Porsche Macan GTS roadtrip: from high Alps to majestic Adriatic
An epic drive through Slovenia and Croatia
Red Macan GTS on cobbled road, cloudy sunlit mountain behind
On an 800km odyssey we take in epic mountain switchbacks and Baroque cities, turquoise coastal waters and imposing medieval walled old towns, in a car that’s ready for everything
Above the clouds: the Julian Alps to Lake BledSlovenia is one of Europe’s smallest countries – you can fit it nearly 18 times into Germany, for example – but it hits way above its weight when it comes to gifts of the natural variety. Take the Julian Alps, for example. They may not be as well-known as its cousins to the north and west, but they can easily match them for sheer spectacle… and daring driving opportunities. Which is what makes them the perfect departure point for our Macan GTS roadtrip down to the southern-most point of neighbouring Croatia.We begin by surging, confidently, up towards the cloud topped Vršič Pass, the Macan GTS handling the succession of zigzags with confidence. If this stretch of road hasn’t got the blood coursing through your veins – and believe us, it will – then the views to the Mojstrovka and Prisjonik mountains will. From here, we swap the Alpine switchbacks for the straight-as-a-die, high-speed A2 highway as we head towards beautiful Lake Bled.
Road snaking through Julian Alps on a sunny late afternoon
Slovenia’s Julian Alps is a centre for hiking and winter sports
As hiking is one of Slovenia’s national pastimes, it seems only right that we take time out for a couple of hours on our Macan GTS roadtrip to trek up to the Ojstrica mountain-top lookout at Lake Bled. From here is a panorama you won’t easily forget – surely one of the most scenic in Europe. In the far distance are the mountains that mark Slovenia’s border with Austria. Below us is the vivid turquoise of the lake itself, with its fairytale castle. The castle, which clings to a rocky outcrop overlooking the lake, has been around for a millennium – built several hundred years before that of the equally beautiful Assumption of Mary church, which sits on an island in the middle of the water. If your companions aren’t up for the hike up Ojstrica then just enjoy the vista from the comfort of the Macan, with its three-zone automatic climate control. It can get pretty cold up here for at certain times of the year.A baroque beauty: LjubljanaAfter descending from Slovenia’s iconic mountains – they’re even depicted on the national flag – the cobbled streets of the nation’s pretty capital, Ljubljana, provide a real contrast. The city is home to a booming cultural (and counter-cultural) scene, but it’s also something of an artwork in itself. Baroque churches and a cathedral stand alongside the beguiling early modernism of architect Jože Plečnik, whose visionary buildings and public spaces have done for Ljubljana what Gaudí has for Barcelona.
Pink-coloured Baroque church with statue in front in Ljubljana, Slovenia
Ljubljana is filled with elegant Baroque buildings, like the Franciscan Church of the Annunciation
The next morning, our Macan GTS roadtrip to the Adriatic coast picks up pace. You pass by rolling hills and along wide, open roads as you speed across the border into Croatia and on to Rijeka. Ahead of us is the Jadranska Magistrala – Croatia’s lengthy section of the legendary Adriatic Highway that later passes through Bosnia and Herzegovina, all the way down to Montenegro.A winding wonder: Rijeka and the Jadranska MagistralaThe port city of Rijeka, adorned with delightful Austro-Hungarian architectural stylings, marks the start of the Magistrala proper. If you have a little bit of time to kill, then a visit to TunelRi to explore Rijeka’s wartime past should be high on your list. Dug by the Italian military between 1939 and 1942, its 350m of tunnel was built to protect civilians from Allied bombing. Nearly a century beforehand, in the 1860s, Rijeka was the home to a testing facility for the modern era’s first torpedoes. The majestic industrial decay of the city’s abandoned Torpedo Launch Station today makes for a memorable photo opportunity.
Curving road hugs to hillside with views over blue-green sea
The curves of the majestic Jadranska Magistrala road hug Croatia’s Adriatic coastline
Unlike the Torpedo Launch Station, it’s an engineering phenomenon still in use today that occupies us for the rest of our Macan GTS roadtrip. On maps it is known, prosaically, as the D8. But to the millions of locals and tourists who use it everywhere, the Jadranska Magistrala is an asphalt wonder that’s regarded as one of the best coastal drives in the world. Offering more than 600km of serpentine twists and turns, sheer white cliffs, jagged mountains and jaw-dropping views across the Adriatic Sea’s endless procession of islands, the Magistrala takes us all the way from Rijeka right down to Dubrovnik and just beyond, through some of Croatia’s most beautiful towns and villages.Although we start with a little detour inland to the Plitvice Lakes National Park. Famed for its waterfalls and emerald lakes, flanked on all sides by magnificent primeval vegetation, we set up camp in one of the park’s plentiful guest lodgings – it’s an excellent sojourn for restless legs.
The 600km-long Jadranska Magistrala is an asphalt wonder that’s regarded as one of the best coastal drives in the world
Castles and clear blue waters: Senj to ZavratnicaBack on the Magistrala, the next chapter on our Macan GTS roadtrip takes us from Senj to Karlobag. It’s one that requires attention at every curve. We fuel up on coffee and bureks (savoury pastries) in this historic walled town. The previous occupants of Senj – Croatian pirates called the Uskoks – are responsible for the town’s imposing 16th Century square Nehaj fortress. The name Nehaj comes from a Croatian term meaning ‘Don’t care’ – but we certainly do. Our next port of call, literally, is around the headland to Jablanac, the starting point for ferries heading to the island of Rab. Just a short hike away is Zavratnica, a narrow inlet with electric blue water and its own German WWII shipwreck to explore.
An inlet of limestone cliffs, blue-green waters and cypress trees
Croatia’s Adriatic coastline is liberally sprinkled with beautiful inlets like this one at Zavratnica
Monasteries and the sound of music: Zadar to ŠibenikAn hour and a half’s drive south from Karlobag is Zadar, the oldest continuously inhabited city in Croatia, and the halfway point of the Magistrala. Famous for its sunsets, Zadar holds ancient relics (the Romans and Venetians have both left their mark here) as well as modern attractions. We head to the Sea Organ, a large installation on the seafront featuring 35 tubes and a resonating cavity that’s played by the wind and the waves. Down here on the Dalmatian coast temperatures rarely dip below 30 degrees Celsius on summer days. Our Macan GTS acts as something of a sanctuary from the stifling heat as we make our way to Šibenik via the Krka National Park, home to the Visovac Monastery, which commands a majestic position from atop a rock in the middle of a lake.
Red Porsche Macan GTS takes a curve in a road
A case of the bends: the Macan GTS devours curves
A city teeming with history: SplitOur next overnight stop on our Macan GTS roadtrip is Split, Croatia’s second city. But there’s still plenty of stop-off points to lure us on the way. Like the picturesque, whitewashed village of Primošten, home to some of the Adriatic’s best swimming beaches. Split itself is a vivid fusion of old and new, a heaving labyrinth of bars, shops and restaurants, all woven around the 4th Century ruins of the Roman Diocletian’s Palace. Explore the Pazar farmers’ markets and then head up Marjan Hill and you’ll be treated to unrivalled views of the city and ocean beyond, before heading down to the waterfront Riva promenade for a sunset rakija (fruit brandy).A fantastical finish for our Porsche Macan GTS roadtrip: Dubrovnik to PrevlakaThe stretch into Dubrovnik is everything a Macan GTS driver craves – narrow winding roads interspersed with sweeping stretches and spectacular views of the Dalmatian coastline, with its chain of islands just offshore and one unspoilt stone-built village after another. It’s the kind of driving environment that a car like this is designed for. We’re nearing journey’s end now. From our vantage point on the Magistrala, the mighty stone walls of Dubrovnik’s Old Town jut out proudly and defiantly into the Adriatic below. A World Heritage site, it’s a tangle of tightly packed limestone streets and home to countless great restaurants, with seafood a particular speciality. And if you’re travelling with a Games of Thrones fan, they can walk the same medieval streets used as the setting for King’s Landing in HBO’s swords-and-dragons epic.
View across from Dubrovnik’s city walls to stone fortress
Dubrovnik plays the role of King’s Landing in the epic Game of Thrones TV series
South of the Dubrovnik Riviera – past the eerie of hotels in Kupari, once frequented by the military elite in the former Yugoslavia, but now just abandoned shells – the Magistrala turns inland towards Montenegro. The Prevlaka peninsular is the most southerly peninsula in Croatia, and Oštro its southern-most point. Here, at the entrance to the Bay of Kotor, is a former top secret army base with astonishing views across the bay to Montenegro. The scrub-covered peninsula and its imposing fortress is as good a place as any to contemplate the road we’ve just travelled on our Macan GTS roadtrip. One that’s taken us 800km (500 miles) from high mountain passes to Baroque cities, along unspoilt coastline and through picture-perfect towns and villages. And it’s also a chance to pay tribute to the car that brought us here, with its perfect combination of sports car handling and everyday useability.
Red Macan GTS on tight road through forest
Macan GTS: mastering over 800km of roads on a trek from mountains down to the sea
Consumption and emission information Macan GTS (WLTP): Fuel consumption combined: 11,7 - 11,3 l/100 km; CO₂ emissions combined: 265 - 255 g/km; CO₂ class: G.
Continue reading
New Porsche 911 Targa 4 GTS (992.2) on twisty road
13 things you need to know about the new Porsche 911 (992.2) Discover how the new 911 – the 992.2 – draws on unparalleled Porsche sportscar innovation and technology to raise the standards of performance, design and personalisation to even greater heights Read more
Porsche Taycan Turbo GT Purple Sky Metallic static on racetrack
Everything you need to know about the new Porsche Taycan Turbo GT With astonishing performance, incredible dynamics and head-turning looks, the record-breaking Taycan Turbo GT is the fastest all-electric production car that Porsche has ever built Read more
Three Taycan cars with owners in a variety of landscapes
8 things you need to know about living with a Porsche Taycan From a smooth driving experience to easy charging to performance, three Taycan owners explain what they love most about their cars Read more