Highlights of Slovenia
Hidden away in Slovenia are some of the most breathtaking views in all of Europe. While Ljubljana and Lake Bled top the list of most visitors, don't stop there! Unspoiled mountain vistas, ancient caves, medieval castles, wineries, postcard-perfect villages, and the most pristine rivers and lakes you've ever seen are all must-see destinations for travelers with a bit more time on their hands. Luckily, Slovenia's compact size means it's easy to travel between its diverse regions and see as many sites as possible.
Despite Ljubljana's rich history (which dates all the way back to the Roman empire!), its modern-day vibe is distinctly youthful. Enjoy the best of both worlds as you wander quaint cobblestoned lanes and people watch from a lively waterfront cafe. The city is chock-full of culture, from museums to trendy galleries to the bohemian enclave of Metelkova, where you'll find tons of quirky street art. Visit Ljubljana Castle for a wonderful view of the city, try the street food at the Open Kitchen food market, or simply grab a drink and relax in Tivoli Park. No matter how much time you plan to spend in Slovenia, Ljubliana is simply a must.
Lake Bled is the most well-known and popular destination in Slovenia - and for good reason! Set amid a backdrop of snowcapped mountains, the crystal blue waters of the glacial lake and its adorable little island complete with historical church make for a fairytale-like scene. There are plenty of ways to explore the lake by foot or boat. You can also visit the medieval Bled Castle perched up on a cliff above the lake's north shore. It's less than an hour from Ljubljana and makes for a perfect day trip, or the starting point for hikes in the mountains. If you're feeling peckish, dig into a slice of kremnitsa, Bled's famous cream cake. It's considered a right of passage for visitors to Bled!
Just half an hour's drive from Lake Bled is a quieter, less crowded, but equally gorgeous lake on the edge of Triglav National Park. Lake Bohinj is the largest permanent lake in Slovenia, located in the Bohinj Valley. Its larger size makes it a good choice for water sports. It's also one of several lakes in Slovenia guarded by a statue of Zlatorog, the mythical mountain goat of Mt. Triglav. There is plenty to do in the surrounding area. Visit the pretty medieval Church of St. John the Baptist next to the stone bridge at the head of the lake, or take the cable car up to the ski resort on Mount Vogel south of the lake and enjoy the glorious views of the water on your way up. Here you can try zip lining and spot herds of mountain goats. Keen hikers can continue up to the summit for spectacular views of the Julian Alps.
Not far from Lakes Bled and Bohinj is the stunning Vintgar Gorge, known for its emerald green clear water and incredible beauty. Be at one with nature as you walk along the boardwalk built right above the water's edge. Watch the tempestuous Radovna River snake its way through the mile-long limestone canyon, culminating in the mighty 43-foot Sum waterfall beneath an arched railway bridge. Try to get here early in the day as the boardwalk can get quite cozy in the afternoon!
Triglav National Park
Lake Bohinj and Vintgar Gorge are just the beginning when it comes to Triglav National Park. There's so more to see as you trek further inside Slovenia's only national park, home to some of the country's most staggering beauty. It's located in the northwest of the country along the Austrian and Italian borders in the Julian Alps. Here you'll find several gorges, waterfalls, and rivers to explore among the mountains. It's also home to Slovenia's tallest peak, Mt. Triglav.
The park offers endless opportunities for outdoor adventure, from hiking to rock climbing to biking and more. Among the dense pine forests and valleys, you'll also see meadows of wildflowers and animals like ibex, deer, lynx and maybe even brown bears (depending on which season you decide to go). Some of the most popular attractions here are the Savica Waterfall (close to Lake Bohinj), the emerald green Soca River, and the view from Vrsic Pass. In the winter, the skiers among you should head to Kranjska Gora, Slovenia's best ski resort. Summer visitors to Kranjska Gora should make sure to see the pristine Lake Jasna, one of the most beautiful in the park.
The Soca Valley is a haven for adrenaline junkies and nature lovers alike. Stretching from the western edge of Triglav National Park to the Italian border, the main attraction here is the Soca River, which winds through the valley. Considered one of the most beautiful rivers in Europe, the Soca gets its characteristic blue-green color from limestone sediment. Along the river there are plenty of rocky gorges, small waterfalls, canyons and pools to explore. The town of Bovec is the main starting point for adventure sports in the area, including rafting, canyoning, paragliding, and kayaking. This region was also the scene of the largest mountain battle in World War I, and history buffs will find a dedicated museum in the town of Kobarid as well as several memorials to fallen soldiers in the area. Kobarid is also home to some of the country's best restaurants, so make sure to stop in for a meal.
Slovenia is home to an estimated 8,000 caves and sinkholes due to its abundance of porous limestone, and many of the most stunning caves are found in the Karst region in the southwest of the country. Although rivers once ran through them, several caves are now open to visitors. Don't miss the Skocjan Caves, a UNESCO-listed site and one of the largest caves in Europe. As you walk the winding path around stalagmites and stalactites, you'll be humbled by just how enormous the natural chambers are. Other must-see attractions are the caverns of the Postojna Cave and the nearby Predjama Castle, a medieval structure built right into the mouth of a clifftop cave.
The Karst region also boasts dozens of vineyards and wineries that produce some of Slovenia's best wines. Its famous Teran red wine is made from a type of grape that grows in this area. As you travel between towns and villages with red-tiled roofs and old stone churches, you're bound to stumble upon lush olive and fruit orchards, as well as opportunities to taste Karst prosciutto - a regional specialty.
Although Slovenia's coastline along the Adriatic Sea is less than 30 miles long, there are a number of charming seaside towns. Piran is arguably the best of them and well worth a visit. This well-preserved historical gem features Venetian Gothic architecture and an irresistibly dreamy atmosphere.
Part of Italy until the end of WWII, Piran is officially bilingual and offers a fascinating blend of cultures. You'll find delicious fresh seafood here as well as a laid-back cafe culture. Swimming, sunbathing, and cycling along the promenade are all popular pastimes. Browse the antiques, crafts, souvenirs, and yummy treats for sale in Piran's main plaza, Tartini Square. Walk for half an hour along the scenic shore path to reach the nearby town of Portoroz, where you'll find wonderful spa treatments due to the unique salt and mud found in the region. Back in Piran, relax by the waterfront in the evening as you watch the sunset over the sea.
Known as the oldest town in Slovenia, Ptuj is situated in the northeastern part of the country. Off the beaten track for most visitors, the town has a colorful history. It's been inhabited since the Stone Age and was once a Roman fort. It was then attacked by the Huns, then the Ottomans, and later occupied by Nazi Germany during World War II.
Stroll down the pretty cobbled streets packed with pastel-colored buildings, and check out the many art galleries and cafes around town. Worthy attractions include Ptuj Castle, where you can enjoy a view of the entire city below. The range of architecture is stunning - from Austro-Hungarian art nouveau to 15th century Gothic to Roman shrines. Ptuj is also known for its early springtime folk carnival, Kurent, a centuries' old tradition where parade participants don sheepskin costumes.
On the outskirts of Ptuj is another beloved wine region in Slovenia, producing excellent white wines. The Ptuj Wine Cellars are said to be the oldest in the country. There are also several historical castles, monasteries, and a Roman burial ground in the surrounding area, as well as the lovely cities of Maribor and Celje.