1.) Descent into the Lord of the Rings like caves
Slovenia is famous for its caves, especially the Postojna cave, which has been on the tourist trail for almost 200 years! It is most certainly a spectacular sight to visit with its fun little train and impressive stalagmite and stalactite formations. Do bear in mind however that it can become somewhat overcrowded at the height of the tourist season in mid July to mid June and over the weekends in general.
One of its star attraction is the olm, a salamander adapted for life in complete darkness, with a life span of up to 70 years. In Slovenian language it’s called the human fish, due to the color of its skin and in English speaking media you’ll often notice referred to it as a dragon :). Lately, it has been catching the attention of the world over, when for the first time ever a “baby dragon hatched in Postojna cave“.
If you only make it to one of the caves on your travel, then the real gem you should be looking at is Skocjan caves. A UNESCO listed wonder, which is remarkably less renowned, however visitor numbers are picking up and it is in no way deserted. The cave is absolutely huge and the atmosphere makes you feel like you’re in the center of an epic Lord of the Rings kind of a journey.
For all the serious cave buffs out there, the adventure doesn’t stop with the above two and further sights like Pivka cave, Snezna cave, Pekel cave, Kostanjeviska cave and many others await.
2.) See & join the counter culture of Ljubljana
By now Ljubljana is fairly known to the outside world, mainly due to the beautification of the old city center in the last 10 years or so. Without a doubt, the city has become both a huge magnet for tourists as well as an incredibly pleasant place for its residents. Amidst this development, stands a self proclaimed autonomous counter culture zone situated in the decaying grounds of the former bicycle manufacturing plant of Tovarna Rog.
The battle between people using the place (and their supporters) for all sorts of artistic, social and other projects and the Municipality of Ljubljana over the future of the grounds continues raging and the final outcome remains to be seen. For now, hurry up and come take a look at what’s happening at Tovarna Rog – from art installations to parties, you’ll see a different side of the picture perfect city center.
And that’s just the lesser known of Ljubljana’s alternative scene, for there is always the more established Metelkova.
3.) Get your adrenaline dose in the Soca Valley
For anybody looking to get their heart racing, the Soca river valley is a perfect fit. The emerald darling of Slovenia is the undisputed capital of the country’s adventure tourism, specifically of the liquid kind. Be it hiking, white water kayaking, rafting, hydro-speed, canyoning, zorbing, the region has you covered. In addition to that it hosts one of the best metal festivals found around the world – MetalDays.
You can get a taste of adventure around various other hotspots surrounding the alps as well, with Bohinj being a good base.
Imagine a mouthwatering 7 course meal, amazing Slovenian and Italian wines, a beautiful rustic setting and… wait a minute, that´s not THAT special, right?
Well then, add a visit behind the scenes in the kitchen to get acquainted with the methods of preparing the food, a magnificent selection of vinyl records played (you’ll get two CDs to take away with you), a restaurant and grounds full of trinkets and of course the star attraction to top it all of – an eccentric owner who just might slap that succulent trout he brought for you in the face, throw a knife in the wall and brush it all away with his signature laughter.
This is going to be a project! Meaning a 7 course meal and a free flow of paired wines, honey beer, various liqueurs and the like. Further on you will keep in mind that you’ll spend a long time there, not because you have to, but because time will literally fly. I visited the place twice, on the first occasion we spent 9 hours there and on the second around 7 or 8.
The place is called Skarucna and is a mere 15 minutes drive from Ljubljana (get a cab, you’ll be ever so slightly intoxicated by the time you’re done.)
5.) Go hiking amidst pristine landscapes
Slovenia is a perfect place to go hiking with its numerous marked trails, pristine forests, clean rivers and towering alps (60% of the country is covered with trees, making it the 3rd greenest in Europe). With hiking and mountaineering being enormously popular, there is a marked trail leading to basically any hill or mountain you set your eyes upon. Be it the high altitude Alps or the rolling hills of Prekmurje region, you can walk it.
Just recently I’ve done a superb two day hike of the Soca Valley pictured below.
A great resource for planning and finding you trips is the English version of the long standing Slovenian website Hribi.net. Besides that, practically every regional and local tourist organization online will have additional info on what’s best to hike in their respective area.
If you’re hardcore and looking for a serious challenge, then look no further than the Slovenian Mountain Trail, a whooping 553km trail that traverses the entire length of Slovenian Alps and was marked already back in 1953 by the eager beavers of the Alpine Association of Slovenia.
The only thing it needs is a properly tuned website to really bring the ease into planning (yeah, I’m a bit annoyed with my country for not following the lead of neighboring Austria which put most of its long distance trails online how it’s supposed to be done). On the other hand, you’ll be one of only a few ten people that manage this demanding route each year.
6.) Embrace the coffee culture
In Slovenia it’s quite normal to go out for 2 coffees and a beer on three separate occasions all in one day. That’s just how we role :). Seriously, we love spending time sipping coffees and drinking our beer and wine in numerous outdoor cafes and bars. So, make sure you get your favorite brew, sit down, relax, have a chat and do some people watching. Also try to solve some problems of the world while you’re at it.
7.) Let the old small towns charm you for life
Slovenia is dotted with numerous small towns and villages, many of which are incredibly picturesque. Some of the best known ones are the tourism promotion material darling of Bled and the Mediterranean beauty of Piran. But honestly, if you get yourself a car while travelling in Slovenia and go on a road trip, you’ll be rewarded with many cute little places on your way. Just to mention some of them: Ptuj, Kostanjevica, Štanjel, Škofja Loka, Padna, Žužemberk and a bunch of others I forgot or don’t even know about (*hangs his head in shame for not exploring his own country well enough*).
8.) Go medieval and visit the castles
While admittedly Slovenia is no Bavaria or Czech Republic when it comes to castles, it nevertheless boasts some superbly located ones. Bled, as mentioned before as a charming little town acts as a superb backdrop to the castle perched above the lake’s shore.
The most impressively located one would have to be the Predjama castle, which is located conveniently close to the Postojna cave, with combining the two making a perfect day. Carved into the stone wall, the castle acted as a base for the notorious bandit Erazem of Predjama who held out a siege for over a year until he was finally betrayed by one of his subjects.
There are also other castles that are well worth the visit, with Otočec, Brežice, Škofja Loka, Ljubljana, Mokrice to list just some of them. For a complete list of castles in Slovenia you can head over to Gradovi.net website.
9.) See the water at play in the fabulous gorges
There are some incredibly scenic gorges to explore in Slovenia, taking you deep into the hill crevices where water narrates the atmosphere. They are mostly easily accessible if you have your own wheels and a reasonable cover charge applies. Probably the most impressive of all is the Vintgar Gorge in Bled, but there are numerous others which are well worth the trip as well. To list some of those you might find rewarding: Tolmin Gorge, Rakov Škocjan, Iški Vintgar, Slap Kozjak and I’m sure some others I can’t recall right now.
10.) Follow the wine roads
Anybody that spends at least a little bit of time travelling in Slovenia will find out we sure love to savor the finer things in life. Especially alcohol, which admittedly we do tend to overdo here and there 🙂
A common misconception people unfamiliar with the country usually have is that vodka must be the booze of choice. In reality it is beer and wine that flows through our veins, both of which is produced locally. Wine has been produced ever since the Celts and Romans started cultivating grapes a few thousand years ago. In fact the oldest vine in the world (400 years) is located in Maribor, Slovenia.
The home grown whites and reds are of the best quality in the world and numerous “wine roads” throughout the country enable travelers to visit and taste them. Having your own car would be extremely convenient yet again, however you could sign up for a guided tour that includes transport. Alternatively you can also get to taste some exquisite wines while you’re in Ljubljana as well. Pop in to Movia Wine Bar & Shop and you most certainly won’t be disappointed.
11.) Go glamping
If you’re not familiar with the term yet, glamping is basically a luxurious spin on camping. Meaning the concept is still you spending as much time outside as possible, sleeping in beautiful natural settings. Instead of crawling your way in a small uncomfortable tent, you are treated to high class comfort. Steadily these options are growing in number in Slovenia and some incredibly well done are available now – from simple concepts to proper 5 star accommodations.
12.) Go on a Road Trip
Me and my wife did a 5 day Slovenia road trip the first time I took her to my home country. As I’m a huge fan of nature, our itinerary was mostly geared towards admiring that side of Slovenia. It’s an awesome way to explore the place on your own terms and is the best option when you’re short on time. You can check my Road tripping in Slovenia post for a sample 5 day itinerary of the Western part of the country.