Ljubljana Castle, a rowboat ride on Lake Bled, Bled Castle, Postojna Cave, Predjama Castle, and a bicycle ride well off the usual tourist path to Lake Podpec and through the Ljubljana Marshes–how to experience all this in three nights and two enjoyable days in Slovenia!
Ringed by the majestic alps, Slovenia is a green and vibrant country of picturesque hamlets, winding rivers, thriving farms, and a welcoming people possessed of a great work ethic. And the food! Slovenian’s believe in eating well–every meal (for the vegetarian and omnivore) presented us with large plates brimming with fresh, local produce, succulent country-raised meats, and delicious cheeses both sharp and creamily mild, followed by a dizzying array of pastries. How to see as much as possible of this splendid country in only two days?
After landing in Ljubljana and a $20 taxi ride from the airport to the Grand Hotel Union, we rode the funicular located in Krek Square near the Ljubljana Central Market up to the Ljubljana Castle for dinner. At both of the two restaurants here, reservations are strongly recommended. After being turned away from one restaurant, we squeaked into the second, getting the last available table. After dinner, we rode the funicular back down from Castle Hill and roamed around Preseren Square, the beautifully historic, pedestrian-only hub in front of the medieval town’s entrance. Alive at night with buskers, musicians, and locals unwinding under the glittering stars, Preseren Square is surrounded by the historic Neo-Renaissance Kresija Palace, cafes, and the eye-catching Franciscan Church of the Annunciation, with its impressive red exterior and lavish interior. The Ljubljanica flows past the square to complete the romantic air.For the next morning, we booked a relatively affordable tour that promised to be limited to a small group:Slovenia-in-One-Day, with viator.com, to see Lake Bled, Postojna Cave, and Predjama Castle.Our soft-spoken local tour guide met us bright and early at 9am outside our hotel. After seating ourselves in the large van with five other travelers, we began the drive through countryside, wooded hills, and picturesque valleys to Lake Bled, where we boarded a traditional Pletna reserved to row us across the serene lake to the quaint, historical island of Lake Bled.
We had plenty of time to wander through the Assumption of Saint Mary pilgrimage church, ascend the 99Baroque-style stone stairs from lakefront to church, circumnavigate the trail around the island, and take numerous photographs, all in the tranquility of a blossom-sweet spring morning.
Just as we were leaving the island, a half dozen rowboats crammed with masses of tourists began to arrive, so the timing was perfect. Next, our guide whisked us to tour Bled Castle, which offered stunning views and a rich history.
Rather than eat at the expensive cafe there, our group elected to eat down at a lakeside restaurant afterwards, and our tour-guide was happy to accommodate the request (cost of lunch not included in the tour). After lunch, she drove us to Predjama Castle, an impressive structure that looks home to mythical kings and fantastical beasts. After touring the castle, we entered the adjacent fairy-tale lacework of caves and caverns of Postojna, where we boarded an underground electric train and were whooshed down into a wondrous realm of strange, glistening structures: gnomic stalagmites, elfin limestone figures, translucent stone curtains, and enormous fluted stalactites. Every bend in the whispery silence astonished us as we descended ever-further into the caves. Eventually, we disembarked and proceeded on a fascinating walking tour through the winding labyrinth.
It was as if we’d been transported into an endless series of alien cathedrals. We finished the astonishing walk (which lasted about 1 hour) by viewing the famous `human fish’ in the caves, small, translucent and delightfully weird aquatic blind salamanders. After a train ride to the surface, we boarded our tour van and our guide returned us to our respective hotels. The only downside to this otherwise remarkable day was that mid-way through, our guide had opted to return to the city to wait for 1/2 hour to drop off one individual and pick up two more, which was a disappointing waste of time. Otherwise, everything was extremely well organized and our English-fluent guide was pleasant and knowledgeable.
That evening, we booked a bicycle tour for the next day, opting to go off the well-trodden tourist path and cycle through the Ljubljana moors and marshlands: https://www.visitljubljana.com/en/visitors/tours-and-trips/cycling-in-the-ljubljana-moors-nature-park/
We were the only two on the tour, and our local guide was enthusiastic and professional. He picked us up early outside our hotel and drove us to a quiet country lane where pastures stretched out for miles in all directions. Under blue skies and brilliant spring sunshine, we rode along paths and gravel trails through the marshes and moors, where we glimpsed deer and a variety of bird-life.
Upon exiting the moors, we cycled along empty country lanes through idyllic countryside, the majestic alps in the background. We stopped frequently for pictures of the delightful hamlets we passed through, and our guide was informative and passionate about his beautiful country at each stop.
We had lunch at a picturesque cafe right at Lake Podpec (lunch included, our table ready and waiting for us). Local families picnicked at the lake, splashed in its waters, or cycled the country lanes.
Exhausted but thoroughly delighted, we finished the flat, scenic 5 hour ride by cycling back to our guide’s vehicle. Bicycles loaded onto the car rack, our guide then returned us to the city and, at our request, dropped us off at Dragon Bridge, where we took more photos before seeking dinner and collapsing for the night in our hotel.
The next morning, we were off to the airport, after a thoroughly splendid whirlwind trip in historic and scenic Slovenia.
Have you traveled to Slovenia? We’d love to hear from you!