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The cascading melodies of the marsh birds. The sight of a mountaintop without another person for miles. Finding a little space to yourself is the heart of any great escape, and Slovenia is blessed more than most in this regard.
Vast chunks of its land is given over to snow-dusted peaks, glimmering lakes and forests that seemingly never end. And with many lying just a couple of hours’ drive from the main cities, it’s an open invitation to get back to nature. You just have to know where to stay…
Breathe in, shut your eyes and listen. The art of ’forest bathing’ – reconnecting with nature – might be Japanese in origin but it’s Slovenian in spirit. This is a land of forests after all, with as much as 58% of the country cloaked in a dense green canvas, from the tumbling beech of the mountains to the great pines that prickle the karst valleys like lush velcro. You just need to find your patch.
The centuries-old forests of northern Jezersko are home to the remote Vila Planinka. This large chalet has rooms containing no distracting electronic devices. It’s a complete digital detox, but what appeals most is the setting. Despite being just an hour’s drive from Ljubljana, the valley of Jezersko (meaning ‘Lakeland’ – this entire area was once covered in water) might as well be another world. Less than 1,000 residents live here and few travellers have discovered it, yet between its baize meadows and loping pines, it's a chance to reconnect, with the only other sound being the amiable trickle of the mountain streams.
Of course, if you want remote, then Triglav National Park is in a league of its own. The Julian Alps trickle the western edge of Slovenia, puncturing alpine meadows and sapphire blue lakes with its serrated peaks. Some top nearly 3,000m, and there are few locations that offer a better escape from the world, especially with the new 300km Julian Alps Trail opening up its hidden corners to walkers.
The trail skirts the region’s most breathtaking sights, including the shores and floating castle of the peaceful Lake Bled, ticking off waterfalls, pastures and gorges en route. Scenic back-to-nature bases are easy to find along the way if you want to only sample a small section, with Garden Village Bled offering a different kind of forest escape: a chance to live among the treetops. Its glamping treehouse chalets nestle high in the branches, with raised walkways lifting you up into the forest canopy and tours of its organic gardens and apiary boosting its eco credentials.
Alternatively, for the even higher life, the four chalets of Nebesa (Nebesa is Heaven in English) to the south glare out across the mighty Soca River, 900m below. Remote and luxurious (think: wine cellar, sauna and great food – the owners have links to one of Slovenia’s best restaurants, Hiša Franko), its glass walls mean you might as well be sleeping outdoors as you wake up to widescreen views with a dash of mountain air.
Getting back to nature is easy when it’s all around you. It’s a strange quirk of Slovenian geography that the largest wetlands in the country lie on the doorstep of the capital, Ljubljana. Its marshes cover an area roughly the size of Lichtenstein, and are easy to explore. Walking pancake-flat trails and boardwalks that spider deep into the grass reveals more than just wilderness: wild deer and some 100 bird species (half of those found in Slovenia) can be seen here, and tours with Iški Morost Nature Reserve’s birdwatching guides offer a laid-back stroll to the skittish allegro of the warblers.
Better still, wake up to it at Trnulja Eco-friendly Farm, a friendly organic agriturismo on the outskirts of the wetland area. Named after the thorny sloe berry bushes (Trnulja) that once overran the estate before its transformation, it also rents bikes and runs tours not just of the wetlands, but of the farm itself, offering a glimpse of how its cold-pressed oil is produced. Then, as night falls, sit down to a homegrown meal as the evening frog chorus takes over from the birds.
Nowhere else in Slovenia is quite like the Pivka Valley. Its seasonal lakes are famous for disappearing for chunks of the year, with Lake Cerknica the largest of its kind in Europe – and a great birdwatching spot. In many ways it’s a geological sleight of hand; the land is underwired by permeable limestone and tunnels that flood in spring and summer, spilling onto the surface into fields and hollows. The effect is magical, and wild swimming in its lakes and sinkholes is as close to nature as you’ll get. A few nights’ glamping at Park Idila puts you in the heart of the region, with its log cabins perched on the edge of Lake Bloke, as you wake up in the morning and dive headfirst into the crisp, clean water.
But it’s not the only watery escape to be found here. In the south-east, the Kolpa is the warmest river in Slovenia, and its forested banks of stately white birch are seemingly designed to be explored by canoe or SUP. Set up base at Kolpa Resort Glamping, on the Croatian border, where safari-style tents and cabins open up riverside cycling and walking trails, before filling up on the rustic flatbreads, semi-dried sausage and red metliška črnina wines the Bela Krajina region is famed for. Then just drift the river in peace, a languid hand dangling in the warm water…
A green boutique global destination for high-end visitors seeking diverse and active experiences, peace, and personal benefits. A destination of five-star experiences. This is the vision of the tourist destination Slovenia, as perceived and pursued by the Slovenian Tourist Board (STB), the central national agency for the promotion of tourism, committed to sustainability.Discover now