My home country Slovenia is one of the smallest in central Europe but also one of the most diverse and full of natural and cultural richness. Just recently, Slovenia was recognised as “The world’s most sustainable country” by National Geographic Traveler magazine (click to read more) which makes me very proud. It means that sustainable and green tourism practices are becoming more and more popular, and every tourist in our country has a chance to contribute to protecting our natural wonders and wildlife. Here are some of my ideas how to enjoy awesome outdoor adventures in nature near Ljubljana, the capital city of Slovenia.
The Soča River, also called “Emerald Queen of the Alps”, originates in a remote valley in the heart of Julian Alps, flows along the Italian border all the way to its delta in Italy where it ends its journey in the Adriatic Sea. The region along the Soča River offers countless adventures and activities for families, adrenaline junkies or any other type of visitors. There are also many natural wonders to see, like picturesque waterfalls and canyons, full of emerald water and surrounded by lush green forest. We used to plan many family trips there to enjoy the fresh mountain air and fun-filled activities like rafting, kayaking, cannoning, fly fishing, cycling and hiking.
My last trip to Soča valley was in summer 2015 with a group of like-minded friends, together we walked from Učja River along the Soča all the way to Tolmin, a small touristic town. The journey was unforgettable, especially the day when we organised a small kayaking trip on the slow part of Soča, it was truly a thrilling experience! If you decide to visit this region, you will help the local communities to promote sustainable ways of tourism and keep protecting the natural habitats from destructible human activities.
Triglav National Park
The only National Park in Slovenia is located in the N-W part, where it covers our most mountainous region called Julian Alps. The park was named after the highest summit in Slovenia, mount Triglav, which I have not yet climbed (hopefully someday I will!). While the park attracts all kinds of visitors mostly in summer, my favourite time to visit is in early autumn when trees shine in their special colours. The easiest way to reach high altitudes by car is to take the curvy road to Vršič pass, which lies at the elevation of around 1600 m. It is a perfect base to start your hiking trip around the surrounding mountains using a well-marked network of trails.
If you are not into mountain hiking, I can suggest you to visit Lake Bohinj, the biggest lake in the park. It’s surrounded by mountains which reflect in the clear water and create beautiful sights. I spent many mornings on the shores of this lake, trying to capture the ever changing light and mist above the water. I can’t explain the feelings when I find myself truly connected with the surrounding nature… simply breath-taking.
Notranjska Regional Park
The southern region of Slovenia is a part of Dinarides range and full of natural wonders, influenced by the typical “karst” geology. A big part of this region called Notranjska is protected inside a regional park and most of the local people are interested in getting income from sustainable tourism and nature friendly activities. You can help them by taking guided tours (hiking, cycling or boating) or buying souvenirs at local markets.
The nature here is really special, and the main attraction is a seasonal lake near Cerknica, which turns into cultivated fields during dry season of spring and summer. After heavy rains in autumn, the water floods the fields and suddenly the whole area turns into a lake which sometimes freezes in winter. This winter there was less water but the cold temperatures turned the area into a frozen adventure land, and many people decided to go ice skating on the frozen water, including me and my family. Just a quick warning: beware of the bears which roam around the surrounding forest; although the encounters are rare, in spring time the female bears with cubs can be a bit dangerous (if you’re not scared, organised bear-watching is also possible).
Postojna and Škocjan caves
If you thought that Slovenia’s surface is beautiful, then be prepared to be blown away by the immensity of our underground wonders. There are more than 20,000 caves in my country, and every year even more are discovered! Most of them are closed for tourists, except for few which were turned into tourist attractions. Postojna cave is well known for the underground train ride which is a fun experience for kids as well as adults. Although, if you are interested in experiencing a much less crowded and a more natural cave adventure, I recommend visiting Škocjan caves.
Škocjan caves is a system of diverse underground and surface karst elements, protected as a regional park and on the UNESCO‘s list of natural and cultural heritage sites. The cave is the most important karst element, but the only way to see it is to book a guided group tour which leads you through the underground, taking a well maintained walking trail. I visit this place often and every time it leaves me overwhelmed, especially the part with the biggest underground canyon in Europe! Unfortunately, photography is not allowed inside the cave, so you will have to trust my words or see it with your own eyes.
Plitvice Lakes National Park
Plitvice Lakes is one of the most visited National Park in Croatia. Wait, what? Yes, Croatia is our neighbouring country. It’s not in Slovenia but I had to include this place in my list because it made such a big impression on me during my recent visit. The main attraction of the Plitvice NP are the hiking trails along the Korana River, which forms countless lakes and waterfalls on its way through the canyon.
I recommend visiting the park during off season (preferably March) because the ticket price is considerably reduced and the number of visitors is much less than during summer heat. We recently planned a family day trip by car from Ljubljana (the journey took 3 hours one way) and spent the whole day exploring the natural beauty of Plitvice. A true water paradise for all nature lovers!
If you are travelling on a tight budget, consider that most the places listed above offer quite expensive adventures. On the other hand, by paying for sustainable tourist options you also contribute a small part to keep the natural wonders protected. This way many other visitors can experience it even after you leave.