Bay of Kotor, as seen from inside the gorge, from higher up and farther away. An overview of Kotor and the bay with cruise ships in the water, mountains on all sides
Balkans,  Europe,  Road Trips

The Ultimate Balkan Road Trip

The Balkans are such a beautiful area of Europe, that after visiting Slovenia and Croatia in 2016, we returned in 2017 to make a Balkan road trip. This time we did a tour of Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Montenegro. Our favorite way of doing road trips is just drive to a campground or book a hotel only hours before arriving at the place. Read on to see our itinerary which is filled with waterfalls, water fun, sun, the beach, gorgeous nature and history.

Balkan Road Trip

Day 1: Drive from Ljubljana to Izola (132 kilometers/82 miles, about 1.5 hours)

Day 2: Drive from Izola to Gračišče (30 kilometers/19 miles, about 45 minutes)

Day 3: Drive from Gračišče to Zadar (303 kilometers/188 miles, about 5 hours), crossing the border with Croatia

Day 4: Explore Zadar

Day 5: Drive from Zadar to Šibenik (74 kilometers/46 miles, about an hour and 10 minutes)

Day 6: Beach day

Day 7: Explore Krka National Park

Day 8: Explore Aquapark Dalmatia

Day 9: Drive from Šibenik to Ploče (177 kilometers/110 miles, about an hour and 10 minutes)

Day 10: Drive from Ploče to Kotor (204 kilometers/127 miles, about 4 hours), crossing the border with Bosnia, Croatia and Montenegro

Day 11: Explore Kotor

Day 12: Drive from Kotor to Opuzen (180 kilometers/112 miles, about 3 hours and 45 minutes), crossing the border with Croatia, Bosnia and again Croatia)

Day 13: Drive from Opuzen to Međugorje (80 kilometers/50 miles, about 1.5 hours), crossing the border with Bosnia

Day 14: Drive from Međugorje to Imotski (72 kilometers/45 miles, about 1.5 hours), crossing the border with Croatia

Day 15: Drive from Imotski to Naklo (602 kilometers/374 miles, about 6 hours and 10 minutes), crossing the border with Slovenia

Day 16: Drive from Naklo to Mojstrana (39 kilometers/24 miles, about 30 minutes)

Day 17: Bob sled

Day 18: Going home

Day to Day Itinerary

This Slovenia Croatia Bosnia Montenegro itinerary gives plenty of time to explore each city or attraction. Next to famous places there’s also time for off-the-beaten-path attractions.

Day 1: Arriving in Slovenia

On the first day you arrive in Slovenia either by car (like us) or by plane. Drive from the airport of from the border to Izola. We came from Salzburg in Austria and took the Karawanken tunnel into Slovenia. We had rain all day the way through Austria and Slovenia. If it’s not pouring down explore the Mediterranean beach town of Izola. It has Medieval streets and pastel colored houses.

Day 2: Koper

The Praetor Palace, as seen while standing on the square in front, with on the left a high tower, not completely visible. The Palace has white stones and  kanteels
The Praetor Palace

Koper is close to Izola. A beautiful port city on the small Slovenian coast. It’s a city with narrow streets and piazzo’s. Koper is influenced by Venice and is situated on an island, connected to the mainland with a dam. The Pretoska Palača is a beautiful white palace. On the same square is the Stolnica, a Renaissance and Gothic cathedral. Next to strolling around the city and admiring the buildings, there’s also a regional museum housed in the Belramoni-Tacco palace.

On the way to Grascice, mountains covered with green forest. In front some houses, in the back a tower
On the way to Grascice

Take the roads through the mountains towards Gračišče for perfect views on the coast and small mountain villages.

Day 3: The Kvarner Bay

Kvarner coast, the sea with one lone sailer in it on the right. In the back mountains. All with a blue haze over it
Kvarner coast
Kvarner coast, the Kasrt mountains rising up, with a bay in front with houses
Kvarner coast

Drive from Gračišče to Rijeka in Croatia. From here follow the road along the coast towards Zadar. The coast is beautiful with all the islands on one side and the Karst mountains on the other side.

Day 4: Zadar

The forum and a church, the forum is in front of the orthodox church
The forum and a church
Making glass at the museum
Making glass at the museum
Greeting to the Sun, a large area on the harbor with blue colored glass . Many people are walking on it
Greeting to the Sun

Zadar is a hidden gem in Croatia. Such a beautiful city with a great vibe. We loved our visit here in 2016, so we returned in 2017. Wander around the old town, the small streets and squares. The old town is on a peninsula and is easily reachable through pedestrian bridges. We strolled around the old town and visited the Museum of Ancient Glass. Other highlights in the old town are the St. Donat church from the 9th century, the archeological museum and forum.

The sunset at Zadar, sun is yellow and orange behind some clouds setting in the sea
The sunset at Zadar

But the absolute highlight is the sunset in Zadar. It’s absolutely one of the best we’ve ever seen. Lots of people gather at the promenade before sunset. There’s a sea organ and the Greeting to the Sun. You can walk or run over this large artwork that displays a lightshow in the evening.

Day 5 + 6: The Dalmatian Coast

In the sea is aplaything lying to climb and slide on.
Playing at the sea

Drive from Zadar to Šibenik, following the Dalmatian coast. If you’re lucky you can find a spot to park your car and enjoy the beach. If not then drive on to Šibenik where there are several beaches, where you can have fun at the beach. We played at a bouncy castle on the water, in swimming pools and the beach at Solaris Beach Resort and loved it.

The sea in forefront, in the middle is an island, then a yellow and blue colored sky. A low hanging branch in the left corner.
Sunset at the beach resort
The promenade next to the Adriatic sea. A island with mountains on the horizon. The sun setting with colors of red, yellow and blue.
A fiery sunset

The sunsets at Šibenik were magical, so be at the beach in the evening to enjoy these.

Day 7: Krka National Park

Yuri and Paul swimming near Skradinski Buk. Surrounded by other people. In the background the waterfalls flowing down.
Yuri and Paul swimming near Skradinski Buk

A beautiful national park just 15 kilometers/9.3 miles away from Šibenik. The heart of Krka National Park is the river Krka. There are 7 (!) waterfalls in this part of the river, all travertine waterfalls. Skradinski Buk is the most popular or the 7, it’s also the largest one. There’s a path that takes you around the waterfall, duration is about an hour.

Day 8: Aquapark Dalmatia

People being splashed by the waterbucket that drops.
And it drops

We spent a whole day of water fun at Aquapark Dalmatia, which is on Solaris Beach Resort. If the weather is less hot compared to when we were there or if you’re not such a big fan of water parks, then explore Šibenik, it has some beautiful buildings.

Day 9: Trogir

Trogir skyline, as seen from the other side of the water
Trogir skyline
Details of a building in Trogir
Details of a building in Trogir

Drive further along the beautiful Dalmatian coast and stop at the city of Trogir. Trogir is on a small island and is a historical marble. The island has a rich history of 2000 years. The city is also nicknamed Little Venice. When wandering the streets of the old town you can see comeback the different periods of time and rule.

Day 10: The Dalmatian Coast

One of the stalls selling fresh produce, seen from the front, on the side of the road in the shade
One of the stalls selling fresh produce
The delta area, as seen from above
The delta area

The whole day drive along the Dalmatian coast further South. Enjoy the small towns you’ll pass, the beaches, the views on the Adriatic Sea and the many islands in front of the Croatian coast. You’ll pass along the historic city of Split, which is worth a stop. After Split is an area which forms a delta, with numerous orchards and stalls selling fresh produce.

Before you pass Dubrovnik you enter Bosnia. A small piece of the Dalmatian coast is part of this country. After about 9 kilometers/6 miles you enter Croatia again. Expect long waiting lines on both borders.

To show the view on Dubrovnik from afar. day in Dubrovnik
Dubrovnik

The historic city of Dubrovnik is all the way South and you can see it from the road. When you’ve passed Dubrovnik there’s a popular viewpoint with a view on the fortified city.

Drive all the way to Montenegro, to the bay of Kotor. Which is simply stunning.

Day 11 + 12: Kotor

Bay of Kotor, as seen from the shore. High mountains rising up on all sides
Bay of Kotor
Bay of Kotor, as seen from the other side, high mountains rising up, towns on the shore
Bay of Kotor
Inside the old town of Kotor, stone buildings, steps leading to small streets and houses. Palm trees and other green tropic bushes
Inside the old town of Kotor

Kotor is a city that’s listed as UNESCO World Heritage. The city is on the bay of Kotor, which is one of the most beautiful bays in the world. It’s a fortified city. Stroll around the old town, with small streets, the old city walls and cute shops. You’ll be surrounded by high cliffs behind and in front of the harbor. There are several beautiful old churches, for which the city is known.

If you want to walk along the old city walls, do this early in the morning. During the day the heat is too much. The ancient walls stretch for 4.5 kilometers/3 miles above the city. There’s also the Castle of San Giovanni with a perfect view on Kotor and the bay of Kotor.

Day 13: Mostar + Međugorje

On day 12 you leave Montenegro again for Croatia, stay the night in Opuzen, near the delta area. The next day it isn’t that far to the border with Bosnia.

Stari Most and the old town of Mostar
Stari Most and the old town of Mostar
Mostar as seen from Stari Most, the river meandering through the city, lots of green on both sides
Mostar as seen from Stari Most

Visit the city of Mostar with its world famous bridge, the Stari Most. In the 1990s most of the old town and this bridge were destroyed in the war. However the bridge has been restored to its former glory. Mostar is further known for its Tirkish style houses. The old town and Stari Most are on the UNESCO World Heritage list. Mostar is different from the other cities on this road trip, no Venetian style city, but Ottoman style. Creating a totally different feeling and vibe.

Later in the day drive to Međugorje, a popular pilgrimage site in Southwestern Bosnia.

Day 14: Kravica Waterfall

Kravica Waterfall, part of it. A travertine waterfall, lots of green in between the waterfalls several drop downs. A large pool in front. People swimming in it
Kravica Waterfall

A beautiful waterfall in a national park and one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Europe. You can swim near the waterfalls, which is perfect, since it can get very hot in this area this time of the year.

After this refreshing visit drive to Imotski, entering Croatia again.

Day 15: Modro jezero + Crveno jezero

Cvreno jezera, the red lake, but it's green colored. It's down in the ravine, a walking path goes down in front of you
Cvreno jezero
Modro jezero, a blue lake looking down on it, between high rising cliffs
Modro jezero

In Imotski are the Modro jezero and Crveno jezero, two lakes. One green colored and the one blue colored. There’s a walking path down to the green colored lake. The blue colored lake can be seen from the road. Crveno jezero means the red lake, but to us it looked green colored.

After this, cross the whole of Croatia and enter Slovenia.

Day 16 + 17: Julian Alps

Bobsled, a green grass mountain, track of the bobsled going down. With one cart on it
Bobsled

Drive to Mojstrana and explore the beautiful Northwest of Slovenia. We took a rest day on day 16 and went bob sledding on day 17. Which was fun. Poletno sankališće besna pehta is in Kranjska Gora near the ski area. In 2016 we also stayed in Mojstrana and made trips to the Vintgar gorger and Lake Bled. Which are in close proximity to Mojstrana. There’s also ample hiking trails in and near Mojstrana in the Julian Alps.

Day 18: Going home

Leave Slovenia and the Balkans. You can extend your trip with the Trieste and Dolomites road trip or with a week in Austria in reverse. We drove home through a rainy Austria, Germany, Luxembourg and Belgium. With stops in Germany and Luxembourg.

Where to Eat

On our trip we had a mix of homecooked meals and eating out. Will list per country where we had dinner, lunch or a snack.

Slovenia

Meat plate at Izola, lots of different kinds of grilled meat om a huge ovale shaped plate with some veggies on the sides
Meat plate at Izola

We had a lovely dinner at Restavracija avtokampa Jadranka in Izola with a meat plate for the boys and a Ljubljanka schnitzel for me. The next day we also had the breakfast buffet at this restaurant, which was simple, but delicious.

At kavarna Kapitanija in Koper we had delicious ice cream. Paul had the after eight coupe, Yuri a kids bee ice cream and a chocolate ice cream bowl.

We had another breakfast buffet at Hotel Marinšek Naklo in Naklo. Was more elaborate with hot and cold items.

At Knedl Gostice in Kranjska Gora we had apple strudel and sweet cheese dumplings. Both were delicious.

Gostilne Rozca, as seen from the front with the lovely covered terrace
Gostilna Rozca

A delicious lunch is easy to get at Gostilna Rožca in Mojstrana. We had a 4-coure lunch here with salad, soup, dumplings, ćevapčići, spaghetti and chocolate ice cream.

Croatia

We had a jumbo craxy pizza at Crazy Pizza in Zadar. We shared one with the 3 of us, it was so large. It was hot so we had a cone with ice cream at Slad Ice Cream in the Old Town of Zadar.

At Solaris Beach Resort in Šibenik we had ice cream, cakes, mocktails and donuts (not all at once) at Sweet Dreams. We had drinks at the Lanterna Bar. Dinner one evening at the Dalmatian Ethno Village and lunch with burgers and fries at the aquapark.

Street Food Point in Trogir had a delicious and large chicken sandwich. We also had lunch on the shaded terrace of Steak & Pizza Venezia in Omiš.

View from the restaurant terrace at Hotel Venezia
View from the restaurant terrace at Hotel Venezia

Starting with a banana split ice cream and strawberry ice cream we had dinner at Hotel Venezia Imotski. We had soup, spaghetti carbonara, fried calamari with fries and schnitzel with fries.

Our last dinner in Croatia was on the road at McDonald’s Vrata Jadrana, Kastav in Cikovići.

Montenegro

Us at Restoran Vidikovac
Us at Restoran Vidikovac
The view on the Bay of Kotor at night, lights are on all the way on the shore. Mountains are still a bit visible
The view on the Bay of Kotor at night

In Montenegro we had dinner twice and lunch once at Restoran Vidikovac, with the most perfect view on Kotor itself and the bay of Kotor. We had grilled fresh fish and delicious meat dishes here. All well prepared and with the most amazing view so we kept returning.

We had delicious ice cream cones at Restaurant Scorpio in Old Town Kotor.

At Restoran Monte Carlo we had a cheap and delicious lunch before leaving Montenegro. We had soup for Paul, ćevapčići for Yuri, spaghetti carbonara for Paul and stuffed mushrooms with rice for me.

Bosnia

In Mostar we had blue ice cream and kremsnita at National Restaurant Aščinica Balkan. In Međugorje we had dinner at Restoran Zagreb. Yuri had spaghetti carbonara, I had schnitzel with mushroom sauce and Paul had liver. As dessert we had chocolate crepes.

We had a simple but good breakfast in the garden of our guesthouse in Međugorje. At Kravica waterfalls we had a chicken burger, ćevapčići, fries and a burger for lunch at Grill Slapovi Kravica.

Where to Stay

We mixed pitching our tent with apartment and hotel stays on our Slovenia Croatia Montenegro Bosnia road trip.

It was so hot (there was a heat wave 40°C+/104°F+) in the South, to warm to pitch a tent. So in Southern Croatia, Montenegro and Bosnia we had apartments and hotels.

In the first week we had so much rain that we also booked apartments and hotels. This way we stayed at only two campgrounds the whole 3 week trip.

Slovenia

We stayed one night at Restavracija avtokampa Jadranka in Izola. It was pouring down when we arrived. We had a room a bit in the back, so the Wi-Fi was crappy. It was convenient that there was a restaurant downstairs. Close to the beautiful cities of Piran and Koper and in a popular beach town.

Homestay Razman in Gračišče we stayed in for one night. We had stayed here the year previously and had loved the spacious studio we had here with our own kitchen.

Camping Kamne
Camping Kamne

Camping Kamne in Mojstrana was also a return visit. We had started our visit in Slovenia here in 2016, in 2017 we ended with the campground. Two nice sisters run the campground, which also rents out some cabins. It’s perfectly situated in between the Julian Alps.

At Hotel Marinšek Naklo we stayed one night. We arrived late at this hotel and they luckily still had room for us. We had stopped at two hotels before, but the first one the room wasn’t clean, the second one the a/c was broken down.

Other places we can recommend in this part of Slovenia are Hostel Xaxid in Črni Kal and Ljubljana Resort Hotel & Camp in Ljubljana. We stayed at these 2 spots back in 2016.

Croatia

In Zadar we rented an apartment for 2 nights in the suburbs (so to speak), not close to the old town, but with our own kitchen, washing machines and terrace. Can’t find the name of the apartment anymore, but in 2016 we stayed at Krišto Apartment, which was closer to the city center in Zadar. Really nice owners.

We pitched our tent for 4 nights at Solaris Beach Resort in Šibenik. Right on the beach, it was really large with several hotels, a marina, restaurants, holiday rentals, swimming pools, play area’s and an aqua park.

On our way to Montenegro we stayed one night at the Jezera Rooms in Ploče. On our way to Bosnia we had one night at Hotel Merlot in Opuzen. Our last night in Croatia was at Hotel Venezia in Imotski with a very spacious room and a grand panoramic view at the restaurant.

Montenegro and Bosnia

We booked our stays in Montenegro and Bosnia through Booking. Both had really kind owners. We stayed 2 nights in Kotor at Panoramic Paradise and 1 night at Rooms Ivana in Međugorje.

When to Visit

We visited in July and August. We had warm weather everywhere, however we arrived in Slovenia in the pouring rain.

In the South we had hot weather, from Šibenik on there was 30°C+/86°F+ and we even had 40°C+/104°F+ further South in Croatia, Montenegro and Bosnia. In the Julian Alps it was still warm weather and usually a thunderstorm in the afternoon (this is due to being in between the mountains).

You can drive this route all year long, however the Julian Alps have snow in Winter time. Mostar is cold, wet and cloudy in the Winter. The Dalmatian coast has a Mediterranean climate, so long, hot Summers and milder Winters.

Hiring a Car and Airports

We drove the route with our own car. For this road trip we didn’t rent a car, but we have excellent experiences with Hertz and Alamo.

When arriving by plane before embarking on this road trip: Ljubljana has an international airport, Ljubljana Airport. Trieste-Friuli Venezia Giuli Airport in Italy is located 69 kilometers/43 miles away from Izola and 142 kilometers/88 miles away from Mojstrana.

Tips

  • Slovenia and Croatia have toll roads. You have to have a vignet to drive on the highways. The toll roads (not that many, just the main road from North to South) you have to pay at toll booths.
  • Slovenia has Euros, Croatia has Kuna, Montenegro has the Euro and Bosnia has the convertible mark.

Alternative Itineraries

Stay a day less in Šibenik. So that can have some time in Plitvice Lakes National Park and divide the drive up North from Southern Croatia to Slovenia. We visited the Plitvice Lakes National Park on our 6 week European road trip in 2016.

The itinerary would then be that day 9 becomes day 8, day 10 becomes day 9, and so on.

Day 14: Drive from Imotski to Plitvička Jezera National Park (305 kilometers/190 miles, about 3 hours and 10 minutes)

Day 15: Explore Plitvice Lakes National Park

Day 16: Drive from Plitvička Jezera National Park to Mojstrana (311 kilometers/193 miles, about 4.5 hours)

Day 17 + 18 are the same as the original route.

That Concludes Our Balkan Road Trip

Hope you enjoy this road trip as much as we’ve done! The Balkans is a beautiful region.  

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