Places to visit in Slovenia
Make the most of your time
Slovenia boasts amazing diversity for a country the size of Wales. Venetian-inspired Piran is one of the loveliest places to visit in Slovenia, star of an Adriatic coast backed by some of Slovenia's 300 vineyards. The Julian Alps are a must for hiking, climbing and landscape photography plus a stunning backdrop to the gorgeous lakes Bled and Bohinj. Whitewater rafters plunge down the Soca River, while Postojna and kocjan boast some of the world's finest caves. And is Ljubljana Europe's prettiest capital? You decide whether it's even Slovenia's prettiest town, given rivals like Celja and Ptuj.
This often overlooked gem boasts a historic centre stuffed with fabulous architecture and excellent museums, overlooked by a vast castle gazing down on the Savinja River. Be sure to see the frescoes in the lovely 14th century Abbey Church of St Daniel, plus the grisly skulls of local nobles in the 16th century County Hall museum.
With its romantic fairytale church on an islet, a medieval castle clinging to a rocky cliff and the magnificent peaks of the Julian Alps as backdrop, Lake Bled beguiles everyone from romantics to backpackers. The 11th century castle houses a fine history museum, while 4km from the lakeside town of Bled, the Vintgar Gorge offers a wooden walkway above the swirling Radovna River.
25km from Lake Bled is its arch-rival in the gorgeous lake stakes. 4km long by 1km wide, Bohinj attracts fewer crowds, though its clear blue-green waters are no less ideal for swimming and kayaking. Add charming traditional villages to the lakes northeast, and a gentle picturesque trail along its southern shore leading to the Savica Waterfall.
The impact of Lipica, some 9km southwest of Divaca and 2km from the Italian border, has been far greater than its tiny size would suggest. This tiny village lives for and on its snow-white Lipizzaner horses, which were first bred here for the Spanish Riding School in Vienna in the late 16th century.
Founded 2,000 years ago as the Roman town of Emona, Ljubljana is a leafy, compact beauty set neatly within a lazy bend of the Ljubljanica River. Enjoy the stupendous view from Castle Hill, then dive into an Old Town of 19th-century wooden shops, medieval architectural treasures, and atmospheric courtyards and cobbled lanes. A particularly pretty area is around Stari trg.
Set on the Drava River, Slovenia's second-largest city exudes a relaxed cafe-fuelled vibe centred on an unpolished Old Town with its 15th century castle. The annual riverside arts festival was a highlight of Maribor's turn as European Capital of Culture in 2012. Nearby, explore the pretty Maribor Pohorje hills plus the vineyards of Mariborske and Slovenske Gorice.
Nova Gorica is a university border town whose tree-lined boulevards and lovely parks actually stretch into Italy. Near the train station, the 17th century Kostanjevica Monastery boasts a lovely stuccoed church with the tombs of the last French Bourbon kings, while 3km outside the town, 17th century Kromberk Castle houses a fabulous archaeology and arts museum.
Perched on the tip of a slender Adriatic peninsula, Piran is a beguiling melange of Venetian Gothic architecture and seaside pleasures. Come in April/May or September/October to avoid the summer throngs, soaking up the briny air while pottering winding alleys and refuelling at a host of seafood restaurants.
With over 20km of passages, galleries and chambers, these are among the most spectacular cave systems in Europe and its most visited. Since the 1870s, a fantastic cave train has whisked visitors through a sensitively-illuminated geological wonderland. Above ground, be sure to visit the nearby Predjama Castle, one of Slovenia's most atmospheric fortresses.
Rising gently above a wide valley, Ptuj is Slovenia's oldest and probably prettiest town, a symphony of Roman and medieval memories by the Drava River. Its glorious historic core castle, monasteries, churches is a compact joy, and complemented by side trips can easily be seen in a day.
This world-renowned UNESCO-listed cave system is where the Reka River disappears underground, and includes the world's largest subterranean canyon. Its extraordinary ecosystem blends Mediterranean, Central European, Illyrian and Alpine bio-geographical elements, highlighted by various rare cave animals. Above ground, local museums showcase remarkable archaeological finds dating back 5,000 years.
Soca River Valley
Tumbling from the western flank of the Julian Alps, the Soca offers some of Europe's most enthralling white-water rafting as it rushes to the Adriatic through a series of churning grade II/III+ rapids. Be dazzled too by the unique colour of the water locals argue whether it's emerald green, cobalt blue or turquoise.
Triglav National Park
Slovenia's only national park sits in the country's northwest, taking in the majestic Julian Alps, sylvan woods and tumbling mountain rivers that are wonderland for walking and white-water rafting. The iconic Mt Triglav, Slovenia's highest peak, is at the heart of the park, while the turquoise waters of the Soca and Sava rivers rush through gorgeous valleys radiating from the mountains.
This fertile vale near Nova Gorica is a red wine mecca (particularly merlot) with a Wine Road to aid exploration. Add peach and apricots orchards renowned for their dazzling autumn foliage. The central town of Vipava is full of old stone churches in the lee of Mt Nanos, while 2km north lies Zemono Manor, a grandly frescoed 17th century summer hunting lodge.
Travel times in Slovenia
- Ljubljana to Maribor: 1hr 45 mins by train
- Ljubljana airport to city centre: 30 minutes by bus/taxi
- Ljubljana to Bled: 1hr 30 mins by bus
- Lake Bled to Lake Bohinj: 30 minutes by car
- Ljubljana to Piran: 2 hours by bus
- Ljubljana to Postojna Caves: 45 minutes by car
- Trieste (Italy) to Piran: 45 minutes by car