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Slovenia Itinerary Feedback

Hello, all:

My husband and I are planning about 2.5 weeks in Slovenia next mid-May/early June 2018, with a final few nights in Venice. This is our first trip to Slovenia and we're looking forward to getting to see a lot of the country on this fairly long visit. We are foodies and enjoy wine, hiking, bird & wildlife watching and other outdoor activities, and old cities and towns. We have begun to plot out our itinerary and could use advice on a few points. Here's what we have planned so far:

Days 1-4 -- Arrival in Venice, plan to take GoOpti transfer to Ljubljana; with a late evening arrival. Plan to stay 3 nights in Ljubljana, exploring the city on day 2. We will rent a car in Ljubljana and could take a day trip on day 3, and would love suggestions for where to go (that isn't already on our itinerary). A few spots that sound appealing are the Vellika Planina, Logarska Dolina or south to somewhere in the Krka area.

Days 4-7 -- We plan to stay 3 nights near Lake Bohinj, using it as a home base for hiking, as well as visiting Bled, Radovlijca, and Skofja Loka. From there we will head to the Soca Valley--it looks like taking the car train is the more direct route, but would we be missing out if we don't drive the Vrsic Pass?

Days 7-10 -- We have one overnight stay and dinner booked at Hisa Franko outside Kobarid--their restaurant was the initial inspiration for this entire trip! We want to stay 2 additional nights in the Soca Valley, and would love recommendations on the best place to stay as a jumping off point for hiking and river rafting, and also for good places to eat in the evening. We are considering Kobarid but also looking at Pristava Lepena in the Triglav National Park or Tourist Farm Kranjc. Bovec looks less interesting but if there is a strong argument for staying there instead we'd like to hear it!

Days 10- 15 -- From there we are planning to work our way south and use the small rural hotel of Domacije Sajna in Sepulje as our base for exploring the Vipava and Karst wine regions, with day trips to Piran, the Lipica farm, Skocjan Caves, Postojna caves and Predjama Castle. A brown bear watching excursion in the Loz Valley is also high on my list. Sounds like we can do some day trips by biking and other days we will need our car. Any suggestions, thoughts or concerns about this location as our home base?

Days 15 - 19 -- We'd like to head east for this portion of our trip, and haven't figured out where to base ourselves. We are considering Ptuj or Maribor, but are open to other suggestions. We plan to do more hiking, biking, winery visiting, and visiting Prekmurje to see nesting white storks is another must for me. A day or half day at a thermal spa would also be nice. Any suggestions on an itinerary and places to stay for this part of our trip would be wonderful. I think we'd be open to doing a series of one night stays or 4 nights in one location, whichever makes more sense.

Day 19 - we head back to Venice, where we'll spend a few days before flying home. We will either return our rental car in Venice or return it in Ljubljana and take the GoOpti transfer back to Venice. There is a $230 charge for returning the car in Venice, which is a lot but may be worth it versus the extra time it would take to go back into Ljulbjana and do a transfer, plus the cost of the GoOpti transfer. We've never been to Venice, and if driving into the Venice airport, where we would drop the car, would be a nightmare, that might influence our decision on this one. Advice welcome!

Thanks to all for any advice you can offer on this trip!

Posted by
4700 posts

Yes, you would miss the Vrsic Pass if you take the car train from Bohinj. It is an interesting road and some neat scenery over the "Julian Alps" loop - Rick Steves has a good guide for this drive in his Croatia/Slovenia book, so you should read it and see if what he describes would be appealing to you.

The $230 charge to drop in Venice sounds like a lot less than I've seen quoted for one-way drop fees - but what is the day rate for the car you are planning to rent? $15 USD per day booked in advance (not paid in advance) is not an uncommon rental rate in Slovenia, not counting extra insurance or renting an automatic (most rental cars in Europe are manual transmission by default; automatics usually cost more). You'll only be able to do a one-way rental from Slovenia to Venice with a big international car company I think, and you might get cheaper rates with local companies. I rented with Avantcar in May in Ljubljana.

If you do return the car in Venice, try to return it in Venice at Piazzale Roma, which is right in Venice (where the buses stop too) or at least Mestre by the train station instead of having to go all the way to the airport. I'd guess driving to the airport is easier than driving into Venice - not sure, I've never driven in Italy.

One alternative obviously is to pick up the rental car in Venice - to avoid GoOpti at all or a one-way fee. But that means you have to drive after a long international flight(?). Perhaps something to avoid.

I spent a night in Kobarid. Nice little town, not much to it. Do try to see the nearby waterfall Slap Kozjak. All the locals know how to get there - you park your car and hike about ten minutes to it.

I'd probably start east earlier in your trip if you want to visit Ptuj and/or Maribor and work your way west back toward Venice. If you end in say Piran, you can more easily get a shuttle to Venice (or to Trieste and take the train from there right into Venice). There's even a ferry from Piran to Venice but it's seasonal and I'm not sure it runs in May or maybe not every day.

An alternative to Maribor and Ptuj might be seeing more of Croatia e.g. Croatian Istria south of Piran. This would give you more time on the ocean. And you might add in the amazing Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia. Not to take away from Maribor and Ptuj - they are nice towns, but Ptuj is tiny and doesn't really require much time; I spent a few nights in Maribor on the way by train from Austria to Ljubljana, and I did a day trip to Ptuj from there. I enjoyed my time there - but I absolutely adored Rovinj (especially) in Croatian Istria, and I love the ocean, too, having a few extra nights near the sea would tug me in that direction.

If you want an easy day trip by train or bus from Ljubljana, consider the little town of Kamnik. Not much to it, but it's a cute town. You could do half a day there and have a little more time in Ljubljana, which doesn't really require days and days to see, but it is a lovely town to come back to at night. And you could rent the care one less day - just rent it as you head out from Ljubljana toward Skofja Loka and Bled. (Driving from Skofja Loka to Bled, be sure to take the scenic drive up through the mountains via Jamnik and Kropa, not the fast freeway via Kranj! The scenic drive up there is beautiful.)

Posted by
1427 posts

I am in almost full agreement with everything Andrew says.

In Kobarid, rather than driving to the waterfall, do the complete Kobarid Historic Trail, which has a detour to the waterfall. It's a terrific hike. And the museum (same link) is excellent if you are interested in WWI history.

Near Kobarid is Tolmin Gorge. You probably have Vintgar Gorge (near Bled) on your radar. Unfortunately that site was closed when I was there because they had suffered severe winter damage and weren't ready to reopen (this was early May 2014). But at the TI in Kobarid they suggested we check out Tolmin, and they said it's actually better than Vintgar. I can't say if that's true, but we were impressed.

The scenic route Andrew describes from Ljubljana to Bohinj is one of the most beautiful drives I've taken anywhere. And the drive over Vršič Pass is definitely worthwhile. You have a lot of time, and distances are short, so you shouldn't worry about taking a more direct route.

By the way, in Ljubljana, I think most people focus on the historic center along the river and up to the castle. But the neighborhood between the river and Tivoli Park, as well as the park itself, are definitely worth exploring. Some fascinating architecture (and the US embassy is in that area, maybe the cutest US embassy anywhere).

Posted by
4700 posts

Lane:

By the way, in Ljubljana, I think most people focus on the historic center along the river and up to the castle. But the neighborhood between the river and Tivoli Park, as well as the park itself, are definitely worth exploring. Some fascinating architecture (and the US embassy is in that area, maybe the cutest US embassy anywhere).

I've been to Ljubljana four times and I've developed a tradition: walk from Prešeren Square (at the Triple Bridge - for all intents and purposes, the center of tourist Ljubljana) south along the river. Eventually cross the first street with cars as you leave the pedestrian zone. Soon after, a little stream called the Gradaščica branches right; follow the street along the stream a little ways, and eventually you'll come to the big church on your left called the Trnovo Church (aka Cerkev sv. Janeza Krstnika). The lovely little bridge in front of it with the statues was another designed by architect Jože Plečnik, called the Trnovo Bridge. Plečnik's house that you can tour is right behind the church as I recall.

But if you don't visit the house, just make a right turn at the bridge and walk back up toward the center of Ljubljana - to the area Lane mentions. Tivoli park is big and pretty nice, and there's even an outdoor photography exhibit right in the park closer to the entrance. I explored one of these exhibits one rainy Monday in Ljubljana when most of the museums were closed and there wasn't much else to do; it was surprisingly fun with a good umbrella.

I haven't been to Vintgar Gorge since 2011, but in May of 2017 I was back in Bled, and I saw a schedule posted for an hourly shuttle from town to Vintgar, so I assume the hike is open again, if it was closed in 2014. Vintgar didn't impress me quite as much as it seems to impress others. I would recommend the hike if you are in the area for sure and have the time, but if you have better options for hikes I'd consider them instead. I haven't hiked in the Tomlin Gorge.

Posted by
19519 posts

I think Ljubljana is worth more time than you're giving it, but I have no suggestion about what to cut to make room for that. You've done a lot of really good research to come up with places and activities that align with your interests.

I'm not sure, though, that you need to see both cave systems. And I agree that Plitvice is incredible; just don't try to squeeze it in by driving 2-3 hours from wherever you're staying the night before.

Posted by
470 posts

Wow, what a well-researched itinerary!

You have received some great input and while I understand the urge to include some Croatia into your itinerary, I feel as though you don't have time, at least not enough to do any sort of exploration at the level you'd be doing in Slovenia. So I'll just add some thoughts about the less-visited east of the country. Maribor and Ptuj are nice towns even if they don't take as much time to see. However, the countryside in the east is the real gem and quite a constrast to the western half of the country, as is the culture and the food you'll encounter, so it's worth delving into it. I suggest looking into adding a stop in the Jeruzalem wine region, located roughly between Ptuj and Prekmurje. Dine at Gostilna Tramsek in Zerovinci, on the edge of the Jeruzalem area. It's an unassuming building but the food is great and you'll experience a modern take on the local foods of the east of Slovenia, very different from what you'll encounter in the west, much like the wine region itself. There are about a dozen spas in this area, so you can combine a visit to a spa with staying just about anywhere in the east. This is also the flattest part of the country, which is ideal for cycling.

Some other thoughts:

Overall, I'm inclined to reduce a day in the east and allocate it to doing one of the day trips you wanted to do from Ljubljana - Logarska Dolina (technically part of the east anyway!), Velika Planina or the Krka Valley. Ljubljana can be seen in a day, but with your overall pace, I'd do it in two. Spend a day and a half exploring the city and then spend the final afternoon doing an outdoor activity in the city's green spaces or on its outskirts. One option is to hike to Mount Saint Mary, or at least Roznik Hill above Tivoli Park. The inn atop Mount Saint Mary is famous for their "miške", little home-made pastries akin to donuts, only available on weekends. It's the equivalent of going to church for some of Ljubljana's "less observant" inhabitants. There are also cycling opportunities and the Ljubljana Marshes south of the city are a great bird-watching area. Plus, Plecnik's Church of St Michael is located there.

I would definitely try to drive over Vrsic Pass instead of taking the car train, if possible. It's quite the experience.

Regarding staying in the Soca Valley, Kobarid has the best selection of restaurants, while Bovec is best for river rafting. Truth be told, though, it doesn't matter exactly where you stay in the Soca Valley, whether it's Bovec, Kobarid or a village somewhere in the valley, the distances are quite small.

Sepulje are nicely located for what you plan on visiting. However, I would do just one of the caves, not both. If I were to do two caves, I would probably pick Skocjan or Postojna and combine with Krizna Jama, close to the Loz Valley. It's a submerged cave and completely wild. You can bike to Lipica and Skocjan, but the other places are a bit too far to reach by bike IMO. The Karst is a plateau with a very uneven surface with a lot of hills and valleys, so do take that into account when looking at the distances involved. Don't forget to include a detour to the Goriska Brda while in the Vipava Valley.

Along with the Ljubljana Marshes, other bird-watching locations along your itinerary include the Secovlje Saltworks close to Piran, the intermittent Cerknica Lake between Postojna and the Loz Valley, and the Ormoz and Ptuj Lakes in the east.

Posted by
3 posts

Thanks for all of these replies! I am actually quite humbled and so grateful to get so many detailed and thoughtful responses, and so quickly. Andrew, Rovinj looks very appealing and we toyed with the idea of going there for those interim 4 nights, but we are leaning toward eastern Slovenia for all of the reasons Dejan gives--to see the very different Slovenian landscapes, and experience the food and wine of that part of the country. We plan to do another trip to Croatia that would include the Istrian peninsula when we have more time for that.

Thank you to several of you for the tips on walks and outdoor excursions in and just outside Ljubljana--I will heed the advice and plan to spend more time in and around Ljubljana on day 3 and not try to squeeze in a day trip. I'm now thinking that perhaps we do days 15-18 in the east and then one night, 18-19 either in Logarska Dolina or the Krka area, on our way back west. And/or flip the order of the whole trip to start in Ljubljana and then go east before working our way west... I'll need to give that some thought.

Our car rental reservation is through Sixt. We have reserved the car for 16 days with pick up at Ljubljana Railway station and return at Venice airport--the only location it would let me reserve for the drop off in Venice was the airport. I erred slightly in my statement on the price for the one way return-- it is 240 and in Euros, not dollars. The daily rental rate, including tax, is E21.73; but then there are a bunch of other fees and "local taxes" added on, so really it's E31 per day, plus the E240 Euro one-way drop off fee, for a total of E623. This is for an automatic transmission. Andrew, I'll take a look at the other car rental company you mention and do a comparison.

Posted by
4700 posts

That actually still sounds like a reasonable price from Sixt for an automatic transmission, dropping in Venice. From the airport, you can take an express bus into Venice for 8 Euros each, but I assume that means a rental car shuttle first back to the airport.

I'd still look at the idea of just taking GoOpti instead of the return to Venice, drop off the car, get back to the airport, get on the bus into Venice...GoOpti will take you right to Piazzale Roma. And if you can find a cheaper rental car price than Sixt (who is OK, I've used them before), maybe the savings would pay the cost of taking GoOpti.

Posted by
3 posts

Hi all:

Just wanted to share an update--we've made some changes to our itinerary based on all of the helpful feedback we've received! Biggest change is that we've flipped around the order of the trip, to head east from Ljubljana first, before working our way back west. Here's what we've got now:

Days 1-3: Ljubljana. Day 1 -- arrival in Venice and GoOpti transfer to Ljubljana. Day 2 -- explore Ljubljana historic center, Ljubljana castle (eat lunch at Strelec), possible bike ride/walk in Tivoli Park. Day 3 -- Bike to Ljubljana Marshes in a.m. More time in Ljubljana in afternoon/evening.

Days 4-5: Murska Sobota, Prekmurje. Day 4: Visit Maribor on drive east, lunch at Restravcija Mak. Day 5: Rent bikces at TIC in Moravske Toplice, visit Terme 3000 spa, eat at Gostilna Rajh in Murska Sobota.

Day 6: Overnight at Hlebec Tourist Farm in Jeruzalem wine region. Bike Jeruzaelm Wine Route,lunch at Gostilna Tramsek.

Days 7-8: Guesthouse Domacija Novak in Zuzemberk. Day 7: Visit Lake Ormoz for birding in a.m., then stop in Ptuj for lunch and an afternoon walk on drive west to Zuzemberk. Day 8: Hike, visit Balnea Wellness Center.

Day 9-10: Lake Bohinj. Day 9: Visit Radovlijca on way north. Day 10: Hike and sauna.

Day 11-13: Soca Valley (1st night at Hisa Franko, then 2 additional nights in Kobarid area). Day 11 -- Visit Lake Bled/Bled Castle, then drive Vrsic Pass, dinner at Hisa Franko. Day 12 -- River rafting. Day 13 -- Short morning hike, afternoon visit Goriska Brda and/or Vipava wineries.

Days 14-17: Karst Region, staying at Domacija Sajna in Sepulje. Day 14 -- Visit Predjama Castle and Postonja Caves. Day 15 -- Bike ride to Lipica. Day 16 -- Karst wine road. Day 17: Hike and bird around Lake Cerknica, visit Krizna Cave.

Day 18: Overnight in Piran. Visit Secovlje Saltpans in morning (birding), then Lepa Vida Thalasso Spa in mid-day before arriving afternoon in Piran.

Day 19: Head to Venice! Looking into returning the car in Piran area and taking GoOpti or maybe a passenger ferry to Venice--still figuring that piece out.

Posted by
470 posts

I'm a bit afraid you'll end up rushing through Lake Bled and Vrsic Pass on day 11, especially if you have a dinner reservation that night. I suggest rejiggling the itinerary to have a full day to do the drive over Vrsic Pass and also have time to explore the Soca Valley along the way. You could visit Bled on day 9 after Radovljica, it's only one hour by car from Zuzemberk to Radovljica and once there you're only 10 minutes away from Bled.

I also don't think there is a point in returning to Kobarid once you are as far south as Goriska Brda/Vipava, I would rather move on to Sepulje for that night, even if it means doing two one-night stays in succession in Kobarid - you are losing more time in terms of driving than you would be packing, checking out, etc.