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Slovenia may be a small country, but what it lacks in size, it makes up for in beauty. From serene lakes to majestic mountains, Slovenia boasts a captivating landscape and is home to more than 10,000 underground caves.
In the north west corner of the country lies the jewel in Slovenia’s crown, Lake Bled, as well as the stunning Triglav National Park. Meanwhile in the southwest you’ll find the beautiful karst region, which is known for its wine route and noble white horses.
Of course you can’t visit Slovenia without spending a day or two in the quirky capital of Ljubljana, pronounced [lyoo-BLYAH-nah],which is located in the center of the country. This laid-back city is known for its Dragon bridge, riverside cafés and colorful graffiti, and is home to a famous hostel housed in a converted prison.
There are quite a few interesting things to do in Slovenia, so I’d suggest spending at least a week here so you can cover everything in one trip. The easiest way to get around is by renting a car, or you can get around using the country’s bus system, which covers most towns and even the countryside.
Where is Slovenia?
“I’ve heard of it, but where is it exactly?” you might ask. Slovenia was part of the former Yugoslavia and sits between Italy, Austria, Croatia and Hungary. It does have a small coastline on the Mediterranean, although the ‘beaches’ of rocks and pebbles might not be your usual idea of a beach.
Things to Do in Slovenia
The #1 thing to do in Slovenia is visit Lake Bled – an extremely pretty lake in North West Slovenia on the edge of Triglav National Park. It features a medieval fairytale castle on the north side and an island in the middle. If you want to get a closer look, organize a ride across the lake in one of the traditional wooden boats, called a pletna.
Triglav National Park
Triglav National Park is Slovenia’s only national park, covering an area of 880 km² (4% of the country) in the northwest part of Slovenia. It’s a beautiful green area featuring forests, streams, lakes and mountain peaks. As you drive through the park you’ll come across remote villages with chalet-style houses and log piles.
There are lots of outdoor activities you can do here such as hiking, white water rafting, horse riding and rock climbing.
Slap Sevica Waterfall
On the western side of Lake Bohinj, you’ll find a hiking to Slap Savica waterfall, which is one of the top attractions in Slovenia. This double waterfall is 78 meters (250ft) high, and can be reached via a short, uphill hiking trail. The trail features over 500 steps, and takes around 20 minutes to complete.
The Postojna cave system is the second longest cave system in the country, made up of four caves that are interconnected by an underground river. Inside the cave you can see all sorts of wonderful rock formations, including stalactites and stalagmites.
The Postojna Cave tour involves a train ride through part of the cave, followed by a guided walk.
Wine Tasting in Karst
If you want to taste some locally produced wine, visit the Kras (Karst) wine district, which is located in the western part of the country, close to the border with Italy. The district lies on a limestone plateau and has been making wine for centuries. between the Vipava Valley and the Gulf of Trieste.
Stop at a winery to taste some Teran wine (red wine), a special Slovenian wine which comes from the refošk vine.
Lipica Stud Farm
Lipica Stud Farm, located in the Karst region of Slovenia, breeds beautiful white Lipizzaner horses. Over 300 horses live on the farm, which has been in existence since 1580.
Visitors can take a guided tour around the stud farm to see the stables, the riding school, the paddocks and the indoor arena. The farm also offers a number of special experiences, including riding school performances and horse and carriage rides.
Visit Piran and the Coast
Slovenia has a small 47-km stretch of coastline that sits on the Adriatic Sea. You won’t find much in the way of beaches here, but it still has three very pretty towns to visit, including Piran, Izola and Koper.
Piran is the most beautiful of all, with a charming main square, a picturesque harbor and numerous waterfront restaurants serving fresh seafood. If you do want to lay on the sand and sunbathe, head over to the chic seaside town of Portoroz, which has a man-made beach with wooden piers.
Metelkova City is a residential squat in a former army barracks behind the Hostel Celica in Ljubljana. The buildings here have been squatted since 1993 and the site is now formally known as “Metelkova City Autonomous Cultural Centre”.
Wandering around the area, you’ll notice the buildings are decorated in cool graffiti and art. There are all sorts of weird and wonderful things covering them, including mosaics, ghouls and ghosts.
Metelkova is also home to a number of clubs, hosting underground club nights, techno parties and DJs from around the world.
Drive the Vrsic Pass
If you plan on renting a car, then you may want to consider driving the Vrsic Pass – a scenic mountain road that passes through the Julian Alps. This road is the highest pass in Slovenia, with an altitude of 1,611 meters.
The road starts in Kranjska Gora and ends in the Soča valley, passing lakes, churches, forests and impressive mountain peaks along the way. The scenery is absolutely stunning, and there are a number of viewpoints where you can get out and take photos.
With over 50 hairpins, this is a challenging drive, and may give you motion sickness if you’re sitting in the passenger seat! It’s worth noting that the road isn’t open all year round, as snow makes it impassable in the winter.
It is important to note that you will need a valid vignette for Slovenia before hitting the road. This is a sticker that you purchase to be able to drive on the motorways and expressways. Nowadays, you can purchase a paperless version known as an ‘e-vignette’ from the official website. A vignette is required for all vehicles, including rental cars, and is available for a set period of time ranging from 7 days to a year. With a rental car and a vignette, you can easily travel from one town to another, enjoying the scenic views and local attractions along the way.
This enchanting baroque castle is over 800 years old and sits in a sheer, 123 meter-high cliff face. Listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s largest cave castle, Predjama is quite simply breathtaking and worthy of a visit. Behind it lies a cave with a secret tunnel that was used as an invaluable hiding place.
When visiting the castle you’ll have the chance to learn about the legend of Erazem of Predjama – a brave and daring knight who holed up in Predjama Castle while it was under siege from the imperial army.
Entrance to the castle includes an audio-guided tour, allowing visitors to explore the interior and imagine what it would have looked like all those years ago.
Slovenia’s capital city, Ljubljana, is a small, walkable city with a river running through it. Have a cup of coffee in one of the riverside cafes and make sure you get a photo of the famous Dragon Bridge.
The city boasts outdoor markets selling fresh fruit and flowers, as well as indoor markets selling meats and cheeses. Most of the action takes place around Prešeren Square, where buskers entertain passers by with performances and music. A highlight of visiting Ljubljana is taking the elevator up to Ljubljana Castle, which offers panoramic views of the city and beyond.
Maribor – Home to the World’s Oldest Grapevine
If you have time, head over to the northeast of Slovenia to explore the country’s second largest town – Maribor.
Maribor is home to the oldest grapevine in the world, which grows outside the Old Vine House. The vine is over 450 years old and was entered into the Guinness Book of Records in 1999. It even has numerous events dedicated to it, including Pruning of the Old Vine, St. Martin’s Day, and the Old Vine Festival.
Located in Slovenia’s karst region, the Skocjan Caves Regional Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site featuring an impressive system of limestone caves. The Skocjan caves are home to one of the world’s largest known underground river canyons, which was carved out of the limestone bedrock by the Reka River.
One of the most impressive features of the cave system is the large Martel Chamber, which is over two million cubic meters in volume. A number of animal species inhabit the caves, including Cave Salamanders, bats, invertebrates and crustaceans.
Lake Jasna is a breathtaking alpine lake area consisting of two interconnected artificial lakes surrounded by beautiful mountain scenery. Guarding the lake is a statue of a Zlatorog – a legendary white chamois buck who was said to live in the heights of Mount Triglav.
In summertime Lake Jesna is a popular spot for swimming and sunbathing, boasting beach areas, a wooden diving platform and even an ice-cream parlor. Visitors can take a walk along the lake’s well-maintained paths or soak in the views of the Julian Alps from a 6-meter-high viewing platform.
While you’re in Slovenia you must visit Lake Bohinj – the largest permanent lake in Slovenia. Measuring 318 hectares, this serene lake is a popular summertime spot for swimming and sunbathing.
Its clear waters are home to brown trout, burbot, European chub, common minnow and Arctic char, making it a prime spot for fly fishing. A number of watersports are also available, including paddleboarding, kayaking and canoeing.
For an adrenaline-fuelled adventure, have a go at white water rafting on the Soca River – a 138-kilometer long river that flows through western Slovenia.
Known for its emerald-green color, this beautiful river features canyons, waterfalls and narrow rocky gorges, making it perfect for adventure activities such as kayaking, riverboarding, canyoning and rafting.
Due to its scenic beauty, the Soča river has hosted numerous kayaking competitions and was even used as a backdrop for scenes in Disney’s The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian.
Tolmin Gorge Trail
One of the top things to do in Triglav National Park is hiking the Tolmin Gorges – two deep gorges carved by the Tolminka and Zadlascica Rivers. These canyons merge into a confluence at the lowest point of the park, at an altitude of 180m.
Highlights of the gorges include Zadlaška Cave – named after the poet Dante Alighieri – and the Devil’s Bridge, which is set 60m high above the Tolminka River. Another striking feature is Bears Head – a large rock wedged between the walls of Zadlaščica gorge.
Skiing in Vogel
Visiting Slovenia in winter? Vogel Ski Resort is one of the country’s best ski resorts, offering well-maintained slopes and spectacular views. The resort is nestled beneath Vogel mountain in Bohinj, which is located in the southern Julian Alps.
Visitors can ski on 78 ha of skiable terrain, with 22 kilometers of slopes available. In addition to skiing, Vogel also offers a number of other winter activities, including winter paragliding, snow tubing and airboarding.
Try Carniolan Sausage
One of Slovenia’s most famous foods is the Carniolan sausage, which is a bit like Polish kielbasa. This delicious sausage contains at least 70% to 85% pork, and no more than 20% bacon. Other ingredients include water, sea salt from Sečovlje salt pans, black pepper, garlic and potassium nitrate.
If you’re a meat eater, definitely give this one a try while you’re visiting Slovenia!
Stay in a Prison Hostel
For an interesting night’s stay, book a night at Ljubljana’s Hostel Celica – a hostel housed in a converted military prison. This is your chance to spend the night behind bars, without ever getting into trouble!
20 former prison cells have been completely redesigned with funky artwork and comfier beds to make the whole experience a bit more cozy. If you fancy some privacy, the hostel offers double and triple rooms, as well as multi-bed dorm rooms for visitors who are traveling solo.
A full-breakfast buffet is available each morning, and there’s an on-site restaurant where guests can enjoy Mexican tortillas, all-you-can-eat BBQ and delicious gourmet burgers. Definitely an upgrade from prison food! Hostel Celica has a fun and social vibe too, featuring its own bar and regular events throughout the week.
Vintgar Gorge (Soteska Vintgar)
Four kilometers northwest of Lake Bled you’ll find Vintgar Gorge – a beautiful gorge carved by the Radovna River. This very deep gorge has steep walls measuring 50 to 100 meters (160 to 330 ft) high, along with a beautiful stream flowing through it.
Visitors can follow the trail and wooden observation walkways all the way to Šum Falls (translating as ‘noisy falls’), which is the largest river waterfall in Slovenia. The hike to Šum Falls takes around 30 to 45 minutes depending on your fitness level and how many stops you make.
Want to discover more about Slovenia? Check out my Slovenia travel guide, which is packed with practical info and guides to the country’s top attractions.
A Final Word…
The beauty of visiting Slovenia is that it’s so easy to get around, and the sights are never too far from each other. If you’re driving from Ljubljana, you can reach the coast in around 1 hour 30 minutes, or Lake Bled in just under 40 minutes. With such short distances, you can easily cover a lot of the country in just one week.
Outdoorsy types will find plenty of adventurous things to do in Slovenia, including horse riding, hiking, rafting and skiing. And if you love wine, there are tons of wineries to discover on Slovenia’s karst wine route.