Slovenia might be a very small country but there are so many amazing things to see and do that you could spend quite a long time here exploring the beautiful architecture in the capital Ljublijana, to the forest covered mountains near Lake Bled, to the impressive caves in Postojna and the peacefulness of the seaside town of Piran.
Bec and I travelled from Budapest to Ljubljana by train and checked into Celica Hostel, a renovated former prison that boasts some cleverly designed dorm rooms in the cells, and some great bars and dining areas downstairs. The hot chocolate was amazing and the perfect accompaniment to their toasted cheese and ham sandwiches as an afternoon snack. The hostel usually puts on dinner and some form of entertainment each night which meant there was always a great atmosphere. Another highlight were the very helpful, friendly staff who made it a very pleasant stay – I highly recommend it.
On our first day Bec and I explored Ljubljana, wandering the gorgeous cobblestone lanes flanked by quaint cafes and boutique shops. The Ljubljanica River runs through the town and is crossed by several delightful bridges including the Triple Bridge and the Dragon Bridge which connect the main part of town to the Old Town and Castle Hill. Bec and I made the ascent to the top of Castle Hill by foot but there is also a funicular that will save you the trek. The Castle wasn’t as impressive as I’d have hoped as it has had so many renovations over the years it hasn’t quite retained it’s old-world charm. However, the history of the Castle is very interesting as it was originally a fortification before taking on other purposes such as a military hospital, a prison, a settlement for poor villagers and now houses a museum. The museum itself isn’t overly interesting though, and the virtual tour will likely put you straight to sleep. The best part about the castle was the great views of the town, although it was a little foggy the day we were there.
Cobblestone streets of Ljubljana
Triple Bridge and the Franciscan Church of the Annunciation
Town Centre and the restored Robba Fountain
The castle courtyard
The castle’s outer wall
The view from the top of the castle
The next day Bec and I embarked on a day trip to Lake Bled which we had heard was absolutely idyllic, and we certainly weren’t disappointed. The emerald lake is surrounded by beautiful snow-capped mountains and in the middle there is a small island with a church which looks like something straight off a postcard. We wandered around the lake and took a gondola over to the island, expertly guided by a lovely old man who waited while we explored the island and then took us back. The church on the island was delightful and houses a the ‘lucky’ bell which you can ring three times and make a wish. Bec and I both managed to stuff up the ringing of the bell with her ringing it too few times and me going overboard and ringing it far too many times. Don’t be confused by the simplicity of ringing a bell, this wasn’t as easy as it looks. At any rate we didn’t like our chances of our wishes coming true! After visiting the island and making our way around the lake we also ventured up the hill to Bled Castle which sits atop a rocky cliff and provides breathtaking views of the lake, the valley and the surrounding mountains.
Church of the Assumption
Ringing the ‘lucky bell’ a little over-zealously
The view from Bled Castle
Warming up with a hot choc and some cheesecake on the banks of Lake Bled
After the bus ride back to Ljubljana and another night at Celica we jumped on another bus and headed to the town of Postojna where the Postojna Cave is located. Postojna Cave is a 5.7km long cavern where you take an electric train deep into the cave before beginning a walking tour so you can marvel at the towering stalagmites and stalactites. Being the longest publicly accessible cave system in the world the enormity of the caverns was very impressive and it was interesting to see the different appearance of the rock formations as we progressed through the caves.
Trying out one of the old-style cave trains
Inside the cave
Next it was another bus to the sleepy coastal town of Piran which is located just north of the Croatian border. After having quite a difficult time finding a hostel, due to the fact it was off-peak and most were shut, we came across one that would take us in for the night. After a delicious Italian-inspired meal we crashed before heading out to explore the town the next day. Unfortunately a lot of our time was taken up by trying to figure out how to get out of Piran as there were very infrequent buses and trains at that time of year. But when we did venture out we found Piran to be a gorgeous little town with winding narrow alleyways and lovely ocean views with the climb up the town wall well worth it to see the spectacular views overlooking the town.
Sampling the local cusine
The winding alleyways of Piran
The view from atop the Town Wall
Just a note to anyone thinking of travelling around Slovenia in off-peak season: it’s fantastic if you can get good weather, which we did, because you are likely to be one of only a few people at any of the tourist spots, whereas I can guarantee during summer they will be absolutely packed. However, transport can be a bit of an issue between places so make sure you look up routes before you travel somewhere because you could become stuck there for a few days waiting for the next bus or train to wherever you want to go next.