Road tripping in Slovenia

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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. Objectively I would also say that is the biggest strength of the country when it comes to tourism. Not that there aren’t any historical, cultural and urban sights to be enjoyed – cities and towns such as Ljubljana, Piran, Ptuj and many others are delightful. My wife loved it and eventually married me – that’s the sole reason I tell you ;).

First thing’s first – I’m not talking about Ljubljana in this post, as you can spend there anywhere from a day to however long you want to relax and enjoy the terrific city center with its sprawling pedestrian only areas, lovely cafes and bars. It’s a great city and the ever growing numbers of incoming tourists are a testament to what a superb environment can be created if you put people, not cars first.

All the cities, towns, attractions, restaurants, hotels and the like, which I’ll be talking about in this post are useful saved and publicly shared on Google Maps. You’ll see it at the bottom of the post and can save it for your upcoming trip. You’ll also notice I don’t recommend where to eat and sleep in every place, that’s because I only highlighted what I found worthy of praise and had personal experience with.

The road trip focuses on the Western part of the country and takes 5 days.

Rent a car

First you’ll want to rent a car. We did it really last minute and it still wasn’t too expensive. We got a VW Golf and paid 45E a day, however at the time of writing this post you could get it for 23E a day. Your best bet is to check on a provider like Rentalcars, I frequently use it and it has been a good experience thus far.

Day 1: Ljubljana – Skofja Loka – Bled (1h’10min drive time) 

Skofja Loka

Pick up your car in the morning and drive from Ljubljana to Skofja Loka, which should take you about 35 minutes. It’s a charming medieval town, with a nice castle and a museum (5E per person).

skofja-lokaDelicious mushrooms
If you like mushrooms and the forest gods have been good to the people that time of the year, stop for lunch at Gostilna Kasca and order a mushroom soup. My wife is an absolute maniac when it comes to mushrooms and to this day she claims it was the best place she’s ever been to. Slovenians love foraging – from mushrooms, blueberries to chestnuts.

You should get actual wild mushrooms in your soup there, not the anemic white button mushrooms, which you’re usually served around the world. Before you get the bright idea of trying to forage yourself, keep in mind you’ll likely going to poison yourself – so leave it to the Slavic people to do that for you :).

mushroom_soup_sloveniaBled

After you’re done filling your stomach, drive off to Bled (40 minutes drive), probably the best known Slovenian attraction. It’s got a lake, that lake has an island, and on that island there’s a cute little church. I mean come on, really?? It’s all getting a bit cheesy by that point, so why not, let’s just throw a castle on that cliff overlooking the lake. Yeah… some countries, I tell you! Visit both the church and the castle (10E per peron), beautiful sights. You can either rent a boat and paddle there yourself or get one of the taxi boats to take you.

Image credits: Pritham D'Souza - (I've lost my images, typical...)
Image credits: Pritham D’Souza – (I’ve lost my images, typical…)

At some points close your eyes and pretend you don’t see remnants of socialist infrastructure that lingers around… Instead get a little bit out of town for your accommodation and choose one of the two glamping options available. If you’re not familiar with the term – it means glamorous camping. You get the outdoors, just without the overcrowded stinky bathrooms and hard floors to sleep on.

Glamping

bled_glamping

Me and my wife spent a night in one of them – called Gozdne Vile, while it wasn’t cheap at 80E per night, it was really beautiful. You get a small wooden house looking thing, that has just enough space for a bed and some storage area. The finishing quality is of amazing quality though and you get beautiful furniture outside your little home and a wooden tub, which should be booked in advance in order for you to take a hot bath. They light a fire under it the previous day and it keeps slowly burning and keeping the water temperature perfect.

Another good option is Garden Village Bled, which is frankly more elaborate and set in a more polished environment.

The walk along the lake from the campsite to the town is enjoyable and you might as well leave your car behind when you go in search for some dinner.

Day 2: Bled – Bohinj (30min drive time) 

Vintgar Gorge
Visit the stunning Vintgar Gorge (5E per person), a short, but beautiful walk across wooden pathways and bridges, surrounded by the forest and Radovna stream, which is responsible for carving out this delightful scenery. It’s a short 5km drive from the town of Bled.

Bled gorge. Image source: travel.over.net
Bled gorge. Image source: travel.over.net

Kremsnita

While you’re in Bled, I guess you have to try the local desert called Kremsnita – a whipped cream and custard cake with a puff pastry base. Like most dishes in Europe, it crosses borders and can be found in several different countries. Heck, even the name Kremsnita, comes from German Cremeschnitte. It was apparently brought to Bled by a chef who saw a similar thing in Serbia – just goes to show that basically it can be kind of hard to really trace the origins of dishes.

Bohinj

After you’re done with Bled, drive off to Bohinj lake (approximately 30 minutes away), which although less famous is actually even prettier in my opinion. You have several things to do there – from hiking in the surrounding hills, chilling out by the lake, canoeing, rock climbing, mountain biking, sorbing, you name it.

A good option is to go hike up to Savica waterfall (3E per person), both a natural and cultural icon of Slovenia. About an hour’s walk brings you up to base of the waterfall.

One way to get close and personal with the Alps, without having to put in any effort is by opting for a cable car, which takes you up to the winter ski resort of Vogel. The return trip costs 14E, while you’ll have to pay a few additional Euros to take the other chairlifts and continue higher up the mountain. Restaurants operate in the summer as well and it offers some great views of the lake beneath and the surrounding Alps. If you’re into mountain biking, this is the place to go, as you can take your bike up with the cable car and then descend on the gravel road back down. Altogether about 10km of adrenaline.

You can also take a dip in the Bohinj lake, which is exceptionally clean. Depending on just how hot of a summer it is, the temperature varies from barely being able to put your toes in to pleasantly warm.

vogel_slovenia_road_trip
Image courtesy: Pritham D’Souza

Eating and sleeping

Bohinj doesn’t exactly excel when it comes to food, at least that’s my experience with it. Having said that, the lake is home to a special kind of trout, called Zlatovscica in Slovenian – try to order it, it’s great. The only place which I would really recommend is a pizza and pasta place named Don Andro, that one is properly good.

As far as sleeping is concerned, I’ve always stayed at the lower end of the price range at Pension Lipa and Residence Triglav, while OK, it was nothing to write home about. The place which I’ve always planned to stay a night at is called Vila Park B&B, as they have an amazing location next to the Savica stream.

Image courtesy: Vila Park B&B
Image courtesy: Vila Park B&B

Day 3: Bohinj – Zelenci – Vrsic Pass – Bovec (2h’25min drive time)

Zelenci

Drive from Bohinj to Zelenci (1h drive), near Kranjska Gora and marvel at the springs of one of Europe’s big rivers, Sava. While Kranjska Gora itself is one of the most popular holiday destinations among Slovenians, for me personally there’s not much to be had there and I would recommend you just skip it, unless you’re devoting a longer time to Slovenia. In that case it’s a useful base for exploring nearby places such as Gozd Martuljek and various pretty valleys in the vicinity.

Zelenci got its name from the Slovenian word for the color green – zelena and once you reach the place it won’t be hard to figure out why :D. While the water might look tempting, think twice before jumping in as you’re likely to get hypothermia with the water temperature around 5-6C. There is no entrance fee for this sight.

Zelenci, Slovenia-1
Zelenci springs (actually didn’t manage to lose this image 🙂

This will be a rather short stop, as the trail from the parking lot quickly brings you to the springs.

Vrsic Pass & Russian Chapel

Once you’re done admiring the place, drive up to the mountain pass of Vrsic (30min drive), which affords amazingly beautiful views of the Alps, without having to put in any effort at all. You’ll see cyclists grinding their teeth on the way up, extremely strenuous stuff! There are several spots to stop on the way up, simply to enjoy the surroundings and snap some pictures of the mountains around you.

In addition to those, there is a famous Russian chapel erected in the memory of fallen captive Russian soldiers which died in a series of avalanches during the First World War. These Russian soldiers were taken prisoner in Eastern Europe, where the Austro-Hungarian Empire was busy fighting Russia and taken to Kranjska Gora, where they were forced to construct a road through the mountain pass of Vrsic in order to facilitate troop movements to another great theatre of WW1 – the Soca Front.

Since it’s just next to the road it makes for an easy stop and is worth your time. It’s also free.

vrsic_pass_road_slovenia
Vrsic Pass – at the top

The top of the road or the actual Vrsic Pass can get ridiculously busy over the weekends in the Summer, so much so that you might not be able to find a parking spot at all. If your trip happens to fall on one of those days, make sure you stop at some points before reaching the top, as the crowds there kind of diminish the whole experience.

After having “conquered” the pass, you’ll immediately start descending and reach the valley of Soca in 20 minutes or so. Honestly you can spend a week or more exploring this region, especially if you like adrenaline sports, hiking, fishing, cycling and the like. I won’t go into all of that in detail, but instead give you an example itinerary, which is a mix of what we did and what I’d do now. If you’re interested in hiking the area, you can read my Hiking in the enchanting Soca Valley post.

Soca Gorge

From Vrsic pass, your first stop should be the Great Soca Gorge – a narrow 750m long gorge, which the Soca river carved out across the millennia. It’s a wonderland of deep pools and since the pathways are connected all the way throughout the valley you can make your walk as long as you wish. There is no admission fee to the place.

Hiking in Soca valley

Wrap up your day in Bovec by arranging a whitewater rafting trip the next morning.

For your accommodation I would recommend a great new hostel in town, which also has private rooms, Soca Rocks. Immaculately clean, well run and with a lovely hammock equipped backyard.

Day 4: Bovec – Kobarid – Stanjel – Pliskovica (2h driving) 

Rafting & other activities

You can book your rafting trip by contacting any of the various operators in town. I’ve always gone with Soca Rafting and was happy with their services. Alternatively you can opt for any of the numerous other activities on offer, such as hydrospeed (you’re in the water with a float and flippers, great fun), canyoning, mountain biking and the list goes on and on.

Soca hydrospeed
Hydrospeed might be a better option than rafting if you’re searching for an adrenaline dose.

If you’ve never been rafting before, the most basic trip will probably do, however for anybody that has been on the water before, try inquiring for whatever run has the most adrenaline packed rapids. I personally don’t find level 2 rapids exciting and don’t even bother going on such excursions anymore.

Kobarid: WW1 Museum & Kozjak waterfall

After you’re done splashing around in Soca, continue your drive to the town of Kobarid, where you can visit the excellent World War 1 museum (6E per person) and get to know about one of the most famous battle grounds of the war – the Soca Front. This was one of the bloodiest theaters of war where the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Italy were hammering it out for years, without much territory gained by either side. It was a gruesome affair and the museum paints a good picture of the misery these men were going through.

After that you could visit the Kozjak Waterfall, situated in a dramatic half cave kind of a thing. It takes about 30 minutes walk through the forest one way and you’ll get to admire the deep turquoise waters of Soca as well. There’s no admission fee to this attraction.

Kozjak waterfall. Image source: pictureslovenia.com
Kozjak waterfall. Image source: pictureslovenia.com

Best Slovenian restaurant

Now since you’re in the area, you might want to visit probably the best restaurant in Slovenia – Hisa Franko. It’s a 15 minute drive from Kobarid and while of course anything but cheap, it is a culinary delight well worth spending on. Make sure you reserve it in advance if you decide to go. If that’s a bit over your budget, you can always choose one of the restaurants in Kobarid as well. Make sure you try the local delicacy called Kobariski Struklji, a sort of dumplings filled with walnuts, raisins, rum and other ingredients.

If you’re looking into a truly one of a kind dining experience and you have an extra day on your disposal while you’re in Ljubljana, check out Skarucna in my A Hedonistic Plunge into Slovenian Food post.

Karst region

To finish your day, get back in your car and drive off to the Karst region of Slovenia, leaving the Alpine wonderland behind you. Stop in Stanjel (1h20min from Kobarid), a charming fortified medieval town – it’s a great place for a stroll in the narrow alleys. This or any of the surrounding villages would also make for a useful place to call it a day. There’s a great hostel that has private rooms as well, about 15 minutes drive away in the village of Pliskovica. Lovely setting!

Stanjel
Image courtesy: fiumedistelle.blogspot.in The Ferrari garden in Stanjel is a popular wedding spot.

While in this region, you need to try Kraski Prsut or as is more commonly known in English, prosciutto. It’s a dry-cured ham thinly sliced and served with bread, made from a pig’s or wild boar’s hind leg. It’s one of the best dried meats in the world, however it really depends on your luck just what kind of quality you’ll end up getting.

Day 5: Pliskovica – Lipica – Skocjan Caves – Predjama Castle – Ljubljana (2h10min driving) 

Lipica stud farm

After waking up, drive to Lipica (30 min) to admire the regal Lipizzan horses. The royal stud farm was built in 1578 by the Habsburg Archduke Charles and the horses were brought from Spain. You can wander around the area some or join a guided tour of the stable for 16E. It runs every hour in the Summer, from 10am to 5pm.

lipizzaner-horses-lipica
Image courtesy: Pritham D’Souza

Skocjan Caves

From there head on to Skocjan Caves (15 min), a UNESCO listed natural attraction which looks like a scene straight out of Lord of the Rings. You might have heard about Postojna Cave as well, since it is a more famous sight and while it’s definitely worth visiting, I would pick Skocjan over it any day. However if you’re a fan of caves, you can still visit both of them.

Skocjan Caves are huge and it takes a fair bit to walk it – the tour is guided and costs 16E. Once you get out you have the option of taking an elevator or a pathway, which although requires some effort going uphill, is really worth it, as the sinkhole, waterfall and in general the Karst features are incredibly scenic.

Image courtesy: Pritham D'Souza
Image courtesy: Pritham D’Souza

Bear meat ahead!

Feeling adventurous? Want to taste something rather unorthodox? Well you’re in the right region as just on your way between Skocjan Caves and Predjama Castle, you can make a slight detour by getting off the highway and stopping for lunch at Stari Grad restaurant. Now I can’t promise they’ll have bear meat on the menu, as we Slovenians don’t exactly breed them for consumption. Having said that, both times that I’ve visited the restaurant and asked for bear meat they had it on offer.

It usually comes in the form of a goulash, eaten with polenta or bread. Have a go and try it, it’s not everyday you get to eat a bear. Better a bear in your stomach than vice versa is what I say.

Predjama Castle

As I was saying drive over to Predjama Castle (30 min and just next to Postojna Cave in fact) to check out a castle painstakingly carved and built into the rock face. The entrance will set you back 12 E. It used to be inhabited by a famous bandit who kept robbing royal convoys in the region. Due to elaborate tunnels connecting the castle to its surroundings, the bandit was always evading capture and couldn’t be starved out either, until he was betrayed by one of his people. The usual…

predjama-castleTo finish off the day and your trip you can either sleep in the area of Postojna or head back to Ljubljana, which is about an hour’s drive away.

If you have more than 5 days on your disposal this same trip can of course be done at a more leisurely pace and you can explore all these regions further. Also I’ve left out a gem of a town called Piran, situated on the short Slovenian coast. If you have a day extra you can spare, a visit will most certainly not disappoint.

And if you’re looking to do even more while you’re in Slovenia, you can check my Travel in Slovenia – the absolute must do experiences blog post for additional ideas.

Map, detailing all the places mentioned for this Slovenia road trip

Just click on that little star below and the map will get saved to your Google Account, meaning it will be accessible from any device you are logged into. Make sure you download all the places for offline viewing as well, a great feature of Google Maps that is always useful when traveling abroad.

1 COMMENT

  1. I would really like to return to Slovenia. We took a one week vacation in the country a few years ago when we were living in Slovakia. We really enjoyed what we had time to see, which was sadly not all that we wanted. But both Ljubljana and Piran was really amazing. 🙂

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