Nestled between Italy, Croatia, Austria, and Hungary, Slovenia has managed to remain an undiscovered gem compared to its neighbors. Those seeking nature are sure to fall in love with Slovenia's stunning landscape and wealth of outdoor activities on offer, and there's no shortage of cultural pursuits either with the country's rich history and booming wine scene.

Overview

For such a small country, Slovenia offers an incredibly wide range of activities to take part in and attractions to see. There is something for everyone here, whether you're looking for a high-octane adventure, or just want to relax by the sea.  Beyond the charm of Ljubljana and the wonders of Lake Bled, there are fascinating caves and medieval castles, mountain trekking, water sports on unbelievably gorgeous rivers and lakes, fabulous wineries, and so much more. Read on to find the best activities for you.

Wander around Ljubljana

Ljubljana
The charming city of Ljubljana is perfect for exploring by foot

This world-class capital city might be on the smaller side, but it's extremely walkable and absolutely brimming with charm. There is tons to see and do here, starting with Ljubljana Castle high up on the hill. Walk, take the tourist train, or ride the funicular to reach the 16th-century castle, where you'll enjoy amazing views of the city and several interesting exhibitions about Ljubljana's history. Head over to the Central Market where you'll find delicious local produce, as well as the Open Kitchen food fair in the warmer months.

Roam the streets of Old Town - no cars allowed! - and enjoy the pretty pastel facades and cobblestoned streets that give the city its unique character. Check out the various ornate bridges over the Ljubljanica River - the Dragon Bridge is perhaps the most famous. Ljubljana's riverfront is a popular place to relax at a café or bar, or try a riverboat cruise for a different view. For those interested in a more alternative artsy scene, head on over to Metelkova, a former army barracks that has been turned into an artists' commune. There's lots of quirky street art, installations, and live performances here.

Explore Lake Bled and Vintgar Gorge

Lake Bled
The fairytale-esque Lake Bled

Majestic Lake Bled is at the top of most people's list when they come to Slovenia - and for good reason. This gorgeous glacial lake in the foothills of the Julian Alps looks postcard perfect from every angle. The charming islet in the middle features a historical church where you can ring the "wishing bell" for good luck. Aside from the pretty scenery, there is plenty to do in Bled. Walk, cycle, or enjoy a ride in a horse-drawn carriage around the lake to various viewpoints. Visit the medieval Bled Castle, perched up on a cliff overlooking the lake. Cruise on the water in a traditional wooden pletna boat, or take part in water sports like paddle boarding or kayaking. Swimmers should keep in mind that while the turquoise waters are beautiful, they are quite cold year round. And don't forget to try some kremnitsa, or Bled Cream Cake, for a sweet treat.

A delightful side excursion from Bled is Vintgar Gorge, just a half hour's hike away. Walk along the wooden path built directly over the fast-flowing Radovna River for a spectacular view of the emerald green waters cutting into the vertical walls of the canyon. Along the way, you'll see waterfalls, pools, and beautiful plant life.

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Trekking in Triglav National Park

Triglav National Park
Dramatic vistas abound in Triglav National Park

This stunning national park in the Julian Alps offers tons of scenic hiking routes suitable for all levels. The trails in Triglav National Park are well marked, taking you through alpine meadows and pine forests, and to gurgling streams and turquoise lakes. Don't miss Lake Bohinj, located less than an hour from Lake Bled. This serene, atmospheric lake is larger and less crowded than its neighbor, but equally as breathtaking. In addition to water sports and hiking around the lake, visitors can climb or ride the car lift up Mt. Vogel for amazing views of the water, or follow the walking path for an hour and a half to the magnificent Savica Waterfall.

Keen mountaineers can take on Slovenia's tallest peak, Mt. Triglav. Another lovely place to trek around is Kranjska Gora, a popular ski resort in the winter. In the summer make sure to check out the immaculate Lake Jasna near the resort. Then mountain bike or drive up the winding hairpin turns to Vrsic Pass, the highest pass in Slovenia, for jaw-dropping views of the Alps and valleys below. Triglav is small enough to see many of the sights in one or two days, but those wishing to spend more time here can stay overnight in one of the many mountain huts located in the park, where they'll be treated to traditional Slovene fare.

Adventure Sports in Soca Valley

Soca River
Kayakers on the Soca River

The Soca Valley is an adrenaline junkie's dream. It's technically still part of Triglav National Park, but stretches west beyond the park to the Italian border. Head to the city of Bovec, the starting point for most adventure sports in the area. One of the most common activities is white water rafting on the Soca River. Known as one of the most beautiful rivers in the world for its bright blue-green waters, the Soca River also has rapids that make for excellent rafting. There are also several waterfalls and gorges to hike around and explore, like the beautiful Tolmin Gorges and the Kozjak Waterfall. When it comes to outdoor activities, the options here are endless. Other exciting pursuits include canyoning, paragliding, zip-lining, mountain biking, bouldering, fishing, bungee jumping, and more!

Though it's hard to imagine now, the mountainous area above the river once hosted some of the fiercest fighting in World War I. As you explore the region, you'll likely come across several monuments dedicated to WWI soldiers. If you're looking for a change of pace, head to the museum in the town of Kobarid for your military history fix.

Caving in the Karst Region

Skocjan Caves
Inside the stunning Skocjan Caves

Slovenia has an estimated 8,000 caves and sinkholes, many of which are found in its unique Karst region. The porous limestone plateau makes for a wonderland of underground caverns to explore. Caving, or spelunking, is a popular activity here, so if you'd like to make your cave visits more adventurous, this is a great option. Strap on a helmet and headlight, and get ready to climb, rappel, and paddle through the caves to get a different perspective on these curious formations. Keep an eye out for prehistoric cave fish and other animals! 

The 15-mile-long Postojna Cave is a must-see, with its two-million-year-old formations carved out by the Pivka River. Ride the electric train through its subterranean chambers and walk through galleries full of fascinating stalagmites and stalactites. The enormous Skocjan Caves are a UNESCO-listed site well-worth a trip. As you walk through this humbling cave system, you'll see incredible rock formations, gorges, and sections of the Reka River. Both caves are pretty consistently cold year-round, so don't forget a jacket!

Discover Castles

Celje Castle
The view from atop Celje Castle

One of the most prominent features you'll see all over Slovenia are its many castles and fortresses, each with its own fascinating history. There are literally dozens to choose from, but some of the ones that stand out from the crowd are Ljubljana Castle, Bled Castle for its stunning perspective of Lake Bled, and Predjama Castle, located near the Postojna Cave. Predjama is unique because it's set in the mouth of a cave and built directly into the side of a cliff. Its most colorful resident was Erazem, Slovenia's 15th-century version of Robin Hood. The cave system beneath the castle allowed him to avoid capture during a siege that lasted over a year.

Other noteworthy castles include the 12th century Celje Castle in the northeastern part of Slovenia. It was once the largest fortification in the country, and the views from the top of the tower are worth the climb. Skofja Loka Castle is located in one of the best-preserved medieval towns, and houses the wonderful Loka Museum, focused on cultural history. Sneznik Castle is also lovely with well-preserved interiors. You can even spend the night in some castles, which also function as hotels.

Relax by the Sea at Piran

Piran
View of Tartini Square and the harbor at Piran

For those in search of seaside charm, look no further than the city of Piran. Situated on Slovenia's tiny Adriatic coast, Piran offers an intoxicating mix of Venetian vibes and Slovenian flair. This incredibly walkable city makes for a relaxing break. Stroll around the main plaza, Tartini Square, where you'll find souvenirs, entertainment, and prime people watching. Bask in the Mediterranean sun as you swim by the promenade. Walk along the coastal path to the Strunjan Nature Park, or climb up to the city walls for mesmerizing sea views. Take a sailboat out on the water for a different view of the city. Wander the charming alleyways and dine al fresco by the waterfront as you watch an unforgettable sunset.