A travel guide to Slovenia

Destinations

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Slovenia may be a small country, but it gets big love from visitors. Find the best places to visit, the top things to do, the best time to visit, and how to plan a trip, all in our Slovenia travel guide

If you’ve never been to Slovenia, you’re in for a treat. It’s one of those places that people visit and fall in love with. No matter how many days you plan on visiting, it might not be enough, as this deceptively small country has a lot of things to do. Never fear, however, as Kiwi.com is on hand to help you plan, budget, and travel around Slovenia. Let’s go, shall we?

Ljubljana

Ljubljana Castle in among city buildings — ShutterstockLjubljana Castle dominates the city skyline — Shutterstock

Ljubljana has all of the elements you feel a city should have — a riverside with cobbled promenade, elegant, red-roofed buildings, green spaces, a castle on a hill — yet it’s also a national capital without any pretense of importance. It’s modest, relaxed, and with a population of just under 300,000, it’s small and friendly too.

If you’re looking for a definitive city itinerary, this is not the city in which to have one. With its compact size, it lends itself perfectly to just seeing where your feet take you. I wonder where this lane goes? Ah, so this is the market square! Ooh, what’s that over there? Now how do I get up to the castle? Cake? Don’t mind if I do!

Ljubljana Old Town, looking down the river — ShutterstockThe Slovenian capital is picturesque and relaxed, without any pretense of importance — Shutterstock

The castle dominates the skyline and offers a couple of memorable experiences for visitors, including the Time Machine, a guided tour through six key periods of the city’s history, told by actors portraying knights, emperors, prisoners, nuns, priestesses and more. You can also choose to play an escape room-style game: one hour to solve five puzzles around the castle, all leading to a fiery encounter with a legendary dragon!

Some of the city’s other attractions include paddleboarding through the city on the river, relaxing in the Tivoli Gardens with its fish pond and botanical gardens, taking a tour of the Union Pivovarna, the local brewery, walking along the cobbled streets along the river, exploring the wonderful Old Town, or poking around remnants of Yugoslav history at the Sunday morning flea market. Despite the city’s size, we can promise you’ll never be bored!

Other sights and adventures

Away from the capital, there are lesser-known towns and cities, and some wonderful scenery: mountains, forests, crashing rivers and hidden trails.

Bled and Novo Mesto

Lake Bled — ShutterstockLake Bled is one of the most photographed places in Slovenia — Shutterstock

Bled is one place almost everyone who visits Slovenia is aware of. The famous lake with its fairytale chapel sitting quietly aloof on an island is one of the most photographed images of the country. The town itself is a spa town at the foot of the Julian Alps, with the mountains of the Triglav National Park to the west, so it’s a popular base for swimmers, skiers, hikers and other outdoorsy types.

Novo Mesto is a quaintly muddled maze of streets piled on a bend in the Krka river, and being in the less-touristy south-east of the country close to the Croatian border, it’s a great place to spend a day getting to know the real Slovenia.

The great outdoors

Kayakers in Triglav National Park — ShutterstockHead to Triglav National Park for outdoor activities against stunning scenery — Shutterstock

Adventure-seekers can head for the mountains and rivers, and with over 60% of the country blanketed in forest, there are plenty of places to go wild. There are rafting and kayaking trips available on the Soča River, with various stretches serving up either calm, crystal clear waters for those less experienced, or raging torrents for those who need a challenge.

The previously-mentioned Triglav National Park offers hiking, climbing, caving, paddleboarding, and excursions of up to four or five days that offer a mixture of the above combined. If you’d like to get up close and personal with some of Slovenia’s non-human occupants, another park (this time the Notranjska Regional Park) runs treks through the wilderness with an expert guide to observation stations where you can hope to spot some of the 600 brown bears that live in the park. You’ll also more than likely see deer, boar, foxes and wolves, but the bear is the real boss of the Slovenian mountains.

A little bit of beach

View of Piran from beach cove — ShutterstockSlovenia’s coastline isn’t long at all, but there are some beautiful spots, such as Piran — Shutterstock

For a breath of sea air, Slovenia has a tiny smudge of Adriatic coast which it makes the most of. Towns like the popular cruise ship stop of Koper or the handsome, Venetian-influenced Piran give travelers the chance to dip their toes in the warm waters, lie on the beach, or try some of the freshly-caught seafood. It’s not something you’d probably associate with Slovenia, but there’s another surprise for you!

Typical budget

Tourist holding tradational Slovenian strukejl in Ljubljana — Shutterstock Your trip doesn’t have to cost the earth — Shutterstock

So, how much will you spend when traveling in Slovenia? Well, you’re looking at around €25 — €30 per night for a hostel dorm in the center of Ljubljana, with private rooms around the €70 mark. Renting a flat in the center averages approximately €160 per night, with that dropping to €80 or so if you’re willing to stay in the suburbs.

Eating and drinking is pretty good value, with a meal for two in a nice restaurant averaging €40 or so. A beer will set you back €3 or so, maybe €6 if you fancy a craft beer or something imported. Breakfast? Perhaps €5 — €8, depending on what you want.

Then there are attractions: tickets to the castle, for example, cost €10, plus an extra €3 if you’d like to add the escape game, for example. All in all, you can probably do and see a decent amount for around €50 — €70 per day, excluding accommodation.

A 7-day itinerary

The best time to visit Slovenia depends on what you’d like to do. There’s skiing in winter, and the height of summer is Mediterranean in temperature. June to August is the tourist season for Ljubljana when the pavement bars and cafes are full, so for a less crowded trip, a warm September or a spring jaunt might be preferable.

Let’s take this as a nice example of a week in Slovenia…

It would be crazy not to start in Ljubljana (and, to be honest, it’ll probably be your entry point to the country anyway), so spend a day or two getting your bearings and relaxing. You could supplement this with a day trip to Lake Bled or the lesser-known Lake Bohinj, or setting off early for 48 hours hiking in the foothills of the Julian Alps, but if you didn’t bring your hiking boots, let’s move on.

Head out into the rugged countryside and discover the country’s system of caves and karsts, particularly the Postojna or Škocjan cave systems: two different experiences, but both accessible from the E61/A1 road from Ljubljana to the coast.

Postojna is a network of vast caverns and tunnels accessible both on foot and also by the unusual addition of a 5km narrow-gauge railway, the longest of its kind in the world. For trips with kids or people with limited mobility, these are the caves to choose. The Škocjan system, on the other hand, features steep climbs leading to breathtaking walks along cliff edges and across seemingly infinite drops, beautifully lit, and bringing to mind the Mines of Moria from Lord of the Rings.

Close to the Postojna caves is the 13th-century Predjama Castle — half castle, half cave. Built into the rock wall, it contains well-restored living areas, lookout points, dungeons, and a secret passage into the caves behind.

Head to Piran next, for a couple of days on the coast. Sunbathing on the rocky shore, or swimming in the bay before heading to the shady backstreet trattorias is the perfect way to recharge before wending your way east towards Novo Mesto, or to the 200 square kilometers of Kozjanski Park, a protected area of natural beauty where castles and villages are connected by trails through woods and orchards, across rolling meadows and along burbling alpine streams.

From there, it’s back to Ljubljana, or onwards somewhere new. North to Austria? East to Hungary? South to Croatia? Your adventure continues with Kiwi.com!

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