By Rick Steves
With Cameron Hewitt
Formats and Prices
- Trade Paperback $27.99 $34.99 CAD
- ebook $19.99 $25.99 CAD
- Comprehensive coverage for spending a week or more in Croatia and Slovenia, with side trips to Montenegro and Bosnia-Herzegovina
- Rick's strategic advice on how to get the most out of your time and money, with rankings of his must-see favorites
- Top sights and hidden gems, from Roman ruins in the heart of bustling Split to stunning waterfalls and mountains in Slovenia
- How to connect with culture: Taste wines at a vineyard in Hvar, tour museums and Baroque churches in Zagreb, and sample fresh seafood at an open-air market in Dubrovnik
- Beat the crowds, skip the lines, and avoid tourist traps with Rick's candid, humorous insight
- The best places to eat, sleep, and relax with a glass of local wine
- Self-guided walking tours of lively towns and interesting museums
- Detailed maps for exploring on the go
- Useful resources including a packing list, Slovenian and Croatian phrases, a historical overview, and recommended reading
- Over 800 bible-thin pages include everything worth seeing without weighing you down
- Complete, up-to-date information on Zagreb, Plitvice Lakes National Park, Istria, Split, Hvar, Korcula, Dubrovnik, the Bay of Kotor, Mostar, Sarajevo, Ljubljana, Lake Bled, the Julian Alps, Logarska Dolina and the Northern Valleys, Ptuj, Maribor, the Karst, Piran, and more
Croatia & Slovenia at a Glance
Map: Top Destinations in Croatia & Slovenia
Map: Map Legend
ABOUT THIS BOOK
WHEN TO GO
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
Traveling as a Temporary Local
Set sail on the shimmering Adriatic, for a remote island whose name you can’t pronounce but whose wonders you’ll never forget. Corkscrew your way up impossibly twisty mountain roads to panoramic vistas of cut-glass peaks. Lie on a beach in the hot summer sun, listening to the lapping waves as a Venetian-style bell tower clangs out the hour. Ponder the fading scars of the Yugoslav Wars, and admire how skillfully the locals have revitalized their once-troubled region. Dine on a seafood feast and sip a glass of local wine as you watch the sunset dip into the watery horizon...feeling smug for discovering this place before all your friends did. Unfamiliar as they might seem, Croatia and Slovenia have what you’ve been looking for: some of Europe’s most spectacular natural wonders, a fascinating recent history, and a spirit of adventure—much of it still off the beaten path.
Here in the land where the Adriatic meets the Alps, there are countless ways to have fun. Begin your adventure by flipping through this book, which covers Croatia’s and Slovenia’s best big-city, small-town, and back-to-nature destinations. You’ll get all the specifics and opinions necessary to wring the maximum value out of your limited time and money. If you’re planning a trip of a month or less, this book is all you need.
Croatia and Slovenia were once part of the union called Yugoslavia. But today, that feels like ancient history, as each country is proudly independent. Carefree Croatia, with its long and enticing coastline, beckons vacationers with dramatically scenic terrain, romantic old towns, sunshine-bathed pebbly beaches, and an irrepressible seafaring spirit. Perky Slovenia surprises travelers with its tidy quaintness, breathtaking mountainscapes, colorful towns, and impossibly friendly natives. And for good measure, I’ve also included detours into two other parts of the former Yugoslavia, each one offering a striking contrast to Croatia or Slovenia: the craggy coast of Montenegro, and a pair of diverse and fascinating Bosnian cities: bite-sized Mostar and bustling Sarajevo.
Use this legend to help you navigate the maps in this book.
Experiencing Europe’s culture, people, and natural wonders economically and hassle-free has been my goal for much of my life traveling, tour guiding, and writing. With this book, I pass on to you all the lessons I’ve learned, painstakingly updated—in person—for this edition.
Rick Steves Croatia & Slovenia covers the predictable biggies and adds a healthy dose of “Back Door” intimacy. Along with strolling the walls around Dubrovnik’s peerless Old Town, you’ll poke your way into a hidden little tavern clinging like a barnacle over the sea. I’ve been selective, including only the top destinations and sights. For example, Croatia has over a thousand islands. But why not focus on the very best? That’s Korčula, Hvar, and Mljet.
The best is, of course, only my opinion. But after spending my adult life researching Europe, I’ve developed a sixth sense for what travelers enjoy. Just thinking about the places featured in this book makes me want to sing klapa music.
ABOUT THIS BOOK
Rick Steves Croatia & Slovenia is a personal tour guide in your pocket. Better yet, it’s actually two tour guides in your pocket: The co-author of this book is Cameron Hewitt. Cameron writes and edits guidebooks for my travel company, Rick Steves’ Europe. Inspired by his Slavic roots and by the enduring charm of the Slovenian and Croatian people, Cameron has spent the past 15 years closely tracking the exciting changes in this part of the world. Together, Cameron and I keep this book up-to-date and accurate (though for simplicity we’ve shed our respective egos to become “I” in this book).
This book is organized by destinations. Each is a minivacation on its own, filled with exciting sights, strollable neighborhoods, affordable places to stay, and memorable places to eat.
In the following chapters, you’ll find these sections:
Planning Your Time suggests a schedule for how to best use your limited time.
Orientation has specifics on public transportation, helpful hints, local tour options, easy-to-read maps, and tourist information.
Sights describes the top attractions and includes their cost and hours.
Self-Guided Walks take you through interesting neighborhoods, pointing out sights and fun stops.
Sleeping describes my favorite accommodations, from good-value private rooms to cushy splurges.
Eating serves up a buffet of options, from inexpensive eateries to fancy restaurants.
Connections outlines your options for traveling to destinations by train, bus, and boat. In car-friendly areas, I’ve also included route tips for drivers.
Country Introductions for Croatia, Slovenia, and Bosnia give you an overview of each country’s culture, customs, money, history, current events, cuisine, language, and other useful practicalities.
The Understanding Yugoslavia chapter sorts out the various countries and conflicts, giving you a good picture of how Yugoslavia was formed, and why it broke apart.
Practicalities is a traveler’s tool kit, with my best tips about money, sightseeing, sleeping, eating, staying connected, and transportation (trains, buses, boats, car rentals, driving, and flights).
The appendix has the nuts-and-bolts: useful phone numbers and websites, a holiday and festival list, recommended books and films, a climate chart, a handy packing checklist, and Croatian and Slovenian survival phrases.
Browse through this book, choose your favorite destinations, and link them up. Then have a great trip! Traveling like a temporary local, you’ll get the absolute most out of every mile, minute, and dollar. And, as you visit places I know and love, I’m happy that you’ll be meeting some of my favorite Croatians, Slovenes, Bosnians, and Montenegrins.
This section will help you get started planning your trip—with advice on trip costs, when to go, and what you should know before you take off.
Your trip to this region is like a complex play—it’s easier to follow and really appreciate on a second viewing. While no one does the same trip twice to gain that advantage, reading this book in its entirety before your trip accomplishes much the same thing.
Design an itinerary that enables you to visit sights at the best possible times. Note festivals, holidays, specifics on sights, and days when sights are closed or most crowded (all covered in this book). For example, avoid coastal resort towns off-season (when they’re deserted) and during the busy months of July and August (when they’re miserably crammed). To connect the dots smoothly, read the tips in this book’s appendix on taking trains, buses, boats, or renting a car and driving. Designing a smart trip is a fun, doable, and worthwhile challenge.
Make your itinerary a mix of intense and relaxed stretches. To maximize rootedness, minimize one-night stands. It’s worth taking a long drive or bus ride after dinner to be settled into a town for two nights. Accommodations are more likely to give a good price to someone staying more than one night. Every trip—and every traveler—needs slack time (laundry, picnics, people-watching, and so on). Pace yourself. Assume you will return.
Reread this book as you travel, and visit local tourist information offices (abbreviated as TI in this book). Upon arrival in a new town, lay the groundwork for a smooth departure; confirm the train, bus, boat, or road you’ll take when you leave.
Even with the best-planned itinerary, you’ll need to be flexible. Update your plans as you travel. Get online or call ahead to double-check tourist information, learn the latest on sights (special events, tour schedules, and so on), book tickets and tours, make reservations, reconfirm accommodations, and research transportation connections.
Enjoy the friendliness of the local people. Connect with the culture. Set up your own quest for the best bell tower, mountain vista, or scenic seafront perch. Slow down and be open to unexpected experiences. Ask questions—most locals are eager to point you toward their idea of the right direction. Keep a notepad in your pocket for noting directions, organizing your thoughts, and confirming prices. Wear your money belt, learn the local currencies, and figure out how to estimate prices in dollars. Those who expect to travel smart, do.
Despite their heritage as formerly communist countries, Croatia and Slovenia are no longer Europe’s bargain basement. In fact, the cost of traveling here rivals neighboring Austria and Italy. Still, if you’re careful to avoid inflated tourist-trap prices (by following my tips on where to stay and where to eat), a trip to this region can be a good value. If you detour into Bosnia-Herzegovina, you’ll find prices substantially lower (though Montenegro is, if anything, pricier than Croatia and Slovenia).
Five components make up your trip costs: airfare, surface transportation, room and board, sightseeing and entertainment, and shopping and miscellany.
Airfare: A basic round-trip flight from the US to Ljubljana or Dubrovnik can cost $1,000-2,000, depending on where you fly from and when (cheaper in winter). Consider saving time and money in Europe by flying into one city and out of another; for instance, flying into Ljubljana and out of Dubrovnik often saves the extra cost (not to mention wasted time) of a 12-hour overland return trip to Ljubljana.
Surface Transportation: For the two-week whirlwind trip described in this chapter, allow $150 per person for public transportation (train, bus, and boat tickets). Train travelers will probably save money by simply buying tickets along the way, rather than purchasing a rail pass (see “Transportation,” here). If you’ll be renting a car, allow at least $230 per week, not including tolls, gas, and insurance. Car rentals are cheapest if arranged from the US, but exorbitant fees for dropping off in a different country can make it prohibitively expensive if you’re going to both Croatia and Slovenia (for strategies to avoid this headache, see “Renting a Car,” here). Don’t hesitate to consider flying, as budget airlines are often cheaper than taking the train (check www.skyscanner.com for intra-European flights). For more on public transportation and car rental, see “Transportation” in Practicalities.
Room and Board: You can thrive in Croatia and Slovenia on $100 a day per person for room and board (much less in Bosnia-Herzegovina). This allows $15 for lunch, $25 for dinner, and $60 for lodging (based on two people splitting the cost of a $120 double room that includes breakfast). Students and tightwads can eat and sleep for as little as $50 a day ($30 per hostel bed, $20 for groceries and snacks).
Sightseeing and Entertainment: Sightseeing is cheap here. Figure about $3-6 per major sight (museums), and $10-25 for splurge experiences (e.g., watching the Moreška sword dance in Korčula, or seeing Slovenia’s Lipizzaner stallions). You can hire your own private guide for three or four hours for about $100-150—a good value when divided among two or more people. An overall average of $20 a day works for most people. Don’t skimp here. After all, this category is the driving force behind your trip—you came to sightsee, enjoy, and experience Croatia and Slovenia. Fortunately for you, the region’s best attractions—the sea, mountains, and sunshine—are free.
Shopping and Miscellany: Figure $2-3 per postcard, coffee, beer, and ice-cream cone. Shopping can vary in cost from nearly nothing to a small fortune. Good budget travelers find that this category has little to do with assembling a trip full of lifelong memories.
Depending on the length of your trip, and taking geographic proximity into account, here are my recommended priorities:
|5 days, add:||Mostar, Split|
|7 days, add:||Korčula or Hvar (for a relaxing island experience); Montenegro’s Bay of Kotor (for dramatic scenery); or Sarajevo (for a more in-depth look at Bosnia)|
|8 days, add:||Plitvice Lakes|
|10 days, add:||Lake Bled and the Julian Alps|
|12 days, add:||Ljubljana, more time for Dalmatian islands|
|14 days, add:||Istria|
|16 days, add:||Whatever you skipped on day 7 (Korčula/Hvar, Montenegro, or Sarajevo)|
|18 days, add:||The Karst, Zagreb|
|21 days, add:||More mountains (Logarska Dolina) or coastal villages (Piran, Mljet)|
|More time, add:||Ptuj, Opatija, and even more islands and coastal villages|
The map and the two-week itinerary above include all of the stops in the first 14 days.
As you plan your trip, don’t underestimate the long distances. (For example, Lake Bled and Dubrovnik are a full day’s drive apart.) If you have a week or less, focus on either the south (Dalmatian Coast—Dubrovnik, Split, and the islands—plus Mostar and Montenegro) or the north (Slovenia, Istria, and Zagreb). The worth-a-detour Plitvice Lakes are stranded in no-man’s land between these two areas, but reachable from either one (easiest by car, possible by bus). Sarajevo also requires a detour (2.5 hours beyond Mostar)—but those who make the trek won’t regret it. (Frequent, affordable flights between Sarajevo and Zagreb make it more convenient than it seems.)
Where Should I Go?
The perfect Croatian vacation is like a carefully refined recipe—a dash of this, a pinch of that, a slow simmer...and before long, you’ve got a delicious feast. Here’s my tried-and-true recipe for how to prioritize your time:
Begin with the biggies. Dubrovnik is a must, period. If you like big cities, Split is entertaining. Plitvice Lakes National Park, while difficult to reach, rarely disappoints. The bustling capital city, Zagreb—while far from Croatia’s famed beaches—is vastly underrated, and much appreciated by urbanites.
Fold in one or two seafront villages. Adriatic coastal towns are all variations on the same theme: A warm stone Old Town with a Venetian bell tower, a tidy boat-speckled harbor, ample seafood restaurants, a few hulking communist-era resort hotels on the edge of town, and soba and apartman signs by every other doorbell. Of course, each town has its own personality and claims to fame (for a quick run-down, see the “Croatia & Slovenia at a Glance” sidebar). Beach bums, sightseers, yachters, historians, partiers—everyone you’ll talk to has their own favorite town. Don’t trust this advice blindly, and don’t sweat the decision too much. If a beach vacation is your goal, you can hardly go wrong.
- "The country's foremost expert in European travel for Americans."—Forbes
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- "His guidebooks are approachable, silly, and even subtly provocative in their insistence that Americans show respect for the people and places they are visiting and not the other way around."—The New Yorker
- "Travel, to Steves, is not some frivolous luxury—it is an engine for improving humankind, for connecting people and removing their prejudices, for knocking distant cultures together to make unlikely sparks of joy and insight. Given that millions of people have encountered the work of Steves over the last 40 years, on TV or online or in his guidebooks, and that they have carried those lessons to untold other millions of people, it is fair to say that his life’s work has had a real effect on the collective life of our planet."—The New York Times Magazine
- "[Rick Steves] laces his guides with short and vivid histories and a scholar's appreciation for Renaissance art yet knows the best place to start an early tapas crawl in Madrid if you have kids. His clear, hand-drawn maps are Pentagon-worthy; his hints about how to go directly to the best stuff at the Uffizi, avoid the crowds at Versailles and save money everywhere are guilt-free."—TIME Magazine
- "Steves is a walking, talking European encyclopedia who yearns to inspire Americans to venture 'beyond Orlando.'"—Forbes
- “…he’s become the unofficial guide for entire generations of North American travelers, beloved for his earnest attitude and dad jeans."—Outside Magazine
- "His books offer the equivalent of a bus tour without the bus, with boiled-down itineraries and step-by-step instructions on where to go and how to get there, but adding a dash of humor and an element of choice that his travelers find empowering."—The New York Times
- "His penchant for creating meaningful experiences for travelers to Europe is as passionate as his inclination for making ethical choices his guiding light."—Forbes
- "[Rick Steves'] neighborhood walks are always fun and informative. His museum guides, complete with commentary about historic sculpture and storied artworks are wonderful and add another dimension to sometimes stodgy, hard-to-comprehend museums."—NBC News
- On Sale
- Aug 1, 2023
- Page Count
- 880 pages
- Rick Steves