10 Reasons to Put Slovenia on Your Bucket List
Nestled between Italy, Austria, and Croatia, is Slovenia, a small country that has something for every traveler. Slovenia used to be a part of Yugoslavia and gained independence in 1991. The melting pot of influences from a variety of nations and cultures make it a truly unique destination. Slovenia may not be at the top of your travel bucket list, but here are 10 reasons to change that.
1) It's an affordable European destination.
Slovenia’s capital, Ljubljana, has Western European vibes that will remind you of Amsterdam while still being very affordable. Start with a free city walking tour in Ljubljana to get your bearings. Wander the cobblestone streets, peek into hipster shops in the cute downtown area, and when you get hungry, stop for some cevapcici (delicious Balkan sausage).
AirBnb options range from 15-20€ (18-24 USD) per night. A meal for two at a restaurant will set you back around 25-30€ (30-36 USD). Budget in tickets to Postonja caves and the Predjama castle (around 35€ (42 USD) per person). Pack yourself a picnic to avoid the expensive tourist shops and restaurants that line the entrance to the caves.
2) It's compact and diverse.
Slovenia is a small country that can be squeezed into a few busy days or spread out over a more leisurely week. Use Ljubljana as a home base for day trips instead of booking various accommodations. Most of the spots you’ll visit are less than 2 hours away from the capital.
Public transport is abundant, but the best way to explore Slovenia is by car. A one-week rental costs around 250€ (298 USD) plus gas and can be rented with a US driver’s license. Fortunately, the locals take after their Austrian rather than Italian neighbors when it comes to driving. The roads are easy to navigate and parking is abundant as long as you don't venture too far into the city center. If you're planning on staying in downtown Ljubljana, make sure your accommodation includes parking.
Neighboring Italy, Austria and Croatia can easily be added to your itinerary. Trieste, Italy or Zagreb, Croatia make great day trip or overnight destinations.
3) You'll feel like an insider (kind of).
The locals are friendly and welcoming. Everyone speaks English so it’s easy to strike up a conversation and make friends. Slovenia is culturally diverse so you'll blend in! There are tourists from other European countries, but not many from America (YET!) giving it an off the beaten path vibe that’s difficult to find in popular European destinations.
4) All that scenery.
Sea, lakes, mountains, Slovenia has it all! In 2016, Slovenia was named one of the greenest (environmentally friendly and sustainable) countries in the world, so breathe in that fresh mountain air and enjoy the crystal clean spring water.
Set out for a beach day on the Adriatic Sea, stroll the cobblestone streets of Koper or Piran, and cap it off with fresh seafood at one of the local restaurants. Cantina Klet is a favorite in Piran.
Take a trip to Lake Bled (don’t miss the traditional blejska rezina dessert). For a bird’s eye view of the fairytale church on the island, visit the castle or follow the hiking trail towards Velika Osojnica and Ojstrica. Vintgar Gorge is a short drive and can be visited in the same day. Neighboring Lake Bohinj and Slap Savica waterfall also make for a great day trip.
5) Underground secrets.
Grab your jacket and check out the massive cave system, Postojna caves. Then head over to Predjama castle. Built into the mouth of a cave, it’s easily the coolest castle hideout in Slovenia. Take advantage of the audio tour to learn about the secret passageways and legends that make up the castle’s history.
6) It's sports galore.
In Slovenia, activities are numerous and can be adapted to fit any budget. River Soča is synonymous with kayaking and whitewater rafting. Adrenaline junkies will feel right at home plummeting down the Planica zipline or bungee jumping from the Solkan bridge.
For a more relaxed option, the Julian Alps offer endless hiking options for all levels. Make a day out of renting bikes in Bovec and riding along the Rižana River until the Napoleon Bridge. Or practice your rowing skills and venture out to the Blejski Otok island in Lake Bled.
7) Wine tasting in Vipava Valley.
Most of the Vipava Valley wineries are small family owned operations. Head to the information office in Vipava to get maps and a recommendations on where to go daily for a wine “tour”, which really means sitting down with a family and spending the afternoon in their garden, trying various types of wine, and eating amazing cheeses and salami.
Wine not your thing? Slovenia serves up some great microbrews. Keep an eye out for them on the menus of the many bars and restaurants that line the Ljubljanica River in downtown Ljubljana.
8) The Food.
Slovenia’s cuisine is both unique and affordable. Slovenia has yet to make its way on the European culinary map, but local chefs are working to change that. Check out the Chef’s Table episode on Ana Ros for some culinary (and travel) inspiration.
If you find yourself in Ljubljana on a Friday, the Odprta Kuhinja food market is filled with rows of vendors serving up everything from traditional Slovenia dishes to BBQ to dim sum. Add kranjska klobasa (traditional sausage served with mustard), polenta (served as cornbread-esque side), štruklji (dough rolled with a sweet or savory filling) and potica (traditional nut roll cake) to your list of dishes to try.
9) It's a sweet country.
In a country of just 2 million inhabitants, there are 90,000 beekeepers. Its native bee is protected and honey is a national trademark. Head to the market during the weekend to try and buy all kinds of honeys from local beekeepers. With shops offering honey, pastries and ice cream on every corner, it's easy to indulge in dessert every day. If you’re anything like us, you’ll lose count by the end of your trip.
10) That fairytale feel.
Maybe it’s the medieval castles or the ever present dragon images, but there’s something undeniably magical about this country. Whether you’re getting lost in nature or in labyrinth side streets, it’s easy to fall under the spell of Slovenia’s charm. So pack your bag, grab your passport, and check this hidden gem off of your list.
You can follow Hannah's experiences living in Majorca, Spain (@onwardtoanywhere) and Lera's upcoming holiday travels (@leery_yav)!