Tucked between the Alps and the Mediterranean Sea, Slovenia is teeming with natural attractions, from 11,000 karst caves (including Škocjan Caves, the largest underground canyon in Europe) to one of its more internationally known tourist destinations—Lake Bled, whose small island is crowned by Bled Castle, the oldest castle in Slovenia. The Central European country—the first in the world declared a green destination—measures roughly the size of the Netherlands and is compact enough that you can go from swimming in the sea in the morning to cycling or hiking the alps in the afternoon. In Ptuj, the country’s oldest town (and home to the oldest wine cellar), you’ll find another side of Slovenia’s culture: the winter festival of Kurentovanje, one of the most famous in the region that plays on a tradition of chasing away winter darkness. In the capital of Ljubljana, meanwhile, the centuries-old castle nods to the city’s medieval past, with buildings and bridges that have stood along these paved streets since the Middle Ages.
How to get there?
While it only takes two hours to fly from London to Ljubljana, Slovenia (which is part of the Eurail Global Pass System) is easy to reach via train from the surrounding countries of Croatia, Italy, Austria, Hungary, Serbia, the Czech Republic, Germany, and Switzerland. Slovenian Railways operates trains throughout the country, as well as from capital city Ljubljana to the Italian border town of Trieste. Pass through the country’s longest tunnel on a Motorail train (you can even bring your car for the ride), which runs through Mt Črna Prst leading into Bača Valley, from the Gorenjska region to the Primorska region. In Ljubljana, you can rent a bike practically for free through the BicikeLJ bicycle-sharing system. Ljubljana Tourism also offers bike rentals in summer and early autumn (1 April – 31 October) for as little as 8€ per day (or free for the first four hours with the Ljubljana Card).