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Best places to visit in Slovenia
Compared to its neighbouring countries like Italy, Austria and Croatia, Slovenia is a relatively small country that is often overlooked. Although the iconic emerald waters of Lake Bled are recognized across Europe, there is so much more to Croatia than the lake. The country is home to snow-peaked mountains, expansive forests, and villages and castles balancing on top of alpine plateaus.
Slovenia’s capital, Ljubljana, is a romantic mix of old versus new. Cobbled streets and alleyways are comprised of baroque-style architecture (17th century), yet lined with modern-day bars, open-air restaurants and an appealing nightlife scene. One thing that is noticeable throughout all of the streets in Slovenia is how clean and green they are. In fact, the charming plant-covered streets were voted the Green Capital of Europe in 2016 and since then, travelers have been stunned with its exceptionally romantic ambiance every since.
As you head out to the mountains and expansive countryside further inland, dramatic castles, caves and gorges will appear at the most ‘random’ of places. Take Predjama Castle for example. Built atop of a cliff that stands at over 120 meters high, this striking architectural wonder almost appears out of nowhere.
This is arguably what makes Slovenia so special and unique. Architectural gems, romantic old towns, snow-peaked alps and icy lakes are individually so dramatic, but they are tucked away and hidden for travelers to discover. Because Slovenia is less visited than other neighbouring European countries, it offers seclusion and excitement. Here are some ideas of the best places to visit in Slovenia.
At the top of the list – as the most iconic, known and loved destination in Slovenia – is Lake Bled. Located in the north-western part of the country, you can easily get to Lake Bled from Slovenia’s capital Ljubljana. This is approximately a one-hour car journey and along the way, you can enjoy beautiful views of the Julian Alps and the alpine forests. A half or full day trip to Lake Bled is highly recommended.
The lake itself is a glistening emerald color, combining hundreds of green and blue shades. The Julian Alps – a mountain range stretching from north-eastern Italy to Slovenia – are the backdrop to Lake Bled, and in the foreground, sits a small island in the center of the lake. On the island is a small church, which is the iconic ‘postcard picture’ of Slovenia.
You can visit the island on a Pletna boat which is a small traditional wooden boat (similar to the gondolas in Venice), or by a rowing boat. When you arrive on land, you can walk the 90 steps to visit the church. Many locals have got married here, some even carrying their partner up the steps. Other things to do include walking around the lake (approximately 1-2 hours), swim in the lake, or visit Bled Castle which offers panoramic views of the shimmering lake.
Slovenia’s capital, Ljubljana, is located in the very center of the country. The city itself has so much history and iconic architecture – crumbling buildings, charming alleyways, and tree-lined walkways. The focal point of the city is the Ljubljana River that runs through the heart of the city. Bars, cafes and restaurants line the river either side.
Another focal point is the lack of car traffic. Ljubljana pedestrianized a huge part of the city center which changed the feel of it completely (in a good way). From a dominated motorized traffic zone, the center of Ljubljana soon became a vast space for travelers to wander, explore and enjoy. Places like Prešeren Square and Wolfova Street can be enjoyed at a pace that suits you.
Architectural points of interest in Ljubljana include the Plečnik House, Križanke Summer Theatre, and the Trnovo Pier Embankment. Along the river, there are some iconic bridges to see including the Triple Bridge and Cobblers’ Bridge.
Triglav National Park
Located in the north west of the country is Slovenia’s largest protected area and only national park – Triglav National Park. You may recognize its name, which was taken from Triglav Mountain. This is Slovenia’s tallest mountain, standing at a height of 2,864 meters above sea level. This national park is the epitome of Slovenia – green Alpine valleys, stunning panoramic views, and clear blue skies (most of the time).
For those who are particularly active, climbing Mount Triglav takes an average of two to three days and offers breath-taking views along the way. Other than climbing, there are lots of active experiences you can do around the national park including canoeing, kayaking and hiking. You can get to Triglav easily from Ljubljana so day trips are a popular way to enjoy the landscape.
Inside Triglav National Park is an alpine plateau called Pokljuka. This is a destination for those who are looking to slow down and take in every element of the outdoors. In fact, for those who are particularly interested in slow travel, this is a destination for you. Pokljuka Pleateau is a mountain community, where traditional wooden huts sit on open pasture. Behind, is a backdrop of a dense and mysterious alpine forest, and the Julian Alps further behind that.
Because of its remoteness, you will need a car to get to this alpine hidden gem but, as it’s not as well known as places like Ljubljana and Lake Bled, it definitely offers seclusion and tranquillity, with a traditional and local feel to it.
Located in the south-western part of the country is one of the Slovenia’s greatest natural landmarks – Postojna Cave. Extending a length of more than 25,000 meters underground, the Postojna Cave systems were created by natural corrosion of the Pivka River. Believe it or not, there are over 100 animal species that live underground in the Postojna Caves.
The caves are mysterious and definitely replicate landscapes you’d expect to see in the prehistoric period. That said, there is a Cave Park and Ride which allows you to see the detail of the magnificent cave formations on a gentle underground train. This is certainly a modern addition. Temperatures in the cave can feel much cooler than outside in Slovenia’s sunshine so wear appropriate clothing if you plan to explore this geological phenomenon.
Just a short distance from the Postojna Caves is the picturesque castle named Predjama. This iconic castle is more than 800 years old and was built under a rocky arch. Parts of the castle are exposed on the cliff top, while others are hidden in the cave formation. Interestingly, there are hidden tunnels and intricate networks to be discovered. This castle, like Lake Bled, is an iconic landscape of Slovenia.
On the discussion of expansive cave systems, another incredible destination to visit in Slovenia is the Škocjan Caves. The Škocjan Caves and the surrounding area became a UNESCO world heritage site in 1986 because of its magnificent natural landscape. As a result of corrosion from the Reka River, the Škocjan Caves extend as long as 6,200 meters and has a maximum depth of 223 meters (from the sea-level surface to the lower point). These caves show more than just an incredible intricate network of caves. The Škocjan Caves have unique historical and geological elements to them.
Hidden historic buildings and charming landscapes can be found across all of Slovenia. If you are looking for a destination of natural beauty and ‘wow’ landmarks, Slovenia is definitely a good option. Temperatures across the summer (from June to October) average around the high 20’s (Celsius) but soar up into the 30’s in July and August. Bright sunshine and clear days make it enjoyable for exploring the country at a slower pace.
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