Slovenia's top five experiences

01:46, May 06 2013
Lake Bled in Slovenia.
An overview of Lake Bled, island, castle and town in Slovenia.
Lipanca, mountain in Slovenia with a distant view of Mt. Triglav, the highest mountain in Slovenia
Ljubljana, Slovenia's capital city.
Piran is Slovenia's version of Venice
The piercing sky- blue-bordering-on-green - or is it turquoise? - colour of the water of the Soca River.

Snow-capped peaks, turquoise- green rivers, and an Adriatic coastline inspired by Venice. Throughout Slovenia, culinary and cultural sophistication hides behind a rural, rustic charm.

Here are travel guide publisher Lonely Planet's pick of Slovenia's top five experiences

1. Ljubljana

RURAL AND RUSTIC: Snow-capped peaks, turquoise- green rivers, and an Adriatic coastline inspired by Venice.

Slovenia's capital city strikes that perfect yet elusive balance between size and quality of life. It is big enough to be interesting, yet small enough to walk - or better yet, bike - across at a leisurely pace.

The term "jewel box" gets tossed around all too frequently to describe attractive smaller cities but in Ljubljana's case the words are apt.

What better way to describe architect Joze Plecnik's wondrously decorative pillars, obelisks and orbs that seem to top every bridge, fountain and lamp- post?


2. Climbing Mt Triglav

Nothing quite says "I'm a Slovene" like climbing to the top of the country's tallest mountain. Indeed, for Slovenes, it's practically stamped in their passports once they have made the trek. The good news for the rest of us is that Mt Triglav is a challenging but accessible peak that just about anyone in decent shape can summit with an experienced guide.

There are several popular approaches, each with its own attractions and degrees of difficulty. Whichever path you choose, the reward is the same: sheer exhilaration.

3. Piran

Venice in Slovenia? Of course! That busy merchant empire left its mark up and down the Adriatic coast, and Slovenia was lucky to end up with the best-preserved medieval Venetian port outside Venice, well, possibly anywhere.

It is true Piran attracts tourist numbers on a near- Venetian scale but the beautiful setting means it is never less than a constant delight. Eat fresh seafood at the harbour, then get lost wandering the narrow streets, and end up having drinks and people-watching in a glorious central square.

4. River adventures

Rarely does a river beckon to be rafted as convincingly as Slovenia's Soca. Maybe it is that piercing sky- blue-bordering-on-green - or is it turquoise? - colour of the water, or the river's refreshing froth and foam as it tumbles down from the mountains. Even if you're not the rafting type, you will soon find yourself strapping on a wetsuit for that exhilarating ride of the summer.

Several outfits in Bovec and Kobarid specialise in guided rafting trips. For the more intrepid, there's always canyoning. For gentler floats, try the Krka River.

5. Lake Bled

Bled, Slovenia's biggest tourist draw, looks like it came off the drawing board of a gifted architect or interior designer. Start with a crystal-clear blue lake, add a tiny island over here, top it with an impossibly cute church, and then put a dramatic, cliff-side castle over there. Now add some alpine peaks to the backdrop.

Voila! It really is that lovely but Bled is more than just good looks. There is a raucous adventure scene too, with diving, cycling and rafting among other active pursuits. There are excellent hotels and restaurants here as well.

This is an edited extract from Lonely Planet Slovenia (7th Edition) by Mark Baker, et al. (c) Lonely Planet 2013. In stores now, RRP: NZ$39.99.