Slovenia, in the heart of Europe, is a lush and picturesque nation renowned for its cultural and biological diversity. Bordering Italy to the west, Austria to the north, Croatia to the south and southeast and Hungary to the northeast, Slovenia covers 7,827 square miles. Tucked within Slovenia’s remarkable landscapes are over 4,300 miles of hiking trails and 84 square miles of vineyards. Travellers enjoying Nature Expeditions International’s newest destination can look forward to days filled with exploring Slovenia’s famous architecture, castles, gastronomy and soft adventure activities.
Formed in 1991 after the dissolution of Yugloslavia, Slovenia is still a new state and relatively unknown even to sophisticated travelers. In our minds, however, Slovenia has too many superb attributes to remain a touristic backwater for long. Whether it is the scenery, biodiversity, architecture, culture or opportunities for “soft” adventure, this country excels way beyond what might be expected by a tiny country. It is a veritable gem!
Slovenia is a nature-lover’s paradise. The Alpine scenery is outstanding with over 400 mountains topping 6,500 feet. Sixty percent of Slovenia is covered with forest, and fully one third of its territory is protected as national parks or conservation reserves. The country is also one of the most biologically diverse in the world, boasting over 24,000 different animal species. The glacial lakes, such as Bled and Bohinj, are postcard-perfect. Triglav National Park and the Soca River Valley offer truly stunning scenery along with easy, world-class whitewater rafting down an emerald river so pristine that many people drink (safely) out of it! In Slovenia, there are countless opportunities for scenic driving, hiking, kayaking, canyoning, caving, bicycling and horseback riding excursions amidst spectacular settings.
Slovenia also has a refined, diverse culture that reflects Austro-Hungarian influences but which underlies a distinct Slovenian identity. Slovenia is perhaps the only country in the world that celebrates a day of culture as a national holiday. Not only does Slovenia have numerous well-preserved Baroque castles, buildings and monuments, but it has a rich tradition of poetry, classical music, theatre, dance and literature: more books are published per capita in Slovenia than anywhere else in Europe. And wine connoisseurs may be surprised to learn that 1% of Slovenian territory consists of vineyards, many of them producing high quality wines!
Here are the highlights of our exciting new itinerary!
Don’t let the small size of Slovenia’s capital lead you to believe that there is nothing to do in this quaint town! The relaxed cafe culture of Ljubljana invites you to explore its cobblestone streets lined with shops, fountains, churches and outdoor markets. Lying between the Alps and Adriatic, Ljubljana is home to the 20th century masterpieces of world-famous architect and native son, Joze Pletnik.
Most famous for the Bled Castle, this quintessential Slovenian town is home to stunning alpine views, emerald lakes and kremsnita, a vanilla custard-and-cream cake. In Bled, a pletna will take you to Bled Island where you will visit St. Maria Church. Bled Island is also called the Fairy Tale Island, for its churches and views, it’s a popular destination for couples making their wedding vows. The island is extremely popular among summer wedding parties, with the groom typically trying to carry his bride up the 98 steps from the dock to the church to prove his “fitness for marriage”.
A 1 ½ mile ravine carved by the cascading waters of the Radovna River, Vintgar Gorge offers exhilarating hiking along the wooden walkways that wind along sheer cliffs, passing rapids and whirlpools and crisscrossing the river. The thundering river throws up clouds of spray, with the turquoise color of the water adding to the beauty of the experience. Your hike culminates at the 52 foot high Sum waterfall. Vintgar Gorge has been welcoming hikers for hundreds of years and is one of Slovenia’s most popular nature destinations – be sure your camera is fully charged to capture the breathtaking scenery.
Impregnable Predjama Castle
Impressive and Imposing, Predjama Castle is a 13th century carved into the mouth of a huge cave! The castle has a colorful history, its most famous inhabitant being Erazem Lueger (or Luegger), who owned the castle in 15th century, a renowned robber baron. Visitors can visit the knight’s room which is filled with opulent equipment, learn about castle life in the late Gothic period in the dining room or take in the Renaissance hall on the third floor is where hunting trophies of the Windischgrätz Prince can be found. The renovated rooms and furnishings are truly amazing.
Crossing the Vrsic Pass, you’ll descend through a valley carved by the remarkably beautiful Soca river that originates in the heart of the Triglav National Park and runs down to the Italian Adriatic. You’ll arrive at the charming town of Bovec, where you’ll embark on an exhilirating whitewater rafting trip (generally class 3 rapids) down the emerald Soca River, undoubtedly one of the world’s most beautiful rafting rivers. The mountain scenery is stunning as is the color of the river water itself. If you travel with NEI between July and September, you might also have time for optional easy canyoning. History buffs will be interested to know that the Soca valley was the site of a 30-month WWI campaign that had twelve offensives and resulted in over 1.2 million casualties.
Did you know that 80 to 100 million litres of wine are produced annually in Slovenia? Nearly 70% of wines produced meet the criteria for premium, with Slovenia’s growing conditions to be considered by some wine experts to be the best in the world. While Slovenia produces both red and white wines, it is the whites that they are famous for and the laški rizling is the most popular. Wine blends from Slovenia are also remarkable, with cviček, a protected wine from Dolenjska being a variety that travellers should enjoy before journeying home. Your holiday with NEI offers optional wine tasting excursions and vineyard visits.
Click here to learn more about NEI’s new Slovenia itinerary.