Places to visit in Slovenia
This tiny country is a little slice of paradise for active families with simply jaw-dropping natural beauty, and lots of places to go wild in the great outdoors. Activities galore include hiking, biking, kayaking, SUP paddleboarding, and whitewater rafting, to name just a few. And while it’s Slovenia’s mountains, valleys, rivers and lakes where you’ll find most of the action, there’s also a tiny but charming Adriatic coastline – and the country is so compact, that you can easily combine the interior and the seaside in one day.
The Slovenian capital is pure enchantment – like something straight out of a fairytale, with a medieval old quarter, cobbled alleys and pretty squares with cafés and ice-cream vendors. SUP hire on the lovely tree-lined River Ljubljanica lets you paddle under lovely bridges and right past pastel-hued baroque churches, and in summer, a street-party atmosphere emanates from the café terraces fringing the river.
One of Europe’s greenest capitals, with few cars allowed in the centre, Ljubljana is the perfect compact city to simply amble around, soaking up the authentic atmosphere. The mainly early-16th-century castle is well worth checking out, as are the National Museum of Slovenia and the Museum of Modern Art, while Tivoli Park is perfect for some time out from sightseeing.
In the Kamnik-Savinja Alps about 90 minutes north of Llubjana, this remote glacial valley is an alpine wonderland and an escape from modern life. It’s a place to hike to see meadows and waterfalls (the best route being up Strelovec Ridge), to sample traditional cheese in shepherds’ huts and other local fare in mountain huts and restaurants, and to bed down at cosy lodges.
There’s a themed ‘natural-ethnographic’ valley trail you can follow here, starting at Logar farm in the lower part of the valley and taking you through forests, past farms, and across pastures and streams to the Rinka waterfall, learning about local heritage on the way. The second highest waterfall in Slovenia, with a 90m drop, Rinka is the source of the Savinja River.
This sparkling lake in the Julian Alps of northwestern Slovenia, just under an hour from Ljubljana, is very popular – but don’t let that put you off. Kids and adults alike love it for its beaches, paddleboarding and row-boating, and simply for the chance to hurl oneself into crystal-clear waters from its wooden jetties.
From here you can head a little northwest to the Radovna Valley in the Triglav National Park – the cycling here is immense, the route flat and rewarding you with sublime views. Or south-west of Bled, Lake Bohinj is a quieter spot, also with paddleboarding,
In the Julian Alps west of Bled, Bovec is Slovenia’s adventure capital – a mindblowing setting for kayaking, zip-lining, canyoning, abseiling down waterfalls, cliff-jumping into emerald pools, and whitewater rafting on the Soca River. The latter ranges from rapids to quieter sections where you can swim next to the raft. And when you’re exhausted from it all, there are sandy beaches on which to catch your breath.
If you’re coming here from Bled, you’ll cross the Vrsic Pass, where it’s an absolute must to stop and do the circular 7km hike through meadows festooned with wildflowers and spruce forest with views into Austria and Italy.
And when you’re heading back to Ljubljana from Bovec, there’s the spectacular Tolmin Gorge to take in, with walkways and pools to dip into.
Slovenia has a tiny sliver of Adriatic coast, but it packs a punch – its main town, Piran, is like a Dubrovnik in miniature, with cobbled alleys, medieval walls, Venetian-style facades, a cute harbour, and a belltower with 360° views. A gorgeous little town on a peninsula, Piran is a great place to simply hang out, stroll around and feast on seafood at enticing waterfront restaurants.
Heading back to Ljubljana from here, a few sites beg to be explored: the stunning UNESCO-listed Skocjan Caves and the world’s largest cave castle, Predjama – a medieval marvel built into a 123m-high cliff more than 800 years ago. There’s also the UNESCO-listed Lipica stud farm producing the white Lipizzaner horses best known for their shows in Vienna. You can take tours, meet the horses and watch them train, enjoy a carriage ride, and, if experienced, even ride one.
Last but not least, the virgin green forests of Kočevsko have a primeval feel in parts, despite being within day-trip distance of Ljubljana and the coast. This region of Slovenia is home to the biggest mountain biking centre in the country, with almost 20km of trails for both beginners and experts.
Most excitingly of all, however, it’s populated by more than 1,000 wild brown bears – among the highest density of population in the world – which you can go out spotting safely in the company of a guide. In fact, this is one of the few areas left in the world where you can observe brown bears, wolves, and lynx in their natural environments.
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Slovenia in pictures
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