In preparation for our trip I have been researching topics such as potential accommodations, activities, landmarks, and transportation methods for each destination. I figure this will give us a better idea of the daily cost, and therefore help determine how long we will want to stay in each country. It will be interesting to see the difference between the ideas I have researched and what we actually do when we are on the road!
Click the small arrow button on the top left of the map header (left of where it says “Potential Destination”) to expand out additional details about many of the locations and activities described below.
U.S. Visa/Travel: https://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/country/slovenia.html
Slovenia wasn’t even on our radar of potential destinations until we watched a Rick Steves video on Croatia, and Slovenia was mentioned. Upon seeing the footage of the beautiful Julian Alps and picturesque towns, both Pete and I immediately said “I want to go there!”
Helpful Web Sites
Ideally, we would love to find an affordable place either near Kranj or Ljubljana, which are both close to the airport and good locations to act as “home base” to explore from. The town of Bled would be another good option, but I have a feeling the prices will be a bit higher. One great looking place to consider is the Bed & Breakfast Na Poljani – a cute looking farm house near Kranj with mountain views and great access to area attractions. There are also some promising looking Airbnb options, as well. Entire apartments for as low as $30 per night, including free parking on premise. This would allow us to prepare most of our meals ourselves to cut down on costs, which would be ideal. Some are right in town centers, while others are further out in the countryside.
Freedom to roam on our own schedule. That is what we are looking forward to the most during the times we rent a car versus use public transportation. No bus or train schedules to work around, no preset destinations, and freedom to stop and go when we want to. And Slovenia will be a great place to do this.
Freedom will come at a cost of course. The average cost for a week rental of an economy car is $200 (using such sites as https://www.autoeurope.com), CDW (collision damage waiver) insurance $140, and fuel averaging around $140. Another expense will be highway tolls. While in some European countries you go through toll booths, in Slovenia you purchase a prepaid highway vignette (sticker) for your vehicle, which costs around $18 per week. It will be important for us to shop around and see if we can get a discount for signing up for a week or more rental period.
After leaving Slovenia we plan to continue our travels in Croatia, where we also plan to rent a car. While you can drop off rental cars in different countries, there are significant international drop-off fees. To avoid this, the plan will be to take the train from Ljubljana (or a more southern town if we extend our site seeing) over the border into Croatia. Most likely we will be in Slovenia/Croatia late winter/early spring, veering us inland to Zagreb versus the coastal Istria region. The train from Ljubljana to Zagreb takes just under two and a half hours and costs an average of $38 per person, according to the site Rail Europe (http://www.raileurope-world.com/train-tickets/journeys/article/ljubljana-zagreb). The more I have been reading the more posts I see saying that you should go directly to the train station to buy tickets, because you can often find cheaper prices. We shall see if this is actually true or not.
With Kranj or Ljubljana as home base, our days will be spent taking day trips to area towns and attractions. Kranj is a small town known for various festivals throughout the year and underground tunnels below Old Kranj. In Ljubljana there are free walking tours (https://www.thinkslovenia.com/info-activities/daytrips-tours#ljubljana-free-tour), and the Ljublijana Castle tour which includes the watchtower, Church of St. George, Slovenian war exhibition, and puppet theatre for $9 per person. Ljubljana is also known for its open-air market, where I hope to get a chance to talk to vendors about their local produce and cuisine.
To the northwest we will explore Bled and the Julian Alps. Picture a pristine lake with an island and beautiful church in the middle of it and snow topped mountain peaks surrounding it in the distance. Sounds gorgeous right! This is Lake Bled. A visit to Bled Island will cost you about $18 per person for the ride over to the island on a pletna, which is a type of gondola. There is also a small fee if you want to go into the church.
The main attraction on the island is the south staircase to the church, consisting of 99 steps. A local tradition is for the husband to carry his new bride up the stairs. No pressure!
Also while in Bled, potential activities may include checking out Bled Castle which is within walking distance of the town center, or taking the walking trail around the entire lake which is about 4 miles long. I am sure the views are spectacular. Within walking distance from Bled is Vintgar Gorge. Inside the gorge is a 1 mile wooden walkway that ends at the 16m-high Šum Waterfall. Entrance fee is around $6 per person.
Now lets talk mountains, and I’m talking BIG mountains with peaks reaching 2,500 metres and higher. Within these mountains is Triglav National Park. Our ability to hike and fully explore the area may be greatly limited due to the timing when we are there because of snow and cooler temperature, but that won’t stop us from taking in the views as much as possible. One way to take in the views will be driving along the Vrsic Mountain Pass (Vršič Pass), which is comprised of 50 hairpin turns. This makes me think of when Pete and I went to Maui and drove the Road to Hana, which has over 600 turns! We kept stopping to check out waterfalls, look out points, etc. and only got about half way before we decided we had enough and turned around. We found out later that some of the best waterfalls and beaches were at the end, so we totally missed out. Thankfully the Vrsic Pass is not an out-and-back, with 24 turns to the top from Kranjska Gora and 26 turns back down to Trenta, so hopefully we shouldn’t miss the main sites.
To get our adrenaline pumping there are rafting and canyoning tours available in the region through companies such as 3glav (http://www.3glav.com), Socarider (http://www.socarider.com), Outdoor Slovenia (http://outdoor-slovenia.com), and Life Adventures (https://www.lifeadventures.si). The timing will be iffy though, with most of these tours happening mid-March at the earliest. I am fully prepared to freeze my butt off if we do get to go! Another thing that happens in the area mid March is the ski jump World Cup. The town of Planica, Slovenia actually boasts the worlds highest ski jump! Bet you didn’t know that!
We may decide to keep the car rental a bit longer to allow us to see some areas south of Kranj and Ljubljana, such as Predjama Castle (https://www.postojnska-jama.eu/en/come-and-visit-us/predjama-castle/?RemeberLocale=1) and the Škocjan Caves (http://www.park-skocjanske-jame.si/en). The Predjama Castle is literally built into a hillside. That is definitely not something you see everyday. And the Škocjan Caves sound amazing! They are in the world’s largest known underground canyon. There are several different tours available, with the most inclusive being the “Through the Underground Canyon”, costing around $19 per person. One of the reasons this tour looks appealing is the trail takes you over the Cerkvenik Bridge that is suspended nearly fifty meters above the Reka River inside one of the canyons.
Any thoughts about our ideas above, or suggestions of “must see” activities/landmarks? Please include those below!