This article was published on Daily Travel News.
When planning a European vacation, Slovenia may not be the first place that springs to mind. However, this small country is one of the continent’s hidden gems, with something for everyone.
From mountains to Mediterranean coastline, Slovenia has history, culture, great food, nice weather, and spectacular scenery. Since it is off many tourists’ radars, it is surprisingly affordable too.
Find out what you need to visit Slovenia and why it makes for a fantastic holiday destination.
Do you need a visa for Slovenia?
Slovenia is part of the European Union (EU) and shares a visa policy with the other member countries when it comes to international visitors from outside the bloc.
The good news for many travelers is that nationals of a great number of countries, including the US, are exempt from visa requirements for the EU and can currently travel to Slovenia with nothing but their passport.
However, it is worth noting that from the end of 2022, there will be an additional entry requirement for visa-free travelers in the form of the European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS).
This new visa waiver system is based on the ESTA for the United States. Visa-exempt travelers, including US citizens, will have to complete a quick ETIAS application online before heading to Slovenia or any other EU country. It will take a matter of minutes to register your details and then you will be set to travel.
This is doubly handy as it means that you only need one travel authorization to see both Slovenia and any other EU country.
Where is Slovenia located?
Slovenia is found in southern-central Europe, to the east of Italy, south of Austria, west of Hungary, and north of Croatia. It is at the very top of the Balkan Peninsula. It is mainly landlocked but has a small stretch of coastline on the Adriatic Sea.
Parts of Slovenia are mountainous, with the Eastern Alps running through the north of the country. This part of the country is popular with skiers and resort prices are much more reasonable than in neighboring nations like Austria and Switzerland.
Meanwhile, other parts of the country feature flat farmlands, dense forests (over half the country is forested), and Mediterranean beaches.
Things to do in Slovenia
There is no shortage of things to see and do in Slovenia.
For those interested in the history of the country, there are a number of impressive castles and forts around the country, some of which are complete with secret tunnel and passageways. A good example is Predjama Castle, home to Slovenia’s own Robin Hood figure, Erazem Lueger.
Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia, is well worth a look for a classic European city break. Baroque and Vienna Secession-style architecture can be found throughout the city, with landmarks such as the National Gallery, Ljubljana Cathedral, the Town Hall, and Dragon Bridge. The imposing Ljubjana Castle watches over the city and is a must on any trip itinerary.
If you are looking to relax by the Adriatic Sea, head for the coastal towns of Izola and Portorož and discover the short but beautiful Slovenian Riviera. Mesečev Zaliv Beach is a particular gem.
Take to the great outdoors in Slovenia
Slovenia really shines when it comes to outdoor activities. Hikers and climbers will love the mountainous terrain of the north, while the River Soča calls out to rafters to put on a wetsuit and take a ride along it.
Triglav National Park is a great place for nature lovers, with incredible views of the mountains, lakes, fields, and woodland. Activities from kayaking to skydiving and parasailing are all on offer here.
Lake Bled is another key item for your agenda in Slovenia. You can take a traditional pletna boat (similar to a gondola) out onto its crystalline blue waters to the island in the middle of the lake. Here, you can visit the Assumption of Mary Church and discover the legends that surround it. This Alpine location is renowned for its natural beauty.
The Slovenian Alps are also home to a number of ski resorts, such as Kranjska Gora, Bled Straza Ski Resort, and Krvavec Ski Resort. If you are into winter sports, these could be ideal destinations, boasting high-quality slopes and facilities at more reasonable rates than some of the more popular European skiing destinations.
The Slovenian underground
Slovenia is home to an extensive network of caves, some of which provide a unique experience to visitors. Postojna Cave is one of the most popular, with a 90-minute guided tour, including a train ride through the extensive caverns and intricate rock formations. If you are lucky enough to visit at Christmas, you can see a nativity scene with live actors performed inside the cave.
Postojna Cave is also one of the best places to see an incredibly rare animal — the olm. These snake-like salamanders live deep underground and have adapted to their environment, becoming totally blind.
When floodwaters washed them to the surface in the past, people thought they were the offspring of a dragon who lived in the cave,
Often referred to as “baby dragons” or “the human fish” (on account of the color of its skin) by the locals, olms can only be found in the caves of Slovenia and some of the surrounding countries.
Whether you are an outdoors adventurer, a lover of European culture, or are simply looking for a unique experience, a trip to Slovenia could be the thing for you.