Slovenia is currently a relatively unknown holiday destination in Europe. But, it won’t stay that way for long! More and more tourists are heading to this part of southern Europe – and not without good reason! The breathtaking natural scenery, hospitable local people and the diverse range of activities mean that Slovenia is a very well-kept secret! Fancy a little round trip?
Whether you’re skiing down the slopes in winter or topping up your tan in the summer – Slovenia is a great place to visit at any time of year! This small, green country has far more to offer than most tourists may suspect. In this article, you’ll gain a unique insight into Slovenia and get some amazing travel inspiration which is guaranteed to stick with you!
Geography: Slovenia is situated in southern Europe, bordered by Austria, Hungary, Croatia and Italy. In the south west of the country, on the Gulf of Trieste, there is a narrow coastal strip, but other than that the terrain is primarily mountainous and green.
Climate: The south west experiences a Mediterranean climate, that attracts lots of visitors the whole year round, but especially during its mild winters. For sun seekers, the north-east experiences continental weather, so this is the perfect place to go. In the mountainous regions, there is a more alpine climate guaranteed to excite any snow sports fan!
Entry requirements: As Slovenia belongs to the European Union, at the moment UK citizens can enter simply with a valid passport and stay there for up to 3 months without a visa.
What makes it unique: Slovenia is the first country in the world to achieve official “Global Green Destination” status. In order to obtain this, it had to fulfill a record-breaking 96% of sustainability criteria from the International Organisation of Green Destinations and establish a sustainable tourism industry.
Now we’ve got that out of the way, we can start on the to do list, which consists of 8 extraordinary locations and experiences! Let’s go!
Visit the Olm Salamander in Postojna Cave
This tour begins in the south of Slovenia in Postojna Cave, one of the most visited tourism caves in the whole of Europe. When visiting the cave, you’ll cover a distance of almost 5 km. But not to worry, so that you don’t hurt your feet straight away, there is a circular train line that can transport you in and out of the cave. So, the maximum distance you have to travel on foot is 1.8 km.
Duration: 1.5 hours
Tours run daily
Audio Guide: in 17 languages
Along the way to the main part of the cave, you’ll see different coloured rock formations, enormous stalactites and powerful stalagmites growing from the floor. You can get a close-up look at all the nooks and crannies and if you’re lucky, you may spot an olm salamander, which live in the depths of the cave. If they are not showing their faces, then you still have the the most beautiful stalagmite (the highlight of the cave!) awaiting you! This amazing rock formations stand out thanks to its incredible 5 m height and white limestone composition. Take your time to look at it closely. Different shapes and patterns are formed on the surface by the surrounding light sources and rock formations. I can highly recommend a very special experience here too, catch a blues concert in the cave. They take place frequently on the stage! The setting gives the instruments and wonderful and unique tone, once you’ve heard it, you’ll never forget it! Fun fact: these caves are so widely spread underground, that they stretch as far as Predjama Castle, 9km away. If you want to see for yourself, make Predjama Castle the next stop on your round trip!
An Adrenaline Rush in Bovec
If a tunnel train isn’t exciting enough, then this next stop definitely will be! The tour continues to the north of Slovenia – to Bovec. Here, there are canyoning tours, that take place in the various gorges around Bovec. Believe me, canyoning is the perfect way to get your daily adrenaline rush whilst on holiday!
Age restrictions: above 6 years
Must be able to swim
Tours run from mid March – end of October
Choose a canyon that is appropriate for the level of risk you want to task and is also suited to your previous climbing experience. The different canyons vary mainly based on the difficulty level of the tour. Beginners should start in Sušec with the easiest tour, as no previous climbing skills are required. Then, you can climb the Fratarica, Predelica and Globoški Potok canyons. During your adrenaline-filled descent through the ravine, you’ll come across rugged outcrops, rocky crags and natural slopes. More precisely, you’ll make your way through narrow passages, large natural pools and jump from waterfalls that are between 3 and 5 metres high! Adventurers will definitely get their money’s worth will all the swimming, jumping and sliding!
Idyllic Scenes at Lake Zelenci
When you need to recover from from your adrenaline packed trip, the nearby nature reserve on Lake Zelenci offers the perfect opportunity to do so. The lake, on the edge of Triglav National Park shimmers in beautiful blue and green shades.
The soaring Julian Alps make for an impressive backdrop.
If you look more closely, you can see numerous springs that feed into the lake from the River Sava Dolinka, which until this point flows underground. The soaring Julian Alps make for an impressive backdrop. Stop for a moment and marvel at the amazing natural beauty. As the nature reserve is home to many different plant species and particular popular with amphibians and breeding birds, special wooden walkways have been installed in the marshy landscape to protect it from damage. If you so choose, you can stroll along them and enjoy the scenery. And if you want to take a dip in these crystal clear waters, then follow me a step further… to Lake Bled.
Lake Bled and the Bled Island
Lake Bled is situated, as the name suggests, in the town of Bled in the Gorenjska region of Slovenia. Standing on the shore of the lake, you can admire the picture-postcard scene, and Slovenia’s small and unique island: Blejski Otok.
Myholidayguru’s Top Tip: if you want to get an incredible view of the island, it’s worth climbing to one of the viewpoints: Mala Osojnica (685m) or Velika Osojnica (756m). Both can be reached on foot and once you reach the top, you’ll have an absolutely breathtaking view of the lake and its surroundings. It’s worth it not only for the photos!
In sunny weather, the most famous symbol of the island – the Pilgrimage Church of the Assumption of Maria – is reflected onto the surface of the water. In order to find the church, you have to first overcome 99 stone steps. Once you’ve survived the climb, don’t forget to sound the church bell! According to Slovenian legend, ringing this bell will make all your wishes come true! But how do you get to the island in the first place? There’s plenty of ways to do so. You can go by one of the motor-less boats there, paddle yourself there in a rowing boat, or strip down to your trunks and swim! In summer, there are pleasant water temperatures of around 20-25°C. If you don’t fancy swimming, you can also explore on foot. A 6km hiking trail leads around the lake, and allows you to enjoy the green surroundings. If you’re visiting during the winter months, there are numerous ski lifts and winter sports opportunities around the lake, that are bound to tempt you to a snowy adventure.
Museum Train with Guaranteed Panoramic Views
A trip to this beautiful lake can be followed by an extraordinary train journey, that is completely unique to Slovenia. The trip begins at Jesenice train station, about one hour away from the Slovenian capital Ljublijana. there you can step onto a steam train, and enjoy a picturesque trip through Slovenia. En route you’ll pass the Alps, the stunning town of Bled, the Bohinj Valley and much more. There are particularly beautiful panoramic views of the River Soča, that glitters emerald green in the sun as it winds through the valley. The train crosses the valley on the largest arched stone bridge in the world – the Solkan Bridge comes in at 222m long! So have your camera ready – I promise you it’s an amazing sight!
Top Tip: The museum train only runs on selected dates of the year, so check in advance if there’s a time that suits you. As the journey is very popular is sells out quickly, it’s a good idea to book in advance.
Velika Planina – A Mountain-Side Dwelling
If you want to delve a bit deeper into Slovenia’s culture, then a visit to the mountain settlement of Velika Planina is the best place to go. There you have the opportunity to view one of the few remaining high alpine shepherd’s settlements in Europe. You can reach the village the entire year round via cable car from Kamniška-Bistrica-Tal to Šimnovec. I would particularly recommend visiting between June and September.
Everywhere you go, there’s the sound of cow bells chiming and it smells like summer
At this time of year, the shepherds lead their cows back to the Velika Planina and live in their traditional shingle-roofed huts. Everywhere you go, there’s the sound of cow bells chiming and it smells like summer and you have an unrecreatable view of the picture-perfect landscape. In order to experience the culture close-up, you can stay in a shepherds hut or sample a shepherds jause. This is a traditional shepherds meal that contains, sour milk and cooked poultry. If you’re only staying at the settlement for a short time, you can find out most of the interesting things at the Preskarjev Museum and watch the local trnič cheese maturing! If you’re looking for some peace and quiet, you can’t go wrong with an excursion to the highest plain of Velika Planina.
The Old Castle at Celje
Just a couple of years older than the maturing cheese… Celje Castle. It’s situated in the east of Slovenia and has the largest surface area of any castle in Slovenia. In 1333, the castle became property of the late Prince of Celje, Count of Cilli, who was one of the most importance princes of Slovenia. After the last member of the Cilli family was murdered in 1456, ownership of the castle fell to the state. From this point onward, the castle lost its significance and fell to disrepair. After some restoration work, you can now see the extensive site of the castle, including the mighty castle keep, also known as Friedrichs Tower and some of the remaining ruins too. You can only go in the castle itself between June and August. However, as the castle sits at a high elevation, you can still enjoy a wonderful view of the surrounding landscape, so it’s great to discover at any time of year.
Top Tip: Lovers beer among you should also stop in Žalec, 12km away. Europe’s first ever beer fountain is located there, where you have 5 types of different beer on tap to help yourself to!
Piran – Slovenia’s most beautiful coastal town
To finish off this little round tour, head to the Adriatic coast. On the border with Italy, sits the beautiful town of Piran. Due to the influence of nearby Venice, the cityscape is Italian-inspired and has a Mediterranean flair. In contrast to the exciting activities earlier on in the tour, this is a place for relaxation, wandering and strolling in a unique environment. The main city square – Tartini Sqaure – is a lovely start to the city. It’s a great spot to settle down into one of the many cafes and spend your day Italian-style with a cappuccino. Let your gaze wander, and you’ll spot the striking red Venetian house that stands out from all the others. It’s the oldest building in the square and is one of the main tourist sights in the small city. After your rest, you can make your way further up to the St. George Cathedral. From there, you have an unmissable view over the city and the sea. If you’ve got hawk eyes, you will already be able to spot another one of Piran’s sights – the salt marshes. The areas around the salt marshes are protected landscape parks and are home to a diverse range of plant and animal species. If you’re interest in salt production, or are looking for a tasty, high-quality salt for cooking, then a visit to the Sečovlje Salt Pans is a must. There, you can learn the ropes of traditional salt production with a guided tour or visit the Salt Making Museum and buy some salt in the shop at the end.
Let’s go to Slovenia!
Has your to do list grown by a few points? Then all that’s left to do it go! Discover Slovenia and report back to me! I’m looking forward to hearing about your trips in the comments! You can fly directly from London to the capital, Ljubljana in just 2 hours! Check the deals on my Flight Fare Finder!