Slovenia seems to still be flying under the radar a bit when it comes to European itineraries, but it completely blew us away and I really think it should be on everyone's list. If you are at all interested in nature, food, or culture, you should GO. Visit Ljubljana, Lake Bled and Piran. Rent a car and drive the 50 hairpin turns through the Julian Alps. Stay in a small town in the countryside. Check out Vintgar and Tolmin gorges and the countless waterfalls along the way. Feel tiny by the sheer size and scale of Skocjan Cave. Eat Štruklji, potica and kremšnita. Above all, slow down and enjoy the beauty of this place!
Day 1: Explore Ljubljana
Ljubljana is a super walkable city jam-packed with things to see, delicious food to eat and great wine to drink. We could have spent more time there, but a day to start our trip was enough to give us a taste for the city, and it was kind of nice to book-end our Slovenia trip with visits to Ljubljana. While it's a super fun city, the rest of Slovenia is simply amazing and I think it's worth spending most of your time in the rest of the country.
- Metelkova Mestro district
- Good street art, live music, people watching, drinks
- Ljubljana Food Tour
- We absolutely LOVED this. We take food tours in most cities we visit, but this was an excellent combo of sightseeing and food tasting.
- Great views day and night. Really nice for a drink.
- Dragon Bridge
- Central Market
- Tivoli Park
- Triple Bridge
- Ljubljana Castle
- Cathedral of St. Nicholas
- Congress Square
- Jazz Club Gajo
- Sir William's Pub
Day 2: Rent a car, drive to Bled. Explore along the way!
Bled is an easy 40 minute drive on the highway from Ljubljana. But that's boring. There are some cool things to see along the way! If you're short on time, take the fast route, but otherwise here is an option for a plan for the day as you make your way to Bled. From Ljubljana, head to Skofja Loka. It's got a fun castle to explore and is a smaller town. Definitely worth a stop for a few hours. Afterwards, take the scenic route to Jamnik Chapel. Make sure to park the car and get out and explore. Absolutely gorgeous church overlooking the Julian Alps with vistas in all directions. One of my favorite stops in all of Slovenia. Then, continue along the scenic route to Bled, stopping along the way at some of the overlooks. Lots of tight hairpin turns and switchbacks.
Days 3: Lake Bled!
Lake Bled is probably the one thing most people know about Slovenia and it is absolutely gorgeous. To be honest, we loved Bled but thought that the rest of Slovenia was even better, so be sure to stop here but also set aside some time for the rest of the country. A day or two in Bled was enough for us. Make sure to walk around the whole lake to see it from all of the different vantage points. Take a swim. Rent a rowboat (or take a pletna) to get out to the island (the only one in Slovenia!) and explore the church there. Eat kremšnita here, where this cake is best enjoyed. Check out Bled Castle (kids will really enjoy it as well), and take in the views from above the lake. The absolute best thing we did in Bled was a sunrise hike up to Ojstrica. Make sure to start the hike before the sun comes up - it's a 30-45 min hike. Here is some good info on the hike. If you have some extra time, pop over to Vintgar Gorge which is a great out and back hike along a boardwalk built into the walls of a gorge.
If you want to escape the tourists, head over to Lake Bohinj which is not far away and is much less busy.
Day 4: Julian Alps & Tirglav National Park Roadtrip
This was the highlight of our trip to Slovenia. Get an early start and prepare for a lot of stops to gape at the views. We used Rick Steves' guide in this section and he has a lot of great stops and history outlined in his book. Here are some stops along the way:
- Vintgar Gorge: If you missed Vintgar Gorge while in Bled, make sure to stop there first. It's on the way and absolutely worth the stop.
- Slap Peričnik - waterfall that you can go behind. Really beautiful spot.
- Kranjska Gora - a nice small town right before you head into the Julian Alps. Nice stop for coffee or to pick up supplies for a picnic lunch.
- Lake Jasna - Just outside Kranjska Gora, a quick stop at a picturesque lake with the mountains in the background.
- Vršič Pass - From Kranjska Gora to Bovec there are 50 hairpin turns: 24 up, 26 down. At the top is Vršič Pass with amazing views over the Julian Alps.
- At turn 8 is the Russian Chapel, built to commemorate the lives of Russian soliders who died building the road.
- At turn 16 is the Prisank viewpoint. Great views of Lake Jasna and Kranjska Gora.
- Erjavčeva koča is a nice stop right before the pass and has a pretty easy hike you can do through.
- Once at Vršič Pass, if you have time, a truly amazing alpine hike there is Slemenova Špica. Climbing up to the saddle was fairly tough, but once there it really flattens out and offers spectacular views.
- Take the 26 hairpin turns down (stopping along the way for pics) to the Soča valley, with its emerald green river. Simply gorgeous, stop as much as you can to take it in. Again, a few hikes along this route if you have time.
- Slap Virje - cool swimming hole with a waterfall
- Slap Kozjak - pretty cool short hike (20-30 mins) through a canyon to a waterfall. Along the way you pass some Italian World War 1 bunkers.
We slept in Kobarid at a tourist farm (Farmhouse Kranjc) and ate at the amazing Hiša Franko, one of the best restaurants in the world. It's quite pricey but one of the best meals we have ever had. I can't recommend it enough.
Day 5: Tolmin Gorge, Skocjan Cave and Piran
Drive to Tolmin Gorge, a dramatic slot canyon fairly similar to Vintgar Gorge. Though both are beautiful, we found Tolmin the better of the two. It's an easy hike and you get a close up view of the river and canyon. After exploring Tolmin, drive to Skocjan Cave. Another highlight of our trip, the cave is awe-inspiring and is a UNESCO world heritage site. Absolutely massive, it reminded me of the Mines of Moria. I can't do justice to this place by describing it here, but make time for this stop and do the 2 hour guided tour. After exploring the cave, continue your drive to Piran and get settled in your hotel, exploring the small town in the evening.
Day 6: Piran
Slovenia has roughly 27 miles of coastline on the Adriatic Sea. Part of that is this little town squeezed onto a peninsula with serious Venice vibes (sans canals). For a long time, it was actually under Venetian rule. We honestly didn't feel like we were in Slovenia at all once we got to Piran. This is a fun city to just walk around and explore. Get lost, enjoy the architecture and sea views. It's beautifully lit at night, so an evening stroll is a must. Make sure to hike up to the city walls above the city to take in the views. You can see across the Adriatic to Italy, south to Croatia, and more coastline of Slovenia to the north.
Day 7: Back to Ljubljana
Day 7 is mostly for making your way back to Ljubljana or continuing your journey elsewhere. We went from Ljubljana to Austria via train. However, on the way back to Ljubljana is Predjama Cave. We did not stop there (as it seems similar to Skocjan) but there is another large cave and a castle built into the cliffs. We spent some more time exploring Ljubljana and relaxing along the river with some drinks.