When Andy and I were in Valpariso, Chile, the owners of our B&B were from Slovenia and raved about the country. I’ll admit that I had to look up exactly where the country was as I had never heard of it. After I learned that the country did not exist until 1991, I gave myself a little slack for my poor geography.
After doing some research to see if we wanted to add Slovenia to our trip, we learned that there were quite a few things to do in the country. We looked at staying in several different cities during our time in Slovenia. After realizing how close things were, we decided to stay in Ljubljana instead of moving around from city to city. I was fortunate to be able to find a great retro styled apartment, which was perfect for our time in Ljubljana.
We were not too lucky with the weather when we were in Slovenia though, every day being mostly overcast. This was sad since the country was beautiful and would have photographed much better with a picturesque blue sky and puffy white clouds.
Getting to Ljubljana
As I mentioned in my Split, Croatia article, the woman at the bus terminal was zero help in getting us bus tickets to Ljubljana. Since we weren’t able to book a direct bus, we ended up purchasing a ticket to Zagreb, Croatia along with a ticket to Ljubljana.
Our bus to Zagreb was the type of bus that we have come to expect when traveling in Eastern Europe. We were lucky that we had a very nice, double decker bus for our ride to Ljubljana. I had booked my tickets on the DB bus, an division of Deutsche Bahn, the German train. The bus was brand new and the seats were much more comfortable than other buses we have had in Eastern Europe. Our only issue was that we were placed at a table for 4 people – our least favorite seating arrangement. This concerned us, but when nobody else sat by us, we were happy to have some extra space and a table which made catching up on blog writing easy.
When we arrived in Ljubljana, I learned my suspicions were correct – there are direct buses that run from Split to Ljubljana. While it was frustrating, at that point there was nothing that could be done to change the past so I let it go.
Day 1 – Ljubljana, Slovenia
During our first day in the city, we stayed close to home and decided to check out the downtown area of Ljubljana. Most of the historical buildings are clustered together in the downtown area which runs along the river. While the city was cute, easy to get around and there were some interesting looking buildings, it wasn’t our favorite downtown area we have seen.
I think part of the reason we were having a hard time having fun was because it was cold outside. In fact, after talking to some locals we learned that it was a good 15 degrees cooler when we were there than it should have been.
We grabbed a quick bite to eat before heading back to the apartment to warm up and relax for the rest of the day.
Day 2 – Bled, Slovenia
Likely the most visited place in all of Slovenia is Lake Bled. While the name doesn’t sound appealing, the reality is much nicer – a beautiful lake surrounded by trees with a small island, complete with a church in the middle.
I had done some research on getting to Lake Bled before we arrived. The bus was the logical choice since it dropped off right in the city center and ran from Ljubljana every hour while the train only ran a few times a day and required a 2 kilometer or 1.25 mile walk.
Bus tickets to Lake Bled were cheaper if you purchased a round trip ticket instead of 2 one-way tickets. Since we were going to go round trip anyway, we decided to purchase round trip tickets to save a few bucks. The only hook with this was that you had to take the same bus company both ways. While this was fine, it limited the buses that we were able to take back – something that we did not realize when we purchased the tickets.
When we arrived we were both surprised and not surprised to see few people around. It is one of the top attractions but it was was low season, quite chilly and overcast. While we wish the weather was nicer, we decided to make the best of the day and started walking the perimeter of the lake. Along the way, we stopped many times to take pictures since the scenery was beautiful.
There were boats to the island in the middle of the lake for 14E or $16 round trip. This was much more than we wanted to spend and also didn’t have the view that we wanted so we declined. Later in the day we ran into a woman from our bus who took the boat and said that it was not worth the money. We were happy that we had made the right decision by opting out of the boat ride.
Everyone that visits Lake Bled wants to get the iconic picture of the island from above. While most people pay 10E or $11.50 to go to the castle to get this shot, we looked for a free option. When we were hiking, we took a trail behind the castle. There was a foot trail which took us to a few places where we could overlook the lake. Some of the viewpoints were better than others and many had trees obstructing the view. After searching the area, we found the best place to take the picture that we wanted and set up the tripod to get a shot with us in it.
By the time that we left Bled, we had walked the entirety of the lake. While it was pretty, I imagine that it is much more beautiful in the summer when the trees are green and the sky is more blue.
Day 3 – Skocjan Cave & Driving Around the Countryside
There are 2 large caves in Slovenia – Skocjan and Postojna. I was conflicted with what cave to visit since they both had their pros and cons. While we toyed with the idea of visiting both, we decided that it would have been quite expensive and after spending time at a cave, visiting another cave would not seem overly exciting. Ultimately we decided to visit only the Skocjan Cave as it seemed less touristy than Postojna and from what we read online, it was the larger, better cave.
While we could have gotten to the caves via public transportation, we decided to rent a car instead. Our Airbnb host told us that he recommends people see the southwestern part of the country as it is the most beautiful. It was a little bit of a splurge to rent a car, especially since we had to pay quite a bit more to get an automatic, but we justified it since we were able to move at our own pace.
Once we were in the car, we put the Skocjan Cave into our GPS and headed off. There was a 10am tour that we were looking to catch so we would have the rest of the day to sightsee at our leisure. After a 1 hour drive, we arrived at the cave. We purchased our tickets for 16E or $18 and waited until the tour began.
We were surprised at how many people were on the 10am tour. There must have been around 100 people who were split in to 3 groups based on language – 2 English tours and 1 Italian tour.
Our guide was good but the tour was different than I expected. There was very little stopping during the tour, it was more or less a 3 kilometer or just under 2 mile constant walk where we looked around as we walked by. At one point, we walked on a bridge over a very large, quite powerful river. This was very different from other caves that we had been in so it was pretty cool. I would have to say that the biggest disappointment of the tour was that we were not able to take photos. The only place you can take photos is at the very end of the tour as you exit the cave. We knew this going in, but are still unsure why it is not permitted to take photos within the cave.
After the tour we grabbed a quick bite to eat before we continued on our journey. We had plans to drive around the countryside, check out some small towns and visit a few wineries. While this plan was good in theory, we had no clue how much Good Friday would impact what was open. Every single winery that we tried to visit was closed for the day so we ended up wandering aimlessly looking for something to do.
After driving around with no purpose, we decided that we should just head back to Ljubljana. On the highway I saw a sign for a UNESCO castle so we decided to get off to check it out. Normally, when there are signs on a highway you don’t expect the site to be more than 10-15 minutes away. We ended up driving for a full hour before we reached the castle which turned out to be quite a bust. The entire town had a UNESCO classification, but it wasn’t interesting enough to justify such a long drive. We were bummed out that we ended up wasting so much time to see something that we didn’t even enjoy.
I blame both Andy and I equally for the lack of planning on the day that we had the car. We were suffering travel burnout and neither of us really feel like planning. We both wrongfully thought we could just wing it but it didn’t turn out that way. It ended up being quite expensive to rent the car for what we ended up doing, especially once we factored in gas which is very expensive in Europe.
In hindsight, we should have rented a car to visit Bled and the surrounding area instead. I much preferred that region of Slovenia to the southwest region.
While I’m glad that we made it to Slovenia, it didn’t quite live up to the expectations that I had in my head. I’m not sure if I had set unrealistic expectations or if we were there at the wrong time of the year, but it wasn’t quite what I had pictured. It would be interesting to return to Slovenia in the summer when the weather is warmer and everything is green to see if that changes my perception.