Slovenia — Overview
Touching the Alps with a toe in the Adriatic Sea and bordered by Italy, Austria, Croatia, and Hungary, the small nation of Slovenia considers itself firmly at the heart of the European continent. While the Republic of Slovenia has only technically existed since 1991, the lands have been a notable part of European history since humans settled the area around 5,500 years ago. Slovenia has rotated between the Roman Empire, the Hapsburg monarchy, and communist Yugoslavia, finally joining the European Union independently in 2004.
Slovenia is a mountainous country with a high annual rainfall that keeps it lush and green. The combination of water and limestone has resulted in a number of globally significant cave systems. From the Alps to the Black and Adriatic seas, Slovenia is dotted with breathtaking peaks, waterfalls, lakes, and rivers. From the huge underground canyons of the Škocjan Caves to the lush landscapes of Triglav National Park, Slovenia has a number of natural attractions which are ideal for exploration and outdoor activities.
Slovenia’s natural beauty is complimented by a rich culture and history. From the quaint, fortified fishing village of Piran to the medieval delights of the capital, Ljubljana, to the castles and chapels of charming countryside towns like the lakeside Bled, Slovenia is a compelling destination for travelers looking for variety and inspiration. Slovenia is also a wine-producing region, so it’s a great place to tour the vineyards, old stone cellars, farmhouses, and cafés.
Slovenia has many hotels, most of which are three- or four-star quality although there are a few five-star properties sprinkled around. For a uniquely Slovenian experience, look for accommodations bearing the Hiše s tradicijo (Houses of Tradition) sign, a designation indicating places with a strongly-maintained character and with a focus on traditional foods and hospitality. These properties range from simple cottages to mansions and castles, with prices varying accordingly. They also tend to be in rural areas with convenient access to outdoor activities such as horseback riding, cycling, hiking, skiing, swimming, and fishing.
Slovenia is also renowned for its spas, with no less than 15 certified natural health resorts. Most of these retreats are clustered around the healing waters and clean air of the Mura River valley, Kozjansko Regional Park, and the Krka River in the east. Prices are highest during summer, but skiing season also results in winter price spikes. Slovenian food tends to be affordable and hearty, with generous portions and Italian commonly available.
Although many travelers arrive in Slovenia by air, road access from neighboring European countries it is also easy. Getting around the country is best done by road or rail. Flights from the US arrive at the main airport in Slovenia’s capital, Ljubljana, or via connections from London, Paris and Brussels.
Slovenia has well-maintained roads, so getting from one town to another by bus or car is easy and comfortable. The scenic drive from Škofja Loka to Bled is popular with tourists, as is the trip from Kranjska Gora to Bovec via the breathtaking Vršič Pass. Slovenia’s rail system is less developed than the road network, but still provides a clean, comfortable option for getting most places. All lines converge at Ljubljana, so transferring anywhere usually requires a stop in the capital. Trains are cheaper than buses, particularly for long journeys.
- Take a picture of the famous Dragon Bridge while stepping back in time on the streets of Ljubljana’s Old Town
- Tour the enormous Postojna Caves
- Relax in the healing waters of a thermal spa at Radenska
- Explore the lake, chapels, and castle of picturesque Lake Bled
- Visit the World Heritage site Škocjan Caves at Divača
- Watch the sun go down in historic, seaside Piran
- Climb the steps to the scenic Slap Sevica Waterfall at Triglav National Park
- See the world’s oldest grapevine at Maribor as designated by the Guinness Book of World Records