The scenic ancient capital of Ljubljana
Flying into Ljubljana, you’ll immediately get a sense of what beauty Slovenia offers. The city’s old town winds around an ancient castle on a tree-covered mound, which houses a museum and puppet theatre. Included in the 10 euro entry fee is a 70-metre funicular ride and 90-minute Time Machine tour, or you can take one of the hourly tourist trains up to it and just walk around the grounds for free.
Ljubljana itself is a cultural hub brimming with restaurants, live jazz bars and art galleries. It’s one of the few places in Europe where you’ll find the national poet has the biggest local statue. Plus, the artist’s commune of Metelkova is a must see – transformed from an army barracks it’s an autonomous social centre, adorned with outdoor art and home to some cool bars and clubs.
The Slovenian Riviera
A strip of just 45 kilometres’ worth of the Adriatic coastline belongs to Slovenia on its south-western edge, sandwiched between Italy and Croatia. However, the small area is home to some stunning resorts including the ancient spa town of Portoroz, the medieval architecture of Piran, plus the Secovlje Salina Nature Park on the Croatian border.
Portoroz – or Port of Roses – has been a health resort since the 13th century using mud and salt water baths. Nowadays it still has a wealth of spa and wellness centres as well as a modern marina and excellent facilities for those on package holidays to Slovenia. Just north, Piran’s old town of pretty terracotta tiled buildings juts out into the sea. It’s an idyllic place to sit at a seafood restaurant and enjoy the sunset.
Lakes, islands and castles
One of the most visited places in Slovenia is undoubtedly Lake Bled. The blue as blue lake has a dot of an island in the middle with a tiny baroque chapel that you can visit via covered wooden rowing boats called pletnas. The dramatic 11th-century castle looms over the lake from a cliff and houses an interesting museum telling of the lake’s history. If you book a table at the Castle Restaurant admission to the castle is free, otherwise it’s 10 euros.
The popularity of the area means there are resorts and hotels lining the water and a number of top notch restaurants serving the local dessert – Bled cream cakes. The snow-capped mountains behind are where skiing and climbing are rife and also nearby is the Vintgar Gorge, where you can walk across bridges over the river or hike through the countryside.
A hidden wonder of Slovenia is the network of caves that are carved out underground, including one of the largest subterranean canyons in the world. At 60 metres wide and 140 metres deep, the Skocjan Caves are still being carved out by the Reka River.
Just 30 minutes away are Postojna Caves, where you can explore five of the 24 kilometres worth of caves via an electric train, which takes you through huge stalactites, stalagmites and other, more unusual natural formations on the way to the Concert Hall cave. Housing 10,000 people for musical performances, the Concert Hall also displays the strange amphibian known as the human fish in its aquarium – a bizarre native of Slovenian cave eco-systems.