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Discover Slovenia: Europe's Green Gem

Slovenia is an up and coming travel destination. Until recently it has largely been a hidden gem, but the developments over the last few years are rapidly changing that. Ljubljana was the European Green Capital in 2016. Last year Michelin Guide put numerous restaurants in Slovenia on its list, and the country now boasts 6 restaurants with a Michelin Star. Most recently the Conde Nast Traveller has picked Slovenia as the top holiday destination for 2021. With these developments afoot, let us take a closer look at this country.

My family and I have been expats in Slovenia for several years now, and we have discovered first hand that this tiny fairy-tale country in South-East Europe is a perfect place for any holiday. As a matter of fact, I was first thinking to write an article about being an expat in Slovenia, but then realised that a major part of living here as an expat is traveling and exploring the country. So it made more sense to write about all the fun things to see and do here. If you'd be interested in hearing more about the expat life there, stay tuned!

As mentioned before, Slovenia is a lovely place for any holiday. It’s a great spot for students and young people who love nature, beautiful towns or the vibrant cafe and restaurant scene. This safe, green country is a paradise for families with children of all ages. Slovenia is also excellent for retirees who are looking for a pleasant place that allows for a relaxed way to enjoy the outdoors, shopping and amazing food. In short, it is the place to be for foodies and wine aficionados, for city-trippers and road-trippers, for mountain lovers and sea lovers, and for the fans of all-things-refined, as well as for the fans of all-things-authentic. And an added bonus - with prices being generally very reasonable, at the end of your holiday your wallet will be as happy as you are!

Let me take you on a visit to this - for now still secret - paradise! This green gem is tucked away between the stunning snowy Alpine peaks to the North, and the gentle waves of the azure-blue Adriatic Sea to the South. It consists of verdant rolling hills, emerald rivers and is dotted with pristine glacial lakes. The country is filled with stunning medieval castles, elegant towns, charming villages, hill-top churches and inviting mountain huts. No matter where you are - in the mountains, at the seaside or in towns, the vistas are magnificent. Food is delicious everywhere, from the Michelin starred/listed restaurants, to the plentiful trendy locally-sourced slow-food places and the authentic small villagegostilnas. There are many excellent local wines, and visiting a vineyard is a very convivial experience.

Here are some ideas for an amazing holiday in Slovenia:

An Unforgettable Road-Trip

If you choose to take a road-trip through Slovenia, get ready for the beautiful country roads, hilltop churches galore, romantic medieval castles, Venetian-inspired seaside towns and drop-dead gorgeous mountain vistas! A road-trip is a perfect way to explore this lovely small country. Everything is within a 2-hour drive from the capital, and there is an amazing variety of sights to discover.The best place to start the road-trip is the romantic capital Ljubljana, with its cobbled pedestrian city-center buzzing in all seasons with outdoor caffé and restaurant terraces, overlooked by the medieval hill-top castle. The road-trip must-sees include the stunning glacier lakes Bled and Bohinj, the emerald Soca river valley, the UNESCO-World-Heritage listed Skocjan Caves, the dramatic medieval Predjama Castle built in the mountain cave, the rolling hills of Goriska Brda (Slovenian Tuscany) and the absolutely breathtaking Logar Valley, with snow-capped Alpine peaks jutting up from the green valley. The perfect place to finish the road-trip is the Venetian-inspired seaside, with its charming towns Piran and Izola.

Bohinj Lake and the surrounding Alps

A Relaxing Seaside Holiday

Slovenia's short stretch of the blue Adriatic seaside is home to the charming towns of Piran and Izola, whose orange terracotta roofs and characteristic bell towers hark back to the Venetian period. The calm and warm Adriatic seaside is a lovely spot for a relaxing beach holiday, with the untouched Moon Bay being the most stunning beach on the Slovenian Riviera. There are nice spots for dining and cocktails in all the Riviera towns. Sailing is a perfect way to enjoy the sea and explore the wider stunning coastal area, with Italy's beautiful Miramare Castle and dramatic Grado Castle being just a few dozen miles away, as well as the picturesque Istrian towns in Croatia a short sail south. For those looking for an active seaside holiday close to nature, there are many beautiful walking and hiking trails along the Slovenian seaside with absolutely stunning views of the sea, offering exotic picnic possibilities and access to beautiful secluded beaches.

 he Moon BayT

A Mountain Hiker Paradise

If you like mountain hiking, from leisurely to adrenalin, look no further than Slovenia! This green hilly and mountainous country literally consists of a mirriad of hiking trails. You can hike between villages, to hill-top churches, along mountain ridges, through gorgeous valleys or across the gentle rolling hills. There are always charminggostilnasalong the way, offering locally-sourced sustenance. The trails are clearly marked and, depending on where you are, they offer picturesque views of snowy mountain peaks, the endless blue of the sea, flowery green meadows, stunning castles, glacial lakes or emerald rivers. Some of the most beautiful views open up from some of the country's highest peaks: Triglav (2,864m) in the largest National Park in Slovenia, Mangart (2,679m) near the Italian and Austrian border, Ojstrica (2,350m) in the Logar Valley and the beautiful Velika Planina pastures (over 2,500m). For those looking for leisurely hikes with gorgeous views, the Polhograjski Dolomiti hills and the area of Skofja Loka offer some amazing walks.

Rolling hills

A Snow Sports Destination that will not Break Your Budget

Are you a passionate skier or snowboarder? Or have you always dreamed of trying winter sports? Slovenia has a number of modern resorts to cater to all tastes. Kranjska Gora is a charming Alpine village resort deep in the mountains that offers a variety of slopes both for relaxed skiers and those willing to try competitive black diamond racing on the slopes where theFIS Alpine Ski World Cupcompetitions take place. Kanin and Krvavec resorts, at altitudes between 1,500-2,000m offer slopes for adventurous skiers looking for Alpine challenges on- and off-slope. Vogel ski resort in the Triglav National Park is a place for gorgeous views of the snowy Alpine peaks. All Slovenian ski resorts offer beautiful mountain views and local fare, as well as apres-ski, in charming wooden chalets.

For those who rather enjoy cross-country skiing, the place to be is Pokljuka in the Triglav National Park, whereannual Biathlon World Cupcompetitions take place.

Snow Sport Destinations

A Charming City Trip

Are you up for a change of scenery? Would you like to take a stroll on cobbled streets through a romantic Habsburgian town, stopping for a lunch at a Michelin-listed restaurant or a trendy local slow-food place, take in the view of the orange rooftops and snow-covered Alpine peaks from the battlements of a medieval castle, wander through the halls of the Museum of Modern Art, have a coffee in leafy Tivoli park and enjoy dinner at the bustling Open Kitchen before going to seeCosi Fan Tutteat the Opera? Then Slovenia's quaint capital Ljubljana is your destination! There are lovely boutique hotels to stay at, riverside wine bars to enjoy and plenty of shops to discover. Those interested in ancient history can take a Roman-times tour and see the city wall and other remains of the antique settlement Emona, which was built around 35BC on the territory of modern-day Ljubljana.

This charming city has plenty to offer in all seasons. In December the entire pedestrian city center shines brightly with myriads of festive Christmas lights, and buzzes 24/7 with people enjoying mulled wine, hot chocolate and browsing the many craft stalls of the Ljubljana Christmas market. In November an International Film FestivalLIFFEtakes place, and in October Ljubljana hosts an annual Marathon run. In February the city streets come alive with local CarnivalPustfestivities. During this time,Kurenti, resembling colourful hay-stacks, walk around, dance and ring bells, aiming to chase away winter. The open air Jazz Festival and the Film Under the Stars in the courtyard of the medieval Ljubljana Castle are some special ways to enjoy the city in the summer.

Ljubljana city center

Where to Stay in Ljubljana

Antiq Palace Hotel and Spa - a charming hotel and spa in the old town, family friendly

CUBO Hotel and Restaurant - a design boutique hotel in the city center, family friendly

Lesar Hotel Angel - beautiful hotel in the pedestrian zone, excellent for couples or friends get-away

Hotel Galleria - a lovely hotel in the old town, excellent for couples or friends get-away

Allegro Hotel - a beautiful hotel on a cobbled old town street, excellent for couples or friends get-away

Where to Stay at the Seaside

Hotel Piran - a lovely hotel just steps away from the sea

Hotel Marco - a charming family-friendly hotel in a fin-de-siecle villa overlooking the sea

Kempinski Palace Portoroz - a luxury hotel overlooking the sea

Where to Stay Elsewhere in Slovenia

Nebesa Chalets - a place like no other, translates as 'Heaven' from Slovene

Where to Eat and Drink in Ljubljana

Strelec Restaurant - a stylish and creative take on local cuisine, situated in the Archer's Tower of the medieval Ljubljana Castle tower and in warm weather guests can also be seated on the castle battlements with amazing views, Michelin listed

Sato Bento - creative and delightful Japanese cuisine with a slight twist of French fusion

Monstera Bistro - 'a delicious experience in the heart of Ljubljana' in the trendy setting, reasonably priced, Michelin listed

Tabar - great wine and Slovenian-inspired tapas in this trendy wine bar on a cobbled old town square

Dvorni Bar - excellent and trendy wine bar with a view of Ljubljanica river

Zvezda Cafe - this Ljubljana institution is a charming city center cafe with delicious cakes, creative home-made gelatos, great coffee and tea

Čajna Hiša - charm overload at this oldest tea house in Ljubljana, with an ensuite tea shop

Other Useful Links

I Feel Slovenia - plenty of useful and practical information on things to do in Slovenia

Visit Ljubljana - information on a variety of things to do in Ljubljana

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