Slovenia has all the outdoor adventure, wine, and culture that its neighbor Croatia has without the crowds and the steep prices. There’s no shortage of things to experience, so let’s discover everything Slovenia offers.
While Croatia is at the top of many travelers’ lists and welcomes thousands of visitors each year, neighboring Slovenia is an under-the-radar destination that’s fairly unfrequented (and more affordable). It boasts one of Europe’s largest wine cellars (plus a slew of interesting wine regions), historical cities with lots of cultural attractions, quaint countryside accommodations, pristine hot springs, great dining, and beautiful mountain hikes. If your itinerary includes traversing the country from border to border, pack a rolling suitcase that doubles as a backpack for the most flexibility.
Discover Charming Ljubljana
Slovenia is a country the size of the state of New Jersey, but even though it’s small, it has plenty to offer. Its capital city is Ljubljana, whose mascot is the dragon—based on the legend of Jason and the Argonauts slaying a dragon in its marshy swamps—and dragons are seen everywhere: bridges, manhole covers, decorative fixtures, even graffiti.
The best way to explore the city is to simply stroll around along the banks of the Ljubljanica River, taking in the architecture of Joze Plecnik, who designed much of the city after an earthquake. Cankarjevo Nabrezje is a pedestrian street lined with cafes and the adjacent blocks are also foot traffic only and feature restaurants and boutiques. Several bridges throughout the city feature sculptures—like Dragon Bridge, Triple Bridge, and Butcher’s Bridge—which make great photo ops. (Don’t forget to your international adapter so your favorite devices are charged and ready to go.)
Ljubljana Castle is a medieval castle at the center of the city. You can take a guided tour, but a much more exciting way to experience the site is the Escape Castle experience, giving you an exciting escape room/scavenger hunt exploration of the castle. Complete the five challenges to save the dragon.
Another cool way to experience the city is to take a two-hour SUP tour on the Ljubljanica River (also a great way to cool off if you’re visiting during the summer months). Preseren Square is the city’s main square, where the pink-hued Franciscan Church of the Annunciation is among one of the most photographed landmarks, but step inside to check out the frescoes. Visit the Cathedral of St. Nicolas and walk to the Central Market to explore. Grab what you need for a picnic and spend a relaxing afternoon in Tivoli City Park. For dinner, go to Druga Violina (get reservations ahead of time), a restaurant with delicious meals and affordable prices that also employs people with disabilities.
Explore Lake Bled
Nestled in the Julian Alps, Lake Bled is definite must on your trip to Slovenia. Row, row, row your own boat (or hire a multi-seat pletna) to Bled Island and visit the pilgrimage church dedicated to the Assumption of Mary. Among its Gothic frescoes and Baroque décor is a Wishing Bell said to bring good luck to those who ring it.
In town, don’t miss a piece of the famed Bled Cream Cake, a pastry with roots in the Hapsburg era. You can walk around Lake Bled to burn off the cake—a total of 6km—for spectacular views and spots to stop for a swim. Visit Lake Bled Castle, the country’s oldest, built in 1011. There, you can tour the castle to enjoy the views, do a wine tasting, and eat in the castle’s restaurant. Pack a daypack with water and snacks for the more strenuous hike to Mala Osojnica. It uses chains and ends in a narrow staircase, but it’s totally worth it for the aerial view.
Slovenia shares a border with Italy (Trieste is just on the other side), so make a trip to the Adriatic part of your itinerary. In Piran, Slovenia’s main picturesque coastal village, you can stroll through town, dine at any of the numerous seafood restaurants, take a walking tour with a wine tasting, enroll in a cooking class, or visit the area’s salt pans by electric bicycle.
Maribor, on the other side of the country, is Slovenia’s second largest city and is home to The Old Vine House, a museum of Slovenian wine history (with a tasting room) and home to the world’s oldest vine, estimated to be some 450 years old. Vinag Wine Cellar holds more than 5 million liters of wine in tunnels over a mile long. Tour company Find Eat Local runs a Drava river raft wine tasting, among other wine-related tours. In the area, there are several wineries to visit: Johannes Protner and Chateau Ramšak, to name two. Nearby, visit what’s nicknamed the Thermal Riviera—Terme Čatež Spa is the country’s largest hot springs resort.
Slovenia is an under-the-radar destination for now, but you can be sure it will grow in popularity as more travelers discover its charms. So book your tickets , pack your bags , and make this the year you venture into the unknown .
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Related Links (from Eagle Creek blog):
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