Why Slovenia should be on your summer hit list

Whether you're planning an escape to nature or a sizzling city break, Slovenia might be exactly what you're looking for. This unsung central European country has vast glacial lakes, sun-kissed Adriatic coast, historic wine culture, as well as some wonderfully weird wildlife.

Why Slovenia should be on your summer hit list © RH2010 - Fotolia.com
Why Slovenia should be on your summer hit list © RH2010 - Fotolia.com

What's more, TUI offers a number of great value breaks to Slovenia in summer, departing from airports across the UK. Here are eight more reasons to place Slovenia firmly on your summertime bucket list.

1. Live a fairytale at Lake Bled

If a picture of Slovenia has ever caught your eye, there's a very good chance it showed Lake Bled. At Slovenia's most famous beauty spot, only swans and the occasional pletna (traditional wooden boat) disturb the glassy waters.

Tiny Bled Island sits serenely in the lake, its dainty church spire poking above the treeline. Towering above it all are the snow-streaked Julian Alps.

Hire a rowing boat to reach Bled Island, where you can ring the church bell for luck. Back on the lakeshore, hike up to the oldest fortress in Slovenia, Blejski Grad, which surveys the town from a 130 m-high cliff.

Fairytale at Lake Bled, Slovenia © Csák István - Fotolia.com
Fairytale at Lake Bled, Slovenia © Csák István - Fotolia.com

The reward for this sweaty climb is a ramble around medieval ramparts and an unforgettable panorama of the Julian Alps.

2. Be charmed by quaint Škofja Loka

Slovenia has no shortage of postcard-perfect medieval villages but Škofja Loka is one of the the best preserved.

This jewellery box of a town, 23 km northwest of capital city Ljubljana, is like Krakow without the crowds or Prague emptied of stag groups.

Begin by meandering across Kapucinski Most (the Capuchin bridge) before strolling Škofja Loka's Baroque-ornamented main square. Next, take a tour of Škofja Loka Castle for a primer on local handicrafts and centuries of fine art.

After pacing through this frozen-in-time town, reward your exertions with the region's best-loved treat, loški medenjaki. These peppery honey breads are pressed into intricate designs, making them too pretty to eat - almost.

3. Step into the wild at Lake Bohinj

Less visited than Lake Bled is Lake Bohinj, Slovenia's largest lake and part of Triglav National Park.

The park carpets nearly 3% of the country, with Mount Triglav (2,864 m) - Slovenia's tallest mountain, named for an ancient triple-headed god - rising above its dense spruce forests.

Starting at glacial Lake Bohinj, you'll have no shortage of walking trails to choose from. The toughest trekkers tackle a 38 km trail from Bohinj up to the summit of Mount Triglav, a hike taking two days or so.

The most popular is the 90-minute return hike from Ukanc village to Savica Waterfall, an occasionally steep clamber to a cascade that sparkles its way down a 78 m gorge.

Thinking of visiting in winter instead? Off the southwesterly shore of Lake Bohinj you can schuss along the tree-lined trails of Vogel ski resort.

4. Experience la dolce vita in Piran

The prettiest town on Slovenia's 43 km coast is Piran, a jumble of stately architecture and medieval lanes by the Adriatic Sea.

Piran spent centuries under Venetian rule, and its elegant spires, clock towers and marbled town squares powerfully evoke Italy. Tartini Square is a picturesque place to start exploring, ideally with a gelato in hand.

Main square in the picturesque town of Piran, Slovenia © Irakite - Fotolia.com
Main square in the picturesque town of Piran, Slovenia © Irakite - Fotolia.com

And the salty tang in the air isn't just the Adriatic: Piran's fortunes were built on salt, which continues to be panned from nearby salt marshes using traditional methods.

The only thing better than Piran salt sprinkled on barbecued catch-of-the-day is a salty spa treatment at the Sečovlje Salt Pans, 8 km south of town. Flop onto a massage table at Lepa Vida Spa for a sea salt scrub or mud wrap: after all, sightseeing is hard work.

5. Gobble Slovenian cuisine

The Slovenian table is truly diverse. You'll slurp country stews whose recipes have remained unchanged for centuries, feast on flavours borrowed from neighbouring Italy, Croatia and Austria, and experience an up-and-coming fine-dining scene.

At the helm of the country's haute cuisine is Ana Roš, awarded the accolade of World's Best Female Chef in 2017, and featured on Netflix's The Chef's Table.

Roš's restaurant Hiša Franko in Kobarid, western Slovenia, presents traditional ingredients - like local truffles and seafood from the Istrian coast - in daring and inventive ways.

In more casual settings you'll discover Slovenian dishes that already feel familiar, such as gulas (goulash) and štruklji (pastry rolls crammed with savoury fillings or fruit), as well as culinary points of pride like kraški pršut (Karst ham) and ričet (a warming barley stew).

Wherever you dine, spare room for Slovenia's favourite cream cake, kremšnita, a pastry sandwich of custard and pillowy cream.

6. Take a swig of ancient wine culture

What better way to wash down Slovenian gastronomy than homegrown wine? There's ample choice among Slovenia's 14 wine districts, from well-balanced Pinot Gris to plummy Teran wine produced from the Refošk grape (which locals swear boosts brain health).

Slovenia's second city, Maribor, is home to the world's oldest grapevine - at 400 years old, it still produces up to an annual 55 kg of grapes.

Discover Maribor's venerable viticulture by touring the 2.5 km-long wine tunnels beneath the Vinag Wine Cellars; from here you can roam the Maribor Wine Road, pausing at picturesque vineyards between Maribor and Nebova village, 7 km away - na zdravje (cheers)!

One of four dragons on the Dragon Bridge in Ljubljana, Slovenia © Travelguy - Fotolia.com
One of four dragons on the Dragon Bridge in Ljubljana, Slovenia © Travelguy - Fotolia.com

7. Spot dragons in charming Ljubljana

Slovenia's tongue-twisting capital city has a whimsical air. Ljubljana is filled with striking landmarks like its hilltop castle, the rosy pink Franciscan Church and the Triple Bridge, one of many playful creations by visionary local architect Jože Plečnik.

The city is also festooned with dragons. Fire-breathing reptiles scowl from bridges and adorn coats of arms as a nod to Ljubljana castle's patron, St George the dragon slayer.

Count dragons as you dawdle or cycle through the old town's lattice of lanes or, better yet, spot them from a stand-up paddleboard on the Ljubljanica River.

8. Hunt out cave creatures in Postojna

Speaking of dragons, you can find the real thing in Slovenia's cave systems. The grottoes at Postojna are the only habitat in the world of the olm (also known as the proteus), a pallid amphibian mistaken for a baby dragon by early Slovenians.

With a pinkish hue and frilly gills, the olm has a strange appearance but its abilities are even more remarkable: it can survive for years without food and live for up to a century.

Ponder the odd life of this cave critter from Postojna's underground train, which chugs beneath a canopy of stalactites. Even below ground, Slovenia can fire your imagination.

Canopy of stalactites in Postojna Cave, Slovenia © PROMA - Fotolia.com
Canopy of stalactites in Postojna Cave, Slovenia © PROMA - Fotolia.com

As if more reasons to go to Slovenia in summer were needed, remember, you can book a holiday direct to this small eastern European nation with TUI.

While Slovenia attracts plenty of snow-seeking visitors in winter, summer is an exceptional time of year to go as well - find out more about the weather in Slovenia, and see exactly when we think is the best time to go before booking your exciting escape.

Anita Isalska

Anita Isalska
Posted on Thursday 29th March 2018 in: City Culture Europe Summer

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