At half the size of Switzerland, Slovenia is a small country in the south of central Europe and is packed with unusual and often unique attractions and experiences. From primeval forests and thermal springs, to the mysterious Karst limestone plateau caves and lively and architecturally-beautiful capital city, visitors will never want for entertainment in this picturesque corner of Europe.
Sandwiched between Italy, Croatia, Hungary, and Austria, with a coastline on the Adriatic Sea to the southwest, Slovenia boasts about 2,000 hours of sunshine per year in which to enjoy all its offerings.
Whether relaxing on the beach or skiing down alpine slopes, exploring the country's subterranean wonders or relaxing at a lavish casino, visitors to Slovenia can enjoy many amazing and diverse experiences in the space of one short holiday.
The vibrant capital city sports a mix of Baroque, Renaissance, and Art Nouveau architecture, and after belonging to the Austro-Hungarian Empire for many centuries, Ljubljana exudes an old-world charm and atmosphere.
The locals are proud to explain why visitors are enchanted by their country. An up-and-coming European holiday destination, travellers are strongly urged to check out Slovenia before it is forever changed by the inevitable effects of mass tourism.
Slovenia's attractions are many and varied, with enough historical sites, cultural curiosities, and outdoor activities to excite any traveller. Appreciate the peaceful country's natural beauty and diversity as you sunbathe on the Adriatic coast, go skiing in the Alps, or wander through ancient forests and fertile valleys.
Adventurous visitors should explore the wonders of subterranean Slovenia in the Postojna and Skocjan Caves, and can enjoy numerous outdoor pursuits, such as rafting, canyoning, horseback riding, and kayaking, while Triglav National Park is ideal for hiking and mountaineering.
Soak up Slovenia's rich heritage in lively Ljubljana, the country's capital, or in one of the smaller towns, like well-preserved Piran on the coast, or one of the oldest towns in Slovenia, Ptuj. Travellers can learn about the country's history and culture in various museums and admire the mix of architectural styles evident in the old town centres, majestic palaces, and magnificent castles, such as the Bled, Ljubljana, and Predjama strongholds.
Visitors can also explore the verdant Vipava Valley, where they will find delectable but underappreciated wines to accompany excellent traditional cuisine. Hosting a wealth of events and festivals each year, Slovenia is full of character and culture, and travellers should have no problem finding locals willing to share it with them.
The impressive National Museum of Slovenia is housed in a lovely neo-Renaissance style palace, the most interesting and popular of Ljubljana's many museums. Alongside fascinating temporary exhibits, the permanent exhibition consists of various artworks, alongside archaeological artefacts and displays, such as a 60,000-year-old "Neanderthal flute", ancient Palaeolithic artefacts discovered in karst cave sites, and the only Egyptian mummy in Slovenia.
The National Museum is made up of three museums: the historic Presernova, the newer Metelkova, and the Natural History Museum. Visitors can explore just one or all three depending on their schedule, and combination tickets are available.
Architect Joze Plecnik is largely responsible for the city of Ljubljana being as neat and well planned as it is, with his insistence on classical lines and uniform dimensions. The renowned architect's home and studio is open to the public a few days a week, furnished and equipped as he left it. However, his influence is everywhere in the city and can be admired at sites like the wide Shoemaker's Bridge and the colonnaded market beside the river.
The imposing Ljubljana Castle towers over the city, offering spectacular views of the Ljubljanica River and old town skyline with the distant Alps providing a stunning backdrop. A steep cobbled street winds its way from the old town to the medieval fortress, which originally dates back to the 11th century.
The castle complex includes a museum, restaurant, and chapel, and access to the castle is provided by a scenic funicular ride. Visitors can admire the view from the castle's impressive tower, stroll through the tranquil grounds, learn about Slovenian history at one of the museum exhibitions, or attend one of the many cultural events hosted at the fortress.
The magnificent Cathedral of St Nicholas, dedicated to the patron saint of sailors and built in the Baroque style, dates from the early 18th century but was renovated and had beautiful carved bronze doors added for the Pope's visit in 1996. The doors depict the development of Christianity in Slovenia and give way to a richly ornate interior below the impressive cupola and stunning Giulio Quaglio frescoes.
The quaint Ljubljana Zoo is situated in a forested area a short walk from the city centre. The small size of the zoo gives visitors a more intimate experience, with opportunities to handle some of the animals, particularly the scary ones such as snakes and scorpions. Other animals at the zoo include wild cats, lions, sea lions, giraffes, elephants, and over 100 other species.
Feeding times and training exhibitions are staged throughout the day, a schedule for which is available on the website. The zoo offers a welcome break from all the cultural and historical attractions of Ljubljana, providing family vacationers with a wonderful way to entertain the children.
Tivoli Park is a massive wooded area in Ljubljana and covers an impressive five square kilometres. The park is the perfect place for a picnic or evening stroll, boasting a number of ponds, playgrounds, sporting facilities, flowerbeds, grassy patches, and fountains.
Tivoli Park is a popular spot in Ljubljana, allowing visitors to relax and really take in the beauty of this wonderful Slovenian city. Tivoli Park is also a wonderful place to take the kids, allowing them to run around and let off some steam.
Ljubljana has a humid subtropical climate influenced by its location in a large basin, surrounded by sub-Alpine and karst mountain regions. Balmy breezes blow in from the Mediterranean, adding extra warmth in the summer (June to August) when average high temperatures peak at about 81°F (27°C). During winter (December to February), temperature inversions cause the foggy air to hang heavy over the city, bringing cold, moist conditions. Winter temperatures average between 27°F (-3°C) and 39°F (4°C).
Slovenia has a Mediterranean climate on the coast, and a continental climate with mild to hot summers and cold winters in the plateaus and valleys to the east. Most of Slovenia's annual rainfall occurs during spring in the interior regions away from the coast. Winters are cold, particularly along the eastern part of the country and in the Slovenian Alps, which are often covered in snow during the winter period. The Slovenian coastline has a sub-Mediterranean climate while the interior regions have a continental climate with chilly winters and hot summers.
The Euro (EUR) is the official currency, which is divided into 100 cents. Banks offer the best exchange rates for cash. Banking hours are generally 9am to 5pm during the week, with some banks closing for a lunch hour at midday. Numerous bureaux de change are open outside banking hours throughout the country. Major ATMs are readily available in major cities. Credit cards are widely accepted by hotels, restaurants, and shops.
The official language of Slovenia is Slovene. Italian and Hungarian are also spoken in some communities.
Electrical current is 230 volts, 50Hz. Round two-pin attachment plugs are most common.
US nationals require a passport valid for at least three months beyond the period of intended stay. No visa is required for stays of up to 90 days within a 180 day period.
A visa is not required for passports endorsed 'British Citizen', 'British Subject' (containing a Certificate of Entitlement to the Right of Abode issued by the United Kingdom), and 'British Overseas Territories Citizen' issued by Gibraltar. No visa is required for stays of up to 90 days within a 180 day period for holders of passports with any other endorsement. Holders of identity cards issued by Gibraltar authories, and endorsed 'Validated for EU travel purposes under the authority of the United Kingdom', do not require a visa to visit Slovenia. Passports must be valid for a minimum of three months beyond the period of intended stay.
Canadian nationals require a passport valid for at least three months beyond the period of intended stay. No visa is required for stays of up to 90 days within a 180 day period.
Australian nationals require a passport valid for at least three months beyond the period of intended stay. No visa is required for stays of up to 90 days within a 180 day period.
South African nationals require a passport valid for at least three months beyond the period of intended stay. A visa is required.
Irish nationals require a passport valid upon arrival, but no visa is required.
US nationals require a passport valid for at least three months beyond the period of intended stay. No visa is required for stays of up to 90 days within a 180 day period.
New Zealand nationals require a passport valid for at least three months beyond the period of intended stay. No visa is required for stays of up to 90 days within a 180 day period.
The borderless region known as the Schengen area includes the following countries: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, and Sweden. All these countries issue a standard Schengen visa that has a multiple entry option that allows the holder to travel freely within the borders of all. It is highly recommended that passports have at least six months validity remaining after your intended date of departure from your travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.
Typhoid and hepatitis A vaccinations are recommended. In forested areas, hikers should guard against tick bites as tick-borne encephalitis and Lyme disease are a risk. Water is safe to drink, milk is pasteurised, and local meat and produce is safe to consume. Free emergency treatment is available from hospitals and some private doctors. Slovenia has a reciprocal health agreement with most EU countries, including the UK, providing emergency healthcare on the same terms as Slovenian nationals. EU travellers should take a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).
A 10 percent tip is expected in restaurants, hotels and by taxi drivers.
There are extremely few risks involved in travel to Slovenia. The threat of terrorism is low, as is the crime rate; however, sensible precautions are advised. Travellers should guard their valuables from pickpockets and petty thieves, lock their cars, and should always avoid protests, strikes, and other public demonstrations. A copy of your passport or some other form of identification should be carried at all times.
The majority of the population is Roman Catholic and visitors should respect religious customs. Penalties for drug offences can be severe in Slovenia. A copy of one's passport or other form of identification should be carried at all times.
Business etiquette in Slovenia is similar to the rest of Western Europe. Men and women should dress conservatively in formal business suits. Shaking hands with both men and women is the norm and it's considered polite to greet women first. Business cards are often exchanged after introductions, with Slovenians usually referred to by their title and surname. Business hours are 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.
The international dialling code for Slovenia is +386. The outgoing code is 00 followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 0044 for the United Kingdom). City or area codes are in use, e.g. (0)1 for Ljubljana. Wifi is prolific in Ljubljana and the larger towns, and free international calls can be made via the internet.
Travellers to Slovenia from within the European Union may import the following goods duty-free: 800 cigarettes, 400 cigarillos, 200 cigars, and one kilogram tobacco; 10 litres spirits, 20 litres fortified wine or liqueur, 90 litres wine (no more than 60 litres sparkling wine), 110 litres beer.
Visitors from non-EU countries who are 17 and older may import up to 200 cigarettes, 100 cigarillos, 50 cigars or 250g tobacco. In addition, one litre spirits, or two litres fortified wine, liqueur or sparkling wine, as well as four litres wine and 16 litres beer will not be taxed. Visitors are also restricted to 50ml of perfume or 250ml of eau de toilette, and medicinal products for personal use. Other goods up to the value of €430 (€150 for those under 15 years old) will not be taxed.
Slovenian Tourist Information Centre, Ljubljana: +386 1 306 4575 or www.slovenia.info or https://www.slovenia.info/en
Embassy of the Republic of Slovenia, Washington DC, United States: +1 202 386 6601.
Embassy of the Republic of Slovenia, London, United Kingdom (also responsible for Ireland): +44 20 7222 5700.
Embassy of the Republic of Slovenia, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 565 5781.
Consulate General of the Republic of Slovenia, Cape Town, South Africa: + 27 21 970 2447.
Embassy of the Republic of Slovenia, Canberra, Australia (also responsible for New Zealand): +61 2 6290 0000.
United States Embassy, Ljubljana: +386 1 200 5500.
British Embassy, Ljubljana: +386 1 200 3910.
Canadian Consulate, Ljubljana: +386 1 252 4444.
South African Honourary Consulate, Ljubljana: +386 1 200 6300.
Australian Consulate, Ljubljana: +386 1 234 8675.
Embassy of Ireland, Ljubljana: +386 1 300 8970.
Consulate of New Zealand, Ljubljana: +386 1 200 9337.
Ljubljana is a small, compact city that is easy to explore on foot, especially for those intent on appreciating the architecture. The next best option is the inexpensive and efficient bus service. To ride the bus, passengers first need to purchase an Urbana card from self-service stations near the larger bus stops and load it with credit.
Cars are a liability in the city, which is largely pedestrianised, and parking is at a premium. Bicycles provide a fun and convenient way of getting around, available to rent for a nominal fee and small deposit. Taxis are available and a good option after dark, when the bus service is radically reduced.
Whether you're after relaxation or adventure, Slovenia's charming capital is the perfect destination. Enjoy a leisurely holiday in Ljubljana, soaking up the country's history and culture, sampling the unique cuisine, or relaxing at an open-air café on a balmy summer evening.
Visitors can take a stroll through the historical centre, admiring the Renaissance and Art Nouveau facades, while enjoying the Baroque architecture of the Cathedral of St Nicholas or the medieval Ljubljana Castle which watches over the city. The National Museum is home to Slovenia's only Egyptian mummy, while PleÄnik House shares information on the renowned architect who helped shape the identity of Ljubljana.
Visitors can make the most of the outdoors in 2016's Green Capital of Europe by cycling alongside the Ljubljanica River or strolling through one of the city's many peaceful parks or forests. Kids will love interacting with the animals at the Ljubljana Zoo and running around as you picnic in the beautiful Tivoli Park.
Get active and enjoy the natural beauty of Ljubljana's surrounding areas with a trip to Lake Bled, just 45 minutes away, where visitors can go fishing and horse riding, or explore the Triglav National Park's fantastic walking and hiking trails.
Slovenia's most popular destination, the charming town of Bled is located just 45 minutes' drive from the capital Ljubljana and is the base for many tourists holidaying in Slovenia. A town with gorgeous surrounds and an ancient history, Bled's foremost attraction is the glacial Lake Bled: a cobalt-blue expanse of water with a forested island in the middle, it's accessible by traditional rowboats known as pletnas.
Overlooking the lake is the photogenic Bled Castle while the island itself is home to the spired Pilgrimage Church of the Assumption of Mary, one of Slovenia's most impressive sights. Bled offers tourists a range of great outdoor sporting activities, such as golfing, fishing, and horse riding, while the nearby Triglav National Park has fantastic walking and hiking trails. Those looking for a cost-effective and richly rewarding European vacation should check out Bled, Slovenia's undisputed tourist jewel.
Slovenia's Postojna Cave is the most-visited cave complex in Europe and has welcomed nearly 200 million visitors to gape at its incredible karst formations, cavernous chambers, and interesting collection of cave animals.
Stretching for 13 miles (20km), one of the best things about visiting the astounding Postojna Cave Complex is its top-class infrastructure: the cave is well-lit and visitors access the underground walkway by train.
Guided tours of the cave last about 90 minutes, during which time visitors are treated to a wealth of glittering calcite formations, stalactites, and stalagmites, as well as an underground aquarium where an array of troglodyte creatures are displayed.
The Postpojna Cave is also home to a subterranean concert hall with celebrated acoustics and classical music performances are common (especially in the summer). One of the very best things to see in Slovenia and in the whole of central Europe, a trip to the Postojna Cave Complex is highly recommended.
The only national park in Slovenia, Triglav National Park is named after the highest peak in the country and the Julian Alps: Mount Triglav. Appearing on the Slovenian flag, the mountain is a symbol of national identity.
Its craggy, snow-covered summit provides a wonderful backdrop to a holiday spent exploring quiet forests and hiking out to pristine waterfalls. The trail that leads out to the 240-foot (78m) Slap Savica Waterfall is particularly popular, attracting outdoor enthusiasts from all over the continent each year.
Triglav National Park is also perfectly set up for mountain bikers and keen mountaineers who wish to get to grips with the rocky slopes. The park offers affordable camping, and its close proximity to Italy and Austria, makes it an attractive option for budget-conscious travellers wishing to experience the Alps without having to shell out more than they can afford.