For such a small country, Slovenia boasts an extremely varied landscape. There is just a short pop from snow-capped mountains and glacial lakes in the Alps to evergreen olive plantations on the coast. And a drive to wine-growing hills, golden wheat-fields, or mysterious karst caves will not take us more than an hour, either. The country with its picturesqueness and diversity is just tempting us to stop and indulge in its treasures.
This is why the Slovenes have turned into a real “trip-making” nation. Wherever they choose to go, they can go on a trip. Mountaineering has been a tradition here for over 200 years. Slovene Mountains are dotted with almost 200 mountain huts and mountaineering societies count over 100.000 members.
Numerous farmhouses on the fringes of the Alps, in the Pohorje Massif, in the Savinja Valley, and elsewhere in Slovenia have wide opened their doors to visitors. A holiday in the traditional farming environment of such farms which offer traditional homemade food is the real thing. Guests used to the industrialized environments can relax and enjoy quiet to their hearts’ content.
Inns have always been an essential part of the Slovene tradition. They were the place where people gathered, talked and had fun. Big things happened there and every tourist should stop at least once at the local inn, taste a genuine local dish and have some excellent Slovene wine.
In vino veritas – this saying is well at home in Slovenia. Vine grows in the east, south, and west of the country. Wine-growing hills are crisscrossed with wine roads bringing a visitor to wine cellars and local culinary offers. Slovene wine, already well known by the ancient Romans, is today world-famous.
Famous wine-growing regions are Podravje ( the Drava region ) comprising the south slopes of the Pohorje Massif, the Slovenske Gorice between Ormoz and Ljutomer, Maribor, and the Flaloze Hills.
The Bizeljsko-Sremis wine region in Posavje ( the Sava basin ) is also famous for its wines. Zametna Cmina ( a kind of dark grape ) is typical of Bela Krajina, and Dolenjska is the homeland of Cvicek ( sourish wine ). The best Cvicek comes from Trska gora near Novo Mesto.
Vineyards lend a special charm to the littoral landscape in the Vipava valley, and the gently rounded hills of the Goriska Brda are virtually unimaginable without vineyards.
Kraski Teran from Dutovlje and Tomaj and wines from the Koper district are also very much appreciated.
Spa tourism has quite a long tradition in Slovenia as well. It is not hard to guess when they first started to visit Rimske Toplice ( the Roman Spa ). Rogaska Slatina ( Rogatec Mineral Spa ) has been known for over 300 years and frequently visited by famous people, dignitaries as well as rulers, from all over Europe. The thermal spa Dobma has just as long a tradition.
In Pomuije ( the Mura region ) we find the best-known Slovene spa Radenci and nearby are also the spas Moravske Toplice, Banovci, and Terme Lendava.
Water springing in the spas Dolenjske Toplice and Smarjeske Toplice is so hot you can bathe there in an open swimming pool in the middle of the coldest winter. And the thermal spa Cateske Toplice offers its visitors a true bathing riviera.
It is only an easy hour and a half drive from Ljubljana to Portoroz which makes the coast very attractive for numerous tourists. They spend a day, a week or a whole holiday at the seaside.
Fences protect gardens from numerous wild animals.
Through Alpine valleys still flow rivers and streams so clean that you can drink from them. The Bistrica stream springs out under the 1000 meters high Triglav North Face.
The Slovene Kras is the cradle of world karstology. Karst caves have been attracting visitors for nearly 200 years. There are quite a several caves that can be visited by tourists and in the Postojna cave, there is even a small electric train. But an inexperienced visitor, accompanied by experienced potholers, can lately also explore unspoiled karst underground and descena into deep mysterious karst pits.
The Caves For Tourists
Through ages, limestone, which is apt to dissolve in water, and dolomites gave birth to such magnificent karst phenomena, that the name of this type of Slovene landscape has become a technical term, and modem karstology developed based on research done on Slovene territory.
There are nearly 7000 registered underground caves and pits in Slovenia. The longest is the Postojna cave system ( Postojnska Jama, 19.555 m ), while the deepest pits can be found on Kanin and Rombon above Bovec. Their depths over 1000 meters rank them among the deepest in the world. The deepest pit in Slovenia has a depth of over 1.370 meters.
20 underground caves can be visited by tourists. Visitors have been taken into the Postojna cave since as early as 1818. Just as frequently visited as the Postojna cave are the Skocjan caves near Divaca which are also inscribed in the UNESCO World Natural Heritage List. A visitor will never forget a boat ride through the underground lakes of the magically beautiful Rrizna cave ( Krizna Jama ) near Loz. The snow-white aragonite crystals resembling hedgehogs in the Raven cave ( Ravenska Jama ) above Cerkno deserve to be mentioned as well. And the Snowy cave ( Snezna Jama ) on Raduha is something really special.
Slovenia is a land of castles and some of them have even been turned into hotels ( Podvin, Mokrice, Otocec ). Castles are truly abundant. Some of them have been preserved and restored, some damaged over time, yet others burnt down during WW II. Bled Castle perched on the precipitous rock above the idyllic lake has already become a kind of a Slovenian symbol. Predjama Castle near Postojna is also very impressive. Skofja Loka and Ptuj Castles make part of the medieval town cores of Skofja Loka and Ptuj, respectively. The old pirate town of Piran offers its visitor an interesting stroll through its narrow streets in Mediterranean style. Numerous churches have grown on the hills over the last centuries, and today there are so numerous it is difficult to count them. Remains from earlier cultures like the Vace situla ( a bucket-like vessel ), Celtic arms, Illyrian jewelry, and an abundance of Roman find, can be found practically all over Slovenia.
The Piran peninsula stretches far into the sea between the Piran and Strunjan Bays. The old town core of Piran sits right at the very narrow end of the peninsula. Big Baroque Church of St. George is perched above the town ( it was rebuilt in Baroque style in 1637 ). From the church, houses descend in rows all the way to the coast. Piran streets are narrow, really Mediterranean-like, paved with stones. Tartinijev trg, the center of Piran, was only built at the end of the 19th century after the inner port had been filled. Piran is a very popular tourist spot, a shelter for people who like to spend their time in noble and rich ancient ambiance.
A visitor will also find it hard to overlook traditional Slovene cooking. Dishes and eating habits are very varied in Slovenia. There are up to 40 different culinary regions with their typical dishes. The menu in the Slovene kitchen boasts castle dishes as well as those typical of towns and simple farm food. Specialties are also dishes that used to be prepared by the Idrija miners, the Savinja Valley raftsmen, herdsmen, mill men,…
We should not forget, though, that in Slovenia pig is the king of animals.
Almost throughout Slovenia, especially in the countryside, pork is the main food, while the koline ( traditional annual killing of pigs ) is a very festive occasion for the whole family. Every guest is always welcome here.
Therefore, traveler, do stop, open your eyes and you will see a small but friendly land and meet interesting people. You will be surprised at the wealth this country shyly hides in its blossom.