Slovenia is such a hidden diamond between the Austrian south and the Croatian north. Many will know it as a transit country or as a former part of Yugoslavia. However, what makes Slovenia most interesting today is the quality of its services and the large investment in facilities for tourism and us campers. I must admit that I had some very pleasant surprises during my visit here this year.
Starting with the less appealing, Slovenia, along with Croatia, guards its natural beauty quite tightly and you can't park wildly throughout the country unless a road sign specifically allows it. The reward for this, however, is the active construction of municipal car parks for motor homes on a similar level to, say, developed France. Incidentally, we have put all the rules respected in Europe on a detailed freecamping map.
Walking around instead of challenging climbs
The main reason why you should be interested in the west of Slovenia, near the borders with Italy and Austria, and the Slovenian Julian Alps is the amazing nature and incredibly comfortable campsites. I'd say it's a great shame to go on a summer holiday to Croatia without stopping off at Lake Bled or Bohinj, in the foothills of the famous Triglav mountains. Because if you like hills and mountains, you'll be in a real paradise here.
You may have to turn a blind eye to the fee when crossing the Karavanke from Prague, but believe me, your children will thank you for not having to suffer through the serpentines and watch from the cliffs of the local roads.
And if you put on one of the Juliana Trail segments when you stop, or hop on your own bike or a rented e-bike that's waiting on every corner, and head out on the secret Juliana Bike trail, you just might be looking. The rivers here are turquoise, much like Croatia's Plitvice, the mountains above are green and, outside of summer, the peaks are properly snow-capped. So if you need to get some of those pics on Facebook or Instagram, the pictures will do themselves here.
The Juliana Trail hiking trails are more or less contoured, well complemented by public transportation, so even if you don't want to break any records, I think you'll be quite satisfied. I did a few sections barefoot and it was mesmerizing just walking around the Julian massifs. Simply a great and easy route through undiscovered parts of the southern Alps, with many museums to give you an insight into the local history.
Museums in the foothills of the Alps
- Bee culture in Radovljica – this cozy little town with a beautiful square offers several museums, but the interactive one with the story of local beekeepers is a must-see
- Peace Museum and Peace Trail – in the town of Kobarid, which played an important role in the First World War and where Václav Havel was officially
- Museum of Alpinism – do you like real mountaineering and are you attracted by avalanche simulation or a real mountain service helicopter? Stop by the western part of the Juliana Trail at the interactive museum in the town of Mojstrana
Lake Bled is the focal point of visits to Slovenia
As they said in the theatre performance by Jara Cimrman, that you can't go to the giant without visiting Grandpa Vseved. So you haven't been to Slovenia without a visit and a good coffee on the shores of Lake Bled. Or at least at the lesser-known Lake Bohinj.
Lake Bled, however, with its centrally located castle and boating trips and a wide range of campsites nearby, may mean you don't venture further south. Yes, it's a famous destination, but if it's your Slovenian first time, you can't miss Bled.
Campsites around lakes and mountains
- Camping Šobec – one of the most luxurious campsites in the whole of Europe with an unbeatable restaurant that any hotel can be ashamed of. A real treat, full of greenery with its own lake for summer swimming and with cabins and modern apartments for friends who come with you without a campervan.
- River camping Bled – it is right next to the Dinopark and the cycle path and is therefore a very popular starting point for families with children
- Camping Bled – which you will find directly on Lake Bled
- Camp Danica – in the town of Bohinjska Bistrica and a short distance from Lake Bohinj
- Camp Koren – an eco-camp with more than 30 years of tradition, right on the Soča River, is just a little further west from Bled and close to Italy. But the local glamping cabins, wooden sauna, conference room, and tent pitches are also worth it. All in the green mountain countryside with a slight 80s touch.
Accommodation in the Julian Alps can be luxurious
I didn't have a chance to see all the campsites and hotels, but just for a taste I'll mention the most interesting hotels that you can enjoy when you get tired of the accommodation. All of them will make you happy after a hard day of sports or a long day of travel.
- Bicycle hotel and glamping resort Ribno – do you like bicycles or e-bikes and at the same time, you like to have a private thermal bath in your glamping cabin in the evening in a nice environment scented with wood? Here it's perfect. Only the campervan will have to stay in the parking lot, there is no room left for the stellplatz.
- Bohinj Eco Hotel – with its water park, saunas, and swimming pool on the top floor and an amazing range of dishes for breakfast and dinner
- Hotel Bohinj – although this hotel has a long history, its last chapter began to be written thanks to Bitcoin, because the current owners have made a million in cryptocurrencies and started investing in their homeland, isn't it beautiful to give back to the locals like this?
The recent pandemic has clearly slowed down the tourism boom, but since Slovenians are taking a long-term view, it is clear that the results will come in time. They are investing heavily, and it seemed to me quite smartly, in promoting tourism and it shows in the quality. Infomaterials, services, design, cleanliness of the environment – the remnants of socialism are rarely visible anymore.
And I won't even mention the local car train that my friend Klara wrote about earlier, which you can hop on with your smaller car or van and be guided through the valleys and tunnels without leaving your seats. You can cook some goodies, play cards with the kids or take a break from driving. Just, as with us, expect that not all trains run on time. But as an alternative to the challenging serpentine mountains, the car train is amazing.
Historical town as the icing on the cake
I saved the best for last. The town of Šmartno is located on a low hill and this can only mean one thing – there are vineyards in the area and in the Goriška Brda region the grapes are perhaps the best in the whole country.
The town itself is a historical gem, where you can have a great meal, enjoy the view and taste some unusual delicacies in a slow rhythm. Just outside the historic center is a small car park available for day and residential use, and just across the street, a new stellplatz is under construction at the Hotel San Martin, which for a change offers a truly amazing view of the surrounding vineyards, a nearby free-to-use lookout tower and even more amazing treats to eat and drink.
As soon as this spot is ready, we will add it to Camperguru, because Šmartno is a truly magical place and the family that runs the San Martin hotel and the future stellplatz is very responsible to travelers. Walks among the vineyards or up to the lookout tower are then the perfect complement to the overeating, which is hard to resist here because – it's all great goodies!
Acknowledgments – I went on this trip to see the beauty of Slovenia with the help of Klara and I thank her very much for this new opportunity and experience for me. And the trip would not have been possible without Michal from the Slovenian Tourist Centre. For me, it was an amazing gift because I had the opportunity to see unseen places that are not far from the Czech Republic. So I will be very happy to come back here and continue exploring the Slovenian lakes. After all, you too will only need 5-6 hours and you are in the heart of the action.
Safe travels! — Vita