Road tripping is a popular form of travelling, especially overseas, where proper road trips take hours or even days. Slovenia, is one of the most underrated countries with many people skipping it in favour of its neighbours. Slovenia is right in the middle of everything. It borders Italy, Croatia, Hungary, and Austria, all of which bring a number of tourists every year.
It is fairly easy to take the main road from any major city and end up in Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia. There is also much diversity in its landscape. In a couple of hours you can go from the Mediterranean to the Alps to the Carpathian Basin to the east. Not to mention the Karst region with the many intricate caves all underground.
The best possible way to start your Slovenia road trip experience is to rent a car (rent a car here) in Ljubljana and go from there, especially if flying into Ljubljana. The airport in Ljubljana provides a car rental service and it might be the easiest way to start exploring Slovenia by car.
Rent a car
In any bigger city of Slovenia if you are not arriving to Slovenia directly to its capital there is nothing to worry about when trying to rent a car. Car rental companies in Maribor, the second biggest city of Slovenia, are available, as well as in Celje, Nova Gorica, Novo Mesto and Koper.
Each of these cities are located in a different area of Slovenia with their own unique characteristics. Since Slovenia is small, the best possible way to get a feel of this jewel of a country is to rent a car at one point, travel through the country and return to the starting point.
So much variety in such a small country provides travellers the opportunity to absorb it all when they decide to see it all. Starting from Ljubljana as the most central point there are no rules on where to go and how to start the Slovenian road trip but there are definitely things worth seeing in every part of the country.
The northwestern part of Slovenia is famous for Lake Bled which is located in the foothills of the Julian Alps. The lake is compact, and ringed by forested slopes that look out on to the enchanting island in its centre. Bled Castle dominates the north shore from the top of a sheer cliff face. Travelling only to Bled there are a number of destinations to see in the area. One of them, Lake Bohinj, which is approximately 30 minutes away from Bled and a “must see” in Slovenia. Lake Bohinj lies in the only Slovene national park, called Triglav national park (Triglav is the highest mountain in Slovenia).
There are many biking routes around lake Bohinj. While being in the NW part of Slovenia, road tripping can truly begin by driving to Kobarid, Tolmin and river Soča, which had had songs written about for being beautiful and strategically important. For history buffs, the river Soča held the biggest battle for Slovenia in the World War I.
Heading southwest you will find the Karst region which is know for it’s wine and caves. The Karst region is a limestone plateau stretching from Nova Gorica southeast to the Croatian border, west to the Gulf of Trieste and east to the Vipava Valley. Rivers, ponds and lakes can disappear and then resurface in the Karst’s porous limestone through sinkholes and funnels, often resulting in underground caverns like the caves at Škocjan.
Along with caves, the Karst is rich in olives, ruby-red Teran wine, pršut, old stone churches and red-tiled roofs. Another must see is the Postojna caves among other things you will see a rare animal – proteus – otherwise knows as the “human fish” by locals because of its skin colour, similar to that of white people (translated literally from Slovene).
For those of you who love animals a trip to Lipica is in order. As the birthplace of the famous Lippanzer breed, Lipica is heaven for horselovers the world over and a beautiful place for a peaceful, relaxing break from the stresses of everyday life. The Lipica estate is a cultural and historical monument to the Slovene people and you too will fall under its spell as Lipica draws you in and leaves an unforgettable ‘hoofprint’ in your hearts.
From Lipica you can make it to the Slovenian coast in about 30 minutes by car. It may have only 42km of coast but in Slovenia it’s quality not quantity that counts. Squashed between Italy and Croatia, the Slovenian coast is full of colourful Italian-style fishing villages, olive groves and clean, clear water. It’s an idyllic place to go for a slice of Mediterranean sunshine. Another “must see” of the coast are the Slovenian saltpans.
The Piran salt pans are among those rare salt pans in the world where salt is produced using centuries-old processes, involving entirely natural crystallisation, working by hand and employing tools and procedures used by Slovenian forefathers.
Continuing your Slovenian road trip experience travelling to the southern and southeastern part of Slovenia the region consists of three sub-regions called Dolenjska (former Lower Carniola), Bela Krajina and Kočevsko – Ribniško.
The Dolenjska is covered with hills and is known for its scattered vineyards and vineyard cottages where friendly and hardworking winegrowers make one of Slovenias most well known wines called Cviček. Needless to say the drive is spectacular.
If you decide to take a break from driving the river Krka is the perfect place to take a dip in it’s refreshing and pristinely clean waters. Krka river is one of the most well known rivers in the Dolenjska region and is the only Slovene river that forms tufa in its riverbed. The valley of Krka river is a unique symbol of Dolenjska with its inseparable intertwining natural and cultural heritage. It is emphasized by the disappearing legacy of bygone water-mills, preserved wooden bridges, numerous castles and settlements on its banks.
Continuing your Slovenian road trip up to the northeastern part of Slovenia, the road will lead you to Maribor, Slovenias second largest city. To a primeval forest, mighty waterfalls and a wonderful peat moor with its shining lakes and to border localities with their exceptional natural and cultural heritage, between a rest and refreshments in friendly places. Make your way to the Šentilj trail and it will lead you through forests, along the river Mura, between vineyards, over meadows and fields and through settlements in the Šentilj municipality. The locals in this area speak a completely different dialect to the rest of the country. While you are there be sure to try one of the best desserts from Slovenia – Prekmurska gibanica. The best way to translate the name is “folded cake”.
Driving through the northern part of Slovenia making your way back to Ljubljana you will come across many interesting and beautiful places. Nature exemplified. There are lots of mountains in the area that are easily accessible so everyone can find their way to the top. For those who crave adrenalin a stop in Kotečnik is a must. Kotečnik is Slovenia’s largest climbing area with 300+ single and multi-pitch climbs. With most of the walls hidden in the beech forest near the 3rd largest town Celje it offers a great spring to autumn nature refuge from the crowds.
A little something for everyone
It is safe to say Slovenia provides you with sights you will never forget and will leave you speechless. Hitting the road is the best way to see things that intrigue you personally and gives you control over choosing where to go. Renting a car in Slovenia gives you the ability to access areas where no bus or train is going and are so breathtaking you will not regret the decision of making a road trip to see Slovenia.