Slovenia is a small central European country with just over 2 million inhabitants living within an area a tad larger than 20,000 square kilometers. It is located between Austria in the north and Croatia in the south-east, Italy in the west and Hungary in the north-east. Those few that have heard of it, usually only know it as a birthplace of famous people - such as Donald Trump's wife, Melania Trump, NBA super-stars like Luka Dončić and Goran Dragić, or by the country's most famous NHL player, Anže Kopitar. Slovenia, more specific the valley under Mt Ponce, Planica, is also known as the cradle of ski jumping and ski flying. Every March Planica hosts the traditional final event of the Ski Jumping World Cup. Others might have heard of the idyllic Lake Bled or Postojna Cave, but Slovenia has a lot more to offer.
Despite how small Slovenia is and the small number of people residing there, it is a very diverse country and offers plenty for you to see.
If you are a mountain climber we highly suggest you visit Triglav National Park. There, you'll be able to enjoy many unforgettable sunsets and sunrises with spectacular views from the top of the hills and mountains. In fact, why don't you visit Mt. Triglav? It is the highest mountain in Slovenia, proudly rising to 2,864 m. Apart from mountains of staggering beauty, Triglav National Park boasts breath-taking alpine valleys, lakes, gorges, rivers and waterfalls as well as typical alpine flora,fauna and culture. If you are fond of hiking, we suggest visiting the Seven Lakes Valley, Krn Lake, the Trenta Valley with Slovenia’s most beautiful river, the emerald-green Soča River, Savica Waterfall or the thunderous Peričnik Waterfall. Do you enjoy walks in the forests instead whilst observing wildlife? Well, you're in luck! About 54% of Slovenia is covered by forests - including virgin forests such as the Krokar virgin forest, which is actually listed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List and the Rajhenavski Rog virgin forest, where you can admire centuries-old up to 50-metre-tall fir and beech trees. Go ahead and visit the Kočevje region, which is the most densely-forested area in Slovenia - forests there cover as much as 91% of its total area - and enjoy intact nature, forests untouched by human that are the home of the brown bear, wolf, lynx, eagle and deer. Do you prefer going for a swim? Slovenia has many beautiful lakes - Lake Bled and Lake Bohinj are undoubtedly the best known ones - as well as many clean, turquoise rivers where you can go for a quick dip (as long as you don't mind the usually cold water!) and if you prefer salt water, you can always visit Piran, Koper or Izola and go for a swim in the Adriatic sea! If you're not interested in nature and prefer a city escape, you can always visit cities such as Ljubljana, Portorož and Maribor where you can easily party until the break of dawn. Slovenia is also a land of thermal springs and spas, where you can indulge yourself in spa and wellness centres with saunas, massages and thermal parks with pools and slides - relaxation for adults, fun for children.
Perhaps one of the biggest benefits in Slovenia is that you don't have to limit yourself and do this or do that. As it's a small country, everything is close-by with just a short car ride in-between!
Slovenia's diversity isn't limited to landscape, though. Take language, for example. Despite there only being a single official language, Slovene, it also has two minority languages - Italian and Hungarian, which are recognised as co-official languages in their residential municipalities. "But that's nothing special" one might think. True. But did you know that the 2 million inhabitants living on an area of roughly 20,000 square kilometers speak in approximately 50 different dialects (the exact number is up for debate)? While some dialects are similar, some are vastly different. Some dialects, especially those originating from the Prekmurje region, are in fact so different that many residents from other regions don't understand them at all or understand very little!
As a foreigner visiting Slovenia, you don't have to worry about language barriers, though. Slovenes, especially the younger generation, are fluid in English while many also speak German, French or Spanish.
Due to its geographical position, the seasons are usually quite distinct in Slovenia with short days and snow during the chilly winters between December and February (perfect for winter sports are our most famous winter and ski resorts mainly located in the northern part of Slovenia from Kranjska gora, Kanin, Cerkno, Krvavec, Vogel - Bohinj, Mariborsko Pohorje in Rogla) and long days and hot summers between June and August. If you wish to visit Slovenia for outdoor activities and nature, we suggest you do it in May or September when it's usually dry and not too hot and when the days are long enough.
Now that you know a bit about Slovenia, let's talk a bit about the places you can (and should!) visit if you have 7 days available.
Day 1: Vintgar Gorge - Lake Bled - Lake Bohinj
Start your day bright and early and drive towards theVintgar gorge. If you're staying in Ljubljana, the drive to Vintgar Gorge should take roughly 45 minutes by car.
The gorge was carved by the river Radovna and is approximately 1.6 km long. The hike is very easy as the trail is well maintained, so it should take you roughly 2 hours to get to the end of the gorge and return back to the car. Along the way, you'll get to see some really beautiful waterfalls, pools and rapids. Even though the water is sparkling clean we highly recommend you do not go for a swim here. There'll be plenty of opportunities elsewhere where it's safer. For now, just enjoy the natural beauty.
When you get back to the car, head towards Bled. It takes about 10 - 15 minutes by car to get from Vintgar Gorge to Lake Bled.
Bled is really full of tourists.. But nonetheless, Lake Bled is well worth a visit! When you arrive to Bled, we suggest you immediately start looking for a free parking spots as the parking lots are usually full. So leave your car wherever you find it and proceed on foot. If you decide to visit the castle overlooking the lake, we highly recommend you do it first thing and start your visit by walking uphill towards it. It's very popular to get married in the castle (more-so by foreigners as the prices to organise a wedding there are too high for most locals), so don't be surprised if you see a wedding reception under way! None of the Flyavel team members were impressed by the castle - it's nothing special. However, the castle grounds do offer some spectacular views of the lake, its island and the surrounding hills and mountains! To be able to enjoy those views, you will have to pay an entrance fee, though.
If you decide not to visit the castle (or have finished with your tour of the castle), go ahead and reserve your spot on one of the traditional wooden boats - called a pletna - that'll take you to the island. While the boat rides aren't cheap, they are quite enjoyable. Swimming is allowed in the lake (and the water is clean) so if you're confident enough, you could also swim to the island. The island itself is really quite tiny so you won't be able to do much whilst there. However, the small church on top of the island has a special bell. Legend has it that ringing that bell will make your wishes come true! And to get to that church you will first have to climb the staircase consisting of 99 stone steps. Weddings take place in this little church too; in this case the groom has to carry the bride up all the steps if the couple wants to get married in the church on the island.
As your time in Bled is coming to an end, go ahead and treat yourself to a slice of Cremeschnitte - a famous custard and chantilly cream cake which is especially popular in Bled. Afterwards, we suggest you go back to your car and drive around the lake - you'll have plenty of great photo-ops along the way, along with a few spots that are perfect for a quick dip in the lake. All in all, you will likely spend around 4 - 5 hours in Bled, so there'll be plenty of daylight left to visit the Lake Bohinj nearby - it takes only 30 minutes to get there by car!
Lake Bohinj is the largest natural lake in Slovenia. If you haven't already, now is the perfect time to go for a swim in the lake. The water is just as clear - if not more - than in Lake Bled and it's usually not as crowded. However, it might be a bit difficult to find an empty spot to park your car. You can also rent a kayak, visit the adrenaline park or do many of the other fun activities here - with the bonus of enjoying the stunning views of the nearby nature.
Day 2: Predjama Castle - Postojna Cave - Lipica
You may have visited many castles before, but we bet you've never visited a castle quite like the Predjama Castle. Located roughly 45 minutes away by car from Ljubljana, it is the largest cave castle in the world! It was built roughly 800 years ago in the middle of a 123-metre cliff. The castle is very impressive and well worth the visit. In fact, it is so impressive, that it's even been used as a filming location for Jackie Chan's 1986 film titled Armour of God. If you are a fan of paranormal, then you really must not miss visiting the castle!
According to Ghost Hunters International (who did an episode about it in 2008), this castle is among the top 10 of the most haunted castles in the world. If you are a gamer then the castle might look familiar - after all, it was featured in 2014's Counter Strike: Global Offensive DLC Operation Breakout video game.
Postojna Cave is located just a 15 minute car ride away (by shuttle services during the summer) from the Predjama Castle. While it is not the largest cave system in the country (that title belongs to Migovec System, which measures just under 42 kilometers in length), it is certainly the most famous cave system in Slovenia. It spans more than 24 kilometers in length - which makes it the second largest cave system in Slovenia - which is impressive enough, but the cave is mostly known for its beautiful stalagmites and stalactites as well as for the special inhabitants of the cave called Olms. Olms, also known as baby dragons, live up to 100 years and can go up to 10 years without food! They are also considered the largest cave-dwelling animals and Postojna Cave remains their main habitat!
The tour of Postojna Cave lasts roughly 90 minutes. In this time, you'll get to see about 5 km of this stunning subterranean world. Don't worry, though, you won't have to rush. About 3.7 km of the trail is done on an underground train. The railway opened in 1872, making it the first underground cave railway in the world! The temperature inside the cave is at steady 10°C, so make sure you dress appropriately!
However, if you are more adventurous, don’t miss the 6km-long Škocjan Caves, of which there is a 3- km guided tour for visitors.. This amazing karst cave system was carved out by the Reka River, which resurfaces in Italy as the Timavo River. It is renowned for the stunning underground canyon of the torrential Reka River that you cross on the bridge almost 50 metres above the riverbed as well as for numerous dripstones and other karst formations, such as natural bridges, collapse dolines, passages and more. The Škocjan Caves are on UNESCO’s list of natural and cultural world heritage sites. Tours of the caves are conducted in Slovenian, English, Italian and German. The temperature is constant at 12 degrees Celsius, so dress warmly and wear strong walking shoes as the paths may be slippery.
Lipica Stud Farm, which dates back to 1580, is the oldest European stud farm continuously breeding the white Lipizzan horses and is currently the largest stud farm with Lipizzan horses in the world! It's only about 30 minutes by car away from Postojna Cave so we highly recommend you go for a visit. After seeing one of their shows, you will certainly be left speechless. Don’t miss the interactive centre Lipikum where visitors can find lots of information connected to the Lipizzan horse and the Lipica Stud Farm. By the way, did you know that Lipizzan horses are born almost black, slowly becoming grey by the age of seven, and then eventually turning almost totally white?
Day 4: Ljubljana
Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia, also happens to be the biggest city in Slovenia. However, by all accounts and purposes, it's still a fairly small city (when compared to other capitals around the world). So a single day in the capital should be more than enough. Nonetheless, due to its geographical position, it is highly likely you will want to spend most of your nights during your visit to Slovenia there.
We suggest you start your day by visiting the old city centre. You'll immediately fall in love with the architecture, the lovely squares and the many bridges under which the river Ljubljanica flows. If you have time and if the weather is nice we suggest you take the river cruise to relax a bit and see the city from a different perspective.
After you wrap up your tour of the city centre, grab something to eat. There are plenty of restaurants in and around the old city centre so you'll have plenty of options to choose from. In fact, the food there is so delicious that it'll be hard for you to find something you don't like!
Having had a tasty meal, proceed towards the castle. We recommend you get there in time to watch the sunset. Regardless of whether you choose to walk to the castle or use the funicular, you'll be rewarded by incredible views once you get up there.
Day 5: Koper - Piran - Portorož
Koper, an hour away from Ljubljana by car, is one of the major coastal cities in Slovenia. If you like to do some outdoor recreational activities, it is the perfect place for it. Whether you like cycling or roller skating by the coast or you prefer to do some outdoor fitness, Koper has it all. Not only that, after you're done exercising and are craving for a shower - what better way to cool yourself off than to jump in the Adriatic sea? You'll surely work up some appetite as well. Go ahead and visit Kavarna Kapitanija and enjoy some really delicious ice cream.
Piran is only about 20 minutes away from Koper by car and is definitely amongst the nicest medieval towns in Slovenia. It's known for its long pier and Venetian architecture. It's situated by the coast and you can expect some amazing sunsets there, so make sure you bring your camera!
End your day in Portorož. It's only about 3 km away from Piran so you can easily walk there. Portorož is the main party location on the coast so if you want to do some partying, now's your chance. Make sure you get something to eat first, though. There are many restaurants by the sea that serve delicious sea food (and other food, of course).
If you’re tired of town-walking, visit the Strunjan Nature Park situated in the municipality of Piran. It is famous for the 80-metre Cliffs of Strunjan, the highest flysch cliff along the whole Adriatic Sea, formed by sea, rain and wind. The beach below the cliffs is called the Moon Bay and it is a quaint and peaceful corner of the Slovenian coast. An important part of the Strunjan Nature Park is also the Strunjan salt pans, where salt has traditionally been produced here for 700 years. The same goes for the Sečovlje Salt Pans, where you can also have a quick glance at the history of the pans and salt-making as well as at the salt workers’ way of life. The shallow waters of salt pans are home to a variety of plants and animals adapted to salty soil and a real heaven for birds. Amidst the Sečovlje Salt Pans a unique outdoor spa centre Lepa Vida is located, which uses natural products from the salina park and the gifts from the sea to refresh and regenerate the body and soul of its visitors.
Day 6: Triglav National Park - Soča Valley and Kranjska gora
To be honest, you can easily spend a week in Triglav National Park, especially if you go hiking in the mountains.
However, if you don't have an entire week to spend here and have to do it in a single day, here's what we'd recommend.
Visit Soča Valley, where the emerald, dream-like river Soca flows. The entire valley offers plenty of activities. You can go rafting, hiking, even swimming in some places (the river is cold, but very refreshing!), you can even camp there and we promise you, you'll love every minute of it! Our highlights are:
The Great Soča Gorge (feel free to go for a swim at the end of the gorge when the water calms down, the entire trail takes about 45 minutes)
Boka Waterfall (the short trail takes up to 30 minutes there and back)
After all the hiking and swimming, you will surely be hungry. If the weather permits it, we suggest you take the Vršič mountain pass towards Kranjska gora. There, you'll have plenty of restaurants to choose from. Try to choose one overlooking Lake Jasna. It might be more expensive, but the view is worth it! And of course, feel free to go inside the lake for one last swim of the day!
Day 7: Visit Maribor and heart-shaped road in Špičnik
Maribor - located about 80 minutes from Ljubljana by car - is the second largest city in Slovenia (and a great place to party at). It is set amid wine-region hills on the Drava River, which flows through the city. The city itself is quite lovely, especially the central square called Glavni Trg. But you probably won't spend a lot of the time inside the city as there's simply so much to do in the surrounding area!
You see, close to the city you'll find Slovenia's largest ski resort, Mariborsko Pohorje. As you might expect, it offers plenty to do during the winter. However, it's also very popular during the summer with its many hiking and biking trails.
Next on the list is a special place in Špičnik - theheart-shaped road. Slovenia has the word 'love' inside the name. So of course it also has a road that, from the proper viewpoint, resembles the shape of a heart and it's only a 25-minute drive from Maribor to get there! The view really is amazing - in fact, it's so amazing that the Alsace tourist office even claimed this particular piece of land was in France! The farm you'll have to visit to see this lovely view offers various homemade dishes and (as expected, considering you're surrounded by vineyards), you can also go wine-tasting. We suggest you spend the night there.
Is that all you can do in Slovenia?
No. There's a lot more you can do in Slovenia. Here are a couple other ideas:
attend a 3-day or an 8-day survival course in forests around Kočevje or decide for bear watching and meet Slovenia’s brown bear in the bear’s natural habitat in Kočevje forests, of course, from a safe lookout.
visit Lake Cerknica, an intermittent lake that, when full, is the largest lake in Slovenia. When empty, it turns into an extensive farmland. Combine it with a visit of nearby Sneznik Castle and Križna cave, an amazing cave with numerous underground lakes. Perfect for another day trip!
sunbathe on the banks of the river Kolpa, the warmest river in Slovenia. You can easily camp and spend a couple of days here - the river is sparkling clean and perfect for swimming. It is also a popular destination for fishing, kayaking and rafting. You can also visit Peter Klepec adrenaline park in Osilnica, a nearby village.
Mariborsko Pohorje is perfect for nature-lovers. If you visit it in the winter, you'll surely be able to enjoy all the ski slopes. If you visit it in other seasons, then you can easily spend days hiking and mountain biking.
visit Ptuj, lovely town - in fact one of the oldest towns in Slovenia - known for the Kurenti masks (recognised by UNESCO) and some really old wine cellars you can visit whilst there!
go mountain climbing in Triglav National Park.
relax and visit Terme 3000 - Slovenia's largest thermal resort and enjoy the amazing food that Prekmurje region is known for.
And believe us, this list could go on and on!
Slovenia is a really beautiful country to visit and you'll have plenty of things to see and do, regardless of what you're into. To make the most out of your time in this amazing country, we do, however, highly suggest you rent a car. The public transport can be quite slow and inefficient.