A few years ago, I wouldn’t have dreamed of writing a blog on traveling to Slovenia. The sparsely populated country once part of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia wasn’t even on my radar. Even if it had been, there are plenty of other destinations I would have chosen to visit first. Since that time though Slovenia has become one of my favorite destinations—a hidden gem that’s not going to stay hidden very long. Why? Read on!
You could visit a castle a day for a year and not see every castle in Slovenia. Nearly 500 castles dot the countryside of this country fifteen times smaller than Italy. And there’s a castle for every taste.
Celje Castle is the largest, an impressive beast of a castle that covers more than 59,000 square feet. If you’re more of a classic castle person, you might want to visit Podsreda Castle on the eastern border with Croatia. Renaissance Predjama castle is the largest cave castle in the world. Perched on top of a 123-meter cliff, this castle was the inspiration for several movies and documentaries. Bled Castle high above Lake Bled is one of the oldest, recorded as early as 1011 AD.
Culture with a capital “C”
Don’t let anyone fool you into thinking that nearby Italy, Switzerland, and Austria have the corner on operas, museums and cool architecture. Plečnik, a well-known architect, patterned the beautiful capital city after ancient Athens. One of his creations was turning a former monastery into a summer majestic theatre that hosts famous musicians and chamber performances.
If it’s food not architecture you’re interested in, you might want to visit the country estate and restaurant of Chef Ana Roš. Her three Michelin star restaurant uses local seasonal products–trout, fresh herbs, chestnuts, mushrooms, lamb—to create original dishes that satisfy.
If you like art, then you can visit places like the art colony of Grožnjan-Grisignana. Groznjan that looks over the Mirna valley, for instance, has a population of 100 but is home to over 30 art galleries and specialty food shops.
Limestone mountains, waterfalls, green Alpine valleys covered with wildflowers…need I say more? You’ll leave Slovenia wondering, “Why didn’t I come here before?”
Most people don’t realize that the Alps stretch into Slovenia. The highest peak, Triglav, which tops out at just over 9,000 feet, is a national symbol. Then wind your way to Lake Bled and east into the Kamnik Alps. Beautiful!
Outdoor experiences you can’t beat
Slovenia has an outdoor experience in Slovenia for everyone. If you like leisurely outdoor experiences, take a cruise on the Ljubljanica river that cuts through Ljubljana or sit at a cafe and do some people watching. Stroll around Lake Bled, a city that was once a destination for high society of Vienna. Or catch a small boat to the tiny island on the western side of the lake. Inside the Church of the Assumption there you’ll find 14th-century fresco fragments and a gold baroque altar.
If you want more of an adrenaline kick, you can go kayaking down the Soča River, skydive or hang glide next to the Julian Alps. Ljubljana, the capital, is famous for white water rafting. And everywhere there’s potential for serious hiking with amazing views.
After several days of aggressive hikes in around Triglav park, our guide Andrej was introduced to the American concept of “pain is weakness leaving my body.”
One of the best guides ever
The best guides are story-tellers and Niteo’s guide Andrej is a master. (Okay, so I have to brag a little.) For him guiding isn’t about repeating facts about a country to guests but introducing them to the country he loves and knows so well.
Andrej’s a native of Slovenia. He and his family live tucked down in the Soča Valley. These local roots give him an insider’s perspective on area.
He’s fluent in five languages (that’s all). History and religion and a great sense of humor are his specialities. And you can always count on him to find the best cup of coffee around. On our last visit, he gave me step-by-step instructions on how to make the perfect cup of coffee. The guy’s a coffee connoisseur.
If you’re interested in customizing your own small group tour to Slovenia, you know where to find me 🙂
We’ve also got an upcoming tour with a few more openings to Slovenia this Fall, a partnership between professional landscape photography Erik Stensland and Niteo Tours. Thanks to Erik for the landscape photos in this post.