A Week in Slovenian Paradise
Slovenia is such a great little country. Its size, location, and rail network make it the perfect destination to explore by rail. It also sits as the perfect gateway between Western, Central, and Eastern Europe. Until recently, Slovenia may have slipped below mainstream tourism radars, leaving many of its top attractions for those in the know to explore in relative solitude. But that’s fast beginning to change as more and more travelers discover its natural beauty and inimitable charm. You could easily spend a week in Slovenia.
I first learnt about the country by accident when I overheard a traveler in a Vienna bar talking about a church on an island. Soon he had the attention of the whole room. He then showed us all the photographs, and we universally agreed that this was an unmissable attraction. And so, on that very night, I canceled my plans to head to Venice. I looked for a new route directly to the Slovenian capital and two days later I was standing on the edge of the same turquoise lake looking at that very church in real life.
1 week in Slovenia
In 2016 I had an opportunity to return to Slovenia, and I made a point of visiting two regions I’d been unable to explore on my previous trip.
Where did I spend my week in Slovenia?
- Lake Bohinj
Starting in Bohinj
I stood at the edge of Lake Bohinj in the early morning sunlight and knew I’d made the right decision to return to Slovenia. The clear water lapped gently at the shore as paddlers pushed their canoes out onto the glassy surface. The occasional whoop from paragliders above was the only sound to interrupt the otherwise deafening silence.
The day before had been a long and tiring one. It involved taking several trains and a short bus ride from Budapest. But as I stood at the foot of the glacial valley, I knew a few days in Slovenian wilderness was just what I needed. I took a look at the tourist map I’d grabbed at the hotel reception and set off on the quiet dirt track circumnavigating the pristine body of water.
Along the way canoeists appeared between the leafy trees lining the path; only the occasional hiker and a single cheery school group approached from the other direction. But for the most part, I was perfectly alone.
On the other side of Lake Bohinj I found a waterfall, and a stunning view of the way I’d come – and the long way I needed to return. Fortunately I stumbled across a wooden tourist boat moored on an otherwise abandoned pier. A short but scenic ride later, I was back where I started.
Returning to Ljubljana
Anyone who’s been to the Slovenian capital will tell you that there’s an appeal to Ljubljana that’s hard to describe, and even harder to dismiss. The focal point of the pedestrianized heart of the city remains the three bridges, market place, and riverside cafés and restaurants. But in just two years since my previous visit, the city also seems to be maturing and establishing itself as an essential European destination in its own right.
With extra time on my hands, I also decided to visit the nearby city of Kranj. It’s just a short regional train ride away from Ljubljana. Kranj is the fourth largest city in Slovenia, with a population in excess of 37,000. But on this quiet Sunday, the only people who populated the streets were a handful of bikers taking part in a low-key rally.
To the coast
Slovenia has a tiny slither of a coastline – just 46.6 km to be exact. It’s wedged between Italy and Croatia, with views across the Gulf of Trieste. The region is a beautiful amalgamation of cultures, architectural styles, and languages. It heaves with visitors in summer, and eases off along with the temperatures in autumn and winter.
I’d set my sights on the town of Piran. I boarded a train at Ljubljana station on an overcast morning, and arrived in the town of Koper a few hours later. The scenic route cut through mountains and alongside valleys and broke through clouds, before arriving at a quiet bus stop. I then boarded a bus to take me the last few miles to Piran.
The small bus delivered me at the waterside on the outskirts of the old town. The walk along the harbour’s edge offers the perfect introduction to Piran. In the distance the small peninsula of the old town jutted out into crystal clear water. Alongside me a handful of understated yachts bobbed on its gentle ebb and flow.
Paradise in Piran
Maybe it’s the clarity of the water, or the ample swimming pool like entry points. But the ocean in Piran has a strange pull that’s hard to ignore, even when the clouds roll in. I dropped my bags in the quaint hotel room in the heart of the old town and headed straight back out.
Three days in this Istrian paradise were enough to convince me that this must be one of the most unique coastal destinations in Europe. Stand at the water’s edge with the beautiful architecture of the old town at your back, and you can spot an array of marine life basking in the perfect conditions. Head up to the church or climb up the old town walls, and you have a perfect view of the thin peninsula pointing all the way across the ocean to Italy.
Deciding when to leave Piran, and Slovenia, wasn’t easy. Eventually the pull of Croatia just across the border grew strong. But this beautiful country tucked away in central Europe has so much to explore. And even though a week in Slovenia isn’t enough to fully explore its treasures, I had no doubt it wouldn’t be long before I returned on a future Eurail adventure.
More info for your own week in Slovenia
6 things to do in Ljubljana, Slovenia for first-timers
The best things to do in Bled, Slovenia
Outdoor activities near Lake Bled, Slovenia