Imagine a place of snow-capped peaks, turquoise lakes and small villages dotted around the countryside. I could go on and on about the stunning beauty that is Slovenia. When I decided to travel to Slovenia, I had no idea the gem that it would turn out to be.
Slovenia is a small country nestled between the borders of Italy, Austria, Hungary and Croatia with the Adriatic Sea flanking the southwest side creating a tiny piece of coastline.
I have to admit I had no idea about Slovenia. I stumbled across it and the delights it held when trawling travel forums researching a trip. Lake Bled kept popping up time and again, so I decided to take a look. I added it to our itinerary, and it turned out to be one of the highlights of months of travel through Europe.
From mountainous landscape to its beautiful and quaint capital Ljubljana, stunning lakes and the intriguing Karst Region full of underground caverns and waterways, this country truly is a destination worth discovering.
If Slovenia has escaped your attention and you have yet to visit, then I would suggest you go soon. Although some have described Lake Bled as touristy in no way does it compare to other popular European destinations. I found the people welcoming, easy to get around, and even the touristy places were nothing to be bothered about.
The following are my recommendations for your visit to Slovenia. They are in no particular order of preference.
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A beautiful old-world city, the capital of Slovenia, is definitely worth your time. With its small size making it easy to explore it has a lot to see. From the diverse range of markets to browse through and the Old Town which sits below the castle to the upmarket fashion retailers most would expect in a capital city. It is a beautiful, quaint, welcoming city that you should undoubtedly allocate at least a full day if not more.
Make sure you take the time to wander around Ljubljana Castle which sits perched overlooking the city. The hike up to the castle is not for the faint-hearted, and if that doesn’t sound like something you want to take on, then there is a glass funicular that will carry you to the top affording you stunning views on the way.
The symbol of the city is the dragon which adorns bridges everywhere.
Postojna Cave & Predjama Castle
The Slovenian Karst Region is something to be seen. An underground world exists beneath the surface with underwater rivers forging their way through limestone creating a stunning, otherworldly landscape.
In Postojna Cave an underground railway 3km long takes visitors deep within the earth to view all that these caves have to offer, stunning stalactites and stalagmites, beautiful pillars and curtains of translucent beauty.
The castle is open daily to the public, and the cave beneath the castle is open to visitors from May to September. It is closed in winter to allow for the hibernation of the bat colony who call it home.
Only 9 km from Postojna Cave is Predjama Castle. Built high halfway up a 123-metre high cliff and in the mouth of the huge cave, Predjama Castle has existed for 800 years and is listed in the Guinness World Records as the largest cave castle in the world.
There is a free shuttle bus that runs between Postojna Cave and Predjama Castle, available in July and August for those visitors who purchase a combo ticket to both attractions.
For those that would prefer to stay overnight rather than taking a day trip, take a look at Hotel Jama, located in the Postojna Cave Park and overlooking the Pivka River.
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What Skocjan Caves lack in the beauty it more than makes up for in the awe-inspiring first glimpse of its underground canyon 150m deep and high above the Reka River which carved this vast cavern. For those with a fear of heights, walking across the Cerkevnik bridge, stretched across the vast abyss, can be like a leap of faith.
A Unesco listed site, Skocjan Caves is a must-see. It indeed is a site that defies description and not until you capture your first glimpse can you understand the magnitude of this cavern.
Guided tours take one and a half hours and don’t forget a jumper. The first part of the cave can be quite cold, around 12°C.
Whitewater rafting on the Soca River
The town of Bovec is the gateway to adventure into the Soca Valley with some operators offering whitewater rafting, kayaking and canyoning.
The Soca River winds its way through the stunning landscape, and the pure crystalline waters tumble through forested valleys, over waterfalls and through canyons.
Depending on the time of year, and water, you may be in for a heat thumping adventure or a more sedate, less adrenaline-pumping experience. For us, it was the latter, but still a worthwhile experience.
The scenery and clear cold aqua water make this a worthwhile experience.
And the “take your breath away” plunge into the icy water is indeed something I will never forget.
Did someone say fairy tale? Then they must have been talking about Lake Bled.
An impossibly tranquil lake filled with crystal clear turquoise water with a tiny island dotting the middle. A quaint church with its bell tower sits prettily atop. Perched high on a cliff overlooking this beautiful lake is the medieval fortress of Bled Castle, a perfect spot from which to view the stunning landscape.
You can visit the island by hiring a rowboat or better yet take a traditional pletna. There is no charge to visit except for transport there. However, there is an entrance fee for the church. And don’t forget to ring the wishing bell, a sure thing to make that special wish come true.
Lake Bled is one of those places that is hard to describe. Located at the foot of the Julian Alps its beauty is something to be seen and with water, an impossible colour to describe this is somewhere painters and photographers would relish as would all those true romantics.
Although a great day trip from Ljubljana I would suggest you take some time and stay here. There is a vast variety of accommodation from camping to five-star villas and everything in between. A simple yet wonderful past time is to take your time and walk around the lake stopping at places of interest as you go.
If you are a foodie, you must try the Bled Cream Cake or Kremna Rezina. A special treat created in Bled by the former manager of the Hotel Park patisserie. These cakes are available from a variety of places, though the most famous possibly being the ones that are prepared at the Hotel’s patisserie and sold in the café opposite.
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This is one of the most stunning places I have ever visited. It is a 1.6 km walk along, through and over the Radovna forging its way through Vintgar Gorge.
Walk along wooden bridges through vertical cliffs, follow the trail along the river and see the crystal clear water winding its way along turning into rapids, pools and waterfalls and admire the single arch stone bridge of the Bohinj railway built-in 1906 spanning the width of the gorge 33 m above the path.
Vintgar Gorge is a place you won’t forget and now is the time to visit before it becomes crowded. Vintgar Gorge is listed as an important Slovenian site, and visitor numbers are growing each year.
Entry is 5€ for Adults and is open for visitors from 8.00 a.m. to 7.00 p.m. Parking is free. You can find out more information here.
A 26 km drive from Lake Bled, you will find the less touristy destination, but no less beautiful Lake Bohinj. Lake Bohinj has a more laid-back pace than Lake Bled. The look and feel are entirely different, but for those wanting to escape the tourist crowd, this is undoubtedly a place to mark on your map.
The largest lake in Slovenia, Lake Bohinj offers a range of activities from rowing, paragliding and hiking. A great place to relax, swim in the clear blue-green water and explore the quaint villages that border it.
To travel to Lake Bohinj trains and buses run daily from both Lake Bled and Ljubljana.
Getting to Slovenia
Flying from Australia, there are no direct flights to Slovenia.
A great excuse to fly into another European destination and explore for a little bit before flying to Slovenia using a European carrier.
It really is a hidden jewel for Australians.
I loved this country and my time there. We stayed in Lake Bled for a week camping, organised through a Dutch company called, Tentsetters (see article Finding the right Hotel) and found the overall experience wonderful although sending off a cheque was a little daunting. There was no online payment system or direct debit.
I found the people friendly and welcoming, and never had a problem with the language barrier.
We took day trips from Lake Bled to Ljubljana and Skocjan Caves, and we drove to Bovec for our white water rafting experience. We also visited Lake Bohinj and Vingtar Gorge.
I plan on returning and exploring more and revisiting my favourites. I really do mean that you should visit now before more people realise what a gem this country is.
Give yourself enough time in each place. Don’t try to rush Lake Bled in a day, stay a few and explore Lake Bohinj and Vingtar Gorge from there without having to rush.
Take your time in Ljubljana, although quaint and small for a capital city, it deserves your time.