SLOVENIA TRAVEL GUIDE
Slovenia is often overshadowed by its neighbors – it doesn’t have the grandeur of Venice, the buzz of Croatia or the rugged beauty of Switzerland. That’s not to say it’s not worth visiting! Home to snow-capped peaks, turquoise green rivers and culinary delights, Slovenia has a captivating rural charm and a classically European style of life. The idyllic area of Bled is home to a fairy tale castle and island while the capital of Ljubljana is a quaint, pastel colored town overflowing with bridges, pedestrian foot traffic and sidewalk cafes. I visited Slovenia on a whirlwind 15 day tour of Croatia and Eastern Europe but Slovenia was one of the most unexpected and pleasant parts of the trip. Read on for my complete guide of where to go and what to see in Slovenia.
Top Things to Do in Slovenia
CLIMB MT. TRIGLAV
Melodramatic underground tunnels, prehistoric human remains and dizzying bridges make the Skocjan caves a must see. Also worth seeing are the Postojna Caves.
A classic Slovenian past time, hiking the Julian alps is rewarding and exhilarating.
Slovenia’s capital city is big enough to be interesting and lively yet small enough to walk on foot in an afternoon.
Slovenia’s Vipava Valley is ripe with vineyards producing some of the best merlots in the world.
This Adriatic coastal town is the ‘Venice’ of Slovenia. Enjoy fresh seafood, wander the narrow streets and people watch in this beautiful medieval port.
Things to Know Before You Go
I visited Slovenia on an extended two week vacation throughout Croatia and its neighboring countries. The focus of my trip was to visit Croatia – Dubrovnik, Split, and the Dalmatian Coast are great new spots to visit if you’ve already been to Italy, France and the like. Fortunately I had additional time for day trips and excursions to Croatia’s neighboring countries and was able to see Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Slovenia on the same trip. I was most pleasantly surprised by Slovenia as the people, food and natural beauty are spectacular.
In hindsight, I wish I had planned more in advance, as there are so many things to do and see in Slovenia. I always love Lonely Planet’s guidebooks and would recommend picking up a copy of their Slovenia Guidebook to get the most out of the country’s highlights if you’re looking to see more than just Bled and Ljubljana. If you are focused on Croatia and have time for side trips, Rick Steve’s book on Croatia and Slovenia has the best advice to fully explore the best of both countries. He has an updated 2016 version coming out in June which you can preorder here. Keep in mind that while Slovenia is part of the EU and uses the Euro, Croatia uses their own currency, the Croatian Kuna.
Logistics and Lodging
The easiest way to enter Slovenia is by flying directly into Ljubljana, the nation’s capital. Because the country does not have inter-domestic flights I recommend renting a car and having the freedom to drive around at your leisure. Slovenia’s capital has many national car rental companies, like Avis, Budget and Europcar. Rail Europe is the easiest if you’d prefer to take the train as it connects most of Europe.
Most sights and excursions can be booked when you arrive, however make sure to book your hotels in advance. The secret is out on Slovenia and more and more tourists visit each year. Bled in particular is incredibly popular and you’ll need to book accommodation ahead of time in the peak season, as there are limited hotels in the area. Of course, you can always try AirBnB (get $20 off your first stay with my referral).
I stayed at Hotel Jelovica and had an amazing view of Lake Bled, the Julian alps and Bled castle directly from my bedroom (see the photo below!). It was the best hotel I stayed at in Slovenia, purely for the unbeatable view. It was also quite affordable! Check the latest prices and availability here.
Travel Guide – Slovenia in A Weekend
Slovenia in a Long Weekend: A 3 Day Itinerary
I visited Slovenia for three days after a whirlwind trip across Croatia, Bosnia and Eastern Europe and followed the route above for a condensed but adventurous weekend hitting all of the must see spots. If you’re traveling on your own, read my Slovenia in a Weekend Guide for a day by day itinerary. I cover Ljubljana in 24 hours, the beauty of the underground caves at Postojna and of course, fairytale-esque Lake Bled with its picturesque hiking, lazy afternoons on the water and awe inducing cliff side castle.
If I had more time, I would have looked into hiking Mt. Triglav, visiting the other caves at Skocjan and staying longer in Ljubljana – it really is a beautiful, vibrant town.
If you’re more partial to group tours, I would recommend the one I took from Gate One as being very comprehensive, affordable and well planned. I traveled with my family and our initial plan was to visit Croatia so the additional trips to Bosnia, Montenegro, Slovenia and Italy were an added bonus. The main benefit of group tours in Eastern Europe is that they take care of the logistical planning – a rental car is really necessary to see for example, the Plitvice waterfalls, as the national park is in a remote part of the country without readily available public transportation.
Although I personally really love planning trips and am fine with handling logistics on my own, in hindsight a tour group made things much easier. The exact itinerary I did is a 15-day tour across Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia, Montenegro and Venice so all around a really great itinerary if you haven’t been to those countries yet but geared towards an older adult or retirement crowd. Still I was really happy with the accommodation provided, the sights and the food.
Some other reputable tour companies include Globus, Trafalgar, G Adventures (for people 18-30ish), and Contiki (also for millennials). You can get 25% off last minute G Adventure specials through my link here and they are great for solo travelers or people who like adventure travelers. They have a complete 8-day rafting tour of Bled just hiking, biking and rafting all around the scenic Julian alps and Bled lake which sounds like the perfect blend of wellness and adventure.
5 days | from $675
A short tour of Europe featuring Hungary, Slovenia & Croatia…
Venice to Budapest
8 days | from $1599
For culture fanatics looking for something off the beaten path, try this beautiful…
Slovenian Food & Drink
Slovenian cooking borrows from its nearby neighbors: Italy, Austria, Hungary and the Balkans and has a local obsession with fresh and locally sourced ingredients. I remember the food being all around delicious, especially so in the capital Ljubjlana. If you go, you must try the cakes and desserts at Zvezda, where you can get a prime people watching seat in the outdoor café and look out on the square. Slovenian wine, both red and white, is a local specialty.
Slovenian People & Culture
I must admit I didn’t have any preconceived notions about Slovenia as none of my friends or family had went before me. In fact, I (shamefully) didn’t even really know it existed! I was pleasantly surprised by my brief visit in Slovenia as the country is full of enthusiastic, welcoming people and their English was perfect. Of course speaking English isn’t really a reason to go to a destination, it was more that I was surprised at how universally people seemed to be able to speak it and how perfectly fluent they were. A waitress told me they devour American and English tv shows/films. I learned later on in my trip that in the days of old Yugoslavia, Slovenia was the most open of the republics and that despite a small population of only 2 million people, Slovenes are over represented in international sport, science, academics and philosophy! Talk about world class.
Activities & Sights in Slovenia
If you love the outdoors you will love Slovenia. There are great museums and historic churches but the alps, fresh air and plentiful mountain hikes and trails make it a great travel destination for anyone who loves fresh air pursuits. Climb to the country’s tallest mountain, Mt. Triglav, a challenging but accessible peak for anyone in good physical shape. Try rafting on the Soca river or horse riding, ballooning, caving and diving. If you like a more leisurely vacation, you can always sunbathe on Slovenia’s Adriatic coastline.
Have you been to Slovenia? Did you go on your own or with a tour? Let me know in the comments below if I’ve missed your favorite travel spot!