Grand Balkan Tour - Croatia & Slovenia | 14 Days - Aperture Journeys

Grand Balkan Tour – Croatia & Slovenia | 14 Days

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Price Per Person Dbl Occupancy w/10 person Group
From$6,850
Price Per Person Dbl Occupancy w/10 person Group
From$6,850
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October 28, 2024
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14 Days Croatia & Slovenia
Availability : Oct 28 - Nov 10 2024
Start City: Dubrovnik, Croatia
End City: Zagreb, Croatia
Max People : 13

 

Hi I’m Mike Corcoran the founder of Aperture Journeys.

I hope you enjoy reading about this tour and decide to join us. Last year we spent several weeks in these countries on a road trip and drove nearly 2000 km (1200 miles). We visited/vetted a great number of hotels to bring you the best tour.

 

If you have any questions please give me a call +1 813 501 6111.

The Aperture Journeys Difference
  • Hosted by Aperture Journeys Tour Leader
  • Professional Guides & Drivers
  • Designed For Less Time Riding in Bus
  • All Group Meals Included w/Beverages
  • Tips Included
  • Tour Photos & VIdeo available for download
  • Premium 4 & 5 star hotels centrally located
  • Better Travel Experience with Small Groups
  • Personal Support,  Speak Directly With Us, No Call Centers
  • Photo & Video Walks w/ instruction
  • Happy Hour Sessions (min 4) - Share our experiences over drinks

Tour Dates

Contact Us for Custom Tours or Dates
Grand Balkan Tour Overview
Croatia & Slovenia

Grand Balkan Tour – Croatia, Slovenia

Highlights

  • All Meals Included w/drinks on this tour
  • Happy Hour sessions (4)
  • Dubrovnik – Welcome Dinner, City Walls. Pedestrian only Old Town. Cultural History Museum Rector’s Palace. Old Pharmacy in Franciscan Monastery, Lunch & Free time in Old Town
  • Dubrovnik to Split – Ancient Salt Works Factory, Oyster Harvest by Boat & Wine Tasting, Seaside Lunch
  • Split – Old Town Orientation Tour, Olive Oil Production & Tasting & Museum Tour Dinner – Dalmation Local Delicacies at Ethno Village, Visit Island of Hvar, Hvar Tour, Hvar Free time to explore, Split Cultural Photo Tour of Old Town, Free Time Split, Sunset Cruise with Drinks
  • Trogir City Tour
  • Zadar Tour
  • Plitvice National Park Tour & Lunch
  • Istria Region – Truffle Hunting Experience, Truffle Farm visit w/lunch, Winery Visit in Motovun, Tour of Pula, Free Time Pula, Tour of Rovinj, Free Time Rovinj
  • Slovenia – Tour of Postojna Cave, Stroll along the shore of Lake Bled, Pletno Boat Tour & Assumption Maria Church, Lunch at Bled Castle, Horse Carriage Ride along Lake Bled shore, Free Time at Lake Bled, Ljubljana Old Town Tour & Chocolate Shop, Ljubljana River Tour via boat
  • Tour of Zagreb Old Town
  • Farewell Dinner

Take in all the sights, sounds, tastes, and adventures that Croatia and Slovenia  of these beautiful countries. 

Our journey begins in Dubrovnik considered by many to be the jewel of Croatia before traveling to the ancient cities of Split, Trogir and Zadar, Opatija, Pula, Rovinj and the beautiful Istrian Peninsula.

Later, guests will explore the serene and beautiful Plitvice Lakes National Park, where Croatia’s natural beauty truly comes alive. In the Istrian Peninsula you go out truffle hunting with a team of truffle hunting dogs, and then enjoy a delectable meal and treats at a family run truffle farm. Before we leave the Istrian Peninsula we have to sample the local wine and we do so at a longtime winery set in the rolling hills of the beautiful Istrian landscape. We travel onward to Slovenia visiting one of the top sites in Slovenia, Postojna Cave, a large underground cave structure with 24 km of tunnels and a train system. If you like serene and beautiful nature you will love your time at Lake Bled.

Its like being in a picture perfect story book place. You will come away with some of the most beautiful photographs. After Bled we are off to Ljubljana the capital city of Slovenia. You get to know this charming city and take a boat tour down the Ljubljana canal lined with beautiful architecture.

Our final city is Zagreb, the lively blossoming Capital of Croatia. You’ll get to know this capital city through a walking tour in the old town and taste the multi flavored chocolate delicacies.

Price Includes
Activity Level
Complementary
Price Excludes
  • All Meals Included (38 meals w/beverages)
  • Aperture Journeys Tour Leader
  • Small Group Travel 6 -12 Persons
  • Aperture Journeys Tour Leader
  • Welcome and Farewell Dinners
  • Arrival Meet & Greet Service
  • Airport & Hotel Transfers
  • Premium Hotel Accommodation
  • Professional Tour Guide
  • Entrance Fees per Itinerary
  • Transportation During Tour (Coach, Vessel, Flight)
  • Tips Included (Driver, Guide, Restaurants)
  • Wifi Internet during Coach Travel
  • Moderate Pace
  • Walking Cobble stone streets, uneven walking surfaces in ancient ruins
  • Walking up inclines and steps
  • Some Trail Walks
  • Daily Water (2 bottles)
  • Photo & Video Instruction Lessons
  • Candid Photos & Video (available for download)
  • Happy Hour Drinks (4 evenings minimum)
  • International Airfare (Unless Indicated in Itinerary)
  • Personal Expenses
  • Hotel Room Service Fees
Itinerary

Day 1Arrival Dubrovnik, Croatia

Welcome to Croatia

You will have meet & Greet service at the airport as well as a private transfer to your hotel

Socialize with group

 

Meals:  Dinner

Overnight Rixos Premium Hotel Dubrovnik

Day 2Dubrovnik

Today the full day will be dedicated to exploring Dubrovnik.

Dubrovnik is one of the world’s most magnificent walled cities, overlooking the calm blue Adriatic. Once the capital of the mighty sea-faring Republic of Ragusa (1358-1808), it’s now Croatia’s most upmarket destination. Today, the pedestrian-only Old Town – packed with aristocratic palazzi and elegant Baroque churches, contained within sturdy medieval fortifications.

This morning we will have a walking tour along the “City Walls”. You will see ever-changing perspectives over the terracotta rooftops of the Old Town and out to sea.

Afterwards, stroll along the limestone-paved Stradun (aka Placa), the main pedestrian thoroughfare through the Old Town. Originally a sea channel, it was filled in during the 12th century, and is now lined with souvenir shops and cafés.

You will see how local aristocrats once lived, at the Cultural History Museum. Based in the 15th-century Rector’s Palace, this is where the rector (city governor) would reside during his one-month term in office – on display are portraits of local nobles, as well as period furniture, costumes and clocks.

Visit the Old Pharmacy in Franciscan Monastery which is among the oldest pharmacies in Europe.

It was founded in 1317 as an in-house pharmacy for Franciscan friars which was later introduced to the public servicing the whole Town’s population and even beyond the town’s walls.

On Gundulićeva Poljana (Gundulić Square), take a look at the open-air market (mornings only), where stall holders sell local seasonal produce – expect cherries and strawberries in spring, fresh figs and peaches in summer, and oranges, lemons, pomegranates and walnuts in late-autumn.

After lunch we will have free time in the old town to explore the city on our own or enjoy a drink in one of the many bars inside the old town.

 Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Overnight Rixos Premium Hotel Dubrovnik

 

Day 3Dubrovnik>>Split

Our journey today takes us to the seaside city of Split the second largest city in Croatia and the largest in the Dalmatia region. Enroute to Split we at a small town on the Peljesac Peninsula and learn about salt production at the oldest salt plains in the Mediterranean, Ston was a once an important military fort and has stone defense walls that surround the town. The walls are considered to be the longest complete fortress system in Europe and second only to the Great Wall of China.

Next we travel a few minutes to a nearby fishing village and join a family run oyster harvesting operation where we hop aboard their oyster boat. We head out to the oyster beds, watch the harvesting process in action and enjoy some tasty oysters along with wine and fresh olive oil. Yummy

We have lunch at this family’s restaurant right at the harbor.

Off to Split. After arrival we have a guided orientation tour of the city center and old town learning the city’s heritage and history.

Our dinner will be at a nearby Ethno village with homestyle cooking. Just before dinner we learn about olive oil production and visit the Olive oil museum.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Overnight Atrium Hotel Split

Day 4Split>>Hvar>>Split

This morning we travel to Hvar by fast ferry which is about an hour journey.

Wandering in the old town we take time and explore the quaint streets of Old Town Hvar. Start your walking tour of Hvar back near the harbour, at the Venetian Loggia and Clock Tower. Here, you’ll be able to snap photos of these dazzling white buildings with the Tvrdava Fortress in the background!

Looming high over the town, you”ll take the narrow streets of the old town to get there, but we promise the views over the town, the surrounding Pakleni Islands and the glittering ocean are more than worth it. The fort was built in the early 16th century, when Hvar was under Venetian rule, and was reconstructed in 1579.

After lunch you will have free time to explore the town.

We ferry back to Split and dinner at a local restaurant

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Overnight Atrium Hotel Split

Day 5Split

Experience Split through the eyes of photography. A photography tour in Split make for an unforgettable experience.

A tour with a local photographer is an outstanding experience for all those who enjoy taking photos. Rather than just showing you amazing sites, our photographer will share his world views and explain the philosophy behind his work. Photography truly is his lifestyle and he has proven time and time again why he is Croatia’s finest.

 

You’ll get quick and easy tips on how to technically execute a photo shoot, but more importantly You’ll learn how to tell a story through your photography. Each photo you take is a collection of details, customs, and local culture. That’s what makes a photo genuine and captivating.

After lunch there is free time relax or stroll the streets of old split. We have an early dinner after which we step onboard for our Sunset Cruise and drinks enjoying the sea views.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Overnight Atrium Hotel Split

 

Day 6Split>>Trogir>>Zadar

To get the day started we experience the magic of Trogir on a walking tour, and see the romantic buildings of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. The relaxed walk will explore all the historic landmarks of the medieval city, situated on a small island between the Croatian mainland and the island of Čiovo.

Considered by many to be an open-air museum, Trogir will delight lovers of art, original architecture, and atmospheric streets. You will wander down narrow alleys to see up close Trogir’s complex heritage, from Romanesque and Renaissance courtyards to modern interiors.

At its core is the grand Church of St. Lawrence (St. Lovro), a masterpiece by the Dalmatian architect Radovan. Almost no information exists about the career of this enigmatic artist, save for the monumental portal of Trogir’s cathedral. His art collections have aroused excitement among travelers for centuries, offering beauty personified in the relief of Kairos.

After our lunch in Trogir we drive to Zadar

On arrival to Zadar we check in our hotel after you will have free time to explore or relax.

Before dinner we get an orientation tour of the city of Zadar. It will focus both on history and culture as well as the modern everyday life of Zadar. The tour covers all the Old Town main sights including Forum, Five Wells Square, Kalelarga, People’s Square, St. Donatus Church and St. Anastasia’s Cathedral, Sea Organ, Greeting to the Sun and many more.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Overnight Hotel Bastion Zadar

Day 7Zadar>>Plitvice NP>>Opatija

Nature is rejuvenating! We will be totally immersed in beautiful nature today at Plitvice Lakes National Park. Its a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The tour begins by experiencing the 16 terraced lakes, the mesmerizing waterfalls, and the lush walking trails, followed by the changing colors of water at the Upper Lakes.

Finally, you’ll visit the Lower Lakes and its enchanting natural limestone dams before exploring the Great Waterfall. You get in some healthy walking today as we follow the trails through this natural wonderland. After Lunch we drive onward to Opatija and the Palace Bellevue Hotel.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Overnight Palace Bellevue Hotel Opatija

Day 8Opatija

We are off to farm this morning. A truffle farm where we will join the truffle hunting dogs during their hunt for these precious & delectable treats. Truffle is an unusual subterranean fungus. There are two important varieties of truffles: white truffle (Tuber Magnatum) and black truffle (Tuber Melanosporum). Both of these can be found in the Buzet forest located in the valley of the Mirna River in the beautiful Istrian Peninsula.

Even though truffles can be found elsewhere, Buzet truffles are considered to be of the highest quality. Truffles live 10 – 30 centimetres underground, which makes it hard to find, and that’s why trained dogs are used in the truffle hunting activities. If you visit Buzet, you should not miss out truffle hunting adventure. Karlic family have more than forty years of experience in truffle hunting. When you experience truffle hunting, you will come to realize why it is an internationally appreciated phenomena. To spice up your encounter, we offer various truffle dishes and a unique tasting experience with a glass of famous red or white wine. We will also offer Istrian prosciutto and a wide choice of other Istrian dishes.

We have lunch here at the farm. After a short drive we arrive in Motovun where we visit a winery in the heartland of Istria. The winery represents a proud heritage of more than two decades of winemaking, in one of the world’s most picturesque viticultural landscapes.

After we return to Opatija and have dinner

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Overnight Palace Bellevue Hotel Opatija

Day 9Opatija>>Pula>>Rovinj

Our journey takes us to Pula this morning and later onto Rovinj. On arrival we start a walking tour of Pula’s historic center. Stroll the streets for an intimate perspective of landmarks including the Roman amphitheater, city gates, harbor, and Venetian fortress, with illuminating insights provided by our local guide.

We have lunch in Pula, after which we drive to Rovinj.

Arrival in Rovinj and start the walking tour of the old town

Discover how the city of Rovinj was born out of a historic coincidence during the walking tour of the historic Old Town. Explore the winding cobbled streets of the largest, best organized, and most populous town in medieval Istria. Admire the skyline of Rovinj with the blue waters of the Adriatic in the background. Discover why there are no bridges at the Bridge Square. Understand how thousands of locals lived together on a small island for centuries. Explore the area around the old Jewish Ghetto, just off the Arch of the Bearded including basilica Crkva sv. Eufemija.

On arrival after check in to your hotel there will be free time to explore or relax.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Overnight Grand Park Hotel Rovinj

Day 10Rovinj>>Postojna Cave>>Bled, Slovenia

Pack you bags as we are off to Slovenia Lake Bled. We will drive toward Bled but stopping along the way to visit Postojna Start the tour of Postojna cave. .

Blessed with natural wonders and interesting people, Postojna is also a place full of stories and mysterious legends. Even its name is an invitation to spend time here with us, since “Postojna” also means to stop for a time (from the verb postojáti or postati). Explore caves in a unique way as part of an underground cave trek. Postojna Cave, created by the Pivka River, was first mentioned in the 17th century. At the beginning of the 19th century, together with the visit of Archduke Ferdinand, the cave has officially become the tourist destination. With the growth of popularity much needed improvements had to be done and so in 1872 cave rails were introduced 12 years later the electric lightning was added (even before the capital of Slovenia – Ljubljana). When visiting Postojna Cave you will spend around 1.5 hours underground, with the temperature of +8-10°C so better prepare yourself for that with warmer clothes. But even if you feel cold at first you will quickly forget about it as the scenery around you will be among the most incredible ones you will ever see!

Tourists can admire the route of around 5kms inside Postojna Cave, part of which will be traveled by a small train.

After our local lunch we drive onward to Bled, we will check in our hotel and enjoy some free time before dinner to take in the beautiful scenery of Lake Bled.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Overnight Grand Hotel Toplice Bled

Day 11Bled, Slovenia

If you are an early riser you may fancy getting out to the lake this morning for a stroll or to capture beautiful images of the town of bled waking up. Perhaps there will be a light layer of fog over the lake that will make for dramatic photos maybe it will be a sunny morning, either way you’ll come away with photos of a lifetime.

 

After breakfast explore Bled Lake and the surrounding areas

With immense natural beauty, Bled, together with its surroundings, ranks among the most beautiful alpine resorts, renowned for its mild, healing climate and thermal lake water. The beauty of the mountains reflected on the lake, the sun, the serenity and the fresh air arouse pleasant feelings in visitors throughout the year, guaranteeing an ideal base or a relaxing break or an active holiday. Bled attracts businessmen, artists, athletes, explorers, sport enthusiasts, the old and the young, from all over the world, enchanting them to return again and again. Lake Bled should be your first stop on your day trip. The best first thing to do when visiting Bled is to take a leisurely stroll around the lake.

There is a paved footpath the surrounds the lake and it is a very easy, 6km walk to get completely around the lake. Along the way, you’re sure to encounter many incredible views and vantage points of this picturesque lake and it makes for an excellent place for snapping photos.

After the stroll we take a short boat ride to the island and visit the Assumption of Maria Church. The last stop of your trip at Lake Bled will be at the Bled Castle.

Bled Castle is the oldest castle in Slovenia and to get to is quite a challenge. You will have to climb on a steep hill but you will be rewarded with one of the best views in the area. We have our lunch here at the castle.

Discover Lake Bled with a traditional Horse Carriage Ride. Take a trip around the lake and enjoy the lovely town atmosphere.

Open horse carriages have a long tradition in Bled. Interestingly, not just anybody can become a carriage driver as the profession is handed down from generation to generation.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Overnight Grand Hotel Toplice Bled

 

Day 12Bled>>Ljubljana>>Zagreb, Croatia

One last morning that you can rise early, capture some beautiful images if you choose and say goodbye to Lake Blead. We drive to Ljubljana and on arrival we start the walking tour of the historic center and the historical city center, and explore all of its major attractions. Continue with a visit to Ljubljana Castle and treat yourself to beautiful views of the city from the castle’s ramparts.

The tour, beginning in front of the Town Hall, takes you through the historical city center, whose unique architecture is the legacy of the Baroque and Art Nouveau periods and, most notably, the work of the famous 20th-century architect Jože Plečnik.

Ljubljana Castle, standing on a hill above the city for about 900 years, is Ljubljana’s main attraction. On this tour, you will learn about its history and enjoy the beautiful city views afforded by the castle’s ramparts.

We visit a popular chocolate shop where you can get a boost of energy and enjoy the unique flavors. Chocolates are enriched with delicacies that grow in Slovenia Its original varieties are created in boutique chocolate shops nowadays. Local particularities, such as fleur de sel from the Piran salt-pans, truffles, pumpkin seed, olive oil, honey, herbs, forest fruits, Slovenian wines and other delights, have been incorporated into various forms of chocolate goodies.

We have our lunch and a long time favorite traditional restaurant.

After lunch we take a boat tour on the Ljubljanica River that runs right through the center of the city.

Disembarking our boat we then travel to Zagreb, the Capital city of Croatia.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Overnight Westin Zagreb

Day 13Zagreb

Today we begin with a walking tour of Zagreb.

You can easily spend a day or two in Zagreb exploring the history, culture, and nightlife of the city. Zagreb, the capital of Croatia, is a wonderful yet underrated place to visit during your Balkan trip. There are so many great things to do in Zagreb that the city will keep you busy all the time.

On this tour we walk the oldest streets of Upper Town and Kaptol. Upper Town is the oldest settlement and after we’d entered the old Upper Town through the Stone Gate, we arrive to St.Mark’s Square, the main attraction in Upper Town. On another hill there is an old settlement called Kaptol, with its famous Zagreb Cathedral. Just nearby there is a very popular open-air market Dolac.

We stop for shopping, feel a local “flare” of street life in Zagreb and end up the tour at Jelacic Square, our meeting point. After lunch you will have free time to explore or relax before our farewell dinner tonight. Tonight we come together and share our good times and the memories we made that will last a lifetime all with good food and drink.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Farewell Dinner

Overnight Westin Zagreb

Day 14Zagreb Departure

Breakfast

Free time or lunch if your schedule permits

Check out

Airport Transfers

Happy travels home!

Frequently Asked Questions

Why usWhy should I book with Aperture Journeys?

We are passionate about travel and believe a meaningful life must include rich memories, and travel to new places while experiencing  different cultures and people is key in achieving this. We are firm believers in the idea that great things happen when we step outside our comfort zone.  In 30 years of traveling and a long list of great experiences and memories I can honestly say this is true.

When developing our tours we spend alot of time with “boots on the ground” at the locations.  We are vetting our suppliers, evaluating risk, looking for new and interesting places to see, building experiences that will make great memories. We look back on 30 years of world travel and understand what makes a great travel experience.  We are a small business and are doing what we love and want to share the experience with others. Our groups are small 6- 10 persons which makes for a better touring experience.

Our philosophy on hotels is to book 4 & 5 star hotels and when possible choose hotels that are centrally located to allow a short walk to tourist ares with shopping and restaurants.  This way you can enjoy your free time easily.  There are times when 4 or 5 star is not available so we have to choose wisely in this case.

We love to try the local cuisine, wines and liqueurs that is why most of your meals are included. We think it is great to explore local restaurants and order from the menu and try to do this as much as possible.  We do not prefer to have “Half Board” meals at the hotel, however at times it makes sense, but we try our best to kept HB meals to a minimum.

Entry RequirementsWhat are the entry requirements for these countries?

This tour visits Croatia, and Slovenia. In order to enter these countries, U.S. and Canadian citizens need a valid passport with an expiration date extending at least six months beyond the date of reentry.

We recommend having at least two blank passport pages for entry stamps.
There is no visa required for U.S. or Canadian citizens.

If you are not a U.S. or Canadian citizen, you must contact each country’s consulate for your specific entry requirements.

For the most up-to-date entry requirements for these destinations visit https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/traveladvisories/COVID-19-Country-Specific-Information.html

TransportationWhat type of transportation will we use?

Our groups are small so we use smaller coaches usually about 15 pax capacity.  They are able to travel down narrow roads providing better access.

Due to their size there are no toilets onboard these types of coaches however we make regular stops to ensure your comfort along the way . Often, we’ll break up a long transfer with an included walking tour in a location of interest en route to our destination, so you’ll have ample time to stretch your legs as well.

Occasionally we travel on private boats or ferry boats to reach our destination.  These can vary in size from 20 passenger private vessels to large ferry boats capable of hundreds of passengers.

Physical requirementsHow strenuous are the activities?

You will need physical stamina to participate unassisted in touring activities for 6 to 8 hours with walking distances of 3 to 5 miles. Up to 15000 steps or more. Of course we will take frequents breaks to enjoy the food and drink.

You will walk for at least 2 hours daily and up to 5 hrs on terrain of various types like cobble stone streets, uneven surfaces, forest/lake trails and at times some steep inclines.

You will need physical ability to handle your luggage getting into your hotel room, entering and exiting boats and boarding aircraft using stairs when a jetway in not available, which is common in these countries.

LuggageHow much luggae can I bring?

You must be able to comfortably handle all your luggage by yourself at all times. Therefore, we strongly urge you to limit your luggage to one piece of luggage(of a size you can comfortably handle), a hand carry bag and a personal item.  Luggage the size of airline carry-on dimensions is strongly suggested as there may be times requiring you to carry your bag up stairs onto airplanes, etc.   Your luggage will need to fit in a taxi for short transfers.

 

AirportsAre the arriving and departing airports service by major airlines?

Yes! As of this writing, Dubrovnik  Airport(DBV)  and Zagreb Airport (ZAG) connects to many large European cities by these major airlines and their US partners: British Airways (OneWorld – American Airlines); Austrian, Lufthansa, Turkish Airlines (Star Alliance – United Airlines).

Photo / VideoWhat is photo / video instruction?

Photo & Video instruction is short lessons provided by us to you throughout the tour to help you improve your photography and videography skills.  They may include lessons on Composition, Lighting, or posing for example.

ShoppingWill there be time for shopping?

Yes! We carefully plan our tours to assure that the pace isn’t too busy or too idle. You’ll have free time to shop or to simply relax in the lovely surroundings. Remember to leave space in your suitcase. If you want to bring back some wine remember to bring one of those plastic wine travel pouches.

Map
Photos