9 Surprises of Slovenia

9 Surprises of Slovenia

Slovenia may be a relatively new country that has emerged from the rubble of the Yugoslavia Federation although as a tourist destination it packs a serious punch. 

In June 1991, Slovenia became the first republic to make the split and become an independent sovereign state. In 2004 it entered Nato and the EU, and from this point, this gentle and endearing country has grown as a serious contender for tourists’ affections. 

Bordered by Italy, Austria, Hungary and Croatia, Slovenia stands out amongst its neigbours. Dominated by the Julian Alps it competes admirably when it comes to winter sports, alpine scenery and dramatic gorges cut by the ice blue waters of the Soča river.  And then there are its iconic views; the unforgettable Lake Bled with its island church, the Postojna Caves with its unique underground train ride and ancient Predjama, the largest cave castle in the world. And that’s before we mention is exquisite wine producing vineyards and charming coastline along the Adriatic Sea. 

And yet it is Slovenia’s hidden gems that makes it so memorable for us and why we felt compelled to write this blog and share our little discoveries.  Follow our visual tour will give you incentive to come visit this subtle powerhouse destination and seek out the magnificence of this gentle giant, soaring its way up through the world tourist ranks. Check  out our Interactive Route Map below to see our routes, POI and overnight stopovers from our last two visits. 

Surprise 1 – Kranjska Gora

I have never thought of Slovenia as a winter sport nation and yet on its northerly fringes you will find their ski-resort Mecca. Kranjska is a charming alpine village at the foot of the Julian Alps that tower above you. With ski-slopes, ski-jumps and toboggan runs this really is a resort that is putting Slovenia on the winter sport’s map. Even during the summer, the resort is used as a training ground for countries around the world. The sporting season aside, Kranjska with its mountain range offers hikers fabulous walks that will stretch the calves and cycle rides along the old railway that takes you across the border into Italy. If a less active set up is more your scene, then you can use Kranjska as a base for exploring Lubljana, Lake Bled, the Vrsic Pass and Bovec, all reachable by bus. 

Travel Tips

  • For more bus information click here.
  • For camping stay at the Aire alongside the ski resort for €15 payable with the Easypark App
  • For a great meal go to Gostilna Viktor Pizzeria.

Check out our Gallery by clicking below.

Surprise 2 – Soca Valley

With its source deep in the throat of the Julian Alps, the Soca river with its ice blue water courses its way creatively through the valley. Carving deep crevices and gorges, the Soca Valley will delight those looking for a secret summer swim or perhaps even provide the thrill of some serious white water rafting in the spring season. The photographer in you will cry in delight as the valley navigates and snakes its way to Gulf of Trieste in Italy’s north east corner. If you toodle just down the valley to Kanal ob Soči, during steamy summer days you will see the young children jumping off the cliff into the inviting river below. It has so many different faces that driving from the Vrsic Pass following the river’s flow will give you such a great experience all on its own.

Travel Tips

  • Travel across the Vrsic Pass, route 206 from Kranjska which picks up the Soča river at Bovec. 
  • Stop off at the Russian Chapel that commemorates those Russian soldiers who died building the Pass.
  • Catch the bus if you don’t want to drive the pass in your car or camper.

Check out our Video and Photo Gallery by clicking below.

Surprise 3 – Bovec

Ljubljana and Lake Bled are obvious choices for a trip to Slovenia. And whilst they are undeniably beautiful they are tourist traps. The off-the-beaten-track alternative is to visit Bovec. This charming mountain village is nestled in the Alps and is the gateway to the Soča Valley. It can shout proudly about its own ski resort although it is its war memorials that are the greatest surprise. At the Tourist Office in the characterful old town, you can pick up a map with all the Great War references in the area. Most notable are the Ravelnik outdoor museum which you can wander around as if the war ended yesterday, almost smelling the gunshots and sweat from the men in the trenches. The War Cemetery is a sobering visit and seeing the Fortress that played an important role in the Austro-Hungarian arm of the war, will fill in your War education jigsaw. 

And if nature is your thing, then a hike to the Slap Virje waterfall will appeal to all your senses or a cycle down to the valley floor where the Soča masters its way through the rocks and pebbles. Bovec is a super place to explore. 

Travel Tips

  • There are a number of basic campsites in Bovec or the Aire at the Ski Resort has full services and facilities and a stunning backdrop. 
  • Visit the Tourist Info for a map of the War Memorials in the area.
  • Book your kayak and rafting experience from the many companies in the town.

Check out our Gallery by clicking below.

Surprise 4 – Bohinj

Lake Bled with its iconic island church and castle are understandable draws when visiting Slovenia, although for a more authentic and more intimate exploration, head 30 minutes into the mountains to Bohinj. Here you will find fewer tourists and earthy campsites that give you full permission to soak up the silence of Mother Nature. This is a true haven and a delight to visit as an alternative to Bled.

Travel Tips

  • We stayed at Camp Bohinj, which is an earthy and rustic site hidden in the forest with lakeside access. 
  • Bring your camera and your kayak.

Surprise 5 – Vintgar Gorge

Tick off Bled for sure although don’t leave without visiting the Vintgar Gorge, just under 2 miles away (3km). A bus shuttle will take you there for 5€ or you can cycle the route if you have a bit of power! Vintgar is a return trip of 3 miles (5km) and for a 10€ entrance fee you will wind your way through the deeply carved gorge on well built and safe boardwalks. The twists and turns of the river finally crescendo over the each in a spectacular waterfall making this a charming walk if you’re in the area.

Travel Tips

Surprise 6 – Postojna Caves

My surprise of the caves were two-fold. Firstly as caves go this is one of the most spectacular we have ever seen. For sheer wow, it’s a must visit. With the train that takes you deep into the mountains and then a two mile walk through chambers created by Mother Nature in an artistic masterpiece. Stalagtites dripping from the ceiling and stalagmites rising from the floor with a texture like marble. Van Gough would have, I’m sure, been proud of the artistic talent displayed down here without any single intervention by man nor beast. This is one place that absolutely needs to be experienced and the train itself that carries into the heart of the mountains is an event all of its own. Resembling a Ghost Train at a Fun Fair, you trundle through the mountains by a living gallery of underground sculptures. 

The second surprise of the caves were the crowds. Wow, we were part of a colony of ants, or so it seemed. Despite getting there for the fist train of the day, there were hundreds of people already gathered, jostling for position at the entrance as if they were about to miss the January sales. More and more we realise that the whole ‘shoulder season’ really is diluted these days as on our misty  and murky  October visit, at least 30 coaches were already in the car park lined up  in wait for the return of their charges.

Travel tips

  • Get to the caves for the 1000am train and arrive at the entrance so that you can get as far forward on the train as a possible. This way there is less crowd management required. 
  • Booking tickets on line is not necessary – so don’t worry if it says there are no tickets available. You can purchase at the Ticket Office just before the train entrance. It costs €25.80 per person for just the caves or €35.70 for a combination ticket for the castle’s inclusion.
  • Take layers and warm clothing as it is very cool down in the belly of the caves. Also sturdy shoes are necessary as it is quite damp on the walk ways. There’s little danger of slipping, although decent footwear is appropriate.
  • And whilst you are in the area, why not drive just just over 5 miles (9km) to see the world’s largest cave Castle of Predjama. Not a huge amount of parking available, although if you go early or later in the day it is doable with a camper.

Check out our Video and Gallery by clicking below.

Surprise 7 – Ljubljana

We’re not great city people on the whole, although always visit because all sides of travel need to be explored. And we are so glad, on this occasion that we pushed past our city prejudice. Ljubljana is a clean, compact and charming city that oozes a chill-out command. With its castle views across the northern landscape to its Triple Bridge linking the medieval old town with its new suburbs, we adored this city. We only had a couple of hours here as we were meeting friends although we saw enough to be endeared to the cityscape. From that point on  we vowed to give all cities a chance because they may surprise you.

Travel Tips

  • If you are travelling in a camper, stay outside of the city and travel in by bus. We stayed 20 mins  north of the city at a pub camperstop – Gostilna Pri Kovaču (46.031321 14.604002). There is a bus right outside the pub that takes you into the city. 
  • 3-5 hours is enough to get a good feel for Ljubljana.

Check out our Video and city Gallery by clicking below.

Surprise 8 – Slovene Riviera

We have never given any thought to Slovenia’s coastline. With it giant competition either side, Croatia and Italy often seem to be far more of an attraction. Although what an incredible visit for the week it was. With Slovenia’s major port Koper at one end and Piran on the southern edge, you have a delightful coastline with nooks, crannies and rugged shoreline to play with. Harbours and street cafés, cycle and walking paths and nature reserves, this region is sublime. And Piran and Izola are just incredible medieval towns that has history and iconic Venetian beauty carved into their mortar. Back in from the coastline, the mountains are dominated by vineyards and olive groves and well worth a little diversion. It was such a delight and one place I would happily return for a bit of RnR. For our full post about the area with detailed Trip Guides, click here

Travel tips

  • Out of season is great in the Riviera, although even in October, when the weather is typically gorgeous, locals will all come out for the weekend. So bear this in mind.
  • For camping options, there is nothing at all in Piran. So we recommend staying in Izola which is halfway  between Piran and Koper and then use the cycle path that takes you from north to south effortlessly, to explore. We stayed at a Parking Area run by EasyParking and cost €11.30 per night payable with the app. Or you can pay €10 at the machine as long as you have coins. 

Check out our Gallery by clicking below.

Surprise  9 – Slovenia’s wine

Who would have thought that Slovenia would be a great wine producer. Well the vineyards may be new to the global wine stage, they are definitely worth trying. With fabulous soil and karst landscape it makes for outstanding wineries, which in the south particularly are seriously beginning to compete with established brands with their Italian neighbours. We particularly enjoyed the family run vineyard Saksida in Nova Goricia which has a fabulous selection of wines at reasonable prices.  They also offer a wonderful campsite and 5* restaurant open at weekends.

Also further south in the Slovene Riviera there is a fabulous wine tasting experience at Marezige Vinska Fontana. Up in the hills behind the coast you can, for €8 buy a glass (that you keep) and 3 tokens that allow you to choose from four wine fountains. It is home to the Refošk Wine, well known in this region.


Practicalities of visiting Slovenia

  • The diversity of the country is enormous and deserves plenty of time exploring. Be mindful of the season you visit. Early spring and late autumn the weather becomes unpredictable and, in the mountains you will often see plummeting temperatures and snow. This may impact on some of the mountain passes and you may need winter tyres or snow socks at the very least. 
  • The currency of Slovenia is Euro.
  • There is generally very good English spoken in the main resorts, although as with every country a few phrases of Slovene will be appreciated. Try these; Havla – thank you. Dober dan – a formal hello.  Govoriš angleško – do you speak English? Lahko dobim račun, prosim – can I have the bill please? Bye – Adijo 
  • Although travelling around the country without going on the motorways is doable, sometimes it’s just easier to hop on for a quicker journey – especially if your time is short. So you will need a vignette which you can buy at most Petrol Stations. It costs just €15 for 7 days. 
  • Take cash, as whilst credit cards are accepted, many restaurants will only take payment in cash. 
  • Download the app EasyPark so you can easily pay your parking charges for either car or camper. 
  • If you are travelling in your camper, please respect their no wild camping rules. There are plenty of campsites and Aire options and although they may be more basic than western Europe, they make perfectly good bases for exploration. 
  • If you are flying, Lubljana’s Joze Pucnik Airport is your main hub which is accessible from all over Europe, many destinations of which offer cheap fares. It is 16 miles (26km) north west of the capital so transportation will be required. A taxi to the city starts from €20.


Final thoughts

Slovenia is an undiscovered marvel and we realise that we haven’t even scratched the surface. Although if you love nature, outdoor life, World War History, wines, coastline and stunning mountain scenery then Slovenia will not disappoint. For a gentle nation with a diverse landscape that packs a powerful punch, Slovenia will delight and surprise in equal measure. 


Disclosure policy. We earn a tiny bit of commission from the ads we display. This in no way affects your price or spending experience.


Want to Pin for later? 

Other Posts that might interest you

Slovenia – Europe’s Best Kept Secret

Slovenia – Europe’s Best Kept Secret

Did you know that Slovenia is the only country in the world to have the word LOVE in it? If you’re like me, your mind will now be going into fast forward to prove whether this is indeed true or not. How about instead, we invest our energy exploring the LOVE in Slovenia, because, by jove it has it in bucket loads!  I guarantee that this little known country, nestled between its European cousins Italy, Austria, Croatia and Hungary, will capture your hearts, as it did ours.

We hadn’t planned to come to Slovenia; it wasn’t on any bucket list and, if truth be known, we didn’t really know much about it.  After all, when we thought about Europe, Slovenia was just not a place that came to mind.  May be if that’s  the same for you, I hope after reading this, Slovenia will most definitely be on your ‘must visit’ list.

In my view, Slovenia is one of Europe’s best kept secret and there is a little of me that really doesn’t want to share its magnificence, as its innocence and authenticity are so rare these days.  Although share it I must, as it truly stands out amongst the kings of European culture, natural wonders and history. Such is its diversity, that you will surely be magnetised by its captivating aura and be changed forever.

I must also add, at this point that we didn’t cover all of Slovenia, just the western edge – mostly around the circumference of Triglav National Park – there is so much more to discover and uncover. So imagine if this is how we feel after exploring just this small section of the country, what venturing further into its heart-land would create for us!

Here are our Top 7 Slovenian experiences that have made this country such a special one for us.

1.  As you enter Slovenia from either its Austrian or Italian cousins, Kranjska Gora is the first town that welcomes you. A ski-resort, just a few miles across the border from Italy, Kranjska is primarily a winter playground, although it attracts plenty of summer visitors for its hiking, cycling and summer toboggan run. The heart of the village itself has managed to maintain its roots and character whilst the Ski area looms large at the other end of town.  The real magic for us was Kranjska’s secret doorway to the Triglav National Park. Access to this astounding natural beauty, via the 206 highway, will take you up over the mountains and through the Trenta Valley.  Slovenia’s highest road, the Vršič Pass was created initially for military purposes although now takes you on a rollercoaster ride through the most spectacular mountain scenery, finally to be embraced by Boveč at the head of the Soča valley.

Soča Gorge, Triglav NP

Soča Gorge, Triglav NP

2.  The National Park, complete with its Julian Alps, craggy limestone peaks, gorges where the emerald river rages even in the height of summer and stunning waterfalls that emerge, seemingly from no where – is a must. This area of the country is an outdoor lover’s paradise; summer brings paragliding, hiking and white water rafting, whilst winter offers all the sports associated with snow-filled mountain tops and valley floors.

3.  Boveč itself is definitely worth a visit. You are surrounded by companies looking to help you experience the thrill of the white water – some of which is rated at level 4 and 5 – yet beyond their sale’s pitch is a pretty village and a fascinating journey back in time to World War 1.  Starting in the Austrian Alps, the Walk of Peace follows the Isonzo Front to the Adriatic coast, where Austrian-Hungarian troops protected their lands against the Italians from May 1915 – October 1917.

Boveč Open Air WW1 Museum

Boveč Open Air WW1 Museum

Following this path you will see many WW1 fortresses, some of which are now museums holding records of the war’s events, in memory of the soldiers who died. One of the best examples is Fortress Kluže just fifteen minutes from Boveč.  You will also see cemeteries that offer refuge for the warriors’ ghosts, with nameless plaques respecting and honouring those who fought and lost their lives in the name of freedom. An outdoor museum, about 3km from Boveč is a humbling transportation into the soldiers’ lives, who battled from an unassuming hillside.  You can still walk through the caves, tunnels and bunkers that remain in tact and the whole experience leaves you with a huge sense of their suffering and remorse for all that war represents.

4.  The one thing that surprised us most is Slovenia’s wine region – yes wine! Slovenia produces an amazing wine stock that challenges its European’s rivals and just has to be tasted to be fully appreciated. Private vineyards cover the south western region of Slovenia and invite you to partake in their local nectar.  They may not be big in the wider market place as their production I guess is not big enough for the commercial boys, although there is something extra special about Slovenia’s small scale wine secrecy and it must be sampled.

Ljubljana, Three Way Bridge

Ljubljana, Three Way Bridge

5.  I cannot pass up the opportunity to mention the beauty of Ljubljana – Slovenia’s capital, which at its heart is an understated yet charming city that will lure you into her magnetic charm. There are the normal magnificent buildings that most cities offer, a stunning three way bridge and a cable car that transports to her renovated castle that played such a poignant role in both World Wars.  Yet when you visit, you are most struck by the lack of crowds and peace that she wraps you up in. There is a youthful vibrancy that the University brings to its streets, numerous cafes, restaurants and wine bars, which is accompanied by a history that satisfies those looking for a tale of treachery, battles and conquests. You will be enthralled by Ljubljana’s idyllic river that winds around the old city with weeping willow trees sheltering its banks and you will love the parks that pop up all through the city contributing to a Green way of life.  In fact they have won an award as European Green Capital 2016 for its environmental efforts. At night the city transforms itself into an energetic yet gentle buzz of entertainers, evening strollers and cafe-goers, happy to pass their time chatting over a bottle or two of that delicious Slovenian wine. Candles flicker and together with the symbolic green lights shining on the castle walls, creates a completely different atmosphere to the capital’s daytime experience, leaving you feeling totally connected with the city and wanting more.

Lake Bled

Lake Bled

6.  A visit to Ljubljana must be accompanied by a saunter up to Lake Bled and its iconic island church, whose bell tolls out the wishes and dreams of its eager visitors, as they echo around the mountain backdrop. The castle towers above the lake keeping guard over its legacy and the neighbouring Vintgar Gorge offers you the most incredible, naturally carved scenery that the Bohinj Glacier began sculpturing eons ago. 1.6km of wooden walkways guide you along the ever-changing river as it gushes and glides through the gorge, until it reaches its waterfall crescendo. And all for a €4pp entrance fee – it’s a steel.

Lake Bohinj

Lake Bohinj

7. If Lake Bled all feels a bit too much, then travel west into the mountains for thirty minutes where you will be treated to the much quieter Lake Bohinj.  Here tranquility and restoration are assured in this secluded location, sheltered by the maternal Triglav mountains.  Hidden from most tourist trails, Bohinj is a little gem that won’t be inundated with tour guide flags, coaches and camera clicking visitors. You get the feeling that Bohinj is where the locals go for their mountain retreat and it is worth putting on your list.

I realise that our Top 7 favourite Slovenian experiences really only capture a small essence of the whole country, although we have seen enough to fall in love with its culture and its authenticity. Slovenia will stay within our hearts – so much so that a return visit is assured. You too could fall for Slovenia’s charm, which subtly hypnotises all who travel within her diverse borders.

Karen and Myles – The Motoroamers.

Ravelnik, Slovenia

I don’t get it…. When you try and do a serious piece there’s a mountain top growing out of your head…. Slovenia has been a delight and Bovec and the Soča valley has been one of our highlights.

However, as you gaze at the backdrop of the stunning mountain range, watch the kayak’s descend the babbling Soča river and float away with the glider pilots soaring high above, dotted here and there are poignant reminders of the harsh reality and brutality that this area experienced 100 years ago.

Lest we forget!