Why and where to go on a first trip to Slovenia?
Table of contents
2020 has been a strange and sad year for many, how else to describe it? Uncertainty and fear (often for others, including loved ones and older people) are still the top feelings among most of us.
Many have said that 2020 is a waste year, nothing will happen in our lives and although sometimes I have also been consumed by that feeling, I have tried to take advantage of the little spare time lockdown and travel bans have given us, namely to put order in my things and files (still half-way in the process!); read pending books (please do read The Man Who Loved Dogs from Cuban writer Leonardo Padura if you like 20th-century history); and learn how to play poker (without betting money, don’t want to risk my savings for travelling!).
I guess the idea of this blog also emerged due to COVID-19, to disconnect from work at home and explore how travelling will still be possible despite the new normality that we are now learning how to live. We are mostly nature travellers, and hope our experiences and suggestions can be of inspiration to others in this new era.
With that said, this year was going to be all about going back home when possible and we were extremely lucky we could go there for one week early in July. Unfortunately, the situation with COVID-19 there had worsened during the summer, and although we wanted to return, we had to think about another plan for our two-week leave and we explored drive-friendly options from where we live that would allow us to camp, avoid indoor spaces, etc. – in summary, undertake a COVID-19 mindful trip and the best option we identified was SLOVENIA (yes, that small Balkan country where Melanie Trump is from).
🌄 Slovenia in a few pictures
📝 Slovenia in a few words
If I had to describe Slovenia in two words that would be GREEN & BEAUTIFUL (a bit corny, but true). Slovenia (I can only speak of the West to North part of the country) is just magnificent, a rare pearl in Europe with beautiful sections of the Alps (not the highest peaks though) and characterised by a topography dominated by karst, meaning rich in million-old caves that you can visit. Everything is reasonably priced (as of 2020) and not too touristy yet; and people are nice and kind although they can seem a bit dry at first, and they will always want to know where you are from!
🚀 How to get there and around
Slovenia is also a drive-friendly country, almost everything is at a maximum 2h-drive distance from the capital, Ljubljana; roads are in good shape in general (you need to obtain a one-week or one-month vignette for the motorways); and you will see plenty of campers and motorcycles. Not sure why, but many bars and restaurants have a sign saying “Bikers welcome”, which pleased us very much as we recently acquired a 800cc and look forward to travelling with it in the near future (and Slovenia seems the ideal spot for bikers!).
If I was allowed to add two other words to the description of Slovenia, that would be PARKING METERS. It seems easy to get around Slovenia’s main attractions by public transport (check out their train network), but if you really want to explore some of its natural wonders, you will appreciate having your own vehicle. But that also means you will need to park your car everywhere you go and there is almost no single spot in the country (even in remote nature spots!!) where there isn’t a parking meter waiting for you. Therefore, if you travel to Slovenia by car with a tight budget, keep that in mind, parking will represent a small but still significant part of your spending.
But going back to my positive tone about Slovenia (because overall our impressions were extremely positive), another two big attributes of the country are its safety (with one of the lowest crime rates in the world) and accessibility. Slovenia is part of the EU and Schengen, and Ljubljana is relatively close by car from many European cities: 4h from Vienna, 4h30 from Munich, 5h from Milano, 7h from Zurich or Prague, 9h from Lyon, 12h from Amsterdam or even 14h from Barcelona (we have often driven longer than that so I think all these distances are quite reasonable). In addition, depending on the time you have and your means of transportation, on your way to Slovenia you can stop by other great destinations. For instance, we did stop in Venice and Trieste, but you can also visit Southern Austria or even go to the more touristy Croatia. You can also fly to the international airport of Ljubljana (LJU) directly and rent a car from there or get around by train or also bus.
🤩 What to visit in Slovenia 👉 here is a road trip itinerary!
Are you now convinced to visit Slovenia? In case this helps planning your own trip, I am sharing here our itinerary full of beauty and adventures, which consisted of 4 days in Italy to finally arrive in Slovenia for 10 amazing days!
🗓 10 amazing days in Slovenia
Below you will find the different destinations we visited in Slovenia. In case you have more time for your trip, we will be including some additional suggestions under most sections as we definitely didn’t visit everything to be visited (you won’t lack inspiration!).
The Slovenian Coast: Piran, Moon Bay and Socerb
– to explore its 46-km coastline, including a visit to the colourful town of Piran, swimming in the hidden Moon Bay and watching the sunset from Socerb Castle!
Škocjan Cave, Postojna Cave and Predjama Castle
– to become an eager potholer! (in case you have more days, I have added a few additional suggestions here to explore the surroundings further as this region has a lot to offer)
Ljubljana, the city of music because I say so
– the capital, a rather small but charming city full of surprises! (IMO, it’s worth visiting but you can also do it in half day if you aren’t much into cities)
Logar Valley and kayaking under Mount Peca
– to visit a spectacular mountain scenery and yes, to kayak (or bike) hundreds of metres under Mount Peca, where an old lead and zinc mine is located!
Bled and its surroundings
– to know Slovenia’s most famous spot 😍 (in case you have more days, I would suggest staying 2 days, but it’s totally feasible in 1 day too)
Lake Bohinj and mountains
– the hikers’ destination that is accessible via motorail! (in case you have more days, I would also advise you stay longer to do one or more hikes, but for us it rained!)
The Soča Valley (and Bovec)
– to do canyoning, rafting and more! (yes, you will need 3 days at least here to enjoy this Valley’s emerald-coloured river and its beautiful hidden spots)
More time? ✨ Include 4 days in Venice and Trieste (🇮🇹)
In our case we arrived in Slovenia from Northern Italy, and therefore we decided to also visit Venice and the region of Trieste, which has very close cultural ties with Slovenia.
📍Map of full itinerary
🇸🇮 Information about Slovenia (from less to more random)
ENTRY. As mentioned, the country is part of the EU and the Schengen area, and the corresponding visa requirements for Schengen apply. Slovenia became an independent country from Yugoslavia in 1991 and it shares many cultural similarities with other Balkan countries starting with the language, but note that to travel to these countries, different entry requirements may apply.
CURRENCY. Slovenians use the Euro (€) which makes it very convenient when crossing the border to Italy or Austria, and credit/debit cards are widely accepted in most places. One (another) thing I love about this country is that while it’s very cheap for the Alpine region compared to Switzerland, Northern Italy or Austria, you know that the overall quality of life for Slovenians is good, being the country with the most positive GINI coefficient (as of 2020), which measures income inequalities within countries.
LANGUAGE. Slovenians speak Slovenian. There are basic things you can say (hello – zdravo, thanks – hvala, bye – nasvidenje), but overall people speak very good English, and in some places things might be translated into Italian and/or German only, but you can usually ask anything in English.
MOUNTAINS. But Slovenia is known for its gorgeous mountains and valleys, making it a top destination for hikers! It shares the Julian Alps with Italy, and the Kamnik–Savinja Alps and Karawanks mountain range with Austria. The Julian Alps comprise the Triglav National Park (Triglavski narodni park) and is divided by the Soča River and Koritnica River into the Western Julian Alps (with the peak Kanin of 2’582 metres) and the Eastern Julian Alps (with the country’s highest peak Triglav of 2,864 metres). The Julian Alps are very accessible from the Soča Valley and the Bohinj region, while Bled is surrounded also by the Julian Alps and the Karawanks mountain range as well. The Logar Valley is a beautiful spot taking you to the Kamnik–Savinja Alps.
CLIMATE. Weather in summer is nice, but Slovenia is GREEN & BEAUTIFUL and therefore it rains. My understanding is that the rainy seasons are usually during spring and autumn; however, we had some heavy rain and wind for three days in a row at the end of July/early August, so bring some waterproof clothing with you. It was still worth the trip of course! Note winters are cold in Slovenia and the country is also a ski destination, offering cheaper options than neighbouring countries. If interested in skiing, you can check out winter resorts at Kranjska Gora, Kanin, Vogel and more!
DRIVING. As mentioned, Slovenia is a car & biker-friendly country, PARKING METERS are the norm and there are usually no tolls, although you need to buy a vignette in order to drive on the motorways. In total, we were in the country for about 9/10 days, and therefore we thought a weekly vignette (15€) wouldn’t be enough, and bought the monthly one (30€). However, we didn’t take the motorway that often, and in the last few days in the country we only took smaller roads, so think twice how long you will need the vignette for.
❗NOTE: For those coming from neighbouring countries, in Italy you have individual tolls and in Austria you will need a 10-day vignette to take the motorway (9.40€).
✅ TIP: Prices for unleaded 95 petrol and diesel are regulated in Slovenia (in early August 2020, unleaded 95 was at 1€/L), this rule doesn’t apply to petrol stations in motorways, where petrol/diesel is often more expensive. The government adjusts prices every 14 days. Find out more about this and other regulations linked to driving on the official tourism website.
EATING. To know where to eat, it will be also useful to know the words gostilna (usually a family-run or tavern-like restaurant) and pekarna (bakery). Bakeries are often open until late and offer both sweet and savoury snacks, but note that gostilna(s) are sometimes closed on a specific day of the week that can be any day, so always check if they are close or not on Google Maps or Tripadvisor before heading to a targeted gostilna, although it’s not always marked accurately…
CUISINE. In general, food in Slovenia is very tasty and restaurants are reasonably priced. I don’t think our stomachs managed to try all the culinary wonders of this country, but we found its cuisine to be extremely diverse from seafood and fish dishes (fried/grilled calamari and trout) to delicious stewed meat dishes (similar to goulash). You will find a lot of Italian influence (great pizzas, pasta and polenta dishes), as well as Austrian with schnitzels everywhere. They also have amazing cottage-like cheese, they make buckwheat dumplings filled with that cheese and also burek. A must-try is their potato dumplings (zlikrofi), and frika in the Soča Valley (an “omelette” purely made of cheese and potato, just heaven!). They often cook with a pumpkin seed oil (bucno olje) that greens their dishes and tastes amazing! (but doesn’t smell amazing). On the sweet front, they have many things, but by dessert time we would already be full and only tasted the Bled-born kremšnita (a double cream cake 😵), also a must-try! (and we don’t usually like whipped cream stuff…).
BEEKEEPING. A post about Slovenia cannot miss this small but interesting fact about the country… 1 out of 200 habitants are beekeepers in Slovenia! It also has a native bee subspecies, the Carniolan honey bee, and during your trip, you will most likely run into one or more of the traditional colourful beehives that can include folkloric paintings with strong colours to attract bees’ attention.
HONEY. And of course, from the moment you know you are visiting Slovenia, don’t buy honey in the supermarket! Wait to get there and you will find a full selection of locally produced honeys anywhere you go during your trip (enough to fill in your pantry for a decade). You might even make friends while crossing the country with your honey 🍯 …
[And yes, Slovenia is known for having brown bears but (luckily or unluckily) we didn’t run into any…]
Did you find the above useful or have other suggestions for a first trip to Slovenia?
Please feel free to like or share this post, leave a comment further down and/or find out more about travelling to Slovenia, Trieste or Venice 👇👇👇👇👇
These are 2️⃣ places we were not planning to visit in Slovenia initially, and what a mistake that would have been! The Logar Valley is beautiful in itself and hides a stunning waterfall and glacial cirque… 🏔 And not so far from it, a historic mine currently offers incredible tours to visitors. Need more reasons?
Ljubljana is rather small compared to other European capitals but that doesn’t mean less interesting! 🔝 Learn about this city offering lots of live music, including what to visit in 1️⃣ day, where to eat, and why it features the oldest wooden wheel yet discovered…
Highly recommended, these three places in the Karst Plateau will leave you amazed! 😲 Read here why you should visit the Škocjan Cave, Postojna Cave and Predjama Castle during your trip in Slovenia 🇸🇮 – get some tips and learn about a few other suggestions for this region!