Slovenia: Europe’s Hidden Gem

Slovenia

You might be thinking WHY Slovenia and WHERE is Slovenia! Slovenia is usually a pit stop on a road trip for people that are traveling to Croatia. We were going to do the same thing until we did some research and decided to go there for a longer period than just a stopover. We ended up not going to Croatia but instead stayed in Slovenia for 2 weeks because there was so much to see and do. We LOVED it and will definitely be back. It is an underrated country full of natural beauty (I couldn’t put my camera down!), delicious food, and incredibly nice people.

Once being part of communist Yugoslavia, Slovenia is now a country with a bright future and a leader in sustainable environment efforts. It has won awards for preserving its beautiful nature, creating sustainable tourism, and making a higher quality of life—it is now the first country in the world to be green.

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Our trip was split in 3 parts: Bled, Bela Krajina, and Ljubljana.

Bled

As soon as we came into Slovenia (from Austria) we went straight to Lake Bled. What a beautiful area! It looks like its straight from a fairy tale. Bled Island is right in the middle of the lake which can only be accessed by boat and Bled Castle stands tall on a cliff overlooking Lake Bled. This area is probably the busiest with tourists but it is worth a visit. There are many outdoor activities that you can do around this area: hikes, paragliding, canoeing, swimming, and much more.

Our hotel, Lambergh Chateau and Hotel, was a little outside of town so we drove to Lake Bled to go for a swim. Once we got there, there was nowhere to park. We drove around a couple times and were about to give up when we turned onto a residential street that had signs saying, “no parking”. There was a gentleman in his front yard tending to his garden and I told Alex, “I’ll ask him if we can park in his driveway”. Alex didn’t think he would let us park there but it never hurts to ask. When I asked the gentleman in the driveway he looked at me and you could see on his face he really wanted to say no, but then shrugged his shoulders and said yes! As if he just couldn’t say no. This was our first encounter of the kindness and generosity of the Slovenian people and we will never forget it. Throughout our entire trip there we noticed how kind the people are, it was very welcoming.

There is another, less touristy, lake in the area called Lake Bohinj that is worth a visit. It doesn’t have any houses, restaurants or store fronts on the lake, preserving its natural beauty. Alex and I rented our favorite mode of water transport, paddle board and kayak, and went out on the lake to take in its natural glory. The Julian Alps tower over the lake and reflect off the still water making you feel so tiny yet thankful to be there. In the same area, there is a little hike to Savica Waterfall which is definitely worth it!

The other days in this area we spent exploring the surrounding villages, rode bikes through the country-side, went horseback riding, and of course visited the local market. We were sad to be leaving this area but excited for the 2nd part of our Slovenia trip: Bela Krajina.

Where to stay:

  • There are lots of hotels in the Lake Bled area. If you want something with less crowds and more quiet, go to the surrounding villages. We stayed at Lambergh Chateau and Hotel, 15 minutes from Lake Bled. Book through Expedia for the best deal.

What to do:

  • Activities near Lake Bled: canoe, kayak, swim, hike, rent a bike, walk around the lake, paraglide
  • Visit Bled Castle for stunning views
  • Canoe over to Bled Island
  • Hike to Savica Waterfall
  • Visit the neighboring villages, there is so much history and culture there
  • Visit Lake Bohinj
  • Hike/walk through Vitnar Gorge–its incredible!
  • Go horseback riding at Ranc Sitar

Where to eat:

  • Babji Zob: traditional Slovenian food. Make sure to make a reservation
  • Lake Bled cream cake. They have these everywhere and they are so good!
  • Ice Cream at the Lake Lounge (Grand Hotel Toplice) won 3rd place for best ice cream in the WORLD! It was REALLY good!

Bela Krajina

Bela Krajina is the southeast region of Slovenia that is known for its wine, natural resources, and pristine natural beauty. We had the privilege of staying at Big Berry during our visit to Bela Krajina.

Big Berry is a unique and new concept of hospitality. The accommodation is like glamping but the experience is an integration into the local community and hearts of the people there. It’s a little hard to explain but once you get there and see it first hand, you will never forget your time there. Big Berry is set on the Kolpa River, across from Croatia, surrounded by farms, rolling hills and breathtaking nature. Each house has everything you need for your stay there but most importantly they all have a hot tub facing the river! Every night Alex and I would relax in the hot tub and just take in our surroundings.

There is no light pollution except for the hot tube lights and its dead silent, well except for the acorns that would fall from the trees and scare us haha. In the morning, we would receive a basket full of local organic goodies that we would eat on our front porch. It was probably my favorite part of the day because it wasn’t too hot yet, we ate delicious food that’s locally produced, hand made with a view of the river and an occasional Croatian swimming across.  The staff at Big Berry arranged multiple tours for us that showcased how special this area is—Oljarna Pecaric, Berryshka, the source of Krupa River, and Bela Krajina RIC. When they say Bela Krajina takes a special place in your heart, its true! We left Big Berry with content hearts and lifelong friendships.

Where to stay:

  • Big Berry, hands down the best place to stay

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What to do:

  • Swim or canoe in River Kolpa
  • Visit the source of Krupa River
  • Play sand volleyball
  • Take a tour of the Bela Krajina region
  • Go oil tasting at Oljarna Pecaric
  • Get a massage by the massage therapist that comes every week

Where to eat:

Ljubljana

Ljubljana is the capital of Slovenia and it is where 75% of Slovenian’s work. We didn’t know what to expect but it quickly became one of our favorite cities. There is a river that runs through the historic part that makes for a beautiful walk along either side of it. The cobble streets are lined with stores, restaurants, and cafes but once the sun goes down the street performers come out to accompany your walk with music.  The old town is full of historic, and very beautiful buildings.  We highly recommend visiting.

Where to stay:

  • We stayed at Hotel Lev which was in a great location near the train station and the historic part of town. We booked it through Expedia and got a pretty good deal.

What to do:

  • Visit Ljubljana Castle (we didn’t go because of time but many people say its great)
  • Go shopping: Ljubljana has some of the best prices we’ve ever seen!
  • Stroll along the river

Where to eat:

  • Any of the restaurants along the river and in the town
  • Vigo: DELICIOUS gelato with unique flavors

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To learn more about the travelers, click here.

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