Slovenia Needs to be on Your Must-Visit List
Posted on 07/19/2017
Slovenia is one of those countries that is way off the travel radar for most Americans.
Even for many Europeans, it is often overlooked in favor of countries farther south along the Adriatic.
Located at the far north of the Adriatic Sea, Slovenia is bordered by Italy to the west, Austria to the north, Croatia to the south and Hungary to the east. It has a tiny coastline, which is probably the reason it is passed over in favor of Croatia's extensive coast.
Inland Slovenia boasts a wide range of topography from rolling hills to jagged peaks. It is scenic, with a far-reaching heritage, good food and wine plus people eager to welcome visitors. What else could you ask for? There are plenty of reasons to think Slovenia when you plan your next European vacation.
The region known as the Karst is just inland from the sea and has a geology perfect for the formation of caverns.
From the touristy Postojna Cave Park to the astonishing Skocjan Caves with a roaring river running through its cavernous rooms, these caves are beyond ordinary. Both parks offer guided tours and have easy trails taking you into the depths and back out.
The beautiful breed of performing horses we know as Lipizzaner had its origins on a royal farm in Slovenia that you can visit. The Lipica Horse Farm is part attraction, part museum, part event center.
You can see the brood mares in the fields, walk through the barns of the stallions and even take a carriage ride around the property.
Even though the coastline is small, food from the sea is part of the Slovenian diet. Sardines and other small fish are served pickled, roasted and fried. Look for clams and octopus on restaurant menus, as well as exotic items like sea urchin.
Proximity to and periodic historical occupation by Italy has left a distinct impression on the cuisine in Slovenia.
will taste plenty of gelato, pasta, pizza and risotto on restaurant
menus, particularly in the coastal region—where you will even find older
locals speaking Italian as their primary language.
Slovenia is not on most people's wine radars, but that's only because very little of what they produce is exported.
Wines here are often produced by small vintners making just enough to sell to locals and local restaurants. That makes for wonderful wine tourism since you've got to go there to taste how good these are.
Hiking is a serious passion in Slovenia. There are trails connecting villages, monuments and right along the sea. Bringing along your hiking boots is truly a must.
There are hot springs scattered throughout the country, many of them with grand spas built to take advantage of the warm mineral water. They are a perfect spot to give your feet a rest from all that hiking.
Everyone Else is in Croatia
For many Europeans, Slovenia is a drive-through country: They have to pass through it to get to the beaches of Croatia. Even Slovenians often vacation in Croatia!
That leaves the good stuff in Slovenia for those in the know.
If you really want to see Croatia too, it's literally right down the road.
All those people driving through Slovenia to get to Croatia have created a demand for really good highways. That makes it easy to get around. They drive on the right, and there are enough signs in English to get you where you want to go in most cases.
In part, because it is not a tourist hotspot, everything from food to car rentals and hotels are a bit more affordable in Slovenia than in neighboring countries. The currency is the Euro.
Flights into the capital city of Ljubljana are easy to schedule from European hubs like London or Frankfurt.
If you prefer to start your exploration on the coast, you can catch a flight into Trieste, Italy and rent a car there to make the short drive to Koper. The port at Koper is also becoming a popular stop for cruise ships.
If winter sports are your thing, then you probably already know that Slovenia is home to one of the world's largest ski jumping events at Planica. It hosts some of the top jumpers found anywhere.
The Austrian Alps are just to the north, and Slovenia itself is home to alpine and sub-alpine mountains—some with snow-capped peaks year-round adding to the stunning scenery.
PHOTO: A cave opening in the Karst region of Slovenia. (photo by Gary Crow)