An itinerary in Slovenia and Croatia road trip is something that tastes “homegrown.” You know I love road trips and in this blog you can find several of them (see here: All Road Trip Itineraries), but they usually involve flight + rental car.
Leaving home, and more importantly, returning home in your own car after traveling more than 2000 km has a different flavor.
My road trip itinerary between Croatia and Slovenia was a mixture of green places like Lake Bled, major cities like Dubrovnik, and emerald green sea near the beautiful island of Korkula.
Practical aspects for the itinerary
Usually in my road trip itineraries I make a few assumptions that are useful should you be in the “itinerary creation“. This time I will make the two distinctions between the two countries: Slovenia and Croatia.
Information for traveling in Slovenia
Traveling in Slovenia is very easy, as well as enjoyable. The roads are well maintained, the landscapes are indescribably green, and the care Slovenians take of their “houses in the middle of the green” is incomparable to the Italian situation. You can realize this as soon as you cross the border between Italy and Slovenia and vice versa.
The only issue (which is not an issue) is that before entering Slovenian territory and driving on a highway, you will necessarily have to buy a Slovenian vignette for the time you need it: weekly or monthly?
I have told you more about the vignette and how to use it in this article: Slovenian Vignette? How to visit Slovenia by car.
Information for traveling in Croatia
Traveling in Croatia is also very simple. There are only three or four points to pay attention to which I summarize in the list below:
- In Croatia there is no euro but the Kuna, currently (2020) 1 euro is equivalent to about 7.5 kuna. Prices, especially in tourist places, are not that far from those in Italy. On the contrary, in many cases, especially in very well-known places like the islands or Dubrovnik, prices are really very high. Sometimes even incomprehensibly high.
- The highways are “toll-booth” like the Italian ones. So no vignette. They are smooth, in good condition.
- Moving between the islands I assure you is not complex at all. Even in August I had no problem in changing my itinerary based on new needs, and then getting tickets online or going directly to the ticket offices. All very simple and above all easy, I assure you. That was my initial, unfounded concern.
- Ifon the Croatia part of the road trip itinerary you would like to reach Dubrovnik, remember that you have to pass through a small patch of Bosnian land. Document side, no problem, they even accept ID cards. Car insurance side, be careful what your green card says. Eventually you will have to take supplemental insurance, but I will explain this better in a separate article.
16 days on the road between Croatia and Slovenia
As I wrote to you earlier, my itinerary started from home, that is, from Brescia. I would say to start the itinerary from the first stop, the San Canziano Caves, just across the Italian border.
This itinerary to visit beautiful places within driving distance of Italy starts from the north of our peninsula, that is, near Trieste. You could also follow a different route of the itinerary. If you live in southern or central Italy, it might be better to take a ferry such as those that leave from Ancona and go directly to Croatia.
Day 1: Skocjan Caves and Ljubljana
Skocjan Caves are located very few kilometers from the Italian border and you do NOT need to pay for a vignette. You can reach them by the normal road. They are a spectacle of nature. Kilometers into the underground recesses of these karst lands. They contrast with the other famous caves: the postojna caves, which, however, they say are definitely commercial.
The Skocjan Caves are definitely a must if you enter Slovenia from the Trieste side.
Read also: the Skocjan Caves, a Paradise Underground!
A short distance away, on the way to beautiful Ljubljana, you can stop at the quaint Predjama Castle and then arrive in Ljubljana in the evening and experience the city by night. Please note: to get to Ljubljana and move around by car on Slovenia’s highways, you will need a Slovenian highway sticker at this point.
- Skocjan Caves -> Ljubljana: 78 km – 55 minutes
Day 2: Ljubljana and Lake Bled
Ljubljana, Slovenia’s capital city. Quiet, relaxed yet bubbly, Ljubljana is that capital city where you don’t realize you’re in a capital. It is not very large, in fact, and in one day you can visit it easily, including a climb to the castle and an aperitif on the green banks of the Ljubljanica River that runs through it.
Do you want an itinerary for visiting Ljubljana? Here is my article on the Best things to do in Ljubljana in a Day.
- Ljubljana -> Lake Bled: 56 km – 40 minutes
Day 3: Lake Bled -> Second night in Bled
At least one day at Lake Bled is necessary. It is a very beautiful area, at times too touristy (especially in August), nestled in the green mountains of northern Slovenia. I especially enjoyed the castle, the view from the top, and the Vintgar Gorge, although, beware that in the summer months it is like going to folk fairs: queuing (not of cars but of people walking) on wooden walkways.
Tip: keep them as a possible spring or fall stop. Beautiful, but with the hustle and bustle they become unlivable.
Lake Bled, however, is definitely worth a day, even a day and a half…and carve out time to enjoy a huge portion of the famous “Bled Cake“.
You might be interested in: the Complete Guide for Lake Bled
Day 4: Visit Maribor
To get from Bled to Maribor you will have to travel several miles on the highway. I assure you, however, that in a Slovenian road trip you could travel twice as many kilometers that you would not experience the same fatigue as in an Italian road trip, just so you understand.
You will arrive in Slovenia’s second largest city in the northeast of the country. It is a very quiet city, which can be visited on foot within half a day. It doesn’t offer great things to see, but it’s just the right compromise to have a few glasses of good wine (Maribor has famous wineries underneath the entire city) and take a relaxing break before continuing the journey to Croatia. From this point on, the road trip itinerary in Croatia will begin to become quite challenging.
- Lake Bled -> Maribor: 182 km – 1 hour 54 minutes.
You might be interested in: Best Things to Do in Maribor
Road Trip in Croatia: driving to Dubrovnik
The first part of the itinerary in Slovenia, as it was for me, will also have the usefulness for you to start getting into travel mode. Lots of greenery, good air, relaxation.
Not that the second part of the itinerary doesn’t have the right relaxation component, but you will certainly have to grind out several miles of driving; after all, it is still a road trip.
Day 5: Entry into Croatia to the Plitvice Lakes
From Maribor, also known as Marburg, the itinerary continues through the countryside into Croatia. As soon as you cross the border and make the first few kilometers, you notice a change even in the way the roads and greenery are kept. Basically it is more reminiscent of Italy, at least that was my perception.
You then skirt the Croatian capital Zagreb and back into the green among villages that perhaps still feel the (not too distant) period that marked them in a major way.
After several kilometers you reach the area of the Plitvice Lakes, an area of indefinable beauty. The trick to appreciating the Plitvice Lakes is to devote a full day to them. So if half a day is spent driving and reaching this remote Croatian place, the remaining part of the day I recommend you enjoy some relaxation.
I did just that, partly because the next day I decided to wake up very early to go to the Lakes. How come very early? I will explain in a post soon, however, I will already give you a tip: book your tickets before the start of your trip.
- Maribor -> Plitvice Lakes: 182 km – 1 hour and 54 minutes
Day 6: Plitvice Lakes
The Plitvice Lakes are that place, during this driving itinerary in Croatia, that will have the unbelievable. If you like nature, such a place will only set you right, really. This will be a day to breathe easy.
Despite the large crowd of people, you will still be able to carve out some nice quiet moments. Theintensity of the falls will also depend on when you visit. I went in August and it is not exactly the most propitious time.
Dubrovnik is far away, so I recommend spending a second night near the Plitvice Lakes and then leaving early the next morning.
You might be interested in: Plitvice Lakes, Croatia: Routes, Prices and Helpful Tips
Day 7: Toward Dubrovnik
This will be one of the longest and most challenging days of your Croatia road trip itinerary. There are 433 kilometers to travel to reach this beautiful Croatian city starting from the Plitvice Lakes. And not only that. On this Croatia road trip you also have to factor in crossing the border between Croatia and Bosnia.
A small strip of Bosnian land less than 10 km long separates the last piece of Dalmatia from the rest of Croatia. Depending on the time of year you might find queues near the customs, just for the classic control operations. Despite the fact that it was August, in the north side border between Croatia and Bosnia, I found only half an hour of queue.
Little tip: in the last few miles of Croatian road before the border you will find lots of fruit vendors at the roadside bordes. Stock up on fresh fruit, you will not regret it.
Another tip that I will reiterate in the “Recommended Hotels” section: to avoid exorbitant costs and problems with parking space, sleep in Cavtat. Also called Old Ragusa, it is a delightful town that will allow you to get away from the hustle and bustle of Dubrovnik.
- Plitvice Lakes -> Dubrovnik: 433 km – 4 hours 38 minutes
- Dubrovnik -> Cavtat (Old Dubrovnik): 20 km – 25 minutes
Day 8 – 9: Visiting Dubrovnik and its surroundings
Your goal will be the mythical walls of Dubrovnik…and the “procession” on them. Unfortunately, the risk will be this. Dubrovnik is a stop on cruises that land and have thousands of people disembark, who, of course, ascend the walls en bloc.
Apart from this apocalyptic vision of Dubrovnik’s walls, the city is a gem. The problem is that the wedding to which you will have been invited will be too crowded, which is why I recommend sleeping in Cavtat, just for a sort of “detox.”
On an road trip itinerary in Croatia, visiting Dubrovnik is a must and I definitely recommend that you include it among your stops. In fact, I recommend making it two days, perhaps assuming you visit the island opposite: Lokrum.
Warning: Dubrovnik and cars do not get along. Or rather, I, and I think you, do not get along with the hourly cost of a Dubrovnik parking lot. From Cavtat there is a boat shuttle service (or even bus) that allows you to get to the city directly by sea. Very nice.
Day 10 – 12: Korkula Island, sea and relaxation
To move to Korkula you can avoid redoing the border and only have to take a ferry between Sabbioncello e Curzola. When I created my road trip itinerary for this Croatia journey, I have to be honest and tell you that I had a hard time choosing which island to indulge in some sea time on. It is objectively difficult to choose given the number of islands.
I chose Korkula because it was the one renowned for being a little less touristy and having great waters. Well, I must say that Pupnatska Luka beach has perhaps the most beautiful water I have ever seen and so I can only confirm as far as the sea is concerned. As for the “touristy,” yes, there are fewer people than in Dubrovnik, but the prices are really excessive. Eating in a restaurant in the town of Korcula is prohibitive.
So be careful not to get carried away. I found this part of Croatia considerably expensive compared to the next destination, which is the island of Pag.
- Cavtat -> Sabbioncello: 129 km – 2 hours and 5 minutes
- Sabbioncello -> Korcula: about 1 hour by ferry between embarkation and disembarkation
You might be interested in: Visit the Island of Korkula in Croatia.
Day 13 – 15: Pag Island
Imagine going from a tropical forest to a lunar landscape. Well, that will be the feeling you will have moving from Korkula to Pag, because indeed Pag is a lunar-looking island.
This itinerary, in addition to being a driving itinerary in Croatia, will also be a ferry itinerary. In fact, I planned to travel from Korkula to Split (and then on to Pag) via ferry to avoid returning to the Dubrovnik area. A good choice that I highly recommend.
In Pag I spent 2 full days in its spectacular lunar coves, something incredible. Croatia’s water is definitely indescribable.
- Korčula -> Vela Luka: 43 km – 40 minutes
- Vela Luka -> Split: 3 hours and 30 minutes by ferry
- Split -> Pag: 192 km – 2 hours 5 minutes
Discover this article of mine about the island of Pag and its beaches.
16: Island of Pag and return to Italy
In my case, the road trip itinerary between Croatia and Slovenia ended with the very long non-stop return from Pag to Italy via Trieste.
- Pag town -> Zigljen Ferry (north of Pag): 32 km – 30 minutes
- Zigljen -> Prizna (north of Pag): 30 minutes by ferry
- Prizna -> Customs North Italy : 180 km – 180 km – 2 hours 40 minutes
Recommended hotels for the Slovenia itinerary
These are all the hotels where I stayed overnight, the prices I indicate are for 1 night in a double room and NOT per person. On this road trip between Croatia and Slovenia I chose all rooms with private bathrooms.
Lake Bled – Houston Resort (CLICK HERE for the Hotel) – 80 euros including breakfast – You may wonder what Houston has to do with Slovenia and I wondered that too. It’s true, though, the resort has that something American about it. Completely surrounded by greenery, it was built next to the river. The location is convenient to Bled, out of the hustle and bustle. I really enjoyed this location and would highly recommend it. Value for money: 8
Maribor – 4Flats (CLICK HERE for the Hotel) – 45 euros without breakfast – Clean, in the center, walking distance to everything and with parking. You can’t ask for better than that. Cheap price (I remind you that in my case the period was in the middle of August). Absolutely recommended. Value for money: 9.5
Hotels for the Road Trip in Croatia
Plitvice Lakes – Plitvice Palace (CLICK HERE for the Hotel) – 60 euros without breakfast – The perfect hotel for those who want autonomy. It also has a nice pool where you can relax after a day walking among the beautiful lakes. Really big and independent rooms in the hotel annex. Value for money: 9
Dubrovnik (Cavtat) – Guest House Villa Bellevue (CLICK HERE for the Hotel) – 65 euros without breakfast – The picture of the sea view pool would be enough to convince you. The hotel is actually, as the name also says, a guest house. If you want independence, it is the one for you. The rooms are not great, but for being 20 km from Dubrovnik, 1 km from a beach and a cute little town like Cavtat, I’d say it’s a good deal. Value for money: 8.5
Island of Korkula (Korcula) – Hotel Marko Polo (CLICK HERE for the Hotel) – 110 euros with breakfast – Very large, if somewhat dated hotel, two, and I mean really two, steps from the beautiful town center and walls of Korcula. It features two beautiful, large pools and a large terrace overlooking Curzola. No small thing: You have free parking inside. In Curzola finding parking is almost impossible. Having it at the hotel and walking to the center is most convenient. Value for money: 8.5
Pag Island – Here I don’t want to recommend the hotel where I stayed because it wouldn’t even deserve a 4. I do want to recommend the area, though, and so I recommend finding a solution in this area: CLICK HERE to search directly.