A tiny country in the heart of Europe with a population of not quite 2.1 million, wedged between Italy, Austria, Croatia and Hungary, Slovenia is often overlooked. But, in fact Slovenia has as much to offer and more than its larger neighbors, including a stretch of unique diverse coast on the Adriatic Sea, a capital with history and romance, rolling hills of vineyards and a rocky cave region as well as its own spectacular alps.
From adventurous, outdoor tour activities to a chance to immerse yourself in the food and culture of a still off-the-beaten-path European destination, Slovenia has much to offer on a multi-day tour of the country or region.
With its immaculately clean, postcard-perfect scenery and endearing people who will restore your faith in humanity, no wonder the national brand is "I Feel Slovenia." There is nothing here not to love.
Around 66 percent of Slovenia is forested and it is one of the few countries where you never have to wander far from the city to experience beautiful, well-preserved natural wonders. Crystal clear rivers flow wildly and abundantly offering kayaking, rafting and canyoning. Mountains sore overhead perfect for long hikes, ski and snowboard runs and jump-off points with your paraglide. Lush plains with green rolling hills criss-crossed with vineyards offer the chance to cycle, soak in a natural mineral water spring while watching storks and Ljutomer trotters, the snow-white locally bred racing horses. Slovenia is also one of the few countries where wildlife like cute brown bears are still plentiful.
These tours have a more relaxed itinerary which are also suitable for families with children. Adults can enjoy wines that hail from the three wine-growing parts of Slovenia are ranked some of the top in the world. Plus, due to climate and soil in Slovenia's wine-growing belt it has conditions similar to Burgundy, France giving it a startling variety of vines. You can find whites such as Rebula, Chardonnay, Sauvignon, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris, and reds such as Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Blue Franconian and Zametna Črnina (Black Velvet). Local concoctions such as Cviček are also said to work wonders for one's health. Spirits like fruit and berried flavored brandies are also made must-tries but in moderation, of course!
Thermal spas such as Moravske Toplice has a hotel where you can bathe in restorative hot waters or also swim in Bukovnica Lake which is known to have bio-healing powers. These tours give you the chance to relax in nature while also exploring small countryside villages and gain knowledge of the local traditions, customs and history in a more authentic way than in any classroom.
No one is considered truly a Slovenian until they have scaled the reputed three-headed monster, Mount Triglav. If you have a little hiking experience that you are looking to increase, then a self-guided three day hike up the 9,4000 foot mountain and around the lovely Triglav Lakes Valley is an excellent choice. Multi-day self-guided tours are available which provide you with all the equipment, transport and other logistics necessary while you can take in the alpine air at your own pace.
If you prefer exploring on two wheels try one of the cycling tours which are increasingly being offered as both guided and self-guided options. The Soca Valley with its dramatic mountain vistas and fresh emerald rivers is a perfect opportunity to try out your mountain biking skills. Dirt pathways follow the old World War I military road so ascents are never high and the knowledgable guides can fill you in on fascinating details about this period and you can visit rural museums and see artefacts along the way.
If you prefer a smoother trek on a paved road choose one of the tours which depart from Lake Bled and head south winding through idyllic vineyards and medieval castles down to the sea. Other tours start from Salzburg in Austria or Trieste in Italy before winding into the breathtaking Slovenian countryside or quaint fishing villages where you can sample local wines without having to worry about finding cozy accommodation each night.
Maybe you don’t want to get up and do the same thing you did the day before, maybe you are the type of person who hates routine and needs a different activity each day. Well, then mix it up! Multi-sport tours allow you to hike one day, cycle the next and jump in a rubber raft or wooden canoe after that. There are no rules for how to explore a country and with such amazing natural sites such as Kranjska Gora, an alpine village surrounded by the longest river in Slovenia (the Sava), the highest alpine range (Julian Alps) and beautiful preserved historical towns steeped in history. A multi-sport tour will allow you to see the sites in a new way each day.
Whether you like to have every step and tiniest detail of your trip sorted and micromanaged in advance, or you prefer to go with the flow and see what happens, there are still some considerations that can mean the difference between a a tour for the books and one that was just, well, alright.
Best Time to Visit Slovenia
Any time of the year will lead to an experience worth remembering. The winter is a great time for skiing in Kranjska Gora and basking under the heat lamp of an outdoor cafe in Ljubljana while watching the lights and partying Santas. The summer is ideal for hiking and visiting natural sights such as Vintgar Gorge, which are only open at this time of year. Of course, popular destinations can get packed during July and august so it's not a bad idea to go in Fall and Spring. In sum, anytime you choose to go will be the right time to visit.
What to Look for in a Tour to Slovenia
So many tour options and all of them have such raving reviews! How do you choose? You should consider what is most important to you, and others, if you aren't solo. There is a tour that caters to just about anyone's interests. Even short tours offer multiple activities for example taking a tour of a city while also trying out local cusine and/or drinks. In Soča Valley you can do an adventure sport like canyoning and then finish off with a guided tour of the nearby WW1 artefacts. If you don't want to do one of the things listed, find out if there is an alternative activity or if you can opt out and have some free time instead.
What bonuses do you want or expect out of your tour? Are you fine with the bare-bones minimum of an individual self-guided tour where you are simply given a bicycle and an itinerary or do you prefer a more social setting of a 12-16 person group with an experienced and knowledgable guide who takes the time to connect with you and provide you with insider tips and funny anecdotes about the places? Whatever your personality there is a tour for you. In addition, many operators will cater to specific needs or even tailor a tour to you, don't be afraid to ask!
It is a good idea to also read reviews to find out if there are any concerns or useful tips for tour-goers. And don't forget to scroll down and read the entire website and specific tour details. Even though most tour operators will give you important information in advance, there is always a chance they forget to mention a piece of pertinent information prominently displayed on their informational website, such as 'bring a dry change of clothes.' I'm sure you'll appreciate this attention to detail after a slick water adventure.
Typical Tour Cost
Tour costs vary depending on a variety of factors. For example, an eight day self-guided cycling tour starts at about $900. However, if you want to go during high season (usually from late April to late September) the price will increase slightly and the bicycle is an additional $110 or double if electric and if you do not want to share accommodation then that will usually tack on an additional $200.
Multi-day tours usually cover accommodation, ground transport, breakfasts and other costs. A guided 8-day tour that takes you around the country's top sites and includes comfortable accommodation costs around €1,500 ($1,800). There are even multi-country tours that are more expensive, but provide you with the right amount of time to get all of the highlights in at a group rate without all of the hassle of planning everything yourself. We all have the urge to save money, but sometimes it is better to pay more upfront rather than be surprised by unforeseen charges like entrance fees and restaurant tips later on.
Packing Tips & Gear Rental
Make sure to bring good solid walking shoes. Though the country is compact you will find that walking is a must as many places such as old towns and natural parks are closed to cars. Plus surfaces can be steep as its a hilly country and pathways may be pebbly or uneven especially when getting to magnificent vistas, castles and waterfalls. You should also bring rain gear as precipitation is fairly common.
Make sure to specify the gear you will need as things like walking sticks, crapons and other items are readily available to rent at all agencies that arrange tours. For bike tours they will usually ask you to bring your own helmet or you can rent one and for rafting and canyoning you need to make sure to bring a change of clothes.
Other Tips for Travel in Slovenia
Even after booking a tour it's a good idea to call ahead to confirm pick-up locations and other details. Occasionally tours get cancelled during off-season if there are not enough participants or if weather conditions are unfavorable so it's a good idea to make sure you are not left waiting and can take advantage of each precious moment in Slovenia.
This is Europe so no need to take any more precautions than you would in a typical industrialized first-world country. However, you should ensure you are up-to-date on routine vaccinations such as Tetanus and Mumps. Food is regulated by strict E.U. standards, however, a Hepatitis A vaccination is highly recommended to protect against the event of any contaminated food or water.
Slovenia is a safe country and even minor crimes like pickpocketing in the capital are rare compared to other cities in Europe. Even out at night in the capital, you have no cause for concern. That being said, roads can get very narrow and steep but not all drivers take precautions, particularly motorcyclists and as in other parts of Europe you should always check your rear view mirror and carefully read all road safety signs and advisories. If a sign says no bicyclists on a certain road they mean it.