What is it about Slovenia that makes everyone so curious? Maybe it reminds us of what we always envisioned a small European country to be before it was reduced by big city life and industrialization… with green pastures surrounded by mountains and farmland and crystal clear lakes, unpolluted with wholesome and unprocessed foods in abundance. That’s what I thought of and the reality certainly lived up. I’ve got a Slovenia itinerary for you if, like me, you only have 5 days to spend here.
Slovenia is not generally the first location you think of when visiting the region but you’ll realize that it was a perfect choice once you have. Much of the country is drive-able, incredibly and naturally beautiful, generally unspoiled by corporate and commercial interests and enjoys a lower head count during Europe’s dreaded tourist season.
This Slovenia itinerary focuses on the central and western provinces and covers many of the important points like Ljubljana, the Julian Alps, Vrisic Pass, Lake Bled, Kobarid, Vintgar Gorge, Triglav National Park etc. We missed the Postojna Caves on our 4th day as we arrived past 4pm and last entry had passed for the day. Try not to miss those. The rest of Slovenia is waiting to be discovered. I’m looking forward to exploring the southern and eastern provinces with all the thermal springs. You’ll understand why I’m in a hurry to return to Slovenia after reading this.
Day 1: Arrive in Ljubljana, Slovenia’s capital
Arrive in Ljubljana’s international airport and grab your rental car. Ljubljana is very easily done on foot, no car necessary, just make sure you have one before departing for the next city. Parking can be an issue though as many streets near the city centre are pedestrian only or access controlled for residents. Street cleaning signs also need to be respected.
The capital is small but packed with enough to keep you busy for at least a couple of days. Trek up to Ljubljana Castle for a good view of the city. There’s a glass elevator that can take you up from street level but I think the walk is more enjoyable. Try and get a reservation for lunch at the stonewalled bistro Gostilna Na Gradu, run by three of the city’s top chefs, before you arrive. Later on in the day, take a walk through old town, browse the shops and head to the cafe and bars on the Ljubljana river for sunset drinks. Dinner at Gujzina for some down home cooking in a casual and earthy atmosphere or head to Cubo and experience modern Slovenian cuisine in chic surroundings. Check in to your hotel and get a good night’s rest.
Accommodation: Hotel Cubo
Hint: Grab the junior suite on the top floor with panoramic views of the castle. Everything in the mini bar is all inclusive
Day 2 of Your Slovenia Itinerary: Ljubljana to Lake Bled
Get an early start and walk to Preseren Square, the triple bridge and the street markets in Ljubljana. Further down is Vodnik Square with regional street food, fresh produce and flower markets. Don’t forget to stop in at Piranske Soline, a rustic shop selling salt harvested from Slovenia’s Adriatic coast. The salts have a unique flavor and are never overpowering like regular table salt. They enhance the natural flavors of whatever it is your cooking. I brought back about three sacs and pretty much use it every day, you’ll see the branded salt in some of my recipe pics. It’s not a required ingredient obviously.
Nest on your Slovenia Itinerary: Around noon, drive northwest on E61 to Lake Bled. It’ll take a little less than an hour. Check in to the Grand Hotel Toplice. Ask for a lake facing room. We had the corner room on an upper floor and the view was breathtaking.
Complimentary row boats are provided via the hotel. We packed up some parma ham sandwiches and a bottle of wine and glided along the lake with the swans and ducks. It only felt like I was gliding since my partner was doing all the rowing 🙂
We headed to the middle of the lake to visit the church at Bled Island. Don’t miss the steep hike up to Bled Castle. Afterward, we plopped down on the terrace of Ostarija Peglez’n for dinner to catch the sunset over the lake. The food was decent but service a total disaster. We left early and retreated to our room just across the street from the restaurant and enjoyed some dessert on our balcony. We overheard guests raving about Penzion Berc. So you may want to include this restaurant on your Slovenia itinerary when in Bled.
Day 3 of Your Slovenia Itinerary: Lake Bled to Kranjska Gora to Livek
Rise early and took a stroll around the perimeter of the lake. We stopped for a huge Carniolan sausage with sauerkraut and mustard at an hour I won’t mention. I wish we could have stayed longer but there was lots to see this day.
Less than a half hour away lie the emerald green waters of Vintgar Gorge. Now I’ve seen all kinds of crazy shades of water before but usually the more gorgeous they are, the more tropical the location. But here, the combination of green with rocky cliffs and fall leaf foliage was unreal. Lake Bled was long behind me now. We spent two hours roaming the gorge and snapping pics, a more detailed gallery can be seen here.
Next is Pericnik Waterfall in Triglav National Park on your Slovenia itinerary. The drive wasn’t just about getting to the waterfall, it was about the journey through the park. Bright leaves in an array of shades from orange and yellow could be seen for miles ahead.
Next stop in this landmark filled day is Vrsic Pass through the Julian Alps. Known as a somewhat dangerous drive, Vršič Pass is a mountain pass at an elevation of 1,611 m (5,285 ft) above sea level, located across the Julian Alps in northwestern Slovenia. The road stretches about 24km and has 5o switchbacks to overcome. There’s no room for passing. I believe it closes in the winter months due to heavy snowfall and dangerous conditions. We marveled at the scenery and the view to the alps was unforgettable.
Afterward head west around the park border, pass through Tarvisio in Italy near the demarcation on SS54 and eventually south back in to Slovenian territory down to Livek in Kobarid to reach Nebesa, quite literally meaning a slice of heaven (which it is). With only 4 chalets existing, I booked this some time before we flew. I eagerly anticipated my stay and was not disappointed. We reached before sunset and took in the views of the Soca River Valley below.
Nebesa is not 5 star in your typical sense of the word when you think luxury. Its 5 star because of the whole experience from the location, to the sustainable design of the chalets which are simple but provide everything you need, to the privacy, the hospitality, the spectacular views, the owners’ kitchen and cellar where at any time you can fill your glass with great wine and take a plateful of delicious pancetta, freshly sliced ham and homemade preserves at no extra charge (we made good use of this upon arrival after morning hiking and a long drive through the mountains). High season ended earlier and there was no pressure at all from the gracious couple who own the property for checkout the next day. Hisa Franko is a must for dinner. Book ahead.
Day 4 of Your Slovenia Itinerary : Kobarid and the Soca River Valley
Visit the antiwar museum in Kobarid. Hike the outdoor walking “museums” which are well guided with informative boards. The history of The Battle of Caporetto, also known as The Battle of Kobarid or Twelfth Battle of Isonzo, which took place on the Austria and Italian fronts in World War I is totally engrossing. Many of the atrocities of this war are detailed in Hemingway’s classic A Farewell to Arms.
Go white water rafting down the Soca River if weather permits.
Back on the highway to Ljubljana. If you started early enough in the day, stop at the Postojna Caves as its not too much out of the way. If not, enjoy the drive back to the capital with views of the Soca River.
Day 5 of Your Slovenia Itinerary: End in Ljubljana
We made it to Ljubljana in the evening on the 4th night and stopped at one of the bars. Then we passed out from a pleasurable tiredness given all the activity the days before. The next morning we picked up souvenirs and trinkets near the riverfront and had a leisurely breakfast. We took off by car to explore Vienna, our next destination.
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