Slovenia is the most underrated country in all of Europe. Yep, I said it. And if you have been there then you know exactly what I am talking about.
Bordered by heavily touristed countries like Italy, Croatia, Hungary and Austria, Slovenia often gets overlooked. We were surprised to discover that it is just as beautiful as its neighbors (if not more so!), and we were pleased to find that unlike its neighbors it is not yet saturated with selfie sticks and tour groups.
Slovenia has gorgeous rocky beaches like Croatia, it has mountains and world class whitewater rafting like in Northern Italy. The country has marvelous lakes to explore in the summer and epic skiing in the winter like Austria. And it has cute little villages to discover like Hungary.
You see, with all these similarities with its neighbors, Slovenia has created its own personality and this is what kept us traveling there and wanting more.
If Slovenia isn’t on your radar, it definitely should be!
(...try saying that city name 3 times fast)
Ljubliana is a dream of a city. I would go as far to say it is the cutest capitol city in Europe. With only 278,800 residents, Ljubliana (pronunced: "loo-blee-ah-nuh") is small and easily walkable.
It's clean, has gorgeous architecture, a fantastic farmer's market, a quirky art scene, great public transportation, and a castle to boot! We could go on and on about what makes Ljubliana so great, but if you do make it to this stunner in the summertime, there are endless things to do.
Things to Do in Ljubliana
1. Explore the Ljubljana Castle
Make the short trek up to the Ljubljana Castle. You'll be rewarded with an incredible view of the city and surrounding areas. It is free to enter, but €10 to see special rooms throughout the castle. If you try out an exhibit or an activity you'll a discount on the entrance.
You can watch a film in the castle courtyard with their Movies Under the Stars series. Our you can try out the castle's escape room like challenges.
If you love castles, this list has 25 beautiful castles in Slovenia you should see.
2. Take the Ljubljana Free Walking Tour
Always a good bet in Europe is to partake in the free walking tour. You guide will bring you around the city to major sites like the Triple Bridge, where there are plenty of street preformers and cute restaurants.
3. See the Icon of the Ljubljana
You should stop by the Dragon Bridge (Zmajski Most) which has become a symbol of the city as a dragon is on Ljubljana's coat of arms. And of course you'll walk by one of the many farmers' markets in town. Try to find the fresh cow's milk vending machine, it's delicious!
4. Get Artsy in Metelkova
Be sure to visit Metelkova, the alternative culture center of Ljubljana. Formerly a military barracks, but taken over by squatters and artist in the 90’s, the 12,500 square-meter area now consists of detailed street art and installations.
Today there are bars, restaurants, design spaces and offices that occupy this area, making it a great place to visit.
5. Eat Responsibly in Ljubljana
While in Ljubljana be sure to support the local economy and eat at the socially responsible restaurant Druga Violina (meaning Second Violin). Serving Slovenian cuisine, this restaruant employs staff with special needs. The food is quite good and reasonably priced.
Hotels in Ljubljana
Couple Stay/Mid-range: Urban Hotel - Free smartphone during stay with 30 minutes of call and Ljubljana guide applications. 500 meters to city center, flat-screen TV's in each room and buffet breakfast included.
Budget Friendly/Social Atmosphere: Hostel England Pub - 6-bed and 8-bed dorms available, great central location, excellent reviews.
Are you going from Ljubljana to Bovec? Try riding on FlixBus. We rode with FlixBus throughout Eastern Europe and loved how comfortable and cheap they are.
Venture out of the charming capital city, Ljubljana, and make your way to way to Boveç (pronounced Bow-vetz) to get some quality time in nature.
While traveling in Romania, we met a young Slovenian woman who recommended we visit Boveç while in her home country. Travel Tip #463: Whenever you get tips from locals, take them.
Boveç is a picturesque mountain village, that actually reminded us a lot of Leavenworth, WA where we lived for 8 months. It's small and surrounded by mountains with an amazing river flowing through it. Oh, and person we met was wonderful.
Things to Do in Boveç
1. Try an extreme sport
There’s an abundance of adventure sports – like whitewater kayaking, canyoneering, and zip-lining – centered around the stunningly clear Soča River (also known as the Isonzo River), a clear-turquoise river cutting through the charming mountain town. It's a popular getaway for Slovenians, this town is still relatively unknown to tourists.
We tried whitewater kayaking for the first time with Soca Rafting Co., and though it's harder than it sounds, it was a blast. I tipped 3 times, but the best part about tipping over is that the water was so clean I could take a gulp and feel utterly refreshed!
Related: Find the Best Travel Backpacks for Europe
2. Go Hiking in Bovec
There are endless hikes in and around Bovec. Here are some of our favorites:
- Hike to the Mlinarica Gorge - Take a bus from Bovec to the trailhead past the village of Trenta. It's a longer hike, but you'll see many waterfalls along the way and at the end of the trail is the source of the Mlinarca River coming out of a rock. Crazy!
Warning: The beginning of this hike is pretty easy though it is a bit up hill. However, the final section to get to the two pictures above is for experience hikers only. It may look like I am goofing around, but always keep a hand on the fixed railing in the rock and be sure to hike in good shoes. And bring plenty of water at least 1 liter per person.
- Hike the Soca River Trail and see the Soca River Gorge - Deep blue water rushed through a narrow gorge and is a photographers dream.
- The best pics of the gorge are about 200 meters west of the small village of Soca (Look on Google Maps and where you see Soca, go 200 meters down river). There are a few bridges you can take pictures from.
- Hike to Boka Waterfall - Short hike from the road to an impressive lookout of the large waterfall. There is really no way to get close to the falls, so enjoy it at a distance on one of the platforms.
- Hike to Virje Waterfall - Fun hike through some small neighborhoods of Bovec leads you to a path and a series of waterfalls and mossy rocks. These waterfall you can get close up to and play around in the water.
If you are avid hiker and are interesting about other epic hikes we have taken around the world, check out our hiking page full of detailed articles.
Hotels in Bovec
Couple Stay/Mid-range: Apartments Wallas - Hotel rooms and full apartments available, kitchens in each, and WiFi throughout the property.
Budget Friendly/Social Atmosphere: Hostel Soča Rocks - One of the best hostels we stayed in Eastern Europe. Spacious dorm rooms with a shared kitchen and great common area. Relax in the hammocks outside or get a beer from the bar and play games inside.
Are you going from Bovec to Lake Bled? Try riding on FlixBus. We rode with FlixBus throughout Eastern Europe and loved how comfortable and cheap they are.
As one of the most iconic places in all of Slovenia, Lake Bled is well worth the day trip (if not more) from Ljubljana. Most people have see this famous lake before because it fills up their Instagram Feed, but they don't know where it is.
Things To Do in Lake Bled
1. Visit the island in Lake Bled
The focal point of the lake is the Assumption of Mary Church that sits on the island in the middle of the lake. It is rumored that if you ring the bell and make a wish, it will come true. You can take a Plenta boat there for €11 and here are the departure times for the island.
2. Explore Bled Castle
While in Bled, visit the Bled Castle which is placed on the cliffs overlooking the lake (Adult Admission: €11). You can explore the castle and get an incredible viewof the lake, which is great for sunset.
3. Hike to the Lake Bled Viewpoint
Another great viewpoint of the lake is from the west side at the Ojstrica viewpoint. It's a 20 minute walk uphill from the main road and you won't be disappointed with the view.
Try to make it for sunrise. You can take another route and climb up to Mala Osojnica viewpoint for another angle of the lake but we felt Ojstrica was just fine.
4. Have a slice of Bled Cake
After the short hike to the viewpoint, you'll be ready to get something to eat. Be sure to try the famous Bled cake. It's a layered cake that is melt-in-your-mouth delicious. We were told to get one at Slaščičarna Šmon Cafe and we were not disappointed.
5. Walk around Lake Bled
Take a nice stroll after some Bled cake and walk the 6km track around the lake. If you go at a good pace it should only take 60-70 minutes. Zdraviliški Park is a nice park in town next to the lake perfect for a picnic lunch.
Hotels in Bled
Luxury Hotel: Villa Istra - Fully-renovated traditional lakeside villa, luxuriously decorated with modern touches like flat-screen TV's in each room, free parking, 10-min walk to downtown, and on-site bar.
Couple Stay/Mid-range: Old Parish House - Located next to the Church of Saint Martin and only 100 meters from Lake Bled, this 4-star B&B is perfect for couples. Try not drool while looking that the breakfast pictures.
Budget Friendly/Social Atmosphere: Castle Hostel 1004 - Offering privates and dorm, shared kitchen and common spaces, free WiFi, 500 meters from the city center, 30 meters away from a grocery and BBQ equipment. What more do you need?
How to Travel around Slovenia
Slovenia is a relatively small country and the bus system is pretty good. We traveled by bus everywhere and Flixbus is the company we went with most of the time. Their ticket prices are pretty reasonable and bus are frequent between the major cities.
10 Items to Pack for Traveling in Slovenia
- Durable Backpack - We carry 40 liter backpacks everywhere we go. Both of our big bags are made by Deuter and we love them.
- Packing Cubes - A backpacking staple, these cubes help keep your clothes organized in your bag.
- Microfiber Towel - Always good to carry around a fast drying microfiber towel just in case your hotel/hostel doesn’t provide them.
- Portable Battery Pack - It’s the worst when you arrive to a new city and your phone is dead. Keep it charged with an Anker Battery Pack, this one can charge your phone up to 7 times.
- Bamboo Sunglasses - Tree Tribe polarized sunglasses not only look great, but for every purchase they plant 10 trees.
- Steripen - Say goodbye to bottled water. You can sterilize your water right out of the tap with this UV light. We have used ours for years and have never gotten sick off the water.
- Kindle Paperwhite - Download all your travel guidebooks onto your Kindle. You no longer have to carry around heavy books that take up space in your bag, and the Paperwhite verison lights up in the dark.
- Collapsible Cups - If you’re like us, you will be drinking wine in Europe and these come in handy for picnic lunches.
- Lush Solid Shampoo bar - No more worrying about liquid limits. One all-natural bar will last me up to 3 months and they smell great!
- GoPro - One of the best ways to capture your travels. They are lightweight, take great pictures and video and they are waterproof up to 10 meters without a case!
Before you book your trip, think about this:
We never travel without travel insurance. It’s never fun to think about losing your stuff or the possibility of a delayed flight, missing a connection, or heaven forbid you get injured while traveling. It’s best to know that you’ll be covered if anything goes wrong.
We have a whole article dedicated to figuring out the best travel insurance for you, but one company we really like is World Nomads. Get a quote in a couple minutes by filling out your information below:
European Train Travel
How are you traveling around Eastern Europe? One way to travel around Europe is by train and the best way to save money on trains is to buy Eurail Pass.
Now to be honest, we didn’t take any trains in Slovenia because the buses and ride-sharing were cheaper. However, if you are traveling to multiple countries fairly quickly or traveling to Western Europe, purchasing a train pass might be your cheapest bet. Check out the Eurail Pass prices here.
Europe Air Travel
Another great thing about traveling in Europe is airfare is so much cheaper than in North America. One of our favorite sites to book flight is Skyscanner.
It’s so easy to use and we found some our cheapest flights using their “Show Whole Month” feature, where you can select your route and it tells you the cheapest days of the month to fly.
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