Slovenia is a curious destination. It’s one of Europe’s newest countries, and it’s still regularly confused with Slovakia, so much so that the embassies apparently meet once a month to exchange incorrectly addressed mail. Although the country still flies under the radar for most travelers, it’s becoming more common to find Instagram posts of its turquoise waters, soaring mountains, and that inimitable church on an island. The secret of this beautiful destination is getting out.

There’s a lot going on in this small — just a little more than 100 miles across — country. The natural beauty is its principal drawcard, but the culture shared with notable neighbors Italy, Austria, Hungary, and Croatia make it a European melting pot. You’ll find towns that only speak Italian, or Hungarian, and dishes that could belong in any one of the neighboring countries. Despite these shared commonalities and apparent struggle for its own identity, there is without a doubt something truly unique about Slovenia that makes it worth going out of the way to travel to. Spend a week there exploring the quiet streets of Ljubljana, the beautiful coastal town of Piran, and paddling the pristine lakes of Bled and Bohinj, and you’ll figure out why Slovenia simply can’t be missed.

1

Ljubljana Castle

The most striking feature of the Slovenian capital, Ljubljana, is the castle-topped mountain at its center. It’s a small tree-lined peak that you can ascend on one of several paths, and the view from the top is impressive. If you’re looking for a view of the hill and castle, you’re better off walking the spiral staircase at Nebotičnik, where you’ll also find a rooftop bar and coffee shop.

2

Pedestrianized streets of Ljubljana

In spite of Ljubljana being the state capital, there’s a peace and tranquility that’s not often found in cities. That probably has to do with the fact that no motorized traffic is permitted to pass through its streets.

3

Seaside town of Piran

Slovenia may only have a 28-mile coastline, but with beautiful towns like Piran, which could just as easily be in neighboring Italy, it’s well worth a visit. You’ll enjoy all the bliss that makes the coastlines of Italy and Croatia famous, without the crowds.

4

The other side of Lake Bohinj

The shores of Lake Bohinj are easy to navigate on foot, and they take you through forests and along tranquil stretches until you emerge on the far side of the lake, with this view all the way across to where you started.

5

Canoeing on Lake Bohinj

Canoeing on the pristine Lake Bohinj might be one of the best ways to experience this beautiful body of water. You can rent canoes at the main town on the water’s edge, or hop aboard a classic motorized wooden boat that’ll get you to the other side considerably quicker.

6

Kranj

Kranj is the fourth largest city in Slovenia, with a population of less than 40,000 people. It’s located just 12 miles northwest of Ljubljana, and easily reached by train on a day trip from the capital. Here you’ll find traditional Slovenian food and handmade crafts for sale in tiny stores dotted throughout the city.

7

Turquoise waters of Slovenia

The waters of Slovenia have a turquoise hue that make them truly incredible to view from a distance, such as from this vantage point in the castle that overlooks the famous Lake Bled.

8

Lake Bled

Lake Bled is the most popular tourist attraction in Slovenia for good reason - it truly is a surreal sight. Whether you choose to walk its circumference, snap an aerial photograph from the nearby castle, or embrace your inner tourist and row to the very church in its center, you’ll leave with a slew of jaw-dropping photos, and even better memories.

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