Last updated: 02:00 AM ET, Tue March 22 2022
Cityscape of the Slovenian capital Ljubljana. (photo via kasto80 / iStock / Getty Images Plus)


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Mediterranean town of Piran on the Slovenian Coast (photo via arrfoto / iStock / Getty Images Plus)
Mediterranean town of Piran on the Slovenian Coast (photo via arrfoto / iStock / Getty Images Plus)

Slovenia is a small jewel of a country in central Europe, with Alpine panoramas, a beautiful sea coast, sparkling lakes rimmed by mountains and picturesque cities that date back to the days of the Romans. It’s got castles, health spas, a wine route and a big beer festival. And, after 1,000 years of struggle, it’s finally independent -- it became a nation in its own right in 1991; it had been part of Yugoslavia. Although Slovenia represented just ten percent of the Yugoslavian population, it generated 25 percent of its wealth, and it remains a cosmopolitan country today.

The capital of Ljubljana is the main international gateway to Slovenia. Ljubljana has a grand castle and great restaurants in its Old Town. It’s a cafe city; after you’ve visited the city’s art museums, relax at sundown at a streetside cafe. Slovenia has other gems of cities to recommend: one is the medieval city of Maribor, with a castle, churches and lovely town squares. Just down the road: the old Roman city of Ptuj. It’s a starting point for a tour of the Jeruzalem Wine Road, where you can overnight at a winery. Another good stop for beer lovers: Lasko, a lovely town between mountain and river, holds a weeklong festival that celebrates its main product: beer.

Slovenia’s countryside is perhaps even more beautiful than its cities. Lake Bled, a beautiful lake ringed by mountains with health spas where you can indulge yourself (it has 15 health spas). Just over the mountains -- prepare yourself for 50 switchbacks in 16 miles as you drive through the Vrsic Pass in the Julian Alps -- is the Soca River Valley. Here, you can burn calories hiking, walking or white-river rafting and then replenish yourself in the hotels and restaurants in and near small towns like Kobarid. It’s located on a wild stretch of the Soca, or Nebesa, a tiny but idyllic mountain aerie. It also has a wonderful stretch of seacoast on the Adriatic, the Istrian Coast, which has a mix of dramatic scenery, cave complexes and medieval port towns.

Slovenia is easy to reach from neighboring countries, with good road and rail links, and daily flights from numerous European cities. You can get around Slovenia by bus or car; note that there are tolls on highways.