10 Days in Slovenia for active and outdoor travelers

It’s better to see something once than to hear about it a thousand times. – Asian Proverb

 

This year, my sister and I decided to travel to Slovenia. I had been there once before on a short work trip and I was fascinated by the beautiful landscapes. So we decided to fly to Ljubljana, then rent a car to get around. When researching accomodation, we couldn’t help noticing that “Glamping” has seemingly become a big thing in Slovenia. We decided to test Glamping Bizjak in Preddvor. The village is about 30 km from Ljubljana (and, conveniently, only 9 km from Ljubljana Joze Pucnik Airport).

Accomodation: Glamping Bizjak

Glamping Bizjak is GREAT. We got there in the late afternoon and were shown to our “room”. Accomodation on the site consists of four “wooden rooms with garden view” aka four wooden “houses” sitting around a small pond in a big garden behind the main house and restaurant. This house is equipped with a double bed, nightstands, electricity, Wifi and a deck. Every house has its own small bathroom and a spa is available upon request.

Breakfast was included and turned out to be one of my favourite parts of the whole trip. Every morning, it was delivered to our doorstep, so all we had to do was get out of bed and sit on our deck while the sun would go up behind the nearby mountains. The owner’s cat would come greet us every morning and three ducks would come running to take a bath in the pond while birds were singing in the trees. On our first morning, it felt like a scene in a fairy-tale movie and we actually had to drag ourselves out of the chairs to start exploring the country.

 

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Bled and Vintgar Gorge

Our first trip took us to Bled, a town set on the glacial Lake Bled with a castle overlooking the lake and a church that was built on a small island in the middle of the lake. We spent that day cycling and walking around the lake, taking a boat tour on the lake and tasting the famous Bled Cream Cake.

In the afternoon, we hiked through Vintgar Gorge, which is about 1.6km long and was carved by the Radovna river. Bled and the Vintgar Gorge were probably the most crowded spots of our trip. Bled’s beautiful view on the lake and surrounding mountains is a tourist attraction, so I would strongly recommend you visit on a weekday (Saturday was definitely not the best day to go there).

 

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Triglav National Park and Vršič Pass

On our second day, we wanted to explore Triglav National Park. As it spans over 800 km², I thought it would be a good idea to drive around it and just stop whenever we found some interesting sites. The road would take us through some villages, including Kranjska Gora and over the Vršič Pass.

First, let me tell you that I have always thought of myself as a rather experienced driver. I love road trips and have driven through some countries, in different cars, automatic or stick and on both sides of the road. So when the owner of our Glamping told me to be careful on the road I just nodded and didn’t think about it twice… Driving in Slovenia is pretty good, even though some of their roads are quite narrow and I sometimes questioned our navigation system when we found ourselves on a road that I would describe as a cycling path. The Slovenians didn’t seem to mind, though, and on a few occasions I found myself being the slowest driver out there (definitely a new experience for me).

So, on that Sunday, I was driving towards the Vršič Pass around noon… I then spent the next 2hours driving up and down what seemed to me like 500 hairpin bends, trying not to hit any bicycles (they were everywhere) or get stuck behind any bus or trailer, or stall the car whenever I had to stop because one of those busses or trailers did get stuck, all the while getting overtaken by motorcyclists and cut off by oncoming traffic. I sorely regretted that I hadn’t rented a 4×4 (our little Toyota Yaris fought bravely, though). When I finally got to Trenta on the other side of the pass, I was ready to abandon the car for the rest of that day. Btw, I have since found out that there are *only* 50 hairpin bends. If you want to drive over this pass for sightseeing, I would recommend a weekday, as there might be fewer bicycles around and the observation/rest areas might be less crowded.

The rest of the trip was great, though. There are many small villages that are worth a stop and many hiking trails in the Soca valley.

 

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Škocjan and Postojna Caves

Day 3 of our trip took us to a Unesco World Heritage site: the Škocjan Caves. For me, this was the highlight of our trip. In the Karst region, these caves constitute the largest underground canyon in the world. The caves were forged by the Reka River and you can follow its course underground, through caves filled with stalactites and stalagmites, wandering on dimly lit paths. We were reminded of Gimli’s home in the Lord of the Rings and were pretty sure we would meet a dwarf during the tour. On exiting the caves, you can either go straight back to the parking lot or follow the Reka River for about 1,5km. We continued along the river on a path that took us through some smaller caves and a forest. Again the valley reminded us of the Lord of the Rings movies and we refer to this part as the “Road to Rivendell” (and yes, we watched the movies again during our trip 🙂 )

 

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The second cave we visited was Postojna cave, conveniently just a 30 min drive away. This cave was created by the Pivka River and is a top tourism site. You enter the cave by train, then walk a 1,5km tour through the cave system. Again, the cave is absolutely worth a visit, even though the site is more “commercial” and it was much more crowded.

 

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Lipica Stud Farm

This trip would obviously appeal to horse lovers but the farm also has a very interesting history, a beautiful old manor and long walks that can be explored by foot or carriage. A museum tells the story of the farm and the famous Lipizzaner horses, a guided tour of the estate leads you into the stables and a performance from the most impressive studs on the farm will show you what these horses are capable of.

 

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Lake Bohinj and Savica Waterfall

Lake Bohinj is situated in the Triglav National Park and the villages around it offer many sports activities. We started the day by walking from the Zlatorog hotel in Ukanc to the Savica Waterfall. There are three paths that lead up to the waterfall from Ukanc but you can also park the car at a hut near the waterfall. The viewpoints on the path are worth your time, too, as you can see lake Bohinj and the surrounding mountains. Personally, I preferred Lake Bohinj to Lake Bled as it was less crowded and it just felt less touristy. I definitely want to go back there for an active holiday that will include more water sports, paragliding, hiking and biking.

 

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Ljubljana

Ljubljana is Europe’s green capital 2016 and the city definitely deserves the title. We started our day with drinks at the Nebotičnik, a rooftop bar/restaurant with a view of the city. Walking along the Ljubljana river and through adjacent streets, we found many interesting bars and restaurants. It’s easy to explore the center on foot as many streets are not accessible for cars. We walked up to Ljubljana Castle and to the Metelkova City, a social center on the site of former military barracks and my favourite part of the capital.

 

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Piran

Slovenia has a small coastline on the Adriatic Sea, so we decided to spend a day at the beach. We drove to Piran and spent the day walking along the coast and through the small town. There are many restaurants to choose from, but I can recommend Trattoria Verdi and their Seafood plate 🙂

 

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Mostnica Gorge and Voje Valley

We spent our last day back in Triglav National Park. We wanted to explore the 2km long gorge carved by the Mostnica River which is accessible from the village Stara Fuzina. The hardest part was finding the parking lot and we came across it more or less by accident after driving up a very narrow street that had me wondering whether I was actually in somebody’s driveway. The gorge alone is worth a visit, but if you continue towards the Voje waterfall, you will walk through a valley with vast meadows and small wooden houses (in my head I kept hearing the song of “Heidi”, a children’s fiction by Swiss author Johanna Spyri and one of my favourite books/movies as a child).

 

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My advice for everybody who loves sports, nature and the great outdoors, plan a trip to Slovenia before it becomes a real tourist attraction.

 

 

 

 

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