Ski, Snow Bike, and Snow Raft the Julian Alps
The Julian Alps may not have quite as many slopes as its French counterpart, but Slovenia makes the most of its mountains with plenty of world-class skiing and snowboarding and far fewer crowds. You'll also get more bang for your buck here than at other alpine destinations, and resorts open as early as November for a long season of adventuring outside.
Kranjska Gora in the northwest is Slovenia’s most well-known resort, and it draws the international crowds to prove it. With 18 runs, this is a great place for both beginner and intermediate skiers; it also boasts trails for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and sledding. If skis aren’t your thing, take advantage of the bike park and snow biking trails (suitable for both children and adults), plus exciting options like the Planica Zipline and even a snow beach, perfect for bundling up and soaking up some sun.
Tucked inside Triglav National Park in the southern Julian Alps, Vogel Ski Center is all about natural beauty. This quieter resort only uses fresh snow and, like the rest of the national park, is protected from outside development. In addition to typical winter sports, take the panoramic cable car from Lake Bohinj, whiz downhill on a snow raft, or try winter tandem paragliding on crisp bluebird days.
Climb a Frozen Waterfall in Slovenia's Scenic Valleys
In the winter, Slovenia’s many waterfalls turn to ice, making way for thrilling climbing excursions. Grab some crampons and an ice ax and head out on an electrifying ascent, surrounded by nature. Whether you’re an experienced climber or a newbie, get comfortable on the ice with a one-day training course to learn basics and safety and book a fun guided excursion.
You can muscle your way up natural falls in Tamar Valley, Trenta Valley, and Logar Valley, or picturesque Mlačca Gorge. It’s also a great activity to add on if you’re already planning to spend time at Kranjska Gora, Bled, or Triglav National Park. Guided tours are available for travelers interested in single-day experiences or those looking to tackle multiple routes or locations.
See Lights in Ljubljana & Visit an Underground Nativity Scene
When the temperatures go down in Ljubljana, the twinkle lights go up. Along the banks of the Ljubljanica River, every tree and storefront glimmers with holiday cheer. In fact, every year, local artist Zmago Modic crafts unique designs for the universe-themed light displays in the city’s historical center.
The entire month of December is full of free events, including concerts and a rollicking New Year’s Eve countdown party in the city’s public squares. Under the glow of the medieval Ljubljana Castle, stroll the cobblestone streets with locals enjoying the season. The Festive Fair in Mestni Square is considered one of Europe’s best Christmas Markets, filled with artisan goods, seasonal food, and gorgeous handicrafts. While you peruse stalls, grab a steaming hot cup of spiced gluhwein or tuck into some Kranjska klobasa, the ubiquitous Carniolan sausage served with grainy mustard and bread.
Bled, 40 minutes north of Ljubljana, also puts on a fantastic Christmas Market: the Winter Fairytale. In addition to craft and food stalls, visit Grandfather Frost, see ice sculpture displays, and take a selfie on an enormous chair under a massive natural Christmas Tree. Head out to Lake Bled and cruise around the island on a cozy pletna, a large gondola-type boat. If the water is frozen, you can even ice skate your way. Once on land, visit the charming island cafe for a hot drink and some potica, a delicious seasonal nut cake, and make a wish as you ring the bell in the apse of the Church of the Assumption of Maria.
For a truly unique and interactive experience, head to Postojna Cave for an incredible live tableau of the nativity. In 16 different stations stretching across 3 miles, actors and musicians bring the entire nativity story to life, illuminated by thousands of lights. The spectacle features 150 performers and is one of the biggest Christmas performances on the continent.
Sleep in an Igloo (and Learn to Build One Yourself)
For a fun alternative to a Christmas tree in a city hotel, book a stay at one of Slovenia’s three Igloo Villages. Located in Triglav National Park, Kranjska Gora Resort, and Pokljula, these unique accommodations are freshly built each winter after temperatures plunge below zero. The individual components of the villages are connected via a tunnel and include bars, dining spots, and communal areas. There are no showers, so you’ll be relying on snow to get you clean at the end of the day. Thankfully, there’s hot white wine, cozy blankets, and Finnish-style saunas to help you warm up.
Igloo Village Krvavec, in Pokljula, offers igloos for small groups and couples can cozy up in romantic suites complete with pink and white hearts dangling over the insulated beds. In addition to visiting the igloo restaurant and bar, guests can learn how to build their own igloo, go cross country golfing in the snow, and embark on moonlit snowshoe treks.
For more unique lodging options in Slovenia, take a look at this article.
Take a Winter Wine Tasting Tour
With fewer crowds than the high season of autumn harvest, winter is a wonderful time to tour the Slovenian countryside, take in snow-covered natural splendor, and try the distinct wines of each grape-growing region.
In the northeast, Podravska is known for white wines like traditional Chardonnay and sweeter offerings like Traminec and Laski Riesling. Maribor, the second biggest city in Slovenia, is home to the oldest grapevine in the world (which still produces grapes, yielding at least 75 pounds of fruit per year). It grows outside the Old Vine House, a wine museum and tasting room where you can stay warm as you sample ice wine, gewürztraminer, and zelen.
From Maribor, stop at the iconic heart-shaped "wine road" near the village of Svečina. Then travel east to Ptuj, the oldest city in Slovenia and home to the oldest cellar in the country. The southeast takes you into the Posavska region, which specializes in Cviček, a sour, red regional wine. Eat at the romantic Otočec Castle, a fairytale of a hotel on an island in the middle of the Krka River. Enjoy your vino and traditional cuisine while you watch snow fall on the river outside.
The Vipava valley, adjacent to the Italian border, is also gorgeous in the winter and offers delicious reds like Teran and Merlot to help you keep warm. Bundle up to explore the five centuries-old castles in the area, and top it off with a visit to the Vionecta Wine Museum in the Vipava tourist office, which offers tastings of 160 wines from 45 different winemakers in surrounding villages.