Slovenia: My Favourite European Country

Slovenia may be small but there’s SO MUCH to explore. This country that resembles a running chicken on a map offers many treasures hidden behind every corner of the country. Whether you’re interested in sipping café lattes on one of the many picturesque riverside cafes in Ljubljana, hiking to the highest peak in the Slovenian Julian Alps, paragliding over Lake Bled, or kite-surfing on the Adriatic Sea, Slovenia is the place for you! I’m feeling overly nostalgic lately, having just returned from my 5 month adventure living in Slovenia. The best 5 months of my life. Slovenia stole my heart, one of the many hearts I’m sure it’s taken!

Slovenia is still an untouched beauty; however, I’m fairly confident that will change in the future considering how underrated Slovenia is. Beautiful summers have weather with average temperatures above 25°C, while the mild winters have average temperatures of around 0°C. There are also three different climates in this tiny country: sub-Mediterranean climate, alpine climate and a continental climate. Why is this good you might wonder? It’s amazing because you can swim in the sea, hike in the mountains and sip wine from local vineyards all in ONE day!

Let’s start with the underrated capital city, Ljubljana! Ljubljana, being coined the 2016 Green Capital of Europe, was everything I expected it to be. I love Ljubljana because there is a small town vibe in this capital.  Becoming more and more discovered, Ljubljana is often compared to as a new Prague. The Austro-Hungarian architecture in the city center surrounds you while you walk the cobblestone streets, passing beautiful churches and fountains around every turn. The many cafes and restaurants welcome you to sit on one of the patios along the canal of the Ljubljanica River.  Being mostly a pedestrian only zone, the city center is easy to navigate, easy to discover and full of history. You can’t miss a chance to visit the famous historic castle that overlooks the Ljubljanica River flowing through the center of town, past the famous dragon bridge and the triple bridges with a stunning view of Preseren square and Tivoli park in the distance. You can – and probably will – spend numerous hours visiting the shops, drinking coffee along the river, slowly making your way through the museums and getting to know locals at the central outdoor marketplace.
Slovenia is an ecological paradise. Did you know that Slovenia is ranked third in Europe for being the most forested country? Or that Mount Triglav, the highest mountain in Slovenia, is 9,396 feet (2,864 m)! Triglav National Park is a must when visiting Slovenia and you’ll know why when you see the views from this national park! I was pleasantly amazed to find out that I could enjoy beginner to advanced trekking, rock climbing, mountain biking, white-water rafting, skiing and so much more. So, it’s no surprise that my favourite part of Slovenia was the mountains! The mountains are breathtakingly gorgeous, all 5 different types of them. But even more breathtaking was Slovenia’s most popular tourist destination: Lake Bled. The 6km walk around the lake offers spectacular views from every angle. There is an enchanting island in the middle of the lake, a castle perched high on a hill above the lake, swans and ducks swimming about, romantic couples canoeing across the lake and so much more charm. Of course my favourite part was trying the famous Lake Bled cream cake, a must try when there. Now if you’re visiting Lake Bled, and you must because if you don’t you’re just silly, then you must also visit Slovenia’s largest lake: Lake Bohinj. Surrounded by mountains, this lake offers mountain reflections that will make you topple over in awe. Taking the 11 euro cable car up Mount Vogel offers even more jaw dropping views of Lake Bohinj. Not to mention, there are many incredible hikes in this area!
Mountains aren’t your thing? You’ve got the Slovenian coast to romance you! My favourite coastal towns of Piran and Portorož are so charming and quaint that you’ll want to spend all day enjoying gelato by the sea. And don’t you worry, you can leisurely tour the 46km coast of Slovenia! Piran is a beautiful town that still maintains much of its medieval charm with narrow cobblestone streets. There is an exquisite viewpoint of the town and light blue sea from the remains of medieval ruins that are located on a hill in town (definitely a must see). Portorož is livelier in the summer months as it houses most of the hotels, restaurants and events on the coast. I couldn’t decide which one I liked better…so you’ll have to visit both as well! Along the coast you have access to numerous water sport activities such as: swimming, kite-surfing, sailing, and rowing. If you’re like me and hate water (I’m basically a cat) than you will find bliss in the culinary experiences, casinos, spas, and boutique shops in these cute picturesque towns.
You haven’t finished exploring Slovenia until you’ve been to the Karst region. Everything from the mind-blowing limestone caves, to the Lipica horses, to the Predjama Castle, will teach you of the real beauty and awe of Slovenia. The Postojna Caves and Skocjan Caves are something from Lord of the Rings. The Postojna Caves are the more popular of the two but I only had the chance to visit the Skocjan Caves. The Skocjan Caves encompass eleven very unique caves and because of their geological uniqueness they earned a ‘UNESCO World Heritage’ title. The Skocjan caves stand 150 metres tall with a river following far below. I was overwhelmed at the vastness of the caves while I was walking along the side of the cave at about the height of 90 metres. It was a really awesome experience! The distance from the Skocjan Caves to the Lipica Stud Farm isn’t far, making the two a  perfect day trip. The stunning white Lipizzaner horses are one of the most prestigious horses in the world and can be found at the famous Spanish Riding School in Vienna. Slovenia has been breeding the Lipizzaner horses for hundreds of years. While I didn’t take a tour, I heard the tours of the Lipica Stud Farm are really amazing! Fun fact: Lipica horses are born completely black and turn pure white as they grow older. Last on my list is the Predjama Castle. The Predjama Castle is a castle that is also a cave. It happens to be the biggest castle cave in the world! This castle is built into the side of a mountain as it perches high at about a height of 123 metres. Visiting Predjama you’ll learn about the legend of a knight called Erazem who used the castle as a hid out!
I haven’t even started talking about the numerous castle towns or the wine regions! There’s just so much to see! I suppose it’s time to talk about what I saw visiting northeastern Slovenia. I wanted to explore more of Slovenia’s castles and more small towns. You can easily spend 2 days exploring the charismatic towns of Celje, Ptuj, and Maribor. Celje is a cultural town with an attractive center and a really cool castle that is situated on the edge of a hill across a river from the town. The Celje Castle offers amazing 360 degree views of the town and fields in the distance. The town of Ptuj is nestled close to thermal springs and spas. It is medieval and eclectic with many historic buildings and monuments to prove it. The Ptuj Castle reminded me more of a mansion but it offered amazing views of the town center. There is an interesting museum that features the history of the heritage in the Lower Drava region of Slovenia. Maribor, being Ljubljana’s rival, is the second largest town in Slovenia. Maribor is very picturesque with the rolling hills of Pohorje on one side of the town and wine vineyard hills on the other side. Maribor houses the world’s oldest vine. Yes, I literally mean the world’s oldest vine! The vine is over 400 years old. Maribor is a very attractive city, with a historic and lively old center. It is a good place to pass your days visiting vineyards, shopping in the center, enjoying the culinary offerings and taking romantic walks along the Drava River. Fun fact: there is a vineyard road by Maribor that is in the shape of a heart. Cute, I know!
As you can see, there is so much to fall in love with in Slovenia. I think it’s really important for me to mention how wonderful Slovenian locals are. My experience would have never been the same if I hadn’t met such wonderful and hospitable people. I was also shocked by the amount of locals who spoke English. Everything in Slovenia will pleasantly surprise and delight you!
If you have any questions about Slovenia please feel free to contact me. I love speaking about this beautiful country!

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