Duration: 15 nights / 16 days
Price: 3750€
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Tartini Square at night, Piran
Julian Alps of Slovenia
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Gondola ride out to island - Lake Bled, Slovenia
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Harvest Tour - herbal marmalades of Istria

 

I’ve created a 15 night / 16 day tour that features a diverse collection of food, culture and nature. Every day you will enjoy local and regional dishes made fresh and home made at many specially chosen restaurants, private houses and wineries – not tourist traps. And every day there will be beautiful nature to admire and many days you can walk, explore and enjoy the fresh air on small outdoor excursions. There will be a large variety of culture and history to experience: castles, charming towns, medium sized cities and a few select museums.

Our tour starts in Slovenia’s capital of Ljubljana, takes in beautiful nature (Lake Bled and Soca Valley) and showcases to its stunning wine and coastal regions. Then the tour heads into Croatia’s terrific food, wine and nature regions of  Istria and Kvarner plus two days in its cosmopolitan capital of Zagreb and a visit the Plitvice national park, one of Europe’s most strikingly beautiful parks. You’ll see many of the highlights and guests’ favorites such as Lake Bled, Skocjan caves and the charming old towns of Piran and Rovinj. And I’ve also included some special experiences such as hunting for truffles, private dinners with wine makers and a unique goat cheese tasting in the rustic Croatian countryside.

 

    • *Roam and shop the cobble-stone streets of Ljubljana, Slovenia’s charming capital city

      *Soak in the natural beauty of Slovenia’a Vintgar Gorge and Soca River Valley

      *Visit Croatia’s #1 outdoor attraction – Plitvice National Park

      *Dig into  gourmet goat cheeses, olive oils, freshly grilled fish and many more treats at a Croatian goat farm

      *Discover the local flavors of truffles, olives, pastas and wines amongst the charms of Istria’s medieval hill towns

      *Savor the flavors with a five-course dinner paired with some of the country’s best wines in breathtaking Goriska Brda

      *Indulge your sweet tooth with local cream cakes, sweet jellies and boutique chocolates

      *Explore the underground caverns and secret passage ways in the Skocjan caves and legendary Predjama castle

  • suggested: Autumn 2018

  • 3750 EURO

    15 dinners, 16 lunches, 15 nights lodging at boutique hotels and B&Bs (all rooms en-suite), 4 wine tastings, tastings of olive oil, cheeses and truffles, transport by private bus, tour leader, local guides, transfers to/from Ljubljana airport and Zagreb airport.

  • Kumparicka goat cheese farm in Istria 

Itinerary

Day 1: Welcome to Slovenia’s charming capital

Overnight: Ljubljana, Slovenia

Late morning arrival into Slovenia’s capital of Ljubljana. After checking into your hotel, enjoy lunch outside along the town’s narrow cobble stone streets. Your first meal here will highlight eastern Slovenia cooking with \ a dish called Bograc (a spicier version of Hungarian goulash) and an amazing ice cream dessert topped with crushed pumpkin seeds and pumpkin seed oil. Then we’ll take a walking tour around Ljubljana to get an in-depth view of life and history in Slovenia and Ljubljana. Learn about the history, architecture and people from the city’s beginning as Roman fort 2000 years ago, to its development under under the Habsburgs and now recent independence and status as capital. Overnight at 4-star boutique hotel located in the city centre. Dinner at the castle overlooking Ljubljana.

Day 2: Beautiful outdoors in Slovenia’s Velika Planina

Overnight: Ljubljana, Slovenia

Sunday morning in Ljubljana hosts the flea market along the Ljubljanica river. Day excursion to a medieval gem town of Kamnik, located at the foothills of the Alps. We’ll tour around Kamnik’s old town streets, little castle and short up to another castle before trying a tasting of local salty cheese called Trnic with and soup at a local eatery. Hiking in nearby Velika Planina amongst the green pastures of the mountain plateau in the heart of the Kamnik Alps with many traditional herdsmen’s cottages. Dinner on the way back to Ljubljana at one of the country’s best traditional restaurants featuring delicious štruklji, dumplings that are one of Slovenia’s most characteristic dishes.

Day 3: Welcome to Lake Bled

Overnight: Lake Bled, Slovenia

We leave Ljubljana and head to Slovenia’s enchanting Lake Bled region. This small town that holds some of the country’s most scenic spots. Lunch at Bled castle, perched atop a steep cliff rising 130 meters above the glacial lake. This castle celebrated its 1000 anniversary in 2011 and offers great views down to this lake’s fairy-tale like setting. A simple lunch at great local pizzeria before we take a wooden gondola across the lake to tiny Bled island for some great photos of this picturesque place. Visit to a local family museum filled with lace works and historic items from this region. Enjoy a home made liqueur, beer, fresh elderflower and apple juices alongside a slice of fresh baked potica (Slovenian cake). Four-course dinner at Vila Podvin restaurant, a favorite of last year’s tour group with Joo Lee.

Day 4: Leisure at Bled and walking in peaceful gorge

Overnight: Lake Bled, Slovenia

Morning at your leisure to enjoy the town of Bled and to stroll around the lake, which is a can’t miss romantic walk and an opportunity for great photos. Lunch at gostilna (local Slovenian eatery) before a peaceful walk through Vintgar gorge – an idyllic spot with an easy 90 minute walk along wooden foot paths. Late afternoon visit to one of Slovenia’s best preserved medieval towns, Radovljica, to visit the beekeeping museum which holds a rich collection of unique Slovenian art. Dinner at unique, organic Garden Village back in Bled.

Day 5:  Majestic Soca Valley and gourmet dinner paired with wines

Overnight: Goriska Brda, Slovenia

Drive over the Julian Alps and enjoy lush scenery as we enter the Soca Valley, stopping at a the Vrsic pass for great photo point. Lunch en-route to town of Kobarid, where Ernest Hemingway worked as an ambulance driver and penned A Farewell To Arms in the First World War. One hour (roundtrip) walk to the Kozjak waterfall. There are numerous walking paths, some of them historic, that we can also embark on.

Head into the hills that border Italy’s Friuli region and arrive at Goriska Brda, Slovenia’s premiere wine region. The landscape is dotted with tiny hill towns and terraced vineyards. A very special 5-course dinner paired with award winning wines at our guesthouse. Our hosts serve each dish with one of their wines. The variety of culinary traditions (Slovene, Friulian, Habsburg) have intertwined on this strip of land, giving Brda cuisine its special touch. After the meal we will tour the family’s wine cellar and learn about wine making traditions and methods including the use of amphoras (known as qveri in their native Georgia). A unique amber wine is produced after the juice spends 11 months next to the skins inside the amphore. Their winery was recently put on the list of 100 best wineries in the world by Wine and Spirits Magazine.

Day 6: Local specialties: olive oils, ricotta cheeses, white polenta and sparkling wines

Overnight: Goriska Brda, Slovenia

Awake to a breakfast out on the patio overlooking vineyard and hill towns. Then we’ll start on our tasting of Brda specialties in many of the various towns and villages. First a trip to cellars located in Visnajvic, the birthplace of Rebula wine, the quintessential wine of this region. Of the 2000 hectares of vineyards here in Brda, 25% are Rebula.  Erzetič winery works with amphora to produce a line of orange wines. We’ll taste these unique wines as well as wines made in a more traditional manner. Brda is the northern most point in Europe where olive trees grow and we’ll visit a local olive oil producer for tasting of oils. Lunch in the walled medieval hill town of Smartno.

After lunch, take a stroll through the oldest olive tree plantation and then up to a viewpoint tower to take in picturesque panoramas of Brda. Later in the afternoon we will hop over the border into Italy, where the region is known as ‘Collio’. We will taste prosciutto crudo, smoked in cherry wood and laurel before visiting a farm to sample freshly made ricotta and caciotta cheese flavored with wild herbs and flowers. This evening’s dinner together will be at a chateau built by the counts of Gorizia in the 13th century. It’s now the home to Bjana Winery, one of the finest sparkling wine producers in Slovenia. We’ll tour the wine maker’s cellar, learn about the traditional method of sparkling wine (where secondary fermentation takes place in bottles) and enjoy his wife’s delicious home cooked meal.

Day 7: Epic caves, castles and first glimpse of the Adriatic

Overnight: Piran, Slovenia

We’ll leave the Soca valley and head south to Slovenia’a western Primorska region. First a visit to the spectacularly located Predjama castle (it practically hangs from a limestone cliff) and learn the about its legendary Slovenian Robin Hood who lived here in the middle ages. Lunch in the Karst region, famous for its wind-dried prosciutto and bold teran wines. Short stop to see the medieval hill town Stanjel. Mid-afternoon journey underground to the fascinating world of the Skocjan caves – boasting the world’s largest subterranean canyon. It looks like a scene from The Lord of the Rings! Then we’ll  Late afternoon to arrival to the Venetian town of Piran, situated along the Adriatic Sea. Seafood dinner in Piran.

Day 8: Piran by day, slow food by night

Overnight: Piran, Slovenia

Morning guided walking tour of Piran with local. At leisure time to climb the remains of old-town walls that provide spectacular views to Trieste and Istria, shopping at chocolate shops or relaxing with an espresso on Tartini Square. In late afternoon we pay a visit to a unique homestead offering a beautiful Mediterranean herbal garden and wonderfully prepared foods. The owner of this house is head of Slow Food Slovenia’ for this region and she will provide us with home made marmalades, olive oils, herbal salts and jellies made from both wine and herbs followed by a dinner prepared by her son. A real (and rare) treat that is a signature of Savor Tours.

Day 9: Hidden charms of Istria, Dinner overlooking the Adriatic

Overnight: Lovran, Croatia

Morning visit Hrastovlje village in Slovenia to see a 12th century church covered with wall to wall colored frescoes. As we enter into Croatia we will meet Dimitri, a young Frenchmen whose Croatian heritage brought him to start Piquentum Winery. Tasting of his Istrian Teran and classic white Malvasia. Enjoy lunch of bobici soup of maize with spicy sausages and mistletoe brandy in the world’s smallest town of Hum. In the late afternoon we arrive in Croatia’s Kvarner region. Our hotel is situated seemingly half way up a mountain with magnificent views down on Kvarner Bay and up to Mt. Ucka. Built when this land was still part of the Austro-Hungarian empire, it has been beautifully restored after being closed for some 80 years. Dinner at hotel with beautiful view over Adriatic.

Day 10: Day to rest, relax, recharg and detox

Overnight: Lovran, Croatia

Guests can choose to lounge around the hotel, taking beautiful views of Cres Island and Kvarner Bay on the Adriatic. Or they can do an easy walk to a nearby waterfall or longer hikes for 2-3 hrs around Mt. Ucka. There are also the historic Habsburg spa towns of Lovran and Opatija to explore and enjoy a grand old coffee house or walk along the boardwalk. Dinner TBD in one of the nearby towns along Kvarner Bay.

Day 11: Roman ruins and historic Venetian cities

Overnight: Rovinj, Croatia

We leave Lovran after breakfast for Istria region. Pula, Istria’s largest city that is loaded with rich history spanning over two millennia. Sights include a visit to Pula Arena, the largest Roman amphitheatre outside of Italy, and temples dating from second century AD. Leisure time for shopping and exploring in Pula. Late afternoon arrival into Rovinj. Check-in to five-star hotel in Rovinj. Guide tour of historic Rovinj followed by dinner in the old town.

Day 12: Truffle hunting and hill towns of Istria

Overnight: Rovinj, Croatia

Full day to explore interior of the Istria region, which is known for its medieval hill-towns, wine, truffles and other gastronomic delights. First stop is a visit to the charming hill-town of Groznjan. Once nearly abandoned, this town has now been transformed into an artists colony. It’s now bustling with artists galleries, handmade jewelry shops and gourmet food shops. It’s also a good place to find some fresh hot Fritule which are Istria’s delicious version of a doughnut.We will hunt for truffles in the forests near the iconic hill town of Motovun with a local and her truffle-sniffing dogs. Hopefully we will find some truffles but regardless there will be a special truffle-themed lunch at the family’s home. Enjoy exploring Istria’s most famous and picturesque town of Motovun after lunch. We’ll enjoy a drink at a beautiful viewpoint that takes in Rovinj and many islands nearby. Then cap off the day with a traditional dinner of lamb and veal cooked under a metal bell (known as ispod peka in Croatia).

Day 13: Boats and Goat Cheeses

Overnight: Rovinj, Croatia

Morning to soak in Rovinj’s charms. Cycling options for those interested. Stroll down one of the town’s numerous alleys, side streets and museums to investigate in the old town core. Outdoor market is good to visit for local produce, truffle oils, spices and other goodies. Fish lunch at Limski canal – a 10 kilometer long estuary from the Adriatic into interior of Istria before taking a boat ride back to Rovinj.  Very special dinner awaits us in a small hamlet hidden from the tourist roads. This goat farm makes gourmet cheeses – both semihard cheeses and fresh cheeses and serves up a feast that includes home cooked soup, specialty sausages and fish. And there is the smorgasbord of cheeses – nearly 20 different kinds!

Day 14: Introduction to Croatia’s capital

Overnight: Zagreb, Croatia

Morning departure to Zagreb, a manageable-sized with a strong Central European feel. Drive will be about 3 hours. Upon arrival we’ll check out the burgeoning craft beer and craft burger scene for lunch. Then our local guide will take us through both the upper and lower towns to learn more about the capital city’s history (actually two waring neighbor towns that came together as one). Time after tour for shopping and/or checking out some worth while museums, such as the museum of broken relationships. Dinner TBD in city center.

Day 15: Waterfalls and lakes of Plitvice National Park

Overnight: Zagreb, Croatia

A full day excursion at Croatia’s most visited national park and a UNESCO world heritage site. This incredibly beautiful pocket of wooden hills  has 16 turquoise lakes, cascading waterfalls, caves (typical of karst landscapes) and walking paths (across wooden footbridges) to explore. There are optional boat rides that cross some of these lakes. There are also more than 100 different species of bird such as hawks, owls, starlings, kingfishers and wild ducks. Autumn colors should be in full bloom all over the trees and fauna of the park. Dinner back in Zagreb.

Day 16: Back Home

No Overnight (fly back to Malaysia). Some morning time to get your last shopping done. Then we head one hour outside the city to visit a grand 13th century castle beautifully situated alongside a lake. Late lunch at a countryside winery/restaurant serving up some hefty portions and stick to your ribs food that should carry you over for part of your flight back home.  Transfer to Zagreb airport for your flight home (approximately 75 minute drive from our lunch).