Hey everybody! My husband and I will be traveling the Western Balkans this month and I had a few questions. Any input/advice is much appreciated! Our interests are beautiful scenery, some hiking/canyoning, people-watching, eating good Balkan food, interacting with locals. We usually do NOT like museums, churches (except to peak in), and organized tours...there are always exceptions to this of course. Here's our tentative itinerary:
Sept 29 - London - Dubrovnik arrive late afternoon and settle in
Sept 30 - spend the day in Dubrovnik: go to the beach, walk the walls, ride the cable car, enjoy Old Town, and try and adjust to jetlag
Oct 1 - daytrip to Montenegro (only the Bay and Kotor as we have less interest in Cetinje and Budva), spend any extra time hanging out in Kotor or seeing more of Dubrovnik
Oct 2 - pick-up rental car, drive to Mostar, hang out for most of the day, and drive to Sarajevo to sleep
Oct 3 - hire a local guide to see Sarajevo, overnight in Sarajevo
Oct 4 - morning drive from Sarajevo to Trogir, enjoy scenery along the way, hang out and sleep in Trogir
Oct 5 - spend morning in Split to see the palace and get to Plitvice by nightfall. Overnight in Plitvice.
Oct 6 - spend 5-6 hours to see Plitvice and then drive to Bled. Overnight in Bled.
Oct 7 - Driving tour of Julian Alps. Overnight in Bled.
Oct 8 - Enjoy Bled and head to Ljubljana. Overnight in Ljublana.
Oct 9 - Skocjan caves and a few hours in Zagreb, drop off rental car in Zagreb at airport before we board late flight to London
Here are my questions:
1. Should we pick up the rental car one day early and use it to drive to Montenegro? Is parking an issue near Old Town Dubrovnik? Would it be a mistake to skip Cetinje and Budva?
2. Should we sleep in Mostar or Sarajevo on Oct 2? Is Mostar worth seeing at night? Is the drive from Mostar to Sarajevo safe to do at night?
3. Should we forget Trogir and just sleep in Split? From what I've read, Split isn't worth much time except to explore the palace but since we have one night, is it more convenient?
4. Due to the time of year we are traveling, we cut out islands and beach time thinking it will be too quiet and the weather too cold or unpredictable. Is this a mistake? We figure a beach in Dubrovnik and the coastal town of Trogir will be enough. We are hoping to come back one day and just island hop during the summer on some sort of cruise.
5. Any itinerary advice for Slovenia? Are we spending too much or too little time in any of the cities?
6. Is it a mistake to spend just a few hours in Zagreb?
7. Lastly, and this question is probably the most important, we will be driving everywhere except Dubrovnik and since we are picking up and dropping off within the same country, I am guessing we shouldn't incur extra fees. Is this a correct assumption? Any online car rental site recommendations? I have read about autoeurope, sixt, and gemut but have no experience with any of them. I usually use carrental8 in the US and they seem to do international rentals also but not sure if they cover all border issues. Will we have problems at any of the border crossings? I've read that you need a vignette for Slovenia which is straightforward but I don't know about Bosnia. Do you recommend we buy insurance?
Thanks ahead of time for any help you can offer!