Slovenia is rapidly becoming a highlight destination for many travellers. Many visit Slovenia primarily for Lake Bled. Without a doubt, Bled is one of this most stunning places the country has to offer, but Slovenia is much more than Lake Bled. Our Slovenia road trip itinerary covers everything from lakes, to caves, castles, coastal towns and the bustling capital. Indeed, this green country does have something for everyone!
Before we share our 7-day itinerary, we have some travel tips and advice which you may find useful for your trip.
GETTING TO SLOVENIA
Living in Malta, no airlines offer direct flights to Ljubljana, which is where the country’s internatial airport is located. A number of travel agencies do offer chartered flights but that might work out to be expensive if you’re travelling on a budget.
If you live in mainland Europe or are travelling around Europe, you can get to Slovenia, normally Ljubljana, by train or bus. Otherwise, you can opt to fly to a nearby airport, rent a car and drive into Slovenia, which is what we did.
DRIVING IN SLOVENIA
In our opinion, the best way to discover Slovenia is by renting a car. Using public transport can take you much longer to reach your destination and may deprive you from discovering the hidden gems. Do note that naturally, parking within the some of the city centres is not allowed. However, there are a number of paid car parks available. Parkopedia can be very helpful when it comes to parking spaces and their prices.
Driving in Slovenia requires a vignette, which price depends on the duration of your stay. Should you be entering Slovenia from another bordering country, vignettes are available from gas stations as you get closer to the border. You may find more information about vignettes and their prices here.
We rented our car from Auto Europe. They are our go-to car rental company when travelling within Europe and we highly recommend them. They even allow you to cancel your reservation up to 48 hours before pick up! If you are planning on crossing the border, you must specify this in your booking. There is normally a cross-border fee charged by the car rental supplier and the amount can differentiate between one supplier and another.
BEST TIME TO VISIT SLOVENIA
Spring is the best time to visit Slovenia if you want to avoid the crowds. However, weather in spring can be unpredictable especially during the months of March and April. Coming from a country where the sun shines pretty much year-round, we were somewhat lucky not to have encountered snow in March, especially because we’re not used to driving in such conditions. The following year it snow until the end of April the following year, and something like that can end up messing up your whole holiday plan. Should you wish to visit Slovenia in spring, we recommend you go in May.
June throughout August are by far the busiest and most popular months to visit Slovenia. That said, the summer months allow you to take full advantage of the many lovely lakes, rivers and valleys in the country, and is also when Ljubljana truly comes alive with flocks of locals visiting cafes and having picnics in the park. September is also be a good option if you want to avoid the crowds.
WHERE TO STAY IN SLOVENIA
Depending on the duration of your stay, we recommend you split your nights between Ljubljana and Bled so you can truly enjoy the spectacular northern regions without wasting time driving back and forth on different days.
We spent 2 nights in Bled and another 2 nights in Ljubljana before heading back to Italy for another 1 night. Travelling in March came with restraints; some areas cannot be visited during this time of year due to snowfall or being closed for maintenance during winter months. Nevertheless, we are including all the places we would have liked to visit and what a 7-day itinerary would have looked like for us.
HOTEL LEV, LJUBLJANA
Located in the centre of Ljubljana, 400m from Tivoli Park and 700m from Prešern Square and Tromostovje, Hotel Lev offers tastefully furnished rooms and a bistro bar in the lobby. All air-conditioned rooms feature a flat-screen TV and a safe, as well as a private bathroom with a bathtub or a shower, a hairdryer and free toiletries.
PENZION VILA PRESEREN, BLED
Set in a 19th-century villa, Penzion Vila Prešeren is located directly on the shores of scenic , below the in the centre of . The restaurant of the Vila Prešeren serves Slovenian and International cuisine, a wide range of high quality wines and home-made pastries. The restaurant’s offers of the church on the Bled Island.
Should you prefer an Airbnb type of accommodation, you may browse properties hereunder. We stayed at Piece of Cake in Ljubljana. The apartment was very central, right beneath Castle Hill and a 2 minute walk to the riverside. The only drawback is that the property does not have a lift.
SLOVENIA 7-DAY ITINERARY
Being a small nation, visiting two places in one day is completely doable. Our itinerary is based on driving to Slovenia from northeast Italy, with our first stop being Piran. If you plan on entering Slovenia from another bordering country, or if you are flying directly into Ljubljana, you may still use our itinerary as a guideline, while adjusting the days to make the plan more suitable for you.
Alternatively, we can help you plan your trip to Slovenia based on your interests and budgets, providing you with driving instruction or public transport information and much more. Find out more here.
DAY 1: PIRAN AND DRIVING TO BLED
We arrived in Piran early afternoon. Parking within the centre is not allowed, so we parked at Fornače car park and took a free shuttle bus to Tartini Square. The bus leaves every 15 minutes and takes approximately 10 minutes to get to the square. Tartini Square is the town’s main square, and where many cafes and restaurants are located. If you’re in Piran for lunch or dinner time, be sure to try the seafood specialties this coastal town has to offer.
After a few shots around Tartini Square, we made our way to St George Parish Church and it’s Bell Tower through the picturesque alleyways. For centuries, the town of Piran was ruled by Venetians. This can be seen in the design of St George’s Cathedral and the Bell Tower, which was modelled on the Campanile of San Marco found in Venice.
The best part of our visit to Piran was the views from the church’s courtyard. It was the perfect spot for views over Tartini Square. And if you happen to be there on a clear day, check out the views from the other side the church. If you’re lucky, you may see as far as Trieste to the north and Croatia to the south. For €1, you may also ascend the Bell Tower. It’s about 150 steps to the top.
Our next stop was to the old town walls of Piran. The wall used to have three town gates, two of which are still preserved to this day. Once at the top, you will be rewarded with a breath taking view of Piran and the Adriatic Sea. The entrance fee is €2 and the Walls of Piran are normally closed on rainy days for safety reasons.
Should you have more time in Piran, you can opt to visit Tartini House, which is where Guiseppe Tartini was born, and whose statue you will find located in the middle of Tartini Square. He was a Baroque composer and violinist.
After our half day in Piran, it was time to drive to Bled for our first check-in.
DAY 2: BLED AND VINTGAR GORGE
Vintgar Gorge is a 1.6km long gorge located within the Triglav National Park. It is the nearest point to entering Triglav National Park from Bled, a 15-minute drive through the town of Podhom.
The gorge has been carved out by Radovna River. It is a very popular spot with tourist, particularly coming here to see the 13 metres high Šum Waterfall located at the end of the gorge trail. It is one of three river waterfalls in Slovenia and the highest river waterfall in the country.
Along the trail you will also see the stone arch bridge of the Bohinj railway, which was built in 1905 and is still used until this day. If you are lucky, you might see the train passing across the bridge while walking through the gorge.
Unfortunately, we did not get to visit the waterfall. There was mixed and not a lot of information available online about the re-opening dates of the park when we visited, but we gave it a shot and visited anyway hoping to be able to enter and enjoy the trail.
To our disappointment we got to know that the trail to the waterfall is closed during winter months until early spring so that the path is cleared from tree debris and made ready for summer months. You are allowed to walk freely until you reach a second gate marking the rest of the trail as out of bounds. The trail is normally open by mid-April, weather permitting. For information about opening dates and times of natural parks and attractions around Bled, this is probably the most trustworthy source.
Due to COVID-19, as of May 2020 and until the further notice, “the entry and exit points have been separated. It won’t be possible to return through the gorge. This will prevent encounters in the narrow sections of the route. The entrance will be at the log cabin in the village of Podhom, and the exit at the Šum waterfall in Blejska Dobrava. Visitors will be able to choose between different circular routes to return to your entry point.” You may find more information about routes here.
Driving back to Bled, we made a stop at Bled Castle, the oldest castle in Slovenia. Sitting on top of a steep cliff and rising 130 metres above Lake Bled, it is a symbol of Bled and the country itself. The courtyard offers aerial views of Lake Bled and the snow-peeked Julian Alps. It also serves as a backdrop to the romantic Bled island in the middle of the lake.
The castle’s history dates back to 1004 when the German King Henry II granted the estate of Bled to Bishop Albuin of Brixen and his church. The castle was restored in the period from 1951 to 1961.
Our last stop was Lake Bled. The plan was to hike up to Ojstrika Viewpoint, however it had started to rain slightly and being 7 weeks pregnant we didn’t want to risk having to run back down a slippery trail. Instead, we walked along the lake promenade, which took us an hour at a slow pace. The road is flat with many people cycling, jogging or out for a stroll with young children. The path has a number of good photography spots to capture the island with its mesmerising backdrops.
The climb to Ojstrica Viewpoint is said to take about 20 minutes. It is short but steep, and will reward you with an exceptional view from the top. There is a bench at the top, offering a postcard perfect picture and a panoramic view of Lake Bled. The entrance is through a path marked as Mala Osojnica Trailhead on Google Maps. The same path also leads to Mala Osojnica Viewpoint and Velika Osojnica Viewpoint, which will take roughly one hour to one hour and a half to reach.
For €14 per person, you can also hire a boat and row to the island. Personally, we think that the views are much prettier from the lake shore. That said, rowing there does give you the opportunity to climb up the 99 steps and ring the bells at the Bell Tower of the Church of the Assumption.
One last thing before you leave Bled – make sure you grab your hands on a square of Bled Cream Cake, made of a golden crispy crust that is made from butter dough, vanilla cream topped with whipped cream and a crispy layer of butter dough topped up with a good dusting of icing sugar. We bet your mouth is already watering right?
DAY 3: LAKE BOHINJ
Having been to Lake Bled, many make the mistake of completely eliminating Lake Bohinj from their itinerary. In reality, this is another gorgeous lake and a much quieter alternative, especially in summer. The lake comes with a handful of activities, which could easily fill up a whole day here!
We were slightly pressed with time since we had to drive to Ljubljana after our visit to the lake and therefore could not appreciate everything Lake Bohinj has to offer. But if you have a full day to spend here, you can start by visiting Mostnica Gorge, which expands over the length of 2 kilometres (yes, northern Slovenia is all about gorges, valleys and beautiful waterfalls. But who’s complaining?). The hike takes 30 minutes from St Paul’s Church in Stara Fužina. From mid-March to the end of October, there is an entrance fee of €3.
Another option is to hike to Peč Viewpoint, also in Stara Fužina but a long walk from St Paul’s Church. Park as close as possible to the bridge where the Church of St John the Baptist is located. Walk towards Stara Fužina until you find the next bridge over the Mostnica River. Walk over the bridge and continue straight on the footpath in the direction of Peč and Rudnica. There’s a bench and plenty of rocks to sit on and admire the view over Lake Bohinj. You can find more information about the path and map directions here.
As we had half a day dedicated to Lake Bohinj, we skipped the above and visited other prominent waterfalls and viewpoints instead.
We started with Savica Waterfall, the third most visited attraction in Slovenia. The famous A-shaped waterfall normally comes into sight at an altitude of 836 metre and is 78 metres high. It is fed by the waters from the Črno Lake, one of the seven lakes in the Triglav Valley. Waters divide into two parts in the hidden undergrounds, where it then burst into two strands from the tremendously steep wall and drop into the river pool turning into emerald green water.
You can start your trail at Zlatorog campsite in Ukanc, which is approximately 5 kilometres long. Or you can take the shorter way starting at Koča pri Savici, about 2 kilometres long which is the one we went for. The path is uphill and made mostly out of stone steps. It is well maintained and quite wide, enough for people going in different directions to pass freely. It takes approximately 500 steps and roughly 30 minutes to reach the top. Don’t worry though; there are a number of picnic tables along the way which allow for a quick rest. The entrance fee to the waterfall is €3.
Koča pri Savici is the starting point to other hiking trails within the Triglav National Park. From here you can take a tour to the Komna Plateau or hike to The Valley of the Seven Lakes, which takes approximately two hours. We were not able to make it to neither of the two since they sit at an altitude of roughly 1,500 metres above sea level and the snow had not melted yet. Personally, I would have chosen The Valley of the Seven Lakes – it looks stunning!
Lastly, we visited Mount Vogel. Nestled between the Julian Alps, the mountain can be reached by cable car, 10-minutes’ drive away from the Savica car park. At the top you will get a bird’s eye view of Lake Bohinj, this time from the opposite direction of the Peč Viewpoint. The ski resort is open between December and April. Other activities on Mount Vogel include paragliding and zip lining, as well as an easy trail for families with young children, depending on when you visit. Information regarding cable car pricing and ski passes can be found here.
Before leaving Lake Bohinj, you might want to make a stop at the golden horn statue for a picture or two, or join the locals for a dip in the lake if you’re visiting during the summer.
DAY 4: SOČA VALLEY AND TRIGLAV NATIONAL PARK
This day is a highlight for anyone who loves the scenery and the outdoors. That said, unless you are somewhat of an experienced hiker capable of hiking on snow, the zones are a no go in winter to early spring. You would also require winter tires to drive in the area.
The Triglav National Park, which is the only national park in Slovenia was named after Mount Triglav, the highest mountain in the Julian Alps. There are a number of trails one could choose to hike within the park, some of which have already been mentioned above.
My personal favourite is the Tolmin Gorge trail, which is the lowest point of the Triglav National Park and takes you over the bridge as seen above. You could aslo hike up the mountain with a licensed guide or mountain bike through the park.
Other than trails, the Soca Valley, which is part of the Triglav National Park itself, also offers numerous outdoor fun activities such as cycling, rafting and zip lining.
Sadly, this day was not part of our Slovenia road trip due to us visiting in March. The plan is to someday combine the Triglav National Park with a trip to Friuli-Vnezia Giulia region in Italy.
DAY 5: LJUBLJANA
We arrived in Ljubljana on what was day 3 for us, after a 40-minute drive from Bled. I must say, Ljubljana isn’t at all what we were expecting. The city has a unique charm and its streets are alive day and night.
In the morning to early afternoon people flock the streets to go shopping, sit at cafeterias, have lunch, eat refreshing ice cream or just sit by the riverbank. In the evening, as soon as many shops go to sleep, locals and tourists alike come out for dinner and drinks at the numerous bars and restaurants sitting alongside the river. The city lights up, as do the many bridges joining the parallel streets beside the Ljubljanica river. And so does the Ljubljana castle, which can be seen lit up from pretty much anywhere within the old town.
One full day is enough to visit all of Ljubljana’s main points of interest, but staying in the city for a night or two allows you to explore the city at a slower pace. Similar to other cities, a number of attractions are located within the city’s old town allowing you to visit many of them at one go.
A good starting point is Prešeren Square. It is where the city meets up for events and where the Baroque Franciscan Church of the Annunciation is also found. Giving your back to the church you come to face the Triple Bridge. Back in 1842, only the central bridge existed and was intended for road traffic. In 1930, two other bridges were added for pedestrians.
Not far from the Triple Bridge is another popular bridge known as the Dragon Bridge, naturally so because of the 4 dragons guarding the bridge at each corner. Just off the Dragon Bridge you will find the Central Market, also designed in 1930 by the same artist who designed the Triple Bridge’s extension. You can find almost anything in here from meat to dairy, spices and souvenirs. The market is open every day except Sunday. Every Friday from early spring to late autumn, stalls are set up outside the market, creating what is called the Open Kitchen Market. It is an open-air food market concept, offering freshly cooked food from Slovenia and around the world. Wineries and breweries from all over the country also come to offer their best drinks.
Another must-see is of course the Ljubljana Castle perched on top of Castle Hill. You can get there on foot or by taking the funicular, which gives unobstructed views of the city below. The funicular is open year round, costs €4 and runs every 10 minutes. Parts of the castle such as the main courtyard are free to enter.
One last visit within the old town is the Ljubljana Cathedral, dedicated to St Nicholas. It is also the main church in Ljubljana. It is not overly impressive from the outside, but the inside is beautiful.
Moving just outside the city centre, approximately 20 minutes’ walk from Prešeren Square, is Tivoli Park. It is the largest and most beautiful park in Ljubljana, covering an area of approximately five square kilometres. Within the park, Jakopič Promenade has become a well-known outdoor venue for exhibitions of large-format photographs. From the park you may also hike up to Rožnik Hill, connected to the park by several walking paths. The Ljubljana Zoo is also located within the Tivoli Park area, some 35 minutes’ walk from the main park area or 20 minutes from Rožnik Hill.
A 25-minute walk from Tivoli Park is Metelkova Art Centre. Formerly the military headquarters of the Army of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and later the Yugoslav National Army, it is today used as an autonomous social and cultural centre in Ljubljana.
Last but not least, consider hopping on a traditional boat for a river cruise around the Ljubljanica river canal. This is probably the best way to appreciate the city’s architecture. The service runs year-round and the boats are heated in winter.
DAY 6: MARIBOR AND CELJE
Many visiting Slovenia for a short number of days omit Maribor from their itinerary because needless to say, the country’s capital as well as Bled region takes precedent. Maribor is the second largest city in Slovenia and the capital of Stryia. It is located by the Drava River and surrounded by picturesque wine-making hills on one side and the Pohorje Mountains on the other.
The city is believed to have the oldest vine in the world (photographed below), which is thought to be over 450 years old. It can be seen at Maribor’s Old Vine House. The Vine House also offers wine tasting sessions starting from €5.70 per person.
We visited Vinag Wine Cellar instead, which was the highlight of our trip to Maribor. Aside from wine sampling, you also get to visit one of the oldest wine cellars in Europe. It has an area of 15,000 square metres spread over 2 kilometres of underground tunnels beneath Maribor city! The tour was very informative and we also got to see the huge wooden barrels (now exchanged for glass or concrete cisterns) as well as wine archives where bottles of the best vintages are kept. We had paid €5 and were the only two visitors, so we got a private tour of the underground wine cellar. But as per the Visit Maribor website, the price is now €8 and the minimum number of visitors must be 6 for the tour to take place.
Lent, which is the oldest part and one of the most beautiful in Maribor is a must visit. Located downhill from the city centre, it sits on the bank of Drava River. The area is well preserved with many houses lining its streets, along with numerous cafes and restaurants lying on the riverside. Walking alongside the river you will see two towers; the Judgement Tower (Sodni Stolp) and the Water Tower (Vodni Stolp), which was built to protect Maribor from Turkish invasion and which now houses a wine shop which specialises in top quality Slovenian wines. Lent also houses the Lent Festival, the largest Slovenian outdoor festival and one of the largest in Europe.
Other points of interest in Maribor are:
- Maribor Castle: resembling a palace more than a castle from the outside, it was built to fortify the north-eastern part of the town wall. Today it houses the Regional Museum, a general museum dealing with the research, collection and protection of movable cultural heritage.
- Maribor Cathedral: dedicated to St John the Baptist, it is the city’s oldest church. Its 57 metre Bell Tower, which you can also ascend, dates back to the end of the 18th century, after the previous 76 metre high tower was struck by lightning in the year 1623. Inside the cathedral you will find a statue of Anton Martin Slomšek, the first Slovene saint.
- Maribor Park: Mestni Park is a popular promenade spot in Maribor. The park is home to three ponds, a playground, as well as an aquarium and a terrarium, which hold 120 different species of fish and over one hundred species of reptile, amphibian, insects and the most poisonous snakes in the world.
- Pyramid Hill: rising 386 metre above the city of Maribor, it offers splendid views of the city below. The path to the hill can be accessed from the city park, and goes uphill through the many vineyards. The pyramid was built from the remains of a castle which occupied the area until 1790, when it was the pulled down.
Our Vinag Wine Cellar tour didn’t start until 3PM, so we decided to make a stop in Celje before arriving in Maribor. The city centre itself is nothing to write home about in my opinion. The medieval Old Castle of Celje on the other hand is the complete opposite. Throughout the 45-minute guided tour of this impressive castle, you get better acquainted with the history of Celje, the castle itself and the Counts who occupied it. The castle comes alive with a handful of summer events organised in the courtyard and a Medieval Count’s Weekend is organised every year during the last weekend of August. The castle is about an hour walk from the city centre; it is best to drive directly there.
One thing I would have loved to visit in Celje is the City Forest and the Treehouse found within it. Sadly, due to damp terrain, the forest is closed from 1st November to 31st March.
DAY 7: PREDJAMA CASTLE AND POSTOJNA CAVES
We left these two for our last day since we were headed back to Italy right after, making a stop in Trieste. The attractions are just 15 minutes away by car and if you do plan to visit both, they offer a combo ticket starting from €35.70. You may also add the Skocjan Caves to your itinerary, which also look impressive. The caves were entered on UNESCO’s list of natural and cultural world heritage in 1986. They represent one of the longest karst underground wetlands in Europe.
Listed in the Guinness World Records for being the world’s largest cave castle, Predjama Castle ranks among the 10 most fascinating castles in the world. The castle has been perched in the middle of a 123-metre-high cliff for more than 800 years. A network of secret tunnels lies behind the cave castle, from where the knight Erazem of Predjama is said to have set out on his ravaging journeys.
Under the castle lies a cave, which spans over four floors and is the second longest Slovenian cave. A section of the cave can be seen as part of the castle tour, while the rest is visited as part of adventure tours. The castle is so unique that many couples choose it for their wedding vows.
Postojna Cave is something we had never seen before and which we didn’t expect to see in Slovenia. The tour kicks off with a 3.7 kilometre-long train ride on the world’s only double-track cave railway. Opened in 1872, this was the world’s first railway in an underground cave. The temperature inside the cave is constant throughout the year at 10 °C, as such warm clothing is recommended.
Over the past 200 years, the 24 kilometre-long caves have received over 39 million visitors from all over the world. Guided tours, which take an hour and a half, are available in 4 languages, while 17 languages are available on audio guides. The tour is very thorough, explaining the cave’s wonders in detail. A symbol of Postojna Cave and the Slovenian Karst is the ‘Brilliant’, a magnificent 5-metre tall bright-white stalagmite. The stalagmite gets its shiny white colour from the water slowly dripping down on it, depositing a thin layer of flowstone.
We hope you have enjoyed our article and that we have inspired you to visit Slovenia. Feel free to leave us a comment or ask us any questions below.