Slovenia road trip: A 5 day itinerary

Here’s a five day Slovenia road trip itinerary to discover the Western part of the country, with its historical castles, aquamarine lakes, Alpine peaks, rolling Tuscan-like hills and kilometres-deep caves in a short space of time.

Slovenia might just be the perfect post-lockdown escape. It’s 12 times smaller than the UK which means you get a huge variety of landscapes and activities, without feeling rushed.

The Pearl: Its three wine regions – Podravje, Primorska and Posavje. The white wine is particularly delicious.

The Grit: Speaking Slovenian can be a challenge. Brush up on some phrases before you go like Zdravo (hello), Hvala Lam (thank you) and Nasvidenje (goodbye).

DAY 1 – LJUBLJANA

Many of Ljubljana’s landmarks were designed by architect Plečnik in the 1920s

Spend your first day in the bijou capital, Ljubljana. Many of the city’s landmarks, such as the Triple Bridge, the National Library, the Church of St. Michael in the Marshes and the Central Market, were redesigned by architect Plečnik in the 1920s. Inspired by ancient Greece, Plečnik used classic architectural elements and combined them with bright colours to create his own unique style. He also applied this to buildings in Vienna and Prague. (You can go on a guided tour of his house to find out more about his fascinating architectural style.)

Get the funicular up to the castle to save your legs

But it’s impossible to miss the mediaeval castle perched on a hill and I’d recommend starting there so you get your bearings. You can either walk up, get the electric tourist train or go up on the funicular (we picked this option to save our legs). Then discover the history of the castle and have fun in the quirky puppet museum. The best part though is taking in the stunning views of the city and the Julian Alps from the viewing tower.

View from the castle tower across to the Julian Alps

Once you’ve had your fill of history, bridges (make sure you take a selfie with the Dragon Bridge) and beautiful buildings, you might want to explore Metelkova mesto, a gritty part of town taken over by a squatter commune and turned into a thriving art centre. Industrial buildings are covered in murals, mosaics, sculptures and collages that constantly change. You can have a go yourself on the Alternative Ljubljana street art tour.

If the weather is good, rent a bike and cycle through woodlands around Park Tivoli, or try paddleboarding on the river through town.

If the weather’s bad, you might want to indulge in a very long lunch and sample Slovenian specialities at Strelec. Their tasting menu celebrates local and seasonal produce.

Tip: Look out for souvenirs with Ljubljana’s emblem, the dragon. And there’ll also be souvenirs from the whole country available here including locally produced salt, wooden spoons, and honey.

DAY 2: LAKE BLED

The iconic Lake Bled

Pick up your rental car (why not go electric!) and start your Slovenia road trip with a short 45mins journey to Lake Bled. Although it’s one of the more touristy parts of Slovenia, it’s nonetheless worth visiting.

Start off by hiking along the shore and up to Bled Castle dating back to at least 1011. From there you’ll have incredible views of the cyan-blue lake and the surrounding emerald-green hills. Apart from the views, three parts of the castle are really worth exploring.

Firstly, the pink Castle chapel with its trompe l’oeil hand painted frescoes. It’s very accidentally-Wes-Anderson and I particularly love the shell details. When the sun shines it feels like standing in a candyfloss cloud or a very elegant womb.

Secondly, the printing house. Here, the master printer uses historical blocks and lead letters to print on a reconstructed Gutenberg’s wooden printing press. You have to pay for a print (or hang around till someone else does to see it in action like below).

The master printer using a wooden press to create a beautiful bespoke print

Finally, make sure you visit the Castle Beehouse. Turns out Slovenians are huge honey producers and here you can sample honey made all over the country. Remember honey never goes off so it makes a really good souvenir! Even the spa treatments in town use honey. 

Taste honey from across Slovenia in the castle beehouse

Talking of spas, many hotels have heated pools and spas overlooking the picturesque lake. If yours doesn’t, visit the Živa Wellness Centre in the Rikli Balance Hotel which has naked saunas, heated pools and slides. A 3 hour pass is 13 euros. Or really treat yourself with one of their many spa treatments.

DAY 3: LAKE BOHINJ / VOGEL / TOLMIN

Lake Bohinj is less touristy than Lake Bled

Today probably has the most driving of this five day Slovenia road trip. But no section is more than one hour and there’s plenty of stops planned.

A mere half hour drive from Lake Bled is Lake Bohinj which is a lot less touristy and just, if not more, beautiful. On a clear day the still water sparkles and reflects the surrounding sky and mountains. A spectacular sight. And it’s even more special from above. 

Go up to the Vogel ski resort to see this view of Lake Bohinj in person

Continue the road to the Vogel ski resort, and head up in the cable car to 1535 metres for incredible views. Make sure you’ve dressed warmly and have decent shoes as the mountain has some snow and ice year round. There’s only a couple of restaurants up here serving hearty dishes like goulash and strudel.

Once you’ve got back down to earth, you could take the road to visit the Savica waterfall but you have to pay to hike up 522 steps which takes around 20mins. Instead, head for the Tolmin gorges, about an hour’s drive away through the mountains. Expect hairpin bends, sleepy villages and soaring peaks of the Julian Alps.

Part of the Triglav National Park, access to the gorges costs between 6 and 10 euros depending on the season. Take the 2km circular route to view the aquamarine waters cascading through the rocks and cross the Devil’s bridge. If you’ve built up an appetite, Okrepčevalnica Tolminska korita is an excellent snack bar offering cheap and local dishes like grilled fish and cheese soup.

Get back into the car for the final drive of the day. Follow the river Soča for around an hour out of the mountains and to Dobrovo in the municipality of Brda, Slovenia’s answer to Tuscany. 

You’re spoilt for choice for scenic accommodation in Brda

There are plenty of incredible hotels, farm stays, artist retreats and guest houses in this region, all with beautiful views of the olive groves, fruit trees and vineyards dotting the hills.

DAY 4: GORIŠKA BRDA

Cycling is the best way to discover the Tuscan-style Slovenian wine region

Today, have a break from your car-based Slovenia road trip and hop on an electric bike instead. It’s the best way to discover this Slovenian wine region and its quiet countryside roads. In spring, summer and autumn, look out for the fruit crop of the moment – persimmon, fig, pear, apricot, peach. 

Local producers in homesteads and farms will be more than happy to show you their cellars and guide you through a wine tasting (or three). Alternatively, Klet Brda offers self-guided tastings or wine tours.

DAY 5: POTOJSNA / LJUBLJANA

On this final day of your Slovenia road trip you may be thinking you’ve seen it all. Picturesque cities and medieval castles, emerald green lakes, mountains, waterfalls, and terraced vineyards. But we have one more surprise. 

The tour of the Potojsna cave takes an hour and a half

An hour’s drive away from Dobrovo is the Potojsna Cave. This underground cave is so long that you need to get a train for 3.5km before you start a 1.5km guided tour on foot. The cave tour takes an hour and a half and it’s a constant 10°C in the cave so wrap up warm.

The cave is actually a series of chambers, galleries and passageways that extends to 24 kilometres! You can’t help but stare in awe at the beauty of the pearly limestones stalactites and stalagmites at every corner. And this is the home of “baby dragons”, 30cm long translucent lizard-like animals that have no eyes but feel what’s around them. They can survive without food for up to twelve years and can live for up to 100 years. 

Tip: You can get a combined ticket to visit Predjama Castle nearby, a 13th century fortress built into the mountainside.

If you want to squeeze one more hike in before you head back to Ljubljana, drive for 40 mins to Planina Nad Vrhniko. The return walk to the viewpoint takes about two hours but you’ll be rewarded with a stunning view of Ljubljana, the Julian Alps and the surrounding countryside. Reward yourself with a hearty Slovene meal at the hut by the 22 metre observation tower. A great way to finish your Slovenia road trip before driving back to base.

Liked this? Check out my five-day foodie roadtrip itinerary round Northumberland.

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