31 August 2021
Where the Wild Things go
Situated in Central Europe, Slovenia borders both the Alps and the Mediterranean Sea, where it enjoys a continental climate with warm summers and cold winters. The cold season lasts for 3.5 months, with temperatures between -3°C and 8°C, making for the best snow-capped ski slopes. But if you’re a fan of the sun, have no fear! Slovenia gets 1,712 hours of sun year-round, and the warm season lasts for around the same amount of time as the cold, offering temperatures between 15°C and 27°C.
Whether you’re exploring the riverside capital, Ljubljana; taking a boat trip down the picture-perfect Lake Bled, or trekking through Triglav National Park, the natural wonders in Slovenia are endless. This is the perfect destination if you’re looking for a trip away from the hustle and bustle of big-city life.
Slovenia - less than a tenth the size of the United Kingdom - is home to just 2.081 million people; that’s less than the amount of people living in London! But despite Slovenians being so few and far between, these people have BIG personalities! This is a country made of outdoor enthusiasts, who love everything from skiing to hiking and climbing. Far from a relaxing beach holiday, this is the place to go if you’re looking for a thrill!
What makes Slovenia, Slovenia?
1. The most diverse landscapes
It’s unique location, bordering both the Alps and the Mediterranean coast, makes Slovenia home to some of the most diverse natural landscapes on the continent. With over half of the country covered by trees, this nature lover’s paradise is the 3rd most forest-covered country in Europe. The Rajhenavski Forest, located in Kocevski Rog, is the oldest forest in Slovenia - with trees there growing for over 500 years. Such gorgeous surroundings make it hard not to feel like you’re stepping foot right into the forests of fairy tales. With ⅓ of the country being designated protected land, you can feel safe in the knowledge that this absolute gem of a country will retain such natural beauty for years to come. It’s a good thing too, because there is so much of it…
In Logar Valley, pine-covered mountains border dramatic valleys that drop below. Turquoise rivers cut through the Soča Valley, while the serene waters of Lake Bohinj and Lake Bled make a picture-perfect scene. Lake Bled, with its stunning bluish-green lake dwells among the highest peaks of the Julian Alps and the Karavanke. Embellished with a steepled church that sits on a tiny teardrop of an islet, this gorgeous lake is postcard worthy. Fresh mountain air fills your lungs in this wonderful outdoor paradise. Take a dip in the lake’s crystal clear waters, or glide across the water in a rowing boat towards rocky cliffs, where you’ll find a medieval castle that only adds to the historical beauty of this breath-taking destination.
Picturesque towns like Piran border the Adriatic coastline, sitting prettily at the tip of Slovenia’s narrow southwestern peninsula. Piran is home to one of the most immaculately preserved historical towns in the Mediterranean. It’s Old Town is home to some of the best Venetian Gothic architecture, and while it’s uncomfortably packed during the summer months, in quieter times, it’s hard not to fall in love with the winding alleyways and spectacular sunset views of this place.
Slovenia is home to thousands of caves with stunningly unique karst formations that have grown over millions of years. Of these, 22 are open to the public - and with cave exploration being a long-standing tradition in Slovenia, we highly recommend it! The most popular, Postojna Cave - whose elaborate mouldings give it the appearance of a Baroque cathedral - has hosted tour groups since 1819, when the Emperor of Austria Ferdinand I visited. Since then, it receives over 600,000 annual visitors who come from all over, to explore this incredible subterranean paradise that has been shaped by tiny droplets of water over millions of years. Keep an eye out for the olm - a small blind salamander the colour of white flesh. This funny little creature lives in cave water and is lovingly nicknamed “the human fish” by locals. Take the underground railway to explore the cave’s formations: huge pillars, translucent curtains, and spaghetti-like strands which dangle from the ceiling. When you’re done at Postojna, head over to Škocjan Caves, a 150m deep underground canyon that looks straight out of The Lord of the Rings. From the narrow Cerkevnik Bridge, you can admire the River Reka that carved this beautiful cave formation.
Fun fact: Slovenia’s forests are home to over 500 brown bears! Don’t worry though, these majestic creatures are mostly vegetarian and thanks to a thriving landscape, they rarely need to hunt for their food. No humans on the menu!
2. The adrenaline junkie's paradise
For the adrenaline junkie looking for their next fix, Slovenia doesn’t disappoint… This amazing country is, above all, an outdoor destination. In fact, the locals LOVE active holidays - and favour them over the more relaxed style that most Brits tend towards - so expect that you’ll be invited to join in with all kinds of outdoorsy activities. So, whether you love hiking, rafting or climbing, this is where the wild things go...
Extending south from the border village of Rateče, Planica is an alpine valley located in northwestern Slovenia. Famous for its insane ski jumping, these awe-inspiring slopes are also home to the zipline with the steepest descent in the world. Go bungee jumping at Bridge Solkan, or explore the beautiful, but exhilaratingly fast-paced, River Soča on a raft or kayak! Ski down snow-capped mountains, hike through ancient forests, or take your bike for a spin down jagged slopes. You can even try out something more niche, like horse riding, ballooning, caving and canyoning! Whatever takes your fancy, the list of activities in Slovenia is endless.
Fun fact: The Solkan Bridge is the world’s longest stone-arch bridge railway. Built between 1900 and 1906, the bridge is made up of 4,533 stone blocks that stretch a whopping 220 meters long!
3. Its compact capital city
Whether it’s London or Paris, it’s often said that European capitals can be a little overwhelming when you first arrive. For some people, the loud, fast-paced nature of the city just isn’t it. Thankfully, that’s not the case in Ljubljana (Lub-lee-yana) - Slovenia’s capital city. This tiny capital sits within a compact pedestrianised area on one of the meandering Llubljanica river’s bends, making it one of the most serene, beautiful capital cities you’ll come across on the continent. It’s so small, in fact, that you can even see the main sights within a day or two! So, here’s our two-day Ljubljana itinerary:
Get your bearings by taking the glass-sided funicular from Krekov Square up to Ljubljana Castle, where you’ll see stunning views across the city from atop the city’s central hill. From here, you can dine with a view in two of the city’s best restaurants - Gostilna na Gradu and Strelec. Climb the 19th-century watchtower for panoramic views over the city. Once you’ve soaked up enough of the sights, head back down to the city via the funicular, or if you’d rather take the scenic route, head down the Študentovska Ulica walking path.
Here, you’ll find the Old Town which lies beneath the castle, where you can explore various historical exhibitions, quiet courtyards and cobblestone passageways, and 19th-century wooden shop fronts. If you love browsing markets as much as I do, you’re in luck! The Old Town is home to markets upon markets; explore Llubljana’s open-air Central Market, where farmers sell fresh, home grown fruit and vegetables; head to the adjacent Covered Market for fresh bread, meat, cheese, honey, oil and all sorts of other produce; or head to the riverside, where you’ll find Llubljana’s Fish Market inside Plečnik Colonnade, a beautiful walkway designed by Slovenia’s most famous modern architect Jože Plečnik. Grab lunch at the markets and enjoy the riverside view.
Once you’ve had your fill, follow the riverside path towards the town centre, passing Cobblers’ Bridge on the way. As you walk along the riverside, you’ll eventually find one of Plečnik’s masterpieces, Triple Bridge - a three-part colonnaded bridge that forms a grand entrance to Prešernov Trg. Dominated by the picture-perfect salmon-pink 17th-century Franciscan Church of the Annunciation and flanked by charming 20th-century secessionist buildings, this is Ljubljana’s most stunning public space. In the centre of the square, you can admire the Prešeren Monument, which depicts France Prešeren, Slovenia’s greatest poet.
Head to the western side of the Ljubljanica river to find Center - the more modern part of Ljubljana. This is where you’ll find most of the city’s museums and galleries, huddled in the small museum district near Trg Republike. Explore the National Museum of Slovenia, which holds treasures that illuminate the history of Slovenia from prehistoric times to the present day. If you’re more into art than history, check out the nearby Museum of Modern Art, where you’ll find some of the finest modern and contemporary Slovenian artworks, and the National Gallery of Slovenia has older Slovenian masterpieces.
For lunch, take a stroll to Tivoli Park - a 510-hectare park that you can explore on foot or by bike. Bring a picnic to enjoy on one of the park’s many lawns, its hilly forest, by the ornamental flower beds, or by the park’s large pond. In the evening, make sure you bag tickets for a performance at the city’s open-air theatre, Križanke, set in an 18th-century monastery. If you prefer, you can check out a performance at Cankarjex Dom, Ljubljana’s premier cultural venue which houses two large auditoriums.
Fun fact: You’ll find dragons on Dragon Bridge and on the castle’s coat of arms. The Ljubljana dragon is a symbol of the city, representing power, courage and greatness. Locals believe that Jason, a Greek mythological hero, slayed the dragon and made it into the history books due to his bravery.
4. Triglav: a Slovenian utopia
Connect with nature as you explore Triglav National Park, Slovenia’s largest protected area and only national park. Set below Slovenia’s highest mountain, Triglav - which is seen by many Slovenians as a holy mountain - Triglav makes up most of the eastern side of the Julian Alps and is home to some of the most beautiful sights... Take in magnificent panoramic views from the tallest peaks. Follow trails down green Alpine valleys or glacier-carved alleys; explore babbling brooks and crystal clear lakes that reflect the blue sky; watch ibex roam around; hike green pastures at high-altitude, or peek down below at cavernous gorges.
Hikers will love Triglav - not only for the insane mountain ranges that anyone would be proud to summit, but for the forest that covers so much of the park. Follow the 8-hour long Soča Trail for a picturesque walk along the riverside towards the village of Bovec. This route, though long, is perfect for inexperienced hikers - it’s a fairly flat route as you’ll be following the river, so there’s no need to worry about climbing any peaks on this hike. Take a 5-hour hike along the Mostnica Gorge and Voje Waterfall trail, a 13km trail that starts from Stara Fuzina and features a stunning waterfall with emerald green waters at its halfway point. If you’re looking for panoramic views, take the Vogar hike. This steep hike requires proper gear, but it’s worth it for the most scenic views over Lake Bohinj. If you’re feeling up to it, you can even paraglide back down from the summit!
As stunning as Triglav is, that’s not all this national park has to offer. Triglav is a perfect example of the successful harmonisation and preservation of natural beauty and cultural heritage. Set at the meeting point of various climates and cultures, Triglav connects the Alpine cultural heritage of not just Slovenians, but a whole family of Alpine nations including France, Switzerland, Monaco, Italy, Liechtenstein, Austria and Germany. Each of these nations has brought their own practices and crafts, shaping a unique indigenous culture within Triglav today. Far from the hustle and bustle of working life in the city, those living in Triglav practice in iron foundries, charcoal-burning, forestry, and even Alpine dairy farming. Besides tourism, agriculture and the crafting of wood and wool products are what sustains the Triglav economy.
Good to know: Slovenia is one of the world’s most environmentally-friendly nations, with only four others topping Slovenia’s environmental performance: Finland, Iceland, Sweden and Denmark.
5. Friendly adventurers
Slovenia is a special nation. Existing at the junction of three different worlds: the Alpine, the Pannonian and the Mediterranean, the Slovenian character encompasses the best of European culture. It’s no surprise why there are so many accounts of their good-hearted nature; guests are welcomed to Slovenia with open arms! Whether they’re introducing you to their food, monuments or endless natural wonders, there’s no doubt that Slovenians take a lot of pride in sharing their culture. And what a wonderful culture it is… Probably the best part of the Slovenian lifestyle is just how many appreciate the outdoors. These nature-loving people will happily invite anyone to join them on a hike - and we’re not surprised. When you live in a country as beautiful as this, why wouldn’t you love the great outdoors?
Fun fact: Slovenians are really on their “save the bees” ish! 1 in 200 people in Slovenia are beekeepers - I guess when you love the outdoors that much, it makes sense to protect the critters who make it so beautiful… This country is famous for its quality honey, so make sure to buy some as a souvenir!
Good to know
Slovenia uses the Euro as their currency.
Uber is not available in Slovenia, but shuttles and taxis are affordable upon arrival into Ljubljana.
Slovenia uses the same electrical sockets as the rest of the EU, so bring your European plugs or a global travel adapter and you’ll be good to go.
If you want to explore more than the main cities in Slovenia then you’ll definitely want to consider renting a car.
Slovenia is the 8th safest country in the world, sitting higher in the rankings than both Japan and Norway which are often considered two of the safest countries. As a comparison, the United States is currently 128th on the list.
A land of natural beauty and diversity
Slovenia’s snow-capped peaks, Venetian-style coastline and turquoise rivers make it a true paradise on earth. This country’s endless natural beauty is only enriched with architecture so harmoniously crafted, it’s hard to imagine the landscape without it. This makes the perfect destination for thrill-seekers and laid-back nature-lovers alike.