Slovenia Travel Guide
To many of us, Slovenia is a little bit of an unknown country and is often confused with Slovakia. One of the reasons for this lack of understanding, aside from the similarity of name, is that direct flight access from the UK has been pretty limited in recent years. Airlines and tour operators have focused on Croatia’s beach resorts rather than Slovenia’s lakes, mountains, and coast. Back in the late nineties, Slovenia came on my radar as the tour operator I worked for started to sell, Croatia and Slovenia two center holidays.
The first problem I had in those days was learning to spell the capital – Ljubljana – I think I have finally mastered it. An unusual fact I recall from back in those days was that the outline of Slovenia is that of a chicken. I would say a portly mother hen actually but there you go. You were not expecting that nugget of information, were you?
I will be the first to admit that when I was first introduced to the country back in the late 1990’s I knew very little about it. However, over the following 20 years, I have grown to adore this undiscovered European gem.
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So who goes to Slovenia today – well I do for starters – I have had many a business trip to the country but also I have had a new year skiing holiday in the mountain resort of Kranjska Gora. I have taken a city break in Ljubljana, a lads golfing break to Bled and also a weekend self drive tour of the lakes and mountains – not bad for such a little country!
Back in 2013 one of the UK’s leading travel groups hosted their overseas conference in Lake Bled – unbeknown to many it was actually my suggestion and I presented the initial pitch with the wonderfully supportive Slovenian Tourist Board to the organisers. I guess that demonstrates how much I really like this country.
A year later and ABTA – the Association of British Travel Agents hosted its annual conference in the capital city of Ljubljana. This was a great success and opened the eyes of many in the travel industry to the delights of this sadly overlooked country.
I think many people believe Slovenia to be that dull grey eastern European country with little to do aside from consuming cheap beer. How wrong they are! For the adrenaline junkie, there is a rich list of attractions – caving, skiing, rafting, rock climbing, canoeing, and even bungee jumping. I remember my first and only taste of white water rafting on the Sava river – really great fun and through the well organised sports companies that are peppered around the area you can be sure of an amazing experience but with your health and safety assured.
I often think of Slovenia as a mini Switzerland however there is a saying about being small and perfectly formed plus Switzerland does not have a coast and it’s blinking expensive! Slovenia is also a country that is embracing sustainability with many projects ongoing to protect nature and surroundings – this can only be a good thing and another reason I share a connection with the country.
Then finally there are the people. They are great fun and really quirky. This is displayed both in their art, their fashion, and then in their fun loving slightly mischievous sense of humour. I remember one evening in Bled with the local Major – you might expect a stuffy regimented kinda guy but no he was at the bar singing and telling jokes all night long… Slovenes are truly lovely and will welcome tourists with open arms.
So there you have it – a sustainable focused green country with the cleanest freshest air, beautiful scenery, superb locally produced cuisine and lovely friendly warm-hearted people. It’s a country I have always loved and will return to at the drop of a hat.
Slovenia on Film
Adria Airways, the country’s national carrier, British Airways, and a host of low-cost airlines including Wizzair, Easyjet and Ryanair all have various services from the UK to Ljubljana.
Many visitors to Slovenia also fly into Graz in Austria for Eastern Slovenia, Maribor) or to Klagunfurt in Austria for Bled, Bohinj and Kranjska Gora or Pula in Croatia or Trieste in Italy for the coast..
If the direct services to Slovenia from the UK don’t work for you then with a little research into the geography of the region and you may find some useful alternatives.
I would recommend hiring a car in Slovenia as driving is easy, the roads are not that busy once you are out of Ljubljana and once behind the wheel, you will have the freedom to visit off-the-beaten-path places which ultimately will save you money.
The easiest place to hire a car is at Ljubljana airport. Here you will find all the major companies, like Avis, Hertz, Europecar, Enterprise or Sixt. The rent a -car building, where all the car rental offices are, is across the street from the arrivals terminal.
You can also rent a car in Ljubljana or other smaller cities, like Bled, if that’s the start journey of your trip. Some companies do prove a pickup and collection service some at cost.
You need to be at least 18 and have a driving license for at least 2 years and have a credit card with you. You will be asked for your passport as well when you pick up the car, and it needs to match your driving license.
Hiring a sat nav will cost you another £8-10 per day. Do you need it – well I didn’t however if you are travelling alone it is probably a good idea as looking at a map while driving is not recommended!
If you are driving up into the mountains and perhaps doing my recommended road trip along the Sava river to the Vrsic Pass then I would get an automatic as the mountain bends are tiring.
The most popular ferry in Slovenia is the one used by locals and hordes of tourists from Piran to Venice for a day trip. The Venezia line ship takes about 310 passengers with the crossing 3 hours and costs about 70-75 euros per adult and 50% reduction for children.
There is the option of a VIP ticket which provides the VIP Salon – an exclusive area on the top deck of the boat seating maximum of 30 people. It has leather seats and lounge-style seating plus a higher view from the elevated position. Guests travelling in the VIP Salon will depart the boat first plus are offered a free welcome drink.
Taxis are a good way of getting around although I much prefer my own car. A word of warning though in the major tourist areas such as Bled or Ljubljana it is always best to get an upfront price. A journey from Ljubljana airport should cost approximately 40 Euros to Bled.
In the more remote mountainous or smaller towns taxis are limited and can be expensive. My advice is to plan ahead so you don’t need one or have your own car.
I really love Ljubljana railway station and seem to have spent quite a lot of time there over the years. It is a short ten-minute walk from there into Ljubljana centre. The capital has direct train services to all the major neighbouring European cities and a few more besides. Here is a little guide as to what is available. I took the train to Budapest a few years back and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
You may want to consider an Interrail Slovenia Rail pass or an Interrail Global pass with access to 33 countries – it just depends on how much you plan to use them.
Places To Stay in Slovenia
You will find accommodation to suit every budget and every taste.
If you want indulgence and luxury then there is a choice of excellent hotels along with standard 2 and 3 star options which represent good value for money, One thing you can be sure of is excellent food as Slovenes take great pride in what they serve up on your dinner table !
For a more authentic experience and where you can mix with the locals then guesthouses, pensions or private rooms are a good choice.
There are also numerous camping grounds both in the valleys and mountains and these cater for the hikers, walkers and many cyclists that enjoy the countries natural assets.
Among the themed accommodation, the natural health resorts and thermal spas tend to be more popular with the european’s as opposed to those travelling from the UK.
For all those who want to save when travelling, but also value the comfort and orderliness, hostels are another option and intended for all age groups as well as families. Many hostels offer the same comfort as hotels but often with no restaurant.
Some more obscure options are a stay in a castle, a mountain refuge or you can even rent a vineyard cottage.
Top Things To See & Do
The capital of Slovenia and a must visit for its ambience, beauty and easy going way of life.
The number one tourist attraction in Slovenia.
For activity holidays whether on the water or up in the mountains for walking, hiking or skiing.
Ski in Kranjska GoraThe pretty alpine town of Kranjska Gora is Slovenias top winter ski resort.
A popular excursion to discover the underworld of Slovenia.
The famous Lippizzaner horse s reside at this stud where you can enjoy a show.
Surprisingly great golf at a number of different courses including the signature course at Lake Bled.
Take a Road Trip
Slovenia is a dream to discover by car. Take a trip from Ljubljana to Lake Bled, Vrsic, Kobarid and Pirin on the Adriatic Coast
This attractive seaside town offers history and beauty with plenty of lovely shops, restaurants and architecture.
When in Lake Bled make sure you try the signature cream slice dessert!