Europe Vacation // Italy, Slovenia and Croatia
We finally did it! We crossed the pond and made it to Europe! Its been on our bucket list for a few years now and finally this summer we decided to take 10 days and go!
After doing some research we knew we wanted to stay off the beaten path as much as we could so we decided to fly into Venice, travel through Slovenia and then make our way to Croatia. We had a few spots in mind - stay in Venice for a few nights, travel up to Lake Bled in Slovenia for a few nights, then head to Croatia for the remainder of the trip. To do this, we new we needed a car and it was pretty easy to rent! Here are a few details about our trip.
Spoiler alert - WE MADE TONS OF ROOKIE MISTAKES while traveling in Europe - so read below if you want to avoid some of the silly things we did that made the trip a bit more difficult!
Many of these prints are for purchase! Feel free to get your little piece of Europe by checking out the print shop.
Day 1 - Fly out of Boston
We took an overnight flight from Boston to Venice, connecting through Zurich. It was a pretty easy flight and with Swiss Air they gave us two meals! Hooray! Because it was an overnight flight, we technically arrived in Venice on Day 2 of our trip.
Day 2 - 3
Arrive in Venice
We rented a car from the airport in Venice and headed over to the Island. We didn’t have a place to stay yet as we were going to just find an Air BnB. So we plug in the GPS and head on our way. But little did you know YOU CAN’T DRIVE INTO VENICE! Duh!
ROOKIE MISTAKE NUMBER 1: You can’t actually drive into Venice. You can however, park the car and walk into the rest of the island. So after getting super confused about this we found a parking garage, gathered up our luggage (which was a roller bag, two shoulder bags and my camera bag) and started to walk in the general direction we wanted to go.
We knew we wanted to stay near St. Marks Square because that seemed like the hot spot to stay. But after wandering around, tired, hungry and exhausted we took a break, sat down near a college and finally said - lets just find SOMEWHERE to stay. A local guy said there was a hotel nearby and we looked up Air BnB and found a spot nearby. It wasn’t near St. Marks Sq but at that point we were so tired anything would do.
On we went! By that time I was super hangry and couldn’t wait to just relax. We arrived at our hotel and it was the quaintest little sneaky pete ever! Hotel Ca' Nobile Corner and it was perfect! Away from the crowds, but within its own little square with several shops and restaurants right outside! You can check it out here. Finally we relaxed, went to dinner and enjoyed our first night in Venice.
After spending two nights in Venice, we grabbed the rental car and headed off to Slovenia. I had researched a few different routes and decided that the back-route would be the best for viewing the Julianne Alps.
The drive was amazing - except it decided to downpour once we got into the mountains and the temperature dropped to 60 degrees. But we made the best of it and still stopped along the way to grab some amazing photos.
We arrived in Lake Bled and, because we were trying to be cheap and save money by not purchasing data, we stopped at a local restaurant to steal their wifi so we could find a place to stay. ROOKIE MISTAKE NUMBER 2: Just buy the data plan. Seriously it will save you a lot of time and angst. But we found a place to stay for 2 nights, went and checked in and then went back out for dinner.
Since it was still raining out there wasn’t a whole lot to do. But we decided on visiting Bled Castle and then explored the local countryside. We also visited the Vintgar Gorge, just outside of Lake Bled. It was beautiful.
We had to check out of our hotel that morning so we decided to head on out to Croatia. Again we didn’t really have a plan. All I knew was I wanted to go to one of the National Parks - Kirka or Plitvice lakes. I also knew I wanted to avoid the crowds at Split and Dubrovnik. So we decided to head towards Pag Island. The drive to Pag was amazing. To get to Pag from Slovenia you have to travel through a number of tunnels that go through the mountains. Then, after traveling through what seemed like a 10 mile tunnel you emerge in a totally different climate zone. The rain/fog lifted and it was dry! The terrain was more desert like with rocky hillsides and little vegetation.
Again we didn’t know exactly where we were going so we decided to stop once we got onto the Island of Pag. Again because we were cheap and didn’t have data on our phone we stopped at a local pizza joint to eat and suck their wifi. Finally we settled on staying at an Air BnB just outside of Novalja. We arrived later in the evening so didn’t have time to do much exploring but we ventured out to the city of Novalja for some food. It was like a party town! So many people out and about, but we were pooped so just grabbed a bite and some ice cream. One thing that we quickly learned about Croatia is its MUCH CHEAPER! The dollar goes a long way! For example, we decided to get some ice cream and was kindof shocked that it was 5 Kun (Kuna is the Croatian currency). However after checking the conversion rate we realized it was only like $1.20. So of course we felt like we won the jackpot!
We explored the Island of Pag including traveling all the way up to Lun, which is at the tippy top of the Island. We also stopped at several seaside villages to check out the local watering holes. Again being shocked when we could get a beer for like $2. AMAZING! One thing I loved about Pag is that it really was off the beaten path. There were NO Americans. It was all European tourists, which really made it feel more authentic to us. We tried to learn the local language as well, but mostly everyone spoke english. Oh and the PIZZA - can I just say the PIZZA was amazing. I’m not exactly a pizza eater either. But I loved the Pizza!
We finished the day by checking out the sunset in Novalja which was just stunning. I really couldn’t believe how beautiful it was.
We left Novalja and decided to head south towards Kirka National Park. After debating between Kirka and Plitvice lakes, we decided on Kirka because we read the crowds are just unbearable at Plitvice Lakes and it costs much more to get in. So we headed south, deciding to stay in Zadar for a night. On the way, we stopped at the city of Pag, and the Pag Bridge. There was a creepy path that led down to the bridge abutments. Of course I was terrified because I had my camera with me, but George was very convincing - “You only live once”. So we trekked down and I’m so happy I did. The views from under the bridge were amazing and I was able to capture some great shots.
We continued towards Zadar and stopped at Nin, a really cute little fishing village that was protected by a fortress wall. We stopped for a beer but didn’t stay long because we wanted to get to Zadar at a decent time.
Arriving in Zadar was interesting. Its the oldest city in Croatia and has some really great spots. That night we walked out to the sea organ where we listened to the sounds of the waves. We walked along the seawall and stopped at the park made from the old fortifications. After eating some dinner we went back to the Air BnB for some rest.
We left Zadar that morning and headed to Kirka National Park. We decided to take the ferry in which was awesome. We arrived at the main park area and enter ROOKIE MISTAKE NUMBER 3: When you read reviews that say the park gets crowded - believe them! The park was packed, especially near the main falls area. But we decided to walk the trails and then get some food. To be honest, it was a bit like Disneyland. They didn’t let you off the path and only wanted you to walk/explore certain areas. I get it, they do want to preserve the natural habitat but it makes it really hard when there are so many people around. We did attempt to get into the water but quickly realized that it was much too crowded and actually quite cold! So we wandered out of the main park area to visit a few other spots within the national park.
We then started our trek to the next spot we wanted to see - Pula. We chose Pula because it was on our way back to Venice and also because I had read there were some awesome kayak tours that included cave diving! Yay! So we arrived in Pula that night and ended up getting some pizza for dinner - and by that time we were exhausted so headed to bed.
This entire trip we have avoided anything too touristy but we really were interested in doing a kayak tour with cliff jumping and cave diving. It seemed like a perfect way to end our trip so we went with Jistra Adventures who provided a 5 hour tour, that included lunch and an adult beverage! It was soooo worth the money. I would recommend it to anyone who travels to that area of the world. After the tour we decided to head back to our Air BnB for one last dinner. By that time we were reflecting on our thoughts about the trip, what we liked most, what we would do again/not do again.
We would wait to travel to Croatia again. It was a beautiful country but we would like to visit other places before returning
Venice was amazing. While everyone was right “you only need to stay in Vence for a day or two” it was two very special days. The city is so unique and there is nothing like it (that I’ve seen). The food is so good and the people are so friendly.
Slovenia. It was an interesting country. The countryside was beautiful and food delish, but I feel like I didn’t get to explore as much as I wanted. I do feel like I could spend some more time in that country. Although the weather was not super great.
Do your research. One thing we didn’t do was a lot of research. But we wanted it to be an adventure. However, a little bit of planning can go a long way - so perhaps next time we may plan a bit more beforehand!
Spend the money on wifi or get the sim card. It will save you a lot of time and hassle.
Don’t be against doing some touristy stuff. We loved the kayak tour - and actually booked it through Air BnB!
Oh and traveling back into the US is a pain in the butt. FYI - be prepared for long custom lines if you are traveling into a major US airport.