I’d dreamt of visiting Slovenia ever since seeing the ethereal image of Bled Island surrounded by the mesmerising blue green water of Lake Bled on a postcard in my Granny’s kitchen. Last Summer I realised that dream on a road trip round the West of this compact yet completely charming country. If Slovenia is not on your travel list already then get it on there now and read on for five stops you absolutely must put on your road trip map!
- Tolmin Gorges
Your instinct may be to drive straight to Lake Bled for your postcard photo but there is so much else to see on the way and break up the journey!
Our first stop was at the Tolmin Gorges. Situated a five minute drive from the village of Tolmin, the Tolmin Gorges are at the Southermost tip of the Triglav National Park which covers 880 sq km, 4% of the area of Slovenia.
A path winds its way from the car park down to the Gorges where glacial water has carved deep into the rock. The water is an incredible turquoise green much like the rest of the water in Triglav National Park. Locally, this is known as ’emerald water’ and it’s mesmerising to walk alongside! The hike takes about an hour and a half including viewing all of the different sights along the way.
2. Lake Bohinj
Lake Bohinj is the far more expansive and bohemian older sister of Lake Bled. It may not have an island but the calm and quiet of this lake are compelling reasons to take a long stop here (just check how long your parking lasts – we accidentally parked with max 1 hr).
Standing on the bridge at the South Eastern edge of Bohinj you get an idea of its scale. The view is breathtaking. The sparkling emerald water stretches into the distance and merges with green forests before turning into the peaks of the Julian Alps, stretching up into the sky. A viewpoint in the village will also give you a glimpse of Slovenia’s highest peak (Mt Triglav) on a clear day.
For a laidback afternoon, find a shady spot by the lake edge to dip your feet in and snooze or swim. I was really looking forward to swimming but unfortunately I was limited to dipping toes only because of a nasty razor accident with my finger…oops!
Alternatively, for more adventure, head to the opposite end of the lake for a half hour hike to see the beautiful Slap Savica waterfall (pictured above) and views back across Bohinj.
3. Lake Bled
But of course a road trip in Slovenia (or any stay in Slovenia really) is not complete without visiting Lake Bled. Parking here is expensive, especially in Summer, but you can easily spend a whole day exploring, walking and relaxing here.
There are many ways to view Lake Bled but the best is surely from a height to appreciate its true magnitude and grandeur. My favourite view is from Mala Osojnica (title photo), a 45 minute hike from the lakeside. As I emerged out of the trees to the magical scene below the sweat from the hike was very easily forgotten about!
You can also take a pletna boat (gondola) out to visit the island for another view of Lake Bled but unfortunately for us a thunderstorm stopped us being able to do this. Instead we tucked into some Bled Cream Cake from the comfort of a cafe! An alternative way to reach the island is to swim but only if you’re a strong swimmer, I was told by someone that attempted it, it is a lot further than it looks!
Next stop is Slovenia’s charming capital, less than an hour’s drive from Lake Bled. Its population is just over 280,000 so one of Europe’s smaller and more intimate capital cities. This makes it super easy to explore and a super cute city to visit!
If you’re an early bird like me then get up and enjoy a relaxed coffee by the river and people watch as students ride their bikes to classes and locals make their way to work. The architecture and buildings in Ljubljana are gorgeous and dressed in pretty pastel shades. One of the most iconic buildings is the Franciscan Church of the Annunciation at Prešernov Trg beside the famous Triple Bridge. It can easily be detected by its salmon pink facade.
For a birds eye view of the city then head up to Ljubljana castle where you can scale the castle walls.
It is a little known fact that Slovenia produces very good, high quality wine, mainly because it mostly consumed internally. Slovenia has three different wine regions to choose from but if you don’t have time to visit a vineyard (that’s on my itinerary for next time!) then spend an evening at Wine Bar Šuklje. Here you can indulge in tasting glasses of different Slovenian wines. The waiters are very attentive, recommending wines you’ll enjoy based on your preferences! Ours was so keen to get it spot on with the perfect wine for each of us!
Piran is inarguably the jewel in the crown of Slovenia’s short (47km) coastline. It has a distinctly Venetian feel to it which is unsurprising given its proximity to Venice, South West across the Adriatic Sea.
Bustling Tartini Square is surrounded by pastel buildings with a statue of its namesake (composer and violinist Giuseppe Tartini) in the middle. It’s perfect for a coffee and watching the world go by. Behind the square are narrow winding streets to explore. They can take you up to the city walls or to St George’s Parish Church. Both of these offer superb views over Piran and out to sea, if you’re lucky you may even be able to spy Venice on the far distant horizon!
An absolute must is to watch the sunset over the peninsula, dipping low into the Adriatic. We were there during the World Cup so it was one eye on the match and one eye on the sunset situation!
Please, please, please put a road trip through Slovenia on your list of places to visit. It’s such a stunning country with amazingly friendly people. A week was all it took for me to fall in love with this diverse, welcoming, fairytale country!
Make it happen:
We flew into Trieste airport and hired a car from there. Hiring a car made it really easy to get around and to explore more unusual locations like the Tolmin Gorges and Slap Savica.
If you do hire a car then make sure you get a vignette sticker. You can’t drive on the motorways without one and if you’re caught you’ll be landed with a massive fine. The motorways make journeys considerably faster so invest in one at a petrol station before you join the motorway.
Check out: I Feel Slovenia for more information on driving in Slovenia.
For unusual accommodation, 30 min from Lake Bled, spend the night at Mountain View Glamping where you go to sleep and wake up to the most incredible rugged mountain scene ahead of you!
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