Snow-capped peaks of the Alps, warm Adriatic waters and world-class monuments are only some of the things that small country of Slovenia has to offer. Extending only about 20,000 square kilometers is one of the most underestimated and stunningly beautiful countries in Europe. However, in spite of all its beauty, Slovenia is still in the shadows of its famous neighbors: for the mountains, tourists go to Austria, for the Adriatic they go to Croatia and for historical monuments they flock to Italy.
Slovenia is a real gem and a point of contrast for several cultural circles. It is sometimes called "Europe in miniature," because nowhere else will you find so many beautiful places, in such a small area within Europe. Unfortunately, the majority of tourists travel through this country to the south of the Balkans without getting off highways. Keep reading, and you will see why this is a huge mistake for any traveler in the region.
When you drive through the Balkans and finally reach Slovenia, you will be surprised that this country was once part of Yugoslavia. Everything here is a bit different than in other Balkan countries: the language is a little different, the level of affluence is a bit higher, the cities are a bit neater and tidier, and the cars on the streets are a bit more expensive.
Although after the war Slovenia found itself on the Soviet side of the Iron Curtain, in terms of mentality, it has been the country of the West. A paradoxical confirmation is that the banking crisis of 2008 affected Slovenia to the same degree as most of the Eurozone economies; although Slovenia is not in the monetary union of this European Union system. Okay, let's get back to the attractions, and why you should visit this overlooked treasure.
This beautiful mountain lake, with overlooking peaks of high mountains, is a real landmark of Slovenia and a must-see place. It is worth devoting at least a whole day to this place - not only to walk around the charming lanes and lake but to sail a boat to the picturesque church of the Assumption. You can also visit the local castle standing on a vertical rock falling straight into the water or take a bath in hot springs. For every lover of trekking and adventure, the most adventurist will be climbing to the top of Osojnica. You will see the whole lake from a birdseye view. It is undoubtedly one of the most spectacular views in Europe.
The Slovenian coast is very short but extremely interesting. The most beautiful place on the whole Slovenian coast is, aspiring to the title of the most beautiful town in Europe, is in Istria Piran. The historic part of Piran is a real maze of narrow streets, yards and tower houses. Between them lies a few picturesque squares, and above all, the church of Saint George. It is mandatory to walk around the city center full of restaurants, pubs, and cafes. Then, finish your walk on the peninsula at the towering old lighthouse.
The main city of Slovenia, Ljubljana, is one of the smallest European capitals. However, its compact size does not mean that you will not find anything interesting there. The city has a beautiful location, many impressive monuments, and its bustling streets and squares are full of great restaurants, bars, and pastry shops. The intimate old town attracts tourists with its many examples of Renaissance, Baroque, and modernist architecture. Over the city rises beautiful hills the Tivolski grad, Golovec Hill, and the most-visited Castle Hill with a magnificent panorama of the city. You also should visit urban parks that are ideal places for the rest and long walks. With all the dynamics of the capital of a thriving country, Ljubljana has kept the charm of a small town with open and friendly inhabitants.
The highest mountain range of Slovenia aspires to be the most beautiful mountains in Europe. Built mainly of white limestone, they offer a great variety of landscapes, wild corners, spectacular places. The Julian Alps are full of grand vistas and intimate treks so that everyone can find the perfect location and trail.
The most famous town in the Julian Alps is Kranjska Gora, in the winter it is known primarily for its ski jumping fans, but in the summer there is much more to do here. A very dense network of trails allows you to spend a few weeks just on climbing on hills that have surprising diversity in the landscape. The experienced hiker should go to Triglav - the highest peak of Slovenia. The climbing is not easy, but the view from the top is stunning.
Besides mountains, sea, and cities, Slovenia is famous for its caves. After all, the term "karst" describing the whole phenomenon related to the dissolution of limestone by water (the caves are their most spectacular example), comes from the Slovenian plateaus.
The most famous cave in Slovenia is the Postojna Cave with that has over twenty-kilometers of mazes, passages, and galleries. The underground cabin lift facilitates visiting so you can go straight to the most fascinating destinations; the vast Ballroom and the cave's symbol - the stalagmites.
Once you visit the Postojna Cave, it is worth visiting one of the most original buildings in this part of Europe - Predjama Castle. "Stuck" to a vertical 120-meter-high rock formation, it closes the cave's outlet and makes such an incredible impression as if it were a decoration rather than a real building. You should also climb to the viewpoint located on the edge of the gorge above the castle. The entire stronghold, along with the surrounding area, is one of those places where the reality surpasses the imagination.
Located in the north-eastern part of the country, Ptuj is the oldest city of Slovenia. The town dates back to its Roman times, and its present shape has not changed since the Middle Ages and the Baroque period. Ptuj has a beautiful old town stretching at the foot of the hill with the castle on the top.
The most beautiful panorama of the city is from the other bank of the Drawa. It is not only worth visiting the local monuments (including the castle, the Dominican monastery, the Lapidarium tower) and stroll through the charming, narrow streets. Also, try one of the wines harvested on the Haloze hill - one of the most prestigious wine-growing regions in Balkans.
Izola offers an entirely different climate. It is a beautifully situated town with the largest yacht port on the Slovenian coast. The city is not as historic as the nearby Piran, but it has its climate, with lovely parks on the sea and a real phenomenon - a beautiful meadow where you can spend hours, gazing at the water reflecting the sun and flowing into the sea.
Izola is the most natural, unspotted and unneglected of all the towns of the Slovenian Riviera. You will smell fish on almost every corner of the city, but surprisingly in Izola, it does not stink at all.
We have gathered only the list of a few must-visit places. When you visit Slovenia, a must for any true traveler, you will be able to treat yourself to more attractions: Franja Partisan Hospital, Lipica Stud Farm, Mercury Mine Idrija, Salt Fields in Secovlje Salina Nature Park, Church of the Holy Trinity, Planica Nordic Center, Maribor, and Celje.
Too much? Do not worry, Slovenia is a relatively small country, so within a few weeks, you can visit almost all of the most exciting destinations. Additionally, people are friendly and open to tourists. The only disadvantage can be the cost of things since prices are higher here than in the rest of the Balkan or Eastern European countries. However, it is still cheaper than in the USA or England. The best time to visit Slovenia is from May to October, so you will have plenty of time to visit all of overlooked Slovenia's treasures.