Zulekha is an Indian native. She's an extreme traveler, writer and has been to over 80 countries. She has lived in Oman, India and Dubai.
This little European gem in the eastern Alps is so underrated, most people don’t even know where it’s located. You could easily mistake it for Slovakia because of the name. But here’s an easy tip: It’s the only country that has love in its name—sLOVEnia!
If that’s not a reason good enough for you to book your tickets now and get there this summer, let me give you eight more.
1. Fairytale Lake Bled
Legend has it that Lake Bled was created by fairies. The island in Lake Bled is the only natural island in Slovenia. The water is as blue and gorgeous as everyone says it is. What’s even more gorgeous is the 1000-year-old castle perched on top of a hill—overlooking the whole lake. You could take a short trek up to the Blejski Grad (Bled Castle) for a stunning view of the lake, nestled between the Julian Alps. There are plenty of small cafes by the lake where you must absolutely indulge in a sweet flakey regional dessert—the Bled Cream Cake.
Old Bled House
For the most rustic homestay experience, I’d recommend the 300-year-old Old Bled House. It is located about 15-minutes walking distance from the lake and yet removed from traffic, crowds and tourists. An even more interesting reason to visit is the 500-year underground wine cellar where you can get some authentic Slovenian produce.
The hotel also runs a cozy restaurant, where the chef sources local and seasonal produce and goes truffle picking himself. For dinner, he fixed us the most delicious risotto and homemade pasta of our trip. Definitely going back.
2. Lipica Horseriding Trek
Did you know that Slovenia is the cradle of the royal white horses? The noble Lipizzaner horses are from this little country and are some of the oldest breeds in Europe. If you are an equine lover, you can go riding across the countryside around Bled, Pokljuka and the spectacular Radovna Valley and the eastern part of the Triglav National Park for two to six hours depending on your horse-riding experience.
We went through a charming forest trail, with short inclines towards the lower hills of Senozeta with a beautiful view of the Lake Bled. I highly recommend this activity if you want to discover the pristine Triglav National Park as you bond with your horse and soak in the fresh forest and woody scents in the air. Struggling with a lazy horse like my friend Sarah did, is optional.
3. Triglav National Park
Some of the most beautiful hiking trails abound the Triglav National Park, which covers roughly 4% of Slovenia. From scenic walking trails along the pristine Soca River to the Seven Lakes Valley trail between Bohinj and Trenta, the park is a haven for nature lovers.
If you feel adventurous enough, you can also climb Mount Triglav (2,864 m), nestled at the heart of the Julian Alps. Although both are at an intermediate level, it is important that you have good physical fitness and no fear of heights. There are four mountain trails that you can take, and each takes two days to get to the summit.
Of the routes available, the one from Krma Valley is easier and less technical than the one from Vrata Valley. You will be using ferratas (protected climbing routes) on both trails to reach the summit. Climbing Triglav via Blato Meadow (Seven Lakes) is the longest route, while the one from Zadnjica Valley is most suitable for beginners and goes through “muletiera” or paths built during the First World War. Happy Climbing!
4. Longest Zipline in Europe
Fly away on the longest zipline in Europe. That’s right, I didn’t expect it either, but then again, the Julian Alps is great for thrill-seekers. Zipline Dolinka over Sava Dolinka river runs over 4 km in all and consists of 7 cables that are between 350m and 740m long. You get to fly through the protected natural monument of Brje and experience nature in a whole new way. We had the best time making our way from one zipline to another through forest trails.
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Some of the stops in between offer great views over the Alps from Stol, Babji zob and all the way to Triglav. A great dose of green and blues. Much recommended.
5. Green Capital of Europe
Ljubljana (pronounced as Lube-lee-yah-na) is known as the city with a green soul. It is a compact, historic and charming walking city with an eclectic vibe and both Central European and Mediterranean charm. Motorized vehicles are not allowed in the inner parts of the city center, which forces residents and tourists to cycle around on dedicated paths. It has got to be the most eco-friendly city breaks you can take.
Since I’m a fan of walking tours, we signed up for a two-hour free walking tour. The tour gives you a good sense of the city’s history and culture. Ljubljana has several prestigious accolades for its “green” efforts, but what really matters is how it really feels to soak in the clean, cobbled, colourful and traffic-free vibes of the city center. Simply divine.
6. Vintgar Gorge
This is an absolute must while you’re at Lake Bled. The 1.6 km walk on elevated boardwalks along the Radovna River is just a 10-minute drive from Lake Bled. Its unspoiled and unmissable beauty at the entry point of Triglav National Park. It took us about two hours to walk around the sturdy trail, which runs across the gorge. The walk ends with the mighty 13 meters high Šum river waterfall, one of the three river waterfalls in Slovenia. Gorgeous sights and sounds!
7. Vegan Choices
I am a happy vegetarian and love to try vegan options every now and then. However, getting a good vegan choice on the menu is easier in some countries than others, specifically in Europe. The vegan culture in Slovenia has been growing over the past few years. Quite a few restaurants in Ljubljana and Bled offer vegan options in dedicated sections of their menus. Some restaurants are known to prepare vegan meals upon request, but I didn’t need to ask.
Barbarella Arkade Bistro became my personal favourite near the market place. It has a great breakfast, lunch and juice selection that my non-vegan friend loved just the same. Other known options are Veganika and Foculus Pizzeria.
Turns out Ljubljana hosts a huge vegan festival called Vegafest in the first week of May every year. The fest has about 50 stalls for vegan products, food and useful information on veganism.
8. Kayaking in the Soča River
High-mountains. Breath-taking emerald waters. White pebble beaches. Soča River, also known as “The Emerald Beauty”, is the perfect setting for a wonderful day out gliding past magical views on your kayaks. The river offers varying grades of descents for beginners and experienced kayakers alike. The activity is open all-year-round.
Visa and Flight Matters
A single or multiple-entry Schengen visa for Indian nationals is required to enter Slovenia, which is part of the Schengen system.
It has one international airport and not many direct flights from the EU countries, let alone from the Middle East, Indian sub-continent or Far Eastern countries. Airport expansion is underway and is scheduled to launch in 2021, increasing passenger and flight capacities when it opens.
While my friend flew in directly to Ljubljana from Vienna, I flew into Zagreb, Croatia. It’s a two-hour easy drive from Zagreb to Ljubljana with great views on either side of the border.