Šoštanj lies on the plain by the Paka below the ruins of the Pusti grad castle which used to control the road through the narrow Paka valley. It was first mentioned in writing in 1199, in 1384 it was granted a market charter. At that time it was the center of the Šalek Valley. Today it has the largest thermal power complex in Slovenia. Both, the Šoštanj and Velenje areas are rich in coal which is still mined today.
At Šoštanj, the Paka enters a narrow gorge. On the west slope of Skom ( 721 m ) is the Rotovnik cave ( Rotovnikova Jama ) known for its aragonite crystals resembling hedgehogs ( aragonitni ježki ).
It can be visited by tourists. Only a few kilometers from Šoštanj, in the Toplica valley, lies the thermal spa Topolšica whose thermal spring was well-known as early as the 16th century.
In Zavodnje above Topolšica, on the slope of Petrov vrh ( 825 m ) lies the old restored Kavčnik Farmhouse – a veritable museum and a tribute to local farm-style architecture.
Bele Vode with scattered farms and ruins of a castle lies west from Šoštanj at a height of 700 m to 900 m.
Velenje is the center of the Šalek Valley. It developed at the foot of a steep hill atop which stands a mighty castle. The castle was first mentioned in writing in the 13th century. Today it houses a museum. Buildings only started to grow in 1951 due to the needs of the mine. Since then it has developed into a nice modem green town with a lot to offer.
A special touch is added by the Tourist Lake ( Turisticno jezero ) with a surface of 1 km2 and Lake Škalce ( Škalsko jezero ) with a surface of 16 hectares.
A road from Velenje leads through the Paka gorge past Huda luknja to the Mislinja valley. Before the road leaves the valley it passes through a short tunnel under the hill above which lie the ruins of the Šalek Castle.
The valley got its name from the castle. From the same junction, there is a road leading south via Kavče and Andraž to Polzela in the Lower Savinja Valley, and another one east to Dobma and Celje.
The small Hudinja River carves out the picturesque Socka gorge on its journey from the southern slopes of Pohorje Massif. Low hills stretching along both banks further down the stream shut off the Celje basin in the north. From a side valley under Paški Kozjak comes the Dobrnica brook, a tributary of the Hudinja.
At their confluence lies the village of Strmec and a bit further south, already in the Celje basin, Vojnik which was given a market charter in 1306. At Vojnik, a road branches off to the north-east leading via Frankolovo and Stranice to Zrece and Slovenske Konjice.
The valley between Konjiška gora and Stenica ( 1091 m ) used to be an important passage protected by two castles – the Frankolovo Castle and Lindenški grad Castle whose ruins still stand high up on the slope of Stenica.
The Salek Castle was first mentioned in the 13th century. It was abandoned in the 18th century and today there are only ruins left of the former fortress.
The restored and well-tended Velenje Castle looks like an irregular square fortress. It houses the collections of the Velenje Museum. After its turbulent history, the castle now has a peaceful cultural mission.
Although the shore of Lake Velenje is “adorned” by the thermopower complex at Sostanj, the constant underground inflow of freshwater keeps it surprisingly clean. On the shore developed a veritable recreational center. In the summer, the lake is full of bathers.
The Ljubija gorge hears Bele Vode hides waterfalls, and high up in steep rocks along Hudi potok we find the Morova zijalka cave. Archaeologists found Stone Age remains in it. Nearby is also the restored Kavcnik farmhouse.