Tucked between Italy and Croatia, the tiny country of Slovenia is ready to be discovered.
By Micaela Myers
When I visited Slovenia for the first time in 2002, my friends and relatives said, “Where’s Slovenia?” According to travel guru Johnny Jet of johnnyjet.com fame, that’s about to change, as he names Slovenia the next up-and-coming hotspot. It seems what Europeans have already discovered, Americans soon will catch on to (slovenia.info).
Nestled between Italy to the west, Austria to the north, Croatia to the south and southeast, and Hungary to the northeast, Slovenia sits at a crossroads of four major geographic units: the Alps, the Dinaric Mountains, the Pannonian Plain and the Mediterranean Sea. The country even has a slice of coastline along the Adriatic Sea. This unique location affords access to stunning scenic landscapes.
Ljubljana, the country’s capital, illustrates 5,000 years of history with stunning architecture in a variety of styles, including Italian Baroque and art nouveau. Masterpieces by famed architect Jože Plečnik as well as designs by up-and-coming Slovenian architects line the city’s streets. Wander over the picturesque bridges of the Ljubljanica River, explore the expansive Tivoli Park and enjoy alfresco dining while sampling wines from the country’s 400-plus wineries.
A trip to the country doesn’t get any better than beautiful Lake Bled in the Julian Alps of northwestern Slovenia. The focal point of the lake is the nation’s only island, upon which a Baroque church rests. Paddle out to ring its wishing bell, or enjoy a stroll along the shore before visiting Bled Castle.
Slovenia is a water-rich country featuring many lakes, rivers and waterfalls. It’s also home to the Julian Alps and Triglav National Park, where Mount Triglav sits at 9,396 feet tall. The region is great for hiking, rafting and skiing, depending on the time of year. At the base of the Alps, stop by the Kobarid Museum to learn about Ernest Hemingway’s time spent in the town during World War I, when he served as an ambulance driver and gained fodder for “A Farewell to Arms.”
Dozens of castles await exploration, including Grad Castle in Goricko, designed in a diamond shape with a central courtyard and thought to be built as a stronghold for the region’s Knights Templar; and Predjama Castle, a Renaissance fort built into the side of a south-central Slovenian mountain and entered through a cave’s mouth.
To round out your tour of Slovenia’s regions, visit the historic port city of Piran on the Adriatic Sea. The town offers a relaxed, Mediterranean feel, where travelers can swim and dine outdoors while listening to live music.
Slovenia packs a wealth of beauty into its 7,827 square miles, providing the best of all worlds, whether you seek unique architecture and medieval castles, nature, culture or a glass of wine by the sea.