2018 sees a host of European nations celebrate a variety of centenaries, with festivities ranging from major parties to muted toasts and everything in between. Over the next few months, we’ll be putting together a number of centenary itineraries for various nations under our umbrella, and we’ve already covered Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in the Baltic.
The Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes also came into being 100 years ago this year, although most will know the former state as Yugoslavia. 10 days simply isn’t enough to traverse all of its former republics in any sort of meaningful fashion, so we’re splitting it all up (joke possibly intended). Let’s start with Slovenia and Croatia.
So you’ve got 10 days in which to explore the best that Croatia and Slovenia have to offer. Our itinerary starts in Zagreb, the capital and largest city in Croatia. The city has always had one eye on the West, and as such it represents a comfortable way to ease into the ways of this part of the continent. Two days in Zagreb will set the tone for the rest of the trip, although use the second of these to check out the nearby Medvednica Nature Park.
After ticking off the museums and galleries of the Croatian capital, make the move into Slovenia and its eastern region of Štajerska. Maribor is the capital and biggest city in the region, and could be a contender for most underrated in this part of the world. The oldest vine in the world is found in the city, situated on a tranquil stretch of riverside greenery. Ptuj is also in the vicinity, and those with extra time should absolutely make the trip to Slovenia’s oldest town. If you can do this around carnival time, then even better.
After drinking all that wine in Maribor, head west towards the majestic little capital of Slovenia. Ljubljana holds a special place in our hearts for a variety of reasons, and the architecture of Jože Plečnik is one. The entire town seems to have been built from his designs, and every bit of his work is worth admiring. The Ljubljana Castle stands high above the town, offering some of the best views of Ljubljana. The very best view comes from Nebotičnik however, once the tallest residential building on the continent.
What is there to say about Lake Bled that hasn’t already been said? Bodies of water simply don’t come more idyllic than this. The jagged mountains and daunting castle provide a stunning back drop to a lake focused on its iconic island, itself centred around an almost-too-picturesque church. Lake Bled deserves every single tourist it gets. If the numbers get too much for you, then nip out to Bled’s bigger brother down the road, the equally wondrous Lake Bohinj. Spend the evening back in Ljubljana, working your way through the city’s growing craft beer scene.
Slovenia is often described as Europe in miniature, a claim you can confirm by following up a day of lakes and mountains by relaxing by the sea. Slovenia doesn’t have a huge amount of seaside but it doesn’t waste a jot of it. Piran, Koper and Izola are close enough to hop around, although the clubs and bars of Portorož (not to mention the hotels) make it the best bet for the evening.
It’s back to Croatia on day seven, and two options present themselves following a day on the Slovene coast. One of these is to continue along the sea and check out the port cities of Pula and Rijeka, the former home to an excellently maintained Roman Colosseum and the latter putting up a solid case as the best up and coming town in the region. There is plenty of seaside to come however, so we suggest heading inland to the incredible Plitvice Lakes National Park. This is Croatia’s most beautiful spot, and that isn’t an honour awarded lightly.
The final three days of this whistle-stop tour should be handed over to the most popular part of the region, when it comes to mass tourism anyway. Croatia’s coastline seems to have been described as ‘undiscovered’ for years, although it has been an extremely long time since that was true. Zadar and Šibenik are definitely still underrated, and the seaside combo of the Sea Organ and Sun Disk in the former are must-sees.
Diocletian’s Palace dominates proceedings in Split, and with good reason. The maze of narrow streets and white marble makes for a memorable experience, one accentuated by escaping onto the expanse of blue that is the Adriatic Sea. The town the Italians call Spalato is also home to some of the best restaurants in the region, not to mention Croatia’s best wine bar in the Shape of Marvlvs Jazz and Library Bar.
The 10 day run comes to an end in the home of mass tourism in the former Yugoslavia. Dubrovnik’s popularity has gone through the roof thanks to Game of Thrones, but the old town remains one of the best in the area. There is plenty to see and do here, but those seeking a peaceful end to their journey should jump a boat and head out to one of the many surrounding islands. You can’t really go wrong, but Mljet gets our vote. This time, at least.
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