Zivjo! Welcome to Slovenia. Known as ‘Europe in Miniature’, tiny Slovenia has a huge heart and a wealth of diversity. Best known for hearty, alpine stews, goulash and sauerkraut, Slovenia also boasts wonderful cakes and strudels, not to mention the culinary treasures found in the coastal Karst region, including teran (wine), prsut (air-dried ham) and sensational olive oils. Picturesque Ljubljana is perfect for starting a food odyssey, with a surprisingly diverse food scene that– great local eateries, progressive modern restaurants, street food, cafes and cake shops. After an important welcome meeting at 6 pm, perhaps toast to your trip with a glass of Slovenia's national drink: schnapps (zganje in Slovene). This fruit-based liqueur comes in a variety of flavours, with the local favourite being viljamoka – flavoured with Williams pear. Your leader can then suggest a great place in the heart of the city to sample some delicious traditional dishes.
This morning, take a public bus to Bled (approximately 1 hour). Situated on stunning Lake Bled at the edge of the Julian Alps, this is a postcard location straight out of a fairytale. You will have a large part of the day here but be sure to taste one thing in particular – a delicious cream cake called kremna rezina (kremsnita to the locals). It’s thought to have been invented in the kitchens of Hotel Park in 1953 by Istvan Lukacevic – chef of the hotel's confectionery store. Since its invention, more than ten million kremsnita have been baked at the hotel's patisserie. Tuck into your own slice to find out what all the fuss is about. Afterwards, perhaps hike up to Bled Castle or visit the 17th century baroque Church of the Assumption, or simply take a stroll around the lake. Return to Ljubljana in the early afternoon. In the evening, head over to a Slovenian culinary workshop in the evening to pick up some tips for creating some traditional Slovenian fare at home, followed by a hearty meal. Your hosts will provide a tasting of typical Slovenian cold starters, so you won't get hungry as you cook!
Travel by public bus to Piran this morning (approximately 2 hours). Piran is a coastal town, located near the border of Italy and Croatia. The region is renowned for its production of quality olive oils, wine (especially the distinctive teran and refosk), as well as a cured ham called prsut. This is air-dried in the cold dry wind (known as the bura), which sweeps down to the coast from inland. Take a tasting tour of the township, then venture into a family-owned konoba (restaurant) for lunch and a wine tasting. Everything you eat is grown and prepared on the property. Next, head to the nearby salt pans of Piran where salt is still manually harvested with traditional tools according to a seven centuries' old process. Cross the border into Croatia. Croatia has long piqued the interest of curious travellers searching for sunshine, sand and scenery, with charming cobblestone towns and World Heritage sites. Recently it has gained recognition as an exciting food and wine destination, with the region of Istria leading the charge as the culinary capital of the country. Arrive at your final destination, the Istrian town of Motovun, by early evening. The evening is free for your own food adventures.
Motovun is one of the best preserved medieval Istrian towns in Croatia, with houses scattered all over the hill and a spectacular view of Mirna River Valley. Motovun Forest is the best place for hunting the famous Istrian truffle, and the nearby village of Livade is considered the truffle capital of Istria. Take a walk through the woods with an experienced truffle hunter and learn about this intriguing vocation. Perhaps sniff out a truffle of your own! Then enjoy a tasting of regional specialties including olives, honey and (of course) truffles. Arrive to the romantic Croatian town of Rovinj, one of the best-kept towns on the Adriatic Coast (approximately 1 hour). Among Rovinj's qualities is the beautiful, architecturally intact old town centre, with a relaxed Mediterranean feel. Through the centuries, Rovinj’s character has enchanted many an artist or writer, including Jules Verne. Take an orientation walk through the old town. For fans of oysters, a cruise on Lim Bay is highly recommended. Stop into an oyster farm and taste freshly shucked bivalves straight from the ocean. Spend the evening at your leisure and perhaps seek out a local Mediterranean restaurant.
Take a private transfer to the stunning World Heritage-listed Plitvice Lakes National Park (approximately 4 hours). It’s the largest national park in Croatia and known to be one of the oldest in southeast Europe – full of waterfalls and spectral blue lakes. The waters tumble from a high, tree-lined ridge down through the valley before skirting dense forests of beech, spruce and pine. The Upper Lakes are in the dolomite cliffs, where rushing water weaves in and out of the karst before dropping dramatically down to the forest, grotts and steep cliffs of the Lower Lakes. After taking in this unique landscape, head onwards to Rakovica village where you’ll stay the night. Dinner includes a delicious home cooked meal provided by your hosts – a hearty serving of traditional Croatian kotlovina. This mixed meat dish consists mainly of pork schnitzels and sausages, traditionally made in a cauldron (which translates to kotlovina) for large groups of people, feasts, holiday celebrations or just parties. The hosts will let you witness firsthand how the meal is prepared before you tuck in, enjoying the robust flavours and hints of spice.
Farewell your hosts and then travel by bus to nearby Pag Island (approximately 2 hours). The karst island of Pag is home to sheep and a determined group of islanders who wring themselves a living from the barren, rocky landscape. Settled in pre-Roman times, the island has been at the mercy of the shifting fortunes of various Dalmatian rulers, and today, reminders of its prosperous salt-mining past lie in the main town. Meet a producer of the island's renowned cheese: paski sir. This artisan sheep's milk cheese has long been a valued commodity of the island. Discover more about the production process and enjoy a tasting. There will also be an option to enjoy a specialty dish of the region – lamb cooked peka-style – beneath a metal bell. Continue on to the walled city of Zadar (approximately 1.5 hours). For centuries, Zadar was the capital city of Dalmatia, and the city's rich heritage is visible at every step. It’s also celebrated for many culinary treasures, including fresh seafood, the sheep and goats that are reared for their meat and milk in the mountains to the north, and the wonderful fresh produce that is grown in a broad belt of land surrounding Zadar. Don't forget to try the famous liqueur, Maraskino, made from locally grown maraschino cherries according to a centuries' old secret recipe. This unique drink was a favourite at European imperial and royal courts and has been produced in Zadar since 1821.
Rise early for a stroll through Zadar's vibrant fish market. The fish market is built into the city ramparts at the spot where the trawlers land with their catch. This will also give you an opportunity to see some of the produce grown in the area. Depending on the season, you may find citrus fruits and kiwis from the islands, fresh and dried figs and home-made olive oil. The city is also home to a vibrant café culture. Afterwards, travel by public bus southeast to Split (approximately 3-4 hrs), arriving in the late afternoon. Take in vistas over vineyards, olive groves, bays, beaches, steep cliffs and islands along the way. The evening is free for your own food adventures – your leader will have plenty of local suggestions.
After breakfast at your hotel, discover a vibrant mixture of golden history and present-day delights in the city of Split which grew out from the remains of Diocletian's Palace. After you have admired some of the most impressive ruins on the Mediterranean, soak up the sights and flavours of the city on a walking tour with a local foodie. Wander the district's winding streets before heading into the market to learn about Croatian agriculture and cuisine. Taste produce like local fruit, veggies, dried orange peel (a typical snack in Split) and finish with a lunch of soparnik, a traditional bakery treat made from finely ground wheat flour. The rest of the day is free for you to explore. Perhaps take in the fantastically preserved basements under the city, along with the Cathedral in Docletian’s Peristyle and Jupiter’s Temple. As the evening rolls in, you may choose to take another cooking class or put your feet up and relax over a hearty Croatian meal.
Enjoy a free morning in Split before catching a ferry to Korcula (approximately 3.5 hours). Upon arrival, embark on an orientation walk to get a feel for this historic fortified island town, including the Cathedral of St Mark, the 15th-century Franciscan monastery and the massive fortifications surrounding the city. Whether or not this can be proved (the Venetians have a similar claim), Korcula is steeped in a long history that’s resulted in Greek, Slav and Roman settlers – resulting in a romantic and evocative cultural old town. What's more, there are plenty of warm beaches to relax on if that's more your speed. You might like to take a swim, walk around the bays and villages near Korcula town, pay a visit to the Marco Polo Tower, go shopping, or just soak up the ambience. Later in the evening, you will have the option to make the short journey by local bus (approximately 30 minutes) to the tiny village of Pupnat in the interior of the island. Consider dinner in the village, enjoying a meal made entirely from local produce. Perhaps you can drink your wine like the locals do – mixed with a bit of water.
Relax into island life in the morning before heading to Zrnovo village for a hands-on cooking class. You’ll learn how to make zrnovo makaruni (a local hand-rolled pasta), and you’ll enjoy this with lunch with some included local wines. One of these wines is Grk – a curious drop. The wine cannot replicate itself as it only has female parts and needs to be planted with another male grape variety in order to pollinate. It seems like a lot of work to make a wine, but the end result is a glass of acidic white, featuring a robust aroma and hints of pine that has been loved around the country for ages. In the afternoon, return to Korcula town for some free time – beach, anyone?
Travel to Dubrovnik by catamaran. With the sparkling water of the Adriatic in the background, Dubrovnik is picturesque, full of character and can easily be covered on foot. With no activities planned once arrived in Dubrovnik, you are able to depart from the port at any time. Your catamaran will arrive conveniently near the central bus station, from which you can get connections to the airport. If you would like to spend more time in Dubrovnik (which we highly recommend), we’ll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). You group leader will be able to point you in the right direction to your accommodation or onward journey.