Be still and breathe in the crispness of the air, take in the heights of the peaks, the depths of the valley and bathe in the beauty of the turquoise streams.
There are a few places in the world that make me wonder why on earth I live in a such a crowded city and this is one of them - the crisp air, the pristine surroundings, the crystal clear rivers and lakes.
Only about a 2 hour train ride from Venice Marco Polo Airport or an hour and a half drive across the border from Italy, the peace that you find in Slovenia is miles away from the crowded masses of a typical summer in Europe.
More than just the home country of the United States’ current first lady, Melania Trump, Slovenia offers a traveler a lot of value for their money and a myriad of activities to do. For a small country that takes approximately 2 hours to drive across and that has a population of 2 million over a landmass that is roughly the size of Vermont, the varied landscapes are stunning.
Slovenia is the best of all worlds – a lush wine country reminiscent of Tuscany, pristine lakes that echo British Columbia, a river so clean you can drink from it, beaches where you can paddleboard, and ample hills to hike. This is a nature lover’s paradise.
With the amount of public recycling bins, bicycles readily available for free, green public spaces and the salt-of-the-earth attitude that most locals have about preserving the environment, this place is also an environmentalist’s dream. Slovenia has definitely earned its title as the first country in the world to be officially declared a green destination by the Netherlands-based organization, Green Destinations which gave the country a 96% compliance rating across 100 criteria.
From the vineyards of Brda to the brilliant blues of the Soča River to the depths of the Karst Caves and the heights of the Julian Alps, this is a country that holds many adventures for the off-the-beaten-path traveler.
Hiking, biking, cycling, paragliding, bungee jumping - there is also much in store for the adrenaline junkie. One of many adventures that you can go on is a hike up a mountain, then paraglide over the stunning landscapes down to a vineyard and finish your day wine tasting.
In terms of travel value, Slovenia offers a lot more for less money than other parts of Europe. It’s part of the European Union so Americans don’t need a visa to travel there. It also accepts the Euro as a form of currency and is easily combinable with other countries in Western or Eastern Europe.
As for the main religion in the country... most of the population are Catholic or some form of Christian - every town has a church and people go to mass - although people are quite secular, and like many countries in Europe, the older generations seem to be more conservative than the younger.
Slovenia is a relatively new country. It broke away from the former Yugoslavia only in 1991 after The Ten Day War.
Being the most stable and most prosperous of the former Yugoslav republics, it was officially recognized by all European Community member states on 15 January 1992 and joined the United Nations on 22 May of that year. In 2004, it entered NATO and the European Union; in 2007 became the first formerly communist country to join the Eurozone; and in 2010 joined the OECD, a global association of high-income developed countries.
This currently peaceful country hasn’t always been this way. Historically the crossroads of West Slavic, South Slavic, Germanic, Romance, and Hungarian languages and culture, this is a land where the borders have changed a plenty. In fact, one of the bloodiest battles of World War II took place on the Julian Alps which took the lives of 1.5 million people. The border of Slovenia and Italy was the setting of Hemingway's WWI novel, A Farewell to Arms.
This former member of Yugoslavia radiates a proud confidence fueled by a hard work ethic. Slovenia is considered a model nation in Central Europe of a country that has successfully moved from communism to a democracy.
The Slovenian people I’ve met here harbor the efficiency of the Austrians along with the passion of the Italians. They definitely put their passion into whatever it is that they do.
From wines to ski jumping, I heard through the grapevine that Slovenians are extremely competitive, always trying to one up their neighbors, constantly aiming to be the best.
The results of this competitive spirit are delicious wines, lush farms and litter-free roads and sidewalks. From the Lipica horses to the hand groomed vineyards, everything in this country seems to be very well tended. The time and care that is put into tending this country is amazing. The rivers, forests and streets are clean and well cared for.
Although they are located close to Italy, the Slovenes are distinctly not like their Italian neighbors. They aren’t flashy with their clothes. I saw a lot of casual wear - gym clothes or work out clothes were worn even to attend mass. T-shirts and gym shorts seem to be the standard uniform here. Everyone looks laid back and always ready to do any sort of outdoor activity or jump in a river.
A highly active country, a lot of the locals I met were very much into leading a lifestyle that incorporated a lot of hiking and biking, amongst other ways to enjoy the playground paradise of their natural surroundings.
If you’ve come to commune with nature, you’ve come to the right place. There are simply so many choices of active adventures. I truly loved white-water rafting in the Soča River. Even though my GoPro was swallowed up by the turquoise rapids, it was definitely one of the most beautiful rivers I’ve ever seen.
I also enjoyed all the quiet spaces in nature where you can hide and hang out. The watering holes, the streams, the endless number of hiking trails to get on the hill overlooking the mountains. It’s almost like you have the entire place to yourself. And even if you find yourself in places where there is a crowd, there are always places nearby to hide away.
I really loved hanging out at Lake Bohinj. We were sitting on the grass and taking in all the scenery, watching the paragliders sail the skies. I could have just stayed there all day relaxing, picnicking and reading a book.
Horse lovers would love visiting Lipica, the home and breeding ground for the world famous Lipizzaners. You can spend a day riding or just watching these well trained creatures trot about.
Everyday seems to be earth day here in Slovenia.
Slovenia’s capital, Ljubljana (pronounced “Lyoob-LYA-na”) earned its European Union recognition not just for having a good recycling system, but also for an unusually extensive no-cars zone. Bike-sharing stations are all across the city and you can use any bike free for an hour. (ahem, NYC)
Nicknamed the pearl of the Mediterranean, this old coastal town is one of the most beautiful towns on the Slovenian coastline and a UNESCO World Heritage site.
This worldly town, which developed under the influence of Venice, is considered to be one of the most authentic and most photogenic towns on the Adriatic coast.
Predjama Castle is situated in the middle of a towering cliff, 123-metre high cliff, for more than 800 years. It is listed among the Guinness World Records as the largest cave castle in the world.
The mountains of the Karst region of south-west Slovenia are filled with a complex subterranean world, where natural caves and passages wind into each other for kilometres on end, plunging deep underground.
The mountains of the Karst region of south-west Slovenia is filled with a complex subterranean world. Where natural caves and passages wind into each other for kilometres at end, plunging deep underground become a world of their own.
Spa Terme Olimje
For the ultimate relaxation, spend an entire day or two lounging around Spa Terme Olimje.
Take a day or two to explore the emerald-green Lake Bled in northeastern Slovenia. Swim in its waters or explore the quaint town or the medieval castle on a cliff.
The Vineyards of Brda
One of my favorite regions that I visited in Slovenia was Brda, a premier wine making region bordering Italy with artisan dynamic wine makers most similar to Napa or Sonoma Valley wine country minus the fancy parties and pretension. It feels like you’ve discovered a hidden gem.
The landscape in Brda is stunning with their terraced vineyards. They are also famous for their cherries and the Brda cherry festival in June. History buffs would be interested in learning that this part of the world has been four countries in less than 100 years and the influence of these is clear in the history, architecture, food and people.
I also had the honor of visiting a rebula vineyard to see how the grapes grow or how they tend the grapes by hand - an awful lot of care goes into the wine making. I never knew how much thought went into winemaking and it was very wonderful to see that they were true artisans of their craft.
"We have to know in advance what kind of wine we want to produce in order to manage the vineyards properly to create the specific flavor, alcohol content, acidity and nose," says Jure Simčič, a third generation winemaker at Edi Simčič wine estate, started by his grandfather.
My favorite part about the whole trip was the delicious Slovenian food and the wine.
I loved visiting all the family wineries - it seemed like every family made wine - either for sale or for their own consumption – and yes, they do consume a lot!
The food was also so fresh, herbaceous and of the land - full of flavor and depth.
We went to so many wine tastings and tried so many different varieties but there were only a few that I took back to the states.
I've never seen this white Zeleni Silvanec before. It was light and crisp - similar to a Sauvignon Blanc in taste but with less mineral finish. It was incredibly easy to drink so I bought a bottle from Ramšak wineries in the Eastern part of Slovenia.
Although Slovenia is better known for its white wines, I also really enjoyed this red blend from Edi Simčič vineyards. Duet Lex is a Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc blend from the Goriska-Brda region bordering Italy.
Come to Slovenia with me!
I had such a wonderful time exploring Slovenia and I invite you to return to Slovenia with me this fall for a harvest food and wine adventure. We will visit farms, wineries, restaurants to learn about and sample the variety of farm-to-table Slovenian food. With its location in between Italy, Austria, Croatia and Hungary, and the number of times its borders have changed, all these cultures have highly influenced the cuisine here. We will eat local cuisine, dine at farms, explore the beautiful landscapes, stumble upon hidden places as well as take advantage of the fresh oxygen.
JOIN ME as I explore Slovenia’s capital city, picturesque villages, medieval castles, monasteries, a chocolaterie and the best thermal hotel and spa in the country (of course!), taste freshly made olive oil, swim in the Adriatic Sea as well as a glacial lake.
Other activities include white water rafting, hiking to waterfalls and exploring Europe’s largest and most beautiful cave and an underwater river! If you want to adventure with me across this sustainable paradise, send me a message through the form below!