DAY 1- Venice
Arrive in style! Your airport arrival transfer is by private water taxi. Glide into the centre of Venice by boat to gain an appropriate sense of perspective of this unique city from the water… don’t forget to keep your camera handy! This watery wonderland of bridges, towers, piazzas, canals, churches and gondolas – practically unchanged for 600 years – is literally sinking under the weight of iconic sights. You may choose to take a boat tour or a gondola ride on the Grand Canal, passing under the Rialto Bridge and admiring some of the city's many monuments from the water. Perhaps take a walking tour of the highlights, including St. Mark's Square and the Basilica, Doges’ Palace, Accademia Bridge, and the Bridge of Sighs. There are also numerous museums to visit. After the group meeting tonight, do not be afraid to lose yourself on a short walk of discovery, through mysterious, quiet alleys and sleepy canals.
DAY 2- Postojna Caves/ Ljubljana/ Bled
This morning, farewell Venice and Italy, and travel to the Postojna Caves (approximately 2 hours), where you will have some free time to have lunch before exploring the cave. A network of 20 kilometres of passages, galleries and chambers, Postojna is the largest classic karst cave in Europe. In 1872, railway lines were laid in the cave and electricity arrived in 1884. Begin with a 2-kilometre open-top train ride through narrow tunnels to this jungle of stalactites and stalagmites. In the vast chambers the electric lighting allows you to admire the size and splendour of the underground world, where the geological past is recorded in a unique manner. The wealth of speleothems, calcite and formations is dazzling, and they abound in a variety of shapes, colours and age. Continue on to Ljubljana (approximately 40 minutes), a city full of style and sophistication, and a treasure-trove of history, monuments, churches, museums, and great restaurants. On arrival you’ll take a guided tour around the old city centre, renowned for its unique architectural appearance. The Old Town consists of three main squares and baroque houses. Visit Ljubljana Castle, the Town Hall, Cathedral of St. Nicholas and the Dragon Bridge. You'll also pay a visit to the open market under arcades before continuing to the lake side town of Bled.
DAY 3- Lake Bohinj/ Bled
This morning you’ll drive through the misty Sava Bohinjka Valley to beautiful Lake Bohinj (approximately 30 minutes). The lake is the largest permanent natural lake in Slovenia, formed by a glacier and fed by several underwater springs – the most well known is the karst spring Govic. Take a cable car to the top of Mt Vogel, where you will be greeted by simply astonishing views of this incredibly stunning region – evergreen woods sloping down the mountains to touch the brilliant blue waters. You’ll then have free time to enjoy this amazing area. Back down in the valley it's then back to Bled. With immense natural beauty, Bled, together with its surroundings, ranks among the most beautiful of alpine resorts. It's renowned for its mild, healing climate and thermal lake water. Enjoy lunch at a local restaurant and then embark on some sightseeing. Head to the cliff-top Old Bled Castle, dating from the 15th century and overlooking sparkling Lake Bled, then take a Pletna boat ride (a wooden, awning-covered boat rowed by a special oarsman) to the island on Lake Bled – climb up the 99 steps to St Mary's Church. Enjoy a free evening – be sure to seek out the famous Bled cream cake, which isn’t hard; nearly every cafe and cake shop in town claims that theirs is the best.
DAY 4- Motovun/ Rovinj/ Pula
Farewell Slovenia this morning and drive to Motovun, one of the most interesting towns in Croatia (approximately 2 hours). Motovun sits on the top of a cone-shaped hill, 277 metres above sea level, surrounded by the romantic and natural diversity of the bountiful Mirna River Valley, whose forests are famous for truffle hunting. Motovun is the one of the most beautiful medieval towns in Croatia's Istria region, with houses scattered all over the hill. The town grew around a core settlement surrounded by well-fortified walls, and its Celtic origin name comes from the word 'Montona', which means the 'town on the hill'. The medieval charm of the town is still found in its well-preserved architecture. Truffles are a glamourous-sounding local produce in this region. Enjoy a truffle tasting combined with local speciality dishes such as fuži (Istrian pasta), fritaja (Croatian omelette) or our producer’s somewhat exotic truffle ice cream! Your sommelier will pair your tasting with suitable Istrian wines to try. Continue on to the romantic Croatian town of Rovinj, one of the best-kept towns on the Adriatic Coast (approximately 1 hour). Among Rovinj's qualities is the beautiful, architecturally intact old town centre, with a relaxed Mediterranean feel. Through the centuries, Rovinj’s character has enchanted many an artist or writer, including Jules Verne. Whilst in Rovinj you will also pay a visit to the venetian-style St. Euphemia Church, dedicated to the early Christian martyr whose marble coffin is said to have floated to the Rovinj shoreline. Continue on to Pula, only a short drive and tonight’s destination (approximately 40 minutes).
DAY 5- Pula/ Opatija/ Plitvice
This morning, explore the famous Roman Amphitheatre of Pula with a local guide, and step back in time to the town’s heyday as a Roman regional administrative centre. Overlooking the harbour, the arena is the 6th largest surviving amphitheatre in the world. Built in the 1st century, it was designed to hold up to 20,000 spectators, who revelled in the bloodthirsty gladiatorial contests shown there. The 30 metre-high wall, inset with two rows of arches, is made entirely of local limestone, with gutters on top for collecting water and slabs that were used to hold a shady fabric canopy in place. In the late morning you will make your way inland with a stop at the town of Opatija (approximately 1.5 hours), a former resort town for wealthy Austro-Hungarian families. Here you’ll have the opportunity to walk along the famed centuries-old Franz Joseph I Promenade, better known as the Lungomare – a coastal footpath that stretches from Volosko to Lovran. There will be time for you to explore the stretch of the promenade closest to town, and to have lunch. In the afternoon, you will transfer to your hotel (approximately 2,5 hours), located in the Plitvice Lakes area.
DAY 6- Plitvice Lakes National Park/ Zadar
Today you will visit one of Croatia's most beautiful sites – Plitvice Lakes National Park. The park was given World Heritage status 20 years ago and comprises 19 hectares of wooded hills that surround 16 stunning turquoise lakes, all connected by a series of waterfalls. The area is populated by deer, bears, wolves, boars and some rare bird species, and the thick, primeval forest vegetation of beech trees, fir spruce and white pine adds another element to the park's beauty. You’ll have free time to explore here – all trails in the national park are well marked so it's difficult to get lost, but please follow the national park rules, which your leader will outline to you. After your memorable visit to the lakes, drive to the walled city of Zadar (approximately 1.5 hours). For centuries Zadar was the capital city of Dalmatia, and the city's rich heritage is visible at every step. Take an afternoon sightseeing tour of this splendid city – see the Roman Forum built in the 1st-Century and St. Donatus' Church, which dates back to the 9th century and is the most famous medieval basilica and trademark of the city. You’ll also see numerous other fascinating constructions from between the 12th and 16th centuries, like the reconstructed Romanesque St. Grisigono's Church, St. Mary's bell tower, St. Anastasia's Cathedral, and the People's Square. Lastly, you will visit the Three and Five Wells Squares. There is also an opportunity to visit the Gold and Silver Museum.
DAY 7- Zadar
Today is a free day in Zadar. There is so much to see and do in this harbour city, the hard thing is deciding what to choose. There are a number of excellent museums to visit including the Museum of Church Art, the Archeological Museum and the National Museum. Don't forget to visit the famous ‘Greeting to the Sun’ and the ‘Sea Organ’, two of the more modern sights of Zadar. The latter is a man-made organ on Zadar's Riva that works with the motion of the waves and 35 pipes to create a musical soundscape. You could also visit the vibrant fish markets of this port town, take a dip in the clear coastal waters, or explore the café culture and do some people watching. Your leader will also be able to offer you suggestions. Later, why not get together and try some Dalmatian food specialties at a local restaurant.
DAY 8- Split
After breakfast, you will drive to Split, making a few interesting stops on the way. Your first stop is at the town of Sibenik (approximately 1 hour), where you'll visit the St Jacob's Cathedral, a 15th century jewel that’s UNESCO protected. After some free time for lunch you will drive to Primošten (approximately 30 minutes), one of the most famous and picturesque small towns on the Adriatic. Explore the stone houses, churches, narrow alleys and lanes around the town’s old walls, where past and present sit in harmony. Continue on to your final destination of Split (approximately 1 hour). This is Croatia's second largest city, located in the heart of the Dalmatian coast and set on the azure waters of the Adriatic Sea against a backdrop of coastal mountains.
DAY 9- Trogir/ Split
This morning you will embark on a sightseeing tour of Split with a local guide. The city dates back 1,800 years, to the time when the Roman emperor Diocletian built a monumental imperial residence for his retirement. Today this fortified camp is an intriguing warren of narrow cobblestone streets where pre-Romanesque churches exist alongside Gothic chapels and a multitude of museums. You will also visit Diocletian's Palace, which was built in 295 AD and constitutes the heart of the city. Very much a living monument, it is framed by four gates, the most famous of which is the Golden Gate. In front of it stands a statue of the 10th-century bishop Grgur Ninski, who once opposed the pope and introduced the Croatian language into his services. In the afternoon you will visit Kastel Luksic's 16th-century castle and take a drive to the town of Trogir. Enjoy some free time to explore this quaint seaside town. Visit the cathedral where you can see the famous monument (a 13th-century portal of Dalmatian masonry) before returning to Split in the evening.
DAY 10- Hvar Island
After an early breakfast you will transfer to the port of Split for your ferry to Stari Grad on Hvar Island. Hvar is an incredibly green island, resplendent with fields of lavender, heather and rosemary (it sometimes goes by its old Greek names, 'Pharos' or 'Faros'). Enjoy some time for a stroll through Stari Grad, then transfer to the typically Dalmatian village of Jelsa. Try local grape varietal, Plavac Mali, at a wine tasting in a cellar modelled on ancient Roman dining rooms. Located underground and carved out of stone, it’s the same method of construction as was used to create Diocletian's cellars. The award winning winemaker is widely regarded to have instigated the renaissance of winemaking and viticulture in Hvar and consequently, is known as one of Croatia’s top producers. Jelsa is surrounded by pine forest and wonderful beaches. It was once a key maritime centre of the Adriatic with a large shipbuilding industry. From Jelsa you will transfer by vehicle back to Hvar Town. In the afternoon make the most of your time in the island’s main town by walking through this old-world city of Gothic buildings and marble streets.
DAY 11- Mljet Island
After breakfast, a ferry will take you back to the mainland. Then you will drive along the Peljesac peninsula to Prapratno and take an evening ferry to Mljet Island, the most southerly of the large Dalmatian Islands. A national park occupies half of this gorgeous island. Mljet is a modernised form of the ancient Greek word melita, which means honey. On arrival in Mljet you will be transferred to your feature-stay hotel. It is the best option on the island, and whilst it is basic the superb location in an idyllic spot make up for it – on the shores of Pomena harbour. This is your base for the next two nights.
DAY 12- Mljet Island
Enjoy a day of activities in Mljet, such as cycling, walking and canoeing. In the morning you will take a short walk to the spot where you pick up your bikes for a ride around the natural salt water lake of Veliko Jezero, the bigger of the two lakes on Mljet (approx 12 km). Take a small boat across to the islet of St Mary (Sveta Marija), located in the middle of the lake. Soak up the serenity and listen to birdsong as you enjoy lunch. Enjoy some free time to make your own discoveries. Make sure you explore the islet’s 12th-century Benedictine monastery. Return to the mainland and continue to the smaller lake of the island, Malo Jezero, where you have the opportunity to canoe and swim in the lake, or alternatively walk through the untouched beauty of the national park. After a full day you will walk back to your hotel in Pomena for a relaxing evening and dinner with peaceful views.
DAY 13- Dubrovnik
Take an early-morning ferry to Dubrovnik where you'll be transferred to your hotel. Once settled in, you will embark on a half-day sightseeing tour of the amazing Stari Grad (Dubrovnik's compact Old Town) with your leader. This walled treasure is often referred to as the 'pearl of the Adriatic' and is surprisingly tiny (400 m by 600 m within its protective walls). It's a lovely city to walk around, as it's been restored to its former glory since the damages of the 1991 conflicts. On your tour you will visit the Franciscan monastery, the Rector's Palace and take a walk along the City Walls. The remainder of the afternoon and evening is free for you to walk around at leisure.
DAY 14- Lokrum Island/ Dubrovnik
Travel by boat to the island of Lokrum. It's located off the coast of Dubrovnik's old town. In this quasi 'botanical garden' you'll encounter a collection of exotic Mediterranean plants. Lokrum is also strewn with many golden sandy beaches that are popular with the locals. You will visit the ruins of an old Benedictine monastery and enjoy great views back across to Dubrovnik as well as Napoleon's fortress. Return by boat to Dubrovnik at around lunchtime. At this point the afternoon is yours to spend as you please. In the evening you will enjoy dinner with your group to bid them farewell.
DAY 15- Dubrovnik
Your trip ends after breakfast this morning. If you're looking to extend your stay, additional accommodation can be arranged when you book this trip (subject to availability). If you'd like to continue travelling, it's easy to take a bus or ferry from Dubrovnik to other Croatian cities and islands, and some international destinations. There are also regular domestic flights to Zagreb where you can link up with international flights.