, walked around, and then walked back down, which is only a 10 minutes walk. It can be a tiny bit slippery, but if your legs work well, I recommend this.
3. Stroll along the Ljubljanica River: The Ljubljanica River flows through the heart of the city, and a stroll along its banks offers beautiful views and a chance to see some of the city’s most iconic sights, including the Triple Bridge and the Dragon Bridge.
4. Explore Tivoli Park: Tivoli Park is a large green space on the outskirts of the city, featuring walking paths, gardens, and several historic buildings. It’s a great place to relax and escape the hustle and bustle of the city.
5. Visit the Central Market: Ljubljana’s Central Market is a bustling hub of activity, offering fresh produce, local crafts, and plenty of opportunities for people-watching. It’s a great place to grab a snack or souvenir. I feel like the market brings a lot of life to the city and I am still craving the strawberries I have seen there.
These are just a few ideas for how to spend your day and must-sees when you’re in Ljubljana. With its charming Old Town, stunning castle, and beautiful parks, Ljubljana is a city that’s easy to fall in love with.
We explored until 4 o’clock and then went to the hotel to rest a little. We were pretty exhausted from the last couple of days and in those hours we walked around, we did see quite a lot of Ljubljana.
Day 8: Ljubljana
One more day to explore Ljubljana! Visit everything that you did not see yesterday.
On this day it was raining quite a lot, so we only went out for an hour, and had some great Ramen at Ondori Street Food.
This was our day of resting.
Day 9: Bled/ Bohinj and Vintgar Gorge
Rent a car for a day and visit Vintgar Gorge, Lake Bled and Lake Bohinj. It might sound like a lot, but if you can walk well, this is not a problem.
Combining Vintgar, Bled, and Bohinj in one day is possible, but it will be a busy and tiring day. Here’s a suggested itinerary for how to do it:
Start early in the morning by visiting the Vintgar Gorge. It opens at 8:00 am and it’s recommended to arrive early to avoid the crowds. The walk through the gorge takes about 1-2 hours, depending on your pace.
After visiting the Vintgar Gorge, drive to Lake Bled, which is about a 15-minute drive away. Spend some time admiring the stunning views of the lake and the island in the middle of it. You can take a stroll around the lake, visit the castle or take a traditional Pletna boat ride to the island.
After exploring Lake Bled, drive to Lake Bohinj, which is about a 40-minute drive away. Stop by the Vogel cable car station (it was closed when we went) on the way to take a ride to the top of the mountain, where you can enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and valleys.
Once you arrive at Lake Bohinj, take a stroll around the lake, rent a boat or kayak to explore the lake, or take a dip in its crystal-clear waters. You can also take a hike in the nearby Triglav National Park or visit the Savica Waterfall.
In the late afternoon, drive back to Ljubljana or your accommodation for the night. You can stop by some of the small towns along the way, such as Radovljica or Kranj, to get a taste of Slovenia’s traditional architecture and local cuisine.
Keep in mind that this itinerary is quite packed, and you may not be able to fully explore each attraction. However, it will give you a taste of the beauty and diversity of Slovenia’s natural attractions. If you have more time, it’s recommended to spend a full day exploring each location to fully experience their beauty and charm.
I will write a full article about these 3 sites soon. Once it is ready, you can find it here.
Day 10: Zagreb
On Day 10 we move on to the last destination of our trip (ahh no), Zagreb!
We took a train from Ljubljana, which cost us only 9 euros pp (Flixbus was 27 euros) and it would take 2 hours to reach. Unfortunately, we had some train problems and reached about 5 hours later. Which meant, we only had the evening to explore Zagreb. Which was actually very fun as well!
We did what we can do best; eat! Or better said; Enjoy the food in Tkalciceva Street.
This is a lively pedestrian street in the heart of Zagreb’s historic district, known for its charming cafes, restaurants, and shops. In the evening Tkalciceva Street really comes to life. The street is lined with a variety of restaurants and bars, offering everything from traditional Croatian cuisine to international dishes.
We wanted to try a little from every cuisine, so we had Mansaf in an Arab restaurant, a Roti in a Sri Lankan restaurant, a cookie, Egyptian falafel, and lastly kebab. Oh man, this was the best evening!
The atmosphere is lively and energetic, making it a great place to grab a drink or a bite to eat and soak up the local culture.
Day 11: Zagreb
Day 12: Zagreb and departure
Unfortunately, it is the last day in Zagreb. Depending on your flight time and what you have not explored in Zagreb, you can do this still on this day. Don’t forget to buy some souvenirs for home!
I hope you got some inspiration for a fun 12-day itinerary through Croatia and Slovenia. Enjoy these 2 beautiful countries a lot!
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