The Best Outdoor Spots In Slovenia
If you appreciate exploring in nature then Slovenia is one of the countries in Europe that you have to visit. From the crystalline beauty of Lake Bled to the majestic peaks of the Julian Alps, there is a breathtaking vista at every turn. Not to mention the array of activities available such as skiing, hiking, kayaking and canoeing. As far as popular holiday destinations go, Slovenia isn't one that many people talk about. But once I got there, it really made me wonder why that is the case. Slovenia is a pretty, small country, so it's relatively easy to explore within a week. I've compiled a list of my favourite outdoor spots in Slovenia that I hope will inspire you to visit this beautiful country and see what you're missing!
You've no doubt seen pictures of the pretty church on an island surrounded by emerald green water, so it's easy to see why Lake Bled is Slovenia's most popular tourist attraction. You can ride to the island on a Pletna (which is a traditional wooden boat) to climb the 99 steps to the Assumption of Mary church. Legend has it that if you ring the church bell, all of your wishes will come true...
But the lake is not only good to look at. It's also great for those who want to get active. The lakes' waters are gently warmed by thermal springs, making them comfortable for swimming from May through to August. Visitors can also take a scenic 6km walk around the lake's edge, or a short boat trip.
While you're in Bled, you cannot miss Bled castle. It's set on a cliff that overlooks the whole lake, so it's worth the £10 entry fee to get in. I definitely recommend tasting the famous Bled cream cake there. Most restaurants in the town make it, but after sampling many from various different places (hey, I was on holiday) I can confirm that the one I had at the castle was by far the best.
There are plenty of good restaurants in Bled, but I personally recommend Public Vegan Kitchen - it's a great place to eat for some locally-sourced, healthy food. Try the chickpea burger; even meat lovers won't be disappointed.
Vintgar Gorge isn't as well known as Bled and I only stumbled upon it by chance, but it turned out to be my favourite thing about Slovenia. It's only a ten minute drive from Bled (or an hour's walk if you're feeling active) and entry is only â¬4 to enter.
The gorge is about a mile long and follows River Radovna and limestone cliffs, ending at the impressive 13m high Sum waterfall, itself overlooked by Lofty railway bridge. It's a tranquil trail that's dotted with waterfalls, rock pools and rapids. Wear sensible footwear as it can get slippy.
I visited in September and practically had the whole place to myself. Although it's colder than the peak summer months, it was still absolutely beautiful and I really enjoyed the peace and quiet. It also made for some fantastic photo opportunities!
My top tip for visiting Vintgar Gorge? Go to the restaurant! It's on site and serves trout freshly caught from the river. Slovenia is notorious for the quality and cleanliness of its water and this is very evident from the quality of the seafood there. Trust me, you won't regret it.
What could be even more beautiful than Lake Bled? The underrated Lake Bohinj, actually! This lake in Triglav National Park is the largest permanent lake in Slovenia and only a half hour drive from Bled.
There are plenty of good walking trails that start here, but if you're after a less strenuous break, I recommend taking a boat tour across the lake. One of my favourite things about Slovenia is how eco-friendly it is. The only boats allowed on Lake Bohinj are ones with electric motors, or rowing boats, and its citizens take this very seriously. This helps to keep the water clean, beautiful and pure. No wonder Slovenia is one of our favourite green destinations!
If you're visiting in summer, the lake should be warm enough to swim in. In autumn, I recommend taking a walk from Lake Bohinj up to Waterfall Savica. The walk takes an hour and a half and is mainly uphill, but it sure is worth it for the views you get on the way. In winter, take advantage of Bohinj's cross-country ski trails! Finally, visit in spring to go fishing for trout, char and grayling (make sure you get a permit first though).
Triglav National Park
The exceptionally beautiful Triglav National Park sits at the foot of Mount Triglav, which at 2,864 metres high is Slovenia's highest peak. The park is the perfect setting to enjoy alpine air and stunning scenery, including Lake Bohinj and Waterfall Savica like I mentioned above.
Triglav Park is a popular spot for watersport enthusiasts in the summer and welcomes hikers all year round. The park sits alongside the Italian and Austrian border and is home to many rare wild animal species including the chamois and ibex. It has had special protected status since the 1920s, making it a particularly unspoiled spot in which to enjoy nature.
If you're staying near Triglav then I recommend a trip to see the Kosjak waterfalls. They can be found near the Italian border and it takes around two hours to drive there from Bled. The falls at Kosjak have long been a popular attraction in Slovenia due to their immense natural beauty. To get to the falls, visitors must navigate a rocky dust road flanked by rock that becomes narrower as it approaches the main event. It's still possible to see bunkers carved out by Italian troops in World War II as you walk along the track, navigating lofty suspension bridges as you go. The waterfall itself is a wonderful end to the trek: the noise is spectacular as gallons of water plunge in an elegant column into a pool of vivid blue/green waters below.
Soca Valley is less than an hour's drive away from Kosjak waterfalls, so you could easily do both in one day! The Soca Valley is Slovenia's biggest aquatic playground, with plenty of opportunities for kayaking and other water sports on its white water rapids. The emerald green river is a delight for the senses whether you want to conquer it by boat or simply admire it from a distance, or you could opt to fly above it on its exciting network of zipwires.
Once you've worked up an appetite you can dine out at one of Soca's restaurants, which are renowned for their exceptional atmosphere and cuisine. I recommend Hisa Franko, a restaurant in a house that Ernest Hemingway allegedly once stayed in! The food is superb, setting is gorgeous and you'll get a very friendly service. Just keep in mind that it's closed Mondays and Tuesdays.
Postojna caves can be found in the south of Slovenia, not far from Croatia, and are only about an hour's drive from Bled. As I drove south through Slovenia, there was a noticeable change in temperature and scenery. I went from wearing two jumpers and being surrounded by mountains to wearing a vest top and sunglasses within 45 minutes! The journey really showed me the diversity of Slovenia and how much it has to offer. And that's before I even got to the caves!
With over 20km of chambers, passages and galleries, Postojna is the biggest cave network in Slovenia, and much of it is open for visitors. On a trip to this fantastic underground world you can take a tour on the 'cave train'; a miniature railway that was opened up in 1884. The caves also benefit from electric lighting, so you can admire the glittering stalactite formations as you pass through the eerily beautiful passages. If you're really lucky, your tour guide will show off the amazing acoustics in the caves by performing a traditional Slovenian song for you. Regular cave-visitors rate Postojna among the best in the world, so this is one not to miss.
About ten minutes away from Postojna caves you'll find one of the most impressive castles in the world. Predjama castle is one of the only castles in the world to be built into a cave. It even made it into the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest cave castle in the world!
From the outside, it is absolutely glorious, and it just gets more interesting as you explore inside. The castle has a rich history with its most famous inhabitant being Knight Erazem - also known as 'the Slovenian Robin Hood'. When you enter, you'll be given a headset that guides you through the castle and tells you plenty of grizzly tales from the history of Predjama castle.
If you fancy exploring this area of Slovenia then I strongly recommend buying the full park experience for â¬41.90 per person. This gives you access to the castle, cave, vivarium and EXPO. If you're travelling as a family you simply can't miss this - there's fun for all ages and can be done in half a day.
Where is the best place to wrap up your Slovenian adventure? There is no better place than its capital city; Ljubljana. I was amazed by how quiet and clean this city is, but there is still plenty to do. Head to Ljubljana castle for a history lesson and stunning views, followed by a visit to the famous Dragon Bridge, Tivoli park and the fresh food market.
The thing I loved most about Ljubljana is the sheer number of recycling bins, free water fountains and notices reminding people to clear up after themselves. There are plenty of restaurants using only local produce, my personal favourite being Manna. The airport is only half an hour away from the city centre making it a great starting or ending point for your trip.