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.
Days 1 – 3: Ljubljana
A 30-minute taxi ride from Joze Pucnik Airport, we had arrived. But it was late and dark now, we would have to wait til morning to really see the city.
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.
The weather on our first full day was miserable, but we’re Brits and a little rain never did us any harm so we were determined to see as much as we could. We walked in the rain discovering this little city, along the Ljubljanica (the river) spotting the famous pink church – Franciscan Church – the star of Preseren Square and later on the Dragon Bridge before extending our very soggy stroll to the eerie street art corner of the city, Metelkova.
After a stop for lunch in an adorable tea room Cajna Hisa, we visited the Botanic Gardens – they were almost completely empty, aside from us two tourists refusing to be defeated by rain. In the evening – after drying out – we ate at a small but popular restaurant on our street, Marley & Me closely followed by cake at Cacao, an amazing little dessert café by the river.
By day two, everything changed and we woke to bright sunshine. There was a difference to the city when we left the apartment and started following the same route as the morning before, and not just that we’d managed to leave our jackets behind!
The streets were busier and happier, markets were flocked with customers and every turning we took seemed to take us to another pretty street, or a square, or a garden. Our aim of the day was to visit Ljubljana’s Castle on the hill (Ljubljanski Grad). By funicular for €13 we zipped up to the top of the hill for a walk around the castle and views across the city.
In the evening we dined at a cool burger bar – Pop’s – before treating ourselves again for dessert, this time at a cute street stand, Puffy Lil Pancakes.
Day 4: Piran & Lake Bohinj
After enjoying strolling the streets of Ljubljana for a couple of days, we hired a car and drove to our next destination, but before arriving there we had time for a pit-stop in Piran.
Just under an hour and half drive from Ljubljana and described as the ‘Venice of Slovenia’, Piran is a seaside town, old and rustic with it’s 1609 bell tower where visitors can climb 147 narrow (and slightly dubiously stable) steps to reach the view at the top.
Still with a couple hours to drive, we left Piran and headed to our next destination and our base for the rest of our stay in Slovenia, Bohinj. From the city and the seaside town, we were soon 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-and-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 our lovely host had met us and 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 that little hint of church bells and cow moo’s in the distance?
Day 5: Lake Bohinj, Lake Bled & Vintgar Gorge
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, undoubtedly so. It has this magical, fairytale look to it with it’s church sitting upon Bled Island and it’s castle on the hill – the oldest castle in Slovenia – overlooking this extraordinary view. 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. I’m sure in years to come, the tourist taint will only increase as travellers continue to flock to Bled to capture their symbolic snapshots of Slovenia, but then can you blame them?
Once you’ve admired the lake, you might be in the mood for some food and if you have a sweet tooth, don’t leave without trying the famous cream cake, found anywhere in Slovenia but most popular in Bled – “Kremna Rezina” or “Kremsnita” – Look out for the café Slascicarna Zima in Bled.
Returning to Bohinj – and in particular for more comparison, Lake Bohinj – felt almost 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 calm ripples of the water.
Lake Bohinj is also the largest lake in Slovenia and is only about a 30-minute drive from Bled so it makes for a real scenic day of exploring the two. Even better, close by to Lake Bled you can visit Vintgar Gorge and afterwards a great waterfall called Slap Savica, just 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 to reach it.
Day 6: Kransjka Gora, Lake Jasna and the Vrsic Pass
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 an extremely windy road containing 50 hairpin turns. Our aim was to reach the town of Bovec and we joined 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 of 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 it’s drinkable – to deep green tones. My photos will never do Jasna justice.
Sadly when we reached the end of the Vrsic Pass, we could go no further and had to turn back on ourselves as the road was closed for a cycling event. At least we were able to drive alongside the Soca Valley, which is yet another example of insanely, beautifully-blue water in Slovenia. I guess I’ll have to make a return visit for Bovec!
Day 7: Predjama Castle & Postojna Caves… back to Ljubljana
Finally it was time to bid farewell to beautiful Bohinj but our last day gave us an opportunity to visit Predjama Castle and the Postojna Caves on route back to Ljubljana. For €30, you have entry to the caves to join a guided 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 in to your Slovenian itinerary.
Just as fascinating to see was Predjama Castle, literally built within a cave mouth of a towering cliff and exuding that same fairy-tale aura that we’d already witnessed in much of Slovenia’s historic buildings.
Slovenia 1000% exceeded our expectations and although we felt we packed a lot into one week, there was still so much more to discover! But we did our research and narrowed it down to the places we definitely wanted to see, and aside from turning back on the Vrsic Pass, our week in Slovenia was perfect. Hopefully this post helps you plan a perfect week’s itinerary there too!
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