Slovenia Travel Blog: Things to do in Slovenia
Slovenia is a small alpine country that’s bursting with history and culture with some incredible natural treasures just waiting to be explored. This beautiful little country often gets overlooked in favour of its more famous neighbours, namely Austria, Italy, and Croatia and that is a big mistake as this country is an intoxicating mish-mash of many different cultures and diverse landscapes not to be missed.
There is no doubt that the capital of Ljubljana is one of the smallest capital cities you’ll find in Europe, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in charm and beauty. When it comes to skiing you’ll find some of Europe’s best ski destinations in Slovenia with some seriously fabulous resorts to take care of your every need. Put simply, Slovenia is the must visit destination you never thought of!
Where is Slovenia?
Slovenia is often referred to as the “crossroads of the Balkans” and that is because it straddles Central Europe and the eastern Alps. Lapped by the wonderfully clear waters of the Adriatic along its 46km coastline, Slovenia shares borders with Austria, Italy, Hungary, and Croatia. With the purchase of various Eurail Passes, you can easily travel to and from these countries, making Slovenia a country you can’t miss.
Most of Slovenia falls within its continental region meaning it has a European continental climate. This means Slovenia has cold winters, sometimes very cold, and mild, warm summers. With that in mind, there is an exception, and that is the small little 46km stretch of coastline which experiences more of a Mediterranean climate making it a great summer destination.
Things to See and Do in Slovenia
Explore Logar Valley
Logar Valley is one of the most stunningly beautiful alpine parks you will ever set your eyes on. It’s a glacial alpine valley with picture perfect snow capped mountains surrounded by emerald green valleys. For those of you who like to get active, take your pick from one of the many trails in the park and get up close and personal with the Logar Valley. Be sure to take your camera along and get some photos of Slovenia’s second highest waterfall, Rinka waterfall, which plunges 105m.
Visit Triglav National Park
The Triglav National Park is the only National Park in Slovenia and is named after the highest mountain in the park – Triglav. The National Park is 880 km2 and takes up 3% of the territory of Slovenia. Like most national parks, they are suited to outdoorsy types, with a plethora of ways to experience the magical national park, such as paragliding, hiking, mountaineering, and rafting.
Sample Slovenian Wine
Slovenia has three major wine regions – Podravska, Posavska and Primorska – that produce some outstanding wines using both indigenous and international grape varieties. With almost all the wine consumed domestically, Slovenian wines are hard to come by outside of Slovenia. When visiting be sure to take a wine tour, and experience wine made in a country with a history of wine making which pre-dates the Romans.
Ski the Slopes
If winter sports tickle your fancy then Slovenia can more than accommodate. Its snow covered alpine forests and mountains are perfect for skiing, snowboarding and skating. If cross country skiing is your thing then picture the iconic snowy forests, or for something more structured, head to one of the many resorts including Krajnska Gora, Cerkno and Rogla. For a more picturesque setting, head for Straza Bled which gives you panoramic views of the stunning Lake Bled.
Cycle the Country
Slovenia is packed with diverse cycling trails which will take you to the country’s best natural sites. There is a route for every type of cyclist with countless marked and unmarked trails and both coastal and continental routes. Cycling is a very popular sporting activity in Slovenia and you could say the country is cyclist friendly.
Hike the Paths
Another great way to appreciate the natural landscapes of Slovenia is to hike through them. There are many trails on offer which cater to people with different skill levels. The Sub-Alpine Trail is a 470km trail, which starts in the heart of Western Slovenia and over the course of 30 days you’ll hike rolling hills, woodlands and wine growing regions until you reach Eastern Slovenia. For the intrepid hikers, why not try the Slovenian Mountain Trail where you will hike across alpine peaks, the Dinaric Mountains, valleys, and conquer the highest peak in the country, Triglav, at 2864 metres.
Play a Round of Golf
Looking for a spot of golf? Try Moravske Topic which is one of the most popular golf courses in Slovenia, perhaps because of its idyllic setting, surrounded by hot springs, in Prekmurje. If you prefer to stay closer to the major towns, King’s Course in Bled is also a good choice, or perhaps Volcji Potok Arboretum, which has a beautiful forest setting.
Marvel at the Waterfalls
Slovenia is home to more than 300 natural waterfalls, with Kloma being the highest. You can visit these beautiful sights at any time of the year, however, during the winter months, they sometimes freeze, which in itself is pretty wonderful! Savica Falls at Lake Bohinj is one of the most popular, and there are also several located in Triglav National Park.
Take in Art & History at Local Museums
For such a small country you will be surprised to know that there are more than 200 museums across the country. The Museum of the First World War is a particularly interesting one, or the Museum of Modern Art in Ljubljana. The capital is where you’ll find all the country’s major museums including the National Museum of Slovenia and the Museum of Natural History.
Be Swept Away by the Castles
This part of the world is home to many of those iconic hilltop castles. Many of Slovenia’s castles have been made into hotels or museums, and are open to the public. Bled Castle is very popular and easy to visit, with stunning views over the lake and landscapes beyond. The capital Ljubljana has its own castle, right in the heart of the city, or you could head to Predjama Castle, which is home to many underground tunnels.
Explore the Palaces
The architecture and grandeur of a Slovenian palace simply has to be seen to be believed. There are several dotted around the country, but the Praetorian Palace is a wonderful example in Koper. You also have Gruber Palace in Ljubljana which now houses the national archive.
Wander Open Air Museums
To give a different slant on a museum experience, do it al fresco! There are many open air museums around the country, with the biggest being in Rogatec. This Museum preserves the folk architectural heritage and cultural tradition of the Obsotelje region between the 18th and 20th centuries. For something more unique head to Bovec and visit the WWI open air museums of Čelo and Ravelnik.
Explore UNESCO Skocjan Caves
This UNESCO listed site is located in the south-west of the country. Here you will find a network of underground caves, packed with beautiful stalactites and stalagmites, as well as many other fascinating geological features. There are 11 caves here, including swallow holes, natural bridges, and hollows. Take a guided tour of the caves so you don’t miss any of its beautiful features.
Bird-Watch at the UNESCO Ljubljana Marshes
Close to the city centre you will find the Ljubljana marshes which are 160km2 of wetlands and peat bogs. The marshes are home to rare wildlife, flora and fauna and the area makes for some great bird watching. In addition there have been some significant archaeological finds (over 10,000) in the marsh with the most important being the worlds oldest wooden wheel dating back to 3350-3100BC. Archaeologists have also discovered a settlement of pile dwellings which dates back to 5000BC.
Tour Idrija Mercury Mine
Mercury mining was an important part of local life back in the day, and whilst the mines in the area are now disused, you can head down and have a look around for yourself. A guided tour will show you the remaining pieces of mercury left below the ground, and you can also check out an underground chapel.
Learn the History of Salt at Secovlje Salina Nature Park
If you want to throw a little education into your visit, head for Secovlje and see salt being produced the old fashioned way. Salt has been produced here for 700 years and is the northern most salt flat in the Mediterranean. The park also has some great hiking and cycling trails well worth exploring.
Paraglide at Tolmin
If soaring amongst the clouds is your thing, then Tolmin is your destination. Set in the Triglav National Park, the huge mountains and green valleys, with winding rivers amongst it all, it is the ideal place to try this sport. Kobala Hill the best place to take off.
Walk Along Vintgar Gorge
A walk along the boarded walkways that chase the Radovna river through the gorge is an absolute must when in Slovenia. The trail runs for the 1600m length of the gorge where you’ll see the river flowing over rapids and rocks before it descends 26m over the Šum waterfall.
Travel Vrsic Pass
In the heart of the Julian Alps you will come across its most famous pass, Vrsic. This was built by Russian prisoners during the First World War, and is one of the most scenic hikes you’ll find anywhere in the world. You don’t have to be super-experienced to try it, so strap on your boots and get to it.
Explore Church of the Holy Trinity
Located a little outside the town of Koper, in Hrastovlje, and exploring this church is a must for history buffs, with its intact vestry and outer walls. Inside the church, all the walls are decorated with frescoes with the most interesting being the scenes of farm work symbolizing the 12 months of the year.
Tour the Postojna Caves
A visit to Slovenia is not compete without a stop at Postojna Caves. This natural treasure is the most visited cave system in Europe and has an excellent electric train that takes visitors on a ride down to the heart of the cave system. The cave has an array of unique spectacular speleothems and taking the guided tour is a definite must.
Ride in a Carriage at Lipica Stud Farm
Originating in the 16th century, the stud farm was built by the Habsburgs to breed high quality horses and today its where the famous dancing Lipizzaner horses continue to be bred. The Stud farm is open to visitors where you can learn everything you would ever want to know about this famous horse breed. You can even take a ride in a carriage!
Babič Mill on the Mura River
The Babič mill is a symbol of working times gone by in Slovenia and is a fascinating window to the past. Built in the 19th century, here you can see how the third generation of the family operate the mill. Floating mills were used frequently in this part of the world because of the frequent changes in level of the watercourses.
Travel the Pilgrimage Trails
There are a number of areas of pilgrimage in Slovenia which are interconnected with pilgrimage trails. You can easily follow one of these, such as the path which connects the Basilica of Mary, Help of Christians in Brezje, and Ptujska Gora and Seta Gora above Solkan. The Hemma Pilgrimage Trail or the Marian Pilgrimage Trail are also very popular.
Break a Record at Planica Ski Jumping Facility
Planica is an alpine valley and has the worlds highest ski jumping facility. In fact, this place has quite a history of ski jumping with the first jump being built in 1930. Over the years numerous world records have been set and broken at this facility.
Admire Street Art in Metelkova
This diverse and cultural neighborhood of Ljubljana was previously a military barracks, but nowadays it is a colorful and artistic place to visit. You will find street artists, singers, students, basically all manner of creative people milling around being creative. Keep your eyes open for your some cool street art.
Sample Beer on the Lasko Brewery Tour
Lasko Brewery is the largest in the whole country. Take a brewery tour and learn about its production, finishing off with a tasting. This is a very popular attraction, and they even have some alcohol-free beverages for the designated drivers.
Visit the Monasteries
There are more than 30 monasteries in Slovenia which are still active, with Sticna housing one of the most famous and oldest, at 900 years old and counting. The Nazarje is another monastery which is famous for being the site of the first translation of the Bible into Slovenian.
Watch a Slovenian Show
Check out the schedule of performances at the Slovene National Theatre, as there are regular ballets, operas, and productions on throughout the year. Traditional art is also shown here quite regularly, and this is an excellent way to experience authentic Slovenia.
Try Local Cuisine
During your time in Slovenia, you certainly should feed the soul, and that means trying some delicious local cuisine. Be on the lookout for žganci, štruklji, and that famous Bled kremšnita. There are countless authentic restaurants in Ljubljana, so make sure you head there for a three-course delight.
Wander the Open Kitchen
On Fridays from March to October, a portion of Ljubljana’s daily street market is staffed by area chefs, restaurants, wine-makers and brewers. The section of the market is known as the “Open Kitchen” and visitors can sample various brews, produce and gastronomic delights. Communal fellowship with locals and travelers alike is brought together at tables over good food!
The Best Towns to Visit in Slovenia
The picturesque Ptuj is the oldest town in Slovenia and was granted city status during the Roman times. Ptuj straddles the Drava river and is overlooked by Ptuj castle, which was originally constructed in the 10th century and then reconstructed in the mid 12th century. Today the castle is a museum and worth visiting. Wander the old town and get a feel for this historical destination.
Port of Izola
This small but charming port town is often thought of as being quite continental and upmarket, so a visit here is sure to be a relaxing experience. The small, winding streets are ideal for exploring awhile doing so keep and eye out for the stunning vistas out over the nearby hills, town, nd port.
Located in the Kamnik Alps not far from Ljubljana, Velika Planina is great for the active holiday enthusiast. Here you can walk, hike, ride and explore this alpine region. Be sure to visit the unique herdsman settlement and try some of their delicious dairy products.
Ljubljana’s Historic Centre
The capital may be small, but it is home to some stunning architecture. Here you’ll see examples of Renaissance, Baroque, with a little Art Deco thrown in for good measure. Just walking around the charming city will give you a good sense of its cool vibe and energy.
Maribor is a lively little city with a long wine making tradition. Interestingly, the oldest nobel vine in the world that still produces grapes can be found here and is over 400 years old. Take a walk in the historic centre of the city and you’ll find it rich in history and culture. The remnants of the old city walls are still visible and the castle in Grajski Trg Square is well worth a look.
Olimje is located at the foot of the Rudnica Mountain and is home to the Olimje Castle and Monastery along with one of Europe’s oldest pharmacies. The pharmacy is very well preserved with stunning frescoes on the walls and ceiling.
Just 24 km from Ljubljana, at the junction of two rivers, this stunning little town is worth a visit. With medieval merchant houses lining the streets and a magnificent castle to tour, visitors will find charm in Skofja Loka. Regular buses from the capital make this city a great day-trip destination.
The Best Spas in Slovenia
Spa town of Radenci
For total peace and relaxation, head to north-eastern Slovenia where you will find countless top class spa resorts, all served by the natural spring waters from the area. The mineral water source was found as far back as the 19th century, and has been a major pull for tourists ever since.
Lendava Thermal Spa
Located in the east of the country you will find Lendava which is famous for its thermal spa, the ideal place to kick back and relax. The spa is famous for its fossil medicinal thermo-mineral water which is said to help with the pains of ageing. There is also a watchtower here where you can see as far as over the border into Hungary and Croatia.
This beautiful alpine valley is perfect for walking and outdoor sports, but there are also many wellness retreats and spa centres here too. Located in the Julian Alps, you can spend your days in the great outdoors, before indulging in spa treatments and pampering yourself.
The Best Beaches, Lakes & Rivers in Slovenia
The crystal clear emerald waters of the Soča River are ideal for chilling out and swimming, whilst the rocks which surround it are great for sunbathing during those warm summer days! If swimming isn’t enough then try your hand at rafting, kayaking or even canyoning. The river flows through the Triglav National Park surrounded by lush green vegetation and is some of Mother Natures finest work.
This crystal clear river borders Croatia and Slovenia and is less visited than some of the other rivers in Slovenia. The best way to explore the river is by kayak or canoe and it also has some great fishing. The Kolpa River has calmer waters compared to other rivers in the country making it great for families who want to enjoy canoeing or swimming together.
The crystal clear reflection of the mountains in the water is something to behold here, and it is also the country’s deepest lake. Many locals nickname this lake and area as God’s Paradise, and you will see why when you visit. You can hire a bike, canoe or you simply walk around the lake and take it all in for yourself.
The time of year and the elements will tell you whether you are likely to see any water at all when you visit this site! During high rainfall levels, Lake Cerknica becomes the largest lake in the whole of Slovenia, however during times of drought or little rain, it completely disappears!
Arguably Slovenia’s most well known site, Lake Bled is simply stunning. This beautiful lake which has a church on an islet in the middle of the lake and is overlooked by Bled castle has to be seen to be believed. For the best views of the lake head up to the castle, and for some fun take a ride on the Pletna boat and visit the gothic church on the island. Lastly, be sure to try the Bled cream cake, which is divine.
Beaches in Slovenia
Whilst Slovenia is not known as a summer beach destination, you’d be surprised find that there are some outstanding beaches along the tiny 46km coastline. Portoroz is the most popular and most well developed seaside tourist resort in Slovenia. Here you’ll find top class hotels, entertainment, marina, Casino and of course a superb beach. If you want to escape the crowds try Izola or Mesečev Zaliv beaches.
Best Accommodation in Slovenia
Located on an islet on the River Krka you will find Otočec Castle, a castle built in the Middle ages which today is a luxury hotel. If you’d like to get a feel for the past in the beaty of the emerald green Krka river spend a few nights at Otočec castle.
Key Festivals & Events in Slovenia
Jestival Food and Art Festival
This annual festival is held in October, in Kobarid, and is a celebration of local food and art. Here you can try all manner of local dishes, whilst perusing stalls of handmade goods and enjoy traditional music and performances at the same time. Be sure to try the Kobariški štrukelj.
Ljubljana Christmas Markets
Christmas is Ljubljana is magical and has a special atmosphere. Enjoy this winter wonderland whilst perusing the stalls and enjoying some delicious local food. The main square is the hub of the Christmas market activity.
Tick off as many of these experiences as you can during your visit to Slovenia and you will have had one epic adventure!
Main image photo credit: James Southorn