This eleven-day self-driving itinerary is a great introduction to the best Slovenia has to offer, from the heights of Vršič Pass to the shores of the Adriatic Sea and the depths of the Škocjan Caves. Feast on fresh seafood in Piran, raft down the river near Bovec and hike through the hills surrounding Lake Bled with this complete itinerary perfect for first-time travelers to Slovenia.

Highlights

  • Meet the graceful Lipizzan horses at Lipica Equestrian Park
  • Explore the UNESCO-protected Škocjan Caves
  • Have a white water rafting adventure on the Soča River
  • Discover the Istrian countryside around Piran 

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Ljubljana, Drive to Lake Bled Bled
Day 2 Full Day at Lake Bled Bled
Day 3 Drive to Lake Bohinj & Surrounding Area (Day Trip from Bled) Bled
Day 4 Drive from Bled to Bovec over the stunning Vršič Pass Bovec
Day 5 Day of Adventure along the Soča River Bovec
Day 6 From the Alps to the Goriška Brda Wine Hills Goriška Brda
Day 7 Vineyards, Karst, & the Adriatic Coast Piran
Day 8 Explore Piran & the Istrian Countryside Piran
Day 9 Caves, Horses, & Castles Ljubljana
Day 10 Full Day in Ljubljana Ljubljana
Day 11 Depart Ljubljana  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Ljubljana, Drive to Lake Bled

Lake Bled's famous island

Welcome to Slovenia! Meet your transfer at the Ljubljana Jože Pučnik Airport* to make your way to the fairytale town of Bled.

Bled's tourism industry dates all the way back to the 1800s, when Swiss Arnold Rikli opened a health facility on the lake, attracted to its long swimming season and beautiful scenery. He based his treatment plans on "water, air, and light," with key tenets of regular walks and swims, nude sunbathing, and a vegetarian diet. 

Today, Bled is popular with honeymooners and adventure-seekers alike. Whether you opt for hikes, history, or a lakeside happy hour on one of the hotel decks, you're sure to find something that suits your travel style. 

Driving time: 30 minutes
Driving distance:  24 miles (38 km)

Day 2: Full Day at Lake Bled

Overlooking the lake

Located in the foothills of the Julian Alps, this postcard-perfect lake and its island are one of Slovenia's main attractions. Climb up to the 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 between 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 typical 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. 
  • Drive to nearby Radovljica, which has one of the best-preserved town squares in Slovenia.  

Day 3: Drive to Lake Bohinj & Surrounding Area (Day Trip from Bled)

The beautiful landscapes around Lake Bohinj

Nearby Lake Bohinj deserves time to be explored—its beautiful landscapes give neighboring Lake Bled some serious competition.

There are countless walks in the area suitable for all levels. You can choose one that suits you, or choose a different kind of challenge and go rock climbing instead. Don't forget to pay a visit to the statue of the Zlatorog, or Golden Horn, a mythical stag believed to live in the mountains.

If you feel like spending time on the water, you can also canoe, kayak, or stand-up paddleboard on the smooth water before your return to Lake Bled. If you haven't visited Bled Castle yet, consider splurging on a royal dinner with a view at its restaurant.

Driving time (Lake Bled to Lake Bohinj): 30 minutes

Day 4: Drive from Bled to Bovec over Vršič Pass

Views of the Julian Alps from Vršič Pass

Venture into the central Julian Alps by driving across Vršič Pass, the highest mountain pass in Slovenia. You'll be able to admire the limestone slopes of the surrounding mountains, stop for a coffee and an alpine lunch at a cozy mountain hut, and take in some serious views. In the afternoon, you'll drive through the Soča Valley and arrive in the small town of Bovec, where you'll spend the night. 

Day 5: Adventure Day on the Soča River

The famously colorful waters of the Soča River

Enjoy a full day exploring Bovec and its surroundings. Bovec is the base for most adventure sports in the area, including river rafting on the Soča River's famous blue-green waters. There are also several hikes, some of which take you to nearby waterfalls and gorges.

Here are some suggestions:

  • Go hiking on your own or with a guide and explore hidden spots of 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 river for white water rafting in Slovenia.
  • Go canyoning, slide down waterfalls, and swim in natural pools. 
  • Ride down a zip-line.
  • If you're a foodie, book a table at House Franko—home of Ana Ros, named world's best female chef 2017.
  • Rent a car and drive to Kobarid, where you can visit the Italian Charnel House, a WWI museum, and a stunning waterfall.

Day 6: From the Alps to the Goriška Brda Wine Hills

Sunset over a town in Goriška Brda

Stop in Kobarid to learn about the area's WWI history, which was featured in Ernest Hemingway's novel "A Farewell to Arms." Then, continue on toward Goriška Brda, Slovenia's wine country. The mountains will make way to rolling hills as you approach your next stop.

Dotted with family vineyard estates, tiny churches, and cypress trees, this region is sometimes called "Slovenian Tuscany." Climb a view tower to enjoy the best view of the area, bike through the hills, and visit a winemaker (or four). Then, spend the night in private rooms at a local winery. 

Day 7: Vineyards, Karst, & the Adriatic Coast

The town of Piran, on Slovenia's Adriatic Coast

Spend the morning exploring Slovenia's wine country on foot or by bike. Visit a local winemaker and enjoy a local lunch before continuing on towards the coast. You'll drive through the heart of the Karst region, stopping at fortified hilltop towns and villages for a taste of locally-produced prosciutto and Teran wine. You can also cross into Italy to visit Miramare Castle and grab an espresso at Piazza Unità d’Italia in Trieste. You'll reach Piran in the late afternoon. 

Day 8: Explore Piran & the Istrian Countryside

Sunset over Piran 

Enjoy the lovely Venetian town of Piran, and explore its narrow streets and picturesque squares. You can also go for a swim in the Adriatic and visit the Sečovlje Saltworks, where salt is still produced with traditional techniques. Then, hike to the top of Strunjan Cliff and walk along the beach in Moon Bay. Or, taste local olive oil and explore inland Istria

Day 9: Caves, Horses, & Castles

The UNESCO World Heritage Škocjan Caves

Get an early start this morning and visit the Lipica Equestrian Park, home of the graceful Lipizzan horses. As the original stud farm of the breed dates back to the 1500s, Lipica holds a place in Slovenia's history. Here you can visit their museum in a centuries-old manor house, enjoy a carriage or horseback ride of the estate, and watch a performance starring the majestic white horses first bred by the Hapsburg royal family. 

Next, turn your attention to Slovenia's rugged and beautiful Karst region and visit the Škocjan Caves, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You can go underground and follow the boardwalks that lead you through the specialized ecosystem of one of the world's largest known subterranean caverns. The caves are believed to have been visited by humans drawn to their majesty since the Iron Age.

Continue towards Ljubljana and, if time permits, stop at Predjama to visit a castle built into the mountain.

Day 10: Full Day in Ljubljana

The banks of the Ljubljanica River

Take a full day to explore Slovenia's lively capital. You can walk around on your own and visit the castle and Tivoli Park. Or, choose a guided walking tour to explore the city by bike, or have a food expert introduce you to the city's culinary scene.

Here are some suggestions:

  • Stroll along the riverbanks 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 11: Depart Ljubljana

The riverfront promenade
The riverfront promenade

Depending on your flight schedule, you may have time to visit local museums and galleries before making your way to the airport. You can also sit by the riverbank, relax and have ice cream.
 
Driving time: (Ljubljana to the airport) 30 minutes

Map

Map of Self-Driving Highlights of Slovenia: Lake Bled, the Soča Valley & the Istrian Countryside - 11 Days
Map of Self-Driving Highlights of Slovenia: Lake Bled, the Soča Valley & the Istrian Countryside - 11 Days