Day 1. Prague
Starting your Eastern Europe Itinerary 2 weeks by car adventure in Prague has many advantages. Prague is one of my personal favorite cities in Eastern Europe because it has just so much to offer – medieval old town, countless breweries, scenic riverside, interesting museums and delicious, inexpensive cuisine. Moreover, Prague has a huge international airport and is therefore easily reachable from anywhere in the world. Renting a car is not a problem, as all major international car rental companies have offices in Prague. Bear in mind that returning car in a different country may be quite costly – around 400 EUR surcharge. This itinerary is designed to start and end in Prague.
Where to stay? You will find lots of various accommodation options for any budget. When we visited Prague, we stayed at a nice family home type of hotel called Dana Residence. The host was very welcoming and friendly, they also serve delicious breakfast according to your preference and at the suitable time. This guest house has free street parking and is close to metro, which makes it an ideal base for exploring Prague without having to worry about transport.
Day 2. Karlovy Vary – Cesky Krumlov
Karlovy Vary (or Carlsbad) is a small resort town located right next to the German border. Although visiting this town means taking a much longer way, it’s still worth a visit on a Eastern Europe Itinerary 2 weeks trip. First of all, there is a very famous brewery right along the way – Krusovice. This is one of the most famous Czech beers as well as one of the oldest. The brewery was established in 1581 and currently is owned by Heineken. You can simply stop by and try some of their beers or keep going without stopping.
The road to Karlovy Vary is quite scenic with occasional hills on the way. Once you arrive and park your car, take a lazy walk along the river promenade and make sure to taste the drinking thermal water from one of the numerous springs. The water is hot and healing. Karlovy Vary is a small town with very beautiful architecture, especially colonnades with columned walkways. Have lunch here before you head out to your final destination for today – Cesky Krumlov.
The fairy tale town of Cesky Krumlov is truly my most favorite place in all Czech Republic! The place is magical and its hard to describe it with words. We arrived there quite late and it was dark when we headed out to explore the old town. Many people say it’s a smaller version of Prague, with less crowds and better prices. I’d say Prague doesn’t come even close to beating it. You travel back in time when you walk the cobblestone streets. It’s breathtakingly beautiful and very compact. One evening is enough to see it, but you will definitely have difficulties with forgetting it!
Where to stay? We stayed at a family owned house and enjoyed it very much. It was called Villa Garibaldi. The house has free parking and is around 10 minutes walk from the old town.
Day 3. Austria – Eisriesenwelt
Wake up early and after a refreshing cup of coffee, start the journey towards the Austrian border. Once you arrive, the first thing to do is to buy vignette, or windshield sticker, for 10 days (price 9.20€). We highly recommend to stock on various snacks for the road trip as well as fuel at the border shop/gas station in the Czech Republic. Austria is quite expensive! Once you are all set, just simply keep on driving. Now you are in Austria!
To reach Eisriesenwelt ice cave by car takes around 3 hours. You will be passing by Salzburg and weather permitting, see the city panorama from the highway. If you have a little more time, consider stopping by. Ideally, you would need at least a day to enjoy this amazing city. Just before you arrive at the cave, be prepared for a very steep climb up. That was the time when I realized automatic cars have L (lower) gears! Be sure to learn how to use that beforehand. Otherwise you are risking being stuck in the middle of the road.
The cave is a huge attraction, requiring a cable car ride and a decent hike up to the mountain. You are only allowed to enter the cave as part of a guided group. That means you might have to wait at the entrance for the group tour to start. The tour is very informative, guides share lots of interesting facts about the cave and ice formations. You can read about our visit here. Visiting the cave will take a better part of your day, so after the visit you will have just enough time to grab a quick lunch and head to your hotel in Zell am See or Fusch.
Day 4. Grossglockner – Ljubljana
Today you are going to experience one the most scenic drives of this whole trip – the Grossglockner High Alpine road. As usual, prepare yourself for an early start, as we have lots of kilometers to cover. Our first stop is at the gates, to buy the pass. The ticket price is 37 EUR per car. Please note, the road is closed for winter, until early May. Total length is 48km of twists and turns and is the most famous alpine road in the Eastern Alps. The highest point is Hochtor Pass at 2,504 m.
To cover the distance, you would require around one hour of non-stop driving, but what’s the fun in that? At the gates, you will be given a map with all attractions along the way. We highly recommend taking a short hike to see Pasterze Glacier from up close. It can be a short one hour hike or a longer descend to the actual glacier. If you can, bring some picnic snacks, as cafeteria prices are rather high. If you are lucky, you may spot marmots (we did!).
After finishing the bends and turns, it’s time to head to Ljubljana for the night. The trip will take approx. 3 hours with amazing lake Bled along the way. If you feel like checking it out and it’s not too dark, consider stopping by. Otherwise, head straight to your hotel for the night, as this day has been exhausting enough already.
Day 5. Ljubljana
It’s time to park your car for a few days and enjoy walking. It’s difficult to find a better place Europe, than it is Slovenian vibrant capital. Ljubljana is a nice blend of German, Mediterranean, and Slovenian culture. One of the best ways to explore its magic old town is by taking a free walking tour. If you don’t feel like walking, consider renting a bike and exploring the city on two wheels. Ljubljana castle is obviously a major attraction and well worth a visit (7,50€ ticket). Visiting the museum may take a better part of your day!
Once you are ready, make sure to check out the Triple bridge, Preseren Square, Tivoli park. When you get hungry, have a look at Odprto Kuhna (open kitchen) or any other cosy restaurant that you find attractive. Finish your day at one of the numerous bars, you should try the local wine (experts say it is outstanding).
Day 6. Predjama castle – Postojna cave – Riejka
This morning we head south, to Croatia. Before we cross the border, there are two interesting sights along the way that we should take time and visit. The first stop is at Predjama Castle – a Renaissance castle built within a cave mouth. The castle is a great example how nature and man-made wonders can coexist within one masterpiece. It is the largest cave castles in the world. While the castle itself is open year round, the cave is open only from June to August due to the bats’ hibernation period.
If you enjoyed the caves in the castle, you will definitely love our next point – Postojna Cave. Hop on the underground train for a joy ride inside the cave! Underground formations are both surreal and breathtaking. After you have explored the cave, it’s time for a quick lunch and then we continue our journey to Croatian Pearl – seaside resort Rijeka. As an alternative, you might enjoy spending the night on Krk island. Weather permitting, head to the beach or enjoy a dinner at one of the seaside restaurants. I heard, the seafood there is amazing!
Day 7. Riejka-Plitvice-Zagreb
Next day starts with a ride to the world famous Plitvice lakes (2,5 hours drive) – a true natural wonder! Sadly, the place is overcrowded during high season, which makes it difficult to enjoy the lakes. Nevertheless, you can feel how beautiful it is and snap some cool photos, while walking along the paths and bridges. If you can, try to arrive there as early as possible.
The night we will spend in Zagreb – capital of Croatia. From Plitvice lakes it is another 2 hour drive. Enjoy the evening strolling through the streets of old town, Tkalciceva or Bogoviceva Street. Have dinner at one of the cozy restaurants serving fresh food based on seasonal ingredients. Try to relax this evening, as you won’t possibly be able to see very much. Zagreb would require another visit, if you really like it.
Day 8. Zagreb-Budapest
It’s time to head North again, this time to amazing and unforgettable city of Budapest. Although you can easily cover the distance in a matter of a few hours, we highly recommend you taking the long way. Let’s start out early and make our first stop at Varazdin – small town in northern Croatia on the Drava River. One of the main attraction is its baroque and rococo architecture, including the 17th-century Sermage Palace. Take a walk and enjoy the beauty of the old town.
For the lakeside views, visit Keszthely – small town located on the western shore of Lake Balaton. You can have a good lunch at the lakeside cafe and take a relaxing walk. After a couple of hours you will (finally) arrive in Budapest and check in at your hotel. It’s up to you now – whether you’d like to dive into exploring this vibrant city right away or stay in for the night and enjoy a meal locally. Budapest has an almost endless list of things to do, but we recommend saving the energy for the next day.
Day 9. Budapest
Hungary’s shiny capital is both vibrant and unique. You can not go wrong here. We recommend spending the day enjoying its beauty. Much of the city has been granted UNESCO World Heritage Site status. Here are some cool things to do here (in no particular order):
- House of terror – museum dedicated to Fascist and Communist regimes
- Heroes’ square
- Visiting parliament building (or simply admire it from water/other side of the Danube river
- Danube promenade – short but interesting walk from Elizabeth Bridge to the Chain Bridge
- Gellert Baths. Budapest is known for it’s bathing culture, so visiting one is a must!
- Danube river cruise
- Fisherman’s bastion – neo-Gothic style, acts as panoramic viewing platform
In the evening, don’t forget to check out one of the cool local bars called “ruin pubs”.
Day 10. Budapest – Strba
Another scenic drive is awaiting us today – over the mountains to the beautiful country called Slovakia. Good roads make the trip very enjoyable. Curvy mountain roads will remind you a little bit of Austria, but with much more relaxed pace. Although it is possible to drive directly to your final destination for the day, we highly recommend taking a detour and visiting the Bojnice Castle – a fairy-tale castle and museum, one of the prettiest in Slovakia!
Once you have fully enjoyed this beautiful castle, its time to drive to your home base for the next two nights – Strba. On the way you will see a huge water park. If you have time, feel free to check it out. It’s called Tatralandia and is one of the biggest open air water parks. The greatest thing about this water park is that is operates years round thanks to hot thermal water. This makes it especially popular among skiers during the winter months. It’s a perfect place for relaxation!
Day 11. Hiking in Strbske Pleso – hot springs
Good morning in beautiful Strba, Slovakia! This tiny village is an ideal base point for your High Tatras hiking adventure! Are you wondering why? Some really great hiking routes are starting from Strbske Pleso, but accommodation in that village is crazy expensive. Strba is only 10 minutes drive from there and much more affordable. For instance, we stayed there last summer and paid less than 25€ per night! And as you have a car, there is no reason in the world why you shouldn’t do the same.
Park your car at one of the many parking lots in Strbske Pleso and head to the High Tatras hiking center to get some supplies, food and drinks for the day. We did two hikes while we visited last year – one to Popradske Pleso, where we had lunch, and the other one to Skok waterfall. Both hikes took us around 3 hours to complete. They are relatively easy, even for inexperienced hiker. The trails are well marked and easy to follow. You will be walking along many other hikers, too.
After a challenging day at the mountains, nothing beats a good swim at the thermal baths. Additionally to already mentioned Tatralandia water park, there is a smaller place we liked very much – Thermal park Vrbov. It’s a really great place to relax with more mature crowd (no water slides here), the water is nicely hot and full of minerals. Driving time from Strba – around 30 minutes. You can read about this thermal park as well as other things to do in Northern Slovakia here.
Day 12. Strba-Krakow
Today we are going for a scenic ride, crossing the High Tatras into Poland. Our first stop is Tatranska Lomnica – a famous ski resort in winter. In summer you can still take advantage of it’s awesome funicular and ride all the way up to Lomnicky stit – mountain peak with built in 1940-s observatory. Weather permitting, you may have fantastic views of the surrounding areas. Some impressive short hikes are available at the top.
If you fancy another interesting mountain walk, consider Morskie Oko in Poland, right after the border crossing. The hike is easy and rather short – about 2 hours altogether. The lake is very scenic and makes a good photo spot. The trip to Krakow from the parking lot – 2,5 hours.
Day 13. Krakow
On the last day of your fantastic 2 weeks Eastern Europe Itinerary you will be exploring one of the prettiest little towns in Poland – Krakow. With so many interesting things to do, you will hardly get bored on this day. In fact, you would need a week to explore everything this little town has to offer. If you are interested in WW2 era, you might like a tour of Oskar Schindler’s factory or the infamous Auschwitz concentration camp museum. Those interested in the Soviet Era will certainly enjoy a communist tour of industrial Nowa Huta – unforgettable experience, including museums and a communist-style restaurant lunch.
A trip to Wieliczka Salt Mine (UNESCO World Heritage site) is another popular day trip. However, you don’t need to go on any of these tours. Even simply walking the cobblestoned streets and admiring the beauty and uniqueness of this town may be a worthy experience that you will highly enjoy.
Day 14. Krakow-Prague
Sadly, our journey is coming to an end and it’s time to drive back to Prague, where we will drop off our rental car. Total driving time is around 6 hours with Brno on the way – great place to have lunch and maybe even look around. If you start early enough, you might manage to hop in the Kutna Hora, famous for its Gothic St. Barbara’s Church and Sedlec Ossuary – a chapel adorned with human skeletons. Watch out for odd opening hours though.
The trip has been crazy enough already, so you may just as well take it easy and have a good dinner in Prague instead of squeezing in another sightseeing.
Would you dare to go on such adventure? Have any questions? Let’s discuss them in the comments below!