I Fell sLOVEnia

   Let’s be honest, if you are not from Slovenia and you’ve never been to this country, there is a big chance, you do not have the slightest idea where to put it on the map. No, I am not talking about Slovakia, I’m talking about Slovenia, you know, birthplace of Melania Trump. If you are drawing blanks in your head, you are not alone. Many tourists are not sure what to expect. However, let me assure you (and not only because it is my homeland) Slovenia is one of the most underrated places in Europe. I’ve traveled to many countries and can say mine really is one of the most naturally beautiful one. A true gem of Europe.

   It quietly resides between Austria, Italy, Croatia and Hungary. It is a small country with only two million people; but what it lacks in size, it makes up with a large amount of beauty and adventure to offer. Even though the country only manages to have 43 kilometers of a coastline, the small part we have, it is magical. Slovenia is known for its natural and diverse beauty. Apart from the amazing coastline, you can find extraordinary Alp tops, beautiful lakes and emerald green rivers. You might recognize our amazing Emerald river Soča from the movie Chronicles of Narnia. Because Slovenia is so small and versatile, you can go hiking in Alps, rafting, skiing, discovering gorgeous underground world, wine tasting in the vineyards and swimming in the sea just in one day. The country can brag with beautiful landscape, charming cities, historical towns, delicious food,  friendly people and it has recently became the world’s first country declared a green destination, based on an assessment by the Netherlands-based organization Green Destinations that established 96%-compliance across 100 criteria. Slovenia is also one of the youngest European countries, becoming an independent state in 1991, after the collapse of the Yugoslav federation.


   Many places in Slovenia are worth visiting. Some of them more or less touristic and popular. It is hard to decide which places are the best, since each person is looking for different things. However…

Here is my pick of the best spots to visit in the Slovenia:

Bled and Bohinj

No, Carniola has no prettier scene than this, resembling paradise serene.”

(France Prešeren, Slovenian poet (1800-1849))

   It will be hard to find a more picturesque setting than Bled in Northern Slovenia near the border with Austria. Lake Bled is picture perfect in every sense. The Julian Alps dominate the background, while in the foreground; a 17th-century Baroque church sits on a remote island in the middle of a glacial lake. Words cannot describe this fairy tale. If the lake with the little island weren’t enough, there is the oldest castle in Slovenia (first mentioned in 1011) on a cliff by the lake. From the castle, one can enjoy magnificent views. Do not miss a boat ride in “Pletna” boat that will take you on the island or rent a boat and paddle around the lake. On the Bled island, you will find a little Baroque church. Ring the bell for the good luck. While in Bled, try famous “Kremšnita” (cream cake).  There is a nice 6 km long path around the lake. Walk or cycle around it and just enjoy gorgeous scenery. Climb on castle and take a walk across the castle’s courtyard. The castle hill rises magnificently 139 meters high and offers splendid views for miles around. The castle is easy to access; just take the marked trail through the forest or an asphalt road.


  If the views from the castle leaves you hungry for more and you feel like walking, a 20-minute walk through the forest leads you to 611 m high hill of Ojstrica, a hill situated southwest of the lake. Just go near Camping Bled and look for a marked path into the forest. The hike is not too demanding for the most part, though it gets a bit steep towards the end. Be careful during or after the rain because of the mud. I also recommend a proper footwear. The panorama on the top is definitely rewarding. It is the best view of the lake Bled. Because of my condition, I couldn’t have made it to the top without the help of my boyfriend. Climbing the rocks with weak left side due to the stroke was terrifying. At one moment, I just froze, couldn’t move, and didn’t dare to go forward, because I was too afraid of how I’ll make it down. The image of photos I saw of the lake Bled from this hill was stuck in my mind, I took couple of deep breaths, said to myself: “You can do it!” and you know what – I did it! And I was rewarded for my courage and persistence with a breathtaking view. (This climb may be nothing for healthy people, but for a disabled person, like me, who couldn’t even move her leg for a month and after six years still can’t move fingers on left hand, it is not nothing – believe me. It is a new achievement and a small victory, if I can say so.)



   While staying in Bled, I would recommend seeing Bled Vintgar gorge. The beautiful Vintgar Gorge carves its way through the vertical walls of the Hom and Boršt Hills and is graced with the waterfalls, pools and rapids of the Radovna River. Bled truly is a jewel of Slovenia.


   From Bled, take a 15-minute car ride to another breathtaking glacial lake, hugged by the Alps – Lake Bohinj. It is less popular and less touristic, yet still beautiful. Lake Bohinj is the largest permanent lake in Slovenia. It is 4.2 kilometers long, one kilometer wide, and forty-five meters deep. The lake is a picture of calm and serenity. Mountain peaks are dominating the background; on a clear day, you can also see Slovenia’s highest peak, mighty Triglav (2864m). The lake offers many activities, from swimming in the clear, blue-green water, to kayaking, or simply to cycle or walk around the lake.


Soča Valley

   If you’re driving from the eastern Slovenia, passing Kranjska Gora, the easiest way to reach Posočje region is to cross the Vršič mountain pass (1611), the highest road pass in the country. Russian war prisoners built the road during the First World War and it runs through the heart of Julian Alps. On the way to the top you can visit a Russian chapel. Don’t miss a stone face in the mountain. It is a Heathen Maiden (Ajdovska deklica).


   Making your way through 24 serpentines on the way, enjoying in the beautiful mountain scenery you’ll eventually come to the Soča Valley. This emerald river is one of the jewel of nature that you must visit in Slovenia. The Soča (pronounced So-cha) river springs from Julian Alps. The valley is one of the most beautiful and unspoiled valleys in Europe. Soča with famous emerald green color and velar water flows through steep gorges. I recommend exploring the Trenta Valley and discover the source of Soča River. This a place where the crystal clear emerald waters burst out into daylight out of a small underground lake at the end of a narrow gorge. Continue your way down the road and be amazed by a 144 m high waterfall Boka that has the most abundant flow of water in Slovenia. Another popular waterfall is named Peričnik, and it is situated near small town Mojstrana (keep in mind that this is on the other side of mountain pass Vršič, near Kranjska Gora. Peričnik Waterfall is with 52 meters one of the highest among Slovenian waterfalls. There is a nice trail from Mojstrana to the waterfall or you can drive all the way to the cabin Peričnik with a car. From there you can already enjoy the breathtaking view or make your way up through the forest and be amazed by the beauty of Peričnik. It is possible to even walk under the waterfall, but in that case bring something to cover yourself and be very careful, because the path on the rock is very slippery. Do not miss a small mountain pearl Bovec. High peaks of the Julian Alps surround this little town and it’s paradise for all adrenalin junkies. Get charmed by diversity of sports activities: water sports, hiking, biking, paragliding … Next small town I recommend stopping is Kobarid. Ernest Hemingway described Kobarid in A Farewell to Arms (1929) as “a little white town with a campanile in a valley” with “a fine fountain in the square”. The tower is still there, but the fountain has disappear. The world will remember Kobarid as the site of the decisive battle of 1917 in which the Italian army was defeated. Near Kobarid, you can find another lovely waterfall – Kozjak Waterfall. Very photogenic Veliki Kozjak is 15 meters high. The waterfall had eroded a substantial cave for itself in the limestone, with a large emerald pool below it.



   Next, discover Most na Soči. It is located on a rocky crest above the confluence of Soča and Idrijca rivers. The main attraction in the town is an artificial lake with enchanting green color. You can jump to the lake off a 12 meters high famous bridge. Another famous bridge is Solkan Bridge, found furter south on the way. Solkan Bridge is the world’s largest single arch stone bridge.


Goriška Brda

   Western region in Slovenia that mimics Italy’s Tuscany. This hidden corner of Slovenia is a famous wine region and I recommend you include it in your trip. The land of hills is nestled between the Alps and the Adriatic. The nickname Tuscany of Slovenia comes from its countless vineyards, rolling hills and medieval villages. Go to the village Gonjače and climb up a 23 m high observation tower offering panoramic views of the entire Goriška Brda region.

   My favorite village is Šmartno. From Šmartno, the view stretches from the Nanos hill in the east to the Carnia Alps in the northwest, and from the Furlanija to the Adriatic Sea. The village is on the top of the hill and it’s surrounded by defense walls. When entering the Šmartno fortification and walking around the narrow streets among the old and newer houses, you get the feeling of being in a medieval labyrinth.


Karst (Kras)

The Karst Plateau or the Karst Region (Slovene: Kras) is a limestone plateau region that extends across the border of southwestern Slovenia and northeastern Italy. It is famous for its caves. Just to mention two of them: The Škocjan caves (UNESCO) World Heritage site) and the most famous one; the Postojna cave. It is a 24,340 meters long karst cave system near Postojna and is the second largest cave system in the country. It is a fantastic web of tunnels, passages, galleries and halls, that are two million years old. You get to see “only” 5 kilometers of the cave. It is the most visited tourist cave in the Europe. Postojna cave is also famous for the little “dragon” living inside – the human fish (Proteus). It has been long believed that the human fish is the offspring of a dragon that would swim up to the surface with the rising of subterranean waters. In May 2016, offspring of the human fish hatched in the Postojna Cave. This is an extremely rare occurrence, as baby human fish have been hatched in an aquarium only once before. The cave is connected to Predjama Castle, the largest cave castle in the world. The castle offered refuge to its legendary owner Erazem Predjamski in the 15th century.


   In the Karst region there are many of lovely medieval villages, make a stop in charming Štanjel, one of the oldest settlements in the region. Walk among the narrow cobbled streets, visit the castle that represents the dominant part of the old settlement and do not miss the Ferrari Garden below the fortified Štanjel.



Once you have hiked the Alps, enjoyed the water sports, and explored the caves, indulged in wine, now it is time to take a swim in the Adriatic Sea and get sun-kissed in some of our coastal towns: Koper, Izola, Strunjan, Piran, Portorož or Ankaran …


  We only have a small part of the seaside, but believe me; the coast next to Adriatic Sea is beautiful with small charming little villages and towns.

   Strunjan is a small charming old salt-making town on Slovenian coast. It lies in the Strunjan bay, known as one of the sunniest places on the Adriatic. In Strunjan, there are many hotels with private beaches and a public beach. Sunbathe or find shadow under the pine trees. If you prefer listening to the waves hitting the shore in less public places, simply walk a bit further to the remote and unspoiled rocky beach. In 1990, the area of the green bay of Strunjan between Izola and Piran was protected as a natural reserve of its geological and geomorphological characteristics, great biotitic diversity, and the fact that it encompasses the longest unbroken natural section of coast on the entire Bay of Trieste.

   The best part of Strunjan has to be the breathtaking cliffs. Moon Bay lies on the Strunjan peninsula. Between Izola and Piran, there is four kilometers long unspoiled coastline with up to 80 meters high cliffs. The stony beach is sometimes ten-meter-wide, at some points just less than a meter. Near town Strunjan, you can find picturesque Moon bay, cliffs that offers fantastic views. The Moon bay or Bay of Saint Cross is known as a jewel of the Slovene Riviera. Due to steep hike down, I’ve only enjoyed the bay from above. It is from the top you are able to see its full beauty and take some breathtaking photos along. The time stops there, as you smell the herbs, salty air and observing how the sea sculptured the seaside. True masterpiece.




   My definite favorite. It is a gorgeous town; I will say it is on top of musts sees in Slovenia. Besides Lake Bled, that is. Since 2003, I’ve visited Piran at least once every year.

   Picturesque Piran is without doubt the one of the most photogenic cities in the Mediterranean. It used to be part of the Venetian empire and part of Italy during World Wars. If you visit this lovely fishing town, you’ll see why it is so easy to fall in love with it. You’ll feel like you’ve stepped right into a postcard. Not only it’s right next to the sea and it’s enchanting with all the colorful building, the real charm of Piran are its narrow streets within the old town wall. Starting point is usually the main square, named after the most famous man in Piran, composer and violist Giuseppe Tartini, whose statue will greet you in the middle of the square. Take a walk on many of those narrow streets, simply wander around, get lost, and take a walk up to the church of Saint George. Make your way on the top of the bell tower for a euro and enjoy the view down on the streets of Piran and on the waves crashing the rocks. In Piran, there are plenty of spots to take a refreshing swim. My favorite is accessible next to the church. You have to take the path down the coast. The path leads to Fiesa, which is a kilometer away. The beach is rough and unspoiled. If you do not mind big rocks and nudists, you can enjoy a truly beautiful seaside. Do not miss a view from the atop of city’s walls. To get there you have to climb a road up the hill from the church. From the walls, you can take in the view of the peninsula. When you’re done sightseeing and swimming, it will be time to fill the bellies. There are many restaurants along the waterfront with open-air sitting and a great view on the ocean. Restaurants there offer delicious fresh food similar menus and can be a bit expensive. If you’re looking for something cheaper, take a walk inside the city. However, let me add that eating surrounded by sounds of the sea will ensure pleasant memories. After spending so many days and nights in this Slovenian pearl, I can say that the best part of Piran is watching the sunset. Whether you’re observing it from one of pier (by the way, the best photos are taken from there) or you catch this magical moment from a bar on the waterfront with an aperitivo in one hand and of course a camera in another.




   In Slovenia, you can find Sečovlje saltpans, northernmost salt flats in the Mediterranean. The salt here is still produced in the traditional way based on a 700-year-old method that harmonizes man and nature. Picturesque scenery, birds gathering for a long trip south, wonderful reflections in many pools. These are just some of the things that will surprise you there. 650 ha large area of the Sečovlje Salina Natural Park is a home to 270 species of birds.



   This is a charming capital. Ljubljana. In Slovenian, the word »Ljubljena« means »beloved«. This sums up how many Slovenians and visitors feel about this city. Green heart of Ljubljana is Tivoli park that offers playgrounds, fountains, ponds, mansions. In Ljubljana one can wonder on charming old streets, visit a castle on the hill top, you can find colorful buildings, Emerald River running through the heart of the capital. It is a small size (one of Europe’s smallest capitals), yet perfect to walk around.


   Go down on Čopova street to the Prešeren square where you will find a statue of Slovenia’s most famous poet (France Prešeren). Next to the square there is the Triple bridge (Tromostovje), a group of three bridges across the Ljubljanica River that runs through the old town. The buildings next to river are colorful and you can find many cute boutiques, concept shops, restaurants and cafes. If you go left you’ll eventually come to another iconic bridge – Dragon bridge (Zmajski most). Before reaching this Dragon bridge, you will pass Market halls that were designed by famous architect Jože Plečnik. This picturesque market is located on the Ljubljanica river embankment from the Dragon to the Triple bridge. Every Friday in the spring and summer market hosts a popular street food event Odprta Kuhna (Open Kitchen), were you can experience the delights of freshly cooked food prepared by different Slovenian chefs right there in front of you, on the market stalls.


   Once in Ljubljana, you must visit the castle. The medieval fortress crowns a 375-metre-high hill in the old town. There are several ways to go up the castle hill. The easiest is with a funicular from Vodnikov trg or a tourist train that leaves from the Tourist Information Centre. If you prefer to walk, you choose from three main paths. The best view of the castle or the best photo opportunity, in my opinion, is from the square Kongresni trg or from the bar Skyscraper (Nebotičnik). There are many great restaurants, bars and shops in Ljubljana, just walk along the river and discover the city on your own.



   Second largest city in Slovenia is located in a region called Štajerska. The most charming part of the town is Lent, the oldest part of Maribor. Pass the Water tower; enjoy your coffee with the view on the river Drava and the red Old bridge. Stop by the Old Vine House in Lent where grows the oldest vine in the world. By the way, while visiting Slovenia, have a glass of wine, as Slovenia is a wine country. Along the river, there are also Judgement Tower and Minorite Monastery. From Lent, continue your way to the Main Square (Glavni Trg) where you can find Plague Pillar, stop for lunch or have a drink in busy Poštna street. You can visit Maribor Castle, Jewish square with synagogue or Franciscan church. When you’re done exploring town, head to the City park or walk up to Piramida Hill (386m). Maribor is also famous for the mountain range just outside the town. Pohorje attracts skiers during the winter (it hosts the Golden Fox championship), but it’s also popular destination during warmer months.




   This attractive town is one of the oldest towns in Slovenia. Ptuj lies in Drava valley and near to popular wine region. Ptuj Wine Cellar is the oldest one in the country. Walk around the medieval town and stop by the Dominican and Minorite Monastery. You cannot miss Ptuj’s castle perched above the town. It is the most dominant landmark in the town. The medieval fortress was built in the 11th century. The castle now houses the museum artefacts. From the castle, you can observe the red-tiles roofs of Ptuj. Ptuj is also famous by the traditional carnival called Kurentovanje. Carnival is a tradition event that has roots in pagan mysticism and it is supposed to chase away the winter and welcome spring. Kurent is the most famous figure in Ptuj’s Carnival.



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