The heart-shaped peninsula of Istria is famous not just for crystal-clear waters of the Adriatic, but also for its historic monuments and gastronomy delights. Although mayor part of the peninsula lies in Croatia, small chunks also belong to Slovenia and Italy. This circular route takes you to all three countries and can start in either Zagreb, Ljubljana or Trieste.
Day 1: ARRIVAL – ZAGREB
Before you visit Istria, this itinerary also takes on a tour of its surroundings. Arrival to Zagreb airport and transfer to the hotel in its center. Free time to wander the streets of the Croatian capital and sample some local food. Night in Zagreb.
Day 2: ZAGREB – LJUBLJANA
After breakfast, your private guide will take on a walking tour of the most important Zagreb’s sights. You will learn that that its history begun roughly 1000 years ago with two small settlements on neighboring hills, which nowadays are the locations of Zagreb’s Cathedral and the famous colorful church of St. Mark. Among other places you will visit the main square named after Ban Jelačić – the national hero who merged the two original towns into one. After lunch it’s time to move to Croatia’s neighboring country, Slovenia. Ljubljana – often referred to as Europe’s cutest capital – is just a good hour drive away. Your guide will take you on a stroll through its pedestrianised old center full of beautiful historic buildings and numerous elegant bridges that cross the green Ljubljanica River. Topping it all is the magnificent Ljubljana Castle offering great vies of the town and the alpine peaks in the background. Night in Ljubljana.
Day 3: LJUBLJANA – BLED – BOHINJ – LJUBLJANA
Third day this diverse tour takes you to the heart of the Julian Alps. First stop is Bled, a nothing less than a breathtaking mountain village with a namesake lake and a fairy-tale castle holding guard from a steep rock above it. Taking a boat ride to the church island in the middle of the lake and ringing the wishing bell is a must. Later that day your driver guide will take you to the nearby alpine valley of Bohinj where – if the weather permits – you can take a swim in the largest Slovenian lake. Alternatively, you can visit on of the medieval churches on its shores, walk up to the Savica Waterfall, taste the famous local cheeses or take a gondola to Mt. Vogel for a spectacular view of the valley beneath. Return to Ljubljana for overnight.
Day 4: LJUBLJANA – POSTOJNA – PREDJAMA – TRIESTE
Heading towards the Adriatic coast, you will make a stop at the world-famous Postojna Cave. A convenient electric train will take you in the depths of the largest cave system in Europe open to tourists. You will be amazed by the spectacular chambers hollowed out by Pivka River and its mysterious inhabitants called the “human fish”. Later, at the nearby Predjama Castle you will learn the story of Slovenian Robin-Hood-like character Erasmus and his tragic death in the loo. In the afternoon you guide will transfer you to Trieste, the once glorious port of the Austro-Hungarian Empire just on the other side of Slovenian-Italian border. As you will learn on a private guided tour, Trieste’s history is complicated and its population diverse. As such, it is a perfect starting point – geographically and historically – to explore the mysterious peninsula of Istria in the next couple of days. Accommodation in Trieste.
Visit Istria – region of great beauties and rich history
Day 5: TRIESTE – PIRAN – POREČ – ROVINJ – PULA
After breakfast your driver guide will take across the border back to Slovenia to visit the pretty coastal town of Piran (Pirano in Italian). As your guide will explain, the area of Trieste Bay and Istrian peninsula was part of Italy between both world wars and still remains multilingual and nationally diverse. But no matter what you call it, Piran will surly amaze you with its Venetian architecture and views from its city walls. Moving further south along the coast of the peninsula of Istria, you will reach Poreč (Parenzo in Italian) mostly famous for the 6th-centruy mosaics of the UNESCO-recognizes Euphrasian Basilica – one of the Europe’s finest intact examples of Byzantine art. Next on the list is one of the Istria’s highlights – the picturesque fishing town of Rovinj (Rovigno in Italian) with colorful houses and a large baroque church on a hill behind them. Before nightfall you will reach Pula at the very south of the peninsula of Istria. Night in Pula.
Day 6: PULA – GROŽNJAN – MOTOVUN – OPATIJA
Let’s continue with a visit of Istria. On a private guided tour of Pula (Pola in Italian) you will mostly concentrate on the heritage of the Roman Empire when the town was known as Polentium. Among the most important remains from that period are the Arch of the Sergii (old town gate), the temple of Augustus (destroyed during WWII and rebuilt after) and of course Pula’s iconic Amphitheatre – one of the world’s six largest surviving Roman arenas. Even 2000 years later it still serves its original purpose – entertaining the masses, hosting concerts, theatre performances and even a popular summer film festival. Later your driver guide will transfer you to the interior of the peninsula of Istria to stroll the narrow alleys of the picturesque hilltop towns of Grožnjan and Motovun. The area is a renowned gastronomy destination recognized for its superb wines and a famous local specialty – the white truffle. Before going to bed, we recommend a stroll along Opatija’s lungomare (a waterfront promenade) and enjoying ice cream or just the freshness of the Adriatic air. Accommodation in Opatija.
Day 7: OPATIJA – PLITVICE – ZAGREB
Visit of the northern Croatia would not be complete without country’s most celebrated national park – the UNESCO-recognized Plitvice. A series of karstic lakes connected by even larger number of waterfalls creates an amazing landscape that gives you a feeling you entered another dimension. The park is huge and you will need at least three hours to see its most iconic parts. In the afternoon transfer to Zagreb to finish your circular tour. Night in Zagreb.
Day 8: ZAGREB – END OF TRIP
After breakfast free time to buy souvenirs before your transfer to the airport. Your visit of Istria and its surroundings has come to an end.