This is part five of a six part trip report from my travels to Slovenia and Serbia. As I mentioned in my last report, everyone we met in Slovenia was so warm and friendly and the only thing better than the people was the incredible scenery.  I present the highly underrated Slovenia…a picture tour.

First some background from WikitravelSlovenia lies in the eastern Alps at the northern end of the Adriatic Sea, with Austria to the north, Italy to the southwest, Hungary to the northeast and Croatia to the south. Despite its small size, Slovenia has a surprising variety of terrain, ranging from the beaches of the Mediterranean to the peaks of the Julian Alps, to the rolling hills of the south. Contrary to the popular misconception, Slovenia was not a part of the Eastern bloc (not after the Yugoslavian notorious split with the Soviet Union in 1948). Slovenia is also home to some of the finest scenery in the “New Europe”.

  • Julian Alps (Bled, Triglav National Park) – The mountainous northwest with hiking, rafting, postcard pretty lakes and Mt Triglav, the symbolic heart of Slovenia
  • Central Slovenia (Ljubljana, Kamnik) – The urban part with the capital Ljubljana and surrounding region
  • Nova Gorica – The city literally on the border with Italy
  • Piran/Pirano – Gorgeous Venetian port
  • Skocjan Caves — UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • So?a Valley — So?a Emerald River

I really didn’t expect much from Slovenia and I can’t tell you how pleasantly surprised I was. The amazing views start right upon landing at the airport…

Ljubljana is small but picturesque with a great medieval castle and city, beautiful canals, great cafes and bars, and some of the friendliest residents in the world. Visiting in January, I was expecting a tundra,  but the average temperature was around 45 degrees and you’d think it was spring or summer time based on the amount of people enjoying outdoor cafes, restaurants, and bars.

…fresh milk

Our first trip out of town was to Lake Bled, a short 45 minute ride. Lake Bled is an alpine resort with a mountain lake, island, and castle. The vibe on a Sunday in Lake Bled was just incredible, people out having fun and enjoying themselves on a cool winter day.  It’s also a quick ride to Pokljuka mountain for skiing and hiking in the Julian alps (there are tons of gear shops in town).

Next up was a drive to So?a river, one of the few rivers in the world to retain their emerald green color throughout its entire history. The river was truly stunning (and emerald) and the drive to reach it was just as gorgeous. Once at the river, we were at times completely on our own without anyone in sight, another benefit of visiting Slovenia in the winter. The same was actually true walking through the medieval streets of Ljubljana at times.

After some time at the lake we continued on to the Trenta valley, through which the So?a river flows before crossing into Italy. After a brief stop in Italy and some great pizza, we continued on to a local ski resort before finally heading through Triglav National Park  and back to Ljubljana later that night. Nothing was too far and driving is easy within Slovenia with well maintained and uncrowded country roads and highways.

Views of Ljubljana and the Alps up from the castle…

Again, I wasn’t expecting much but I’m so glad I visited. I plan to go back in summer to experience the Mediterranean section of the country and revisit the valleys for summer sports and hiking. Adria flys to LJU from several major European cities, including three flights per day from Zurich while  Air France flies once per day from Paris.

PS – I also highly recommend the Ljubljana Free Tour, it’s completely free besides the tip and the tour guides definitely deserve a generous one…ours was led by a university professor.

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Michael N. March 14, 2013 - 7:23 am

I agree with my father when he says Slovenia is the best kept secret of Europe. I remember spending time in Slovenia three different times when I was younger.

The first time my dad took my family to go camping around a lake (maybe Lake Bled…I can’t remember). We drove from Germany and spent a week in Slovenia. He had recently returned from his first trip to Ljubljana and fell in love with the country.

The second time and third time my family flew to Ljubljana and traveled throughout the country.

Even though I was younger at the time, I do remember highlights, including getting drenched in a sudden rain shower while on a hike around the lake, visiting the castle, walking the streets of Ljubljana, and eating horse meat. I think the best of all was the flight into Ljubljana when, as a child, the plane seemed to have a steeper decent.

Slovenia is a beautiful country to visit and is one of the hidden gems of Europe. I’m glad Adam was able to enjoy the country and I hope others visit too.

adam March 14, 2013 - 9:18 am

@Michael N – Glad that you feel the same way about amazing LJU and that your father shared the city with you!

ArkansasTraveler March 14, 2013 - 7:33 am

All of the old Yugoslavia, and the Balkans in general, are a great place to visit. Many of the sites have not been commercialized yet, and the people are welcoming to visitors. We had a great visit through the area traveling by train starting in Istanbul and ending in Vienna with a stopover in Albania by bus, but it was one of our most amazing trips.

adam March 14, 2013 - 9:18 am

@Arkansas Traveler – Sounds like a great trip!

New Girl in the Air March 14, 2013 - 8:05 am

Thanks for sharing such beautiful photographs. I put Slovenia on my short list earlier this year and now it’s inching even farther upwards.

adam March 14, 2013 - 9:19 am

@New Girl in the Air – You definitely should. I have some great recommendations if you decide to go!

Terry March 14, 2013 - 3:18 pm

Hi Adam, what is the cost of living there? For instance, how much does a big mac meal or similar meal cost?

adam March 15, 2013 - 9:42 am

@Terry – The value meals at McDs were about 5€ and lunch specials (that could be considered dinner) at most of the restaurants ran in the 8€ – 12€ range. A filet at lunch was 14€

P T March 14, 2013 - 5:38 pm

Looks fabulous. Thanks for sharing. I want to head there ASAP!

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