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Plan your own Balkan trip itinerary and see the famous dragons in Ljbujlana
Plan your own Balkan trip itinerary and see the famous dragons in Ljbujlana

Balkan Trip Itinerary

Why plan the Balkan trip itinerary yourself?

So, you want a Balkan trip itinerary? But why plan it yourself? Why not just head to the nearest travel agent or look for a tour online? Well, firstly, the Balkans is a great part of the world to travel and it’s ideal for a European road trip. So you’ve made a great choice there.

However, it encompasses a large area and there are lots and lots of possible itineraries to choose from. Rather than just accept someone else’s idea of the ideal itinerary, why not plan your own? In this article, I’m going to show you how you can organise your schedule and then book your holiday yourself.

Budgeting for your Balkan trip itinerary

Obviously, when you plan your own trip you need to start with how much you want to pay. Firstly, plan according to how much you have to spend. There is no point drawing up an ambitious plan when you can’t afford to implement it. If your budget is tight then look for cheaper types of transport and accommodations. When we’ve got a bit more money to spare we make a choice. Do we want one big trip with a bit more luxury or do we want to spread the cash over several trips instead?

Step by step planning advice to build your Balkan trip itinerary

Indeed, that can be one of the issues with DIY travel planning. So much choice that you don’t know where to start. So, that’s where my planning tips come in. I’ll take you step by step through booking all the trips I feature on my blog. Moreover, I’ll tell you how to adapt them to suit your own requirements and budget as we go.

Firstly, I start my planning by listing all the places I want to visit. Then I decide if it’s practical to see them all in the amount of time I have for travelling. Sometimes places need to be removed but occasionally there’s room for one more!

If that sounds daunting and you’re not sure where to start then I can help. Basically, I’ve compiled a schedule for a Balkan trip itinerary to get you started. Following it will give you a good idea of what’s possible for your trip.

A Balkan trip itinerary to get you started

I doubt you’ll want to visit the exact same places we did but it’ll be a useful guide for you to adapt. Copy whatever you like and then adapt the rest to suit your own travel style.

To see how it worked out for us, you can also take a look at my personal trip report for our trip to Slovenia, Croatia and Montenegro. You’ll see that things don’t always go according to plan once you start travelling but it doesn’t stop you having a great time.

Read all about our road trip to the Balkans

Day by Day Balkan trip itinerary

Day 1: Dover to Nancy, France

Firstly, start your day by driving to Dover ferry port if you’re taking the ferry Otherwise if you’re taking the Eurotunnel make your way to Folkestone. If you have a long way to go then you’ll need to arrive the day before.

Subsequently, take the 9.25am, or similar time, ferry to Dunkirk or Calais.

You’ll arrive in France around 90 minutes to 2 hours later depending on your ferry crossing time. Remember to add an hour when you arrive to be on French time.

Then drive to Nancy in France. This should take around 4 1/2 hours. So, you should be able to make it by late afternoon, early evening.

Then stay overnight in Nancy or nearby.

Day 2: Nancy to Augsburg in Bavaria

Today, head for Augsburg in Bavaria. It’s quite a long drive – around 5 hours so make an early start.

Stay overnight in Augsburg. If you want a longer stopover it’s only a bit further to Munich but it’s not worth going into the city for an overnight stay. You can also add in some day trips if you opt to stay a bit longer.

One day in Munich: Top things to see and do
Visit Munich on your Balkan Trip Itinerary

Day 3: Bavaria to Slovenia

This morning drive south into Slovenia. It should take around 5 hours. You can choose to stay in a hotel near Lake Bled or alternatively stay in the city of Ljubljana. Ljubljana to Lake Bled is an easy drive so either works well. Stay for at least 3 nights here.

Days 4-5: Lake Bled and Ljubljana

This is the first real break of this Balkan trip itinerary where you can take time out for some serious sightseeing. So, take one day to explore the beautiful city of Ljubljana. Then spend a day driving and walking around Lake Bled.

Top 10 things to do in Ljubljana

Day 6: Lake Bled to Zagreb

Then make the short drive into Croatia to its capital city, Zagreb. Stay here for 2 nights. If you set off in the morning you’ll have plenty of time to start your city sightseeing during the afternoon.

Days 7: Sightseeing Zagreb

Take a full day to explore the fascinating city of Zagreb.

Zagreb Top things to do

Days 8-9: Plitvice Lakes National Park

Drive to Plitvice National Park. Stay overnight in one of the hotels either in or near the park. You can buy either a 1-day or a 2-day entry ticket. If you choose a 2-day ticket then you can spend some time on your arrival afternoon exploring the walkways throughout this stunning national park. Take a second day to fully explore the park, take the boat ride and really enjoy this natural wonder.

Days 10-12: Trogir and Split

This time drive south to Trogir. Choose to stay anywhere in either the Trogir or Split area. Stay 3 nights and spend time exploring Trogir, Split as well as the surrounding area. By all means, take the opportunity to get in some beach time as there are some fabulous stretches of coastline here.

Days 13-14: Orebic on the Peljesac Peninsula

Drive south to Ploce and then take the ferry to the Peljesac peninsula. The ferries depart regularly so just turn up and buy your ticket for the next ferry. Drive into the queue line when you arrive. Then leave your car there and walk across the road to the ticket shop. It’s quite an informal process but it works very efficiently. They will call you forward when the ferry is ready to board.

When you arrive on the peninsula it is a short drive to the Orebic area. Choose a hotel anywhere on the peninsula depending on what appeals to you. Stay 2 nights and find time to explore or just chill on the beach.

Days 15-16: Dubrovnik

Of course, no trip to this part of the world would be complete without a stop in Dubrovnik. Make the short drive south from the peninsula. Take a break at the fascinating town of Ston before you leave the peninsula if you haven’t already seen it.

I advise staying within the walled city of Dubrovnik if you can but there are so many to choose from in this area that you’re sure to find something to suit you. Stay 2 nights.

Dubrovnis and Game of Thrones. Tour the filming locations.

Days 17-19: Montenegro

Continue driving south into Montenegro. Here, you leave the EU so be prepared for some delays at the border. Drive the scenic route around Kotor bay for some of the most amazing views you’ll see anywhere. Stay in Kotor for 2 nights.

Day 20: Return to Orebic

Because of the issues driving through the Neum corridor, you’ll retrace your steps today and head back to the peninsula. Rather than drive all the way around Kotor Bay you can take a short cut by using the ferry. You’ll then be on the road to Croatia. Head back to the Orebic peninsula and stay somewhere near the ferry port tonight or return to your accommodation in Orebic.

Day 21: Orebic to Zadar

Return to Ploce on the ferry. Then drive north. Because Croatia is a long thin country you will feel as though you’re retracing your steps over these few days. It can’t be helped but there’s so much to see you’ll find plenty of things you missed on the way down. Take a break in Zadar and stay 2 nights to explore the area.

Days 22-23: Sightseeing Zadar

Spend some time sunbathing or explore the coastline. You can take a passenger ferry to one of the outlying islands. It’s a popular resort area so you’ll find plenty to keep you occupied.

Day 24: Zadar to Opatija

You’ll continue driving north today. Make a base in Opatija for 2 nights. Take the time to explore Opatija and take a visit to Rijeka.

Day 25: Sightseeing on the Istrian Peninsula

Do a mini driving tour of the Istrian peninsula. You could spend a lot of time here if you wanted to. Visit Pula, Rovinj and Porec for an easy circular drive.

Day 26: Drive back to Austria

At this time you begin the long drive home again. Plan to drive as far as Austria. I like to keep it quite flexible on the drive back so see how far you get. You should make it as far as Salzburg though and that is a lovely place to stop overnight.

Day 27: Austria to France

Keep heading north. Expect to get as far as the Alsace region today so that’s you’re within an easy drive of Calais in the morning.

Day 28: To Calais and home

Drive the last few miles of France to Calais and take the Eurotunnel or ferry back to the UK. You could choose to go back to Dunkirk instead on this Balkan trip itinerary. See what deals you can get.

Design your own Balkan trip itinerary

Now, it’s your turn. Take the detailed information for my Balkans trip itinerary and work it to fit your specific requirements. This article is part of a series of articles all related to travel by train and in Italy. So check out our other posts and have a wonderful trip.