A backpackers-style itinerary to discover the most beautiful places in Slovenia, obviously taking a break in the best hostels
Lake Bled Photo by @nevenkrcmarek
It's no news that the world's major tourist masses choose the most popular countries, those that have the attention of the media, as their destinations. In Europe in particular, the most dreamed of countries are France, Italy, England or Spain. On the one hand this is understandable, it's a normal thing we could say. In most cases the journey of a person visiting Europe for the first time touches big cities such as Barcelona, London, Paris or Rome. But what happens in other countries instead? Why are some destinations less visited? And wouldn't it be a good idea to rediscover these countries and get to know them?
We could summarize the answer to all these questions with the following analogy: "The tourism industry is like the film industry, we always see the same faces in the same type of movie". We are talking about places that have managed to position themselves correctly, over the years, in the competitive ranking of global tourism. There are many factors behind this social phenomenon, but they can be reduced to economic, social and political matters.
Once we understand this reasoning, we can move on to the topic of this article: travelling in Slovenia. An exhilarating "on the road" adventure, between urban environments and natural paradises, this is the unique mix of splendid Slovenia. We will visit its welcoming capital Ljubljana, passing through the enchanting Lake Bled and again through woods, waterfalls, hills, castles and traditional villages.
1) Ljubljana, Velika Planina and Logarska Dolina: from the city to the highlands
Ljubljana city center. Photo by @conradoev
It is never a bad idea to get to know a country from its capital because it serves as a connecting point and makes it easy for you to travel elsewhere. Using the Slovenian capital as a base it's not a bad idea if you decide to move throughout the territory by local public transport, otherwise it's advisable to rent a car. Both options are valid, since being a small country the distances are short.
After deciding to start the journey from Ljubljana, it remains to be asked how many days are worth staying there? We believe that two are sufficient, the city is easily explored on foot and the activities offered are not unlimited. The entire historic center, besides being pedestrianized, is very clean and tidy wherever you go.
The first thing to do is to go directly to the Castle: it was destroyed and almost completely rebuilt in the 15th century. Today it is used to host wedding parties and other events. Then go to Preseren Square where you will see many historical monuments such as the Triple Bridge, the Franciscan Church of the Annunciation and, a few meters further on, the Dragon Bridge. This exemplary work of Art Nouveau is inspired by the myth of the origin of the city, according to which Jason and the Argonauts defeated a huge dragon in this land, today it is a symbol of Ljubljana.
The last stop not to be missed in Ljubljana is the "underground" district of Metelkova: it is an alternative cultural space consisting of bars and some discos where events and concerts are also held. It is frequented mainly by the young people of Ljubljana, but its gloomy decoration with scary dolls and monsters attracts a lot of attention even among tourists.
Velika Planina. Photo by @r3dmax
From Ljubljana we head towards Velika Planina (about 50 kms from the capital) which is located an hour and a half by car north. It's a village that dates back to the Middle Ages when the area was mainly used for grazing. Today the plateau is covered with beautiful and welcoming traditional wooden houses born for shepherds that is now renovated and modernized: it is also possible to spend a night in one of these houses during the visit. After a break, it is necessary to admire and enjoy the uncontaminated surrounding landscape, and it is possible to take many excursions here. There are several marked trails in the area for those who enjoy demanding walks, but also easy routes for those who want to take a short, relaxing walk. And, for all cycling enthusiasts, you can rent mountain bikes here and set off on a nice ride along paths of different lengths and difficulties, always immersed in the most beautiful nature.
A road in Logarska Dolina. Photo by @soebau
The next destination of our north tour is Logarska Dolina, another mountainous sector that delights tourists with its super photogenic scenery. Here you will find a park which is about 20,000 square meters big, consisting of valleys and forests (covering 63% of the territory in Slovenia). You can't help but fall in love with the small farms, beautiful wooden houses, and the peaks of the Kamnik and Savinia Alps in the background. This park is also a pioneer in the development of sustainable projects in Slovenia: in the mid-80s the country became very popular mass tourism arrived which generated a multitude of problems. To put an end to these side effects of tourism, the park gained it's protected natural park status in 1987. Another interesting thing to visit in the area is the Lintver Dragon Cave which is located right at the entrance of the Matkov Kot valley, a few minutes from Logarska Dolina.
Check out our hostels in Ljubljana.
2) Bled: the most famous village in Slovenia (+ Bonus)
The church in Bled. Photo by @conradoev
Now it's time to get driving for a couple of hours (about 86 km away), heading west to reach the next destination: the beautiful Bled (if you don't feel like driving you can take one of the buses that arrive there from Ljubljana). This stop can be used as an intermezzo after so many mountains, or as an extension of previous adventures. Bled is a Slovenian city full of particularities and it is one of the few global resorts that has a small chapel located in the center of an island which is located in the middle of a giant blue lake surrounded by mountains. Much of the current popularity of this place is due to its presence on the Internet as many people who love to travel have shown their amazement at the videos and photos taken here and uploaded on social networks ... it is a decidedly photogenic location, perfect for making a great impression on Instagram!
Lake Bohinj. Photo by @mathildero
One of the attractions that's not one to be missed is Bled Castle which rests on the top of a mountain that's 130 meters high. Its history dates back to 1011, when it appeared for the first time mentioned in the act of donation made by Henry II to the bishops of Bressanone, although the building we can admire today was built in the 16th century. The castle can be reached on foot by climbing up a steep path, or driving by car (parking is free). The entrance is for a fee, but inside there is a historical museum and a terrace that offers a breathtaking view of the lake. Another excursion that can't be missed is the "Vintgar", a four kilometer long gorge to go to while admiring the turquoise river below. The site was discovered in 1891 by the commander Jakob Žumer and the cartographer and photographer Benedikt Lergetporer, shortly afterwards it was equipped with wooden walkways and bridges to open to the public on August 26, 1893.
We wipe the sweat off from all the walking and go further west until we come across another beautiful lake called Bohinj. This natural site is about 20 minutes away from Bled. We know that at this point tiredness could dampen enthusiasm, but don't give up right now because it's a place worth visiting. Take a moment to admire the wonder that's before your eyes and think about how lucky you are to be able to sit in front of such beauty. Once your picnic is over, if you have some energy left you can climb the many steps that lead up to the Savica waterfall. It is 78 meters high and its noise is deafening from the impressive force produced by the water that falls and breaks on the bottom.
Check out cheap hostels in Bled.
3) Soca and Kozjak: a natural experience
Soca Valley. Photo by @jorisbeugels
We set off in a westerly direction to reach the Soca valley which is 92 kilometers away (about two hours by car). Its name derives from a large river called Soča, which rises in the Triglav national park in northwestern Slovenia, and is characterized by an emerald green color. This area of lush nature was a battleground for the war that burned the lives of 300,000 soldiers of the Italian and Austro-Hungarian Empire who faced off here during the conflicts of the World War. For more information, visit the Kobarid Museum. In addition to the various trekking routes in the valley, the Soca river is also a perfect setting for those who love sport fishing: many hours of patience and a lot of technique will allow you to catch the Soca trout, a species highly appreciated for the enormous strength that it demonstrates in dealing with strong water currents.
The Kozjak waterfall. Photo by @markiverson
Now we begin the descent towards the south of the country until we reach Kozjak. The stretch is 38 kilometers long and if there is no traffic you can complete it in an hour. In reality the distance is not much, the problem is the winding roads that must be traveled with a little caution. So what's the reason for this stop? Simple, the waterfalls! They are two and are somehow hidden between the mountains and the vegetation of the valley. If you have enough courage you can go rafting in the rapids. The largest waterfall at 15 meters high, falls into a pool of clear water and is only one of the six waterfalls of the Kozjak stream, but unfortunately only two are accessible to visitors. There is also a smaller waterfall which is 8 meters high and is called Mali Kozjak.
4) Postojna, Predjama and Škocjan: a dark passage
Le Grotte di Postumia. Foto di @ivanivankovic
From Kozjak we head south towards Postojna. This time almost two hours of travel await us (a 115 km journey). In Postojna we will continue with the adventure tourism, but this time with less light and much more mystery. Here in fact we can visit huge caves with stalactites that date back to very ancient times: 21 km of galleries, halls and niches that will leave you speechless. Not only is the size of these spaces surprising, but you will also have the opportunity to meet the rare amphibian that inhabits these dark caves called Proteus - or "proteus anguinus" according to its scientific name. Obviously there are tours available to get you well acquainted with the caves, which invole you walking for 1 km and then taking a train that runs for another 4 km. The train journey (about 10 minutes to enter and as many to exit) is one of the most curious parts of this visit, as it passes through dozens of illuminated galleries that give you the feeling that you're traveling to the center of the earth ... an experience too magical to lose!
Predjama Castle. Photo by @jesusperez
We advise that you plan a one-day to visit the cave and another for the subsequent tourist attraction of our trip through Slovenia: the Predjama Castle. What makes this structure unique is its particular construction, incorporated in the rocks. In a sense, we can say that its back is set at the foot of the mountain. You can access it to see its interior and visit its museum, the independent entrance to the Predjama castle costs € 14.90, although it is convenient to buy the combined ticket with the Postojna Caves. Very often people who pass through these parts also take the opportunity to see the other caves, known as Škocjan. These are smaller than the previous ones, but are world heritage sites. They are millions of years old, have been inhabited in prehistoric times and are a delight for both the eyes of the tourist and experts. The deepest point of the caves is located about 212 meters below the ground and the internal temperature is around 12 ° C (it is advisable to have a good coat and sports shoes).
5) Piran: a quick escape to the coast
The main square in Piran. Photo by @sveinmagne
We continue to visit Slovenia, but now we enter the final part of our itinerary. In the latter part we go west to reach a small coastal town called Piran which can be reached in 40 minutes from our last stop, traffic permitting. Piran has an extraordinary history because it was part of the Roman Empire, until it passed to the Byzantines, the French, the Austrians and, after the Second World War, to Italy, a country to which it actually brings many influences. The center of the city is a collection of narrow pedestrian streets that climb from the Adriatic coast to the hill that protects the city. Its size is small and it can be easily visited in a single day - even if it is such a nice and quiet place that perhaps it is worth spending a night there, maybe to visit some other village on the Slovenian coast later on. An unmissable walk is the panoramic point located on the walls of Piran that have surrounded the city since the seventh century when they were built to prevent attacks (you have to pay a ticket to access the fortifications).
Check out cheap hostels in Piran.
Our journey ends here, it was an exceptional itinerary of about ten hours of travel and almost 500 km. It is a journey that can give you a 360 ° idea of Slovenia and that has helped us to experience the different wonders of this country. Of course, according to your needs, the tour can be extended, or even reduced, it is a flexible program that allows changes and it is up to you to decide what to see or not. In the end, the fantastic thing about travel is the freedom you experience when making decisions. That pleasure of not having to travel on a regimented path, full of commitments or routines. We hope that you can use our tour as inspiration and that one day you will find your own way to know Slovenia ... we assure you that you will not regret it!
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