Sights: Slovenia is a beautiful country but many people focus on Ljubljana and Lake Bled. Ljubljana is pretty, very walkable but we found 24 hours enough time in this charming city. Lake Bled is stunning and it is well worth spending time walking around the lake, up the hills around it and heading over to the central island.
However, there are sights beyond these which I feel are even more spectacular. A few miles from Lake Bled is Vintgar Gorge. A canyon which over a couple of miles has waterfalls, dramatic cliff faces and a wooden walkway linking them together. It was an excellent walk, even in the rain!
Although Bled is beautiful, I think Lake Bohinj is even prettier. Driving through mature forests, you come to a lake hemmed in by mountains. At the end is Savica waterfall and on one side you can take the cable car for a walk around Mount Vogel. We stayed in Ribcev Laz with the pretty church of St John the Baptist from where we climbed Mount Rudnica. It has had such a lasting impact that the lake remains the image for the logo on this blog!
The Soca Valley was quite a surprise: having climbed up the Vrisc pass and admired the views at the top, we descended in to the valley with its shiny blue water which was almost unbelievable. Further down there are a collection of World War 1 trenches from a part of the 1914-18 war which is often overlooked. There’s a good museum at Kobarid which explains this part of the conflict along with the memorial church to the Italians who lost their lives. At Bovec, there’s a small town which is the hub of the local rafting. It’s worth a morning’s trip down the river to get a sense of the power and beauty of the valley from the water.
Heading south towards the coast you encounter some flatter agricultural lands which produces some excellent wines. At Postojna there is a pretty cave complex and castle but they are pretty over-run with coaches. I regret not visiting the Škocjan Caves and think they may be a better choice to visit.
Piran is a pleasant Italianate town with sea views and a fine town square. From here we also drove down the coast; the quiet town of Buje in Croatia is slowly being rebuilt and its ruined buildings have a certain charm.
On the way back to Ljubljana airport, Kranj is worth a short visit for coffee and somewhere to stretch your legs.
Travel: We arrived in to Ljubljana airport which is a few miles from the city centre. Car Hire is in a building opposite the main terminal and many of the operators are quite slow at processing customers – allow plenty of time. Once out of the airport, the roads are of good quality though some of the maps are not always helpful as roads are upgraded.
Accommodation: In Ljubjana we stayed at the Grand Hotel Union Ljubljana; its name gives a hint of its style – one of the large, traditional hotels which was popular during the 1970s and 80s. It is a little dated but clean, has a good breakfast and is excellently placed for the centre of the Slovenian capital. http://www.booking.com/hotel/si/grand-union-executive.html?aid=1222377&no_rooms=1&group_adults=2&room1=A%2CA
Hotel Kompas is on the edge of Lake Bled and, again, felt like it dated from the 1980s. The rooms have little balconies (with a lake view for a supplement) and it is a short walk to the lake front. http://www.booking.com/hotel/si/best-western-kompas-bled.html?aid=1222377&no_rooms=1&group_adults=2&room1=A%2CA
When in Bohinj, we hired a little apartment (Ribcev Laz 37, 2465 Bohinjsko Jezero) which was nicely designed, modern and comfortable. It gave us the option to make our own meals and was a great starting point for walks around the area. http://www.booking.com/hotel/si/apartment-bohinjko.html?aid=1222377&no_rooms=1&group_adults=2&room1=A%2CA
In Bovec, we stayed at the Hotel Sanje OB Soči. It’s a modern build with a combination of apartments and rooms. It’s very scandi-chic: white rooms, elegant furniture etc – and a nice buffet breakfast. Kind hosts who also arranged our rafting trip for us. http://www.booking.com/hotel/si/sanje-ob-soai.html?aid=1222377&no_rooms=1&group_adults=2&room1=A%2CA
Majerija (Slap 18, SI-5271 Vipava) is located in the wine valleys and can be classified as a “restaurant with rooms”. The rooms are well appointed and the situation stunning. Do check if the restaurant is open (it sadly wasn’t the night we were there!) but the excellent, homemade breakfast was one of the best meals we had in Slovenia. http://www.booking.com/hotel/si/majerija.html?aid=1222377&no_rooms=1&group_adults=2&room1=A%2CA
Finally, in Piran we stayed at the eponymous Hotel Piran and were charmed from the moment we arrived and saw the reception (& bar!) looking out on to the Adriatic. Good sized rooms (with a sea view for a supplement), though the bathrooms belay their age. Parking is a few minutes out of town but the hotel operates an efficient shuttle. http://www.booking.com/hotel/si/hostel-piran.html?aid=1222377&no_rooms=1&group_adults=2&room1=A%2CA
Food & Drink: Slovenian food brings together the cuisines of Italy, Austria and its former Yugoslavian neighbours. It’s good value and of a good standard, making use of local produce but not always the most inspiring.
In Ljubljana there are plenty of café-bars along the river front for you to find a favourite; Vila Preseren on the water front in Bled offers good quality coffee, beer and cakes; on the breakfast alone, the restaurant at Majerija is worth a go; and the fish restaurants on the sea front in Piran are fresh and popular.
Further Reading & Listening:
Guide books: Although Lonely planet have stopped their guide to South Eastern Europe, they do publish a good book just on Slovenia although Europe on a shoe-string has a few pages on the country. As for maps, the Slovenian map from Freytag-Berndt covers the country but it does not always include all of the recently upgraded roads.
Podcast: We enjoyed the wine in Slovenia but wish we had listened to this first: Wine for normal people pod cast: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/podcast/wine-for-normal-people/id413879919?mt=2&i=1000381049196
For some background history, this from the BBC is also worth a listen: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/podcast/witness/id339986758?mt=2&i=1000372154113
Throughout our time in Slovenia, we dipped in and out of Radio Slovenia International which provides English language news and updates: http://www.rtvslo.si/radiosi