10 reasons to choose Slovenia for your next holiday
When planning your next overseas holiday, Slovenia might not be the first place that comes to mind. This small, chicken-shaped country (study it more closely on a map) is easy to miss; seemingly dwarfed by its geographically larger neighbours of Croatia, Italy, and flanked on the other side by Austria and Hungary; while physically smaller, they are larger in reputation. But while Slovenia may not be the first place people think of, it’s the last place they remember after a visit. Slovenia is a land of many things. And here are 10 reasons why taking your holidays in Slovenia is an unforgettable experience.
1: A land of diverse culture
Size is not really the reason Slovenia is lacking in prominence on the world stage, it’s chiefly because over the centuries Slovenia has always been under someone else’s rule. Being located on the border between the Slavic, Germanic and Latin world, while Slovenia has of course always remained a Slavic nation, the early Slavs who inhabited the country were forever dominated in ancient times by invading tribes such as the Illyrians, Celts, Romans and subsequently the Venetians. In latter centuries they came under the rule of the Germans and ultimately the Austro-Hungarian Empire. When finally released from their clutches, the country joined Yugoslavia. Only in 1991 did Slovenia finally break free and become a fully independent nation, but still fought for recognition. Ironically, it was joining up with another great collection of nations that has in fact put Slovenia more prominently on the world stage. It joined the EU in 2004.
Consequently, Slovenia is a land of great diversity. Everywhere you look you’ll see the indelible mark left by these cultures, in the architecture, food, drink and the people.
2: A land of two climates
Being sandwiched between the Adriatic and the European Alps, Slovenia enjoys all the benefits of two climatic zones: a Mediterranean climate in the west, and a continental climate in the centre and east. The resulting clash of the two has shaped a diverse land of rolling green plains in the east, jagged alpine mountains in the north, limestone plateaus in the west and a sparkling blue Adriatic coast. And because the country is small, you can literally swim in a cool alpine lake in the morning and in the warm Adriatic Sea in the afternoon.
3: A land of forests
Almost 60% of the country is covered in forest, some of which are protected primeval woodlands. The forests are a valuable natural resource for the country. There are 71 naturally growing species of tree here. Deep inside these forests is a thriving ecosystem which is home to all manner of flora and fauna. Bears, wolves and even some lynx roam the land, while birds of prey circle above. You can even go on a bear watching tour.
4: A land of hiking trails
If you love hiking holidays, in Slovenia almost every town or city is just a few steps away from nature. Slovenes love hiking, and therefore huge networks of hiking trails have not only been developed but are also well-marked and maintained by volunteers from local organisations. There’s a trail for every type of hiker, from easy strolls around lakes, along riversides, through valleys and across sweeping meadows to slightly more demanding trails over hills and through forests. For the more avid hiker, there are many mountain trails leading up to some of the country’s highest peaks.
5: A land of sports and activities
Stunning alpine lakes, gushing rivers and waterfalls offer a wealth of water-based activities such as rafting, kayaking, canyoning and much more. The glistening emerald-green Soca River is just one of many. If you like rock climbing, then you’ll also find plenty of opportunities here. The more daring can even try paragliding off the many hilltops, a tandem skydive or a bungee jump. And of course, in winter the mountaintops turn into ski resorts, and the plateaus into cross country ski courses.
6: A land of endless sights to see
Slovenia’s landscape is packed with beauty, diversity and history. One of the best ways to see it is either by hot air balloon or a scenic flight. If you prefer to keep your feet firmly on the ground, then a bus tour will easily get you to many of the best places along with the best towns and cities. A slower, but more enjoyable way to see the sights is by bicycle. Slovenia is a bicycle friendly country, and you’ll find roads full of cyclists on sunny days.
7: A land of castles and churches
All countries have castles and churches we know, but none as many as Slovenia. With centuries of invasions from various tribes and conquering nations, Slovenia has seen an abundance of castles, manors and fortresses come and go. Many are in ruins, while many more are still standing and have been restored to their former glory. Some you can even stay the night in. But most of all, many occupy the most stunning locations imaginable. Bled Castle is the most famous, sitting on a cliff-top overlooking this stunning location. The capital is centred around the Ljubljana Castle, and in the west is the amazing Predjama Castle, which is an impenetrable fortress sitting halfway up the side of cliff. Not to be outdone, almost everywhere you look you will see a church on every mountainside or hilltop. Many churches were built in these daring locations to provide sanctuary for locals during raids.
8: A land of caves
Your holidays in Slovenia don’t always have to be above ground. Around 43% of Slovenia comprises large tracts of limestone sheets, which cover a world of subterranean caves and tunnels. There are an estimated 11,500 caves in Slovenia. In particular the karst region in the west contains some of the best and biggest. The most famous is Postojna Cave, with Skocjan Cave coming in a close second. Check out the weird and wonderful Human Fish at Postojna Cave.
9: A land of pure water
Melting snow off the mountains in spring and thunderous clashes between the cold alpine and hot Mediterranean air, have ensured Slovenia of over 26,000kms of permanent and torrential waterways. The country is abundant with waterfalls that cascade off high mountainsides, gushing rivers and rapids that thunder through stunning valleys and gorges, many converging to form beautiful alpine lakes such as Lake Bled and Lake Bohinj. And in the porous limestone world of the karst, natural springs pop up almost everywhere and lakes appear and disappear. And if that’s not enough, there is a vast subterranean network of rivers. So when it comes to drinking water, Slovenia has some of the best and purest. Thanks also to ecological efforts, the water sources are much less polluted than in other countries. The capital, Ljubljana, has some of the highest quality drinking water in the world.
10: A land of good food and wine
The rich and fertile soil of this diverse land means that in all corners of the country you’ll find vineyards dotting terraced hillsides. Rarely exported, Slovenian wines rank up there among the best. There is no shortage of wineries where you can stop for a degustation and at the same time try the local Prsut (cured ham). The ruby red Teran and Refosk are two great red wines to try in the karst region, while the east is well-known for its white wines. A visit wouldn’t be complete without trying the Cvicek, a unique wine comprising a mix of red and white grapes and also low in alcohol content. It is protected by the European Union with the status of recognized traditional denomination. There are numerous wine roads across the whole country, so choose wisely.
Being surrounded by such diverse countries, and having been invaded at one time by most of them, means that a lot of Slovenian food has of course been highly influenced from outside. However, Slovenes do it better. You’ll never find a better pizza than in Slovenia. The culinary delights change from east to west.
In the east Prekmurski Bograc is a delicious stew influenced by neighbouring Hungary. It’s similar to goulash. Traditional bograc contains potatoes, onions, pork fat, and four different types of meat – often beef, pork, venison, and wild boar –, as well as peppers, a touch of wine, and various spices. The name derives from a pot the Hungarians call “bogracs” in which the stew is cooked over an open fire.
In the west you’ll find many specialities inspired by Italian pasta dishes. Bovec krafi is a kind of ravioli filled with dried pears, apple puree, raisins, ground walnuts, breadcrumbs, sugar, cinnamon, ground cloves, grated lemon zest, vanilla sugar and butter.
A land you must see
As you have seen, Slovenia is a land of great diversity and offers an endless array of experiences. Whether you plan long or short holidays in Slovenia, there is more than enough to keep you entertained; being small means that you can do so much in a short period of time, but being diverse means that you’ll never run out of things to do.