As you travel through Central Europe, natural beauty and an amazing pageant of history will unfold before you—from the sun-drenched Dalmatian Coast to the Julian Alps in Slovenia—on this voyage through some of the region's most magnificent landscapes. Enjoy an included tour of Dubrovnik—Europe’s best-preserved walled city—when you visit Croatia, tour the palace of Roman Emperor Diocletian, relax in the heart of the Croatian Riviera, and experience the resort of Lake Bled. Take part in fascinating Discovery Series discussions and get to know the local people at a memorable Home-Hosted Dinner. Discover these re-emerging, ancient nations when you travel to Central Europe with Grand Circle.
Today you'll depart home, flying from your U.S. gateway to Dubrovnik, Croatia.
You'll land in Dubrovnik today, a Grand Circle representative will meet you at the airport, and you'll transfer to your hotel. You'll then meet your fellow travelers, including those returning from their Dubrovnik, Croatia pre-trip extension, over a Welcome Drink, followed by a Welcome Dinner at your hotel.
After breakfast, join us for an orientation briefing where your Program Director will go over the details of your Land Tour.
Then enjoy an included city tour of Dubrovnik, one of the jewels of Croatia. You'll tour the Stari Grad, the extraordinarily well-preserved Old City, where you will likely want to linger and return. You’ll have free time after the tour to get lunch on your own and soak up the atmosphere of this very special place.
Still an exquisite walled city today, Dubrovnik’s character reflects its storied past as an independent city-state that rivaled Venice. Also known by its Latin name, Ragusa, this was a fortress city that served as the base for a fleet of ships that carried trade between much of Europe and the Middle East. The city-state’s period of autonomy extended from 1358 to 1808. In recent times, some of Dubrovnik’s historic sites sustained damage in the Balkan conflicts of the early 1990s, but the city has been peaceful for more than ten years and largely restored under UNESCO supervision.
This afternoon, learn a few valuable Croatian phrases during an informative exclusive Discovery Series language lesson, and enjoy the extra appreciation of the culture that understanding even a few words can bring. You might use it to order a beer (pivo), or to give a hearty “hello” to a Croatian (zdravo, or the less formal bok). And you’ll become wise to the fact that the Croatians’ name for their own country is Hrvatska, which explains why ".hr" is used as the country's Internet domain.
Croatian cuisine is a flavorful blend of Mediterranean and Slavic influences, with a distinct regional style in Dalmatia, the province where Dubrovnik is located. During an exclusive Discovery Series event this evening, you’ll have a personal introduction to the preparation of some characteristic dishes, as a local family welcomes you into their home to enjoy a tasty dinner with them. Both the food and the hospitality are likely to be highlights of your time in Croatia.
Today is yours to spend at leisure. Or, you may join us on a full-day optional tour of Montenegro (Black Mountain), a republic whose roots go back to the eleventh century and which declared its independence in 2006. About the size of Connecticut, Montenegro is set apart from its geopolitical neighbors by never having been conquered by the Ottoman Turks. The country is blessed with remarkable natural beauty, from rugged mountain ranges to long, unbroken stretches of beach on the Adriatic.
You’ll see Kotor Bay, Europe’s southernmost fjord (and a UNESCO Natural Heritage Site), which is surrounded by extraordinarily beautiful terrain. Then you’ll discover Kotor on a city tour, including a visit to the Maritime Museum. Beginning in the 14th century, Kotor was part of the Venetian Republic, and four centuries of Venetian influence have left a lasting impression on the city’s architecture and spirit. Kotor's narrow, criss-crossed streets and numerous public squares are a delight, and its secluded location, beautiful bay, and mountainous backdrop make a dramatic impression. You’ll enjoy lunch in Kotor as part of your optional tour.
Dinner is on your own this evening. Choose from a wide selection of fine Dubrovnik restaurants. Your Program Director will have suggestions for you.
You have a full day to relax, have lunch on your own, and explore at your own pace. You might take in the lively morning market in the Stari Grad across from the Rector’s Palace. Stroll atop the city walls for terrific views, or spend time in the old city’s many art galleries. Or venture into the newer part of town to shop, or to find an interesting cafe for lunch on your own.
Dinner is on your own tonight.
Today, you'll ride north to Split in the Croatian province of Dalmatia, stopping en route across the border in Bosnia & Herzegovina to explore the city of Mostar on an included tour.
Mostar is internationally known for its Old Town and bridge, now a symbol of reconciliation, cooperation, and the co-existence of diverse cultural, religious, and ethnic communities. You will learn more about the republics of former Yugoslavia in Mostar, which developed under the Turks as a place where the cultures of the East and the West, the mainland and the Adriatic Sea, met and influenced each other.
First, you’ll make a short photo stop in the picturesque village of Pocitelj, a charming reminder of Herzegovina’s oriental past. Then you’ll continue to Mostar, the economical, political, and cultural center of Herzegovina. The central part of the Old Town, with its forts, towers, and gates, was built by great Turkish builders in the 16th century. Damaged in the last war and restored in 2004 under UNESCO protection, it is a masterpiece of Turkish architecture. You’ll also visit one of Mostar’s mosques and a house from Turkish times, learning more about past and present life in a city whose turbulent history has made a unique mixture of people and cultures.
During an included lunch, you’ll have an opportunity to taste some local specialties. After some free time to discover local handcrafts on your own, you’ll continue on to Split, where dinner is included at your hotel.
Today, enjoy an included tour of Split, an active port that is home to the ancient Roman Palace of Diocletian. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of the greatest Roman ruins in Central Europe. Built in AD 305 by the Emperor Diocletian, this fortress-like palace was protected by walls 590 feet by 705 feet. As you stand in the peristyle (central court) of this grand structure, its scale becomes impressively clear. The medieval town of Split took shape within the palace walls; Diocletian’s Temple of Jupiter was converted into a Christian baptistery and his mausoleum became a cathedral. The entire old section of Split, with the palace as its centerpiece, is a virtual open-air museum with the city’s contemporary life bustling through it.
After your tour, you’ll return to your hotel. Lunch and dinner are on your own tonight.
After breakfast, transfer to Opatija, a city whose lush green scenery and pleasant climate have made it a popular European vacation destination for two centuries. You'll enjoy an included lunch this afternoon before arriving in Opatija in the early evening. Tonight, dinner is included at your hotel.
Your discoveries will begin with an included tour of Opatija, a colorful city that has been a popular seaside vacation destination since the days of the Habsburg dynasty. You'll have the opportunity to soak in the luxury of this eternally popular resort city on an included tour as you admire the beautiful villas on display, and stroll along its famous seaside promenade, the Lungomare, which offers stunning views of the Mediterranean Sea.
Later today, you’ll gain insights into the region during an exclusive Discovery Series discussion on Croatia Today. You’ll learn about the contemporary culture and society of this historic nation.
Lunch is on your own today. Tonight, enjoy dinner in a local restaurant.
You have today free for your own explorations. Admire the views of 4,580-foot Mount Ucka, the high point of the Istrian Peninsula, which blocks the north winds, keeping Opatija’s climate warm. You may want to spend time on the Lungomare, the seaside promenade that runs for 7.5 miles along the waterfront and leads to the attractive resort town of Lovran.
Or, join an optional tour to see more of the subtropical Istrian Peninsula. We visit Rovinj, a coastal town built on land that was once an island, but was connected to the mainland by a causeway in the 18th century. The town overlooks an island-dotted Adriatic seascape and lush pine forests on the mainland, with large areas protected as parkland for their scenic beauty. Presided over by the Baroque church of St. Euphemia, Rovinj served as a health resort for children in the days of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and attracts active vacationers today for sports ranging from windsurfing to cycling. You’re likely to hear some Italian spoken in Rovinj, which hosts a sizeable Italian community as a result of the area's former rule by Italy.
Following an included lunch at a family farm, we continue to the larger city of Pula, which has been a strategic port since the times of the ancient Romans. They built a 23,000-person amphitheater here, on a site overlooking the seacoast that is the sixth-largest of its kind to be preserved in the world.
Dinner is on your own this evening.
After breakfast this morning, check out of your Opatija hotel and cross the border into Slovenia as you transfer to Bled. On the way, visit Slovenia's beautiful Postojna Caves, created by millions of years of water activity—drop by drop, year after year. Enjoy a short train ride and walk down into the caves as you explore the ancient wonder beneath the surface. After an included lunch at the caves, we continue to Bled, arriving in late afternoon. You’ll then enjoy a panoramic tour around Lake Bled.
The evening is free to dine on your own in Bled.
After breakfast, you are invited to join us in an exclusive Discovery Series discussion about Slovenia Today. You’ll learn about the contemporary culture and society that you'll explore over the next few days.
You have the afternoon and evening free to discover the Lake Bled area on your own, or to relax at this beautiful resort. Bled is blessed with natural hot springs regarded as having healing powers, and has been a popular fresh-air retreat since the mid-19th century. Near the hotel, forest paths designed by a 19th-century Swiss health advocate, Arnold Rikli, provide fine views, whether you walk them for exercise or ride in a one-horse carriage. Carriages also travel a lakeside promenade lined with chestnut trees, and rides on the lake in a pletna, a local version of a gondola, can take you to the island church (in season).
Two prominent features in Bled’s vistas date from earlier in its history: Bled Castle, which for 800 years was the seat of the bishops of Brixen (now South Tyrol); and a 17th-century church located on an island in the lake. You’ll probably hear the pealing of this church’s “wishing bell,” which dates from 1534, since legend has it that a wish made by someone who rings it will come true.
Or, you can join our optional Taste of Medieval Slovenia excursion to the beautiful old town of Skofja Loka, which was settled in the eighth century and became an important ecclesiastical, governmental, and trade center in the Middle Ages. The exquisite town center retains the architecture and the atmosphere of its 1,000-year history and rewards the traveler with a rare glimpse into Slovenia's past.
Skofja Loka’s superb location at the confluence of the two Sora rivers and its position as a way station on the road between the coast and the inland Carinthian and Bavarian towns combined to create a flourishing craft and guild movement here. That rich legacy continues in this well-preserved town, which still boasts its imposing castle that overlooks the settlement, a Gothic church, and scores of lovingly restored 15th-century houses and structures, all linked by narrow streets. Every perspective here is packed with telling and delightful details. You’ll enjoy a guided tour of Skofja Loka and a visit to a typical Slovenian wooden cottage. You'll enjoy dinner in a local restaurant on this optional tour.
This morning, we’ll visit Ljubljana for a tour of this city of about 300,000 people. Because much of the city was rebuilt after an 1895 earthquake, Slovenia’s capital has a unique architectural style that has integrated surviving historic structures with more modern designs. The work of Joze Plecnik, a 20th-century architect and Ljubljana native, is particularly remarkable for the way it incorporates Roman, medieval, Baroque, and Habsburg elements. A number of buildings that survived the earthquake still stand in the historic part of town, Old Ljubljana. There are also many cafes here, and you may want to try one as you enjoy today’s lunch on your own.
The Ljubljanica River flows through the heart of town, with dozens of shops and restaurants (providing more lunching options) on its promenaded embankments. The city’s large market squares sprawl along the river’s south bank, between the Plecnik-designed Triple Bridge and the Dragon Bridge, near the Cathedral of St. Nicholas (built in 1701). A lively student population swirls through all of these enticing public spaces because the city is home to Ljubljana University, Slovenia’s major institution of higher learning.
Upon returning to Bled, you have the remainder of your afternoon free to follow your own interests. This evening, celebrate your journey with your fellow travelers during a Farewell Dinner accompanied by music.
Today, we explore the area surrounding Lake Bled and enjoy the dramatic vistas for which the area is well known. The third most-forested nation in Europe, Slovenia still contains remnants of primeval forests. We’ll travel some of its wooded countryside and find views of majestic mountains, steep slopes of valleys carved by ancient glaciers, and distant glimpses of Lake Bled’s placid waters. Occasional farm villages dot the rural landscape.
In an exclusive Discovery Series event this morning, you’ll visit the small village of Kropa, an iron-forging settlement since the 15th century. One of the oldest villages in Slovenia, Kropa's many houses display lovely architectural details, such as forged-iron lantern holders, lush window boxes, and massive stone stairways. The town is nestled in a natural amphitheater among the sloping mountains. The area’s abundance of rapidly flowing water (krop means “boiling water”), iron ore, and timber led to its thriving iron industry.
This evening, enjoy dinner at your hotel.
After breakfast, you'll be assisted to the airport for your return flight home. Or, discover Zagreb, Croatia, the country's capital, on our optional post-trip extension.