Adriatic Adventure - Slovenia & Croatia, Italy, Bosnia & Montenegro

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Day 1: Arrive in Dubrovnik, Croatia

Welcome to Croatia! Upon arrival in Croatia, you will be met at the airport and transferred to our hotel. Overnight in Mlini (outside of Dubrovnik).

 

Day 2: Dubrovnik Sightseeing

This morning we visit the fabled city of Dubrovnik. Its motto is"Libertas" (liberty), because for several centuries the city-state of Dubrovnik (the so-called Ragusa) managed to preserve its independence while the coast fell under the sway of foreign powers. At its 16th-century height, the Republic had the third largest merchant fleet in the world. Only a few will notice any remaining signs of the 1991-1992 siege, during which over 2000 enemy shells fell on the old city. Reconstruction was undertaken with astonishing speed and the old town again resembles its former self.

We walk along the main street to the Luza Square, original to the medieval town, where St. Blaise's Church and Orlando's Column stand. The marble- paved squares, step and streets are lined with numerous, finely carved fountains, palaces, churches and monasteries.

After lunch in the Old Town the afternoon is free to explore on your own. You can spend your time visiting three museums to get a more insider's view about the mediaval life of the Republic of Raguza, as Dubrovnik was called that time (Rectors's Palace, the Ethnographic and Maritime Museum). Enjoy a stroll around the old town (Placa), walk the citywall, ride the funicular for a great vista, visit one of the many beautiful beaches, or visit some of Dubrovnik's incredible art galleries. The city is yours to discover! Overnight in Mlini (outside Dubrovnik).

 

Day 3: Montenegro, Kotor. Panoramic Drive: Kotor Fjord, Mt. Lovcen, Rijeka Crnejovica, Lake Skodra, Sveti Stephan Isl.

Today is a long, exciting day! We leave our hotel early and cross the border to Kotor - a beautiful coastal town tucked in the embrace of high mountains, bent over a deep bay (southern most fjord of Europe!) of the Mediterranean sea. The beauty of Kotor Bay has been praised many times in verse. After a guided tour of Kotor, we drive to the mountains above the fjord, to Mt. Lovcen National Park's highest passes, to look at one of the most heart-breaking and magnificent landscapes of all Europe. Kotor Bay is on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

After our climb we descend to the majestic Rijeka Crnojevica river-gorge for another breathtaking scene and then we continue our scenic drive to Lake Skodra. The high craggy peaks of the lake shore make this landscape unforgettable, especially on rainy days, when mirriads of color reflect on the lake. We continue our visit in Montenegro on the coast where we stop for a view of Sveti Stefan Island, one of the most lovely seaside resorts of the Adriatic, connected with a bridge to the mainland. After a long and busy day in Montenegro, one of the hidden pearls of the Adriatic and the smallest State of the former Yugoslavia, we will return to Croatia. Overnight in Mlini (outside Dubrovnik).

 

Day 4: Hike on Lokrum Island, Trsteno Plane Trees, Ston. Bosnia: Hutovo Blato

This morning we will travel by local ferry to Lokrum Island Nature Reserve. One of the many Adriatic islands along the coast, it lies about 700 meters from the mainland. The island is covered with laurel, oak, pine and cypress trees as well as olives, agaves, cacti, magnolia and palms. In 1959 a Botanical Garden was founded including a small salt lake. Our walk takes us past a deserted Benedictine monastery founded in 1023. We can climb to the fortress lookout tower for a spectacular view of the old city of Dubrovnik. After lunch we say good-bye to the Island's resident peacocks, and take a 30 minute ferry ride back to Dubrovnik.

We continue our drive towards Bosnia. On our way to Mostar our first stop is Ston. This is a coastal town that dates back to Roman times, and is known for its natural salt production and enormous city wall, the second longest after the Chinese Great Wall. We will walk part of the 3-mile stonewall originally built to protect the salt works, whose product was known as "whitegold." We stop en route at the gates of the Trsteno Arboretum to get to see two giant Plane Trees (Platanus orientalis), considered to be among the oldest in all of Europe - over 500 years, with trunks over 5 meters (16 feet) in diameter!

After crossing the border to Bosnia we will drive remote mountain roads near a beautiful wetland, called Hutovo Blato before we arrive late to Mostar and have dinner overlooking the magnificent Neretva river with its famous Old Bridge, and mosques in the background. Overnight in Mostar.

 

Day 5: Sarajevo

Driving through mountainous central Bosnia-Herzegovina to the capital, Sarajevo, we find one of the most Oriental cities in Europe. Here, amongst the minarets and the Bascarsija market, we can find the true "turkish" coffee. Our tour will show us the city's multicultural religions, cultural make up and the hope of the city in it's post war revitalization. We return to Mostar for dinner and overnight. Overnight in Mostar.

 

Day 6: Bosnia: Mostar Sightseeing, Kravica Waterfalls

After breakfast we set out to enjoy the magnificent city of Mostar, the unofficial capital of Herzegovina, in the southern region of Bosnia-Herzegovina. The old town is entered through its famous stone arch, "Stari Most", a bridge binding two banks of the emerald Neretva river. This is a city of heroism and poetry and composed of narrow, winding streets. Here we will visit the Old Bridge, a Turkish house, and a mosque, as we learn about the cities muslim heritage.

After lunch, we make our way to Kravica Falls, one of the most impressive falls of the country. We then return to Mostar where we enjoy some free time. Overnight in Mostar.

 

Day 7: Croatia: Imotski sinkholes, Split Sightseeing, Free Time in Trogir

After breakfast, we drive back to Croatia. Enroute, we explore two rarely visited, enormous sinkholes of Imotski, with deep lakes on their bottoms. Both of these lakes were created by water erosion of the under ground channels and caves. Earthquakes have further contributed to the current shapes, even though the region is not tectonically active.

Modro Jezero (Blue Lake) has a shape like a kidney. It is 800 meters long and 250-400 meters wide. The maximum water level is 107 meters, when it starts overflowing on the south side.

Crveno Jezero (Red Lake), is one of the deepest lakes in the world. Its north side is 250 meters high, with 280 meters of water below. The precise depth of the lake is not known due to its complex connected water reservoirs. There were several expeditions in the recent years making lots of progress, but not providing any definite answer. The bottom of the lake is just 4 meters above the sea level.

We continue onwards to Split, which is the largest Croatian city on the Adriatic coast. Split made its mark on the map in the 4th century, when Roman Emperor Diocletian had his retirement palace built here. Diocletian's Palace is one of the most imposing Roman ruins in the world. More a fortress than a palace, it contained the imperial residence, temples and a mausoleum. We will see the vestibule of the original palace, the fortress' colonnaded square, the Temple of Jupiter and the remains of Diocletian's Mausoleum, now a cathedral. In this part of the old town, everyday life bustles along in an open-air museum setting.

Our last stop today is the small little old town of Trogir; actually a small island connected with bridges to the mainland, one of the most enticing towns on the Dalmatian coast. A compact beige-colored welter of palaces, jutting belfries and winding streets fan out from an antique central square. The beautiful Romanesque churches compliment the Renaissance and Baroque buildings from the Venetian period. We have an hour of free time here for selfexploration. This is a perfect place to wander, shop or just soak up the atmosphere of the Dalmatian coast. Overnight in Skradin..

 

Day 8: Boat Cruise to Visovac Island, Krka Falls, Torak Spring

This morning, enjoy a 1-hour boat trip on the Krka River to Visovac Island. Here we have a short-guided tour of the Franciscan Monastery. After our return boat trip, we walk throughout the National Park to see hundreds of beautiful small waterfalls, deep in the river gorge. Theis area was declared to be a National Park in 1985, primarily for its several rapids and cascades, also preserving one of the most valuable freshwater ecosystems of the country. A short drive through the countryside brings us to a great location at the top of a 100 meter (656 foot) cliff overlooking the stunning valley with emerald green Torak Spring at the bottom of the canyon.

After lunch, you have free time to enjoy the picturesque town of Skradin complete with cobblestone streets and a busy harbour. Overnight in Skradin.

 

Day 9: Sibenik, Zadar

After breakfast, we have a short drive to Sibenik. Here, we explore the sights including the Gothic Renaissance St Jacob's Cathedral, which is on the UNESCO World heritage list, and the citadel on a top of a cliff.

We then make our way to the city of Zadar and enjoy a guided tour of this historical city. The Roman forum is well preserved and the Venetian walls still stand, as doancient Croatian churches, monasteries and palaces. Zadar has always been out-ward looking and has shared agriculture, shipbuilding, shipping and trade with people of the Mediterranean. Overnight in Starigrad Paklenica.

 

Day 10: Paklenica Gorges National Park

In 1978, the area of Paklenica National Park was put under the protection of the United Nations program "Man and the Biosphere". With its two monumental canyons, the second largest European preserve of Austrian fir, ancient beech forests and steep cliffs, this natural phenomenon is recognized as one of the most beautiful national parks of the northeast Mediterranean. Many species, particularly reptiles and birds, have been recorded here, including some rare and endangered species.

We have a strenuous 3-hour hike in the gorge, followed by a well-earned break. In the afternoon, after some free time, we drive up to the high plateau of the Mt. Mali Alan for a panoramic view and, weather permitting, a toast to our wonderful adventure. Overnight in Starigrad Paklenica..

 

Day 11: Plitvice Lakes National Park, Otocac Mills

Today we travel to Plitvice National Park. This day is one of our longest travel days, however we have several stops to enjoy the beautiful natural scenery.

We make our way to the Plitvice Waterfalls, located in a valley situated between high-forested mountains and surrounded by sixteen crystal clear blue-green lakes. The lakes are fed by many small streams and brooks which eventually form dramatic cascades and thundering waterfalls. Due to their unique evolution and beauty, in 1979 the Plitvice Lakes were entered in the UNESCO World Heritage List. The exceptional beauty of the lakes and waterfalls, rich plant and animal life, forests of incredibly contrasting colors and the pure mountain air attract nature lovers from all over the world.

After lunch, we visit the old watermills in the valley of the Otocac River. The river also ranks as the best fly-fishing area of Europe, mainly for Red-spotted and Rainbow Trout. Arriving in the early evening into Lovran located on the Adriatic Opatija Riviera, we check into our hotel where we stay for 3 nights. Overnight in Lovran.

 

Day 12: Mt Ucka Panorama, Moscenice village and Oilmills

After breakfast (weather permitting), we drive up to the peak of the coastal range of the Istria peninsula, called Mt. Ucka (1400 m). Here we enjoy magnificent views over the whole of Istria, the Bay of Trieste, the Julian Alps, and the Adriatic Islands including Dugi Otok. You can see all the major towns of the area of which we visit tomorow. On a clear day it is also possible to see Venice.

After lunch on a gorgeous terace overlooking the See and Cres Island we visit Moscenice Village. Moscenice boasts beautiful beaches, old romantic villas and a rich historical core, one perfect example of the many small lovely towns built on hilltops in the Istrian Peninsula. This medieval town is full of charm, and is famous for not only its medieval architecture, but also for the single entrance into the city. All other sides the gorges precipitate deep into the sea. Here we explore the former fishing village and learn about the local oilmills and the traditions connected. Here, we have an opportunity to sample some special local brandies and schnapps which are made in area. We then return to Lovran where you have time to relax before dinner. Overnight in Lovran.

 

Day 13: Istria Peninsula: Pula, Rovinj, Porec

Today we have a long and rewarding day, exploring the Istria peninsula, an archipelago of 13 islands, offering incredible flora, fauna and beaches. First we travel to Pula, which is famous for its 1st century Roman Amphitheater overlooking the harbor. We tour the ruins to see the limestone 30-meter high outer walls that could enclose 20,000 spectators. We wander through the Temple of Augustus to see the statue of James Joyce. We continue onward to Rovinj for lunch, a charming fishing town, followed by a guided tour to see St. Euphemia's Church, which is named after a martyr saint from the 6th century which has a commanding hill top location. Later in the afternoon, we visit Porec to see a 6th century A.D UNESCO World Heritage Site basilica and it's Byzantine gold mosaics. We return to Lovran for a late dinner. Overnight in Lovran.

 

Day 14: Hum. Slovenia Border Cross, Hrastovlje Church ,Salinas (saltpans), Socerb viewpoint to Trieste, Italy

This morning we visit Hum, known locally as "the smallest town in the world". This fortified hilltop town has a medieval Bell Tower which overlooks the picturesque valley. We will have time to explore Hum's shops where we will find local brandies and paintings.

Later we cross the border to Slovenia and visit Hrastovlje to explore the small-fortified church that is unique due to its 15th century frescoes. All the walls of the church are covered in scenes from both the Old and New Testaments, with the Dancing Death fresco being the most famous.

After lunch, we visit the old "salinas" of Secovlje (saltpans), near Piran which were established during the Roman ages, where people produced salt from seawater.

We continue to Socerb Castle for a commanding view over Trieste and the Gulf of Koper. The rest of the afternoon is yours, free to explore Trieste. Our hotel is located in the old city so you can enjoy a late afternoon stroll through one of the nearby squares. Overnight in Trieste.

 

Day 15: Venice, Italy

This morning we leave for the two-hour drive around the top of the Adriatic Sea to the treasure that is Venice. Known as the "Queen of the Adriatic" the city is made up of 117 islands, 150 canals and has 409 bridges. We take a ferry to St. Mark's Square and have a morning sightseeing tour of this UNESCO site. Enjoy a light Italian lunch followed by some free time to explore. There are so many choices - a gondola ride, sit in the piazza and feed the pigeons or enjoy a coffee at one of the famous outdoor cafes. We retrace our route back to Trieste for dinner and overnight. Overnight in Trieste.

 

Day 16: Trieste Sightseeing, Lipica Stud Farm

This morning we have a guided tour of Trieste. We will cover the most important sites including the Basilica of San Guisto with it's 13th century frescoes and mosaic of St Justus, the town's patron saint. There are the 1st and 2nd century remains of the Roman theatre and time to explore the largest seaside piazza in Europe- Piazza dell' Unita. Of course no visit to Italy would be complete without sampling some of her gastronomic treats.

After lunch we drive back to Slovenia where, we visit the stud farm of Lipica, from where the famous Spanish and Austrian horses "Lipizzaner" originate. We continue on to our hotel, located in the rural village of Grahovo. Guest house accommodations in Grahovo. Overnight in Grahovo/homestay.

 

Day 17: Skocjan Cave, Dormouse Museum, Sneznik Castle, Knizna Cave

In the morning we walk 2 kms through the incredible Skocjan Cave, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We will walk 90 meters above the giant underground River Reka and finish our trip on the bottom of the deep dolina sinkhole, from here, a cable car takes us back to the starting point.

After lunch, we explore a small, unique museum, hidden deep in the forest, the Dormouse Museum, This museum celebrates the history and cultural impact of the four species inhabiting the Slovenian forests.

Nearby is the remote an seldom visited, fairy-tale-like Sneznik Castle, built in the XIII century and recently renovated. It has been owned by several aristocratic families and survived WWII.

Upon our return to our homestay, we have an optional visit to Krizna cave, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This world wide attraction features 22 underground lakes with sinter's barriers and an extremely interesting site with bones of giant cave bears from the ice age. The cave ranks as the fourth in the world by the number of genuine cave animal species (44 different species). During winter there are about 400 hibernating bats of 7 different species in the cave. The most frequent are smaller horseshoe bats (Rhinolophus hipposideros). We visit the first section of the cave and enjoy a boat ride on the first lake inside. Overnight in Grahovo/homestay.

 

Day 18: Mt. Slivnica Panorama, Postojna Cave, Predjama Castle

Weather permitting, we drive to the peak of the very picturesque Mt. Slivnica for a grand panoramic view over Lake Cerknica, an intermittent lake. When full, it is the largest lake in the country, which under ordinary conditions has an area of about 10 square miles and a mean depth of 20 feet. It is rich in fish, which disappear and return with the water.

We drive to the caves of Postojna. Hidden deep within this world-famous cave lie a rare beauty created over millions of years; carved, shaped and created by water - year after year. A small electric train shuttles us into the cave and from inside the cave we can witness the incredible stalactites shaped like needles, icicles, and even columns and pillars. Another highlight of the cave is a small tank filled with pink Olms (fully aquatic, blind cave salamanders). These bizarre little animals are also named the "human fish" (Proteus Anguinus) and inhabit only 2 or 3 caves of the Dalmatian coast. Postojna Cave has a constant temperature of between 8-10 degrees celcius with a humidity of 95%.

After our lunch, we visit Predjama Castle, situated in the mouth of a hillside cavern. We hear the legend of the famous robber baron Erazem Lueger, a maverick knight who became Slovenia's Robin Hood by stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. We continue on to our hotel, which is located deep in the ring of the craggy peaks of the Julian Alps, at the shore of Lake Bohinj. Overnight in Bohinj.

 

Day 19: Hike Around Lake Bohinj and Mt.Vogel Cable Car and Savica Falls

This morning, we enjoy a hike around the beautiful glacial lake of Bohinj. After lunch a cable car takes us to Mt. Vogel where we enjoy spectacular views over the snow capped Julian Alps and Lake Bohinj below. We can see Triglav, the highest mountain in Slovenia (2,864 meters/9,396ft), and the beautiful Lake Bohinj below us. The rest of the afternoon is free to relax or take a hike to Savica waterfalls, the highest in the country and one of the two sources of the Sava River. We also stop en route to see a small picturesque WWI cemetery. During WWI, the area was the frontline between the Austro-Hungarian army and the allies. It was immortalized in the famous novel of Hemingway, The Farewell to Arms. Overnight in Bohinj.

 

Day 20: Lake Bled, Ljubljana Sightseeing

This morning we drive to Lake Bled, a picturesque green lake surrounded by the Slovenian Alps. We visit Bled Castle, perched on a cliff high above the lake; it offers spectacular views of the town, lake and countryside. From here we see the small Church of Assumption on a tiny tear-shaped island - the only true inland island of Slovenia - called Blejski Otok. We enjoy a relaxed lunch in downtown Ljubljana, the capital city of Slovenia. We walk through the city center and around castle hill - an impressive castle that dates back to the 9th century. Climb up to the High Tower, for incredible views of Old Ljubljana, the green park (Tivoli), and the city's famous Baroque style monuments. This afternoon, enjoy some free time before we complete our tour with a farewell dinner. Overnight in Ljubljana.

 

Day 21: Departure

Following breakfast, we bid farewell to our new friends and transfer to the airport for international departure flights.

 
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