It doesn’t always have to be a long distance trip. Right behind the Austrian border, you can find an unusual treasury. One that I’ve overlooked for years and recently discovered for myself. Together with my dearest travel friend Anne we took a road trip through Slovenia. Let me tell you this much: Slovenia will surprise you!
Slovenia Road Trip: Our Itinerary
We started our Slovenian road trip adventure in Graz. After I picked Anne up from the airport, we immediately headed south. At the last gas station before the border, we bought the motorway vignette for Slovenia for 15€ for 7 days. Find the current prices here.
Our first destination on our road trip through Slovenia is the city of Maribor, which is less than 20 km from the Austrian border. A few years ago we stopped here for dinner, but I didn’t really see anything in the city. So, Anne and I take half a day to explore the city.
The sights of Marburg can be easily combined with a pleasant walk through the well-preserved old town. We stroll past the cathedral, the university library, the bridge Stari Most, the main square and the Maribor Castle. The view from the other side of the Drava river is particularly beautiful. Before we leave Marburg again, we sit down in the cafe Čajek and enjoy a cup of tea.
Distance: 58 km | Time: approx. 1 hour
After a short and idyllic drive through the Štajerska region (Lower Styria) past green meadows, we reach the somewhat out of place Castle Olimje. Today the white-grey decorated castle is the home of a Franciscan order. To be honest, there is not much to see here, but the castle is a nice photo motif and an optimal stopover on the way to Ljubljana.
Distance: 120 km | Time: 1:40 hour
How come I’ve never been to Ljubljana before? Anne and I have the same thought when we reach the city border of the Slovenian capital.
After we checked into our accommodation, we immediately stroll into the old town. We discuss which city Ljubljana reminds us of. We come to the conclusion that it feels like a mixture of Graz with a Mediterranean touch, Klagenfurt and Prague. We simply feel at home here.
The next morning we start the day with a delicious breakfast in the Ek Bistro. Generally, we are both surprised about the high prices in the restaurants in Ljubljana.
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The rest of the morning we walk along the river Ljubljanica, pass the Congress Square and admire the well-preserved and cosy Old Town. We also take the funicular to the castle of Ljubljana and enjoy the wonderful view of the city.
Shortly before we leave again, Anne has another surprise for me: She has discovered a hotspot for street art in Ljubljana on the internet. So we drive to the mentioned place, which is called Metelkova. Unfortunately, the area didn’t convince us because it looks run down and abandoned. So your time is better spent in the old town.
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Distance: 67 km | Time: approx. 1 hour
In most travel guides and blogs you will search unsuccessfully for a mention of this renaissance castle. And so we are the only visitors when we arrive there. Although the weather only gives us a grey sky, the graceful castle is reflected in the surrounding moat.
For time reasons we leave only marvel at Grad Sneznik from the outside and set off again.
Distance: 47 km | Time: approx. 1 hour
When we arrive at Castle Predjama, we are speechless. Both of us had written down the castle on our Slovenia travel to do lists. Anne had already read a lot about Predjama, as the cave castle of Predjama is the largest of its kind. As a geography teacher, she has lectured on the castle several times and was now thrilled to see it with her own eyes.
The entrance fee of more than €25 does not stop us from visiting the cave castle. The audio guide leads us through the different rooms up to the actual rock cave. Even though I am not a big fan of audio guides, we learned a lot about the castle, its inhabitants and its history in Predjama – and that with some funny anecdotes.
Distance: 75 km | Time: approx. 1 hour
On the way to Piran, the landscape changes almost by the minute. We leave the inland of Slovenia behind us and reach the sea. Before we arrive in Piran, we drive along the coast and would like to spend a week in Slovenia to visit the small towns and relax.
Piran is compact, labyrinthine, sleepy and simply breathtakingly beautiful. Especially the Tartini Square (Tartinijev trg) and the view from the forecourt of the cathedral St. Georg impresses us. Also, the narrow alleys and the fact that we are almost the only tourists fascinates us.
The history of Piran is also interesting: During the last centuries, the city has belonged to different countries. By the way, Piran once belonged to Austria. In the architecture, the former affiliation to Venice is clearly recognizable.
While we walk up to the city wall Obzidje Piran and see the sun dive into the sea, I ask myself again how I didn’t know anything about this city for 26 years and how it could only pass me by.
Since we are getting quite hungry, we look for a charming place to let the day end. In the restaurant Gostilna Park Piran (Župančičeva ulica 19-21) we find not only a large menu but also delicious fish as it is rather typical for Croatia (the border is not far away).
Tip Piran: The city is basically a car-free zone. This means that only residents are allowed to drive their cars into the city centre. Visitors can check in at the hotel within 30 minutes and park their cars in a car park outside. Of course, there is also a shuttle back to the hotel.
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Our next stop on our road trip through Slovenia leads us through the Soča valley, where we visit two small towns.
Kanal ob Soci
Distance: 123 km | Time: approx. 1,5 hours
Kanal ob Soci is before all one thing: small. But that doesn’t mean the town would be boring, because we would stay here for a few days and jump into the river again and again for a swim.
Distance: 30 km | Time: approx. 30 minutes
Kobarid itself is relatively uninteresting, even though it has a nice town square. On a hill behind the town lies the Italian Ossuary, a memorial to fallen Italian soldiers in Slovenia. The military monument stands out thanks to its special architecture and can be seen from afar. It would be ideal to take pictures from the air – the missing drone (and the missing permit) let us continue.
Our next and last stop in the Soča valley is the Napoleon Bridge. Even though the bridge is beautiful and the surroundings invite you to take a walk, my enthusiasm is limited, because I had already seen the bridge several times on other blogs and especially Instagram and simply imagined it differently.
Via Tarvis and Kranjska Gora: Distance: 108 km | Time: approx. 2 hours
Lake Bled has long been high on my travel wish list. Right at the planning stage, it was clear that we wanted to save this lake for the last day in Slovenia – a highlight as a crowning finale, so to speak.
Anne and I are still joking about the lake that we have already seen on posters and screens and we don’t talk about Lake Bled anymore but refer to it as Instagram Lake or Insta Lake.
Of course, we also want the magnificent view over the lake with the island in the middle and the mountains in the background. We park our Mazda CX-5 on the west shore of the lake at a campsite and take a quick walk along the path that we expect to give us the panorama. We both expected a short walk and not a short hike. The view of Lake Bled was worth it though. This route takes you to the viewpoint.
Tip: It is essential to put on sturdy shoes, as it is partly steep uphill and the ground can be very slippery.
Tip: If you are afraid of heights, avoid the ascent and descent over the eastern part of the path and go behind the mountain to the viewing platform.
Verdict Lake Bled – does it live up to the promises?
Yes and no! Although we are both impressed by the beautiful view, I would have imagined the lake to be much bigger. In spite of the low season, the viewpoint was quite crowded – how will it be in summer? Lake Bled is a jewel in the Alps, no need to deny it. But I can’t understand the hype and would say the lake is a nice thing to do in Slovenia, but definitely not a must see.
Tips Slovenia Road Trip
- If you want to get to know Slovenia, it is best to drive your own car. Many of the beautiful places are difficult or impossible to reach by public transportation. Some of the routes suggested by the GPS system take you along unpaved roads. We were perfectly prepared for this with our Mazda allrounder and all-wheel drive.
- Don’t forget: Buy a vignette for the motorway!
- To explore the country without crowds of tourists, plan your trip in low season. Not only the hotels can get crowded, but also the parking lots in places like Predjama.
- A few days in Slovenia are the perfect way for a first introduction. The more time you have, the better you will be able to immerse yourself in the country and of course see more. From a few days up to two weeks you can experience a lot of variety in this small country. We will definitely be back soon to get to know even more of Slovenia.
- Road trips are better with good music. Here you will find 7 playlists that will make your next road trip even better.
Verdict Slovenia Road Trip
Where do I start? Slovenia surprised both Anne and me completely. From places like Predjama to the Soča valley to the breathtaking Piran – Slovenia should be on everyone’s travel wish list. And I will definitely not wait another 26 years until I spend time in Austria’s southern neighbour again!
↠ You want to see more than Slovenia? How about a road trip through Croatia? The two trips can also be combined perfectly.
And now it’s your turn: Have you ever been to Slovenia? If so, which places did you like best? Tell me them in the comments!
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