Alps to Adriatic II – Exploring Croatia’s Coastal Beauty by Rail

Alps to Adriatic II Exploring Croatias Coastal Beauty by Rail

A medley of natural and cultural history, this relaxed tour uncovers a part of Europe rarely visited. From silver lakes and Alpine peaks to medieval castles and Italian inspired architecture, this trip has it all.

Cross into Croatia to explore the Istrian peninsula- a Tuscan-like region of vineyards, olive groves and stunning coastline. Visit Groznjan (Grisignana) an Istrian medieval hilltop town renowned for its artists and Motovun, an ancient little town perched atop a 909-foot hill.

Arrive in Zadar

Alps to Adriatic II takes you from the snow-capped mountains of Slovenia to the sun-kissed shores of Croatia. With azure waters, historic cities, and delectable cuisine, this vintage holiday is sure to enchant and delight.

Begin in Ljubljana, Slovenia’s elegant capital. A short hop over the border lands you at iconic Lake Bled, and after crossing the Julian Alps, you’ll wind down into Goriska Brda, the country’s wine region. Then you’ll head south to Piran, a charming city on the Adriatic Coast.

From there, it’s just a 10-minute taxi ride to Borik, a sweep of sandy beach that draws crowds to its hotels and sun loungers during summertime. Nearby Krka National Park is a nature lover’s paradise. A quick cruise up the emerald river leads to Skradinski Buk, where a chain of tumbling waterfalls plunge over a shaded limestone gorge.

As you explore Zadar, you’ll discover that this coastal hotspot was conquered at one point by almost all historical Mediterranean cultures. Its old town is a bustling hub of activity, with quaint cafes, souvenir shops, and a handful of top-notch restaurants. Be sure to stop by Five Wells Square, named for the 16th-century stone wells within its walls, and see The Land Gate. A stroll across the waterfront is also a must, where you can admire sections of the city’s original wall. Then, soak up the sea views at a local beach, where the water temperature is just right for a refreshing dip.

Explore Zadar

An ancient city on Croatia’s craggy north Dalmatian coast, Zadar’s compact historic center is a pleasure to stroll. Roman-laid cobblestone streets and UNESCO-listed Venetian-built city walls frame tranquil squares and a sweeping waterfront promenade.

A variety of attractions beckon in Zadar. Stroll the Romanesque Church of St Donatus and its soaring Bell Tower or take in a spectacular light show on the Sea Organ that plays with the water’s rhythms. You could also spend an hour learning about the city’s history and heritage at the Archaeological Museum.

To soak up the scenery, head to Borik Beach, a 10-minute taxi ride north of the historic center. This buzzing spot is covered in soft sand and fringed with hotels. The beach is popular during peak season, so arrive early to secure a sun lounger. A guided hike to Telascica National Park is another fun option, where you’ll find a stunning waterfall and salty lakes that are a sight to behold.

Three more enchanting national parks are within reach of the city, including sharp-peaked Velebit Mountain National Park, beech and pine-carpeted Paklenica National Park, and the UNESCO World Heritage Site Plitvice Lakes National Park with its dramatic series of lakes and waterfalls. Alternatively, visit some of the nearby islands in the Adriatic Sea with a half-day cruise around Ugljan Island, Osljak Island, and Skoljic Island.

Visit Plitvice National Park

The Plitvice Lakes National Park is one of Croatia’s most famous natural attractions. The park is home to flourishing ecosystems and a multitude of endangered and rare species.

The park is known for its karst landscape of lakes, waterfalls and caves formed from deposits of travertine. It is also a nature reserve and home to many wild animals, including bears and wolves.

Plitvice Lakes is one of the oldest national parks in Europe and is protected by strict ecological laws. The park’s 16 lakes and numerous waterfalls create a continuous chain of water features. Visitors can enjoy the stunning scenery, rich flora and fauna, and a wealth of other activities in the park.

Visitors can experience the beauty of the park by following one of the many trails that connect the different lakes and waterfalls. The trails are well-marked, though some of the wooden walkways are steep and do not have railing, so caution is recommended.

A trip to the Plitvice Lakes National Park is an essential part of any tour of Croatia’s beautiful landscapes. The park is easily accessible by bus, with daily services from both Split and Zagreb. Tasteful Croatian Journeys can arrange for a full-day tour of the park from either city, complete with booked transport and a fully guided tour. Alternatively, visitors can book a ticket to the park independently, though we strongly recommend booking ahead of time to ensure entrance on your preferred day.

Explore Split

The second largest city in Croatia, Split has a small-town feel and warm community. Explore the Old Town’s maze of narrow stone streets, discovering cool courtyards and bars on your stroll. You can also take a walk around Marjan Hill, a green oasis where you can escape the heat and crowds. Here, you can admire 13th-century church ruins and hermitage caves cut into the hills by monks who once lived here.

A trip to Krka National Park is another must-do when visiting Split. This stunning destination is often called “the Pompeii of Croatia,” and offers a glimpse back in time with its necropolis, early Christian chapels, Roman walls, public baths, and amphitheater. To get there, you can rent a car, join a tour, or catch bus number 1 from the center of Split to Skradin.

Whether you prefer a more active adventure or relaxing by the water, there is something for everyone in Split. Discover the pristine blue waters on a day trip to the Blue Lagoon, with a local guide like Ante and Ivan at Escape from Split. They specialize in small groups and include snacks and drinks, as well as GoPro photos and video.

Explore the Adriatic by night on a paddleboard tour that takes you along the white cliffs of Split’s coastline with a glow from the stars above and water below. Or, opt for a sunset cruise to watch the sun set over the crystal clear waters.

Visit Hvar Island

Hvar is one of Croatia’s most renowned islands, with stunning natural beauty, a rich cultural heritage, and captivating stories waiting to be unraveled. Explore the highlights of this gorgeous island on your own or with a tour.

Start by exploring the town of Hvar, with 13th-century walls, a hilltop fortress, and a town square anchored by the Renaissance-era Hvar Cathedral. Stroll along the paved streets and marvel at the detailed architecture.

Continue to the Franciscan Monastery, built in 1461, for a peek at impressive artwork and detailed architectural details. The monastery overlooks a gorgeous shady cove and is framed by 300-year-old cypress trees.

Then, head to the small Tvrdalj Castle. Located in the village of Stari Grad, this Renaissance castle was once owned by Petar Hektorovic, one of Hvar’s most famous poets, and it remains an important historical attraction on the island.

Take a boat excursion to the Red Rocks, unique natural rock formations that are a sight to behold! These rocks are known for their vibrant red color and are a popular destination for snorkeling, swimming, and cliff jumping.

Finish the day with a romantic dinner cruise around the emerald-colored waters of Jelsa harbor. Relax on deck, or enjoy the secluded beaches and clear waters for a swim. Make sure to pack a light jacket for the evening as temperatures can drop. For an additional option, hop on a speedboat tour to the Blue Cave and then return to Hvar for a gorgeous sunset!

Visit Rovinj

Rovinj is a pretty fishing town with a charming old town that is best explored on foot. It is a car-free zone, so you can stroll its cobbled streets, admiring the architecture of different periods, including Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque. Wander Grisia street, the artistic corner of Rovinj where works by professional, aspiring and even children artists can be found in galleries.

The city’s imposing St Euphemia church rises above the town, its steeple a stunning sight from any point in Rovinj. This baroque church honors the saint and houses his preserved body in a Roman sarcophagus, while its bell tower offers incredible views over the city and Adriatic Sea.

Another notable landmark is the 17th-century Balbi’s Arch, guarding the entrance to Grisia street and standing in place of the old town’s main gate. This stone arch features small carvings on both sides—one depicting the head of a Turk and the other the Lion of Venice, the emblem of the Venetian republic.

Rovinj is also a great destination for nature lovers, with parks that are bursting with flora and fauna. For those who like a bit of challenge, there are several mountain bike trails, and you can also visit Red Island, a secluded pebble beach that is reached by boat from the city center. This is a popular spot for families who want to spend some time away from the crowds.

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