Nestled in Southeastern Europe between four neighbors (Italy, Croatia, Austria and Hungary), Slovenia is finally earning its rightful place on many travelers’ bucket list. Whether you’re a seasoned veteran on the European circuit or just looking to explore something off the typical path, the diversity this relatively unknown country will surprise most anyone.
The country, while fairly small in size (smaller than the state of New Jersey) and home to only two million people, boasts an amazing variety of landscapes and scenery. Its alpine, coast and karst regions can easily keep travelers entertained. Hiking, skiing, seaside activities and cave exploring are just a few of the popular choices for active travelers.
The sprawling countryside is picturesque with gorges, valleys, rivers, olive groves and winelands. Throw in an occasional hillside castle and it’s hard to not love the scenes that surround at every turn.
The word "karst" or in Slovenian, Kras, is both a geological and geographic term referring to the large limestone plateau that stretches roughly from Nova Gorica in the north to well beyond Divaca in the south. The Karst is typified by sinkholes, underground caves and streams. The region is dotted by caves – most notably Postojna and Škocjan – which are jaw-dropping in beauty and size.
First-time (and return!) visitors must visit Slovenia’s small but exceedingly charming capital – Ljubljana. Some travelers are including it in the same breath as Prague or Budapest as one of the top urban destinations in Central Europe.
Sights and Experiences of Slovenia
Adventure Through the Alps The Julian Alps, north of Ljubljana, is home to many of the awe-inspiring images you may see of Slovenia. Pristine lakes, mountain tops, river gorges and beautiful valleys populate the area. At the heart of it is Triglav National Park and the limestone peak of Mount Triglav (“three heads”). Active travelers can enjoy hiking, skiing, river rafting, driving the hairpin turns of Vrsic Pass, biking and more.
Take a Pletna on Lake Bled
Located within the Julian Alps region lies a peaceful countryside resort area, which is most famous for its island (Otok) in the center of Lake Bled. The island is reachable only by pletna (flat-bottomed, centuries-old wooden boats hand-steered by oarsmen). Legend has it that if you ring the bell inside the castle's Church of the Assumption and make a wish, it'll come true. There are 98 steps leading up to the church. Alternatively, take a leisurely, three-mile walk around the lake just before sunset, when the views are the most stunning. While in the area, rent a bike and enjoy the picturesque two-mile ride to Vintgar Gorge.
Swim the Adriatic With only 29 miles of Adriatic coastline, Slovenia needs to make the most of its beautiful shores. Secluded beaches, bays and inlets, and quaint, historic towns such as Piran, Izola and Koper take you inside the medieval lands of long ago.
Explore Škocjan Caves This exceptional system of limestone caves (a Natural Heritage Site) has nearly four miles of underground passages and the largest subterranean canyon in Europe (480 feet high). Trails lead visitors across bridges to see underground waterfalls (25+ in this cave system alone), giant stalactites and stalagmites and other creations made by the karst river. The surrounding area is a regional park (protected for its natural and cultural heritage) so be sure to enjoy some of the educational and biking options available as well.
Watch this video if you want to see a few of these ideas, and others, about this amazing country.
When is the best time to go to Slovenia? Of course, it depends on what you want to do during your visit. Generally speaking, the countryside is exceptionally beautiful in spring and fall, but sea and sun are best in July and August. Skiing is obviously at its prime in the winter months.
If you have questions about a visit to Slovenia, email Ann at AnnC@PiqueTravel.com.