SLOVENIA TRAVEL GUIDE
Tiny Slovenia really does have it all - and we absolutely fell in LOVE with it! From the magnificent peaks of the Julian Alps, cave magic of Postojna and Škocjan, alpine lakes, and emerald-green rivers to its short but deliciously sweet coastline along the Adriatic Sea. Slovenia is one of Europe's most overlooked destinations but it delivers unexpected charm around every corner. We've spent a number of weeks exploring Slovenia in our campervan and found it a real gem - without a doubt one of our favourite destinations during our 4-month road-trip.
SLOVENIA QUICK FACTS
Currency: Slovenia has the Euro (€) as its sole currency along with 24 other countries. One Euro is divided into 100 cents. While each official Euro member issues its own coins with a unique obverse, the reverse, as well as all bank notes, look the same throughout the eurozone.
Electricity: 230V AC electricity. Power outlets are round two-prong sockets (type F which also accepts type C and type E). Be sure to carry a universal travel adaptor so you can still use all your electronic devices. If you are from a country with 110V as a standard be aware that you will need a voltage converter.
Visa: Traveling to Slovenia is easy if you are from the European Union (EU). All other nationals are required to obtain an Austrian Schengen Visa in order to visit Austria. To stay longer than 90 days, a non-EU foreigner will need either a long-stay visa. Be sure to check online for the latest visa requirements. Make sure your passport is valid for at least 6 months after your entry and that you have an available completely blank page in your passport.
Safety: Slovenia is deservedly regarded as one of the safest countries in the world. Violent crimes are rare and should definitely not concern the average tourist. Small towns and uninhabited areas such as forests are very safe at any time of the day. We found the rural area of Slovenia an absolute joy!
Whatever you do, don’t travel without travel insurance! We would suggest checking out World Nomads, for travel insurance as they have the best coverage for active travellers.
Language: English is widely spoken, and the only area most tourists have linguistic problems with is in translating menus. Even around rural areas, we found no issues with the language as a barrier. Some useful phrases which might come in handy include:
Good day - Dober dan
Goodbye - Nasvidenje
Please - Prosim
Thank you - Hvala
Yes - Da
No - Ne
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SLOVENIA PUBLIC HOLIDAYS
- 1-2 January, New Year’s Day Holiday
- 8 February, Culture Day
- 27 April, National Resistance Day
- 1-2 May, International Labour Day
- 25 June, National Day
- 15 August, Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
- 31 October, Reformation Day
- 1 November, Remembrance Day
- 26 December, Independence Day
Business openings and work schedules may be significantly affected by Christian holidays especially Easter, Easter Monday, and Pentecost.
FESTIVALS IN SLOVENIA
Slovenia may be small as a country but it’s extremely rich in its cultural traditions. Each year cities and towns all over Slovenia host exciting, unique, local as well as international festivals. Whether you like theatre, cinema, folklore, contemporary art, or an eclectic mix of it all, you will find something to suit your taste. You can even quite easily attend a host of smaller, local festivals which are equally worth attending without much advance planning.
International Carnival: Kurentovanje, a festival of spring and fertility, filled with symbols and colours is one of the oldest nowadays most famous Slovenian festivals. Kurentovanje or Carnival takes place in the town of Ptuj during February and lasts for 10 days. This popular festival is the focus of the important Slovenian folklore character Kurent. With the noise of cowbells hanging off his belt, wooden clubs, and colorful ribbons, Kurent chased away the last of winter and attracted spring and a good harvest.
Lent Festival: Every year Festival of Lent changes the city of Maribor into a large outdoor venue. It has evolved into one fo the largest open-air festivals in Europe and now attracts over half a million visitors every year. Visitors can enjoy theatre performances, ballet, concerts, opera, and many other such recreational performances in over 23 venues sprawled across the city.
Advent: Although December weather can be dreary and bitterly cold, the capital of Ljubljana does wonders to conquer the winter darkness with a whole month of festive activities. The city is transformed into a magical fairyland with twinkling lights glowing on every streetcorner with no shortage of open-air concerts, a vibrant Christmas Art Market, and a festive outdoor New Year celebration. Have a cup of hot glühwein and stroll the cobbled streets for insight into the rich Slovenian culture.
Goriška Brda Cherry Festival: During June every year the Goriška Brda region hosts the popular (and very tasty!) cherry festival in what is known as the Tuscany of Slovenia. Apart from taking part in the many guided hikes on offer, see traditional wine-making techniques (as well as getting to taste the local wine!) visitors can try a number of local culinary specialties - all made with cherries.
Chocolate Festival: During three days in April chocolate lovers descend on the town of Radovljica to partake in the largest chocolate festival in Slovenia! With its stunning views of the Slovenian Alps, Radovljica has retained the essence of a medieval town and can easily be visited as a day-trip from Ljubljana. During the festival, you can not only taste different chocolates and chocolate-based products, but you can also observe cooking shows, workshops, and street performances.
Ljubljana Summer Festival: The main summer festival of the Slovenian capital takes place between June and September and includes over eighty separate events. During this time quality productions of music, theatre and dance can be found in prominent Ljubljana venues such as the unique outdoor Križanke courtyard.
BEST TIME TO VISIT SLOVENIA
For such a small country, Slovenia has a surprisingly varied climate across three distinct areas. Slovenia can be visited throughout the year, but choosing the best time might entirely depend on your reasons for visiting and what you plan on doing during your stay.
- April to June - Spring is a great time to be in the lowlands and the flower-carpeted valleys of the Julian Alps.
- September - This is the month for everything – still warm enough to swim and tailor-made for hiking.
- December to March - Everyone (and their grandma) dons their skis in this winter-sport-mad country.
Although the alpine northwest has a very cold, long winter the area attracts a range of adventure and winter sports enthusiasts throughout the year. Skiing and snowboarding from December to March with climbing and hiking from April to September during its moderate summer temperatures. Just remember that some of the popular attractions and even mountain passes will be closed for winter.
In the Primorska region (from the Soča and Vipava river valleys down to the coast) you will enjoy a more typical Mediterranean climate with very warm summers and mild, comfortable winters. This part of the country can get very crowded during summer, particularly in August with an influx of Italian holidaymakers.
The interior lowlands (including Ljubljana) have a more conventional continental climate, with hot, dry summers and some bitterly cold winters - particularly the southern and eastern parts.
Generally speaking, summer is the best time to visit most of Slovenia when you will find the weather at it's most reliable, plenty of activities and sights and numerous festivals. The lake areas (Bled and Bohinj) can get mighty crowded during this time but outside of August, you should never really have a problem finding accommodation. We spent 2 weeks in Slovenia during the beginning of September as part of our 2018 Europe Campervan Trip and found this a great time weather-wise and had no problem finding camping and parking spots around the country.
That said, many of Slovenia’s popular attractions, including visiting Ljubljana, can be just as enjoyable outside the peak summer months, with spring and autumn a great alternative as the countryside lights up in seasonal colour.
SLOVENIA WEATHER SYNOPSIS
Mediterranean Climate On The Coast, Continental Climate With Mild To Hot Summers And Cold Winters In The Plateaus And Valleys To The East
SLOVENIA TOURIST SEASONS
Most destinations have different times of the year when they’re more or less popular with tourists.
Off Peak Season
SPORT & ACTIVITIES
SNOW SPORT IN SLOVENIA
The snow sports season in Slovenia can start as early as late November and lasts until end of March. The best month for snow sports is January with the coldest temperatures, good snow fall and sunny skies.
HIKING & CYCLING IN SLOVENIA
The best time for outdoor activities in Slovenia is from May to September when the weather is mild and sunny.
BEACH OPTIONS IN SLOVENIA
There are only a few small coastal beaches along Slovenia's short coastline, but there are also a few lake "beaches" to enjoy. The weather is good enough for swimming from June to September, with July being the hottest month.
SURFING IN SLOVENIA
KITESURF IN SLOVENIA
Izola, Koper and Piran, along Slovenia's short coastline are some great spots for windsurfing, although the conditions can be a little challenging. You can also windsurf on the mountain lakes of Lake Bled and Lake Bohinj.
For more details on kite surfing in Slovenia expand this section!
HEALTH RISKS IN SLOVENIA
Be aware of possible health risks in
Yellow fever - The yellow fever virus is found in tropical and subtropical areas of Africa and South America. The virus is spread to people by the bite of an infected mosquito. There is no medicine to treat or cure an infection. To prevent getting sick from yellow fever, use insect repellent, wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants, and get vaccinated.
Zika Virus - Zika is spread mostly by the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. These mosquitoes bite during the day and night. Zika can be passed from a pregnant woman to her fetus. Infection during pregnancy can cause certain birth defects. There is no vaccine or medicine for Zika.
Malaria - Malaria is a serious and sometimes fatal disease caused by a parasite that commonly infects a certain type of mosquito which feeds on humans. People who get malaria are typically very sick with high fevers, shaking chills, and flu-like illness. Although malaria can be a deadly disease, illness and death from malaria can usually be prevented.
Dengue - Dengue is spread mostly by the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. These mosquitoes bite during the day and night. About one in four people infected with dengue will get sick. For people who get sick with dengue, symptoms can be mild or severe.
SLOVENIA TRAVEL COSTS
While Slovenia might not be as affordable as other countries in what was the former Yugoslavia, it’s pretty easy to stick to a modest budget if you backpack your way across the country, but even if you’re a mid-range traveller, you’ll still receive great value for your money.
Accommodation around Slovenia is universally clean and of a high standard. Hostels are becoming more prevalent and you will also find budget accommodation over holidays in student dorms (dijaški dom). If you are travelling with a tent you will find numerous campsites with good facilities, restaurants, and shops. Camping wild is not allowed in Slovenia!
Slovenia's quiet roads and incredible scenery make the country a dream for self-driving holidays. If you can fit it into your budget, you should seriously consider at least a few days of car rental, as it will afford unlimited access to remote rural and mountainous regions such as the Soča Valley, which can prove somewhat challenging to reach using public transport. Take note that when travelling on the Slovenian motorways and expressways you are liable to pay tolls and you might need to buy a Vignette toll pass in advance.
SLOVENIA TRAVEL TIPS
Slovenia’s quiet roads and incredible scenery make the country a dream for self-driving holidays. If you can fit it into your budget, you should seriously consider at least a few days of car rental, as it will afford unlimited access to remote rural and mountainous regions such as the Soča Valley, which can prove somewhat challenging to reach using public transport. Travelling on the Slovenian motorways and expressways means you are liable to pay tolls and you might need to buy a Vignette toll pass in advance.
Intercity trains are punctual and comprehensive, covering most parts of Slovenia. Comfortable and moderately priced, these trains connect major cities and many towns. Buses serve smaller towns and lake areas. These two forms of transport are fully integrated and designed to complement each other. Towns such as Ljubljana, Maribor, and Koper have big bus stations, where you can buy your tickets in advance. Elsewhere, simply pay the driver or conductor as you board.
SIGHTS & HIGHLIGHTS OF SLOVENIA
One of the successor states of the former Yugoslavia, Slovenia retains a decidedly eastern European feel and still clearly shows the influence of its neighbouring countries. Oddly lacking the pulling power of nearby major tourist heavyweights like Italy, Austria (and lately Croatia), if you're willing to give Slovenia a chance this country will reward you with its charming blend of incredible mountains and lakes, ancient castles, baroque architecture, a surprisingly sophisticated, yet distinct, cuisine - and to top it all - great value for money!
- Lake Bled - Gaze on this perfection of nature.
- Škocjan Cave - Gawk in awe at the 100m-high walls of an incredible cave system.
- Mt Triglav - Climb to the top of the country’s tallest mountain.
- Piran - Get lost wandering the narrow Venetian-style alleyways.
Spend a couple of days in Ljubljana, then head north to unwind in romantic Bled or Bohinj beside idyllic mountain lakes. Alternatively, head south to visit the caves at Škocjan or Postojna.
A full week will allow you to see all the country's top highlights. After two days in the capital head for Bled and Bohinj. Depending on the season, take a bus or drive over the hair-raising Vršič Pass into the valley of the vivid blue Soča River and take part in some adventure sports in Bovec. Continue south to the caves at Škocjan and Postojna and then to the sparkling Venetian port of Piran on the Adriatic.
Ljubljana is undoubtedly one of our favorite cities in the world and quite possibly our favorite city in Europe. With its old school charm and modern vibe, it's no surprise that Ljubljana is often referred to as a ‘hidden gem’ when talking about the capital of Slovenia. Ljubljana has a relaxed, welcoming vibe and is far from overrun by tourists. The old part of the city is pedestrianized which adds a lot to the relaxed atmosphere and charm we experienced as the leafy banks of the emerald-green Ljubljanica River, which flows through the city's heart, is left free for pedestrians and cyclists. During the summer months, you can enjoy the relaxed atmosphere of outside seating at most riverside restaurants and cafes.
The easiest way to see Ljubljana is on foot. The oldest part of town, with the most important historical buildings and sights (including Ljubljana Castle), lies on the right (east) bank of the Ljubljanica River. Center, which has the lion’s share of the city’s museums and galleries, is on the left (west) side of the river.
- Ljubljana Castle - It’s free to ramble around the castle precincts, but you’ll have to pay to enter the Watchtower, the Chapel of St George, to see the Slovenian history exhibition and join the costumed Time Machine tour. The fastest way to reach the castle is via the funicular from Krekov trg, which keeps the same hours as the castle.
- Tivoli Park was first laid out way back in the 19th century and today it is proud to be labeled both the most beautiful and biggest park in Ljubljana. Tivoli Park stretches over a vast area, with wide tree-lined promenades, neatly landscaped colourful.
- The National & University Library is Plečnik’s masterpiece, completed in 1941. To appreciate this great man’s philosophy, enter through the main door (note the horse-head doorknobs) on Turjaška ulica – you’ll find yourself in near darkness, entombed in black marble.
- Metelkova originally served as a barracks for over one hundred years until December 1990, when artists expressed their desire to convert this derelict former military zone into a revised cultural hub.
- Nebotičnik may just appear to be another ordinary multi-storey building, but when it was constructed back in 1933, it held the title as the tallest residential building in Europe for quite some time.
- The Triple Bridge links the popular Prešeren Square on the western bank of the Ljubljanica River with the Central Market Area on the eastern bank.
What To See And Do In Ljubljana
The Julian Alps – named in honor of Caesar himself – form Slovenia's dramatic northwest frontier with Italy. Triglav National Park, established in 1924, includes almost all of the Alps lying within Slovenia, including triple-peaked Mt Triglav, at 2864m Slovenia's highest mountain. Along with an abundance of fauna and flora, the area offers a wide range of adventure sports.
Without perhaps even knowing where it is in the world you've probably already seen many pictures of the oh-so Instagrammable fairy-tale beauty of Lake Bled with its island church, a medieval castle hanging onto a rocky cliff and some of the highest peaks of the Julian Alps and the Karavanke as backdrops. Located only 35 km from Ljubljana International Airport and 55 km from Ljubljana City, almost every tourist to Slovenia makes Lake Bled a stop on their itinerary. Less than 5km from Lake Bled is Vintgar Gorge which, although having attracted tourists since it was discovered in 1891, today seems to hide in the shadow of the popularity of Lake Bled. Vintgar Gorge is a natural work of art and is well worth including in your visit to Bled.
A larger and much less developed glacial lake 26km to the southwest of Bled, is a world apart. Triglav itself is visible from Bohinj and there are activities abound – from kayaking and mountain biking to trekking up Triglav via one of the southern approaches. Ribčev Laz is the main tourist hub at the lake; Bohinjska Bistrica (pop 1890), the area's largest center, is 6km east of the lake and useful for its train station.
Guide To Lake Bled and Vintgar Gorge
The Soča Valley region (Posočje) is defined by the 96km-long Soča River, colored a deep, almost artificial cobalt blue. The valley has more than its share of historical sights, most of them related to WWI, but most visitors are here for rafting, hiking, skiing, and other active sports.
Soča Valley's de facto capital offers plenty to adventure-sports enthusiasts. With the Julian Alps – including Mt Kanin (2587m) – above, the Soča River below, and Triglav National Park all around, you could spend a week here hiking, kayaking, canyoning, and mountain biking without ever doing the same thing twice.
Rafting, kayaking, and canoeing on the beautiful Soča River are major draws. The season lasts from April to October. Rafting trips of two to eight people over a distance of 8km to 10km (1½ hours).
KARST & COAST
Slovenia's short coast (47km) is an area for both recreation and history; the town of Piran, famed for its Venetian Gothic architecture and picturesque narrow streets, is among the main drawcards here. En route from Ljubljana or the Soča Valley, you'll cross the Karst, a huge limestone plateau and a land of olives, ruby-red Teran wine, pršut (air-dried ham), old stone churches, and deep subterranean caves, including those at Postojna and Škocjan.
Piran & Izola
"LASA PUR DIR" Let Them Talk! This Venetian phrase captures the romance, elegance, and shrug-of-the-shoulders nonchalance of the town of Piran which has some of the charms of original Venice (without the crowds!) along with some great beaches! Just a little further east of Piran, along a short coastline of craggy beaches, you will find another old Venetian Town, Izola, with its own charm, albeit with a slightly 'scruffier' feel.
Skocjan & Postojna Caves
Just under 2km northwest of the town of Postojna, Postojna Cave is one of the largest caverns in the world, and its stalagmite and stalactite formations are unequaled anywhere. It's a busy destination – visited by as many as a third of all tourists coming to Slovenia – but it's still remarkable how easily the large crowds at the entrance seem to get swallowed whole by the size of the cave.
The quieter and more remote Škocjan Caves are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and are representative of the most significant underground phenomena not only in the Karst region but in the whole of Slovenia. As well as getting to explore the underground cave system, there is also an incredible panoramic view of the dramatic cliffs of the region from the lookout viewpoint.
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WHAT TO EAT IN SLOVENIA
Slovenian cuisine is diversely influenced by its many neighbouring countries of Italy, Austria, Hungary and Croatia. You can easily join a food tour when visiting Ljubljana to learn about the history of Slovenian Cuisine as well as taste some of the most traditional dishes with a local.
Bled Cream Cake (Kremna Rezina) - Bled cream cake is decadent: a thick layer of vanilla custard cream and an ever so slightly thinner layer of whipped cream sandwiched between two layers of crispy and flakey butter dough crust and topped with icing sugar. If you can, taste this when visiting Lake Bled!
Prekmurska Gibanica - This Slovenian Layered Pastry is an absolute must-have! This multilayered cake is a juicy and delicious combination of flaky layers of pastry with cottage cheese, walnuts, apples and poppy seeds. It is the ultimate Slovenian dessert and we recommend you try it at the Nebotičnik Skyscraper building in Ljubljana.
Štruklji - You can find a wide variety of Štruklji, varying from savoury to sweet. They are prepared from different types of dough, rolled up and filled with various fillings. They can be either steamed or baked. Savoury ones may contain a creamy cheese filling with tarragon and the most traditional sweet version contains apple, walnuts and poppy seeds.
Pražen Krompir - Although the name translates to roast potatoes, the potatoes are actually boiled and peeled before being sautéed with onions and often adding some chopped up sausage (klobasa) to form a semi-smashed potato dish that is simply delicious.
Pogača - Vaguely similar to Italian focaccia, this yeasted flatbread is very specific when it comes to its size, thickness and the size of the small squares this circular bread is divided into. The flatbread is seasoned with olive oil and herbs, coated with an egg wash and topped with coarse salt and cumin seeds.
LGBTQ IN SLOVENIA
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people in Slovenia face challenges not experienced by non-LGBT residents, though the laws concerning LGBT citizens have evolved over time. Slovenia has recognised partnerships since 24 February 2017, providing same-sex partners with most of the legal rights of marriages. Previously, between 2006 and 2017, Slovenia had recognised more limited rights for same-sex couples. A bill to legalise same-sex marriage was approved by the country's Parliament on 3 March 2015, however, it was rejected in a referendum on 20 December 2015.
Although still not legalised, the (narrow) majority of Slovenians are accepting of same-sex marriage. That being said, there have been numerous instances of violent gay-bashing all over Slovenia and as recently as 2019, so take this risk into consideration. In Ljubljana, there are many gay-friendly clubs and bars, such as Klub K4, Factory, Bolivar, Lan, Tiffany and Galerija. They are however still sometimes the victims of targeted vandalism.
WHERE TO STAY IN SLOVENIA
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