Last updated: 07:46 PM ET, Tue June 14 2016

Eurobound Introduces Slovenia

Tour Operator | David Cogswell | June 14, 2016

Eurobound Introduces Slovenia

Photo courtesy Eurobound

Why would anyone want to travel to Slovenia?

That question would stump a majority of Americans, no doubt. Most would probably be hard pressed to even say where the country is on the map. But Eurobound, a Los Angeles-based niche tour operator, is hoping to get the answer out to many travelers as it introduces programs to Slovenia for the first time.

Slovenia is a tiny country the size of New Hampshire. On a map it looks like a small patch between Italy, Croatia, Austria and Hungary. One reason it is little known is that it was part of Yugoslavia from the early 20th century until 1991.

It was at the crossroads of European history and culture throughout the centuries before the modern borders were even thought of. It was part of the Roman Empire, the Holy Roman Empire and later part of the Habsburg’s Austro-Hungarian Empire. It’s only a short distance from Venice, which was a world capital city state many centuries before Italy became a nation in 1861.

The country is 60 percent forest, but also has a nice urban culture to offer in its capital city of Ljubljana.

“It’s a nice contrast of culture and nature,” said Jeff Roy, vice president of sales and marketing for Eurobound. “I found out that the average age in Ljubljana is 30 years old. It’s a young-minded place, but it has its foot in its traditions. There is a lot to see in a small country. There is the Mediterranean, which is the Slovenian Riviera. It’s known for its mountains and beautiful lakes, the castle on the small island and the caves that are almost enchanted the way they have been prepared for tourists to experience them.”

Today’s Slovenia reflects the cultural influences of centuries in the mainstream of European civilization. It was a meeting ground for the Slavic, Romance, Germanic and Hungarian languages and the cultures they bring with them. The culinary cultures also flowed freely, unhampered by national boundaries.

Slovenia is certainly new for Eurobound. The tour operator is better known for specialty programs such as its Epicurean Collection of small group food and wine tours of France, Italy and Spain.

Eurobound chose Slovenia for a new frontier because it is an undiscovered area next to Croatia, where the tour operator has had a boom year, and because the European Union chose Slovenia as its Green Capital for 2016.

“Our interest is linked to the popularity of Croatia, along with its receiving the award for being the Green Capital by the European Commission,” said Roy.

“We’ve been selling a lot of Croatia and we have some Northern Italians in the office who are familiar with the area. It is a relatively unknown corner of Europe that not too many people have heard about. As I researched it, I thought this is a hidden gem. If Croatia was last year’s hidden gem, then Slovenia could be this year’s hidden gem.”  

But then it can be a problem if the gem is too well hidden.

“A lot of people are discovering more about its history, its natural beauty, its beaches, mountains and all of that,” said Roy. “But if you talk about it to a lot of people in the industry they start scratching their heads because they don’t know much about it. I think because it was part of Yugoslavia in the past, which was considered an Eastern Europe country, a lot of people don’t have much of an impression of it. But since it became independent in 1991 it has been thriving and developing on its own, somewhat under the radar.

“In doing my research I was amazed with the natural beauty, history and culture, the kind of accommodations you can find there, the cuisine that has taken off there. So I think it is like many places in the world where suddenly you have young people discovering a movement. Slovenia was one of those destinations that was like a new discovery.

Eurobound’s new “Slovenia: Hidden Gem” is a nine-day package designed for people who love wine, food and nature, not necessarily in that order. The itinerary moves from the Mediterranean coast to the Alps, visiting small villages, towns, castles and caves. It includes three nights in the capital city of Ljubliana, two nights in Portoroz on the Mediterranean coast, and two nights at Otocec Castle Hotel near the Karst Caves. One night is spent in a castle in the Brda wine region.

The program also includes a day trip to Lake Bled and Bohinj in the Alps, a tour of the Karst Caves, a visit to the Soline Salt Pans, and boat rides on Lake Bled and on the Ljubljanica River. Gourmet dinners are planned every night, and two wine tastings and a cheese tasting are included.

The company’s five top places to visit in Slovenia are: the capital city of Ljubljana, a lively cultural center on the Ljubljanica River, known for its open plazas and outdoor cafes, and a youthful culture based on an average age of 30; Piran, a seaside town on the Mediterranean; Otocec Castle on a tiny island near the Karst Caves; Goriska Brda Wine Region in Western Slovenia; and Lake Bled, a resort in the Julian Alps.

Slovenia is obviously not going to be on the top of the bucketlist of every Joe Sixpack, but Eurobound hopes it will attract its target market of experienced travelers.

“I would think that it would be suitable anyone who has already hit the main destinations or attractions in Europe and is still looking for somewhat uncharted areas and wants to do a deeper dive,” said Roy.

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