Europe: The Ultimate Slovenia Roadtrip for Sustainable Travellers
The Ultimate Slovenia Roadtrip for Sustainable Travellers
Did you ever hear about Slovenia, its history, and beautiful nature? I did not! Even though it’s so close to the place where I grew up. Somehow, I never had this little gem between Austria, Croatia and Italy on my radar. While the western part is pretty touristic by now, there is still so much to explore that is a bit off the beaten track and no matter if you`re into adventure travel, city trips or cute coastal towns, Slovenia has it all.
Like always, this itinerary is perfect for a road trip in a campervan and I marked some perfect spots to stay overnight. But also, out of respect for nature, kept some a secret that you may saw on my Instagram. All places are accessible with a normal car, no 4x4. I did it with a 40-year-old, 50 horsepower strong, 3.2t van, but you have to be a bit mad for that or love to go uphill with 10 km/h in first gear - I love it! There are accommodations available close to all destinations, so if you prefer to stay in hotels the option is always there. The route takes around 7-14 days, but you can always shorten or extend it. One or two weeks would be ideal to make the most out of your journey.
It's important to note that wild camping in Slovenia is forbidden and enforced with high fees. There are free campsites all over the country or cheap solutions like farms that offer land for a small price, but most of the time it is not worth the risk in the touristic areas. If you stand free, please respect the rules and don`t put chairs out or show any kind of camping behavior. If you are just parking and are in a stealth vehicle, the chances to get fined are a lot less. If you get approached, always be kind, ask where you can go instead and respect the person you`re talking to. Open communication goes a long way!
Roads, Rules and Tolls
The roads in Slovenia are in great condition, with no potholes and only very few dirt roads. The highways are tolled, but as the country is so small you can easily go without using them. No special rules and speed cameras are set up on bigger roads frequently.
Language and Culture
The national language is Slovene, or Slovenian, which is spoken by around 2.5 million people worldwide. It’s a Slavic language and closely related to Serbo-Croatian, but further to the dialects more south in the Balkan region. The small country only holds 2.1 million inhabitants, it used to be the crossroad between Slavic, Germanic and Romance culture, which is something that is deeply rooted up to this day. It was the first republic that split off Ex-Yugoslavia, is a very developed place and has oriented itself upon the western part of Europe more than the East during the past few years. Many people understand German and even prefer it over English. The west is a mountain region while after the capital, which marks Slovenia’s centre, there is a wine region followed by mostly flat land with a few lakes. The south is covered in caves and ends at the sea, with the typical Mediterranean flair.
Slovenia is a very safe country, there isn`t more crime than in other central European countries and no special things to be aware of.
Just a short drive from Austria, there is one of Slovenia's biggest cities called Maribor. It's a simple town, right next to a river but perfect for a day visit and get some supplies. Parking is easy and there are some amazing free camping spots around. An easy start to the country if you`re arriving from Austria far away from the tourist madness.
Where to eat
A Cuban restaurant with a big outside seating area serves meat but has a separate vegan menu. The quesadillas are really good and Cantante is the perfect spot for lunch, a cocktail night or dinner with omni friends.
Monday to Thursday 10:00 - 0:00
Friday to Saturday 10:00 - 1:00
Sunday 12:00 - 0:00
Ulica Pariške comune 37
There are two official, free camping spots in the east that are absolutely worth a visit.
The first one is 10 minutes out of Maribor, you can park for free and it's right next to a restaurant by the river. They are happy if you go for lunch or dinner, but it's not a must and you can use the toilet or pay for electricity if needed.
20 Na Otok
The other is a bit further down, around 40 minutes south and next to a huge lake. It's one of the best equipped free campsites I`ve ever come across, with free WiFi, water supply, toilets and electricity in a beautiful environment that invites you to go for a swim or a walk. The village can be reached by bike in a few minutes and there is a small fishing pot just next door.
Slovenia's capital took me by surprise and easily classifies as one of Europe’s cutest cities. Beautiful architecture with an Austrian flair, tiny alleys with tons of local shops, art wherever you look and as the sun slowly settles, the whole place transforms into a fairy-tale land with lights lit up all along the river where countless bars and cafes invite you to enjoy the scenery.
What to do
There are reasons why I love to explore places, and this is one of them. Hidden in one of the countless alleys you find all over the city, there is one with a fountain at the beginning that goes into a path in between the cobblestones with little golden faces. It's an installation by Jakov Brdar and inspired by a poet by Rainer Maria Rilke: To think, for instance, that I have never been aware before how many faces there are. There are quantities of human beings, but there are many more faces, for each person has several.
The famous fairy-tale bridge is decorated with dragon statues at the beginning and end. Make sure to also check out the other bridges, as the city center is full of incredible ones that connect both sides of the river!
Where to eat
Fully vegan restaurant with an Asian inspired kitchen in the middle of Ljubljana. This is an absolute must if you`re in town, they have a beautifully decorated indoor area but also a terrace that faces a small square just off one of the main shopping streets. They offer a daily lunch menu or dishes from several Asian countries - all made with a lot of love. The staff is incredibly friendly and will help you with all the questions you may have, trying their very best to explain in English!
Monday to Saturday 10am to 10 pm
Trubarjeva cesta 7 vhod iz Malega trga
There are several places along the river where you can park along the street for a small fee, all within walking distance to the city center. Just be aware that you have to get up early to pay, as it's not possible to pay beforehand for the next day!
Probably the country’s most famous attraction: Lake Bled marks the gateway into the alpine region and the Triglavski national park. It got its fame from the incredibly blue water and the church Blejski Otok that sits on an island in the middle of the lake, attracting tourists from all over the world. You can take boat rides to the island, go for a swim, or just enjoy the view from land. These days, the small village Bled is made for tourism, so if you`re seeking peace, local vibes and nature for yourself, a short stopover here is enough. It’s a must though and perfect for lunch at the lakeside or a walk around.
A bit further into the national park, there is another alpine lake called Lake Bohinj. It’s rawer than Bled, but tourism is already taking over and parking is very expensive. There is a cute church just next to the bridge that takes you to several small beaches where you can go for a dip under the pine trees. It looks a bit like the Caribbean in the mountains, and even if it’s just for an hour, it’s worth an excursion.
What to do
In between both lakes, there is a beautiful hike through a cliff called Vintgar Klamm. It's a 1,6-km-long walk over bridges and rock formations, the entry costs 10 Euros plus parking, which is why I didn´t go, as there are other free ones in the area. If you got the time and budget though, this is a nice way to spend a few hours in nature!
If you`ve been to Iceland, you`ve probably seen a fair amount of waterfalls. Let me tell you this one is at least as impressive as the ones on the isle of fire and ice! There is a paid parking right before, but the entrance is free and you walk up for around 10 minutes and get rewarded with the most incredible view. There also is a path behind the waterfall which is a bit slippery but totally doable if you`re wearing good shoes. This is an absolute must!
The Insta-famous lake in the north is just a short ride from Italy's border and at the top of the national park. While the photos always look deserted, there are tons of people at any time, even during Covid. The water has a unique shade of blue and is so incredibly clear, but the place is rather small, situated in a forest. The parking is right in front and on flat terrain.
Vsric / Triglavski Nationalpark
If you drive down through the national park, the road will first make you pass Lake Jasna. It’s a manmade lake, but sadly completely overrun and not worth more than a shortstop. What comes after, is one of my absolute Slovenia highlights! The Vsric pass takes you high up on tarmac, sometimes cobblestone road with an insane mountain view and countless places to stop along the way. During WWI, soldiers took this route, and you can find a Russian church along the way that stands mythical in the forest. I made the journey with a very underpowered old-timer van and while it was slow, if I can do it with such an old vehicle, every new one should be able to master it. The drive through the national park will make you pass blue rivers, forests, and several occasions to go rafting, canoeing, or try other river sports. Another waterfall that can be visited on a hike, is Slap Kozjek situated south of the pass road.
Cross Cave / Krizna Jama
Did you know that Slovenia is the home of countless cave systems? There are two big touristic ones, and several smaller ones you can visit! One of them is the Krizna Jama, a cave in the Loz valley. They offer three different kinds of tours: the one-hour one takes you to the first underground lake and can be booked on arrival, while the other two are limited to a certain amount of visitors per year for the safety of the cave and its inhabitants. Those take you way further underground, through several smaller caves and even bigger ones to emerald green lakes. If you`re looking for an explorer experience, this is the cave to go to as there are no big lights, but you go in wearing a spotlight that guides you the way. All guides are very knowledgeable and speak English; the tours are held in Slovenian and English. Highly recommend, especially if you´re looking to see caves but want to avoid big tours and see it in its natural beauty in a place where they really take care of the environment!
Bloška Polica 7
One of the two biggest caves in the country that offers guided tours through a huge and incredible underground system. This one is a lot bigger than the Cross Cave, but also much more touristic. The path is easily accessible for everyone and they only put the light on when someone’s in to protect the cave, but you can sadly see the damage that has been done by previous explorers. Nonetheless, I would call this a must as it’s incredibly impressive with its underground river and the history it brings with it. The tour ends in a huge canyon that looks a bit like Jurassic Park and while it's a bit on the expensive side, they truly try their best to make it possible to visit, while protecting the fragile structures under the UNESCO Heritage sign.
Right around the corner of the Skocjan, there is a place with a huge historic value that you may didn`t even know has its roots in Slovenia: The stud farm of Lipica! You may already hear of the famous Lipizzan horses, the white majestic ones we all know from Disney movies and the Hofreitschule Vienna. But you may not know that they actually come from a place in southern Slovenia, where up to this day their heritage line is being bred on a beautiful historic property. They even got a hotel in a place where they try to focus on more sustainable possibilities, which is always more of a challenge in old structures. And you can take part in a tour or just stroll around yourself. The horses can roam freely and are held on very high standards; the same goes for the training they undergo. The breeding is via inseminating which I don`t support but used as a safe method to breed in every major stud farm. The whole place is incredible, if you`re into shows, they also have one that focuses on the connection between humans and animals -so make sure to check in advance if there is one on the date of your visit!
Slovenia has a small coastline along the Mediterranean and the most famous town here is Piran. A very cute seaside vibe, where you can already feel the Italian influence around every corner and where Slovenians meet up during the summer. It’s also what makes it so touristic, but still worth a visit. The parking situation is a bit difficult, if you plan ahead you should be able to find something though!
Where to eat
A bit north of Piran, in the village of Koper, there is a cafe called Cajnica Vanilla that offers the most delicious vegan cakes and drinks. They got two stories and a nice outside seating area. If you are on your way to Italy this is the perfect spot for an afternoon tea and cake. One piece will fill you up and you really get what you pay for, definitely recommend to come here for dessert!
Monday to Thursday 8:00am - 0:00am
Friday to Saturday 8:00am - 1:00am
Sunday 9:00am - 0:00 am
Pristaniška ulica 3
This is it, a roadtrip through Slovenia! You may continue your journey to Italy, or go back to your starting point on your way home.
Make sure to check out the video I filmed in Slovenia ,you can find it here.
If you got any questions, please leave me a comment and I hope to see you soon for the Italy travel guide!