Zagreb Vila Bled View Lubljanna, Slovenia

Essential Croatia & Slovenia

Sail down the beautiful rivers
Sail down the beautiful rivers

As the Julian Alps give way to the Adriatic, Croatia and Slovenia merge into one another in a seamless blend of geography, history and culture. Austro-Hungarian, Roman, Venetian, Greek and more recently, Yugoslavian, influences coexist in a living, breathing history that has been integrated into a part of every day life. Vibrant towns and sleepy villages emerge out of the ruins of empires long gone. An inherent culture of wine and cuisine makes this a gourmand’s delight. Undulating mountains, karst formations and miles of stunning coastline dotted with islands make it a haven for those who enjoy being active and in nature.

From the capitals of Zagreb and Ljubljana to the serene countryside of Istria, Exeter International curates experiences that cater to your interests. Be it an olive oil tasting to a curator led museum tour, to countryside bicycle rides, the soft-spoken charm of the locals and their laid-back lifestyle make it a perfect retreat from every perspective.

The following is just a suggested daily touring schedule. You will have complete control over your daily schedule and may change your plans at any time by simply telling your guide. Your time in Europe is yours to enjoy as you like!

For custom luxury travel and tours to Croatia and Slovenia, please contact one of our travel experts.

Day 1
Arrival | Ljubljana Ljubljana Slovenia

Arrival in Ljubljana—Slovenia’s capital and largest city. You will be met by your private driver and guide, who will be waiting for you just outside of customs after you pick up your luggage. You will be transferred to your hotel in the city center.

After some time to drop off your luggage, your guide will meet you for an overview tour of the city. Ljubljana’s Old Town is located on the right (eastern) bank of the Ljubljanica River and at the foot of the historic Castle Hill. You may start your tour in front of the Baroque Town Hall building – the seat of the municipal government, which is highlighted by its clock tower and the inner courtyard surrounded by pillars and arcades.

In the Town Square (Mestni Trg) in front of the city hall you will see the famous Fountain of the Three Rivers, which was originally designed in the second half of the 18th century by the Italian Baroque sculptor Francesco Robba and became his most famous work. The figures with vases represent the rivers Ljubljanica, Krka, and Sava. Robba was inspired by Bernini’s Fountain of the Four Rivers on Piazza Navona in Rome.

Continue across the Dragon Bridge – an Art Nouveau masterpiece adorned with dragons, and stroll alongside the western bank of the Ljubljanica River to the centrally located and bustling Prešeren Square. It is named after Slovenia’s greatest poet who also wrote the lyrics to the national anthem. On the south side of the square, the Ljubljanica River is crossed by the city’s most famous bridge – the Triple Bridge, designed by Jože Plečnik who added the side spans to the already existing central part of the bridge.

Later, you may take the funicular to reach the top of Castle Hill. The Ljubljana Castle offers some great views over the city and the surrounding countryside. The castle was first mentioned in 1144 and was later enlarged and surrounded by a wall with towers and a drawbridge. Gradually losing its strategic importance in the area, the castle began falling into disrepair. In the early 20th century, the castle was redesigned partially and used as a prison and a military stronghold. Since the 1970s, long and extensive renovation works have been underway.

Exeter Services: Airport Transfer; Guide (4 Hours)

Hotel: Cubo

Day 2
Bled & Bohinj | Bled & Bohinj Lake Bled

This morning, meet your guide and driver in the lobby of your hotel. You will be transferred approximately 25 miles to the picturesque Lake Bled region.

During your transfer, we recommend a stop in Radovljica, one of the best-preserved medieval towns in the country, with houses dating from the 15th and 16th centuries. After strolling through the charming cobblestoned streets, you will stop at one of the oldest houses to visit the gingerbread store, where you will see how the region’s famous honey-bread cookies are made.

Upon arrival in Bled, we suggest a visit to the lake and a boat ride to the church, which stands on the island in the middle. The lake was formed after the recession of the Bohinj glacier. After the last Ice Age, the Bohinj glacier deepened the natural tectonic hollow and gave into its present form.

You will also visit the beautiful and historic Bled Castle, which is also the oldest in the country. In 1004, the German Emperor Henrik II gave the Bled estate to the Austrian Bishop Albuin of Brixen as a gift. The building was expanded and fortified since then and today there are several buildings that make up the castle complex, arranged around two courtyards, which are connected with a staircase. Today the castle is preserved as a museum, where you will be able to see various exhibits depicting the history of the region. Enjoy the sweeping views over the lake and the surrounding mountains.

In the afternoon, continue on to the charming region of Bohinj, which is divided into the Upper and Lower Bohinj Valley. There are twenty-four typical Alpine villages in these two valleys. In the Upper Valley by the lake Bohinj, you may decide to visit the gothic St. John the Baptist Church, which has well-preserved frescoes from the 15th and the 16th centuries. The journey continues with a cable car ride to the mountain Vogel (5.000 ft), from where there is a wonderful view of the lake and the surrounding parts of the Julian Alps.

Exeter Services: Guide, Vehicle & Driver (8 Hours)

Hotel: Cubo

Day 3
Ljulbljana to Rovinj | Ljulbljana to Rovinj

Meet your driver this morning for your transfer to Rovinj, located about 3 hours away. You will drive through Slovenia’s Karst region, located between the capital Ljubljana and the Adriatic coast and stretching across the border with Italy. This area is in essence a huge limestone plateau famous for its massive cave systems, which were cut into the soft stone by underground rivers and some of which are now protected as UNESCO Heritage sites.

En route, you may want to visit the unique Škocjan Caves. These caves were formed by the Reka River and have been on UNESCO’s list of world heritage sites since 1986. You will begin your group guided tour at the Visitors’ Center and walk to the man-made entry into the Globocak Collapse Doline. From there your guide will take you through the Silent Cave (Tiha jama), the massive cave where the Reka river flows and the Tominc Cave (Tominceva jama).

If you are interested, you can also visit the scenic Predjama Castle – a true masterpiece of medieval architecture. The castle was built under a natural rock arch high up a limestone cliff overlooking the valley. The first castle was actually a small fortress deep inside the cave to make it more inaccessible and easily defended. Over the centuries, the original Gothic castle was redesigned and reshaped many times, gradually moving away from the cave. The present castle was thus called Predjama, meaning ‘in front of the cave’. Please note that there are some very steep and slippery steps.

Exeter Services: Transfer (Ljubljana to Rovinj)

Hotel: Grand Park

Day 4
Istrian Countryside | Istrian Countryside Rovinj, Istria, Croatia

This morning, embark with your guide and driver on a tour of the beautiful towns and villages of Istria. The interior of Istria, with its rugged and hilly terrain, is very different from its coast.

There are many picturesque villages in this area, such as the artist colony of Groznjan and the medieval town of Motovun. Your guide will discuss with you which villages you would like to visit, based on your interests.

The artist colony of Groznjan was all but deserted after WWII until being revitalized as a center for artists.  Groznjan is also a favorite of musicians, as the International Cultural Centre of Young Musicians has its seat here.  You will have time to wander the twisting streets, filled with shops from local artisans, or perhaps to take in an impromptu music or drama performance in the main square.

Motovun is an excellent example of the ancient townships that dotted the Istrian peninsula long ago. We think it’s worth the long trek up to the top of the hill, so eat a hearty breakfast!  Motovun is a medieval city that dates back to the 12th century, which thankfully remained intact owing to its hilltop location and walled fortifications.

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You will also visit Livade, a small village in the Istrian countryside famous for being one of the best truffle regions in Europe. White Istrian truffles are among the most expensive in the world, and harvesting them is a local tradition going back centuries. Enjoy a truffle hunting demonstration, guided by an expert and a trained dog (pigs are no longer used in Croatia).

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This afternoon your guide and driver will take you to one of the leading, family-owned vineyards of Istria for a private wine tasting with snacks and olive oil.

Exeter Services: Vehicle, Driver & Guide (8 Hours)

Hotel: Grand Park

Day 5
Pula | Pula Amphitheatre, Pula, Istria, Croatia

Today we recommend that you utilize the bike rentals available at your hotel to explore the town of Rovinj, with its narrow, winding streets. You can also explore on foot, if you prefer.

This afternoon, meet your driver and guide and then head to the town of Pula. Pula became famous under the Romans during the 2nd century BCE, and became an Episcopal seat during the 5th century. It was ransacked by the Ostrogoths but regained power under the Byzantines as a naval port during the 6th and 7th centuries. It fell into decline until the Austro-Hungarians gained power and established their naval fleet here. The ancient barracks of the Austro-Hungarian Empire still house Croatia’s naval forces.

Upon arrival, your guide will take you on a walking tour of Pula. You will start at the historic center of the city at its most famous landmark, the Pula Amphitheater, which dates back to the 1st century – one of the best preserved Roman amphitheaters in the world. Today it is Pula’s main cultural venue and is known for its music and film festivals.

Continue to visit the Golden Door at the Temple of Augustus, built between 2 BCE and 14 CE, which is dedicated to the goddess Roma and the emperor Augustus. You will also see the City Hall with its blend of architectural styles, the Hercules Gate and the fragments of the city walls, as well as the Forum, the central square of classical and medieval Pula.

As time allows, you may wish to enter the Archaeological Museum of Istria, which contains several exhibits from Neolithic times to the medieval period of objects found in Pula and the surrounding areas.

Exeter Services: Vehicle, Driver & Guide (4 Hours)

Hotel: Grand Park

Day 6
Rovinj - Split | Rovinj - Split Park Hotel - Split, Croatia

Today you begin your transfer to Split. You may elect to drive straight through or stop en route during the journey.

If you would like a break while driving on the beautiful coastal highway, just north of Split you will find the charming town of Zadar. The historic city center is very charming and well worth the stop. The highlight of the city, other than its ancient Greek and Italian heritage, is the sea organ. Stone steps built into the sea play seven chords of five tones, making it a unique “orchestra of nature”.

If exploring nature is more to your liking, choose Krka National Park. With its seven travertine waterfalls and total drop of 242 meters, the Krka River is a natural and karst phenomenon. Skradinski buk is one of the most attractive parts of the park and features a clear pool with high waterfalls and cascades. It’s considered to be one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Europe. You’ll also find ruins in the park that date back to Roman times, along with the Visovac Monastery founded in 1445.

Continue on your way to Split for an early evening arrival.

Exeter Services: Transfer Rovinj to Split

Hotel: Briig

Day 7
Split & Trogir | Split & Trogir Split, Croatia

This morning, meet your guide to explore the city of Split, including the ancient Diocletian Palace.

Diocletian’s Palace, facing onto the Split harbor, is one of the most impressive Roman architectural monuments in the world and is protected as a UNESCO Heritage Site. The Roman Emperor Diocletian, noted for his persecution of early Christians, was a native of nearby Salona before rising through the Roman military ranks to be eventually crowned emperor by his legions. He ruled for 20 years before abdicating and retiring to this palace. After his death, the palace was abandoned until the 7th century when refugees from the surrounding areas, fleeing foreign invasions, sought shelter within the palace’s protective walls. In the following centuries, the population outgrew its capacity and the town sprawled outside the walls. Today, Split is a major port and industrial center, as well as a perfect base for day trips to nearby attractions.

You will have the chance to explore with your Exeter guide the more than 200 buildings within the boundaries of the Diocletian Palace complex, many of which are still homes, while others house cafes, restaurants, and shops. Like a typical Roman fort, in its original form the palace had a square layout and was surrounded by a thick wall with gates and watchtowers. Some of the best-preserved sites you can visit are the Vestibule, the Temple of Jupiter, the Peristyle, and Diocletian’s Mausoleum – now the Cathedral of St. Dominus.

This afternoon, your driver and guide will take you a short distance outside of Split to Trogir – a treasury of cultural and historical monuments dating as far back as the 4th century BC. Set on a small island just off the mainland, Trogir was first settled by the ancient Greeks, before falling under the Romans and later the Byzantines. Destroyed by the Saracens and abandoned in the 12th century, thanks to its strategic location the town was soon revived and became an artistic and cultural center under the Austro-Hungarians and later the Venetians. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, Old Town Trogir is surrounded by a fortress wall with two gates and is connected to the mainland by a bridge.

Your guide will show you the Gradska loza (the Old City Hall) from the 15th century, the city walls, and the Kamerlengo Castle, which was once the residence of the Venetian governor. On the seaside of the island, you may see the Sea Gate, which was built in the 16th century, and the nearby old fish market, located in an open loggia, surrounded by a colonnade.

Enjoy some time at your leisure to browse the small shops and cafes in Trogir, before heading back to Split.

Exeter Services: Guide (8 Hours); Vehicle & Driver (4 Hours)

Hotel: Briig

Day 8
Hvar & Pakleni Islands | Hvar & Pakleni Islands Hvar, Croatia

This morning your guide will meet you at your hotel for the transfer to the marina, where your private motorboat will be waiting for you. Today your motorboat will take you to explore the neighboring island of Hvar. Through the course of history, Hvar Town has been a melting pot of cultures and influences and is still bursting with history, art and culture, and the home of Europe’s oldest municipal theater, which was built in the early 17th century over an arsenal in a peace-making attempt by the then ruler of Hvar.

You will start from Hvar’s main square, right next to the harbor, which is dominated by the Renaissance Cathedral with its distinctive bell tower dedicated to St. Stephen. The square is surrounded by buildings dating from the 16th – 17th centuries when the town was an important Venetian trading and seafaring center. Also in this part of town, you may wish to visit the Benedictine Convent, where the nuns spend their lives praying and weaving elaborate laces from the fibers of the agave plant.

This afternoon your private boat will take you to explore some of the coast of Hvar as well as the neighboring Pakleni Islands. These islands face the town of Hvar and are uninhabited and mostly woodlands. They feature a myriad of small secluded beaches. Some of these are nude beaches, so please do let your guide and skipper know if you would like to avoid this! You can stop as you desire for swimming or snorkeling.

Note: A visit to Hvar can also be arranged via public catamaran (lowering the cost of the program). Note: A visit to Hvar can also be turned into an overnight trip. Please inquire for cost.

Exeter Services: Guide (8 Hours); Motorboat Charter & Skipper (8 Hours); Port Transfers (Two Included)

Hotel: Briig

Day 9
Split to Dubrovnik | Split to Dubrovnik

Today you will continue your journey with a private transfer to Dubrovnik.

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En route, you will drive to the Peljesac Peninsula, which, similar to other coastal settlements, was first colonized by the Greeks, later by the Romans and Byzantines, and in the Middle Ages often changed hands between the Venetian and Ragusan Republics. The peninsula is known for its fine vineyards and the best oysters in Dalmatia, farmed in the town of Ston.

Upon arrival in Ston, you will enjoy a 45-minute private boat tour. You will head to the oyster banks and see how these rare oysters and mussels are being cultivated in the region.

Afterwards, join your oyster farmer on his little private island for a picnic lunch hosted by his family. You’ll have an oyster tasting and a light lunch of local specialties, along with local wine.

Late afternoon arrival into Dubrovnik and the remainder of your evening is at leisure.

Exeter Services: Transfer Split – Dubrovnik via Ston

Hotel: Excelsior

Day 10
Dubrovnik | Dubrovnik Dubrovnik, Croatia

This morning, your guide will meet you at your hotel for an overview walking tour of the historic center of Dubrovnik, which is protected as a UNESCO Heritage site.

Begin in Dubrovnik’s main square – the Loggia Loza, situated at the eastern extremity of the Stradun – the centuries-old promenade which runs through the walled city from East to West. Your guide will take you into the Rector’s Palace. The Rector was the highest authority in the city and his palace now houses the Museum of Dubrovnik. Over 15,000 works are on display documenting the economic and cultural history of the city. You can also visit the Dubrovnik Cathedral and its treasury famous for the ancient relics including a fragment of the ‘true cross’ on which it is believed that Jesus was crucified.

Make sure to see the Franciscan monastery of the “Order of Minor Friars” (Ordo Fratrum Minorum) which includes one of the three oldest pharmacies in Europe, still serving customers. Part of the Franciscans’ mission was to take care of the health of the local residents, so they opened the pharmacy in 1317 and it has been in operation ever since. The monastery contains numerous medieval pharmacists’ tools and medical books which belonged to the English kings’ physicians, as well as 10th-century manuscripts.

Later, we highly recommend a walk into town and a walk atop the fortress walls surrounding the Old Town. Just over a mile long, this stroll will help you get your bearings and enjoy the splendid views of the historic Dubrovnik and the sea. The fortification includes several bastions, the tallest of which is the Minceta Tower, located just near the Pile gate in the north-western part of the town.

Note: All touring today is on foot on cobblestones. Please wear appropriate footwear.

Exeter Services: Guide (6 Hours)

Hotel: Excelsior

Day 11
Dalmatian Countryside | Dalmatian Countryside Wine Tasting Konavle - Dubrovnik, Croatia

This morning, your driver and guide will take you farther south along the Dalmatian coast to the town of Cavtat. This historic town dates back to the 6th century BC and was first a Greek colony and later a Roman town called Ephidaurum. When Slav tribes invaded the area in the 7th century, the local population sought refuge up the coast where they established Ragusa, which later expanded to become today’s Dubrovnik. Today, Cavtat is one of the most charming towns on the coast and retains a small town, laid-back ambience. Of historic interest here is the Baltazar Bogisic Collection, which includes many fine paintings and works of art and is housed in a 16th century Count’s Palace. You will also see a Franciscan monastery from the 16th century and a monument designed by Mestrovic.

Later, you will continue your drive through the southern Dalmatian countryside and the region known as Konavle. This is Dalmatia at its most traditional, where people still maintain the old customs and authentic costumes and cultivate olives and vineyards.

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This afternoon you will visit the winery of Niko Karaman, a local enologist who is quickly making a name for his tiny operation. He is known for dry wines and exquisite sweet Prosek (dessert wine) that he makes from rare indigenous grapes. His wines have already been awarded the title of World’s Best Dessert Wine in 2009. Konavle is also known for its excellent cuisine and we recommend having lunch at the restaurant Konovaski Dvori, a traditional southern Dalmatian restaurant located on the banks of the Ljuta River. (Cost of lunch is not included).

Later this afternoon, your driver and guide will take you back to Dubrovnik. The rest of the evening will be at your leisure.

Exeter Services: Vehicle, Driver & Guide (6 Hours)

Hotel: Excelsior

Day 12
Departure | Departure Sponza Palace - Dubrovnik, Croatia

Morning at leisure before check-out and the transfer to the airport to meet your departing flight.

Exeter Services: Departure Transfer


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