Slovenia is truly a magical place to visit, and I have had the immense pleasure of spending one week in this gorgeous country last March. It’s an easy place to travel through, especially if driving (highly recommended); it’s a small country, with an extremely safe and well maintained road infrastructure, friendly and helpful locals, gorgeous natural wonders and delicious food and drink.
Even though Slovenia is a relatively small country, you could spend weeks exploring the place, with lots of fun activities to do and many sites to visit. One thing is for sure; this place is a nature lover’s dream, with an array of mountainous vistas, sunny coastal villages and gorgeous lakeside views.
My advice? Rent a car and get out there! The best exploring is done independently. You can set up your own itinerary and do what you REALLY want to do! Driving in Slovenia is easy. As I said, road infrastructure is fantastic, drivers are polite and diligent, and it’s just a relaxing experience driving there (which is more than I can say for driving at home!).
So…. I’ve tried to narrow it down for you guys and just give a short, concise list of the “must-visit” areas; the ones you just HAVE to visit! Here it goes!
An obvious choice, I know! Saying that, the choice is obvious for a reason. This place is absolutely breath-taking! It has it all! A gorgeous lake with a magical little island in its centre, overlooked by a magnificent castle, perched atop an imposing mountain! What else could you ask for?! There are numerous quality eateries from which to choose a lovely, traditional Slovenian dinner, and quaint waterside cafes where you can sip on a thick, hot chocolate whilst enjoying the picturesque surroundings. Perfection! Taking a boat trip to Church Island is a must when visiting Bled, as is a leisurely stroll around the lake itself. It’s only about 6 km in circumference, which makes for an easy 60 to 90 minute walk. There’s also an amazing viewpoint you could look for just outside the village where you can get some awesome shots of the lake, its little island, and Bled Castle in the background. A visit to Bled Castle itself should also be on every visitor’s itinerary.
While in the area, make sure to make a very short detour to the amazing Vintgar Gorge! This place is impressive, to say the least. Beware, it is CLOSED during the winter months, March included; usually is open to the public from April all the way through to October. There’s a gate (on both sides of the gorge – believe me, I checked THOROUGHLY), which renders the place inaccessible otherwise, so you can’t sneak in if it’s closed. Even so, you can actually see parts of the gorge if you do visit in low/shoulder season… So I would still suggest a short trek and visit to the area if you’re in Bled.
Lake Bohinij and Triglav National Park
Most people who visit Lake Bohinij might actually say that it is in fact more beautiful than Lake Bled! I would actually have to agree with them. Situated only 26 km away from the latter, the emerald-green waters of this lake make for an impressive vista, especially on clear summer days. The lake is crystal clear and looks like a liquid mirror when its waters are still. Surrounded by the beautiful Julian Alps, this magnificent body of water instills a sense of peace and awe in any visitor. It is much less crowded than Lake Bled, and has an authentic, old world charm which might be slightly lacking in its more popular, sister destination. Granted, Bohinij does lack Bled’s fairytale like glamour, but it is just a magnificent place to see… As I already mentioned, it’s only a half an hour’s drive from Bled and offers a large array of outdoor pursuits like kayaking, hiking and horseback riding.
Whilst you’re in the area, travel further into the Triglav National Park. If you do have the time, catch a cable car to the top of Mount Vogel, to get some impressive bird’s-eye views of Bohinij and its surroundings. The cable car operates from Ukanc, with the base station being at 569m and the top station stopping at 1535m. It’s a ski resort during the winter months, but there are some great trekking opportunities during the summer season. Only 4 km from Ucanc is the spectacular Savica Waterfall which cuts deep into a gorge 78m below. There’s a 20 minute walk from the admission gate to the waterfall – up 500 steps in total… It’s a tiring climb, but fairly easy to make, with benches and rest points at regular intervals along the way for the less physically inclined. The end of the trail is worth every step: The waterfall is truly a beautiful thing to see and looks like it’s magically springing out of the rocky mountains themselves. Absolutely stunning.
If you fancy yourself a good hiker, do try to climb Mt. Triglav. They say you’re not really a Slovene until you actually climb the country’s tallest mountain. The peak is fairly accessible, albeit challenging, so if you have the time and will, and you’re in decent shape, try this one out!
Ljubljana, Slovenia’s capital, is just a fantastic little city to visit. Having been awarded the coveted ‘Green Capital of Europe’ title of 2016, this pretty city is a peaceful and fairly quiet one. With its gorgeous, flowing Ljubljanica River, leafy green banks, and traffic free centre, Ljubljana is an ideal city for those who enjoy a more serene setting, whilst still having a thriving clubbing, art and culture scene due to a large number of students in the area. Beautiful, colourful buildings designed by Jože Plečnik, Slovenia’s own, world renown architect, line the river’s banks and during the spring and summer months the bars and cafes along the canal set up terrace seating along the river, making for a laid back, effervescent and social vibe.
For a more detailed itinerary of activities and sites you can visit in the city you can access another article I wrote –> Ljubljana – the Heart of Slovenia.
When the people from “Lonely Planet” describe an attraction as “jaw-dropping”, it’s an obvious must visit don’t you think? And that is exactly was the Postojna Cave system is. The complex of caves spans some 24 km and is around 2 million years old! Visitors only get to see 5 km of the whole system; 3.2km of this is covered by a cool electric train. It’s a fun ride getting into the caves themselves but once you get there, the awe truly starts. If heaven were underground, this is definitely what it would look like. Gorgeous glittering passages, filled with massive, as well as delicate and intricate stalagmites and stalactites; caverns and halls of different coloured rock formations; some red, others brilliant, glowing white, and of course, the famous baby dragons of Slovenia – the beautiful and ethereal Olms.
The caves have a constant temperature of 8°C to 10°C with a humidity of 95%, so it is advisable to have a warm jacket with you, and a good pair of non slip shoes – the floors are damp and can get slippery.
The Skocjan Caves are also worth a visit, should you be travelling further southwest. Although this system is not as large as Postojna’s, it is no less magnificent to behold. The Cerkevnik Bridge, within the caves, crosses a 45 meter tall chasm, from which the Reka river passes, whilst the Murmuring Cave has walls which reach heights of up to 100m! A dramatic place to visit, to say the least!
Yes, yes… Slovenia is chock full of beautiful and impressive castles; so what makes this one so special? Well, first of all, it’s partly built inside a cave! Now that’s something special within itself! Only 9 km away from the Postojna Caves, this place is another on the ‘must visit’ list.
Wedged halfway up a cliff face, this castle was once the home of Slovenia’s very own, home-grown ‘Robin Hood’, Erazem Lueger aka. Erasmus. Legend has it that Erasmus fled to his castle Predjama to escape punishment after killing Marshall Pappenheim at the Vienna Court during an argument in which the latter had offended the honour of his friend, Andrej Baumkircher of Vipava. The Emperor Fredrick III sent the governor of Trieste Gaspar Ravbar to siege Predjama Castle. Ravbar tried to starve Erasmus to death but the castle seemed to have an unlimited supply of fresh food. In fact, Erasmus himself used to taunt besieging troops by hurling fresh cherries at them. Later it became known that the occupants of the castle had access to the outside via a secret passage through the caves within the castle! Sneaky!
Unfortunately Erasmus met a rather embarrassing end during a particular siege in which one of his men betrayed him, where he was killed by a shot from a cannon in his bathroom!
Once a busy merchants’ port, this pretty Adriatic village looks like a little version of Venice! It is in fact one of the best preserved medieval Venetian ports and today boasts fantastic seafood, picturesque sea views, and a gorgeous central square. Spending a couple of days in this pretty seaside village is ideal; just to explore its narrow winding streets, take in the relaxed coastal atmosphere and guzzle down some delicious fish dinners.
Where to Stay: We spent our nights in Piran in the fancy Hotel Piran; Piran’s oldest, and finest hotel, if I do say so myself. Right on the water’s edge, this hotel guarantees the best sea views in town, boasts a delicious international breakfast (scrambled eggs and all), and has a certain old school charm, which might be lacking in more modern lodging options.
Unfortunately I did not get to visit this lovely town in the eastern part of the country (so the photos of Ptuj are not taken by me). Even so, I would still count it as one of the must-see places in Slovenia. Not only Ptuj one of the country’s richest historical towns (dating back to the Roman ages), but it is also extremely photogenic and full of churches, museums and other historical attractions you could spend hours visiting. There are thermal baths in the area, so if you like spas, this place will not let you down. An added plus? Ptuj is within easy reach of Slovenia’s best vineyards! So if you like your wine (especially white), you should definitely visit!
Speaking of wine… If you love wine, you just HAVE TO visit the Vipava Valley. Slovenia is well known for its delicious wines, and the Vipava Valley plays a very important role in this. Due to the area’s warm Mediterranean climate, vineyards in the area are just teeming with delicious varieties of grapes. From Merlots to local blends such as Zelen and Zametovka, you’re sure to find a taste which suits you! There are ample wineries you can visit within the valley, with numerous wine tasting tours available to all those willing to whet their palates. If you’re unsure where to start, check out Winestronaut for some fun wine adventures! I would also highly suggest visiting the Vipava tourist office! Believe it or not, these guys have an amazing wine museum as part of the office. The walls of the room are lined with wine bottles, and for a small fee (something like €5.00 per person), you can have a fantastic wine tasting session where you can taste different varieties of the local wine. I think we tasted over 15 different wines during our 1 hour sitting and it was GREAT! We ended up buying a few bottles to take home with us, so our lovely guide didn’t charge us for the sitting. I think that was very sweet of her! 🙂
The Vipava Valley is also excellent for those who love cycling, trekking and camping. It’s just a lovely place to enjoy the great outdoors, with warm balmy weather, lots of rolling “Tuscan-like” hills, and delicious local produce.
Where to stay: I just have to mention the lovely place we stayed in on our visit in Vipava. The Majerija is an idyllic Vipava house, situated among the vineyards and orchards of Vipava valley. We had a lovely little room in this gorgeous place and although the in-house restaurant, which usually hosts fantastic wine-tasting events and provides delicious dinners, was closed for the evening (it was low season and a Monday), we still got to enjoy a fantastic rustic breakfast, serving local cured meats and cheeses, and absolutely delicious home-made jams. Matej, our host was very helpful and accommodating; he even gifted us a delicious home-made wild blueberry jam before we continued on our travels!
So that’s it for you! My list of “must-see” places in Slovenia. There are ample more amazing sights and activities to do and see when in this beautiful country and this little piece is, of course, just my opinion on what you must not miss if visiting. Would I go back and do more? In a heartbeat! I must admit, Slovenia did impress me. It is a country with so much to offer: Vibrant city life, rolling hills, mystical castles, lush forests, mysterious caves and magnificent mountains. This place has it all! So get packing and plan your visit to this magical place; you’re in for a treat! ❤