Did you know, Slovenia is actually an Alpine country, not a Balkan one? This central European gem prefers to be lumped together with the likes of Austria, Italy and Switzerland, rather than Croatia, Albania and Macedonia.
Gifted with spectacular natural scenery, Slovenia lends itself perfectly to an abundance of exhilarating al-fresco adventures. From mountain biking and rafting to hiking and skiing, it really is an unexpected active traveller’s paradise! So, if you’re the outdoorsy-type, here are six experiences you should have on your Slovenian itinerary…
1. Hiking around Mount Vogel
Eager to explore Slovenia’s mountains, but describe yourself as more of a novice hiker? Then Mount Vogel in the southern Julian Alps makes the ideal spot for tackling a few slightly easier, but no less beautiful trails.
Hop aboard the cable car from Lake Bohinj and enjoy the ride 1,535 metres towards Vogel’s peak, absorbing the gobsmacking alpine panoramas as you go. At the top of the cable route, you’ll find a myriad of lush tracks for you to hike along, offering magnificent views of the emerald green valley and turquoise-hued lake below. Start with one of the better-trodden trails, which leads to the summit of Mount Šija, across ski slopes and through forests of dwarf pines.
2. Rafting down the Sava Dolinka River
For those that have never tried rafting before, Slovenia’s Sava Dolinka River makes a great introduction. You’ll love speeding across the crystal-clear waters, passed cypress trees and navigating your way around moss-covered boulders.
Get ready to work those upper body muscles as you paddle downstream, taking on grade two and three rapids along the way. This exciting excursion also offers up the opportunity to catch a glimpse of the local Slovenian wildlife, including beaver-like marmots, impressively horned alpine ibexes and various species of owls. Don’t forget your swimmers either, if it’s warm you won’t be able to resist taking a dip in the glacial waters.
3. Mountain biking through Triglav National Park
A fun fact for you now –Triglav National Park makes up over 4% of the total area of Slovenia, so it’s definitely worth discovering! Set to the backdrop of the dramatic Julian Alps, it’s also the largest protected area in the country.
No matter your ability on a mountain bike you’ll find trails to cater for everyone here, from beginners to top cyclists. A particularly picturesque route is the 16 kilometres stretch along the Radovna River. You’ll follow the water as it meanders through one of the most beautiful alpine valleys between the Mežaklja and Pokljuka plateaus, and winding up in the remote yet charming village of Zgornja Radovna.
4. Exploring Vintgar Gorge
If it’s natural wonders you’re after, Vintgar Gorge is undoubtedly one of the most extraordinary in Slovenia. At 1,600 metres long and 250 metres deep, the gorge is flanked by seriously steep slopes covered in thick beech forests.
Take to the boardwalk as you trace the path of the Radovna River and stare up at the striking limestone cliffs, which can reach up to 100 metres high in places! The great thing about this walk is that there’s something different waiting around every corner, whether it’s ferocious rapids, tranquil pools or eddies crammed full of fish. You’ll finish up by taking in amazing views of the Šum waterfall as it flows underneath the Bohinj railway bridge. Who knows, you might even decide to settle down with a picnic to really soak up the atmosphere.
5. Walking near Lake Bled
Lake Bled is easily Slovenia’s most iconic destination. Its fairy-tale castle sat right in the middle of the water is a sight not quickly forgotten. To admire it from a different perspective, walk to any of the surrounding viewpoints.
Perhaps the most classic view of Lake Bled is from Ojstrica, a mountain in the Kamnik-Savinja Alps. There’s a slight hike to get up there and whilst it’s not especially difficult it does involve walking on a dirt path, meaning it can be muddy and slippery after the rain. If you wanted to climb a little higher, Velika Osojinica is another great spot to try. Or maybe you just fancy a relaxed stroll, in which case the Lake Bled perimeter walk takes about two hours.
6. Climbing Mount Triglav
You may have never heard of it but Mount Triglav is Slovenia’s highest mountain, standing at 2,864 metres tall. It’s also a powerful national symbol, with locals often claiming that every “true” Slovenian should reach its summit at least once.
If you’re yet to tick mountaineering off your list of active pursuits, it might help to know that Mount Triglav is a popular choice amongst first-time climbers. There are several different routes you can take to the top and most will take two days, meaning an overnight stay in a mountain hut is on the cards. The easiest and most frequently taken is from the Krma Valley because of its lack of technical difficulties. The hardest is from Vrata Valley and is reserved for extremely fit climbers only. Think carefully as to whether you’re up to the challenge before setting off.