Our top 8 reasons to visit Slovenia this autumn
Crisp, sunny days spent wrapped up in scarves and boots, taking in stunning scenery dappled in a mosaic of reds and golds with a mug of something warm in hand… There’s something incredibly special and romantic about an autumnal break that embraces the changing seasons – and Slovenia provides the perfect backdrop to all that. Here’s why…
Often overlooked by its neighbouring countries of Italy, Austria and Croatia, Slovenia may not be the first place you think of when planning a European holiday. I’ll admit that I knew very little about this tiny yet perfectly formed country before visiting, but when we stumbled across it while looking for an October break a few years ago, we were blown away by how much this hidden gem had to offer.
With fairytale castles, stunning alpine landscapes and characterful towns, here are 8 reasons why Slovenia is the ideal place for a cosy getaway this autumn.
The autumn colours are spectacular
Slovenia boasts some of the most incredible landscapes, full of tranquil lakes, dramatic waterfalls and breathtaking mountain ranges. Though picturesque all year round, there is something particularly magical about these picture-perfect spots framed by the jewel tones of the changing leaves.
Lake Bled was the first stop on our trip and it immediately gave us a taste of the spectacular scenery Slovenia has to offer. This may be the most commonly photographed place in Slovenia, but certainly not the only idyllic location, with nearby areas such as Lake Bohinj, Vintgar Gorge and the Soča Valley all boasting vivid alpine panoramas too.
Between September and November, the foliage transforms into a sea of rich burgundies, bright yellows and deep golds, complementing the cobbled streets, red-roofed buildings and historic churches perfectly, and reflecting beautifully in the calm, expansive lakes. Horse chestnuts litter the paths and crunchy leaves lay underfoot, with the warm late summer glow lending itself to some gorgeous photo opportunities!
It’s small and easy to travel to
Both British Airways and EasyJet offer direct flights from London to Slovenia’s capital, Ljubljana, which are both reasonably priced and relatively quick, with the flight time averaging at just over two hours. So, rather than opting for a long-haul escape this autumn to chase the sun, you can leave London first thing in the morning and be in Slovenia to start your holiday by lunchtime!
It’s also incredibly easy to travel around once you’re there, making for a great road trip. At just 20,000 square km (just a little smaller than Wales), you can effortlessly see all of the natural beauty Slovenia has to offer in just a week, taking in all of the gorgeous sights as you go from the comfort of your driving seat.
We chose to split our week into three sections – the first part spent in the tranquil mountains of Lake Bled, followed by a few days in the vibrant capital of Ljubljana, then ending our trip by the coast in Piran. However, if you like getting behind the wheel, you could also easily base yourselves in one area and drive to all of these areas as day trips, with most points of interest no more than two hours away from one another.
The drives themselves are spectacular, taking in vast mountain ranges, sprawling vineyards, peaceful lakes and all those aforementioned autumnal colours, so even if the weather isn’t quite on your side, you’ll be able to take it all in from the warmth of your vehicle.
It’s the ideal temperature and not too busy
Having said that, the weather does tend to remain pretty agreeable throughout September, October and early November, with temperatures averaging between 15-20 degrees. This makes it the perfect climate for walking, hiking and sight-seeing. It’s a great time of year for taking advantage of some of the amazing outdoor activities Slovenia has on offer – whether that’s kayaking, white water rafting or canyoning, or exploring the local markets, vineyards and/or city attractions.
October is statistically the wettest month, but during our trip, we were blessed with blue skies and sunshine most days. It got slightly chillier up in the mountains (particularly the ski town of Vogel which is accessible via cable car), but remained crisp and clear, offering fabulous views and opportunities to warm up with a cup of mulled wine, coffee or hot chocolate.
With the majority of tourists tending to visit in summer or winter months, heading to Slovenia in the shoulder season also means less crowds and often cheaper prices. It was easy to get into restaurants, there were no long queues and the streets were quiet and calm.
It’s like walking into a fairytale
Slovenia is bursting with medieval treasures and historic monuments, but nothing beats its enchanting castles, all of which would sit easily on the pages of a classic fairytale. With a plethora of fascinating myths and legends buried within their walls, the period around Halloween seems a fitting time to explore these fortresses, and I was totally enraptured by the number of tall tales, mysteries and scandals surrounding them!
Spectacularly built into a cave mouth over 100m high in a southern Slovenian cliff, renaissance fortress Predjama Castle dates back to the 13th century and truly is a sight to behold. I can honestly say I’ve never seen anything quite like it and was in awe of how impressive it was! With secret passageways, tales of lengthy sieges and views out across the surrounding countryside, it’s a fascinating place to visit.
Similarly, Bled Castle stands proudly and dramatically on a precipice above Lake Bled itself, offering impressive panoramas across the iconic lake and mountains. As the oldest Slovenian castle, it was first mentioned in 1011 but later devastated by two earthquakes before being lovingly restored in the 1950s. Once again, the views are to die for!
You’ll be in awe of the natural wonders
I’m no geologist, but I couldn’t fail to be floored by Slovenia’s impressive array of awe-inspiring caves and waterfalls. From dramatic gorges to expansive underground canyons, Slovenia’s natural wonders are astounding, and look even more spectacular during the wetter seasons (such as autumn) when the rivers flow and waterfalls cascade in abundance. Though there are many to choose from, my personal favourites were the Škocjan Caves in the south-west and Vintgar Gorge in Triglav National Park.
Given its status as an UNESCO World Heritage Site (awarded in 1986), the Škocjan Caves are a natural phenomenon and a must-see during any visit to Slovenia. This spectacular subterranean network of chambers and canyons spans over 6km and are thought to be millions of years old. Stepping inside, you are immediately transported to another world and time, surrounded by stalagmites, stalactites, vast open canyons and treacherously narrow pathways. It’s hard to believe it’s not a set from The Lord Of The Rings! With the Reka River at the very heart of the caves, autumn is a great time to see it full of volume in all its glory.
Similarly, the turquoise waters of Vintgar Gorge (located approximately 4km north-west of Bled) come alive during the wetter part of the year, with pools, rapids and waterfalls all carved out by the Radovna River looking magical. You can explore via the 1.6km gorge along man-made wooden walkways, taking in all the vivid colours and thundering sounds of the water.
The mountains and lakes will take your breath away
As already mentioned, the alpine landscapes in the north of Slovenia arguably look their prettiest in the autumn months, but at any time of year these mountains and lakes will undoubtedly take your breath away.
Set against the backdrop of the Julian Alps, Slovenia’s two largest lakes – Bled and Bohinj – are both absolutely magnificent. While Bled tends to be the most popular choice and comparatively busier, Bohinj offers a real sense of tranquility and small-town charm. As Slovenia’s largest glacial lake, Bohinj’s calm, placid lake is ideal for kayaking and offers reflective panoramas which are a photographer’s dream!
The mountains offer numerous walking and hiking trails too. Offering views of the iconic Mount Jalovec, the peak of Slemenova Špička is a popular hiking spot, famous for it’s Golden Larch trees which glisten gold as autumn approaches.
It makes for such a romantic city break
Slovenia’s capital and largest city, Ljubljana, is jam-packed with character and history. Littered with food markets and quaint shops along its cobbled streets, it’s all within easy walking distance making it perfect for a weekend city break. With the Ljubljanica River running through the centre, this vibrant capital city is made up of beautiful bridges and colourful architecture, the most famous of which are the gothic-style Dragon Bridge and the more modern Triple Bridge.
Though equally beautiful during the day, I really fell in love with Ljubljana when the sun started to set. Not only was the early evening sunset itself spectacular, but once it starts to get dark, the numerous bridges and walkways were filled with lights, giving the city a cosy soft glow and electric atmosphere, which can really be made the most of towards the latter part of the year when the nights draw in earlier. The atmosphere is buzzing, and the riverside walkway scattered with cosy cafes, bars and restaurants, all framed by autumnal trees and twinkly lights makes for an idyllic location for an evening stroll, wrapped up in coats and scarves.
Equally charming is Tivoli Park, Ljubljana’s beautiful city park, which features three horse chestnut tree lined walks and looks stunning as the leaves start to turn, along with Ljubljana Castle which stands high above the city offering magnificent views.
It’s a fabulous place to eat and drink
Last, but by no means least, Slovenia is the ultimate spot for a warming, gourmet meal beside an open fire, accompanied by a glass of red from one of the nearby vineyards.
Influenced by its neighbouring countries, the local cuisine offers an eclectic mix of dishes you may more commonly associate with Italy, Hungary and Austria, often given a Slovenian twist. From rich filled pastas to meaty stews, delicate pastries to hearty soups, there are some delicious dishes on offer, perfect for colder nights in.
Two of the most famous and well-loved traditional foods which are ideal for warming the cockles are ‘jota’ – a thick, flavoursome soup made using potatoes, beans and dried pork and Štruklji – rolled dumplings made with either sweet or savoury fillings. No trip to Slovenia is complete, however, without trying the incredibly decadent Bled Cream Cake made up of pastry, vanilla cream and custard. It may be indulgent, but not much beats sitting in a gorgeous Slovenian cafe in the crisp, autumnal sunshine with a slice of this sweet treat and a coffee!
Slovenia has also made a name for itself as a key producer of wine, boasting over 28,000 wineries across its three wine-growing regions – Podravska, Posavska and Primorska. There are tours and tastings in each area, and with vines bursting with fruit by late September and harvest providing a hub of activity, autumn is an idyllic time of year to visit. For true foodies, November also sees the Gourmet Festival take place in Ljubljana, which involves guided tours, a wine festival and street food.