It seems that planning a trip to Slovenia is a pretty straightforward task for most visitors. People usually only visit Ljubljana and Bled, and then continue their journey elsewhere in Europe. Or, they find a nice campsite in the Soča valley and enjoy their vacation there.
Technically, this is a way to spend your vacation, but also a great way to miss out on all the Slovenia’s hidden treasures. In other words, I don’t agree with those people and want to give you a better overview of Slovenia.
Where to go in Slovenia – overview
A great thing about Slovenia is its diversity – it’s a small country, that has a little bit of everything. To put it into perspective: Ljubljana is about one hour drive from both the sea and the Alps. In other words, Slovenia is much more than just its few most popular sites. You can visit mountains and valleys, bathe in the sea, hike a mountain, and so much more. And as a bonus, all this is never more than a couple of hours’ drive away.
Still, most of Slovenia could be considered off the beaten path, so to help you with planning, I’ve composed this guide.
Officially, Slovenia is divided into 12 regions, but for the sake of this guide, I’ll ditch this division. Instead, I’ll feature a town in each chapter, and briefly present it and the sights in and around it.
Slovenia’s capital, largest city, and often the starting point for many visitors. And rightfully so, because it’s conveniently located in the middle of the country, making it a great starting point for going virtually anywhere in Slovenia.
But even if you plan to take trips from Ljubljana, you should take some time to check it out. Though it is a European capital, it doesn’t have that big city vibe, like Rome, Paris or London. It is way smaller, but also way cozier. The city has plenty of green areas, interesting sights, and a car-free city center, where you can stroll and enjoy the views.
The capital of the Slovenian coast. Being the center of the coastal region, it has all the amenities you’d need, such as malls, shops, restaurants and such. It’s not only a place to restock, though, as the old city center is beautiful and full of history.
The Slovenian coast is very short, only 43km to be precise. But that is enough to take a swim and explore the hidden gems along it. Koper isn’t the only town on the coast, so it’s more than fair to mention the other smaller, but just as charming towns.
Piran is an old port town with the remains of the medieval wall around it. It’s a labyrinth of narrow alleys, that run between historic buildings and lead you to the central market at the coast. The town has strong Venetian influence, giving it a distinct Mediterranean vibe and making it one of Slovenia’s most beautiful towns.
The Slovenian resort-town. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not one of those places, that evolved around apartment complexes and tourist traps, and gets deserted in the winter. It’s rather an elegant seaside town, that has always attracted tourists. It stretches along the coast, with numerous beaches with bars and restaurants nearby. And behind the restaurants, you’ll find high-end hotels, spas, casinos, etc… Portorož perfect for higher-end travelers, as well as families, backpackers – it’s perfect for anyone, looking for a relaxing day at the sea.
A small town right at the Italian border, about halfway between Ljubljana and Venice. It’s a town with an interesting history and beautiful surroundings. It’s situated at the very end of the Soča valley, just below the Karst region and not too far from the sea, making it a perfect starting point for exploring. And it’s literally surrounded by vineyards, so if you’re a wine lover, this is the town you’re after. It’s not very touristic, it’s more of an off the beaten path destination, but still worth the visit.
To be exact, the actual destination is the valley of Soča, the stunning emerald river, that has carved this beautiful valley. Though Bovec is a cozy little town, it’s the nature around it that attracts all the tourists. But it is conveniently located high up in the valley, making it a great starting point for numerous outdoor activities.
Kobarid and Tolmin are, beside Bovec, the only two towns in Soča valley. Though not as popular and touristic like Bovec, they can also work as a hub for your outdoor vacation.
The Soča valley is perfect for those seeking a more active summer vacation in nature. The mountains, surrounding the valley, are perfect for hiking and mountain biking, and many other outdoor activities.
The area also has rivers and streams in abundance. Perfect to cool you down in the scorching summer heat, and a great alternative to the sea.
The town got its fame thanks to well-known sights in its vicinity. The first one is the Postojna cave, a massive cave system known for its beauties. You can ride a train into the caves and admire the stunning nature’s creation.
The other sight is Predjama castle – a castle, built into a sheer rock face. Though not as famous as the cave, it is still must-see, if you’re in the area. You can find more information about the castle and the cave, such as entry fees and opening times on their website.
Besides the two major places of interest, Postojna is a great starting point to visit the Karst region. It is a quaint and peaceful part of Slovenia, filled with villages, vineyards and blessed with scenic landscapes.
Slovenia’s most well-known destination, famous for its lake with an island in the middle. A castle on the hill next to the lake overlooks the town, making the location even more scenic. Bled itself is a lovely lakeside town with loads of shops and restaurants, where you can buy souvenirs and taste local food.
Bled is also a great starting point for many different trips. The town lies at the foothills of the Julian Alps and is surrounded by numerous natural landmarks. You can hike up the mountains, stroll down a narrow gorge, or gaze upon a breathtaking waterfall.
Novo mesto is situated in the middle of Dolenjska, one of Slovenia’s least touristy regions. But this doesn’t mean you should avoid it altogether. It’s just more suited for those seeking peace and quiet – or for the adventurous, off-the-beaten-track kind of travelers.
Thermal water is one of the region’s greatest resources, and it shows. You’ll find numerous spa and wellness resorts in the area, and many fairly close to the town. Another reason why Novo mesto is a great place to unwind.
Slovenia’s second-largest city, situated on the north-eastern side of the country. It is a town with a rich history and strong culture. You’ll find interesting, and also unusual places of interest. For example, the city boasts the world’s oldest grapevine and one of Europe’s oldest wine cellars. Yes, both mentioned sights are wine-related, which points to the town’s wine culture.
While Maribor is an interesting city on its own, it is not the only reason for a visit. The city is surrounded by beautiful nature. Winding rivers and vineyard-covered rolling hills truly make for a scenic trip. And while you’re journeying past the grapevines, don’t forget to try some wine. The locals are very proud of it, and they have all the right to be.