Where was the site? The guidebook said it was easy to find – but our faulty sat nav placed it in the sea! It was one of those days: we had missed a turn in Trieste, then had to return through the centre of the city. Now, though, we were in Rovinj, as we enjoyed a tour of Croatia and Slovenia, and had taken several different roads, at one point arriving at the Old Town.
We managed to retrace our steps – we didn’t want to drive up the cobbled streets. Luckily, we spotted a man cutting a hedge, so I jumped out and asked him for directions to Campsite Veštar.
At the site, we chose a pitch and the ‘fun’ started again – the plan was to manoeuvre into position using the mover. However, the jockey wheel had other ideas, burying itself in the generously applied gravel.
As we pondered how to get out of this fix, our neighbours arrived from the four points of the campsite and helped us manually move the caravan into position.
Thanking them all profusely, we set up. Joe asked if we should put up the awning. The glare he got gave him his answer!
The next day, with the awning erected, we explored the site, checking out the pool, shops and restaurant, and the beach. Then we drove to Rovinj, parking on the seafront, where tourist and fishing boats berth.
Rovinj is on the Adriatic, on the Istrian Peninsula. The town is on its own peninsula, with the Venetian influence very evident in the Old Town. Boat trips run from here to Venice and Ravenna.
We strolled into the Old Town, heading for the church at the top, pausing at a café for refreshments. It was lovely just to stop, people-watching and gazing out over the gorgeous blue of the Adriatic.
The imposing Church of St Euphemia, constructed in the baroque style, dominates the town and the surrounding area. It has three naves and was built in 1725-1736.
It was originally dedicated to St George, but the relics of St Euphemia are housed in a sarcophagus here, and there is a statue of the saint on the bell tower.
We walked down a quiet cobbled street with shuttered windows, art galleries and souvenir shops, arriving at another harbour, this one packed with leisure craft and lined with brightly painted bars and restaurants.
Next day, we visited a place quite near the campsite, driving along a track and walking through fields to reach the Bronze Age settlement of Monkodonja.
This hill fort was occupied from around 1800-1200 BC, and is thought to have housed about 1000 people. The impressive site is surrounded by three concentric drystone walls with two gates.
At the top is the acropolis or citadel, high above the upper and lower towns, separated by a network of passages and streets. It was obviously a strategic spot – there are great views all around.
Later we drove to Dvigrad, a medieval town abandoned around 1631 by most of its inhabitants because of plague, malaria and typhus. The last three families departed in 1714, leaving the place to the elements. The gate still exists, along with substantial walls, the church of St Sophia, towers, bread ovens and the remains of some 200 houses. It’s a fascinating place.
Three days of heavy rain kept us holed up at the site, except for one afternoon when it was fine enough to find out what the Lim Canal (aka Lim Fjord) is. It’s actually a 10km river canyon, with steep wooded sides.
We drove to a vantage point where there are platforms to view the river, but we only caught glimpses through the trees. Instead, we descended to the river and walked along the shoreline. Pleasure boats ply between here and Rovinj.
Our ‘must see’ was Pula, to the south of the Istrian Peninsula. The attraction for us was the Roman amphitheatre, known as the Arena. Built between 27 BC and 68 AD, this is in a spectacular position overlooking the Adriatic. We were not disappointed.
Then we turned from Roman remains to modern technology, searching online for the tourist information centre, to find out what else there was to see in Pula. I obviously hadn’t done my homework – the whole city is crammed with Roman remains.
We embarked on a self-guided walking tour, starting near the Arena, and found the Porta Gemina (Twin Gate). Thought to be the entrance to a Roman theatre, it now leads to the Archaeological Museum.
A few steps further and we arrived at the Gate of Hercules. Unfortunately, modern properties have been built behind it, but there’s a sculpture of the head of Hercules
at the top of the arch, hence its name. Then we came to the magnificent Sergian Arch, marking victory in the battle of Actium.
Spotting a café on the other side of the arch, we stopped for coffee and cake.
Suitably refreshed, our next stop was the Chapel of Santa Maria Formosa, a Byzantine church whose walls and floor are decorated with sixth-century mosaics.
Returning to the town square, we found the Temple of Augustus, dedicated to the first Roman emperor. Originally one of three here, this is the only one to have survived. Next to it is the Communal Palace or City Hall, thought to have been built on the site of a Temple of Diana in 1296.
Taking advantage of the good weather next day, we drove north and inland to the hilltop village of Motovun. We couldn’t miss it, with houses scattered down the sides of the hill, the top part encircled by walls and the church dominating the whole scene.
Motovun is said to be the best preserved medieval fortification in Istria. I was less impressed by the fee to drive up to the car park, but realised later that it saved us quite an uphill hike.
Narrow paved streets lined with bars, restaurants and shops took us to the large square at the top. After the walk, we sought refreshments overlooking the grassy plain and gently rolling countryside below.
Later, we drove to the charming town of Novigrad, with its tree-lined promenade and cycling route beside the sea. It was very hot, and we were thankful for the shady trees.
Walking through the town, we came to a marina packed with leisure craft and lined with restaurants. It was quiet, compared to Motovun and Rovinj, but I’m sure in high season it would be busy.
After a rest day, we drove just north of the Lim Canal to Vrsar, a fortified medieval town on a hill, overlooking a group of islands. We enjoyed wandering through the quiet streets and squares with colourful houses, arriving at the Church of St Martin at the top. Below we could see the marina, the harbour and the newer part of the town, where we later stopped for refreshments.
We moved on to Porec, a little further north. It was busy and clearly very popular, but that was no surprise, because this place has it all: history, coastline and marinas.
Porec has been ruled by the Romans, the Venetians, the Austrian Empire, Italy and Yugoslavia, finally becoming Croatian in 1991, so there’s a lot to discover. We saw the splendid Euphrasian Basilica, which houses gold mosaics, and Marafor Square, originally the site of the Roman forum.
Next day, we decided to visit Bale, where we strolled up through the quiet streets until we came to an old archway, leading to the inner stone-built town, known as the Castle.
Eventually, we arrived at a small square containing two churches. The old (formerly Roman) town was so peaceful – apart from a café, there are no shops. On our way back, we spotted a plaque stating that Casanova often visited Bale, between 1743 and 1747 – you can probably guess why!
We drove towards the coast, arriving at Fažana, a pretty town where you can take a boat trip to Brijuni National Park. This huge reserve covers two large and 12 small islands. There are several archaeological sites and dinosaur footprints have also been found here. Lacking time, we had to content ourselves with a stroll along the prom.
Leaving Croatia behind, we headed for Slovenia and Camping Bled. We caught our first glimpse of the aquamarine waters of Lake Bled as we drove down the main street.
We followed the side of the lake to find the campsite, where bike-riding staff escort you to your pitch (or two pitches in our case – we were a bit mystified about this because there were bigger outfits than ours on single pitches, but we weren’t about to complain).
Once we’d set up, we took the short walk to the lake, which is stunningly beautiful.
Next day, we were keen to explore and set off on our bikes along the promenade close to the campsite. Then we climbed a steep hill (thank goodness for ebikes) to reach Bled Castle. We cycled on into Bled and stopped for a cool drink, then returned by the lower route, which hugs the lake.
We visited Bled Castle properly next day. The castle is perched on a cliff overlooking Lake Bled and the town. We set off early, having observed while out cycling that it
was a long climb after leaving the car park.
We got the last parking space at the top and climbed more steps to the castle. There are three courtyards, a museum, a chapel, a forge, a café and a medieval printshop.
This is the oldest castle in Slovenia, dating back to 1011, but the main attraction is the spectacular view it offers of snow-capped mountains and the renowned Pilgrimage Church of the Assumption of Mary, set on an island in the middle of the lake.
Waterfalls and rapids
We spent the next day exploring by bike, although we didn’t make it to our intended destination, the village of Podham, arriving instead at a pretty place called Spodnje Gorje. We stopped for refreshments at a little café and continued until we recognised where we were, behind Bled Castle.
The following day, we went in a similar direction, this time by car, to visit Vintgar Gorge. There’s a huge car park for cars and coaches, which cost €5, and we paid €20 to enter the gorge. It was worth it: the River Radovna has carved through the dramatic limestone scenery to produce many small waterfalls and rapids.
We strolled along the paths, bridges and boardwalks to reach the truly magnificent 16m-high Šum waterfall, a stunning sight.
Later we drove to Lake Bohinj, situated in a valley that was quieter and less touristy at the time of our visit, but still charming and beautiful in its own right.
Passing the end of the lake, we drove on through a pine forest. This quiet country lane was on neither map nor sat nav. We decided to go on, then saw signs for ‘slap’. The only Slovenian word I know, it means ‘waterfall’.
The road ended in a large car park with a chalet-style hotel, restaurant and bar in the middle. Spotting a sign to the Savica Waterfall, we headed upwards to a ticketed entrance (€2.50 for over-65s).
Thank goodness we brought our trekking poles. Basically, it’s an uphill trail, but it’s steps most of the way to the waterfall, and then down again. It was well worth the effort, although it’s not for the faint-hearted.
We were very pleased with our fitness: our walking app declared it was 408ft up in 1.1 miles. Back at the car park, we lunched at the restaurant – we reckoned that we had earned ourselves a treat!
We also tried Lake Bled’s famous cream cake, actually an opulent vanilla and custard cream dessert, which we bought from the site shop on our return.
We spent our final day exploring by bike and enjoyed dinner at the excellent campsite restaurant, with a last look over Lake Bled.
So why had we struggled to find Campsite Veštar? We’d been looking for signs with a caravan or tent symbol, but the site is part of a chain and all of the campsite names are displayed on hoardings with direction arrows. Simple really, and with the faulty sat-nav sensor repaired, we can’t wait to go again!
- Thinking of embarking on a tour a bit closer to home? Then take a look at our best caravan park round-up.
When to go
We visited Croatia and Slovenia in late May/early June. Popular places such as Rovinj were busy, while in others, it was evident the season hadn’t started. Bars, shops and restaurants were all open for business.
Way to go
We took the overnight ferry from Hull to Rotterdam, stopped off in Germany, then crossed the edge of Slovenia until we reached Croatia.
How to book
We booked the ferry through the Caravan and Motorhome Club and used our ACSI book to choose sites. Having read how busy Camping Bled is throughout the season, we phoned to book a pitch and also used CAMC Overseas Site Night Vouchers.
On the road in Croatia and Slovenia
Most motorways in Croatia are toll roads. You can pay in kuna, the Croatian currency, or use a credit card.
In Slovenia, you need a vignette for motorways or dual carriageways – and they do check. You can buy them at fuel stations in Slovenia and neighbouring countries, as well as at the border or online. Slovenia’s currency is the euro.
Food and drink
The campsite restaurants were excellent and we dined there several times, because the sites tend to be driving or cycling distance away from the nearest town.
Find out more about Croatia and Slovenia
We picked up useful leaflets at the campsites, but mainly used the internet to find places to visit.
Where we stayed on our tour of Croatia and Slovenia
Vetar 1, Istra, Croatia HR-52210, +385 52 80 37 00
- Open: End of April to early October
- Pitches: 458
- Charges (pitch+2+hook-up): €20 with ACSI card
This is a large campsite, with lots of facilities. If you’re using ACSI, you are shown the available pitches, which are further back from the pebble beach, but nearer reception and the mini-supermarket. Here, there’s an ATM if you need local currency. On the main site road, pop-up shops sell fruit, newspapers in high season and seaside paraphernalia. There’s a large swimming pool complex and children’s area, and nearby is the restaurant. The pitches are large and have electricity, water and drainage.
Kidriceva 10c, Bled, Slovenia SLO-4260, +386 45 75 20 00
- Open: 1 April to mid-September
- Pitches 244
- Charges (pitch+2+hook-up): €20 with ACSI card
The campsite occupies a valley that slopes up from the lake. The reception, restaurant and mini-supermarket are at the entrance near the lake. This is a very busy site, but it’s not noisy, and it’s friendly and well run. You can cycle around the lake directly from the site and there’s a promenade for strolling. Bread arrives in the morning via bicycles pushing carts loaded with rolls and local specialities.
If you enjoyed this, why not take a look at these:
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