Croatia, Montenegro and Slovenia
Fly in/out: Dubrovnik (DBV)/Zagreb (ZAG)
Recommended ages: 8 and up
Ball Park Price: $3,000/per person (airfare not included)
Currency: Kuna (Not Euros)
Best Season: May-October, with August being crowded
This itinerary was planned and booked by 14 You Travel-Speranza Travel, a Croatian Travel Agency.
DAY ONE: Arrive in Dubrovnik Airport (DBV). Transfer to hotel with car and driver. Check in at Hotel Excelsior. Dinner at Pizzeria Castro in Old Town, Dubrovnik. Relax and get adjusted to time zone.
DAY TWO: Take a 15 minute taxi-boat ride from the Old Harbor to Lokrum Island to swim and explore. Walk to Klarisa Restaurant in Old Town recommended by concierge.
DAY THREE: Take a guided tour through Old Town, Dubrovnik, including wandering the streets, walking the wall, going into Rector’s palace displaying pictures of the Old Town during the war. Take a cable car ride to see top which offers good views. Take a cab ride to Otto Taverna restaurant.
DAY FOUR: Have rental car dropped off at hotel. Visit neighboring country, Montenegro and stop at Bay of Kotor, Perast and Budva. A 1.5 hour drive. Return to Dubrovnik overnight and have dinner at Taj Mahal restaurant.
DAY FIVE: Drive about 3.5 hours to Split, Croatia. Drop off car rental and take a ferry ride to Hvar Island. Book ferry tickets in advance here. Check in at Amfora 4 Hotel. Have dinner at Lucullus restaurant.
DAY SIX: Hike to Hvar Fortress, visit Benedictine monastery and observe beautiful lace made by the Benedectine nuns, swim at hotel and dinner at Gariful Restaurant.
DAY SEVEN: Take a boat tour swimming and then exploring Green and Blue Caves. Back to Hvar for lunch at Kod Barba Bozjeg.
DAY EIGHT: Take a 8:00 a.m. morning ferry to Split. Check in at Hotel Luxe. Take a guided tour of Split and visit Diocletian’s Palace. See Diocletian’s basements, Jupiter’s Temple, the Cathedral and Golden Gate. Excellent dinner at Apetit in Split.
DAY NINE: Car delivery to hotel and depart for 3.5 hour drive to Plitvice Lakes National Park. Check in at Hotel Plitvice. Spend a day exploring Plitvice Lakes National Park.
DAY TEN: Drive for two hours to Rovinj, Istrian Peninsula, Croatia. Stop and visit the towns of Hum, Motovun and Groznjan. Istrian Peninsula is famous for Roman ruins, great wines and truffles. Check in at Hotel Casa Garzotto.
DAY ELEVEN: Visit city of Pula about a 30 minute drive. Pula is the home of many Roman ruins including Roman Colosseum, amphitheater and forum square. Enjoy dinner at Balbi in Rovinj.
DAY TWELVE: Depart to Lake Bled in the neighboring country of Slovenia. Stop and pick up vignette for car. (A car pass for tolls). Along the way, visit Postojna Caves. Check in at Grand Hotel Toplice. Enjoy dinner at hotel restaurant, Panorama.
DAY THIRTEEN: Take a 3.5 mile walk around Lake Bled. Swim in lake and go “summer tobagganing.” Dinner at Ostarija Peglez’n Restaurant.
DAY FIFTEEN: Take a transfer to Zagreb Airport (ZAG) and fly home.
- Dubrovnik is first on the list of the “must sees” in Croatia. It is such a unique city of cultural history and world-famous beauty. It has striking architecture and many interesting things to do and see. Our kids loved exploring old town walking the cobbled streets and staircases, exploring the different levels of restaurants and taking in the great views. Taking a guided tour was valuable as we got to see and learn about parts of Old Town including the beautiful street of Stradun, Franciscan Monastery, and the Rector’s Palace. A highlight also included walking the wall, constructed in the 15th century (which makes Old Town “the walled city”) and exploring the forts. The cable car ride is also a nice option to get great views especially if a long walk on the wall is not for everyone.
- Only a 15 minute taxi-boat ride from Old City Harbor, the Island of Lokrum is a Natural Reserve and a Special Forestry Reserve. A small lake connected with the open sea is a beautiful spot to swim. Also offering magnificent views of Dubrovnik is a star shaped fort you can explore on the island.
- Our day trip to Montenegro to see the Bay of Kotor, Perast and Budva took us 1.5 hours south of Dubrovnik. The Bay of Kotor is known for it’s walled city and beautiful coast, but our trip was hampered that day with bad weather, so it wasn’t an ideal day to visit. Montenegro being a relatively new country is less touristy certainly than Dubrovnik but neither quite as developed for tourists.
- Hvar island is lovely with gorgeous views of dotted islands along the coast. We enjoyed the beautiful beaches but many are not swimmable so we were appreciative of the giant swimming pool at the hotel. A highlight for us was taking a boat excursion visiting the blue and green caves just outside of the island. We arrived on Hvar Island by ferry from Split and booked tickets in advance at email@example.com.
- We remember Split for it’s remarkable Diocletian’s Palace. Diocletian, the Roman Emperor, built this palace in the 3rd Century as his retirement palace and when the Romans left, the locals moved in. This gives Split’s centre the air of a living, breathing museum. We used a guide to take us around Diocletian’s basements, Jupiter’s Temple, the Cathedral and Golden Gate.
- On the way north to the Istrian Peninsula, we stopped at Plitvice Lakes National Park. In peak summer months, the park may be crowded so aim for an early morning excursion when possible. We chose to stay at a basic hotel in the park to arrange for getting an early start. A unique component of the park is that it’s home to 16 lakes that spill into one another with many cascading waterfalls. The park offers free boat and bus rides to explore and get around.
- Enroute from Plitvice to Rovinj in the Istrian Peninsula, we stopped in Motovun for lunch, a pretty medieval hilltop town with gorgeous views. Rovinj was beautiful with venetian like qualities. A day trip to Pula was definitely a worthwhile trip to see Roman Ruins including a well-preserved amphitheater.
- On the way to Bled, Slovenia, we chose to visit the Postojna Caves, a series of caverns over two million years old that the kids thought were very cool. Bled is a beautiful city with magnificent views of the Julian Alps. There are a lot of outdoor activities to choose from including swimming, hiking and ziplining. The outdoor summer toboggan ride was a fun way to entice the kids to take in some beautiful views and slide.
Places to stay
- Hotel Excelsior, Dubrovnik, Croatia was great for its proximity to the old town. You’re paying for the location. We walked back & forth all of the time. The views from the hotel couldn’t have been better – seeing the sunrise over the old town at breakfast and then seeing it while having a drink at sunset.
- In Hvar Island, the Amfora, Hvar Grand Beach Resort features a fabulous pool for the kids and a great location.
- In Split, we stayed at Hotel Luxe Split, a modern boutique hotel.
- Hotel Casa Garzotto in Rovinj was pretty – very Venetian – and our hotel was more of a B&B with antique furniture, great service and a terrific breakfast.
- In Bled, The Grand Hotel Toplice, was a grand old hotel right on the lake – great location and great views of the castle.
- In Zagreb, Esplanade is a lovely five star hotel at very reasonable prices.
In general, food was good and family friendly with lots of pizza options. Another highlight was the fresh seafood offered by most restaurants. In the Istrian Peninsula, a specialty cuisine were the dishes offered with black or white truffles.
We primarily used conveniently located restaurants or ones recommended by the hotel concierge. The restaurants we felt deserved honorable mention are:
- Keep in mind, Croatia doesn’t accept Euros (their currency is the Kuna), but Slovenia and Montenegro do. Plan ahead before crossing borders.
- Many of the border crossings during peak travel season can add a lot of time to a drive. Some took up to an hour. Plan ahead accordingly.
- We were absent minded when our 7th grader & 5th grader wore their Croatian t-shirts into Montenegro. One guy actually stopped our 5th grader and berated him for wearing it. We should’ve been more sensitive.
- Many of the beaches we visited were rocky and difficult to swim. In some cases, a good pair of water shoes will help.
- When visiting Slovenia by car, it’s important to pick up a vignette, a pre-paid toll system required for cars to drive within the country. You can get one at a gas station or store by the border.
- If your family are beach goers, then review the Top Ten Beaches in Croatia here.
Before You Go
All US Citizens do not require a visa to travel to Croatia, whether for business or tourism for short-term stays; however, you will need a US Passport.