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Need ideas for Austria, Croatia & Slovenia

Discussion in 'General Discussion | Travel' started by RRD, Jan 31, 2018.

  1. RRD

    RRD Level 2 Member

    I've been reading the TA forums for the last few weeks trying to firm up an itinerary for a trip this June and I need some help. We have exactly 14 nights and want to visit Austria, Croatia, and Slovenia. Nature travel is our top most priority along with visiting and staying in quaint European towns/villages. We are the no-rush kind of travelers - don’t want to drive and want to take public transportation as much as possible, but we will drive if it makes sense in some places. I’ve researched a little and know that I want to go to the following places in these countries:

    o Austria (5 nights) – Want to stay at Hallstatt for two nights, Vienna and Salzburg

    o Slovenia (5 nights) – Lake Bled, Julian Alps, Triglav/Soca Valley

    o Croatia (4 nights) - Plitvice Lakes, Hvar Island

    Here are my preliminary questions that I can think of so far:

    What is the order that I should visit these countries in?

    Which airports to fly into and out of, from the US? Fly into Vienna (Austria) and fly out of Dubrovnik (Croatia)? Not a miles and points trip.

    Where should I situate myself in these countries so as to cover all the places on my list and also avoid checking in and out of hotels.

    What should be the ideal modes of transport in and between these countries?

    Any other suggestions for places to visit (for us nature lovers) instead of the ones I picked?

    I will appreciate any help and insight. Thank you in advance.
  2. italdesign

    italdesign Level 2 Member

    Halstatt disappointed me. The beauty was overshadowed by the intense tourism and noise. Don't expect a quaint village. Because it's so small, every corner was stuffed with visitors in July. That said, we didn't venture far from the village. You may find more peace farther out/up.

    My mom loved it. I didn't.

    You may find more tranquility in Slovenia (unlikely around Lake Bled). Bosnia and Herzegovina was heaven to me, and I have a similar travel style as you. I also hear great things about Macedonia.
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  3. RRD

    RRD Level 2 Member

    Thank you so much. Your comment about Halstatt makes me want to re-think it. I just have 14 days and it is very difficult to decide where to go, and it doesn't help that Eastern Europe feels like it is straight out of a story book. Would you suggest I skip Austria and just concentrate on Slovenia and Croatia?
  4. mec

    mec Silver Member

    Though not a points trip... I will pass on that you can fly VIE-DBV or DBV-VIE on the 1.5 hour Austria Air flight for 8k United miles per person per leg... this flight seems to cash price at about $900... so a few points might be useful if you decide that a flight between them is in order. Just about any other flight routing between those cities is an all day affair with layover / transfers.

    I'm sizing up a trip in that area and have been considering 3 nights in Vienna at Le Meridien on Starpoints.

    It seems like if you are interested in art museums and architecture Vienna could be a good place to spend some time. It is also a pretty good air hub.

    My plan had been to start with three nights in Vienna and end with three nights in Istanbul and try to pair down the possible things to do in Croatia and Montenegro to fill in the middle. But the current state of U.S. Turkish Visas has that plan a bit up in the air at the moment.
    Last edited: Jan 31, 2018
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  5. RRD

    RRD Level 2 Member

    Great info about the United flights, @mec . Thanks, I will most definitely look into it. We are not too interested in Vienna and are looking to spend only a day or two there, and that too away from the city in Wachau Valley.

    Istanbul is lovely and three nights is perfect to explore the city at a leisurely pace.
    Last edited: Jan 31, 2018
  6. italdesign

    italdesign Level 2 Member

    Not necessarily. I liked Vienna and Salzburg for what they are. I think you'll enjoy Vienna if you like leisure pace. It's one of the most relaxing big cities for me, with green space everywhere. The high quality of living is evident. The view from Melk Abbey in Wauchu Valley was a highlight:

  7. italdesign

    italdesign Level 2 Member

    That's a great one. I spent 15k Aeroplan miles + $55 tax on GVA-ZRH-DBV. There was no direct flight so we couldn't have used UA's 8k rate.

    Dubrovnik is another place overrun by tourists. Bosnia had better food for 1/3 the price.
  8. RRD

    RRD Level 2 Member

    Any ideas for Bosnia? I thought I read your trip report but did not see any pictures of Bosnia. Also, been to Hvar islands? I want to take a leisurely cruise from one of the islands in Croatia - any suggestions for that?
  9. Panache

    Panache Level 2 Member

    5 nights in Austria if you want to see Vienna and Salzburg is too little, IMO. We spent 5 days in Vienna and 3 in Salzburg and that was about right, to get a feel for the place and such. So much to see in Vienna if you haven't been.
  10. italdesign

    italdesign Level 2 Member

    I heard Hvar can be a party island, though not sure the entire island is like that.

    I haven't posted much publicly. Basically, I took a bus from Dubrovnik to Mostar, spent 2 days there, took a bus to Sarajevo, spent 4 days there. Loved every minute. The bus between Mostar and SJ is very scenic, though everyone says the train is even more scenic, but the schedule isn't timed well for Mostar to SJ, better for the reverse direction.

    B&H is an undiscovered gem. It is raw and authentic. Here are some pix to pique your interest.






    Not pictured is Sarajevo - a place I really loved but photos don't do it justice. It's an amazing place that must be experienced, as is the whole country.
  11. mec

    mec Silver Member

    Those last two pictures of Mostar are among the nicest I have ever seen.

    It's on the list of places I'm interested in, but there isn't enough of set plan for me to determine what will fit in where yet.

    How long did you spend there ita?
  12. italdesign

    italdesign Level 2 Member

    Thanks for your nice words, mec. The 2nd to last pic is actually Blagaj, which to me is one of the most beautiful places anywhere. Yet, there was hardly anyone there on a perfectly temperatured September day. We had a nice breakfast next to the running spring. We could dip our toes into the water while eating.

    I spent 6 days in BiH. Most ppl don't stay that long, but it was the right amount of time for me (being a leisure pacer like OP). A lot of backpackers visit multiple Balkan countries in one trip. From what I gathered, Macedonia is unspoiled like BiH. The others (Serbia, Montenegro, Croatia, Slovenia) are more developed overall, though of course they may have unspoiled parts.

    Originally BiH wasn't part of my trip. I was going to be in Europe for a week, ending in Dubrovnik. After reading Drew's (and others') praises of BiH, I extended an extra week so I could see what all the fuss is about. I'm very glad I did, and now I know.
  13. suljaga13

    suljaga13 Level 2 Member

    Most of the cities and towns have old strongholds from Otoman empire era. If u want to see real small town gem don't miss Tesanj (about 20 kms from Doboj).
  14. mec

    mec Silver Member

    Sarajevo seems to receive high praise from all who visit. What do you (intentionally left open to anyone who might respond) find to be the best way to experience the city and the surroundings.

    I think, for a traveler who has no experience with the Balkans, the pictures of the Plitvice Lakes waterfalls and the Adriatic coast prove to be an irresistible draw. The inland areas seem to be missing some of those sought after qualities, like the seaside and it's fresh fish that the Croatian coast appears to be bursting with. But I am sold on the idea that the crowds can take away a lot of the hoped for magic of a place. That's one reason I'm tempted to push any such trip to the farthest edges of the high season.


    On the question of the cruise. I remember a guy on Air BnB, who I think is based out of Kotor bay, who has a sail boat that he lets out either as a stationary apartment in Kotor or as a charter up to Split. He seems fairly flexible... probably more so on longer or more expensive charters. It is called Dream Island. https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attract...d_Sailing_Yacht-Kotor_Kotor_Municipality.html
    I'm not sure how many operations like that there are... and that one might be more roughing it than you are looking for, but I thought it seemed interesting if you had some time to put into a coastal cruise. I'd think you could get away from the crowds a bit more if you had a sail boat at your command.
    Last edited: Feb 1, 2018
  15. italdesign

    italdesign Level 2 Member

    Sorry to hijack this thread.

    Sarajevo was the big surprise in BiH. I think because it doesn't look very impressive in pictures, I didn't expect much. I went to Bascarsija every day and wish I had another week there. It's a very special place where locals still seem to outnumber tourists. People sit in open cafes chatting with friends. The sound of crafts being actually made in little shops. There is much longing for the good old days of Tito Communism - the country was much wealthier as a republic of Yugoslavia. As someone who grew up in a transitioning communist country, I found some precious nostalgia of my own. I think the first chain hotel just opened and more is under construction. And this is the capitol. Now is the time to see it before it changes, which is only a matter of time.

    There are a number of day trips or longer possible. I went to the village of Lukomir (first 3 pictures). It's the best tour of my life, everything is real, nothing is created just for tourism. There are organized tours to national parks also.
  16. italdesign

    italdesign Level 2 Member

    Spot on. We are easily influences by pretty pictures, but we must not forget to consider and research the reality of how it will actually be like when you go. More thoughts on this later - flying out now
  17. RRD

    RRD Level 2 Member

    I am sold on B & H. Will badger you with more questions over PM, if you don't mind.

    Completely agree with you there, @mec and so well put. Also, thanks for the info on the cruise.
    Last edited: Feb 2, 2018
  18. mec

    mec Silver Member

    There is an Aman hotels resort on the Montenegran coast that was a beach house for royalty before it became at least one of Tito's summer houses. It has a view of the picturesque island that makes up the other half of the Aman property. It looks like one of the places we are discussing. Where there are too many people trying to be in the area to enjoy the storybook quality of the place.

    Aman, Sveti Stefan, Villa Milocer. I'd bet it wasn't long ago that it was a dilapidated hotel on the verge of closing. That would have been the time to get in. Now it's more than 800 Euros a night in low season... and probably claustrophobic just beyond the gates.

    I think the crowded places near the coast could still be nice to pass through. Have a nice meal and spend a day or two before moving on to less flocked upon locals. I've thought about trying to swing a couple of nights with the help of MS'd flexible travel points to bring the cost down, but you have to weight the really high costs in an "ideal" location like that against what you might do instead. Not just with the Villa Milocer, but any time you consider those front row destinations.
    Last edited: Feb 2, 2018
  19. italdesign

    italdesign Level 2 Member

    Any time!
  20. italdesign

    italdesign Level 2 Member

    I think so. For one, the bus ride from Dubrovnik to Mostar is very scenic through the coast, and you enter and leave the 2 countries multiple times (Croatia is cut off by Neum in the middle). I personally thought Old Town Dubrovnik, though very impressive and well preserved (and instagrammable), was pretty forgettable due to the pervasive tourism (thanks, Games of Thrones). However, I enjoyed the peaceful area around Sheraton Dubrovnik Riviera, which was a lovely cat2 redemption (now cat3). It's worth a visit even if not staying there:


    There are likely other less developed jewels on the coast. Maybe Zadar. And parts of Montenegro. It would be a great drive (or bus ride, or catamaran ride) up/down the coast.
  21. RRD

    RRD Level 2 Member

    Great ideas but my heart is still set on staying some place remote. The Croatian coast seems too crowded therefore a cruise for two nights, and was hoping to stay at Plitvice falls and Lake Bled and hike around there. Will I be able to explore tranquil areas of those two places or will it still be very crowded? Also, if only going to Bosnia and Croatia, which airports to fly in and out of from ORD, so as to make it most efficient?
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2018
  22. Kim @Savy.Traveler

    Kim @Savy.Traveler Level 2 Member

    My DH prefers to fly transatlantic in/out of ZAG, taking a bus to BiH, because he believes it is safer. I have flown transA out of SJJ within the last couple years and it was fine. (I have also flown in/out of DBV and out of Split-no transAtlantic flights, which were fine and convenient.) I have no real recommendations with respect to public transport because we usually rent a car to wander along the Croatian coast. The coast is long and not all of it is crowded. Also, many islands off the coast, with a whole range from the party island of Hvar to smaller less populated islands that you can take a public ferry, like Brac. My favorite city is Split, second largest after ZAG, where many ferries depart for the islands, or you can stay just outside of Split in the smaller town of Trogir. I love Diocletian's Palace and walking on the waterfront on the Riva or waterfront promenade. In BiH, Mostar and SJJ are fine. Since you like nature, I would focus on the Croatian coastline, and if going to BiH, perhaps pick some place to hike in the mountains?
  23. RRD

    RRD Level 2 Member

    Thanks for the airport suggestions, @Kim @Savy.Traveler, and you also eased my mind about the crowd on the Croatian coast.

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