This 13-day itinerary is perfect for first-time visitors who want to see a little bit of everything: it covers Slovenia's best spots from the Alps to the Adriatic, before finishing with a few days in Croatian Istria. Hike along the beautiful emerald waters of the Soča River, relax and sip wine in the Goriška Brda wine hills, take a dip in the Adriatic Sea near Rovinj, and lots more with this self-driving itinerary filled with tons of activities.

Highlights

  • Visit the Lipizzaner horses at Lipica Stud Farm
  • Try your hand at truffle hunting in Istria
  • Explore the Goriška Brda wine hills
  • Visit the island on Lake Bled

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Ljubljana, transfer to your hotel Ljubljana
Day 2 Drive from Ljubljana to Lake Bled, explore Lake Bled Bled
Day 3 Explore Lake Bohinj (day trip from Lake Bled) Bled
Day 4 The stunning views of the Julian Alps Soča Valley
Day 5 Soča Valley Soča Valley
Day 6 From the mountains to the wine hills Goriška Brda
Day 7 Exploring the wine hills Goriška Brda
Day 8 The Škocjan Caves and Lipica Stud Farm Piran
Day 9 Full day exploring the coastal city of Piran Piran
Day 10 Central Istria Rovinj
Day 11 Rovinj & its surroundings Rovinj
Day 12 Drive from Rovinj to Ljubljana Ljubljana
Day 13 Depart Ljubljana  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Ljubljana, Transfer to your Hotel

Ljubljana on a sunny day

Welcome to Slovenia!

Upon arrival at Ljubljana Jože Pučnik Airport, you will be transferred to your hotel in Ljubljana (30 minutes away).

Ljubljana is the capital of Slovenia, and with a population of around 300,000, it's also the country's largest city. Ljubljana is so old that it even predates the Romans, but its city center was shaped much later, during the Middle Ages. The area is a pedestrian zone and is very easy to walk around. You can explore the narrow streets or stroll along the banks of the Ljubljanica River.

At the top of the hill above the city, Ljubljana Castle is another great place for a short walk with a beautiful view. Have a drink along the riverbank or take the funicular up to the castle. Then, have dinner in one of the city's many restaurants, which are run by young talented chefs. 

If you arrive early, you can also join a biking tour and explore Ljubljana on two wheels or have a food expert take you around the best local bars, bistros, and cafes to discover the local food scene. 

Day 2: Drive from Ljubljana to Lake Bled, Explore Lake Bled

Visit the Lake Bled's island

After breakfast in the capital, take the rental car at your hotel and drive to Lake Bled (45 minutes). Located in the foothills of the Julian Alps, this picturesque lake and its island are one of Slovenia's main attractions.

You can climb up to Bled Castle and tour its smithy, wine cellar, and printing press, then head to the castle restaurant for a delicious traditional meal. 

Here are some other suggestions:

  • Choose from a plethora of shorter hikes through gorges (like nearby Vintgar Gorge) or to scenic viewpoints.
  •  Rent a bike and explore roads that will take you through scenic Slovenian countryside.  
  • Rent a stand-up paddleboard or a rowboat and sail to the island, or simply board one of the traditional Pletna boats and let the oarsman take you.
  • Visit a local beekeeper and learn about beekeeping tradition.
  • Go fly fishing.
  • Go summer tobogganing.
  • Drive to nearby Radovljica, which has one of the best-preserved town squares in Slovenia.  

Day 3: Explore Lake Bohinj (Day trip from Lake Bled)

Lake Bohinj
Lake Bohinj

Bohinj is located in the Triglav National Park, only 30 minutes from Bled (by car). What makes Bohinj different from Bled is its pure, unspoiled natural surroundings. The main highlight of the area the icy Lake Bohinj. There are several easy, scenic walks to nearby viewpoints nearby that take you through gorges and past beautiful waterfalls. 

Suggested activities include: 

  • Take the cable car to Mount Vogel, where you'll get beautiful views of the lake and its surroundings. 
  • For a truly spectacular experience, go paragliding on Mount Vogel.
  • Rent a bike and explore the nearby alpine villages. There are several mountain biking tour options that you can do on your own or with a guide.
  • Rent a canoe, kayak, or stand-up paddleboard and paddle on the smooth waters of the lake. 
  • Go on a horseback riding tour.

Return to Bled in the afternoon.

Driving time: 1 hour (both ways)  
Driving distance: 31 miles (50 km)

Day 4: The Stunning Views of the Julian Alps

The sheer limestone slopes of the Julian Alps

After breakfast, you'll check out of your hotel and get back on the road. Drive across Vršič Pass—Slovenia's highest mountain pass—in the Julian Alps. Admire the limestone mountains as you make your way up the road. You'll have the option to make several detours and short hikes of varying lengths, including one with a dark past—it was built by Russian war prisoners.

After your hike, stop for a coffee and a traditional Slovenian lunch at a cozy mountain hut with great views. Then, continue your drive to the Soča Valley to see WWI forts and river gorges, before heading to your alpine homestead to settle in for the night. 

Day 5: Soča Valley

The Soča River, also known as the Emerald River

The Soča Valley, its river, and the surrounding mountains are the perfect place to relax and enjoy the great outdoors. 

Here are some suggestions on what to do:

  • Go hiking on your own or with a guide and explore the hidden gems of the Soča Valley.
  • Rent a bike or book a biking tour. There are several dedicated biking routes on designated roads and paths.
  • Go whitewater rafting or kayaking. Soča is the most popular and exciting river for white water rafting in Slovenia.
  • Go canyoning, slide down waterfalls and swim in natural pools. 
  • Zoom down a zip-line.

Day 6: From the Mountains to the Wine Hills

The gentle hills of Goriška Brda

 In the morning, drive south to the town of Kobarid to learn about the town's WWI history, immortalized in Hemingway's novel A Farewell to Arms. If you're a foodie, book a table at House Franko—home of Ana Ros, named world's best female chef 2017

Then, continue south and leave the mountains behind you as you enter "Slovenian Tuscany," the Goriška Brda wine region. This area is only one hour away from the mountains but looks completely different: you'll see rolling hills covered in vineyards, small hilltop villages, and orchards. Goriška Brda is also known for its amazing food and wine scene. 

Drive around the hills, visit a few vineyards to sample some food and wine, or go on a hike or bike ride around the area. There are several options in the area to choose from. 

Day 7: Exploring the Wine Hills

A village in Goriška Brda 

Spend a day enjoying Slovenia's wine country and exploring the area. There are plenty of hiking and cycling options, and you can also tour a few wineries in the afternoon or enjoy a wine tasting with dinner.

Make sure to visit the medieval village of Šmartno and the beautiful scenery of Dobrovo.

Day 8: The Škocjan Caves and Lipica Stud Farm

The Škocjan Caves, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
 
After breakfast, visit the Slovenian Karst region and head underground into the limestone Škocjan Caves, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Boardwalks will lead you through the specialized ecosystem of one of the world's largest known underground caverns. Humans have been visiting the caves since the Iron Age. 
 
Then, stop at the Lipica Stud Farm to see Lipizzaner horses, before continuing on to Piran. Piran is known for its old city walls, Venetian-style architecture, and pebbly beaches. Get lost in the town's history as you stroll through the narrow streets, then enjoy some fresh seafood at one of the town's restaurants.

Day 9: Exploring the Coastal City of Piran

Piran
Piran at night

Spend the whole day on the Slovenian coast and enjoy the easygoing lifestyle of the Mediterranean. There are lots of active options in the area, including biking, hiking, and water sports. If you prefer to relax, head to one of Piran's spas for a famous salt treatment, or grab a spot on one of the pebbly beaches nearby. 

Day 10: Central Istria

Oprtalj, a small town in central Istria

Drive across the border to Croatia to the Istrian Peninsulaoften referred to as "Terra Magica" (magical land), and explore a region full of vineyards, olive groves, stunning coastlines, and hilltop towns. 

Visit Grožnjan (Grisignana), an Istrian medieval hilltop town known for its artists, and Motovun (Montona), an ancient little town located atop a 909-foot hill.  Meet with the local truffle hunter to learn about the tradition of truffle hunting in the region.

In the evening, treat yourself to a waterfront dinner in the old town of Rovinj.

Day 11: Rovinj & its Surroundings

Rovinj harbor on the Adriatic Sea

Spend a relaxing day in one of the most beautiful coastal towns in Croatia - Rovinj.

Explore the tiny cobblestone streets and walk along the shore of the Adriatic Sea. If you are up for some more exploring, you can drive through the Istrian Peninsula and explore a land full of vineyards, olive groves, stunning Venetian-style coastline, and hilltop towns.

Here are a few suggestions:

  • Explore inland and visit Grožnjan (Grisignana), an Istrian medieval hilltop town known for its artists, and Motovun (Montona), an ancient little town located atop a 909-foot hill. 
  • Visit Pula’s 2nd-century amphitheater and its underground museum, or take in an evening concert from the stone stadium seats.
  • Hop on a water shuttle to see the artifacts on Briunji, Tito’s private resort island.
  • See intricate mosaics on Poreč’s Euphrasius Basilica, another of Croatia’s seven UNESCO World Heritage sites.
  • Drive to tiny Beram and go to St. Mary of the Rock, deep in the woods. The vibrant “Dance of the Dead” fresco inside is still alive with color.
  • Pick up a map showing Istria’s wine and olive oil routes and spend the day tasting grapes and olives.

Day 12: Drive from Rovinj to Ljubljana

Drive from Rovinj to Ljubljana, Slovenia's capital

After breakfast, drive to Ljubljana and spend the rest of the day exploring the city. You can walk around on your own, visit the castle and Tivoli Park, or choose a guided tour to explore the city on foot or by bike. Another option is to book a tour with a food expert, who can introduce you to the city's culinary scene.

Here are some suggestions:

  • Stroll along the bank of the Ljubljanica River on your own or with a local guide.
  • Check out Metelkova Mesto, the capital of alternative culture. Every year Metelkova Mesto hosts more than 1,500 alternative events and is considered to be one of the most successful urban squats in Europe.
  • On the way to Metelkova, stop by the Ethnographical Museum and learn about Slovenian culture.
  • Book a bike trip around Ljubljana to see some interesting parts of the city that you would otherwise miss.
  •  Meet a food expert and try local specialties.
  • Rent a canoe or a stand-up paddleboard and paddle on the Ljubljanica River. You can also paddle upstream, as the river is very slow.
  • Have a walk in Tivoli Park, Ljubljana's largest green space, and a great place to get away from the busy streets. If you have the energy, you can walk all the way to Roznik Hill.

Day 13: Depart Ljubljana

The riverfront promenade
The riverfront promenade

It's time to say goodbye to Slovenia! Depending on your departure time, you may have a few hours left to visit a local museum, or simply relax and enjoy an ice cream by the riverbank before driving to the airport. See you soon! 

Driving time: (Ljubljana to the airport) 30 minutes

Map

Map of From the Alps to the Adriatic: Lake Bled, the Soča Valley, and Istria - 13 Days
Map of From the Alps to the Adriatic: Lake Bled, the Soča Valley, and Istria - 13 Days