This pint sized country sandwiched between Italy and Croatia is a stunner. It joined the EU in 1994 and adopted the Euro in 2007- it is one of the most affordable European countries that I have visited. Why is Slovenia so special? I love countries that offer a great diversity in terrain over a small distance to cover- Slovenia has the Julian Alps, spectacular lakes, phenomenal caves and castles, a little Adriatic coastline thrown in, even a wine growing region, some three thousand- plus churches and monasteries and some stunning architecture. Slovenia is also one of the greenest European countries (about 60% of the country is covered with forests)- A perfect short break destination. As a vegetarian I also found that the country offered a good variety of options and some fine wines. The highest peak Mount Triglav is a national symbol found even on the flag and attracts hikers and climbers. The Venetians once controlled the south west of the country and left their mark on its architecture. My pick of the Must-Sees of Slovenia –
A melting-pot of different cultures, with a medieval castle, statues of dragons, and candy coloured Baroque buildings Ljubljana (pronounced Lyoobliana), the Capital city, is truly fairy tale land. There are decorative Bridges over the Ljubljnaca River, cobblestone alleys and a café culture with a Bohemian vibe. Preseren Square is the heart of the city filled with street performers, musicians and milling crowds Much of Ljubljana’s architecture is the work of master architect Joze Plecnik. Visit the distinctive Triple Bridge, the churches and the university library which are his handiwork.
Walk up the hill to Ljubljana Castle and climb the tower for a wondrous view of the city with its orange roofs, the green river and the distant Julian Alps. Take a river cruise to the Botanical gardens admiring the willow lined banks and the artworks on the walls. Walk through the eclectic flea market south of the Triple Bridge and pick up wild honey, decorative glass, painted wooden toys.
LAKE BLED AND TRIGLAV NATIONAL PARK:
A glassy emerald lake ringed by forests, a picture perfect island perched in the centre with a dainty baroque church and a forbidding medieval castle on a rock crag overlooking the lake like a protective guardian. Bled castle which is a storybook castle- complete with ramparts, towers and moat and Disneyesque red conical brick roofs. The Triglav National Park is a hiker’s paradise with lakes, waterfalls and wildlife. Spend at least one night in Bled though it can be done as a day trip from Ljubljana.
POSTONJA CAVES AND PRETJAMA CASTLE:
Slovenia is famous for its peculiar karst or limestone landscapes and caves. There are more than 8000 caves all over this country and caving is a much enjoyed local pastime. Stretching over more than 20 kilometres, the Postojna caves in Slovenia is breathtaking. There is a miniature, open narrow gauge train which ferries the tourists through an artificial tunnel. There are all kinds of fanciful shapes which were pointed out by our guide- some look like animals, some like birds, there are sheets and translucent curtains, even razor thin spaghetti on the ceiling, Predjama castle, close by is wedged tight into a rocky cliff 100 metres high. The castle hosts the Erasmus Knights Tournament in the month of August every year. This is a re-creation of medieval games complete with people in period costumes, archery, swordplay, and jousts.
Portoroz is a relaxing seaside getaway touted to be the Slovenian Monaco. So if casinos and a swinging beach life is your style, head here!
This is Slovenia’s second largest city but feels like a small town. It has medieval churches, castles and mansions and it’s the European capital of Culture in 2012. There are wine cellars, even an old synagogue and an excellent Old Town.
Narrow streets, compact houses, and a Mediterranean feel, this town is not only geographically close to Italy, its architecture is heavily influenced by the Venetian republic. It is a walled city with numerous churches and squares. Get a feel of the place by sitting in a cafe and watching the Adriatic sunset. And be sure to taste the local chocolate made with the local salt( yes!) from the salt pans nearby.
This medieval city with a city wall and ramparts, the past residences of the Counts and princes and 18th and 19th century facades looming over the picturesque Savinja River, has to be visited just for its architecture. The largest fortress in Slovenia, is on a hill. Among other sights, you can see the Roman remains of this town. Celje has many thermal springs which are located a stone’s throw from the town.
There are many more worthy sights in Slovenia like the Skokjan Caves, Lake Bohinj, Lipica famous for its horses, the Vintgar and the Tomin Gorges. Do put them on your itinerary if you have the time.