October 15, 2020

Just Back: A Private Tour of Croatia, Montenegro & Slovenia

Luxury Croatia ToursIn-the-know travelers have long been visiting Croatia, Montenegro and Slovenia for their beautiful landscapes, fascinating history, friendly locals, and delicious food and wine. While each is wonderful on its own, these three Adriatic countries also combine easily for those wanting an in-depth tour of the region.

Artisans of Leisure travel specialist Stephanie Dosch recently visited all three of these countries during an Artisans of Leisure private tour of the region. Enjoy these photos of some of her favorite places and experiences.

Luxury Croatia TourOur Croatian adventure started in Istria, a triangle-shaped peninsula that borders Slovenia and is known for its strong Italian influence and wonderful local culinary traditions, including wine, olives and truffles.

Private Istria Tour

Artisans of leisure arranges memorable culinary activities in the region, including meals at top restaurants, olive oil tasting, wine touring and private truffle hunting. We had fun hunting for truffles in the shadow of one of the region’s many picturesque hill towns. The experience included a leisurely walk through the forest with the energetic sniffing dogs…

Luxury Istria Tours

…followed by a delicious lunch of truffle-infused dishes.

Private Croatia Tours

In Istria, we stayed at beautiful Meneghetti Wine Estate, one of our favorite hotels in Croatia.

Luxury Croatia Tour

Our dinner at their renowned restaurant was also one of the best of our trip. A highlight was dessert: we had to dig through chocolate cookie “dirt” to find chocolate truffles!

Luxury Croatia Tours

Istria also has beautiful coastal towns, such as Rovinj. Like many towns along the Adriatic coast of Croatia, Rovinj was once a Venetian shipping outpost, and retains much of its mother city’s architectural style. It’s a great place to spend an afternoon wandering the colorful backstreets and enjoying a drink by the seaside.

Luxury Croatia Tours

From Istria, we traveled to spectacular Plitvice Lakes National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Plitvice’s series of lakes feed into each other via spectacular waterfalls.

Luxury Croatia Tour

We really enjoyed walking the boardwalks to get up close to the falls and taking gentle hikes along the paths around the lakes.

Private Croatia Tour

Artisans of Leisure arranges scenic walks and private hikes throughout this area.

Luxury Croatia Tours

Next, we continued to Zagreb, Croatia’s bustling capital. A must for travelers interested in culture and nightlife, Zagreb has interesting art museums, upscale shops, lively restaurants, and a robust calendar of performances and events.

Luxury Zagreb Tours

We enjoyed touring the city center, with its beautiful Lower Town filled with Austro-Hungarian architecture, medieval Kaptol and Upper Town…

Luxury Croatia Tour

…and fun local neighborhoods.

Luxury Croatia Tours

From Zagreb, we traveled to Split, a fascinating city that was a highlight of our trip.

Private Split Tour

The Roman emperor Diocletian built a huge palace along the coast here, living in it after his retirement in 305 A.D. Over the millennia, Diocletian’s Palace was repurposed bit by bit to form the core of Split. Now the historic center of the town, it feels like a living history museum and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We toured the well-preserved substructures under the palace…

Private Split Tours

…walked along the main street that divided the imperial residence from the soldiers’ and servants’ quarters…

Luxury Split Tour

…wandered quiet backstreets that are now lined with residences, cafes and shops…

Luxury Split Tours

…and marveled at the buildings around the Peristyle, including the Temple of Jupiter…

Private Croatia Tour

…the Cathedral of St. Domnius, which houses Diocletian’s mausoleum, and the Vestibule, where singers often perform traditional Dalmatian klapa (a cappella music).

Private Croatia Tours

We loved exploring the atmospheric streets by night…

Luxury Croatia Tour

…and enjoyed a fantastic dinner at one of the city’s top restaurants. The region has excellent restaurants, which we always book for our clients.

Luxury Croatia Tours

For many travelers, Split also serves as the jumping off point for exploring some of Croatia’s hundreds of islands. Upon request, Artisans of Leisure arranges day tours by private yacht. One of the most popular islands is Hvar, an easy boat ride from Split and a beautiful place to spend a couple of days relaxing and enjoying the Mediterranean lifestyle.

Luxury Croatia Tours

During a private tour of the island, we explored Stari Grad, with its historic houses…

Luxury Croatia Tours

…and tiny backstreets.

Luxury Croatia Tours
Private Hvar Tours

We enjoyed a private wine tasting at a local winery…

Luxury Hvar Tours

…and explored olive groves, fruit orchards and lavender-growing terraces. Part of the Stari Grad UNESCO World Heritage Site, the plots of land were divided up and demarcated with stone walls by Greek settlers more than 2,000 years ago.

Private Hvar Tour

We also enjoyed driving up into the hills, visiting tiny, picturesque towns overlooking the Adriatic…

Private Hvar Tour

…on our way to an abandoned village. In the summer, there’s a popular taverna here that makes for a great lunch excursion.

Private Croatia Tour

We also toured Hvar town, including stopping at the Fortica (Spanish Fortress)…

Luxury Hvar Tours

…taking in views over the harbor…

Luxury Hvar Tours

…visiting the Benedictine Convent, where nuns make lace out of agave fibers…

Luxury Croatia Tour

…wandering through the atmospheric backstreets…

Luxury Croatia Tour
Luxury Croatia Tour

…and walking to the beautiful Franciscan Monastery, which has a pretty courtyard, a small art collection and views back to town.

Luxury Croatia Tours

The Palace Elisabeth is a gorgeous luxury hotel in Hvar that we can’t wait to return to.

Luxury Croatia Tours

From Hvar, Artisans of Leisure can arrange a day excursion to the Pakleni Islands, or transfers by private boat to Korcula to enjoy additional island stays along the Dalmatian Coast.

Luxury Croatia Tours

We continued to the Peljesac Peninsula, which is one of Croatia’s premier wine-producing regions. We enjoyed touring a winery that’s been run by generations of the same family for 500 years and tasting some of the delicious wines they produce from local Plavac mali grapes.

Luxury Croatia Tour

We also visited a family-run oyster farm near Mali Ston…

Private Croatia Tours

… to learn how the shellfish are cultivated…

Luxury Croatia Tours

…and then enjoyed a plate of oysters fresh from the water, along with homemade wine and liqueurs.

Luxury Croatia Tours

It was a delicious—and beautiful—way to end the day!

Luxury Croatia Tours

Next, we spent time in Dubrovnik, perhaps Croatia’s most iconic destination and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The seaside city has become even more popular in recent years thanks to its use as a filming location for the Game of Thrones TV series.

Luxury Dubrovnik Tours

During private touring, our excellent guide took us to the best view spots…

Private Croatia Tour

…to off-the-beaten-track places such as the Bishop’s Palace, with its incredible tromp l’oeil frescoes…

Private Croatia Tours

…through charming backstreets where we were the only visitors…

Luxury Croatia Tour

…to the ornate treasury inside Dubrovnik’s cathedral…

Luxury Croatia Tours

…and to the Old Synagogue, one of the oldest in Europe.

Private Dubrovnik Tour

Of course, we also saw the city’s historic and architectural highlights, including the famous city walls…

Private Dubrovnik Tours

…the Franciscan Monastery and its centuries-old pharmacy

Luxury Dubrovnik Tour

…the Sponza Palace, a former customs house and masterpiece of Renaissance architecture…

Luxury Dubrovnik Tours

…the 12-sided Onofrio Fountain…

Private Croatia Tour

…and the elegant Rector’s Palace.

Private Croatia Tours

We also loved having free time to explore Dubrovnik on our own. We shopped for local products and dined alfresco…

Luxury Croatia Tour

…on delicious local food like fresh fish and pasta with truffles.

Luxury Croatia Tours

We also spent an afternoon on nearby Lokrum Island, where we explored the gardens…

Private Dubrovnik Tour

…the ruins of an abandoned Benedictine monastery…

Private Dubrovnik Tours

…and the beautiful rocky beaches.

Luxury Dubrovnik Tour

Dubrovnik is incredibly evocative and atmospheric at all times of day, but particularly when things quiet down at night.

Luxury Dubrovnik Tours

We strolled along the Stradun, the old city’s main street, which used to be a sea channel, and enjoyed a drink at one of the many sidewalk cafes.

Private Croatia Tour

Our suite at Hotel Excelsior had great views of Dubrovnik’s old town.

Private Croatia Tours

The city has several excellent luxury hotels…

Luxury Croatia Tour

…situated along the spectacular coastline.

Luxury Croatia Tours

Next, we continued south from Dubrovnik, departing Croatia and entering Montenegro to tour spectacular Boka Kotorska Bay. Surrounded by the dramatic, steep mountains that give Montenegro its name, Boka Kotorska Bay is actually made up of several smaller bays, including the Bay of Kotor, where we focused our touring.

Luxury Montenegro Tours

We stopped first in tiny Perast, where Renaissance-era palaces line the shore.

Luxury Montenegro Tour

We also took a boat ride to the island church of Our Lady of the Rocks to see silver icons, a specialty of the area…

Luxury Montenegro Tours

…and a famous votive tapestry embroidered with gold and silver thread, as well as the maker’s own hair.

Luxury Montenegro Tours

Next, we visited Kotor. We wandered its narrow streets to see 15th-century palaces…

Luxury Montenegro Tour

…and Venetian-influenced architecture (like Rovinj and many other Adriatic towns, Kotor was a Venetian trade outpost).

Private Montenegro Tours
Private Kotor Tour

In Montenegro, we stayed at the exclusive Aman Sveti Stefan, one of the best resorts on the Adriatic.

Aman Sveti Stefan

The resort comprises an entire island town that’s been converted into guest rooms and facilities, as well as a palace, an incredible spa, and two beaches on the mainland. It’s truly a magical place.

Luxury Montenegro Tours

In true Aman style, the rooms were plush yet understated and the food was some of the best we had on the trip.

Luxury Montenegro Tours

On this tour, we also visited Slovenia. Though it may not top most travelers’ must lists, those who do visit tend to rave about their time in this small country, and our visit was no different.

Bordered by Italy, Austria, Hungary and Croatia, it’s very easily accessed from each country. On our recent visit, we encountered friendly locals, incredible scenery, and food, culture and history that are both strongly influenced by the surrounding countries and at the same time uniquely Slovenian.

Beautiful natural scenery is one of Slovenia’s main attractions, and Lake Bled is a highlight. The lake is surrounded by the beautiful Julian Alps, Slovenia’s tallest mountains. Even on a cloudy day, the lake and surrounding mountains are spectacular.

Private Slovenia Tours

A ride on a pletna boat on the lake is a must for any visitor to Slovenia. The boats take travelers to Bled Island, a pilgrimage site with a 15th-century church.

Luxury Lake Bled Tours

The small café on the island is a good place to try potica, a rolled cake typically made with walnuts, cottage cheese, and chocolate (many other flavors are also available).

Private Slovenia Tours

On one end of the lake, another must is a visit to Bled Castle (Blejski Grad). Inside is a small history museum that includes a working printing press.

Luxury Slovenia Tour

Near Lake Bled, one of the highlights of our time in Slovenia was learning about the country’s important beekeeping tradition at an apiary.

Luxury Slovenia Tours

Friendly, native Carniolan bees create beautiful honeycombs—and delicious honey.

Private Slovenia Tours

Next, we spent time in Ljubljana, Slovenia’s charming capital.

Luxury Slovenia Tours

Most of the historic center is pedestrianized, making it great for strolling. Our excellent guide took us to the best view spots…

Private Ljubljana Tour

…architecture highlights…

Luxury Slovenia Tours

…markets and famous bridges, including the Dragon Bridge and the Triple Bridge.

Luxury Ljubljana Tours

We strolled through picturesque squares and along streets lined with lively cafes. We visited shops selling local specialties like handmade lace and porcelain…

Private Slovenia Tour

…and sampled tasty local snacks.

Luxury Ljubljana Tours

In fact, Slovenia is renowned for its delicious cuisine, and Artisans of Leisure can make reservations at top restaurants, including Hisa Franko, located near the Italian border.

Luxury Slovenia Tours

We also visited southern Slovenia. This region is home to incredible cave systems as well as picturesque castles.

Luxury Slovenia Tour

On the coast are charming and colorful resort towns like Potoroz and Piran, which are a great place to stop for lunch and a stroll through the backstreets.

Luxury Slovenia Tours

Contact Artisans of Leisure to begin planning your own trip to Croatia, Slovenia and Montenegro.

Luxury Croatia Tour

Destinations:  Croatia, Montenegro, Slovenia

Tags:  active, Aman resorts, ancient ruins, archaeological sites, architecture, beach resorts, beekeeping, caves, culinary, culture, Dubrovnik, food and wine tours, hiking, hisotry, Hvar, islands, Istria, Plitvice Lakes National Park, private boat charters, private boat tours, Roman ruins, Split, Sveti Stefan, synagogues, truffles, waterfalls, wine tasting, Zagreb