Love Europe… but looking for someplace a bit off the beaten path? Check out Slovenia!

Slovenia has been on my bucket list for years and I finally got to visit this past summer and it was all that I expected and some!

One of the things that intrigued me about Slovenia from the start is its nickname “the Green Heart of Europe.” With a degree in sustainable tourism from George Washington University, I am always interested in learning about destinations who take sustainability seriously… and Slovenia lives up to its nickname!

Bordering Croatia in the southeast, Italy in the west, Austria in the north, Hungary in the northeast and the beautiful Adriatic Sea coastline in the southwest – between the mountains and the sea, Green abounds. Slovenia was the first country in in its entirety to be declared a Green Destination of the World. The SLOVENIA GREEN LABEL is awarded to destinations based on 84 sustainability criteria which includes not only an ongoing level of sustainability but also a commitment to continuously improving its sustainability level in the future. 

Lake Bled is one such destination and a proud owner of the Green Scheme gold label. It is a fabulous place to spend a day, three days, or a week!  Take one of the wooden, flat-bottom Pletna boats out to the island. Pletna boats, whose origins date back to the 1500s, are made by locals and navigated by a pletna oarsman, whose titles have been passed down through generations.  While on the island, visit the Church of the Mother of God and hermitage, ring the wishing bell, and sample the delicious traditional Slovenian “potica” also called “potičnica.” And take the trek up to the Bled Castle, the oldest in Slovenia. The views from the top are well worth the climb.

Given Slovenia is a small country, you can be hiking in the Alps in the morning… and swimming in the Adriatic in the afternoon so when your trip to Bled is complete, head out to the coast and visit the seaside village of Piran on the Adriatic where the scenery and seafood are unparalleled.  En route, don’t forget to visit Postojna Cave. I was a little skeptical about spending a few hours in a cave, but it was well worth the visit – albeit chilly visit!  The 90-minute tour via a train system takes you throughout the two-million-year-old, 24 km long cave system. From stalactites to stalagmites, you have never experienced caves until you have visited Postojna. And right down the road from the caves is the 800 year old  Predjama Castle, the largest cave castle in the world and another engineering feat built into the side of a mountain.

Slovenia has it all and packs a lot into a small destination — beautiful nature, mountains, beaches, and an enduring commitment to sustainability!  It is a great addition to any European bucket list.