If you’re looking for stunning scenery and a landscape that will genuinely blow your mind, think a little outside the box. Turn your mind to a country that might not be on your radar. Austria and Switzerland are two countries with soaring alpine mountains and lush, green valleys, but neighboring Slovenia beats both of them.
Slovenia was named the World’s First Green Country. The title was presented at a ceremony at Ljubljana Castle back in 2016, as part of the two-day Global Green Destinations Day conference, along with the declaration of the world’s Top 100 Sustainable Destinations, including Ljubljana.
Green Destinations founder Albert Salman explained that the organization’s representatives had interviews with the Slovenian Tourist Board (STO), people from different ministries, experts, and professors, who tested them against the green country criteria and they passed with flying colors. “The compliance is 96%.”
Thanks to its landscapes and views and its efforts at conservation and green energy, Slovenia is trying its best to save the planet from the heave of daily destruction. Some of the greenest areas of Slovenia are like something from a movie – picture The Sound of Music, with those soaring mountains, endless green forests, and winding rivers – and you’re not far off. Even the capital, Ljubljana, is upping the green ante. Named the European Green Capital 2016, the city is packed with green spaces with more being developed.
If you’re ready to immerse yourself in true outdoorsy fun, here are a few Slovenian locations that might take your fancy.
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Bordering with Italy, Nova Gorica is a definite two-center destination. You can walk from Italy to Slovenia in literally five minutes from here! Aside from that rather fun fact, Nova Gorica is a real feast for the eyes. Set in a lush, green valley with the winding river running through its center and the backdrop of imposing mountains, idyllic is the word that comes to mind.
This is one of Slovenia’s only destinations where you can enjoy bungee jumping, so adrenaline junkies, take note. You can also explore nearby castles as well as natural caves, with their amazing stalagmites and stalactites.
Nova Gorica is within easy reach of three of the country’s main wine regions – Kras, Brda, and Vipava. Enjoy outdoor adventures, such as walking and mountain biking, before finishing off your day sampling a few different vinos.
Brda is located in the west of the country, in the Littoral region. This area also heads over the Italian border, with the vast Soca River running through it. The region is mountainous, lending itself to stunning scenery. Lush green valleys draw attention, along with rolling hills which are home various to flora and fauna, including the Primula auricular, a beautiful primrose.
As with most of the green destinations we highlight, there is more to Brda than amazing scenery. Gonjace is home to a huge tower, not only known for stunning views but also to commemorate the town’s residents who lost their lives in WWII. On top of this, check out Kojsko, a beautiful Gothic-style church, and the Dobrovo Castle, perched high on a hill. Be sure to enjoy wine-tasting this region is famous for and view the fragrant fruit and olive groves.
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Close to Austria and Italy’s common borders, Kranjska Gora enjoys a truly natural and scenic position. The Sava Dolinka River runs through the town, with mountains and green hills completing the picture.
This alpine town is a fantastic base for winter recreation, and it is renowned for quality skiing and jumping opportunities. While this is mainly a destination for the winter months, you can enjoy hiking and climbing during the summer. Always remember to stick to set trails.
One must-visit attraction in this region and a definite photo moment is the statue of Zlatarog, set in a picturesque lakeside location. Legend states that Zlatarog is the guardian of the famed and mystical Mount Triglav, Slovenia’s iconic highest mountain.
This famous town has some serious history attached to it, with many 15th century buildings to explore. The Old Town has nods to Renaissance architecture. Maribor Castle is a must-visit with seriously stunning examples of this decoration style. Nature is in abundance here, as Maribor is set in one of Slovenia’s best wine regions, with the Drava River winding its way through its green valleys. Nearby you can visit Maribor Pohorje, a great ski resort, during the winter months.
Located near the Austrian border, you can find the Old Vine, which is certified as the oldest vine globally, dating back about 450 years. Check out the Vinag Wine Cellar, a renowned establishment with countless vino varieties, albeit slightly expensive.
Ptuj is another location on the Drava River, located in the north-east of the country. This particular town is known for its dramatic and historic architecture and also for the landscapes it sits in. Ptuj is one of the country’s oldest towns, with a history dating back to the Stone Age.
Be sure to check out Ptuj Grad, a castle sitting on a large hill overlooking the town and the green scenery beyond. The views are fantastic, and you will learn a lot about Slovenian culture from the museum which sits inside it.
If you can, check out the Kurentovanje Festival, a truly cultural and interesting event. This annual, 11-day festival is packed with musical and cultural events based around the wearing of traditional animal masks.
In the north of Slovenia, you will find picturesque and historic Slovenj Gradec. Set between two large mountain ranges, Mount Urslja and Gora, the town is a high altitude, alpine, and really quite breath-taking, with green valleys and winding rivers as standard. The town’s history dates back to Roman times. The Old Town is worth a visit, with the Church of Sv Elizabeta, dating back to 1251, as well as the Soklic Museum and Koroska Regional Museum to check out.
Outdoor activities around this region are abundant, thanks to the mountains and lush, green scenery. Enjoy plentiful walking and hiking opportunities, remembering to stick to marked trails, as well as mountain-biking and climbing. During the winter months, you can see a totally different side of the town, as the snow-capped peaks come to life with a magical, sparkling appearance.
Located on the Croatian-Slovenian border, you will find lovely Bela Krajina. Sat on the River Kolpa, this town is rich in culture and abounds in nature with a fun fact attached to it. Head to the town during the Easter period to see a colorful egg painting tradition. This is no ordinary paint an egg and hope for the best kind of deal. It is a genuinely artistic and intricate process!
Bela Krajina is set in one of the biggest wine regions, as well as unspoiled countryside to explore on foot or by bike. The River Kolpa runs through the beautiful Kolpa Nature Park and is one of the cleanest and warmest rivers in the whole country. We suggest you take a dip!
If it’s buildings you’re interested in, there are a few worth a visit. Tri Fare is a series of three churches, built in Gothic style, dating back to the 14th to 16th centuries. Additionally, the Information Centre in the Kolpa Nature Park is set in a renovated, traditionally constructed farmhouse.
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The Salek Valley is home to the fifth biggest city in the country, Velenje. History is abundant here, as well as nature, with a series of castles to check out. Velenje Castle sits on the top of a large hill, with beautiful views, and Ekenstein Castle, which dates back to 1282. Salek Castle is another one you may like to visit, or perhaps Turn Castle, from 1207. Put simply, the landscapes will capture the imagination, with lakes and hills at every turn.
Be sure to head to Velunja Pec, with the natural bridge held deep within the forest. There is a myth here that the forest fairies come to splash in the waters, enjoying the waterfalls and natural vibe of the area.
Nature lovers are truly in their element in Green Slovenia, and these destinations should certainly be on your visit list.