Travel to less-touristed parts of Croatia and Slovenia and you’ll be rewarded with charming villages, winery hotels, cozy restaurants, and quirky museums. Want to see the talked-about sights too? Just add a couple of days to peruse the capitals, Ljubljana and Zagreb, or combine it with a trip to the coast, since the tour has you headed in that direction anyway.
Leaving Ljubljana, head to the small town of Bovec, at the edge of Triglav National Park. Spend the afternoon walking the paths around the rushing turquoise river before getting a good night’s sleep at either the Dobra Vila hotel or the more rustic Pristava Lepena, in the middle of the mountains.
Head to Idrija, famous for three things: the Lace-Making School (Čipkarska šola), the excellent restaurant Gostilna Lectar, and the Kendov Dvorec, an elegant castle hotel that happens to be one of Slovenia’s best. A night at the hotel is worth the excursion alone.
Cruise the Upper Dolenjska Wine Route or practice your swing at the Hotel Grad Otočec.
Passing through Zagreb, head east on the highway to Kutjevo, where you can visit centuries-old cellars before unpacking your bags at the inn of modern-day winemaker Enjingi. Spend the afternoon wine-tasting, eating on the terrace overlooking the vineyards, and picking the vintners’ brains on everything there is to know about viticulture.
You’ve got about a two-hour drive to Osijek, where you’ll tour the Citadel (Tvrđa) before eating local specialties like frog legs or stew at atmospheric Kod Ruže. Tonight you’ll sleep in the red-themed guest house of Crvendać, just outside of Osijek.
This morning take a tour of Kopački rit before heading to the Baranja for a trip through local wineries. Eat dinner at Baranjska kuća, having a look at the restaurant’s ethnographic museum, and stay at the 1910-era Sklepić house.
Don’t leave the Sklepić house before riding in a typical Slavonian horse-drawn carriage (arranged in advance). After the ride, drive to Ilok for winery visits and dinner.
Today you can drive to Slavonski Brod, stopping at the Stupnički Dvori, a combination winery, restaurant, and hotel, or continue on to the Lonjsko polje to search for storks and swimming furry pigs. Dine and stay at the Ravlić house, a thatched-roof cottage filled with antiques, sure to make you feel like you spent the night inside a fairy tale.
Drive to Samobor, nowadays essentially a suburb of Zagreb, for small-town charm and a slice of the city’s famous kremšnita. Walk around the town’s museums and churches, or go for a hike in the area to stretch your legs after today’s drive.
This morning you’ll drive to the Gorski Kotar, stopping at the picturesque village of Fužine. There’s plenty to do in the area, but there are three things you shouldn’t miss: the endearing Museum of Frogs (Muzej Žaba) in Lokve, lunch at Konoba Volta for local specialties, and a night at Tito’s former hunting lodge Bitoraj. Tomorrow you can continue on to Kvarner and Istria, or turn around and return to Zagreb for a flight out.