Awarded Best in Travel 2022
An earthly paradise of snow-capped peaks, turquoise-green rivers and Venetian-style coastline, Slovenia enriches its natural treasures with harmonious architecture, charming rustic culture and sophisticated cuisine.
From the soaring peaks of the Julian Alps and the subterranean magic of Postojna and Škocjan caves, to the sparkling emerald-green lakes and rivers and the short but sweet coastline along the Adriatic Sea, tiny Slovenia really does have it all. An incredible mixture of climates brings warm Mediterranean breezes up to the foothills of the Alps, where it can snow even in summer. And with more than half of its total surface still covered in forest, Slovenia does more than simply claim it's 'green', it really is one of the greenest countries on earth.
Slovenia is first and foremost an outdoor destination. Local people favour active holidays, and you’ll be invited – even expected – to join in. The list of activities on offer is endless, with the most popular pursuits being skiing, walking and hiking in the mountains, and increasingly, cycling. Fast rivers like the Soča cry out to be rafted and there are ample chances to try out more niche activities like horse riding, ballooning, caving and canyoning. If all this sounds a bit much, you can always decamp to the coast and sunbathe on the Adriatic.
Architectural & Cultural Treasures
You might be forgiven for thinking that anything of beauty in this greenest of green lands is, well, all natural. But it isn't necessarily so. Where man intrudes is often to good effect, such as at Lake Bled, where a tiny baroque chapel on a picturesque island and a dramatic castle looming above complete a harmonious whole. The architecture is wonderfully varied: from the Venetian harbour towns of the coast and the rustic Hungarian-style farmhouses of Prekmurje to the Gothic churches of the Julian Alps and the art nouveau splendours of Ljubljana. The museums are rich and the culture vibrant.
A Matter of Taste
Slovenian cooking borrows a little something from each of its neighbours – Italy, Austria, Hungary and the Balkans – synthesising and reinventing dishes that emerge both familiar and unique. Slovenes have an obsession for using only fresh and locally sourced ingredients. The result is a terrific foodie destination, where you’ll sample dishes in unusual combinations, featuring items like scrumptious pasta dumplings of potato, chives and bacon, salads drizzled with nutty pumpkinseed oil, and multilayered gibanica, a wildly decadent dessert. Slovenian wine is an unheralded strength, and regional whites and reds pair well with local specialities.
Discover some of the most unique and fulfilling experiences your next destination has to offer.
Tips & Travel trends to help you pick the perfect time to visit this destination.
Golden rules to keep in mind when traveling to this destination.
Put these must-see destinations on your next travel wish list.
Everything you need to know about services, requirements, and the application process when traveling internationally.
Deals and tips on ways to save without sacrificing the fun on your next trip.
Browse the various transportation options to make your trip that much easier when you arrive.
These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout Slovenia.
Sitting at a view-enhanced elevation of 1611m, this mountain pass is about 13km southwest of Kranjska Gora, via a storied road that zigzags madly and passes numerous sites of interest as it climbs. From the pass itself, the peak-tastic views take in Mojstrovka (2332m) to the west and Prisojnik/Prisank (2547m) to the east; to the south the valley of the Soča River points the way to western Slovenia. From Kranjska Gora, as the road reaches just over 1100m you come to the beautiful wooden Russian Chapel, erected on the site where more than 300 Russian POWs were buried in an avalanche in March 1916. From here the climb begins in earnest as the road meanders past a couple of huts and corkscrews up the next few kilometers to the pass itself. From here, a hair-raising descent of about 10km ends just short of a monument to Dr Julius Kugy (1858–1944), a pioneer climber and writer whose books eulogize the beauty of the Julian Alps. The road continues to the settlements of Trenta and Soča, 8km downstream. The activity hub of Bovec is 12km west of Soča. En route, the narrow Lepena Valley is well worth a detour, for accommodation, splendid vistas and a range of walks. Photo credit: Nino Marcutti
What attracts most people to this little church is the famous Dance of Death or Danse Macabre, a fresco that shows 11 skeletons leading the same number of people forward to a freshly dug grave. A 12th holds open a coffin. The doomed line-up includes peasants, kings, cardinals, and even a moneylender (who attempts to bribe his skeletal escort with a purse): all are equal in the eyes of God. The church was built between the 12th and 14th centuries in the southern Romanesque style, with fortifications added in 1581 in advance of the Ottomans. Its sombre exterior is disarming in the extreme. The Dance of Death is not the only fresco – the interior is completely festooned with paintings by John of Kastav from around 1490. The artworks helped the illiterate understand the Old Testament stories, the Passion of Christ and the lives of the saints. Spare the 12 minutes it takes to listen to the taped commentary (in four languages, including English) that guides you around the little church. Facing you as you enter the church is the 17th-century altar, the central apse with scenes from the Crucifixion on the ceiling and portraits of the Trinity and the Apostles. On the arch, Mary is crowned queen of heaven. To the right are episodes from the seven days of Creation, with Adam and Eve, and Cain and Abel on the right. On the ceilings of the north and south aisles are scenes from daily life as well as the liturgical year and its seasonal duties. Christ’s Passion is depicted at the top of the southernmost wall, including his Descent into Hell, where devils attack him with blazing cannons. Below the scenes of the Passion is the Dance of Death.
The jaw-dropping Postojna Cave system, a series of caverns, halls and passages some 24km long and two million years old, was hollowed out by the Pivka River, which enters a subterranean tunnel near the cave’s entrance. Visitors get to see 5km of the cave on 1½-hour tours; 3.2km of this is covered by a cool electric train. Postojna Cave has a constant temperature of 8°C to 10°C, with 95% humidity, so a warm jacket and decent shoes are advised. The train takes you to the Great Mountain cavern, on a trip that's like entering the secret lair of a James Bond villain. From here a guide escorts you on foot through tunnels, halls, galleries and caverns in one of four to six languages (audioguides are available in many more tongues). These are dry galleries, decorated with a vast array of stalactites shaped like needles, enormous icicles and even fragile spaghetti. The stalagmites take familiar shapes but there are also bizarre columns, pillars and translucent curtains that look like rashers of bacon. From the Velika Gora cavern you continue across the Russian Bridge, built by prisoners of war in 1916, through the 500m-long Beautiful Caves that are filled with wonderful ribbon-shaped stalactites and stalagmites that are two million years old (it takes 30 years to produce 1mm of stalactite). The halls of the Beautiful Caves are the farthest point you’ll reach; from here a tunnel stretches to the Black Cave (Črna Jama) and Pivka Cave (these can also be visited on additional tours). The tour continues south through the Winter Hall, past the 5m, snow-white Brilliant stalagmite (also sometimes called the Diamond) and the neighbouring baroque pillar, which have become symbols of the cave. You then enter the Concert Hall, which is the largest in the cave system and can accommodate 10,000 people for musical performances. In the week between Christmas and New Year, the Live Christmas Crib (Jaslice) – the Nativity performed by miming actors – also takes place in the cave. Visitors reboard the train by the Concert Hall and return to the entrance. The river continues its deep passage underground, carving out several series of caves, and emerges again as the Unica River. Green felt capes can be hired at the entrance for €3.50. There are few steps to climb. Check the website for package deals, including various combination tickets that include Vivarium Proteus, the new Expo and the don't-miss Predjama Castle. Postojna is a less-strenuous option than Škocjan Caves.
Touring the huge, spectacular subterranean chambers of the 6km-long Škocjan Caves is a must. This remarkable cave system was carved out by the Reka River, which enters a gorge below the village of Škocjan and eventually flows into the Dead Lake, a sump at the end of the cave where it disappears. It surfaces again as the Timavo River at Duino in Italy, 34km northwest, before emptying into the Gulf of Trieste. Dress warmly and wear good walking shoes. There are two options for touring the caves. The first is a two-hour guided tour through the caves (the most popular option for visitors, called Through the Underground Canyon). Visitors walk in groups from the ticket office for about 600m down a gravel path to the main entrance in the Globočak Valley. Through a 116m-long tunnel built in 1933, you soon reach the head of the so-called Silent Cave, a dry branch of the underground canyon that stretches for 500m. The first section, called Paradise, is filled with beautiful stalactites, stalagmites and flowstones that look like snowdrifts; the second part (called Calvary) was once the riverbed. The Silent Cave ends at the Great Hall, 120m wide and 30m high. It is a jungle of exotic dripstones and deposits; keep an eye out for the mighty stalagmites called the Giants and the Pipe Organ. The sound of the Reka River heralds your entry into the Murmuring Cave, with walls 100m high. To get over the Reka and into Müller Hall, you must cross Cerkevnik Bridge, suspended nearly 50m above the riverbed and surely the highlight of the trip. Schmidl Hall, the final section, emerges into the Velika Dolina (Big Valley). From here you walk past Tominč Cave, where finds from a prehistoric settlement have been unearthed, and over a walkway near the Natural Bridge. The tour ends at a funicular lift that takes you back to the entrance (or you can opt to walk, which takes about 30 minutes). The caves are home to a surprising amount of flora and fauna; your guide will point out mounds of bat guano. The temperature is constant at 12°C so bring along a jacket or sweater. Also note the paths are sometimes slippery. In total, visitors walk 3km on this tour. There's a 'no photos' rule. From April to October, visitors can choose a second tour option, called Following the Reka River Underground. This is a guided (or self-guided) 2km walk following the path of the Reka River, entering the first part of the cave through the natural entrance carved by the river below the village of Škocjan. A combined ticket with Through the Underground Canyon costs €24/12.50.
Crowning a 375m-high hill east of the Old Town, this castle is an architectural mishmash, with most of it dating from the early 16th century when it was largely rebuilt after a devastating earthquake. It’s free to ramble around the castle grounds, but you’ll have to pay to enter the Watchtower and the Chapel of St George, and to see the worthwhile Slovenian History Exhibition, visit the Puppet Theatre and take the Time Machine tour. There are several ways to access the castle, with the easiest being a 70m-long funicular that leaves from the Old Town not far from the market on Vodnikov trg. There's also an hourly tourist train that departs from south of the Ljubljana TIC. There are three main walking routes: Študentovska ulica, which runs south from Ciril Metodov trg; steep Reber ulica from Stari trg; and Ulica na Grad from Gornji trg. You can explore the castle's various attractions at your own pace, or join one of the highly recommended 90-minute Time Machine tours, led by costumed guides. The castle's 19th-century watchtower is located on the southwestern side of the castle courtyard. The climb to the top, via a double wrought-iron staircase (95 steps from the museum level) and a walk along the ramparts, is worth the effort for the views down into the Old Town and across the river to Center. Within the watchtower, there is a 12-minute video tour of Ljubljana and its history in several languages. Situated below the watchtower down a small flight of stairs, the remarkable Chapel of St George (Kapela Sv Jurija) is one of the oldest surviving remnants of the castle, dating from 1489. It is covered in frescoes and the coats of arms of the Dukes of Carniola. The interesting and well-presented interactive Slovenian History Exhibition (Razstava Slovenska Zgodovina) looks at the country through the ages, running from the very earliest Roman times, through the Middle Ages, the 19th century, WWI and WWII, and ending with socialist Yugoslavia and independence. Also worth a look, the Museum of Puppetry (Lutkovni Muzej) explores the world of puppetry, from the manufacture of marionettes and glove puppets to the staging of the shows themselves. It's very interactive and lots of fun. The Ljubljana Castle Information Centre can advise on tours and events that might be on during your visit.
Predjama Castle, 9km from Postojna, is one of Europe's most dramatic castles. It teaches a clear lesson: if you want to build an impregnable fortification, put it in the gaping mouth of a cavern halfway up a 123m cliff. Its four storeys were built piecemeal over the years from 1202, but most of what you see today is from the 16th century. It looks simply unconquerable. An audioguide (available in 15 languages) details the site's highlights and history. The castle has great features for kids of any age – holes in the ceiling of the entrance tower for pouring boiling oil on intruders, a very dank dungeon, a 16th-century chest full of treasure (unearthed in the cellar in 1991), and an eyrie-like hiding place at the top called Erazem's Nook, named for Erazem (Erasmus) Lueger. Lueger was a 15th-century robber-baron who, like Robin Hood, stole from the rich to give to the poor. During the wars between the Hungarians and the Austrians, Erazem supported the former. He holed up in Predjama Castle and continued his daring deeds with the help of a secret passage that led out from behind the rock wall. In 1484 the Austrian army besieged the castle, but it proved impregnable. Erazem mocked his attackers, even showering them with fresh cherries to prove his comfortable situation. But the Austrians had the last laugh – finally hitting him with a cannonball as he sat on the toilet. An ignoble fate for a dashing character. The cave below the castle is part of the 14km Predjama cave system. It's open to visitors from May to September (but closed in winter so as not to disturb its colony of bats during their hibernation). Another adventure option is to visit the narrow Erazem's Passage, through which the besieged knight was connected with the outside world (some climbing skills are required for this). Tours need to be booked at least three days in advance; caving tours range in price from €24 to €80. Joint tickets can be bought for the castle and Postojna Cave. In July and August, a handy shuttle-bus service runs between the cave and the castle; it's free for guests who buy a combined ticket for both attractions.
The stud farm can be visited on very popular, 50-minute guided tours. The interesting, informative tours are available in a number of languages; a tour covers the farm's unique heritage and the breeding of the horses, and visits the pastures and stables. It ends at the very good, hands-on museum called Lipikum (entrance included in tour). A highlight is the performance of these elegant horses as they go through their complicated paces, pirouetting and dancing to Viennese waltzes with riders en costume. On Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday, you can watch training sessions at 10am and 11am (adult/child €14/7 including guided tour). It pays to check the website or call to confirm times, rather than arrive and be disappointed. In April and October there are a reduced number of performances and training sessions; from November to March there are none. Horse-drawn carriage jaunts around the estate might appeal (15/30/60 minutes €20/30/50). They run 10am to 2pm and 4pm to 6pm Tuesday to Sunday from April to October, and from 11am to 3pm Saturday and Sunday from November to March. You can still take a tour in winter, but there are fewer horses around. Avoid visiting on Mondays, when there are no performances, training sessions or carriage rides.
One of the easiest and most satisfying half-day trips from Bled is to Vintgar Gorge, some 4km to the northwest of Bled village. The highlight is a 1600m wooden walkway through the gorge, built in 1893 and continually rebuilt since. It criss-crosses the swirling Radovna River four times over rapids, waterfalls and pools before reaching 16m-high Šum Waterfall. The entire walk is spectacular, although it can get wet and slippery. There are little snack bars at the beginning and the end of the walkway; the path to view Šum Waterfall is behind the kiosk at the walkway's end. It's an easy walk to the gorge from Bled. Head northwest on Prešernova cesta then north on Partizanska cesta to Cesta Vintgar. This will take you to Podhom, where signs show the way to the gorge entrance. To return, you can either retrace your steps or, from Šum Waterfall, walk eastward over Hom (834m) to the ancient pilgrimage Church of St Catherine (signed 'Katarina Bled'), which retains some 15th-century fortifications. From there it's due south through Zasip to Bled. Count on about three hours all in. In July and August, buses leaves Bled bus station daily at 8.30am, 9.30am and 10.30am for Vintgar, stopping at several points in town, including Bled Castle, along the way.
The town's premier sight is the commanding Loka castle, overlooking the settlement from a grassy hill west of Mestni trg. It dates from the 13th century and was extensively renovated after an earthquake in 1511. Today the castle houses the Loka Museum, which boasts an excellent ethnographic collection spread over two-dozen galleries on two floors. Exhibits run the gamut from taxidermied animals to church frescoes by way of local painters, lace-making traditions and WWII partisans; English labelling can be patchy for some exhibits. In the garden, you’ll find a typical peasant house from nearby Puštal dating from the 16th century. Don't miss the four spectacular golden altars in the castle chapel. These date from the 17th century and were taken from a church destroyed during WWII in Dražgoše, northwest of Škofja Loka. Two paths lead up to the castle from the Old Town; one starts just opposite Kavarna Homan, the other next to Martin House. A longer walking trail, the Three Castles Path, begins at the castle and travels a circular, forested path for about 5km (two hours), past the ruins of the Krancelj Tower and the Old Castle. The TIC has a brochure with map.
Top 10 travel goals
Top 10 best value destinations in 2019
When to go to Slovenia
Spotlight on: Slovenia in winter