Hemmed into the Adriatic by Croatia, Italy, Austria and Hungary, Slovenia is an earthly paradise of snow-capped peaks, Venetian-looking coastlines, cosmopolitan cities, and a myriad of natural treasures. Slovenia is located at the intersection separating the German, Italian, and Slavic worlds, making this small but lovely country an exciting mix of the best of each culture. When visiting Slovenia, you will find a lot of remnants of Habsburg, Slavic, and Venetian architecture lined in perfect harmony and amazing food similar to the one you will find in other Slavic nations but yet still different. However, despite its perfect location in Central Europe, it wasn’t until recently that Slovenia started gaining the attention of international travelers.
Many people are visiting Slovenia only for a couple of days on quick day trips from Munich, Salzburg, Venice or Vienna. And most of them wish they spent more time in the land of the Sunny Side of the Alps.
What makes Slovenia so special?
Slovenia was administered by German-speaking Habsburg overlords for over 5 centuries, all the way to 1918. Slovenians absorbed the culture of their rulers but managed to retain their strong sense of ethnic identity and their Slavic language. That’s why other Slavic people often refer to Slovenians as Slavs with a German temper.
Furthermore, Slovenians managed to avoid a more serious conflict back in 1991 when Yugoslavia fell apart. Afterward, Slovenia quickly integrated into the European Union and joined the Eurozone in 2007.
Today, Slovenia is one of the countries with the best living standard in Europe. Also, according to a UN survey of 2017, Slovenia is the world’s most sustainable country.
Additionally, despite being one of the smallest countries in Europe, Slovenia has a 7,000 kilometers of hiking trails, massive caves, the cheapest ski resort in Europe, a surprisingly large population of brown bears, and it even has a 30 miles long coastline in the Adriatic.
Related: The best-hidden gems in Europe
Before visiting Slovenia
Make sure you check the visa requirements. If you come from a European country, you can enter without a visa. There are several other nationalities that can stay up to 60 days without obtaining a visa. Make sure to sort out your visa before departing as Slovenia still doesn’t give visa on arrival.
If you’re coming by road, there are many buses from Munich, Vienna, Budapest, Zagreb, and Northern Italy. Alternatively, if you are coming via flight, note that Slovenia has only one international airport, 25 kilometers out of Ljubljana. For some useful tips about Slovenia’s capital check out this list of things to do in Ljubljana. However, unless Ljubljana is your only stop in Slovenia, you should learn a few things about…
Getting around Slovenia
There are multiple bus companies that provide bus rides to most cities and villages across the country. However, keep in mind that the bus lines have a limited service during weekends.
The trains are a bit worse compared to the ones in Slovenia’s western European neighbors but still more than decent. Slovenia still has a few steam trains and riding in one was an awesome experience.
However, the most flexible way of getting around Slovenia is hiring a car. There aren’t many buses and trains that can take you to the remote areas and trust me, those are the most beautiful parts of Slovenia.
If you’re driving with your own car or motorbike, you should know that all vehicles driving on Slovenian motorways must carry a vignette.
Besides the typical hotels, motels, and hostels, Slovenia has a couple of more popular accommodation options. One is the campgrounds, which are a great budget option if you want to stay in the remote countryside locations. In most places, you can choose between bungalows and tents.
The other popular option is farm stay. This is an amazing alternative, as you can stay on a farm in the countryside for free in exchange for helping the hosts with the chores. This way, not only do you get free/very cheap accommodation but you also get to experience the rural life.
Slovenia food & drink
Like I mentioned in the beginning, Slovenia’s cuisine borrows influences from Western European cuisines, Hungarian, as well as Balkan cuisines. Most of the meals are meat-based, with veal, beef, and pork being the most popular. Cured meats are also loved among Slovenians and similar to other Balkan countries, you will find some amazing and cheap bakeries.
If you’re a vegetarian, you might struggle in Slovenia but there are more options, especially in recent years. As for the drinks, Slovenia is a big wine producer. The most famous wine-producing region is the Primorska region. Slovenians also love beer and the two most famous local brands are Zlatorog and Union.
Best time to visit Slovenia
Slovenia has warm summers, pleasant springs and autumns, and pretty cold winters. The average temperature in the summer is around 20 °C and the average winter temperature is -3°C. If you’re a nature lover, the best months to enjoy nature are April and May, when the spring starts.
If you would like to visit the sea coast, the best time would be July/ August. September is a great month for hiking and the winter months for skiing and other winter sports.
Related: why should you consider backpacking Europe in the winter.
Talking about winter sports…
Slovenia has the cheapest ski resort in Europe
According to a report by The Post Office, the cheapest ski resort in Europe is Slovenia’s Kranjska Gora. The cost of equipment hire, lift passes, ski lessons, and lunches for a family of 4 people for a week costs around $1,200. Just for comparison, the average cost for the mentioned categories in most Swiss resorts is around $2,500.
The town also has thermal springs and unrealistically beautiful cobalt-blue lake with a tear-shaped island near the western tip of the lake. The island also has a small church that was built in the 15th century. According to a local legend, if you climb up to the ‘wishing bell’ and ring it, your wish will come true. Since we’re already mentioned natural beauties, I must tell you about…
Slovenia has some stunning lakes that will take your breath away. The biggest lake is Lake Bohinj, located in the Julian Alps, in the Triglav National Park, which is, by the way, one of the most beautiful places in the country. Another divine lake is Lake Bled.
Located in the northwestern part of Slovenia, Lake Bled is one of those places where anyone can be a photographer. The lake is surrounded by lush green forests and it has a small, green island in the middle with a 17th-century church with 99 stone steps leading to the building. Also, check out this article if you’re planning to visit Lake Bled in the winter.
Slovenia s beautiful caves
Slovenia is a home to four World Heritage Sites and one of them is the Škocjan Cave. This is one of the largest underground canyons in the world. Škocjan hides four miles of underground passages, waterfalls, and vast chambers.
Another stunning cave is Postoinska Jama, one of the most visited sites in Slovenia. This cave is 20 kilometers long and it is a home to the endangered Proteus anguinus, commonly known as the human fish because of its skin color.
Finally, Predjama, which has a renaissance castle built within the cave mouth. Slovenia is indeed a country with a lot of natural treasures. That’s why…
More than half of Slovenia’s land is protected
53% of Slovenia’s territory is protected by the government. The only country with a higher percentage of protected land in the world is Venezuela. But that’s a different story.
It seems like the government in Slovenia truly cares about nature and deforestation isn’t really a thing. Half of the country is still covered in forests, which makes Slovenia one of the greenest countries in the world. Hence, it’s no surprise that…
Slovenia is the most sustainable country in the world
In 2017, Slovenia was declared the world’s most sustainable country according to a research funded by the United Nations. Slovenia achieved a score of 96 out of 100 in detailed sustainability indicators, including climate, environment, culture, and biodiversity. I bet you didn’t know that Slovenia is actually a haven of biodiversity.
Despite accounting for only 0.004% of the Earth’s surface, Slovenia is home to 1% of the organisms you’ll find on this planet. Finally, its capital, Ljubljana, was anointed as Europe’s Greenest capital the year before (2016). But that’s not all…
Slovenia is one of the most peaceful countries in the world
The annual Peace Index ranked Slovenia in 7th place out of 163 nations. The main reason for this are the people inhabiting this country: Slovenians. Most of them are conservative but broad-minded, quiet people with a remarkable level of tolerance.
Despite not being as warm and welcoming like some of their other Balkan neighbors, Slovenians are pretty cool once you get to make some friends. After all, they were the ones to build the first FREE beer fountain in Europe in the city of Žalec. Talking about peaceful, check out these hidden islands in Croatia.
Some things you mustn’t miss while visiting Slovenia
- Hiking in Triglav National Park
- Hiking the Julian Alps and see the scenic Vršič Pass
- Kayaking below Lake Bohinj
- Delve into Skocjan Cave
- Witness the wonder named Postoina Cave
- Enjoy the laid-back, vibrant capital of Ljubljana
- Sail out on Lake Bled
- Visit Piran- where the Alpine and Mediterranean worlds cross
- Don’t forget the gravity-defining Predjama Castle
- Get lost in the Northern Valley- the most remote region in Slovenia
- Try the best wine in Slovenia’s second largest city: Maribor
- Listen to traditional music and watch folk dances in Adlesici