Upon arrival into Zagreb, your Exeter International driver will meet you just after customs and baggage claim for the private transfer to the historic Hotel Esplanade.
Your hotel was originally constructed by the Orient Express company as a luxurious stopping point on the Istanbul to Paris train route and much of the historic ambiance of the hotel has remained, even after a very luxurious renovation. The remainder of today is at your leisure to relax, take a stroll or indulge in the hotel spa.
Zagreb has long enjoyed the influence of both the Eastern and Western culture. In medieval times, Zagreb consisted of two separate towns, Kaptol, the religious center, and Gradec, the commercial hub. The river Medvescak in-between the two towns was often the site of fierce battles between them. Today, Gradec and Kaptol together form the Upper Town, or Gornji Grad, which forms the historic Old Town of Zagreb. The Lower Town, or Donji Grad, on the plains is more chic and contemporary.
This morning, your guide will take you to Gornji Grad (Upper Town) for your tour of the historic heart of Zagreb. The best way to get around the Old Town is on foot, so wear your most comfortable walking shoes. If you happen to be in Zagreb on a Saturday, you will find a bustling market square – full of locals out shopping and socializing.
Begin your stroll with a visit to the Dolac, the open-air fruit and vegetable market in Old Town and the Church of St. Mary and the towering spires of St. Stephen’s Cathedral, the most prominent landmark on the city’s skyline. As you approach the front of the church don’t miss the ornate sculpted doorway. The Cathedral contains the tombs of the most important personalities in the history of Croatia including Ivan Mestrovic, the famous Croatian sculptor. While in the Old Town, don’t miss the historic stone city gates and the booming cannon of the Lotrscak Tower! Before leaving the Upper town, stop by the 17th century church, dedicated to St. Catherine.
Afterward, you will pick up your rental car from the downtown location near your hotel.
Note: Touring today is on foot.
This morning, head out with your car across the border to Slovenia. When you arrive in the Alpine lake town of Bled your GPS will take you directly to Vila Bled, where you will park and your local guide will meet you for an overview of Lake Bled and the town. Take a traditional Pletna boat ride to the baroque Church of Virgin Mary on an island in the middle of the lake.
Next, visit the beautiful Bled Castle with your guide before heading out on your own to explore other alpine towns in the region, which will be programmed in your GPS.
After time for lunch, continue back into Croatia toward the Adriatic Sea and the region known as Istria. Your final destination this afternoon is the gorgeous coastal town of Rovinj.
Today, embark with your guide and driver on a tour of the beautiful towns and villages of Istria.
Note: As Croatia has zero tolerance for drinking and driving, today’s touring is with a private
driver so you can enjoy the wines of the region.
The interior of Istria is very different from its coast. Your first visit today is the artist colony of
Groznjan. This hilltop town was all but deserted after WWII until being revitalized as a place
for artists. This is also a favorite of musicians, as the International Cultural Centre of Young
Musicians has its seat here. You will have time to wander the twisting streets, filled with shops
from local artisans, or perhaps to take in an impromptu music or drama performance in the
Riding through the rugged and hilly terrain you will come to the medieval ruins of the town of
Motovun, which suddenly spring into view. Motovun is an excellent example of the ancient
townships that dotted the Istrian peninsula. It’s worth the long trek up to the top of the hill.
Motovun is a medieval city that dates back to the 12th century and remains completely original
and intact due to its hill-top location and walled fortifications.
Exeter International Extraordinary Experience
This afternoon your guide and driver will take you to one of the leading, family-owned
vineyards of Istria for a private wine and olive oil tasting.
Later you will continue your tour of Istria with a visit to Livade, the small village in the Istrian
countryside famous for being one of the best-known truffle regions in Europe! White Istrian
truffles are among of the most expensive mushrooms in the world, and truffle harvesting is a
local tradition in the interior of the Istrian peninsula. You can stop for lunch at the most famous
truffle restaurants of the region for an unforgettable culinary adventure (lunch cost not included
in your program).
Today we recommend that you utilize the bike rentals available at your hotel to explore the town of Rovinj, with its narrow, winding streets. You can also explore on foot, if you prefer.
This afternoon, step back into the driver’s seat and head to the town of Pula (you will receive parking instructions and your GPS will take you to the best place to park), where your guide will meet you.
Pula became famous under the Romans during the 2nd century BCE, and became an Episcopal seat during the 5th century. It was ransacked by the Ostrogoths but regained power under the Byzantines as a naval port during the 6th and 7th centuries. It fell into decline until the Austro- Hungarians gained power and established their naval fleet here. The ancient barracks of the Austro-Hungarian Empire still house Croatia’s naval forces.
Upon arrival, your guide will take you on a walking tour of Pula. You will start at the historic center of the city at its most famous landmark, the Pula Amphitheater, which dates back to the 1st century – one of the best preserved Roman amphitheaters in the world. Today it is Pula’s main cultural venue and is known for its music and film festivals.
Continue to visit the Golden Door at the Temple of Augustus, built between 2 BCE and 14 CE, which is dedicated to the goddess Roma and the emperor Augustus. You will also see the City Hall with its blend of architectural styles, the Hercules Gate and the fragments of the city walls, as well as the Forum, the central square of classical and medieval Pula.
As time allows, you may wish to enter the Archaeological Museum of Istria, which contains several exhibits from Neolithic times to the medieval period of objects found in Pula and the surrounding areas.
Le Meridien Lav, Split
Today is your longest day of driving and you may elect to drive straight through or stop en route during the journey to Split. Your GPS will list all our favorite stopping points.
If you would like a break while driving on the beautiful coastal highway, just north of Split you will find the charming town of Zadar. Parking is a challenge here, but your GPS will take you to the best place to park. The historic city center is very charming and well worth the stop. The highlight of the city, other than its ancient Greek and Italian heritage, is the sea organ. Stone steps built into the sea play seven chords of five tones, making it a unique “orchestra of nature”.
If exploring nature is more to your liking, choose Krka National Park on your GPS. With its seven travertine waterfalls and total drop of 242 meters, the Krka River is a natural and karst phenomenon. Skradinski buk is one of the most attractive parts of the park and features a clear pool with high waterfalls and cascades. It’s considered to be one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Europe. You’ll also find ruins in the park that date back to Roman times, along with the Visovac Monastery founded in 1445.
Continue on your way to Split for an early evening arrival. The hotels in Split are chosen for ease of parking. Other options are available.
Le Meridien Lav, Split
This morning, drive into Split (your GPS will take you to the perfect place to park) and meet your guide to explore the city of Split, including the ancient Diocletian Palace. If you prefer to leave your car at the hotel, taxis are available for the short ride into the city center.
Diocletian’s Palace, facing onto the Split harbor, is one of the most impressive Roman architectural monuments in the world and is protected as a UNESCO Heritage Site. The Roman Emperor Diocletian, noted for his persecution of early Christians, was a native of nearby Salona before rising through the Roman military ranks to be eventually crowned emperor by his legions. He ruled for 20 years before abdicating and retiring to this palace. After his death, the palace was abandoned until the 7th century when refugees from the surrounding areas, fleeing foreign invasions, sought shelter within the palace’s protective walls. In the following centuries, the population outgrew its capacity and the town sprawled outside the walls. Today, Split is a major port and industrial center, as well as a perfect base for day trips to nearby attractions.
You will have the chance to explore with your Exeter guide the more than 200 buildings within the boundaries of the Diocletian Palace complex, many of which are still homes, while others house cafes, restaurants, and shops. Like a typical Roman fort, in its original form the palace had a square layout and was surrounded by a thick wall with gates and watchtowers. Some of the best-preserved sites you can visit are the Vestibule, the Temple of Jupiter, the Peristyle, and Diocletian’s Mausoleum – now the Cathedral of St. Dominus. This afternoon is at your leisure to explore Split and Diocletian’s Palace, or enjoy your resort.
Le Meridien Lav, Split
This morning your guide will meet you at your hotel for the short walk to your hotel’s marina, where your private motorboat will be waiting for you. Today your motorboat will take you to explore the neighboring island of Hvar. Through the course of history, Hvar Town has been a melting pot of cultures and influences and is still bursting with history, art and culture, and the home of Europe’s oldest municipal theater, which was built in the early 17th century over an arsenal in a peace-making attempt by the then ruler of Hvar.
You will start from Hvar’s main square, right next to the harbor, which is dominated by the Renaissance Cathedral with its distinctive bell tower dedicated to St. Stephen. The square is surrounded by buildings dating from the 16th – 17th centuries when the town was an important Venetian trading and seafaring center. Also in this part of town, you may wish to visit the Benedictine Convent, where the nuns spend their lives praying and weaving elaborate laces from the fibers of the agave plant.
To the north of the main square and towering over the town, you may decide to explore Hvar’s fortress, which is known as Spanjola as it was partially built by Spanish engineers. The steep hike to the very top of the fortification is well worth it for the beautiful views over the bay. As you continue your walk south of the harbor and along the row of cafes and bars to the other side of the town, you will come to the Franciscan monastery and the exquisite Church of Gospa od Milosti (Our Lady of Charity). The still functioning monastery dates back to the 14th century when it started as a hospice for ill sailors. Its museum houses a collection of works by Venetian and Croatian artists, including a magnificent 17th-century painting of the Last Supper by an unknown artist.
This afternoon your private boat will take you to explore some of the coast of Hvar as well as the neighboring Pakleni Islands. These islands face the town of Hvar and are uninhabited and
mostly woodlands. They feature a myriad of small secluded beaches. Some of these are nude beaches, so please do let your guide and skipper know if you would like to avoid this! You can stop as you desire for swimming or snorkeling.
Today you will continue your drive with the journey to Dubrovnik.
En route, you will drive past the Peljesac Peninsula, which, similar to other coastal settlements, was first colonized by the Greeks, later by the Romans and Byzantines, and in the Middle Ages often changed hands between the Venetian and Ragusan Republics. The peninsula is known for its fine vineyards and the best oysters in Dalmatia, farmed in the town of Ston. We suggest that you stop in Ston for lunch and a brief stroll about town.
During the days of the Roman Empire, the Ston oysters were famous for being a great aphrodisiac. Later, Ston was a military fort of the Ragusan Republic whose defensive walls are a notable feat of medieval architecture evident even today.
Late afternoon arrival into Dubrovnik and the remainder of your evening is at leisure.
If you’re up to it and if you arrive early enough (they’re generally open until 7:30PM), we highly recommend a walk into town and a walk atop the fortress walls surrounding the Old Town (a ticket is required and this is not included in your program). Just over a mile long, this stroll usually takes about an hour and will help you get your bearings and enjoy the splendid views of the historic Dubrovnik and the sea. The fortification includes several bastions, the tallest of which is the Minceta Tower, located just near the Pile gate in the north-western part of the town.
This morning, your guide will meet you at your hotel for an overview walking tour of the historic center of Dubrovnik, which is protected as a UNESCO Heritage site. Guests of Villa Dubrovnik are invited to use the hotel’s private motorboat to transfer to Old Town and you won’t want to miss this entrance into the historic district!
Begin in Dubrovnik’s main square - the Loggia Loza, situated at the eastern extremity of the Stradun – the centuries-old promenade which runs through the walled city from East to West. Your guide will take you into the Rector’s Palace. The Rector was the highest authority in the city and his palace now houses the Museum of Dubrovnik. Over 15,000 works are on display documenting the economic and cultural history of the city. You can also visit the Dubrovnik Cathedral and its treasury famous for the ancient relics including a fragment of the ‘true cross’ on which it is believed that Jesus was crucified.
If you like, you may visit Dubrovnik’s Sephardic Synagogue. The synagogue was established in the 15th century, survived earthquakes and wars, and is still in service today. Make sure to see the Franciscan monastery of the “Order of Minor Friars” (Ordo Fratrum Minorum) which includes one of the three oldest pharmacies in Europe, still serving customers. Part of the Franciscans’ mission was to take care of the health of the local residents, so they opened the pharmacy in 1317 and it has been in operation ever since. The monastery contains numerous medieval pharmacists’ tools and medical books which belonged to the English kings’ physicians, as well as 10th-Century manuscripts.
The remainder of your afternoon is at leisure. You can stay in the city to enjoy the shops and cafes or return to your hotel and indulge in the spa. Should you want to venture out into the countryside, some of our favorite towns will be stored in your GPS.
Note: All touring today is on foot on cobblestones. Please wear appropriate footwear.
This morning drive yourself for a day trip across the border to nearby Montenegro (also part of the former Yugoslavia). The country's name, meaning "Black Mountain", dates back to the era of Venetian hegemony over the Adriatic coast in the middle ages. Your destination today is the port town of Kotor, where a local guide will meet you.
Located at the head of a deep fjord, Kotor’s fortified Old Town was strategically built at the foot of a high cliff and is now protected by UNESCO. The fortified Old Town resembles Dubrovnik a bit, but is smaller, less crowded, and certainly more idyllic.
The best way to explore this very compact part of town is to simply allow yourself to get lost in the maze of narrow streets and small squares and to wander around admiring the historic buildings. Of course your Exeter guide will be there so you can’t really get all that lost!
Time and fitness permitting, you may consider climbing the 1,500 steps of Kotor’s old fortress walls on the hills above the town (for the physically fit, this climb is one of the true highlights of a trip to Montenegro!). Today, the impressive city walls stretch some 3 miles from the waterfront to the steep cliffs above the town, range in thickness from 5 to 50 feet, and offer some of the best views over the Old Town and the dramatic fjords that surround the town.
From here you might like to continue on to explore the town of Budva on your own. Or, for adventurous drivers, head up into the mountains for a visit to Lovcen National Park. Both will be stored on your GPS.
Late afternoon return to Dubrovnik.
Morning at leisure before check-out and drive yourself to the airport for car rental return and departure.
A sample itinerary for FIT self drive touring of Croatia and Slovenia.
For 25 years, Exeter International has established itself as the leading deluxe specialist operator to Central and Eastern Europe, Russia & Central Asia. We use our intimate regional knowledge and expertise to create unique, often limited access travel experiences. Our multi-national, multi-lingual specialists craft authentic insider experiences, created with imagination. When you book with Exeter International you can expect the top guides in each city pre-reserved weeks in advance, matched to your preferences. Our specialists have also been recognized by the Conde Nast and Travel & Leisure top agent list since their inception.
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Reviews and Recommendations for Exeter International
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Reviewed on: 06 Jun 2013
Exeter International was staffed with first class personnel from the drivers to the EXTRAORDINARY guides through out the trip. The vehicles used to transport us were luxurious. The hotels were commensurate with the level of quality expected by the cost and located in the most advantageous sites. Totally organized and stress free experience.
Exeter was very well organised with very good guides and drivers. Our requests were responded to with professional speed. Some of our hotels could have been better. But we understand that they were the best available. We would have no hesitation using this agency again and recommending them to others.
Exeter provides luxury travel with all the hassles and worries removed.
The quality of their drivers and guides is first rate. From the minute you arrive until your final departure you are in excellent hands. The itinerary is well thought out and provides many special visitations not offered to other tourists. I have heartily recommended Exeter to several people without any reservation.
We have used Exeter on a prior trip and were equally happy with them this time. We did have a Russian Visa situation which could have been serious, but was resolved quickly.The guide spoke very good English and was knowledgable in history and art along with the local architecture. The driver was also very safe in a chaotic traffic system.
All of the services provided by Exeter were truly outstanding. The hotel accommodations were excellent. The guides were extremely knowledgeable and well organized. The drivers were prompt and courteous. The suggestions for restaurants and additional things to do and see were very good. The printed booklet of helpful hints and language support was a nice bit of support for travelers who are visiting countries for the first time.
Everything was perfectly planned and resulted in a wonderfully exciting trip with all of our interests and needs taken into account. going on such an adventurous and challenging trip, so far away when one is no longer young could have been quite difficult, but instead was nothing but a fabulous experience. Wonderful guides and wonderful experiences on the Trans-Siberian Express and the cities of the Russian Far East, and a lovely hotel at the end in Moscow.
Exeter provided all of our guides and support for a 9 day family trip to Russia - very well informed, personable guides and smooth transportation. We were a bit hesitant to go to Russia but highly recommend - the trip of a lifetime !
From the beginning to the end this organization really surprised me! From getting our travel visas for Moscow to every detail of the tour pick up transfers and tours through the city were perfectly executed
Exeter planned an excellent two week trip for me and my three teenagers. We went to Poland, Germany and Amsterdam. We focused on WWII and Cold War history. The plan was thoughtful and well paced. When I had questions Exeter staff responded promptly. A very good experience.
Our driver and guide could not have been better. Polite and accommodating for the three days we were in St. Petersburg. We saw a lot of attractions, got some behind the scenes tours and were able to access some sights prior to the general public. I would use Exeter again without hesitation!
I strongley reccomend Exeter for shore excursions. Their staff and vehicles were first class, and the value was tremendous. We never felt uncomfortable or worried about being back to the ship on time. True professionals.
Knowledgable, efficient and friendly tour operators!
Reviewed on: 17 Sep 2017
Fantastic tour service. Their guides and drivers were outstanding. Guides all had an excellent knowledge of the city and the history. We are very pleased that Ralph recommended Exeter. When comparing notes with others that had used the tours supplied by the ship, we learned that we had seen and accomplished much more than they had. Our guides were able to make special arrangements that others could not. Will always use Exeter when it is available
The tour guides and drivers were outstanding plus. They were very personable, always early, and their local knowledge was excellent. All of them were eager to please and all adapted to the changing crowd situation caused by weather, national holiday, or political meeting.
From getting visas for us to planning a private visit to Russia for us, Exeter International was top notch. No detail was overlooked. The guides that Exeter provided were outstanding, spoke fluent English, had a good grasp of Russian history and were willing to accommodate our every interest. The guides were truly experts about their cities: museums, palaces, and surroundings. In addition, the guides were friendly and helpful.
Exeter ran a well organized, well thought-out tour of Russia
for the two of us.
My experience with Exeter was positive. The drivers were on time and very courteous. There was water in the cars for us. They had information to offer as we drove to destinations. They were accommodating to our schedules and were very helpful if we had questions. We missed walking around the interior of a famous church due to the day the tour was scheduled. There were services going on and we could not enter.
Another tour was partly taken up by a long walking tour to get to a castle. I would have rather spent time inside the castle. We had to exit with the guide and missed a lot of interesting things. Too bad we were not allowed to stay inside on our own to see more.
We had a wonderful trip. Hotel was excellent. They were able to accommodate our special requests and schedule. We highly recommend the local guide, Anya, who was extremely knowledgeable about local and Russian history.
We had basically positive experiences both days we toured with Exeter guides.
The first day there was a little too much emphasis placed on taking us to "gift shops" and expecting us to buy tourist trinkets.
The heat and the crowds may have been easier to bare if we had gone to the Hermitage in the early morning instead of wasting 45-50 minutes in a trinket shop.
The second guide was very professional and led us seamlessly through Catherine's palace and the palaces on the canal in St. Petersburg.
Exeter was a joy to work with. Our drivers and tour guides were helpful, friendly, and very knowledgeable. I traveled with my 13-year-old daughter, and our tours were uniquely tailored to interest her. I had heard horror stories about obtaining Russian visas. Not for us! Exeter took care of everything, and quickly. I loved the custom packet that they sent me in advance of the trip. It listed our itinerary in detail, helpful phone numbers, restaurant recommendations, and travel tips that were specific for our destinations. I would enthusiastically recommend Exeter for travel planning.
Becky recommended Exeter International for my party of four. We all agreed after two full days of touring with our guide and driver that we would not have wanted to see St. Petersburg any other way. Our guide was excellent and very informed and we liked the driver too. We were able to avoid the long lines and were admitted to areas of the palaces that other visitors would never have the opportunity to see. We invited her to join us for lunch on both days whereby we learned even more about St. Petersburg.
Exeter (Jody Ricottone) coordinated my recent sole tour of Norway. This involved guides in three cities, hotels in those cities and in two fjordside locations, trains and ferry, rental car and other transfer arrangements. I was very pleased with everything, including that Jody paid close attention to what I wanted and was responsive to my requests. Her recommendations and examples of somewhat similar sole tours really assisted me in my planning. The entire trip went off without a scheduling hitch, and introduced me, as I had wished, to Norwegian sites and experiences I never would have seen or had without Jody's good work.
The guide and driver were both wonderful and full of knowledge and professionalism. I would not hesitate to recommend this to anyone. They also had great suggestions for lunch venues, during our stay in and about St. Petersburg.
We engaged Exeter to provide a private tour in St Petersburg, Russia. Exeter was outstanding!! We had a guide, Anya Smirnova, and driver for 3 days and it was a fabulous experience. Anya spoke perfect English and was able to relate the sites we saw to Russian history and culture in a fascinating manner. We asked her many, many questions that she readily answered. Her knowledge was extensive. We had special entry to the exhibits, bypassing the long normal entry lines. We had the flexibility to see what was of interest to us, and the ability to visit sites that the ship tours did not include. For lunch we stopped at wonderful restaurants that served authentic Russian food at reasonable prices, which was far better food than on the ship. The day at Peterhof Palace, with the extravagant fountains and grotto, was especially memorable. Our experience with Exeter was outstanding and I would highly recommend them for future private tours.
Great Tour Group
Reviewed on: 07 Oct 2018
We had a four day touring experience with Exeter in Prague and both my wife and myself could not be happier. Peter, our driver met us for the transfer from our ship to Prague right on time and throughout our tour. He was extremely professional and made sure we were where we needed to be and was always pleasant. We felt very comfortable while being driven.
Lucie, our tour guide was extremely knowledgeable in all areas that we visited and made sure we got to see everything we were supposed to see and more. She worked things out while we were with her to ensure things went like clockwork and we were not disappointed. I can't say enough how using Exexter made our time in Prague a wonderful experience and I would not hesistate using them again.