Why Slovenia should be on your Bucket List

Slovenia boasts everything from beautiful beaches to turquoise rivers, serene lakes, dramatic snow-capped mountains, and medieval Old Towns, yet it’s often overlooked as one of Europe’s most underrated destinations. For those who’ve visited Croatia and fallen in love with the Adriatic, it’s the perfect place to consider for your return journey as the country’s neighbour to the north and northeast. You’ll find plenty of mouth-watering cuisines here too, including a focus on sea-to-table and farm-to-table dishes, with chefs often using locally grown ingredients. There are countless architectural gems, museums, and art galleries to explore while the opportunities are many for outdoor recreation too, including everything from hiking, biking, and water sports to thrill-seeking activities like paragliding, cave exploring, paddling through abandoned mine tunnels, and soaring across the longest zipline in Europe.    
Lake Bled

Lake Bled

One of the best things to do in Slovenia is to visit Lake Bled, the country’s top attraction. The serene waters have a tiny island in the middle topped by Our Lady of the Lake Church with a backdrop of the towering Julian Alps peaks. Visitors can rent a wooden boat and row out for a visit as it’s easy to do with the water typically calm, taking only about 15 minutes to reach the island. Make some noise by ringing the bells at the Church of Assumption as an old Slovenian legend tells that doing so will fulfil your greatest wish. A stroll around the lake is possible too, bringing picturesque views throughout. On a warm summer day, enjoy a dip from one of the three swimming areas. You can’t visit this country without trying the typical cream cake, a Slovenian dessert that includes a crispy butter crust, vanilla cream, whipped cream, and icing. You’ll find multiple restaurants and cafes along the shoreline that offers it along with a gorgeous view of Bled Castle, the lake and the island. Bled Castle is well worth a visit too, towering over the lake at the cliffside, with its medieval charm easily spotted from a distance.

Ljubijlana

Ljubljana

The political and cultural heart of Slovenia, Ljubljana is a young, hip, and forward-thinking city with Italian-influenced architecture and a mostly car-free centre with lots of pedestrian- and bike-friendly streets. Enjoy expansive green spaces like Tivoli Park with its elegant avenues and beautifully landscaped grounds. It hosts the Contemporary History Museum, set within a baroque-style mansion, and the Jakopic Promenade that stretches from the eastern entrance to the neoclassical Tivoli Castle. A river runs through the Old Town which is home to many attractions that are all free to visit. Gorgeous bridges like the Triple Bridge and Dragon Bridge cross the water while atop Castle Hill is Ljubljana Castle overlooking it all. From its Outlook Tower, spectacular views over the capital can be enjoyed. It also includes a puppet museum, a historical museum, and exhibits on Slovenia’s history. Just a short stroll away is Ljubljana Cathedral which features art by several Italian baroque masters. The Central Market along the river between the Triple and Dragon bridges is worth a visit too. The attractive colonnade at the edge of Preseren Square has stalls selling spices, herbs, and handcrafted items. Continue further to discover baked goods, cured meats, dried fruit and nuts, fresh vegetables, fruit, and fish.

Lake Bohinj

Lake Bohinj

While Lake Bled may steal the spotlight, Lake Bohinj is only 40 minutes away and offers a more tranquil experience with water in brilliant shades of blue and green. Nestled in Triglav National Park, the stunning glacial lake is surrounded by soaring mountain peaks and is largely unspoiled by tourism. Many activities are possible here, including hikes to panoramic viewpoints, swimming, kayaking, paddleboarding, or simply enjoying a ride on the cable car for a bird’s-eye view. There are endless opportunities for fun outdoors but it’s enjoyable just to sit back, relax and soak up the jaw-dropping alpine landscape. A number of beaches are dotted around the shoreline for sunbathing too. On a nice day when there is little wind, the water looks like glass, reflecting the peaks, so you’ll want to bring your camera. Unlike Bled, there is no town called Bohinj but the charming lakeside town of Ribcev Laz serves as the main hub, offering everything you might need from hotels and vacation rentals to shops and eateries. You can take a stroll along the natural trails that run through the forest and visit the pretty churches like St. John the Baptist’s with its tall Baroque bell tower and gothic façade.

 

Postojna Cave

Postojna Cave

One of the world’s most enchanting caves and Europe’s largest show cave includes 16 miles of underground tunnels with diverse fauna and magnificent formations, including stalagmites, stalactites, and more. It’s a fascinating subterranean paradise created by tiny droplets over millions of years. Just one of the highlights is a jaw-dropping five-metre-tall stalagmite called Brilliant, named for its brilliant white colour, which sits next to an ornament-rich column. The water that slowly drips down the stalagmite deposits a thin layer of flowstone that gives it an impressive, shiny white hue. Visitors can hop on a train to enter the cave before proceeding on foot with a guide to take in the mesmerising sights. There are some 100 animal species that inhabited the cave as well, with the star of the show proteus, a creature that was initially mistaken for a baby dragon. There’s even a modern aquarium inside where you’ll be able to view a proteus. Also known as an olm, it’s an aquatic salamander in the family Proteidae which is Europe’s only exclusively cave-dwelling chordate species. In Vivarium Proteus, you can also watch a multimedia presentation focused on the animal life in the caves and how the caves were created.

Vintgar Gorge

Vintgar Gorge

Just a short drive northwest of Lake Bled, Vintgar Gorge was carved by the Radovna River which still winds through today with its incredible shades of emerald and aquamarine. One of Slovenia’s most popular attractions, visitors can enjoy a nature walk along a scenic path that reveals stunning views of the brilliant water from multiple vantage points. As it flows through vertical rocks, those who make the journey can marvel at gorgeous waterfalls, rapids, and serene pools. The crystal-clear water, cascading falls, and boardwalks make up a 1.6-kilometre trail that follows the river that’s hemmed in by 50 to 100-metre walls formed by the Horm and Borst mountains. The leisurely trek isn’t very steep and it’s relatively easy to hike with no particular fitness level required. Due to the many photo-ops, it takes about two hours to complete with time for breaks and picture-taking. In addition to the river, the pretty arched Bohinj Railway Bridge, wooden bridges, and Zumer galleries are other highlights. The route ends at the tallest waterfall in Slovenia, Sum, spilling over 82 feet. If you’re looking for a longer hike, you can take the Vintgar loop trail back by continuing past the churches of St. Katharina, Zasip, and Podholm.

Slovenia Vineyard

Wine Tasting

For wine enthusiasts who want to enjoy tasting some of Slovenia’s best wines while enjoying the country’s fairy-tale landscapes, rich history and culture, a wine-tasting experience is a must. If you’ve visited Croatia, you probably enjoyed the many fabulous Croatian wines that while not well-known, tend to be quite the delight. You’re likely to feel the same way when it comes to Slovenian wines. In fact, a day of tasting and touring here might just be the highlight of your trip. The day can include a visit to one of the outstanding wine regions with the opportunity to enjoy two different wine-tasting experiences at boutique wineries. There are regions available to choose from, such as the Slovenian “Tuscany” with its lush vineyard-covered hills and villages that seem lost to time and reminiscent of Italy’s popular region. Or perhaps Vipava Valley and the Karst, a region known for its hospitable locals, awe-inspiring scenery, and unique wines, tucked beneath majestic mountains.  At Lepa Vida, a family-run boutique winery, you can try some of the top wines produced in Slovenia, like Malvasia or Sauvignon. Bizelsjko is yet another outstanding wine region here, with its sparkling wines that make it a standout.

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