Slovenia is one of the best kept secrets in Europe. Most of the world has yet to figure out that this small Slavic country enjoys an enviable sliver of the Adriatic, scenic green lowlands covered by Karst outcroppings, stunning lakes, pristine rivers and a dramatic steppe up to the beautiful Julien Alps. Slovenia’s geographic splendors are as diverse as its culture. In the ancient period the region was conquered by the Romans and it later became an important part of the
sprawling Venetian Republic. During the Austro-Hungarian Empire, today’s Slovenia was the playground of the Hapsburg. Italian influence on the coastline, however, was a constant force until the entire region fell to Tito of Yugoslavia. Today, after 21 years of independence, Slovenia remains proudly Slavic but no modern Slovenian denies the importance and prevalence of other influences.
This 12-day, 11-night trip will start and end in Slovenia’s capital city of Ljubljana, with a ring itinerary that will take you to the most impressive areas of the country – and briefly to Italy.
Sophisticated Ljubljana was the obvious choice for capital city when Slovenia achieved independence in 1991. This city has always been a bridge between the German, Latin, and Slav cultures due to its geographic location. This cultural diversity is visible in the complex architecture along the riverine canals of the city center. We will have some time to walk around the city before meeting for our first dinner together. Sleep in Ljubljana.
Today we will leave the capital and head to Lake Bled, an amazing jewel of nature nestled at the foot of the Julian Alps. Slovenia’s only island, Bled is located in the middle of an alpine lake with mountains on all sides. This spectacular location inspired Slavic populations to venerate Ziva, the goddess of love and fertility. Later, Christians built a church here that is still visited by pilgrims today. The village of Bled is one of the most beloved locations in Slovenia. During your stay you will explore the lake by boat, visit Bled's castle and enjoy a great first hike with breathtaking views. Sleep near Bled.
This morning we will hike in Triglav National Park along the pristine Radovna River in Europe's first national park. Later we will discover the quaint village of Radovljica and enjoy a great lunch with local specialties. After a visit to the lovely museum of apiculture we will head to the outskirts of the village to reach Katzenstein Castle - used by the Gestapo as a prison during WWII. In the annex of the castle there is now a museum dedicated to the memory of its former prisoners. It is an extremely meaningful experience to visit this place -- an important but sad reminder of a part of world history we can't forget. Sleep near Bled.
From Bled we will enjoy a scenic drive into the Bohinj valley and another beautiful lake where all kinds of outdoor activities are possible. We will hike around Bohinj lake and to the picturesque Mostnica Gorge. We will also explore the small villages that dot the area around the lake. These villages are a world away from our daily lives and the culinary heritage alone is worth the trip. One of our friends, a proud Bohinj farmer, will introduce us to his cheese production, liquor and amazing local dumplings. Sleep near Bled.
Today we will enjoy a very pleasant and scenic walk to the summit of mount Debela which boasts breath-taking views over Triglav and the beautiful Julian Alps. We will end the day with a great dinner of local specialties. Sleep near Bled.
Our next stop is in the area around the Soca River. The Italian name of the river is Isonzo – and it was coveted by Napoleon, the Austrians and the Italians. Several of the most important battles of WWI were fought here between Italian and Austrian troops. It is a dramatic irony that trails once used for war are now such peaceful tributes to tranquility and nature. Today we will hike in the name of peace for all time. Sleep in Kobarid.
Kobarid is a peaceful village with a distinctive Italian character but it also holds a secret: it is the site of the greatest defeat of the Italian army during WWI. This moment in history was well preserved in Hemingway's masterpiece “A Farewell to Arms”. Hemingway lived here for a while and really loved this area. This will be the departure point for a couple of very nice walks – both historical and naturalistic. Sleep in Kobarid.
After many days of mountains it is now the moment to reach the beautiful coastline. We will make our way to the outskirts of Trieste (Italy) and the tiny village of Santa Croce where we will start our hike overlooking the beautiful gulf of Trieste. We will walk on the extremely scenic Kugy trail and will finally reach Foiba of Basovizza. If time permits we will stop briefly in Trieste before continuing to Piran, our home for the next two nights. Piran is a lovely Slovenian coastal village that is enchanted with a Venetian vibe. Most likely founded by Celts, it was part of the Venetian Republic from the 1200’s until the end of the 1700’s. After a short life as an Austrian domain, it was Italian again up to 1954. At that time the area became part of Yugoslavia and most of its population went to Italy. With Slovenia’s independence, great efforts were made not to lose this area’s Venetian and Italian culture. Sleep in Piran.
A nice seaside stroll, seafood, a boat trip, and a visit to the Natural Reserve of Secovlje (or Sticciole), one of the most important wetlands of Europe, await us on the coast. The salt pans here are part and parcel to a complex eco-system. If there is interest, a few miles from the coast there is a truly amazing site – the small fortified church of Hrastovlje. This church from the 1400’s hosts a very special cycle of frescoes representing the “Dance of Death”, where a large number of local characters are led into the afterlife by dancing skeletons. These paintings are arguably the most important and best preserved in Slovenia and they give us a vivid idea about the way people thought about life and death 700 years ago. They are represented in a very realistic way, the rich, the poor, the handsome, the ugly, the fat, etc. The lesson is that no matter what they do, they will all die, and therefore should behave well today in order to escape damnation in the afterlife. Sleep in Piran.
Today we will learn more about the Karst area of Postojna with a visit to the impressive Scokjan Caves, the most significant underground phenomena in the Karst region of Slovenia and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. From time immemorial, people have been attracted to the gorge where the Reka River disappears mysteriously under a rocky wall. On the top of the wall lays the village of Škocjan after which the Caves are named. Archaeological research has shown that people lived in the caves and the surrounding area in prehistoric times (from the Mesolithic, the Neolithic, the Bronze and Iron Ages through Antiquity and the Middle Ages to the present – that makes more than 5,000 years!). In the afternoon we will visit Predjama Castle. Perched high on a cliff, it officially dates back to the 16th century but there are traces that go back much further to the time it was said to be the living quarters of the robber knight “Erazem.” Sleep near Postonja.
This morning, we will return to Ljubljana where our tour will end around noon. You can catch your flight back to the US late this afternoon or tomorrow morning OR you can begin an extra adventure that we can help you arrange.
Slovenia tour – September 1 to 12, 2016
Price per person – 8 to 11 travelers: 4,775 USD in double room
Price per person – 12 to 15 travelers: 3,725 USD in double room
Single room supplement: 450 USD
Note about the single room supplement for both tours:
In the case that there are participants who request a single room – the price is as per my offer – but the availability is “on request”.