Seven days in Slovenia started and ended in Ljubljana, the quaint capital city of this rapidly up-and-coming European tourist destination. I strongly believe that if I visited Ljubljana in 10 years, even 5… I’d be just one of hundreds of tourists flocking the narrow streets, alleyways and river bypasses of the city. For that reason, I’m so pleased I have crossed it off my list now – before it gets too popular, too overcrowded, too overly shared on social media.
Ljubljana at times reminded me of a mini Paris with the cobbled streets and pastel-coloured, old building exteriors. One of the key differences being it’s size: it was very small and with our luckily positioned AirBnb in the old square (Stari Trg), just a few minutes walk from Preseren Square and the Triple Bridge, we quickly and easily found our bearings. The streets were quiet and extremely walkable, seemingly filled with more locals than tourists.
After enjoying strolling the streets of Ljubljana for a couple of days, we hired a car and – with a pit-stop in Piran (described as the Venice of Slovenia) – drove to our next destination, Bohinj. What a difference it makes driving an hour and a half north from the city to suddenly be in the middle of nowhere, or to be more precise – in the middle of mountains. Literally.
Mountains. Huge, vivid green mountains. Everywhere. I always thought I was a beach-&-palm-trees girl but a taste of mountains gives me a different feeling. Especially coming from the city, it’s the enormity and the contrast of it that feels so amazing. It was gone 6 o’clock when we arrived in Bohinjska Bistrica, the sun had set, clouds were thick with rain but there was no mistaking how beautiful our surroundings were.
By the time we had settled into our second AirBnb, it was dark and the rain was crazy. It wasn’t until the following morning that we were able to see our terrace view in daylight. It was difficult to decide what I loved most about it… the fresh air, the 360 natural views or the sound of pure silence with a hint of church bells and cow moo’s in the distance?
Of course one of the things at the top of our Slovenian to-do list was to visit Lake Bled and it was then that I appreciated the beautiful simplicity of Bohinj even more. Lake Bled is stunning yes, it has this magical, fairytale look to it and it’s clear to see why it has become a popular snapshot for travelers, but it’s that very element that spoils it ever so slightly. The surroundings of the lake cater to tourism, but in this sort of poor, beginners way. Again, in 5-10 years the tourist taint will only increase.
Returning to Bohinj – and in particular for more comparison, Lake Bohinj – felt like a small relief. Relief that we’d booked accommodation here instead of Bled… the beautiful, authentic, uninterrupted Lake Bohinj with the deepest shades of emerald and teal blending in and out of each other across the lake.
Lake Bohinj is also the largest lake in Slovenia and is only about a 30-minute drive from Bled so it makes for a nice day of exploring the two. Even better, close by to Lake Bled you can visit Vintgar Gorge and then a great waterfall Slap Savica 15 minutes away from Lake Bohinj.
Vintgar Gorge was one of my favourite moments whilst staying in Bohinj, it was like walking through a Jurassic Park movie set. I wouldn’t usually say the following sentence but… we were lucky it rained the whole time we were at the Gorge because it added to the intensity of the flowing water. Almost as cool was Slap (Slap = waterfall) Savica, which quite literally slapped us in the face when we finally stood in front of it after climbing 500 steps.
On our penultimate day in Slovenia, rain was once again forecast nearly all day and we decided our best option would be to hit the road, stopping off at a few points and conquering the Vrsic Pass.
The Vrsic Pass is a mountain pass with a road containing 50 hairpin turns. It was some extreme driving in heavy rain, thunder and lightning – luckily I was the passenger. We got on the road from Kranjska Gora, home to somewhere else I’d been keen to see – Lake Jasna. Although it was VERY wet, we grabbed our umbrellas, jumped out the car and explored this beautiful lake. We couldn’t not. The water here varies from a light turquoise – so clear that I’m sure its drinkable – to deep green tones. My photos will never do Jasna justice.
Our last day gave us an opportunity to visit Predjama Castle and the Postojna Caves en route back to Ljubljana. For 30 euros, you have entry to the caves to join a tour and then to the castle to explore at your leisure. The caves were quite amazing to see and supposedly one of the most visited in the world. I didn’t realise until we arrived that they are literally Slovenia’s biggest tourist attraction and they’re definitely worth squeezing into your Slovenian itinerary.
Your itinerary by the way should be something you plan very carefully depending on the time you have in Slovenia. The more I researched leading up to the trip, the more I realized just how much there was to see and do in Slovenia and that we definitely wouldn’t have enough time to do it all. Luckily we chose some of the most amazing parts to see and didn’t waste a day! Hopefully the below will help plan yours too.
- For booking the best accommodation in Ljubljana, look for anywhere that is in close proximity to Triple Bridge / Stari Trg and you’ll be in the perfect location.
- Central Ljubljana is highly pedestrianized so you may want to re-think hiring a car. It’s also a very walk-able city and a car would probably not be necessary until you venture out into the country.
- Try Marley and Me for dinner in Ljubljana one night, followed by dessert at Cacao on the river.
- Eating out is fairly cheap. Boutiquey-tourist shops can be a little pricey in Ljubljana and Bled and be prepared to pay high prices just to park anywhere near Lake Bled!
- Don’t leave without trying the cream cake, found anywhere in Slovenia but mainly popular in Bled – Kremna Rezina or “Kremsnita” – Look out for the cafe ‘Slascicarna Zima’ in Bled.
- If you’re not staying in Bohinj, make time to see the lake at least – the biggest and widely thought of as the most beautiful in the country!
- If staying in Bohinjska Bistrica, be prepared for less shops and restaurants than the city – mainly Slovenian cuisine and strangely lots of pizza.
- If you’re only going for a week or less, do your research before you go to plan your routes and decide what you want to see the most.
- Driving distances: Joze Pucnik Airport to Ljubljana – 30 MINS / Ljubljana to Bohinjska Bistrica (for Lake Bohinj) – 1 HOUR / Ljubljana to Piran – 1 HOUR+20 MINS / Bled to Bohinj – 30 MINS / Bled to Vintgar Gorge – 15 MINS / Bohinj to Savica Waterfall – <15 MINS / Bohinj to Lake Jasna – 1 HOUR / Lake Jasna to Vrsic Pass <30 MINS / Bohinj to Predjama Castle – 1 HOUR+40 MINS.
- Be prepared to make a few pit-stops on the road for some pretty photo opportunities!