After some fun outdoorsy trips like Ireland, Scotland, and Croatia, I was looking for somewhere that would have a similar feel. Slovenia proved to be another amazingly family friendly destination that had the perfect combination of fun for the boys and sight seeing for the adults. With just a few days to spare we were able to see everything on my list. Being a bit cheaper, we flew into Trieste, Italy where we rented a car and drove an hour to the capital city of Ljubljana. Know how to pronounce that? Neither did I. Thanks google!
Ljubljana is a charming and picturesque small city that reminded me of Bruges in Belgium. It’s very walkable and does not have a lot of “must see” attractions. One of those places you just walk around and eat street food and listen to street performers. These are my favorite cities in Europe. I just like to eat and take pictures of architecture.
We arrived at night and checked into Hotel Emonec (highly recommend) before heading out to the main square for snacks. I saw that there was an illusions museum nearby that looked similar to the one we enjoyed in Edinburgh. While the boys had a good time, it is much smaller and only took about 40 minutes to complete. Afterwards we had some of the best gelato I’ve had in Europe….you need to stop by Gelateria Romantika during your visit. Strawberry. You’re welcome.
The next morning we walked around Old Town a bit more before heading 40 minutes south where we planned to meet some friends for the day. We have been following the Grassel family around the globe for 9 years now. First Japan, then Florida and now Europe. Our lives have always run parallel and it’s nice having another family that lives a similar lifestyle. They had recommended meeting at Postojna caves since it’s a popular day trip from where they live in Italy.
Postojna caves are the longest cave system in Europe at 24 km long (and pretty old too- at 2 million years). It’s so large you actually get to ride a train through them, which is actually pretty exciting. You constantly feel like your head is going to hit a stalactite. Slovenia is worth visiting simply for this attraction alone. My boys loved the train ride and walking throughout.
Our next stop was 9km north at Predjama castle, a 13th century castle built within a cave. This is one tourist destination that looks exactly like the pictures online. It’s that beautiful. It’s made its way onto my favorite castles list because its got the full package. Not only is it beautiful but there is so much to see inside. From hidden caves to torture chambers and weaponry. Self guided tour headphones are provided with the cost of admission and you’ll learn quite a lot. My favorite thing about this castle was the weapons display as it really puts into perspective how violent the time period was. Morning stars, anyone?
Our next stop in Slovenia was Lake Bled, somewhere I’ve always wanted to visit during the summer months but in retrospect I’m glad we went off season. The changing leaves were gorgeous and the lake not crowded at all. Not being able to swim in the lake was quickly forgotten due to the unexpected upgrade at our hotel. We had booked fairly cheap stay at the 3 star Hotel Savaca only to find out we had been upgraded to its 4 star sister hotel Hotel Golf. I don’t even know how much it would have cost to book there but let’s just say my boys loved it so much Kellan cried when we left…. and asked if we could move there. The pools were amazing. It was an entire complex of pools for all age ranges and the best was the heated outdoor pool overlooking Bled castle at night. We ended up spending more time there than the actual lake.
My absolute must do excursion for the Lake Bled area was to hike the 2 mile Vintgar Gorge to Sum waterfall. It’s a hike along raised wooden platforms along the water, similar to that of Plitvice lakes in Croatia. We woke up, ate breakfast and headed directly to the Gorge. About 10 minutes in we came to a gate and discovered the rest of the path was closed for maintenance. My heart just sank because it was beautiful outside and our only day we could make the hike. In my mind all I could think about was the FOMO I would forever have from coming all the way to Slovenia and not seeing Vintgar Gorge and the waterfall.
Back at the gorge entrance I noticed an unmarked path leading up the mountain. We decided to start hiking up the mountain in hopes that maybe it was an alternative route to the waterfall or it at least gave us views of other parts of the gorge. We hiked for about 20 minutes uphill with no signs of anything we wanted to find, all the while the trail becoming more and more dangerous with the path being right on a mountain cliff. We eventually ran into a woman on her way down that spoke little english but managed to tell me that the path did lead to the waterfall but that it was a long ways away. Having come so far already I didn’t want to turn around but Ben was more than happy to take the kids back to the car and wait for me.
I now understand why so many women enjoy traveling alone because the hour I had solo in the Julian Alps was one of the most peaceful and reflective times of my life. The views were just breathtaking. I eventually started coming down the mountain and crossed paths with a elderly man cutting wood who helped point me into the direction of the waterfall. A short time later I realized I was heading towards a small village. I came upon another man leading his horses out to pasture and he directed me to the village which would have signs for the waterfall.
Pulling out my phone I gathered that Ben was only a 20 minute drive away and could actually meet me there. Having originally planned to hike the gorge to the waterfall I had no idea it actually had a car park and you could drive right up to it. So here I am walking through these people’s muddy horse pastures with them probably thinking I’m a crazy person. I need to say that the people in Slovenia are the kindest and most helpful people.
Sum waterfall was worth the trouble. There is a bridge that walks right over its top and I had the place to myself until my family arrived…another reason why I love off season travel.
The rest of our day was spent around Lake Bled taking in the sights. Our first stop was to Bled castle which has the most incredible views over the surrounding area. It’s the oldest castle in the country- first on record in the 11th century. The castle itself was not much of an excursion with just a couple courtyards and towers but you come here for the view. Down below you can see the Church of the Assumption, another popular attraction at Lake Bled. You can take a boat out to the island but with such short time I was happy just seeing it from above.
We spent some time down by the lake riding ponies, feeding the ducks and listening to live music (polka!). There are stalls with wine tastings, cafe’s and of course…lots of places to stop and eat Bled cream cake. A lot of places seemed to be closed and I am not sure if that was because it was a Sunday or because it was off season. I imagine the lake is quite lively in the summertime.
On our way back to Italy we hit a snow storm and I was thankful we got to see the snow but didn’t have to walk around in it since we were very limited on clothing.
Slovenia is a country I feel doesn’t get enough love from U.K. tourists. Probably because it borders Italy and Croatia which are very popular travel destinations. However, you really need to spend a couple days here, especially if you have children. It’s very safe, family friendly, and affordable.