This unforgettable trip features the discovery of Croatia and Slovenia and also includes stops in fabulous Trieste and always incredible Venice. You will surely be surprised by the rich history of the destinations and sights that we have included in this special itinerary. The ancient Romans and the sophisticated doges of the Venetian Republic left important traces that we will discover together. The highlight visits include Dubrovnik, Split, Plitvicka Jezera, Rovinj, Piran and Ljubiana.
Fly from the US to Dubrovnik, Croatia - or enjoy a pre-night option in Dubrovnik.
Upon arrival you will be greeted at the airport and transferred to your beautiful and centrally located hotel. If you arrive one day earlier – and/or if your flight from the US takes you into Dubrovnik early enough, you will enjoy a walking tour of the city with a great local guide. In the late afternoon you will meet your fellow travelers and tour leader for a welcome talk and dinner together. Sleep in Dubrovnik.
We will spend the morning exploring Dubrovnik, “The Pearl of the Adriatic Sea”. This beautiful Maritime Republic was – through the centuries - a worthy opponent of Venice, and was able to preserve its independence for hundreds of years. Only the Ottoman invasions and a series of natural catastrophes managed to doom its glory! After the Yugoslavian war the city got back on its feet with incredible vitality and now is one of the most thriving destinations on the Adriatic. After lunch we will transfer to Split, where we will spend the next two nights. Time permitting we will stop en route to visit Ston and its awesome fortified walls. Sleep in Split.
This morning we will explore spectacular Split. The city was founded by the Ancient Greeks and then conquered by the Romans – and later become part of the Venetian Republic for more than 350 years. We will visit the most important sites of the city together including the famed Palace of Diocletian (which is protected by UNESCO) and then we will have some time to just relax. In the afternoon we will enjoy a short drive to beautiful Trogir. Called by many “little Venice,” it hosts an extraordinary number of art masterpieces and it is arguably the best preserved Venetian city on the Dalmatian coastline. Sleep in Split.
We will enjoy a special “nature visit” today, with a stop at Plitvice National Park, which has been protected since the 1940’s and became a UNESCO site in the late 1970’s. We will see as much as we can of the 16 interconnected lakes and waterfalls which made this park so famous in Europe. We will also learn more about the bird and mammal species which populate the park from an informative nature guide, and weather permitting we will also enjoy a boat excursion on the lake. Sleep in Plitvicka Jezera.
After a leisurely departure this morning we will travel to the incredibly beautiful Istrian peninsula. Our final destination today is picturesque Rovinj, where we will sleep for the next two nights. The small but perfectly preserved historical centre, ancient harbor and imposing cathedral with its incredible tower will surely remain in your heart! Sleep in Rovinj.
Today we will first head to Pula, a charming city with an important ancient Roman past. We will visit its centre and amazing amphitheatre - which is among the best preserved in the world and the best preserved ancient monument in Croatia. It is still in use today for festivals and events and it could seat – in ancient times – around 20,000 people. We will then enjoy a great countryside lunch with local specialties, and reach Porec in the afternoon. Porec was the first town in Istria to become part of the Venetian Republic, and remained under its control for approximately 500 years. We will also be reminded of the city’s Byzantine past with a visit to Porec’s most important monument – the great UNESCO site of the Euphrasian Basilica. Sleep in Rovinj.
On our way to Slovenia this morning we will stop to visit the last Croatian town in our itinerary, the very charming settlement of Motovun. This is a mountain village – so very different from most of what we have visited up to now, and the strong walls and cobble stone streets still exude its medieval origin. We will also pay a visit to St. Stephens’ parish church, designed in the late 16th century on drawings by Andrea Palladio. The forests around the city are an incredible habitat for truffles – which will be the highlight of our lunch today! In the afternoon our first visit in Slovenia will be the off the beaten path fortified church of Hrastovlje. Built in the 1400’s this church hosts a very special cycle of frescoes representing the “Dance of Death”, in which a large number of local characters are led into the afterlife by dancing skeletons. These paintings are arguably the most important and best preserved in Slovenia and they give us a vivid idea about the way people thought about life and death 700 years ago. They are represented in a very realistic way...the rich, the poor, the handsome, the ugly, the fat, etc. No matter what they do – they will all die – and therefore should behave well in life in order to escape damnation in the afterlife. We will then reach Piran which will be our home for the next 2 nights. Sleep in Piran.
This morning we will drive North into Slovenia to visit a very special site, the Predjama Castle. Perched high on a cliff, it officially dates back to the 16th century, but many believe it dates further back to the time when it was said to be the home of the robber knight “Erazem.” If there is interest in the afternoon we will visit Lipica and learn more about the Lipizaner horse bread. We will spend the last part of our day relaxing in picturesque Piran. This quaint city is totally Venetian in feeling. Most likely founded by Celts, it was part of the Venetian Republic from the 1200’s until the end of the 1700’s. After a short life as an Austrian domain, it was Italian again up to 1954. At that time the area became part of Yugoslavia and most of its population left and went to Italy. With Slovenia’s independence, great efforts were made not to lose this area’s Venetian and Italian culture. Sleep in Piran.
Our first destination this morning is Trieste (Italy) where a special visit to the Miramare Habsburg castle will be a real treat. This was the home of Maximilian of Habsburg before he was appointed Emperor of Mexico. All of this area, for a long time Venetian, became the Austro-Hungarian harbor and the Hapsburg empire's only opening to the sea. We will then drive back to Slovenia and its beautiful capital, Ljubjana. Here, Medieval, Baroque and Art Nouveau masterpieces compliment an original character given to the city by the famous architect Jože Plečnik. Sleep in Ljubjana.
Today we will leave the capital and head to Lake Bled, an amazing jewel of nature nestled at the feet of the Julian Alps. Slovenia’s only island, Bled is located in the middle of an alpine lake with mountains on all sides. This spectacular location inspired Slavic populations to venerate Ziva, the goddess of love and fertility. Later, Christians built a church here that is still visited by pilgrims. The village of Bled is one of the most beloved locations in Slovenia. We will enjoy a great boat excursion on the lake before heading back to Ljubjana. Sleep in Ljubjana.
We will say goodbye to Slovenia and reach Venice today! This afternoon we will explore the city, moving off the beaten path, with a great local guide who is a Ph.D. art historian – not only knowledgeable but also a lot of fun! We will then enjoy a great farewell dinner. Sleep in Venice.
Fly back to the USA from Venice or extend your stay for a couple of extra days!
The discovery of Croatia and Slovenia ending in Venice, Italy
September 13 to 24, 2016
1 night in Dubrovnik
2 nights in Split
1 night in Plitvicka Jezera
2 nights in Rovinj
2 nights in Piran
2 nights in Ljubjana
1 night in Venice
Price per person – $3,695 USD