Custom Slovenia Tours
A charming paradise filled with boundless natural splendor, Slovenia is a land of enchanting beauty. In the iconic Lake Bled, a pilgrimage castle rests on a tiny islet, with the Julian Alps rising majestically in the background. With a winemaking history that precedes the Ancient Romans, enjoy a taste of the sumptuous white wines of the region that pair perfectly with delectable traditional dishes.
Lake Bled's breathtaking views.
Slovenia is where the Alps begin, rising slowly from the Adriatic Sea before exploding into a succession of pinnacles. Venetian charm is draped along the coast, serene lakes glisten amid the valleys, and baroque chapels wait on photogenic islands. Sandwiched between Western, and Eastern Europe, the country has taken its cultural influence from far and wide.
The untrammeled beauty of the country is purely Slovenian. Lake Bled, has a stunning 50-meter church spire rising from a luxuriantly forested island. Vintgar Gorge, where you discover explosions of exposed granite and white water. Lake Bohinj sparkling beneath the sun and Mount Triglav, where legend speaks of a golden-horned buck eating magical flowers. The settings are sublime and they are made more evocative by Slovenia’s unique style.
The country’s location has an inherent appeal. Italy stands to the west, large parts of Slovenia spent time under Venetian rule. Other bordering countries include Croatia located due south and Austria north. Cities like Vienna, Bratislava, and Budapest are all within a picturesque half-day by train. Easy proximity to so much of Europe makes Slovenia a stopping point on route elsewhere, a scenic crossroads for wider adventure. Most people are rushing through, often starting or ending a journey to Western or Eastern Europe. While the country looks small on a map, those who stick around find Slovenia to hold just as many secrets as its neighbors.
Adventure is never far when traveling Slovenia.
One of the great highlights is the ease of travel. It only takes an hour to travel from Adriatic coast to emerald lakes, and alpine foothills. Explore the mountains and you quickly feel cutoff from the rest of the world, even though the roads are only a short hike around or over a peak. With only a few days, there’s the opportunity to follow an ambitious itinerary. The time spent on the move is part of the experience here. In a country of such scenic splendor, the journey is always as impressive as the destination.
Adventurists have long known about Slovenia. Alpine hiking, endless cycling, winter skiing, rock climbing, caving, canyoning, horseback rides across the peaks, and boating to tiny islands on a lake. Subterranean caves surrounded the thick forests that make Slovenia one of Europe’s greenest countries.
The experiences are not just about the outdoors. It just feels that way because the Slovenians have an uncanny ability to blend their urban centers into nature. Venetian townhouses, Renaissance churches, alpine wood cabins, Hungarian farmhouses, elaborate early 20th-century art and architectural surprises are another part of the appeal, not least the recent move towards boutique hotels.
Slovenia is where East meets West in Europe and that’s another tick in the box when planning a multi-country trip to the continent. Just try not to rush through. This is one of those countries where everyone wishes they had more time. Not necessarily to see and do more, but to simply look around and take some time for yourself.
Relaxing on the Lakes
Emerald colored water at Vintgar Gorge.
Bled and Bohinj symbolizes the raw natural splendor Slovenia has to offer. Forests rise steadily above emerald green waters, beneath the shadows of granite peaks. Hiking and bicycle trails twist off towards waterfalls and deserted valleys (Vintgar Gorge is a must see). Gondolas take you to impressive viewpoints, where the choice is to hike further into the mountains or ski back down in winter. Elegant properties are scattered around these lakes, longtime hangouts for the rich and famous seeking a quiet escape. You could come for a day and look around, although these picture-perfect lakes are more about slowing the pace and taking some proper downtime with an overnight stay.
Ljubljana the capital city of Slovenia.
Ljubljana hardly feels like a capital city. With the roving river and tranquil atmosphere it seems like you are traveling in a bygone century: medieval fortresses, cobbled lanes of baroque architecture, crumbling stone buildings turned to enchanting local cafes. Then you turn another corner to see propaganda graffiti inside tunnels and communist apartment blocks in various states of disintegration. There is just enough evidence to compare Ljubljana with great Eastern European cities like Prague and Budapest, yet it is on a much smaller scale, and it’s much easier to explore the contradictions. It is also Slovenia’s transport crossroads, so chances are you will pass through; stick around, and you will be impressed.
Postojna cave underground cavern.
One of Slovenia’s ancient cave systems is so vast it can be explored by electric train. The country’s subterranean worlds bask in their spacious beauty. At first, you are awed by scale, the depths of nature’s work difficult to grasp. Slowly you focus in on the details, each stalactite and stalagmite part of an artwork that morphs over time. Postojna Cave has the train, making it a very accessible half-day trip. Travel into this mountain cavern before approximately one mile of guided walking through tunnels, halls, and galleries: between Christmas and the New Year, 10,000 people fit into the Concert Hall for daily musical performances. Skocjan is an equally impressive cave and less human-influenced; the tunnels and caves are eerily silent when you walk through.
Cityscape of Ljubljana, Slovenia.
Towns of red-tiled roofs line the waters. Majestic castles are located in landscapes that seem fictional. That’s Croatia isn’t it, where Game of Thrones was filmed? It is a big part of Slovenia as well, even if the country’s secrets are yet to adorn the big screen. Riverside Ptuj and Predjama Castle are not overrun with visitors hoping to replicate famous scenes. Ptuj, in particular, has retained a very local feel, its medieval core packed with churches, monasteries and the people who have always lived there. It is an iconic day trip, but by staying the night, you will get a real sense of what Slovenia is all about.
High in the Julian Alps
The mountains are a true highlight of Slovenia.
It is the mountains that rule Slovenia, a humbling work of nature that contributes much to the country’s tranquil air. Accessibility makes the Julian Alps so revered. You can climb Mt. Triglav in a day, a real adventure to alpine heights that do not require much experience. You can cross the breathtaking Vrsic Pass, just below the snowline with panoramas greeting every hairpin bend. There is excellent skiing throughout winter, particularly January to March, plus all manner of hiking and mountain bike trails.
Venetian Charm on the Coast
Piran is a gorgeous coastal town in Slovenia.
Slovenia’s slither of the Adriatic coast is best known for Piran, a Venetian treasure that narrates the stories of a country’s past. Footsteps echo down winding cobbled alleyways, church bells guide you towards Gothic excess, and the sea glistens just a few steps away. Unlike the majority of Slovenia, Piran gets crowded in July and August. For the rest of the year, you have your own slice of Venice without the crowds, crammed full of stories and small moments along twisting streets.
Heritage Without the Tour Buses
A charming street in the old city center Ljubljana, Slovenia.
Almost every Slovenian town feels like a snapshot of times past. Evocative, and enchanting, the streets of towns like Skofja Loka and Ptuj have hardly been altered. Many European visitors complain that popular old cities have become over-touristic, but in Slovenia, the towns still have their local bakers, traditional taverns, crumbling facades and faded paint. You will struggle to find a place to buy a fridge magnet, but you will get a real taste of Slovenian culture, especially if your visit is timed to coincide with local festivities, such as the Skofja Loka Passion Play.
Adventure That Can be Tailored to Everyone
The world’s steepest zip line drops 566 meters in only 40 seconds, descending over a ski jump with some hair-raising views. In Mezica, you can cycle underground, through the puzzling shafts of an abandoned mine. Slovenia places adventure on the steps of your hotel, with options including ski slopes, mountain hikes, serious cycling or soft-peddling. There is serious adrenaline to uncover, such as off-piste skiing, and a great canvas of rock climbing options.
Stop. Rest. Relax
Finding time to stop and relax is relatively unique on a trip to Europe. With all those majestic cities and famous sights, where is the time to lounge around by a lake? When can you spend a day doing nothing without feeling guilty? One of Slovenia’s many charms is the opportunity to take a break from the touring and properly re-energize. In Slovenia, medieval towns and castles are part of the day off, settings for a lazy day on your own.
Unique Drinks to Try in Slovenia
Slovenia has absorbed influence from all its neighbors, mixed it all together, and created a distinctive style. In Maribor, you can drink wine from the world’s oldest vine; Ljubljana has a number of incredible breweries, and the classic local experience involves drinking some form of schnapps in an ambient tavern. There is also a beer fountain in Zalec, believed to be the only one of its kind in the world. You may not have heard about Slovenian wine, but remember that Italy is very close by, and cool climate alpine slopes usually herald subtle food-pairing wines, another unexpected highlight of travel through the country.
Slovenia is a great place to visit any time of year.
There is never a wrong time to visit Slovenia. When to go is dependent on what you want to do. Winters are cold, so they attract skiers and snowboarders, although the white mountain backdrop adds another element of charm to historical journeys. Just note that winters can be bitterly cold, as is most of Eastern Europe. Summers are warm, but not hot, especially along the coast, with long days adding to the sense of adventure. Everything in Slovenia is close, and elongated summer days mean you can discover a huge amount of the country in a short period of time.
International tourists descend on Eastern Italy and Southern Germany in the height of summer. The Italians and Germans escape to Slovenia and Croatia at this time, particularly from mid-July to the end of August. These months are comfortably the peak time to visit Slovenia; be aware that visitor crowds are commonplace across all of Europe during this school vacation time. A festival atmosphere fills the air though, village, and town celebrations adding to the energy brought by students on their summer break.
Spring and fall are ideal for pleasant weather, limited visitors, charm in the towns and options when you hit the mountains. The more popular destinations like Bled and Bohinj remain quiet and quirky, with everything in the country open for business. April to June, are superb for hiking, especially the trails around Mt. Triglav.
Castle Otocec Hotel, Slovenia.
Slovenia has always found its own style. Any fine dining restaurant will demonstrate the confluence of diverse influences, as will most of the accommodation you stay in. They have even converted an old prison into a hostel and art gallery; although that’s more an attraction than a place you actually would want stay.
The country specializes in small boutique properties, mostly set on scenic landscapes above the destinations you came to explore. With their wooden beams and sloping roofs, the traditional alpine lodges may make you think of Switzerland until you remember that the Alps start in Slovenia. These are particularly good for families, and something similar can be found beyond the mountains, in triangular cottages made from stone rather than wood.
Castles have been converted into luxury hotels, including some that are available on an exclusive-use basis. Relais & Chateaux properties are set inside original medieval walls while small chateaus are surrounded by vines. Glamping-style treehouses dot remote forests, providing a unique connection with nature, while grand five-star hotels stand over the Adriatic and the lakes. You will still find some of the big hotel names here, although they have generally struggled to gain influence in a country that extends its inimitability to visitor accommodation.
Ljubljana city center, Presern square.
Slovenia is part of the European Union and the Schengen Agreement, meaning the same entry requirements apply here as they do in most of the EU. U.S. and Canadian passport holders do not require a visa for travel, nor do citizens of almost any Western nation.
With mountains, city, and coast in short proximity, it can be a little tricky packing your suitcase. The weather is very variable as well, so even in one day, you can travel through three seasons. Fortunately, it is easy to get around, even on the trains, so it should not be too much of a drawback if your suitcase is heavier than usual.
Slovenia adopted the euro in 2007 and has a highly developed system of banks, and ATMs, similar to what you would find across Western Europe. Visa and Mastercard are readily accepted, American Express less so but that is improving rapidly. All major hotels and mid-size restaurants now accept credit cards, so there’s little need to carry large amounts of cash. The only real exception is in the mountains, where the establishments are smaller, and in the markets.
Slovenia is filled with gorgeous scenery and plenty of outdoor activities.
Slovenia is one of those rare countries where you feel fitter after the vacation than before with so many options for outdoor activities like hiking, biking, and exploring the great outdoors. Clean alpine air is part of the promise, and you will spend a lot of time walking, whether on the trails or in the pedestrianized old cities. Even when lounging around one of the lakes you will probably end up walking to a small Italian restaurant or an al fresco waterside cafe.
Travel to Bohinj and Triglav, and you will want to bottle the water and take it home, not just drink it from the tap. The alpine melt is clean and tasty, as is the water you drink from all the country’s taps. Organic food is intrinsic to culture, another reason you will start feeling a little healthier than usual. The only real dangers to your health come from animals, bears in the southern forests and adders in the Alps. In reality, the chance of encountering this wildlife is incredibly rare.
Slovenia is a very safe country to visit, including peak summer months when it does not suffer from the petty tourist crime that seems to tour big European cities. As is the case in many rural countries, there has long been a tendency to leave doors unlocked even when you go out. Not that this is advisable, just an indication of the lack of crime throughout most of the country. The usual precautions apply in cities, particularly Ljubljana, however, most visitors remark on how safe Slovenia feels.
Face of Kurent traditional mask, Slovenia.
Slovenians are happy to embrace the peaceful life in a beautiful corner of the world. The country escaped some of the brutalities that emanated from Tito’s Yugoslavia, its independence movement settled during a ten-day war back in 1991. Unlike its neighbors, this is not a country that must bare scars of conflict. Slovenians seem diametrically opposed to conflict. Small disagreements are solved with a wave of the hand and shrug of the shoulders, rather than arguments and shouts.
These are a friendly and proud people, very open to making conversation with strangers. Their quiet, reserved manner can be misinterpreted as bashfulness. Greeting people with dober dan (good day) is the simple way to see a little more of Slovenia, as it leads to the smiles and warm-hearted expressions of locals. As you discover more of the culture you will find a nice balance between European ideals. There are the camaraderie and straightforwardness of the East, mixed with a Western-leaning future and a desire to dream big.
As you would expect with easy-going people, this is not a country where you will commit any serious faux pas. There is a need to be respectful when visiting churches – like everywhere in the world – but you would have to be rude and obnoxious to cause offense here. There is no prescribed way to dress either, so there will not be any strange looks when you get drinks at a swanky cafe after hiking 20 miles across the mountains. Just travel in whatever you feel comfortable in.
Ribnica handcrafted woodware, Slovenia.
The older generations are unlikely to speak English. Anyone schooled before 1991 will have learned Russian as a second language. Younger generations have learned English in school. Learning English has been a big focus since the country’s independence, and you may encounter groups of school children on an assignment to practice with foreigners. Slovenian language is a mix of Slavic and Germanic influence, not easy to learn but relatively hassle-free to read as it uses the Latin alphabet. Italian is also spoken on the Istrian coastline, a reminder of the country’s Venetian routes and proximity to Italy.
Food and Drink
The food and drinks in Slovenia are a tasty unexpected highlight.
Most visitors find the food to be an unexpected highlight. Slovenia has its own take on cuisine developed by its near neighbors. Like dumplings derived from Hungary, or air-dried ham in the style of prosciutto. In a single day, you could be eating German-style pork and sauerkraut, Austrian apple strudel and Italian risotto. Almost all of it has a unique Slovenian twist, preferred by some, but not those who first tried these foods in their original home. For something unmistakably Slovenian, try potica, part cake, part pastry, full of sweet goodness and finished off with cream.
Gourmet restaurants are starting to promote a more refined side to local cuisine. They certainly have the raw ingredients here, with organic, local produce part of every day rather than something on the specialty aisle. Some find the meals to be a little heavy – soup, meat and potato main, then big cake dessert – but there is no mistaking the quality of meat dishes in particular. You will find superb Italian restaurants dotted around as well, especially on the coast and in Ljubljana.
Slovenian beer is everywhere and usually appeals to foreign palates. It’s gassy and brewed in the style of Czech and German pilsners, which makes it easy to go down after exploring the outdoors. Fruit schnapps is often included with a meal and the quality varies enormously. While the wine struggles to entertain connoisseurs there is decent produce to find, Italian-style reds and whites to the west and sweeter Riesling-style wines to the north. The same applies to the coffee. Half of Slovenia has adopted the Italian style of roasting and brewing, while the other has a stronger, Turkish style.
Visit Slovenia with Zicasso for an authentic way to get to know the country.
This is a country where a short amount of time can go a long way if you have a private guide and transport. In Slovenia, you can see and experience a lot in just two or three days. With a week or ten days, you can a great sense of the whole country.
All of Zicasso’s tours to Slovenia are handcrafted and individual, providing a hassle-free experience that comes alive in the hands of the best local guides. From vacations to Slovenia to multi-country trips that include Slovenia, Zicasso will match you to a travel specialist who will handcraft an itinerary based on your wishes and requirements.