Slovenia – a holiday treasure trove of endless possibilities
The crossroads of Europe. The sunny side of the Alps. The only country with love in its name. Slovenia has many nicknames. All of them positive, and all ring true. Here’s another one: The perfect family holiday destination. Want to know why?
A kingdom of natural diversity
First off, Slovenia is not a kingdom, it’s a democratic republic. Wedged between Italy, Austria, Hungry and Croatia, it’s the most modern of the former Yugoslav states and has been an EU member since 2004. Why the boring stats, you ask? Because you might not know where and what Slovenia is. Now let’s get to the fun part and see what makes it a prime family holiday destination.
Here’s where the kingdom part comes in. Slovenia is a magical place. In every sense of the word. As it is with people, so it is with countries: our first impressions are based on physical appearance. And Slovenia is a stunner. A true natural phenomenon.
It’s comprised of four main regions. There’s the Alpine mountain range stretching over its north and northwest, broad wooded lowlands to the east, and the windy Karst and the sunny Mediterranean in the southwest.
These regions blend together with rolling hills, gorges, caves, lakes, waterfalls, rivers, and endless forests. Like Narnia (which was filmed here, btw), except better, because it’s real. Every inch of Slovenia’s countryside has something to walk through, swim in, cycle across, climb up… the list goes on. And the towns and villages are just as diverse as the nature that surrounds them.
Families will have so much to see and do they won’t know where to start. Luckily, we do. So, grab your passports and let the adventure begin!
The must-see checklist
The best place to start is in the heart of it all. Like the country itself,
Slovenia’s capital Ljubljana is small, green and charming. Kids and parents will go nuts exploring the Old Town center packed with history, culture, and attractions. Bridges with dragons, boat rides down the river, lovely parks, markets, museums, restaurants, and a castle on a hill overlooking the town. You can walk everywhere, find information in any language, and mingle with the friendly locals.
Daytrips to and from Ljubljana are easy-peasy. You can reach anywhere in Slovenia within two hours. And by anywhere we mean anywhere. A fifteen-minute drive from the capital will instantly teleport you to the countryside. It’s an open road from there.
Heading north to the Julian Alps, a whole new world appears. Outdoor activities are in their hundreds. Cable cars to mountaintops, hiking down well-marked forest paths, swimming in lakes, rafting down rivers, cycling through valleys, camping, or glamping – the mountains shall provide. There are numerous benefits of outdoor play for children.
One of your first alpine pitstops should be Lake Bled. You can take a walk by or have a dip in its beautiful lake. Bled has a cool castle with an awesome view, and its lake has an island in the middle with a church on it. Hitch a boat to the island, ring the bell in the church, and make a wish.
If your wish was to see another amazing alpine lake, then consider it granted. Not far from Bled, there’s Lake Bohinj. This one doesn’t have a castle or island, but it has an insanely wonderful location and a Savica waterfall nearby. The hike to the waterfall isn’t that demanding, so take your kids along.
Moving away from the gorgeous lakes, perhaps stopping off at an amazing gorge or checking out the wonderful woodland of Pokljuka, it’s family time in Kranjska Gora. This is Slovenia’s top alpine family destination. Whether you’re up for a laid-back holiday, an active adventure, or a combination of both, Kranjska Gora has your family covered. By the way, does your family float? Go for some river rafting at Bovec down the emerald Soča River to find out. The braver teenagers might even want to try out canyoning or kayaking.
Now let’s travel to… wait! We almost forgot. Lakes, hills, mountains… they must be incredible to visit during winter. They are! From November to late March, the Slovenian Alps, with all the places we’ve mentioned, transform into a proper winter wonderland. Skiing is Slovenia’s national pastime. In fact, we specialize in the sport. In winter, Bled, Bohinj, Kranjska Gora, and many more double as superb ski resorts and become perfect family ski holiday destinations.
The cavy Karst and the carefree coast
OK, now we can continue our trip. Traveling southwest takes us to the land of mythical castles, magical caves, vanishing lakes, and dancing horses. Your kids won’t want to leave. No, it’s not a fairy-tale. But it might as well be. We’re talking about Slovenia’s Karst. If you’ve never seen an ancient castle perched in a giant cliff, now’s your chance. No wonder the Game of Thrones author simply had to take a picture at this legendary place. All that’s missing is a dragon in a cave.
Well, most Slovenian dragons now live in Ljubljana, but the Karst is where they’re born. Say what? Yes, just down the road from the medieval rock castle is the world-famous natural wonder called the Postojna Cave. Your family can hop on a little train that takes you deep into the underground filled with unbelievably beautiful stalactites and stalagmites. It’s the home of an indigenous Slovenian creature called the human fish. Or a “baby dragon”. Yup, it’s all true.
Also, it seems Slovenian lakes aren’t the only awesome things that come in pairs. The Postojna Cave’s neighbor is its UNESCO-protected cousin, the Škocjan Cave. Actually, it’s a whole system of caves with the highest cave bridge in the world, but who’s counting. For more nature’s magic tricks, your family can also take a stroll around the nearby Lake Cerknica. Did we mention it can vanish?
Not only lakes, Slovenian animals are also natural magicians. We have dancing horses, too. On your way down to the coast, you should definitely make a quick detour to Lipica. It’s the home of the famous white Lipizzaner horse. Kids will have a blast at Lipica’s Stud Farm, while parents will enjoy sipping the local wine and looking at the region’s typical stone houses.
From alpine pastures to the sea! Slovenia’s coastline isn’t long, but it has that Venetian vibe. In addition to the obvious seaside activities, Piran is an old postcard-perfect Slovenian town that has to find its way onto your family’s itinerary. Besides the sea and air, there’s another salty experience on the Slovenian coast, and that’s the Sečovlje Saltworks. What a way to round up your seaside trip.
Forests and plains of the east
Over to the eastern part of the country, where the forests, fields, and meadows make up a fantastic countryside tour. Maribor and Celje, the 2nd and 3rd biggest towns, are great for exploring another side of Slovenian urban life. Maribor is located right next to Mariborsko Pohorje, the largest ski resort and lovely hiking area. Celje is full of Slovenian history and… a castle, of course.
Up near the Hungarian border lies Ptuj. It’s the oldest Slovenian town (from the Roman days) and the hardest to pronounce in English. If you visit Ptuj in mid-February, your family can indulge in an old Slavic carnival. So much delicious food and crazy pagan masks it’s scary. But in a good way.
Last but certainly not least is the south-eastern part of Slovenia. The hills are covered with orchards and vineyards, and the people, like in the rest of the country, are very hospitable and kind. The region’s forests and rivers make it exceptionally suitable for peaceful forest walks and whitewater rafting. And when parents wish to relax and the children don’t, spas and big uncrowded waterparks are available.
In short: When you wake up in any of the country’s beautiful regions, you’ll have to pinch yourself, because exploring the natural and cultural wonders of Slovenia looks, feels, tastes, and sounds like a dream.
Sleeping & eating
During summer, camping, glamping, cottages, bungalows, etc. are the best way to experience the Slovenian wilderness. Towns are well-equipped with hotels that usually offer special cots, cribs, extra beds, and have family-size rooms, which means families can definitely look forward to a comfortable stay. In winter, ski resorts are extremely well-prepared with modern facilities, ski schools, snow parks, and mountain cabins ensure your family will have an authentic Alpine winter holiday. It goes without saying: Book accommodations in advance!
Also, be sure to visit an eco-farm or several. The best organic food and down-to-nature stuff. Worth it! Some farms even offer a special farm life experience your whole family will enjoy, especially the younger members.
As far as food in general goes – one word: tasty! Restaurants are child-friendly (high-chairs, children’s menus, etc). Don’t want a nice local dish? No worries, they’ve probably got pizza. Many inns and restaurants have playgrounds or even farm animals wobbling about. Supermarkets, shops and local markets are stocked to the brim if you really want to cook on your holiday. But be warned, shops don’t sell alcohol after 9 pm. Sorry, mom and dad…
When to go & how to get around
The answer to the question when to visit Slovenia is simple: Any time! The country is splendid all-year-round. The high season (December–February and July–August) and less high season (April–June and September) are both very much doable. Certain facilities and locations crowd up a bit during school holidays, but it never gets too busy for you to get the true feel for the place you’re at.
Getting around is a piece of cake. As mentioned earlier, Slovenia is small, so point A and point B are never far apart. Having your own vehicle is the simplest method, of course, but public transport is quite efficient. Slovenian car rental companies provide you with affordable vehicles and offer children’s safety seats as well. Then again, as distances between towns are not vast, a cycling holiday is also a wonderful idea. Ljubljana even has its own bike tour.
Another travel-related hint: Slovenia is a perfect springboard for visiting places like the Dalmatian coast, Venice, Vienna and Budapest. In case you run out of things to do. You won’t.
Dear holiday-goer, if you’ve come so far, you’re either a very persistent reader or you’re about to book your next family holiday in Slovenia. We’re sure it’s the latter.
To wrap-up… Dare we say Slovenia is likely the best all-around family holiday destination ever? We dare. Can we go as far as to say that nature, people, culture, history, local cuisine, and activities are fantastic? We can. Did we mention Slovenia is also super affordable? Probably. Just in case: Slovenia is super affordable. Oh, what about safety? Slovenia is the 8th safest country in the world.
We’ll let you plan your family holiday to Slovenia now.
See you on the slopes!