What a country! It’s now the second favourite country we’ve visited because of its nonstop rolling hills and beautiful landscapes; combined with the extremely friendly and welcoming people, and lovely towns (Norway can’t be shaken off that no 1 spot, but Slovenia has just pipped Slovakia to no 2). We also had our friend Jonny visiting for the most part, so that made it extra great. He hired a car (as we unfortunatly only have 2 road worthy seats) and kipped on the floor in scooby – it was fun fitting 3 of us in the van!
Our route: Ptuj – Raeče fishponds -Maribor – Pohorje – Ljubljana – Vintgar gorge & Lake Bled – Vogel mountain & Lake Bohinj– Soca Valley – Skocjanski Nature Resersve – Piran – Strunjan to Izola – Škocjan caves
Let’s start with the people
Literally everyone we met (people out walking, campsite owners, people at the bar, the market, ticket offices) was incredibly friendly, helpful and happy.
Wild camping in Slovenia is illegal (which is the only downside to the country), but instead of paying for expensive campsites, sometimes you can find other businesses who have a little patch of land on their site and will let you stay for about a third of the price. On our first evening with Jonny we stayed at an agro-services business out in the countryside. When we arrived, the mother of the business-owner greeted us and was very friendly, offering us coffee and biscuits.
The following morning, we met the owner and his father who insisted giving us some local wine to try. At first, we thanked them but tried to make some excuses as it was 11am! But it’s hard to say no when someone is so friendly. So, we found ourselves in their kitchen with a large glass of very delicious white wine. The father couldn’t speak English, but his son was acting as translator for us and we had a lovely chat. Another son came along purely to say hello. We then ended up having a little piano recital in the owner’s bedroom, and found ourselves singing along to “Piano-Man” already a little fuzzy at 11.30am. He tried to persuade us to stay and try some local schnapps, but we did want to see Ljubljana that day so reluctantly declined. We all regretted this decision later as we had such a nice time with them. It was the best way to start a country.
Once in Ljubljana we walked around the market where all the vendors were really friendly. I brought a broccoli, which I was very excited about as they don’t sell them in supermarkets, and the lady gave me 3 free carrots. Simple gesture but I was beyond happy about her kindness.
The following day on our walk, everyone we passed said hello to us. One couple asked if we knew where Vintgar gorge was. I assumed they were lost and started to explain how to get there. Turned out they knew exactly where they were, but just wanted to be able to help us in case we didn’t know. The friendliness seems to be compulsive.
Another occasion that sticks out was when we stayed on some land owned by a small scale winey for free (it had great views overlooking the Adriatic Sea). The following morning the owner showed us the wine they were in the middle of processing and took us to see their wine cellar. We tried some homemade schnapps and obviously couldn’t resit buying some wine.
I’ll let the photos do most of the talking here. Hopefully they will give you an idea of how stunning it was. Just merely driving around was hard work because the scenery was so distracting.
First couple of days we visited Race fishpond for some bird watching action and Pohrojre hills right on the doorstep of Maribor town.
One of the most visited nature spots in Slovenia, because of its proximity to Ljubljana, is Lake Bled. And its easy to see why as it’s a beautifully clear lake. We visited it on a grey but atmospheric day, went for a walk around the lake, took a rowing boat across to the island and had a quick evening swim. Behind the lake is the beautiful clear Vintgar Gorge. You have to pay €10 to walk right alongside it, which is beyond our budget, so we took a walk up in the hills and looked down onto it.
On one of the days we got a cable car up towards the mountain of Vogel in the Julian Alps to save our legs for a day of walking along the mountain tops. There were incredible views down through the clouds to Lake Bohinji (an equally beautiful lake and a lot less developed and touristy than Bled), as well as across to more mountains and even out to sea. This was the first view of the sea we had for 7 weeks and to see it from a mountain was our version of heaven. The day ended with a refreshing swim in the lake.
We spent a day exploring the Soca Valley, walking alongside the turquoise river, paddling (far too cold to swim), stopping at the otherworldly Kozjak waterfall, the impressive Boka waterfall where the water comes straight from source and drops 106 meters over the cliff. Our final stop was at the stunning ‘Grand Canyon’ of Soca.
We visited Skocjanski nature reserve at the wrong time of year for birds but both me and Jonny (who is a reserve warden) felt at home amongst the grazing marsh and reedbeds. And we both geeked out over the incredible hide. 4 Storeys! Including an underwater level so you could watch the fish and frogs in the reedbeds!
Slovenia has a tiny strip of coast, but man it was so good to be back at the sea! We wandered around the coastal town of Piran for about 45 minutes before I couldn’t resist the urge to go swimming (I never visit the coast without a bikini in my bag). The following day we had a lush walk along the cliffs of Strunjan looking down onto the turquoise waters. We walked through some olive trees and down to the coastal town of Izola. We also went snorkelling over a seagrass bed dotted with huge clams.
Our last day was in the Karst region with rolling wooded hills and limestone outcrops. We visited the Skocjan caves where we repeatedly said ‘wow’ and ‘this is insane’. The cave had everything you could want – all the stalagmites and tites and huge underground chambers. The Reka river runs through the cave and has created a massive cavern ~100 meters high and ~60 meters wide. During spring floods the river can fill the cavern to above the bridge we walked on at about 60 meters high. We walked on a ledge about half way up the cavern, crossing over small wooden bridges on dimly light paths. We felt like we were in lord of the rings! It was such an insane space to be in.
Every city and town we visited was lovely. Clean, colourful, independent, and interesting. Ptju was like the Slovenian Totnes (Devon), one main street of independent and alternative art galleries and cafes along a river, and a small castle. Maribor was clean, quiet, pretty and famous for wine made with the world’s oldest productive vine (440 years old). Ljubljana was a capital I would be happy to live in, small and compact and filled with independent shops and cafés, and surrounded by hills and mountains. Piran and Izola were the perfect quaint old seaside towns.
Ptuj, Maribor, Piran: