Discover Slovenia: a land of a thousand surprises

Lac de Bohinj

This surprisingly resilient European country is now coming into its own. Discover Slovenia, a land bathed in magic and punctuated by the beauty of an unspoilt territory.

In the middle ofAustria, Croatia andItaly, Slovenia is still a well-kept secret.

It’s whispered softly in the ears of travellers who love destinations far removed from mass tourism. Yet there’s no shortage of treasures to be found in this small country, no bigger than a region of France. It’s rather that it remained under Austro-Hungarian rule for a long time, then under the bell of Yugoslavia and far from the forefront of the European scene.

Slovenia had to struggle throughout the 20th century to achieve independence in 1991. Today, Slovenia is ready to reveal the full extent of its assets to the world. In this story, we invite you to discover this jewel straddling Eastern and Western Europe. Follow our historical, cultural and natural tour.

Why do we love Slovenia so much?

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Slovenia offers a kaleidoscope of untouched, unspoilt beauty. In fact, its territory is so well preserved that it has been dubbed the « green lung of Europe ». But that’s not all, as the variety of its landscapes has also earned it the nickname of « Little Europe ».

Here, all the landscapes of the Old Continent are represented: the sea, pastures, dapper forests, Alpine lakes, karst plateaus, vineyards and even high mountains. So, first and foremost, we love Slovenia for its scattered, vibrant nature.

Secondly, we fell under its cosmopolitan spell. Few countries can boast such a fine blend of influences from neighboring countries. Slovenia is a joyful patchwork of Hungarian, Germanic, Slavic and Romanesque cultures.

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This mix gives rise to an almost insolent number of stunning architectural ensembles and villages scattered like open-air museums. All in all, Slovenia is a whirlwind that you’d think you’d get around quickly, but which would take several trips to fully grasp.

Despite its size, which could be considered Lilliputian, Slovenia boasts a wide variety of climates. In the Julian Alps, temperatures are cooler than along the Adriatic coast. We chose the month of September: when the sun is still shining, the water temperature still enjoys the warmth of summer, but the few tourists have already returned home.

Three weeks in Slovenia, on the doorstep of the mountains and the sea

Ljubljana: capital of a thousand layers

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At the beginning of September, we flew to Ljubljana: Slovenia’s motley capital. Two hours later, we landed in one of Europe’s most confidential cities. No sooner had we set foot on the ground than we found our rental car. Although Slovenia has a highly functional public transport network, we set off in a small group and renting a car quickly proved to be as practical as it was economical.

However, we left our car in the parking lot on the first weekend of our stay. To visit Ljubljana, all we needed was a good pair of shoes, a bike to live like a local and… a canoe to visit the capital from the river: a most aesthetic point of view.

Capitale Slovénie

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The unique atmosphere of this city, divided by the river and pierced by Art Nouveau buildings, is bound to enchant and arouse curiosity. Slovenia’s capital reveals a delightfully colorful face, an incredible blend of styles and aesthetics. Against an Austro-Hungarian backdrop, Baroque, contemporary, Slavic and Italian touches emerge. As you turn a corner, you might even recognize some of the great classics of Greek architecture…

For some, the finest example of architecture in town is the impressive château. For others, it’s the university library. The latter is an extraordinary sanctuary, a temple of knowledge, the signature of the architect who redesigned Ljubljana. The city’s eclectic architectural patchwork is the result of a profound transformation that took place between the two world wars.

Ljubljana

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Ljubljana shines brightly and is dear to the hearts of Slovenians. It has to be said that its incredible metamorphosis foreshadowed that of the entire country. The one that finally lifted its rural, landlocked population out of the abyss of poverty. We are immediately struck by the pride of the inhabitants, who speak to us fervently of the resurrection of their capital.

At the end of days spent strolling through the pedestrianized city center and spanning the river over bridges, there’s nothing better than tucking yourself away in a small restaurant in a charming square. Unless you prefer alternative cultural venues such as the Metelkova Squat. These former military barracks, renovated by urban artists, have become bars and nightclubs that attract the entire Slovenian youth scene, and deprived us of a few hours’ sleep. But it’s definitely worth the detour!

The Slovenian coast

Côte slovène

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After a long weekend in the capital, we hit the road, heading for southern Slovenia and its stretch of territory lapped by the Adriatic Sea.

On the way, we admire the ramparts of the Predjama troglodytic castle. Carved into a cliff over a hundred metres high, this cave castle is the largest of its kind. It opens the door to a vast and mysterious subterranean world of kilometers of galleries. Predjama still ranks among the ten most fascinating castles in the world.

After a break with this Guinness World Records winner, we set off for Piran, the most beautiful village on the Slovenian coast. Along the way, we make a number of charming stops. Adventure awaits us at every turn.

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First, the Skocjan and Postojna caves. These underwater canyons, bathed in an intimidating silence, offer a timeless interlude. Then we come across the enchanting castle of Sneznik and the mysterious Idrija mine. Finally, we disembark in Piran.

We’re immediately seduced by the unique atmosphere of the port and the vibrant maritime life. The iodine baths and the joys of seaside tourism take us away to two other coastal villages. As beautiful and soothing as ever: Izola and Koper. Bicycle paths are in their element here, inviting us to pedal between the sea, salt marshes, vineyards and fragrant fig trees.

Along the Italian coast to Triglav

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After three days with our feet in the water and our eyes on the Gulf of Trieste, we head further north along the Italian border. We then return to the land and the plains. We pass through the Vipava and Goriska Brda regions, two delightful corners with a Tuscan air. Among the hills, we discover colorful hamlets, hills carpeted with vines and the taste of Slovenian wine.

We’re finally at the very top of Slovenia, to the west: Ljubljana on our diagonal. We land in the heart of Europe’s green lung.

Right in the middle of our route, we come across the adorable village of Kanal. The influences of Tuscany are still there, whether you’re gazing at the architecture or enjoying the rhythm of life of the locals, faithful to La Dolce Vita. We spend the day wandering through Kanal’s quaint alleyways and nibbling on the shores of the small beach along the Soča.

la Soča

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Many other wonders await us at the end of our stay at the gateway to Italy. Not least the enchanting Kozjak waterfall. The trail is pleasant, and we pass daring suspension bridges that curve their backs against the Soča River. What if we told you that this river is considered one of the most beautiful in Europe? At first glance, you won’t doubt it for a second. We continue our shady stroll. Then, at the bend in the undergrowth, the waterfall appears in its magical setting.

Definitely madly in love with the Soča, we want to follow it again. So we set off in pursuit of its emerald-blue pencil stroke through the verdant countryside: heading for the Soča Gorges. These spectacular arteries nestle at the start of the Lepena Valley. We don’t know which way to turn in these dizzying shades of blue and turquoise. All these white waters invite you to swim, but also to take part in all kinds of water sports: canyoning, rafting and hydro-speed. Slovenia, a land of infinite possibilities…

Austria in sight

parc du Triglav

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We’re on the third leg of our journey. Here we are, flirting with the Austrian border. It’s only a short step to the land of Sissi and Viennese coffee. But we’re happily staying on the Slovenian side in the Zelenci Nature Reserve. A nook in the far north of Triglav Park, home to a pretty little turquoise lake.

We climb up to a famous viewpoint to discover an exceptional panorama of the Julian Alps. Our advice? Do as we do: wake up at the crack of dawn or stay until sunset to discover this enchanting tableau without the silhouette of other travelers.

The next morning, we pass the sharp peaks and rocky promontories of the Vrsic Pass. We can’t wait for the Triglav National Park behind us. A vertiginous and photogenic place. We’ve been waiting for this moment since the beginning of our stay.

Bled

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Matic Stojs Lomovsek

Indeed, Triglav is home to THE pearl of Slovenia: Lake Bled. In fact, Lake Bled is to Slovenia what the Eiffel Tower is to France: an icon that crosses borders. In your opinion, were we disappointed? Not in the least. Everything we’d imagined most beautiful and admired in photos unfolded before our very eyes. Even the most famous viewpoint on Lake Bled retained all its peaceful, authentic, local soul. For viewpoint enthusiasts and image collectors, don’t miss the panoramas of Ojstrica and Mala Osojnica and their decadent views over Lake Bled.

Following on from this lakeside jewel, we moved on to Lake Bohinj. Another wild nugget, jealously preserved by the Triglav National Park. We breathe in the air: the place is pure and bathed in an incredibly serene atmosphere. This is Slovenia: a gentle way of life and a constant invitation to slow down.

We discover an incredible scene: the gentle churning of shiny wooden boats on cobalt water, with the white church and its dome like a ball of grey ice in the background. We want to enjoy this place again and again. To do so, we set off on a number of hiking trails in the vicinity: the famous Seven Lakes trail.

Lac de Bohinj

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Fesus Robert

The next day, we enter the Logarska Dolina nature park and the medieval village of Skofja Loka. All eyes turn to the church: Jamnik, perched on a hill, overlooking the emptiness and chlorophyll-filled scenery. This magnificent glacial valley sparkles in the light of the Savinja River, another Alpine jewel. Its beauty unfolds over a distance of just over seven kilometers.

A concentrate of natural splendor, of course, but also a concentrate of history, as Logarska Dolina boasts some of the finest examples of wooden houses in the country. These preserved traditional dwellings even seem to have been created from scratch to enhance the beauty of the place.

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Despite its small size, a few days are not enough to explore all the trails that wind through the soft green of the high meadows, the caves, springs, waterfalls and wildlife gathering sites. But we do our best to satisfy our bulimic impulse: mountain biking, climbing, hiking, fishing and kayaking, we take in all the charms of this bucolic valley.

No sooner had we left the Logarska Dolina Nature Park than we felt the urge to hike again. Good thing we’re not far from the incredible Velika Planina mountain pasture, in the heart of the Julian Alps. This plateau unfolds like an endless carpet of green. We discover it to the rhythm of its traditional rural villages, under the benevolent gaze of grazing cows.

The conical wooden houses of Velika Planina are veritable refuge villages for shepherds. Beneath their cap of larch and spruce, they shelter these welcoming country folk who invite travellers to sample their dairy specialities and savour their flour dumplings. In any case, we didn’t have to be asked twice to indulge in these rustic delicacies.

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Even so, by the end of the day, our stomachs were roaring, clamoring for the calories burned during our outdoor activities. So what do we eat in Slovenia to satisfy our voracious appetites? Unquestionably: Prsut (Slovenian smoked ham) accompanied by Zlikrofi (typical Idrija ravioli) or Burek (puff pastry filled with cheese). Then, we always save a little room for Slovenia’s pastries: calorie bombs we just can’t resist. Among our favorites are Orehova Potica (rolled dry cakes with nuts, honey and seeds) and Gibanica (sweets made from nuts, apples, seeds and cottage cheese).

Slovenia is an adventure waiting to be discovered. Its countless natural assets and multiculturalism are awe-inspiring and prove, once again, that the marvellous is sometimes just around the corner.

Map of hotels and accommodation – Slovenia