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  • Day75

    A change of countries - we are now in Slovenia. Our home for the next three nights is Ljubljana, Slovenia's capital and largest city. It also happens to be one of Europe's greenest and most liveable capitals - the European Commission awarded Ljubljana with the coveted Green Capital of Europe title for 2016. Car traffic is restricted in the centre, leaving the banks of the Ljubljanica River, which flows through the city, free for pedestrians and cyclists. It has a great feel about it with its cafes set up along the river and its cobbled streets in every direction. The locals are friendly and chatty and speak excellent English. The Old Town sits on the right bank of the river directly below the Castle Hill. It is quite compact and easy to walk around (no cars) and enjoy its atmosphere.
    Many bridges cross the river, the most famous of which is Tromostovje (Triple Bridge), designed by architect Jože Plečnik, who tried to model Ljubljana on ancient Athens. The multitude of his creations in the city, referred to as a whole as "Plečnik's Ljubljana", is considered to be one of the 20th century's most important total works of art. Already we are wishing we had longer here....not just because of the delicious meal we just had, particularly the limoncello dessert!!
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  • Day13

    We arrived to Ljubljana at 2.20 a.m., but after a few hours of sleep somehow managed to get up rather early. On our way out to get breakfast we meet Ray, a guy from Melbourne who spent the day with us. He actually brought his bike from Australia to cycle the entire way from Milan to Athens!! 😱
    We had breakfast at Celica, the partner hostel of our's, which used to be a prison and has a decent morning buffet.
    Then we joined the free walking tour, went to the fruit & vegetable market and up to the castle. It already feels like having a daily new-city ritual. In the evening we had our usual mixed salad and then went down to the common area, where soon we got a group of people together to go out for another bit.
    Worth mentioning is our “hostel“: during the year, it is a university dorm (maybe the name Student's Residence should have been a hint), but in summer they take in travellers. It was fine for two nights, but I cannot imagine how people spend their whole university life here. Two persons share a room that is at most 10sqm to barely fit bed, desk and a little cupboard for each of them.
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  • Day14

    Today was adventure day! We hiked to Vintgar, which is part of the Mount Triglav (highest mountain in Slovenia) National Park. It's a beautiful river with crystal clear water flowing through tall rocks.
    Since we hadn't walked enough yet, we then also went all around Lake Bled (pictures in next entry), which is another 6km. On the way, we found a tree with a kind of swing that you could jump into the lake from like Tarzan.
    In sum, we walked a total of 25km, climbed trees, refined our swinging skills and swam. Useless to say that even the next day we'd still be tired, but happy about a great day.
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  • Day15

    We didn't want the rain to stop us from making something out of the day (which is not so easy in a purely outdoors-oriented destination like Bled). Thus, we took a bus to the close by lake of Bohinj, to at least walk around a bit and have some coffee.

  • Day325

    Aware that our time in Slovenia was soon to end, we travelled quite a long way today in order to reach Ptuj, a town in the North West that we'd heard was worth a visit.

    We stopped early on at motorway services to fill up with water, empty the van and give the batteries a direct boost with the electric plugin. Vicky took the opportunity to do yet more hand washing, filling our watertight washing barrel with water straight from the service point, rinsing and emptying the grey water down the waste hole.

    As we travelled, the valley floors stretched out further as the land became flatter. We started off by seeing many locals working the fields by hand, raking the hay and weeding the lines of vegetables, but gradually the agriculture grew in scale and tractors took over. There were faster road systems, larger shopping centres and more visible industry. Nature wasn't given the same amount of space here as in the South or North West but there was still a lot of greenery and we saw a couple of Skylarks just outside the van when we pulled up at the stopover, so we aren't complaining!

    Our two night stay was a layby 7km outside Ptuj. We'd found it in the pdf emailed to us by the Tourist Information board. It had a small wheat field separating it from the road and seedlings growing in neat lines on the other side. There were picnic benches and a portaloo but the trees planted along its length were still young and only provided a little shade for the van, that heated up to 29°C inside.

    There was a cycle track between the layby and Ptuj and we would have taken the tandem the following day had we not been worried about leaving Poppy for too long in the heat. As it was, we drove in to a car park Will had discovered on, only to find it had a 3.4m height limit. We retraced our tracks to an out of town shopping centre and found a handy extra long space. After picking up a few bits at the Inter Spar, we walked into Ptuj. It is a pretty town, its outstanding feature being its onion dome church tower. Although we passed one tour group and a souvenir shop, the rest of the place was pleasantly free of the tourist influence. The Lonely Planet had recommended a visit to the castle but we were beginning to wilt in the heat and didn't fancy hiking up the hill, so hung around the pedestrianised centre and bought ourselves icecreams instead! After choosing a potted marigold and geranium from a street stall, we picked up some new waterproof material for Poppy's bed and returned to the layby.

    As the afternoon began to turn to evening it was still nearly 27°C in the van and Will fancied a swim in a lake he'd spotted on the map just a couple of kilometres away. We cycled there and found some relief in a cooling breeze. Unfortunately for Will, the lake turned out to be a reservoir with steep concrete sides, so no swim today!
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  • Day14

    We started with a 2-3 hour walking tour of Škocjan Caves, a UNESCO world heritage site and one of the world's largest known underground river canyons. Like Croatia, Slovenia has over 11,000 caves due to so much of the geology being composed of limestone and other soluble rocks that create sinkholes and caves.

    Škocjan was different from some of the other caves we've visited (and you know we've seen many with our family), because of its very large "rooms"--up to 140 meters in height and maybe 50 meters across. We got to cross a bridge that was 45 meters above the underground river running through the cave. Some years the river floods the cave to as high as 100 meters!

    Photos weren't allowed in the cave because any artificial light causes algae to grow (they did have plenty of light for our walk, but they turn off when not occupied). We took a photo of the bridge we walked on from their sign outside. After about 3 km, we went on our own in a very open part of the cave along the river where we could take photos.

    On the recommendation of one of the guests we met at breakfast (we weren't the only overnighters after all), we drove from the cave to the farm where they breed the Lipizzaner horses. These are pure white dressage horses whose lineage dates to the time of the Habsburgs in the 1500s. They are born brown or black, but gradually turn white beginning around age six.

    Also in the area is Predjama castle, built into a cave. It was built in stages and used by various groups for protection as early as the 13th century. It was an interesting tour because of the ingenious ways they used the cave features to their advantage (cooking chimneys, fresh water collection, and a secret escape route). It was last used by an Austrian family for a hunting lodge until the end of World War II, when it was nationalized by the Yugoslavian government and turned into a museum.
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  • Day76

    Sorry for the little delay in posting this but whilst we are now in Austria, we arrived here from a stay in Lovely Ljubljana.

    The Slovenian capital is wonderful and there was so much going on.

    We had an idea of a couple of things that we wanted to see but had no idea that there would be so much else on offer else we would likely have stayed for more time. Also we only really saw two other places in Slovenia other than Ljubljana but I get the impression that there is so much more to experience. Our host and his friends told us of so much more.. definitely one to add to the future holiday list!

    We arrived on the Thursday and spent most of the day chatting to our new Slovenian friends. Later in the evening we did pop into town to try some Slovenian food - more of that in a separate post as I must elaborate on the food we had whilst here as it was so fantastic!

    Friday we knew that the Tour of Slovenia was taking place so we headed to the HUGE Tivoli Park to watch the start. Got up close to Mark Cavendish was definitely a highlight. Not such a grand scale as the Giro in Italy but great atmosphere. Once the race started we toured the park on the bikes that were included with the place we rented. Things were going well until Stuart snapped the pedal and the pedal arm clear off his bike with his brute strength.. so we were walking after that..! heading back in to the centre of the city we found the weekly Friday food market, and aren't we glad we did, amazing food.. again. After lunch the heavens opened and we waited - luckily undercover - for the end of the race. There was a nasty crash just before the finish but an exciting finish nonetheless.

    Taking the broken bike back to the flat our host was very understanding as I suspect the bike was not brand new. We then wandered back into the city for a bit of sightseeing on foot and another lovely meal.

    Saturday Stuart had discovered a board games cafe so we headed there. Great place, lots of games and good coffee. After this we had read of a burger and beer festival - right up our street :) in the centre. We then visited Ljubljana Castle where we finally got to ride in a Funicular. Having missed out on a couple of previous chances to go in one. We then had an amazing tour where they get actors to reenact stories detailing the Castles past as a penitentiary in different parts of the castle. The attached picture is taken from the viewing tower for which we had to climb the spiral stairs.. my height fright returned but it was worth battling through it for the incredible view. Apparently you can see a third of Slovenia from up there.

    From the castle we headed to an area called Metelkova. It is covered with Graffiti and is like the 'alternate' area in Ljubljana, It was a "former barracks complex of the Yugoslav Army" according to our guide. We were here specifically as it was the start of Ljubljana Pride. As proud allies to the LGBTQ community we enjoyed the parade through the city streets to loud music and surrounded by lots of colour as you will see! Incredibly that was not all as we stumbled upon an open air concert set up. Turns out we had arrived in time to get seats to a free concert by the Slovenian Philarmonic Orchestra. Accompanied by a mezzo-soprano they covered various famous opera and show tunes.. amazing music and luck for us!

    To say that we had to choose to miss a wine festival shows you how much there was to do! Definitely top of my "will come again" list so far..

    But the food, oh the food, it really does deserve a separate post...
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You might also know this place by the following names:

Republic of Slovenia, Slowenien, Slovenia, Slowenië, Slovinia, ስሎቬኒያ, Eslovenia, سلوفينيا, ܣܠܘܒܢܝܐ, Sloveniya, Славенія, Словения, Sloveni, স্লোভানিয়া, ས་ལཽ་ཝེ་ནི་ཡ།, Slovenija, Eslovènia, Slovinsko, Slofenia, Slovenien, སིལོ་བེ་ནི་ཡ, Slovenia nutome, Σλοβενία, Slovenio, Sloveenia, سلوانیا, Slowenii, Slovénie, Slovènie, Slovenie, Sloveenje, An tSlóvéin, સ્લોવેનિયા, Sulobeniya, סלובניה, स्लोवेनिया, Słowjenska, Szlovénia, Սլովենիա, Eslobenia, Slóvenía, スロベニア, სლოვენია, ស្លូវេនី, ಸ್ಲೋವೇನಿಯಾ, 슬로베니아, سلۆڤێنیا, Sirovenya, Slovenië, Siloveni, ສະໂລເວເນຍ, Slovėnija, Slovēnija, Словенија, സ്ലോവേനിയ, स्लोव्हेनिया, Slovenja, စလိုဗေးနီးယား, स्लोभेनिया, ସ୍ଲୋଭେନିଆ, Словени, Słowenia, Eslovênia, Isluwinya, Siloveniya, Solovenïi, ස්ලෝවේනියාව, Republika Slovenija, Slloveni, ஸ்லோவேனியா, స్లోవేనియా, Eslovénia, สโลวีเนีย, Eslobenya, Silōvenia, Slovenya, سلوۋېنىيە, Словенія, سلووینیا, Xlô-ven-ni-a (Slovenia), Sloveniyän, Eslovenya, Orílẹ́ède Silofania, 斯洛文尼亚, i-Slovenia

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