Slovenia is one of those places where you can’t help but feel that fairytales are set. Clifftop castles overlooking old towns? Check. Lakes that reflect the sky, punctured by tiny islands with picture-perfect churches? Check. Snow-capped mountains that hide creatures from folklore? Check. Vineyards that produce affordable and highly quaffable wines? Check. (Perhaps the latter only feature in my fairytales.)
Yes, Slovenia may only be a pocket-sized piece in the jigsaw puzzle that is Europe, but boy did it get more than its fair share of landscapes when the continent’s country borders were drawn up. There’s always plenty to do and visitors planning a trip are spoilt for choice – I should know, I accidentally spent three months there, but that’s a story for another time. Speak to a Flight Centre Travel Expert about booking your trip today, and incorporating these six things:
Make the most of the mountains
At the tail end of The Alps, Slovenia’s mountainous north owes its jagged, snow-dusted lumps and bumps to the Julian Alps. Slightly smaller than their western European cousins, these mountains are still impressive and set the perfect backdrop for a day (or several) spent in the great outdoors. Perfect for hiking, routes criss-cross the range and connect small villages while, for the more adventurous, mountain biking is becoming a very popular way to spend the day. In the winter, there’s even three fully-functioning ski resorts to keep adrenaline levels high.
Sample the foodie markets in Ljubljana
Travels abroad are about diving into a new culture, but holidays are also about enjoying a little indulgence. This is where the food markets in the capital city step up. During the summer months the streets of central Ljubljana host an array of food markets, from local farmers pedalling their organic produce to top Slovenian chefs showing off their culinary skills. When you’ve had your fill, the walk to reach the castle on a hill in the centre of town is on hand to help burn off some of what you’ve just eaten.
Take a walk around Lake Bled
The image of Lake Bled in the summer is splashed across almost every postcard of Slovenia ever made – and it’s easy to understand why. To put it simply: Lake Bled is absolutely stunning. The waters take on the colour of the sky above, so switch between an electric blue and a moody, silvery grey as the seasons change. The tiny island in the middle – just a short journey away by rowboat – is crowned by a tiny, pretty church and the lake itself is overlooked by the Julian Alps. The walk around its circumference is under four miles, though this can take all day when you include stopping for photographs or to take a dip.
Explore hilltop castles
High on a clifftop overlooking Lake Bled itself is Bled Castle. With towering red turrets and eerie, dark windows, this Medieval fortress looks as though it might be more at home in Transylvania. A set of steps weave up through the forest that stretches from the water’s edge all around the base of the cliff and, once conquered, give way to the most spectacular view of the emerald lake below. Inside the castle lies a museum, a frescoed Gothic chapel and old wine cellars where visitors can seal their own bottles of wine.
Treat yourself to a wine-tasting tour
Though not known widely for its wines, sharing borders with Italy and Hungary, it makes sense that Slovenia should be capable of producing a few barrels of the good stuff. And it certainly is. Goriska Brda, known as Slovenia’s Tuscany, sits within easy reach from Ljubljana and offers a picturesque setting – hilltop villages, terraced rolling hills, endless rows of vines – the works – for an afternoon vineyard and tasting tour.
Set course for the sea
Sunseekers and water babies should make haste for the coast. Hogging the Adriatic coastline, Croatia gets most of the attention for its azure waters and gorgeous beaches, but just to the north Slovenia has its own little slice of this paradise. ‘Little’ is the optimum word here – Slovenia’s coast is barely 19 miles long. But proving once again that size isn’t everything, this coastal patch is home to fantastic diving and snorkelling opportunities. Piran, a picturesque old town spread over a thin peninsula, is the place to tuck into fresh seafood and enjoy the sea breeze.