I have to admit, Slovenia had never made my bucket list. I’d always passed it over for better-known, “must visit” destinations, thinking my time was better spent elsewhere. I’d heard in passing about its gorgeous lakes and mountain trails but had it pinned as a niche backpacker’s destination. I’m happy to report just how wrong I was.
Tucked away only an hour east of Venice, Slovenia, affectionately known as “Europe’s Green Heart,” is a natural treasure. As the country unfurls before you, it’s impossible not to appreciate how green it is. And that’s not just subjective; it’s one of the most densely forested countries in Europe. Yet somehow, the landscape feels small, intimate, and wonderfully wild.
For me, travel is inherently tied with a sense of gratitude. The privilege to explore unfamiliar places, meet new people, and immerse yourself in the beauty of earth’s immense landscapes is something we should never take for granted. In Covid times, the sentiment is even more vital.
But to describe traveling around Slovenia, “gratitude” almost seems like an understatement. With the untouched expansive greenery and effortless yet immense natural landscapes, I felt humbled.
Slovenia really is Europe’s little-known natural treasure. And now, in retrospect, I don’t actually understand why it’s so underrated. Here are some of the most breathtaking places that prove exactly why you should visit Slovenia.
Lake Bohinj is the perfect day trip from Ljubljana, Slovenia’s capital and largest city (which we’ll talk about later). Sitting among the Julian Alps, its turquoise waters are breathtaking.
Despite being only a 30-minute drive from its more famous counterpart, Lake Bled, Bohinj enjoys a relatively small footfall. All the better for those of us who are in on the secret!
The pace of life on Bohinj feels lazy and mellow. While here on the water, go for an occasional dip and soak up the vast mountain views. Watch as the multi-colored paragliders float down from the alpine peaks until they make their graceful landings (and sometimes not so much). Find yourself a secluded beach spot by following the walking trail around the lake. Take a postcard-worthy photo at the Church of St. John the Baptist (where you’ll also find some of Slovenia’s oldest fresco paintings).
For the more daring, there are water sports, kayaking, stand-up paddle-boards, and more. Enjoy the lake view from a different perspective by taking a ride on the Vogel cable car to the upper station (not for those with a fear of heights).
Couple your visit to Lake Bohinj with a stop at Savica Waterfall. Driving up from the lake, you’ll be following the Sava Bohinjka River to its source.
The waterfall is renowned for its unique “A” shape—the result of a water flow divided underground—and vibrant emerald waters. The water flows straight out of the rock face, tumbling an impressive 256 feet (78 meters).
To reach the waterfall, it’s a climb up 500 steps. However, the hike up through the woods is a precious moment in nature in its own right.
The Tolmin Gorges is a testament to nature’s wild, unabashed beauty. This surging ravine, complete with astonishing rock formations, waterfall, and thermal springs, is located at the lower tip of the Triglav National Park.
A series of winding paths take you up, down, through, and around the gorges, inviting you to experience every inch of this natural wonder. In the summer months, the convergence of the Tolminka and Zadlaščica rivers becomes a wonderful spot for cooling off.
The glorious thing about the Tolmin Gorges is that it’s not pretentious or fussy. Visitors can stroll up and down freely; you may choose to leave the designated path (where it’s safe) and clamber down to the water level. The human touch has been kept to a minimum, so you really feel you are simply experiencing how nature intended this place to be.
Škocjan Cave is a complex underground world boasting rock formations, colossal caverns, and an underwater river. As you descend on your guided walking tour, there’s a palpable sense of going back in time. Considered one of the earth’s natural treasures, Škocjan Cave is thought to be up to 5,000 years old.
As you meander through, take in the immense scale of the cave system and admire the ancient stalagmites and stalactites. The Great Hall’s so-called “Giant” stalagmite, looming over you at a startling 49 feet (15 meters), is particularly impressive.
The guided tour comes to an end after about 30 minutes. At this point, you can take an early exit or continue independently. If possible, definitely take the second option. The path continues, and you’ll emerge into one of Slovenia’s largest collapse dolines—essentially a crater filled with greenery. It almost feels like you’ve stumbled upon a different planet. The extra hour or so is definitely worth it if you have the time.
Ljubljana and Plečnik House
A guide to Slovenia would be incomplete without mention of Ljubljana, its charming capital city. Stroll around the city center, and you’ll encounter cheerful streets with a lively irreplicable atmosphere. Small cafés and bars straddle both sides of the Ljubljanica River. On a Sunday, the west bank is rammed with eclectic antique market stalls if you happen to be there.
A little walk out of the center, you’ll find Plečnik House, a museum dedicated to Jože Plečnik, the mastermind architect behind Ljubljana’s best-loved buildings and monuments. This compact museum is housed in Plečnik’s personal residence, preserved precisely how he left it. Each room intimately showcases Plečnik’s genius and, in some cases, his eccentricity, giving incredible insight into his working processes.
Towards the end of the tour, you come to a conservatory of sorts. It’s a glass-walled room on the house’s exterior where Plečnik kept a variety of plants. The architect articulated his deep respect for the natural world in the door to this room. Deliberately small, visitors must stoop to enter the conservatory. The tour guide says the room was meant to reflect a profound honor for nature.
As you wander out into his garden, you notice the cobbled path fades stone-by-stone until it is subsumed by the grass. This, our guide tells us, is meant to represent a symbiosis of human touch and nature.
Visit Slovenia: Europe’s Green Heart
You can find this synergy in most of Slovenia. It’s a country where nature sprawls freely and where the wonders of the natural world are celebrated. It’s where an equilibrium with nature has somehow prevailed.
While exploring Europe’s “Green Heart,” you can’t help but feel gratitude for the resilience of nature and the fact that we can still experience it unblemished.
Looking for more Slovenian inspiration? Check out our Ljubjana Itinerary: A Weekend in Slovenia’s Capital.