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Exodus would like to introduce you to Slovenia, the pinnacle of getting off the beaten track without bidding farewell to infrastructure.
A small emerald nestled on the bridge between western and eastern Europe, it’s barely larger than Wales and yet this country packs a real punch: Lonely Planet calls it “a mouse that roars.”
This is landscape off-the-scale, the ragged ribbons of the Julian Alps, the dark ancient forests and churches worthy of a gothic novel even in the sunshine, and an indisputable vibrancy of colour than would make an artist blush. Yet somehow this travel gem has remained a secluded secret.
1 – The Alps without the crowds
The Julian Alps are the shy cousins of the French, Swiss and Italian mountains. Named after the conquering Emperor Julius Caesar, these limestone peaks rule this corner of Europe, their jagged peaks forming a rocky crown against the heavens – but this is a horizon rarely interrupted by a human silhouette.
It’s estimated that 120 million people visit the Alps each year – compare that to the whole of Slovenia’s estimated three and a half million, and the facts speak for themselves.
Browse trips to the Julian Alps.
2 – Pristine rivers
Whilst it isn’t so remote as to earn the title “wilderness”, Slovenia is a haven for lovers of the natural world.
The third most forested country in Europe is home to one of the biggest Brown bear populations in the wild, and the crystal-clear waters of the Soca River lure many thrill-seekers to its banks for adventures in its rapids and ravines, from whitewater rafting to canyoning.
The cleanliness of the water ensures no amount of adrenaline-infused outcries are a problem; the H20 here is hygienic enough to swallow in gulps.
Browse adventure trips to Slovenia.
3 – Mount Triglav
One of Europe’s youngest countries has one of the most turbulent histories. Formerly part of Yugoslavia, Slovenia escaped the Balkans conflict and much of its fine architecture remains untouched.
Most buildings in Slovenia make for compulsive photography, ranging from the grandiose riverside of the capital city Ljubljana (pictured) to the tiny, half-timbered villages of the Slovene Alps.
Gothic monasteries and ruined castles abound – in fact, Slovenia has more churches per capita than almost any other European country.
Lake Bled, probably the best known of Slovenia’s many lakes, surrounds Slovenia’s most photographed building like nature’s moat. Bled Island – the only natural island in the whole country – is topped by the C17th Church of the Assumption of Mary, reachable via exactly 99 steps.
Despite being the “Sunny side of the Alps”, it is easy to imagine dark, creepy gothic novels set here.
Browse trips to Lake Bled.
5 – Slovenian Food
If spine-tingling castles, surging white water kayaking and dramatic trekking have left you feeling peckish, no better way to bring yourself back to earth with some homely Slovenian cuisine.
Food here is hearty, benefitting from being surrounded by Mediterranean, Italian, Austrian and Hungarian influences. Tradition reigns supreme, with robust stews and soups.
Despite being wholesome, there’s no holding back on the finery: ovens spilling out fresh pogaca flatbread topped with herbs, cupboards bulging with hoards of exquisite cheese, and the pinnacle of sophisticated patisserie can be found amid the stodge.
A favourite is the Bled Cake, a creamy, custardy slice of heaven topped off with crisp layered pastry and served with a side of Balkan heritage.
Browse more trips to Slovenia below and discover this wonderful country for yourself.