Slovenia, perhaps rather unfairly, may not be everyone’s first pick when jetting off to an exciting new holiday destination. Instead, it is quietly but steadily becoming an up-and-coming corner of the world to visit, and first time travellers here won’t leave disappointed. Revel in the lush valleys and trails that that wind through the Alps, enjoy the folk culture, or learn all about the local fine wine. Join us as we take you on a tour through this stunning and hauntingly beautiful country and show you the 15 best places to visit in Slovenia.
You might get a feeling that Llubljana is a special place when you wander around this dainty city and notice the myriad dragon statues that dot the streets. According to legend, Jason and the Argonauts slayed a similar monster in Llubljana in the days of old and, aside from the dragons, the city is packed full of gorgeous architecture that dates for the Baroque period. As well as sculptures and art work, the city is also known for its little squares that line the part of the city called Old Town. Watching over the city is Ljubljana Castle that is served by a funicular in case you don’t fancy the trek up, and you can also climb the clock tower and soak in the spectacular views over the city.
People will tell you that Slovenia looks like something out of a fairy tale, all brooding castles and verdant forests, and the picturesque town of Bled is no exception. The town features a glassy lake that is perfect for boating trips to the small island in the centre that has its own church, or if you fancy something more active you can choose to go kayaking or canoeing. Cycling and hiking around the lake are also common pastimes as are visits to the Gothic Church that sits perched on a hill overlooking the town. There are also famous skiing areas located just outside of Bled that can be accessed via chairlift that will take you to the summit of Straža Ski Slope and you can either choose to ski or even use a toboggan to get to the bottom.
3. Škocjan Caves
Visit the natural wonder of the Škocjan Caves and know that you are also in a UNESCO World Heritage Site as well as the highest hall of caves in the whole of Europe. The caves are located in a giant canyon that is positioned underground and you can cross from one side to the other via a bridge that allows you to understand the scale of this cave system. Visitors to the caves can explore the beautiful columns of stalactites and stalagmites, and you won’t be alone when you visit as there are plenty of creatures that lurk in the darkness including more than fifteen species of bats!
Slovenia is not well known as a skiing destination although it really should be as it even snows in the summer months at higher altitudes. Rising above the impossibly pretty Bohinj Lake you will find Vogel, where you can enjoy either downhill or cross country skiing trails, and there are different sections depending on your ability and fitness levels. One of the best things about Slovenia is the fact that those who enjoy winter sports can indulge their passion from December through to May when crisp, powdery snow is pretty much guaranteed in the country.
If you feel like you might be in need of some rest and relaxation, or simply fancy a dip in a soothing warm bath, then the thermal waters of the town of Laško are not to be missed. The waters are said to have healing and rejuvenating properties and locals and visitors alike have flocked to the area to bathe for centuries.
6. Rogatec Open-Air Museum
If you want a slightly different museum experience then head outside and visit Rogatec Open-Air Museum that is based around a farm. The emphasis of the museum is to teach visitors about the local customs and folk traditions of Slovenia and there are arts and crafts activities and workshops that allow you to try your hand at bread baking, basket weaving, or even blacksmithing. There is also a nearby manor that dates from the Renaissance period that visitors can tour to learn all about Slovenian heritage and traditions from the 18th Century onwards.
7. Postojna Cave
Located just outside the town of Postojna is the Postojna Cave, a karst cave that takes the form of haunting bubbles and frothing rocks thanks to the natural limestone dissolved by the waters of the Pivka River from which the karst topography is created. The systems of caves are the second longest in Slovenia and highlights include a stalagmite named Brilliant which has also become the symbol of the cave. Other things not to miss are the underground railway the transports visitors deep into the bowels of the cave, the Concert Hall (actually a large cave known for its spectacular acoustics), and the Spaghetti Hall, so called because of the shape of the tunnels within.
8. Logarska Dolina
Logarska Dolina is a valley in the Alps that lends itself to gentle rambles through forests that have stood for centuries. The valley actually dates from the Ice Age and sits upon the site of a glacier than created the basin that makes the area resemble a trough. For the brave of heart this area is often used as the base camp for those wishing to scale the mighty peaks of the Kamnik-Savinja Alps. The valley falls into distinct areas, namely the lower, central, and upper parts, and in the lower and central areas visitors will find gorgeous meadows through which to meander. In the upper part of the valley the forests begin in earnest, and the entire area has now become a regional park that ensures that visitors can marvel at the local plant and animal life in a pristine environment of almost untouched natural beauty.
9. Predjama Castle
For a truly awe inspiring experience, head to Predjama Castle. Firstly, this is a feat of engineering like no other as the castle is built in the mouth of a cave atop a cliff that rises to over 120 metres. As if this wasn’t enough, the castle is said to be over 700 years old and was the former home of a Slovenian famous figure named Erazem Lueger, a knight and noble baron turned robber who famously stole from the elite and gave to the poor, also challenging the establishment in Slovenia as a kind of Robin Hood-like figure. Reenactments are often displayed at the castle including medieval jousting held in July.
10. Triglav National Park
Taking its name from Slovenia’s highest peak, Triglav, this is the only national park in the country and is found in the north-western region of the Julian Alps. The park is protected from extensive building work in order to preserve the natural beauty of the area, and the glacial Triglav Lakes as well as Mount Triglav are the bid draws here for visitors.
11. Soca Valley
Soca River that runs through the valley of the same name has to be seen to be believed, as it is actually a stunning shade of brilliant turquoise. The valley is spectacular in its own right and features a wide range of local flora and fauna for visitors to explore, but if you want to do something more adventurous then there are a plethora of outdoor activities available in this natural playground. Rafting on the river is popular and a great way to take in the views as you sail by on the water or you can take to the skies with other extreme pursuits like paragliding. If you want something a little calmer, then you can ride horses along mountain trails, or hike in the surrounding areas and stop at one of the many picturesque spots in the valley for a picnic. Cycling and mountain biking are also becoming more and more popular in Slovenia is you fancy tackling the mountain terrain.
Having won the prestigious title of European Capital of Culture 2012, come to Maribor, Slovenia’s second largest city, to learn all about the local culture and in particular the wine. The city is famed for having some of the oldest vines in the world and for the superb wine that they create, and there are vineyards that stretch from the town of Maribor into the Pohorje forests. As you would expect there is also a Festival of Wine held annually, and Maribor is perfect for wine lovers looking to see how wine is made from vine to table.
13. Vršic Pass
Rising to over 1,500 meters, the Vršic Pass is famed as the highest mountain pass in the Julian Alps in Slovenia and has a road that stretches all the way along the pass before dipping down to the Soca Valley named Russian Road that dates from the early twentieth century. The pass is well known as an ideal place for climbers who want to tackle one of the peaks in the surrounding areas, some of which rise to over 7,000 feet, as well as with hikers looking for shorter excursions. If you want to stay in the area then there are a range of charming mountain lodges to choose from that will allow you to soak in the local culture.
Slovenia lies on the Adriatic Sea, and the town of Piran is one coastal attraction that you don’t want to miss. The town features Venetian architecture and has winding cobbled streets that allow you to explore on foot at a leisurely pace as you breathe in the salty air. You can also visit St George’s Church that dominates the skyline of the diminutive town from its vantage point on a hill and, should you make it up there, you can enjoy uninterrupted views all the way to the sea.
15. Blejski Vintgar
Known as one of the most popular attractions in Slovenia with locals, the Vintgar Gorge sits outside of the city of Bled near the village of Podhom. The gorge is neatly bisected by the Radovna River, and there are bridges, paths, and viewing galleries that run the length of the area so that visitors can take in the spectacular views in a number of ways and explore the gorge to its full potential.