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. The 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 river canals of the city center. We will also discover why Ljubljana was named the European Green Capital of 2016. After a short welcome meeting at 2:30 p.m. in our hotel, we will take a walking tour around the city before enjoying our first dinner together. Sleep in Ljubljana.
Today we 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 Islet is located in the middle of an alpine lake with mountains as a backdrop. 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. We cross the lake by traditional pletna boat to Bled Islet, visit Bled's castle, and enjoy a walk offering breathtaking views of the lake. Sleep near Bled.
This morning we will walk along Vintgar Gorge, carved by the pristine Radovna River, within Triglav National Park. Triglav is Slovenia’s only national park and one of the earliest national parks in Europe. After a lunch of fresh trout, we will discover the quaint village of Radovljica and visit the lovely museum of apiculture. We then head to Katzenstein mansion in Begunje — used by the Gestapo as a prison during WWII — where we see a small 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.
Today we enjoy a day hiking the very scenic trails around Lake Bohinj, which boast breathtaking views of Triglav and the beautiful Julian Alps. We will climb to Slap (Falls) Savica and end the day with a great dinner of local specialties. Sleep near Bled.
A very pleasant and scenic hike along the Mostnica Gorge takes us up the Voje valley, where we will enjoy a lunch of local specialties. We’ll 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. Sleep near Bled.
We drive over Vršič pass, Slovenia’s highest road pass, en route to our next destination. The road, built by Russian war prisoners during the First World War, runs through the heart of the Julian Alps, and the views from the road simply call out for a stopover. A short walk at the summit of Vršič pass provides an opportunity to stretch our legs, have a coffee in one of the mountain huts on the way, and enjoy an exceptionally good view of other summits on both sides of the pass. Next we reach the area around the Soča 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. Sleep in Boveč.
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 pre-served in Hemingway's masterpiece “A Farewell to Arms.
After many days of mountains it is now the moment to reach the beautiful Adriatic coastline. We will make our way to the outskirts of Trieste (Italy), visiting the Italian/Slovenian border, and then take a walk overlooking the Adriatic Sea and Gulf of Trieste. We will have a very special lunch prepared at an agriturismo, where we will enjoy an unending sampling of specialties prepared on the farm/winery. We continue to Portorož, our home on the Adriatic coast for the next two nights. There may be time on our own to take a dip in the Adriatic before we meet for dinner. Sleep in Portorož.
Our morning begins with a guided visit to the Natural Reserve of Secovlje, one of the most important wetlands of Europe. The Sečovlje salts flats are the northernmost salt flats in the Mediterranean and part of a complex ecosystem. The salt is produced in the traditional way based on a 700-year-old method that harmonizes man and nature.
A short drive from the coast takes us to the small fortified church of the Holy Trinity in Hrastovlje. This church from the 1400s hosts a very special cycle of frescoes representing the “Dance of Death,
Today we will learn more about the Karst area of Postojna with a visit to the impressive Škocjan 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. 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 when it is said to be the living quarters of the robber knight “Erazem.” Dinner on our own, included in trip price. Sleep in Postojna.
Today you will enjoy a great hike on the Bloke plateau, on a long but flat trail which will Today we will enjoy a very pleasant hike on the Bloke plateau, on a long but flat path that will take us past villages, rivers, and a lake. Lunch will be at our friend's home, where we will enjoy a variety of incredible dishes prepared just for us. A farewell meal will make our last day memorable! Sleep in Postojna.
This morning, we will return to Ljubljana where our tour will end around noon. We can drop you at the airport en route to Ljubljana city center, where the trip will end. You should be able to catch flights or a train to other parts of Europe that afternoon to begin an extra adventure of your own or stay over for an early departure back to the U.S.