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I don’t know how Slovenia has stayed a secret so long. Why isn’t everyone raving about its stunning Alpine scenery, emerald rivers, picture-perfect towns, and excellent food and wine? Slovenia is beautiful, affordable, and its compact size (about the size of Wales) makes it easy to get around. We never travelled more than an hour or two to reach our next destination: from the relaxed capital to vast underground canyons to rolling hills and vineyards, and on to a fairytale lake and dramatic mountain landscapes.
Slovenia is located in central Europe, it was part of Yugoslavia until 1991, and it borders Italy, Austria, Hungary and Croatia. It shares elements with all of these—the steepled churches and Alpine scenes of Austria, the vineyards and terracotta roofed villages of Italy—but the fusion makes it uniquely Slovenian.
Tourism is deservedly growing in the country and while it’s not undiscovered it doesn’t feel at all overrun with tourists. We arrived in Ljubljana from Munich and its streets were just as beautiful but much more enjoyable without having to fight our way through tour groups and drunken stag parties.
We only had eight days in the country, longer than the average visit of three nights (the largest number of visitors come from neighbouring Italy), but not long enough. We will definitely be back for a longer stay.
These are our highlights from our travels in Slovenia.
It’s Slovenia’s most famous visitor attraction and rightfully so, as we were completely won over by Lake Bled. From the moment we stepped off the train at Bled Jezero station and got our first glimpse down to the impossibly turquoise-green lake we knew we were somewhere special. The lake is surrounded by lush green mountains with a fairy tale church nestled in a tiny island at its centre and a medieval castle looming above from its rocky perch.
It helped that we were staying on the quiet western side of the lake in the wonderful Hotel Triglav so we could enjoy it in tranquility, away from the main town which does have a couple of ugly monstrosity hotels blotting the landscape. Lake Bled is a great place to just relax and enjoy the view but there’s lots to do too—we went hiking, horse riding, white water rafting, rented a boat, and visited the nearby Vintgar Gorge. There’s much more we’d like to do and we’re considering coming back to rent an apartment here for a month.
Ljubljana is one of the smallest European capitals and surely one of the prettiest. In the tiny old town pastel coloured Baroque and Art Nouveau buildings line the river and cafes spill onto the cobblestoned pavement. Dragons adorn the bridges, a castle hovers above, and there are more bicycles than cars.
Outside of the old town this University city is just as relaxed but a bit edgier with funky cafes decorated with street art and urban gardens hidden down side streets. The best thing we did in the city was take a food tour with Ljubljananjam. Our guide Iva not only showed us all the many places to find veggie food but also introduced us to an alternative side of the city and gave us some insight into Slovenia’s culture.
Emerald Rivers and Lakes
After seeing a photo of one of Slovenia’s lakes on our Facebook page a reader asked if it had been dyed. The country’s rivers and lakes really do have such an astonishing emerald colour that it doesn’t seem real, but in fact they are glacier fed and totally natural, one of nature’s gifts to the world.
The emerald waters added to our feeling that in Slovenia we’d entered a magical world. We rowed through it at Lake Bled, white water rafted down it on the Soča river, Simon jumped off a 10 metre high bridge into it at Most na Soči, and we took a scenic train trip alongside it from Bled to the Italian border at Nova Gorica.
The north of the country is dominated by the Alps. We enjoyed the views from Lake Bled but to delve further into the mountains we took a day trip with 3glav Adventures. Their epic 12 hour Emerald River Adventure took us on hikes in the Julian Alps at Triglav National Park, over Slovenia’s highest pass, and white water rafting surrounded by mountains on the emerald Soča river. It was a fun and easy way to explore more of Slovenia’s mountain scenery and we’d love to return for longer hikes and snowboarding.
Fresh and Delicious Food
One of the biggest surprises was how good Slovenian food is. You’ll find elements of Italian, Austrian, Hungarian and Balkan cuisines, but with a Slovenian twist, and everything is fresh and (where possible in such a small country) local. The bread and cheese were particularly good, the gelato competes with Italy, and the fruit strudels with Austria. As vegetarians Slovenia was easy and while most of the dishes we ate could technically be Italian—ravioli, pasta, gnocchi—they weren’t quite like anything we’ve eaten in Italy. Read more about this fascinating and delicious cuisine.
Vipava and Slovenian Wine
The other surprise was Slovenian wine. It’s a small country so not much of it gets exported which explains why we’ve never heard of it. Wine everywhere was affordable and excellent, and we tried some novelties like orange wine and a sparkling red.
There are a number of wine regions in Slovenia. We visited the Vipava Valley where we ate our best meal in Slovenia, drove past Karst hills and vines heavy with grapes, wandered alongside the many springs in the cute village of Vipava, and tried far too many of the local wines in Vipava’s Vinoteka tasting room. The pinela whites and the deep purple cabernet sauvignon from Ferjancic were our favourites.
The Karst region of Slovenia is a rocky limestone plateau dotted with caves in the southwest of the country. The most visited caves are at Postojna but we chose to visit Škocjan instead, an immense underground canyon created by the Reka River which still runs through it. It’s one of the largest in the world, and a UNESCO World Heritage site.
All visits are guided in large groups. We’d have preferred to wander by ourselves but can understand why that’s not possible. This place is huge, and the two hour walking tours only take in part of the entire 6km long cave network which extends down to 205 metres.
The vastness of the caves is seriously impressive, especially the immense, cathedral-like chamber, and it’s amazing to realise that some of the stalactites and stalagmites are hundreds of thousands of years old (they grow 1cm in 100-150 years).
Meeting the Lipizzaner Horses at Lipica
The beautiful white Lipizzaner horses are famous around the world. We had the chance to meet these gentle and intelligent creatures at the Lipica Stud Farm where we took a carriage ride around the grounds. We’d definitely recommend the experience not just to horse fans but to history buffs too. It’s the oldest stud farm in the world, dating back to 1580. There’s a small museum on site that traces the incredible history of the place and the many war evacuations the horses have experienced due to its precarious location between Italy and the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
Lipica can be combined with a visit to the Škocjan Caves and Vipava and like many places in this small country can even be visited as a day trip from Ljubljana.
Slovenia offers diverse experiences and beautiful scenery in a small package. The people are friendly, it’s a safe and easy country to travel around, and it’s more affordable than Western Europe. We definitely recommend including it on your Europe itinerary or even planning a trip just to Slovenia.
You can see more of our Slovenia photos on our Facebook photo album, and read more about our experiences here.
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Thanks to Spirit Slovenia, the country’s tourist board who provided accommodation, meals and entrance fees for part of our stay in Slovenia.
Love this post! I visited Slovenia in 2015 and immediately fell in love, the people are so friendly no?? Love your photos :) The Soca River is beauty!
Yes, it’s a wonderful country. We really must go back!
We were looking forward to visiting your lovely country after having a great time in Budapest & Croatia. We paid our toll, had our passports checked and stamped at the border, then proceeded to our destination, Ljubljana. No sooner were we in Slovenia when we got pulled over at a rest area–I knew something was wrong as I saw a police woman follow our car with her eyes & speak into a walkie-talkie: we didn’t have a “permit” (or whatever they call it) to drive in Slovenia. No one told us we needed to purchase one for the equivalent of $16.50–we got fined 150 Euros right on the spot & delayed us for over half an hour. The policeman was neither caring or understanding, he seemed to enjoy telling us off & taking our money, & he had an attitude. Just a warning for all those who are going to be driving to Slovenia–those permits can be purchased at a lot of places besides petrol stations. It left a very bad taste in our mouth, & we had just arrived there. It put us in a bad mood for awhile–we didn’t spend any additional money in that country, just what we needed to, because of this. We still enjoyed our 3 day visit there. From what I understand, there are other countries in Europe that also require that “permit”. Should? I write to Melania & ask her to reimburse us
I just have to say one think to all, who think they can live in Slovenia. U CANT its my, it’s mine my own my precious.
U can visit doh.
This post made me a bit nostalgic, I loved Slovenia a lot and I would love to go back. When we were there our camera broke so we don’t have even one photo of our time spent in Slovenia, I guess it’s only an excuse to go back soon :)
Love your blog! I think it’s actually my all time fav blog… Vego food, travel and horses- 3 of my favourite things! I have often gone well out of my way to hunt down the restaurants that you’ve recommended! Now that I’ve buttered you up ;) I wonder- could you give me some tips about where to book train travel from Hamburg to ljubljana?? I got one quote for over $1000 for 2 of us one way (AUD). Seems very high but I haven’t yet done any train travel in Europe so I’m not really sure what to expect.
Thanks very much!
That is crazy high! We travelled there from Munich on an InterRail pass so didn’t buy tickets. The absolute best site about train travel is this one: http://www.seat61.com/ -you should be able to get some info on the best deals there.
Looks like a beautiful country indeed. Very impressed with all the food! How long did you spend in each place/total in the country ? Just trying to plan out how much time we should spend there in Apr/May.
We had 8 nights there in total, 3 in Ljubljana, 1 in Divaca (for Lipica and Vipava) and 4 in Lake Bled. Spend as much time there as you can!
Just read your comment about coming to Slovenia in April/May.
My husband Chris (from Wales, UK) and me, Hanna (from Finland) have a new guest house which we opened at the end of August 2013. We are close to Lipizzan horses, Predjama Castle, Postojna Caves…if you need any help planning your trip, you can email us on [email protected] and our website is http://www.lipizzanerlodge.com.
We LOVE Slovenia and are very happy to finally live here:) And yes, as Erin says, plan at least a week because there is so much to see over here!
If you’re searching for really quiet, pure place in Slovenia and you want to keep your buget low, we have a boutique hostel -renovated old house in Slovenian Istria in Small godforsaken village Zazid. More on http://www.hostelxaxid.si Welcome!
Oh my gosh, is Lake Bled REAL??!! The colour of that water – amazing!
Very nice post :)
If you visit Slovenia, don’t forget for eastern part, with capital Maribor! ;)
There you can find the oldest wine in the world :)
Pohorje hill, the biggest festival in Slovenia (jun-jul) and much more…
If you liked lake Bled you would love lake Bohinj just around the corner. We have a small apartment in the area (Bohinjska Bistrica) which can be used as a fantastic base to explore the area.
I loved to read about your fantastic trip in Slovenia:)
I have recently moved in Slovenia with my husband and we absolutely love it here.
We left behind us our hectic lifestyle in the UK and now run a small hotel close to Predjama castle (Lipica is only 20 min drive away too!).
If you ever come back to Slovenia, please come to visit us in Landol!!
You can also find more details in our website http://www.lipizzanerlodge.com. for pictures etc.
Good luck with your future adventures,
Hanna and Chris
We spent a week in Slovenia in August and totally agree — how has this country stayed a secret for so long? We loved the cafes and restaurants in Ljubljana, the vineyards in Goriska Brda, seaside Piran, and of course a visit to Lake Bled. Stunning scenery everywhere! Makes me want to return asap. Great post.
We really want to go to Goriska Brda and Piran. Glad you had a great time!
Recently Slovenia ha moved up highe on our bucket list. We want to get there soon before everyone finds out its such a great place. Glad to see other places here other than the capital and Bled.
Slovenia really is one of Europe’s best kept secrets! Beautiful post, the mountain scenery is simply stunning.
An excellent article. And I’m very happy that you enjoyed in our country and even that you’re coming back!! You really should visit my part of country – Dolenjska, which offers really good wine Cviček, wonderful landscapes full of vineyards, castles (you must visit Otočec..), spa’s, people are amazing – you’ll never be thirsty or hungry, you can eat lots of local food, there are also quite few monasteries to visit.. Beside everything you have plenty possibilites to do various sports! With one word – come and see! :)
Sounds wonderful, thank you.
I had asked recently but have had no replies: anyone been to Slovenia in early to mid-March? How cold does it get, & do they get a lot of snow? We would like to start planning a trip there soon. Thanks for any advice/comments…..
it depends, really. Sometimes early March can be as warm as 20 degrees Celsius and sometimes we still have snow. Impossible to say. On average, early March is already quite warm but this year, for example, we had snow till almost till May. It would be great if you could come in May or June, whereas summer’s best for exploring the lakes and rivers and mountains because it’s cooler there.
Natasa–thank you very much for your helpful answer. We will think about it & make a decision. We will arrive at your house on the 12th March–we are good guests & easy to get along with….lol. Thanks again!
We are seriously considering visiting Slovenia in mid-March, the only time we can really travel. How cold was it this past March there? Was there a lot of snow? We have relatives who have been there, but they went in the summer.
We usually like to go to warmer places, but your country looks gorgeous.
Do flights go directly to Slovenia, or do you have to change 1 or 2 times? We are in New York.
Thanks for any other info you can give us….
That colored water looks amazing. I’d love to be able to go jump off some bridges into the water. How was the weather at this time of year. I’ll be around there next year and am curious how cold it might be.
We were in Slovenia at the end of August/early September and it was mid to late 20s C. Some great sunny hot days, some rainy cloudy days. It’ll be quite a bit colder by now.
Cool, we’ll be right next to it next year and I’m really interested now that I’ve seen the color of the water. It really does look wonderful.
First ten years of my life in Ljubljana; 68 years in USA; I crave to be back……..
What is the weather like in early-to-mid March? Only time we get to travel because of our jobs. Any comments are greatly appreciated–thanks a lot!
Hey Erin, i just want to say that your words made me really proud of my country and you r totally wright. I just hope that the younger generations dont ruin this dream land. I am from Bled and next time you r here u come in a time when my band JOHNDOE has a gig :D we have good music to hehe;) ok u ll be the judge of that :) anyways cheers to all your praise :)
Thanks Luka and we’d love to come and see your band on our next visit :)
“I don’t know how Slovenia has stayed a secret so long”
Maybe since it has only been a country since 2004. Obviously we all knew of Yugoslavia.
rick we have been independent from 24.6.1991 :D but it doesnt mater i would rather still be in Jugoslavija. shame for the politics
Rick, we are a young country but actually independant from 1991. :)
So nice pictures. Slovenia is amazing. I’m inspired now to go there as soon as possible. Thenk you for making my destionations around the world.
And where are you going further? Which country?
I hope you make it Veronica. We are in Sicily now and just deciding where to go next.
if yo uhave any question… let me know ;)
best regards from sunny side of Alps
Are you interested in how was Slovenia created?
A nice story ….
There was a time when God distributed the individual parts of the Earth between the different peoples.
When he thought that his work is completed, before him appeared a bunch of people.
“Who are you?” God asked.
“We are Slovenes”
“What do you want from me?”
“We want a piece of land where we could live in peace and love”
God looked at them and asked, “Did you get your piece of land? I was sure that I already gave all. Hmmm …. hmmm …. hmmm, “God muttered.
He stayed in silence and watched the little cluster of people in front of him.
Contemplating it himself and wondering what he should done … “…….
After a while he looked at a bunch of people, opened his mouth and said, “You know what? I see you have a group of good, friendly people, so I decided that I’ll give you a piece of land, which I first devoted for myself when I retire. Take this piece, keep it and be grateful for it. You live in it in peace and in love to the end of time. ”
And Slovenia has been created. Small piece of land with many jewels.
Nice story :)
Alos pleas edont forget to visit Piran and Slovenian Istria.
I know, I wish we’d had time for the coast.
Slovenia is absolutely beautiful. You may also check a small town called Lendava in the top east part of the country. The town is bordering two countries and it is a “conglomerate” of differental cultures. The city is known by its castle and wines. Once you’re there you may also visit the only mummy in Slovenia.
Thanks for the tip, I’ll add it to our growing list for the next visit.
Slovenia is small, green and clean treasure in Europe I am proud that I am Slovenian.
No one mentioned Dolenjska yet. There is a beautiful, small and old city situated under green hills of Gorjanci on the island in a bend of river Krka named Kostanjevica na Krki. There are few galleries, sculpture garden, a beautiful cave and lots of local wine called Cviček.
Enjoyed your enthusiasm
Having fallen for Slovenia taking our kids skiing aged 5 and 7
we set up our 2nd home in Vipava the same year
Great friends , great memories now 8 years on
there is 1 other Brit in the valley
Check out the below what happening next year
Dunfermline and Vipava
What a wonderful place to live!
We’re planning a trip to Slovenia next year (2014). Can you share any information you have on hotels in Ljubljana? Thanks for a great post!
We stayed at the Hotel City. It was in a good location with comfortable rooms, but it’s quite a big hotel so it depends what you are looking for.
Thanks for the reply! I appreciate your time and information. Can’t wait for our trip!
Well, you have let the cat out if the bag now… :-)
I have lived here for 6 years and having lived in the UK, Germany, Czech, Russia and Greece.. I would not change this place for any part of Europe. My daughter is growing up here and I consider Slovenia the best place to bring up a child, bar none!
If you plan on coming back to Slovenia – rest assured that you will find many many more things to see, do and experience.
Thank you for this beautiful review on Slovenia, the country I live in. Slovenia is special for her size and variety it can offer. The nature, tastes and people change almost with every step. There is so much more for you to see and enjoy so you are welcome back. Tell us when you plan to come and we will help you arrange where to go.
Thanks very much Nadja, hopefully we’ll be able to go back next summer.
I’ve never really heard much about Slovenia before and I can’t imagine why considering how much it has to offer! Looks like a wonderful place to stop off and spend a week or two and I’m sure it would be a fantastic place to live for a little while and unwind awesome place!
I know, we can’t believe more people don’t visit as it’s such a perfect little country and easy to get to.
Beautiful photos and a nice tribute to this incredible destination. We returned just 3 weeks ago today from a delightful holiday in Slovenia. A stunningly beautiful and friendly country, and blessedly off the radar of most western tourists. We loved every minute of our two weeks spent in Ljubljana, Lake Bled, Bohinj, the Adriatic coast, and points in between, and fully intend to return for even more pleasures next year.
Glad you enjoyed your stay too Alex. We really have to get to the coast next time.
Presentation of Ljubljana :)
A brilliant review on my parents homeland! They immigrated to Australia 45 years ago but all our relatives are in Slovenia. Such a beautiful part of the world. Thank you
Soooo good to hear your reviews. I tried to make it a great experience! Always welcome back. Also, apart from what everyone else mentioned, you should go to Bela Krajina – Metlika, Črnomelj .. all the vineyards and bikeroutes there … and Lendava, and Jeruzalem – Ormož wine country … everywhere, basically! :) Cheers to you
Thanks for a great experience Iva. So many places to visit!
Wow, you’ve seen so much but also missed out on a lot of beautiful things… Next time you’re in Slovenia, try visiting Piran and Izola: beautiful little coastal towns with excellent Mediterranean cuisine and exquisite local wine. You can also add Sečovlje Saltworks on your map of things to see. If you loved the wine tour of Vipava, maybe take a walking tour through Goriška brda as well. As far as the eastern parts of Slovenia are concerned, you must definitely visit Maribor and Ptuj! Celje is also a beautiful little town with a lot of cultural activity. Also visit the wineries in the area of Ormož (Jeruzalem) and there’s a small cafe that serves excellent pastries made with pumpkin seed oil (it’s situated somewhere in that area, ask around)… And if you run out of things to do, you can explore the Partisan heritage of the Second World War (the very well hidden Franja Hospital, Baza 20 – a secret military base operating during WWII located in the Kočevski Rog area… also, there’s a restaurant there serving the best creamy porcini soup I’ve ever tasted (if it’s the right season)).
Ooh, we want to go back right now to visit all these places! Hopefully we’ll return next year. Thanks for all the excellent tips.
I Love Slovenia! I Have Been There Several Times And Have some Great Slovenian Friends. The Country Is Absolutely Gorgeous and Can Hardly Wait To Return!
This place seems simply beautiful, peaceful, quite, and less crowdy.
It’s true, it’s a beautiful and peaceful country. Even in the most popular places like Lake Bled we found it easy to find a quiet spot and there’s lots of the country to explore where you probably wouldn’t see any tourists at all.
I just wanna say how deeply touched I am, after reading your blog about our hidden treasure. I’ve always known that someday sLOVEnia will be discovered and I’m proud to see it happened. It’s such a relief hearing nice things about our country from turists, since our government is messing it up…. But that’s a different story. Glad you enjoyed it and welcome back! ;)
Aw, thank you Špela! Every person we know who has visited Slovenia has raved about it so I’m sure you’ll be getting even more visitors.
I live in this beautifull country in the third largest town in Slovenia. Town – Celje. (75km from Ljubljana) We have a beautiful castle on the hill above the town. Seat of the Counts of Celje, the most powerful noble family in Slovenian history. Three stars in our national flag represent this family. ;-)
Slovenia is a beautiful country with friendly people, good food and excellent wine. :-D
We’d love to explore more of Slovenia, hopefully we’ll make it to Celje next time.
Slovenia is truly a hidden gem and I’m proud to be a Slovenian, I am glad that people are starting to discover our little piece of heaven on earth :)
If you visit Postojna don’t miss out the Predjama Castle (less then 10km away), which is one of the most stunning castles with a cave system behind it:
We were supposed to visit Predjama on this trip but ran out of time, it looks amazing.
I live close to Predjama castle and i’m often there just to see it under the spotlights on the evening. It.s magical.
You are all welcome in Slovenia :) It is really very nice and it takes only 3-4 hours on a highway to travel form one end (Prekmurje) to another (Primorska – see side).
You should visit Maribor too – this is where I live. It’s second biggest town and 120 km from Ljubljana.
We definitely want to visit the east of the country and Maribor on our next visit. I love that it’s so small and easy to get around.
Hi, do you think an old man around 47 can enjoy night life in Slovenia.
Loved reading about your travels around Slovenia. Unfortunately I don’t live in this beautiful country, but I’ve got a vineyard cottage I may start renting out soon in a part of Slovenia which isn’t the main tourist destination: http://vineyardstay.blogspot.se/
I’ve always wanted to go to Ljubljana. Now, having seen the food, I can’t wait!
It would be a lovely base to work for a while. Such a gorgeous city with a laid back vibe, some alternative culture if you know where to look, and of course great food! We’ll be writing about the food tour we did there soon. They did a custom vegetarian one for us and there were way more options than we could try.
ciao Erin and Simon,
After reading your posts on Slovenia, I had the opportunity to go on a visit in September…and you’re absolutely right. It is a hidden treasure, a true pearl in a shell… what can I say? Lake Bled is absolutely magical (Bled cream cake is yummy!!!), Ljubljana is a tiny little dolls-house city with plenty to see. We also visited Postoja and its fascinating cave. It is an awesome destination, for sure.
Thank you guys for inspiring me.
Glad to hear you loved it just as much Talita. I’ve never heard of anyone not enjoying a visit to Slovenia.
It’s absolutely stunning. The colours in your lake photos remind me of Queenstown! And Simon is quite the daredevil! How high was that bridge?!
It was about 10 metres high and looked terrifying (even more so when you were looking down I hear!). The water was icey cold too. Simon was one of 3 in our group of 8 who were brave enough.
Hi Erin, where is the bridge?
Most na Soči. We visited as part of a tour from Lake Bled.
Oh, the good old Wales metric! I didn’t realise it was that large actually; Slovenia is certainly much easier to get around than Wales. It is a lovely country, and while I didn’t get the chance to experience many of the things you did while I was there, I’m hoping I might have the chance to go there for work next year, which would be fun!
I saw you’ll be spending a while in Europe so hope you make it back there.
… And now I want Bled cake.
There is an insane amount of cream in those cakes!
oh, you’ve piqued my interest-what were the food and drink prices like?
Really reasonable. You can get a glass of wine from 2 euros, and as lunch is the main meal you can get a 3 course set lunch in the capital from 6-7 euros. We also went to some pretty fancy restaurants where you could pay 10-15 euros for a main.
local beer =2,5€
one course meal = 8€
pizza = 7 – 9€
Absolutely breathtaking! I am inspired to go! And that food looks like veggo-heaven =)
It is a stunning country -hope you make it there one day. And yes, it’s a pretty vegetarian friendly country -we never had any problems and ate so much delicious food.
Thank you for this post Erin and Simon. One more thing that Slovenija has for adrenalin junkies besides hiking the mountains or downhill biking, whitewater rafting.
Great natural walls all over the country. Winter and summer climbing is posible in Slovenija. This is just one of them.
For more information about Osp and Misja pec: