Slovenia is one of the most magical places to visit and is truly beautiful in the winter. Places like Lake Bled and Predjama castle look even more romantic covered with a blanket of snow.
Most tourists look for the best Christmas market when travelling in winter, therefore Slovenia is often overlooked. But it is the perfect January destination, even for people who hate being cold (like me).
I will go through what the popular tourist destinations are like during winter. As well as the pros and cons of travelling at this time of year.
The capital of Slovenia is small but even more charming when it is snowing. There are impressive snowman dotted around the city including some huge ones outside of shops. The city feels welcoming and cozy, with lots of people sitting outside in coffee shops with big heaters next to them.
One of the things to look out for are the dragon figurines dotted around the city. Dragons are the symbol of Ljubljana and there is even a Dragon bridge. Another bridge to see is butchers bridge. There are many padlocks put on it by lovers and it is surrounded by different statues.
Most visitors head to Lake Bled soon after arriving in Slovenia. However I would recommend spending at least one full day in the capital first. We decided to base ourselves in Ljubljana for our whole stay and go on day trips from there. Mostly because we were both too scared to drive in the snow and on the opposite side of the road.
Lake Bled is the most famous sight in Slovenia and is definitely a must see. This lake looks like it’s straight out of a fairy tale! It was especially magical covered with a blanket of snow.
We took the bus in the morning and spent the day at the lake. Then, after watching the sunset we took the coach back to Ljubljana. I go into more details about how to get to Lake Bled as well as the differences between visiting in the January and September here:
Our first choice of cave to visit was actually Škocjanske Caves because of their natural beauty and underground waterfalls. However from Ljubljana it involved taking a train and then a 30 minute walk. We thought it would be easier with an organised tour but unfortunately they were not running due to a lack of demand. This is one thing to remember when booking off-season.
Postojna cave was a lot easier to get to as there were regular buses that stopped right outside. This cave system is so vast that it has its own underground electric train, which was an unusual experience. Our tour guide spoke English very well and explained the history of the cave. We saw so many different rock formations and huge stalactites and stalagmites.
Towards the end of the tour we saw some Olms (Proteus anguinus), which are often referred to as baby dragons. They exclusively live in caves and have adapted to be able to thrive in complete darkness. It is blind but has an excellent hearing and sense of smell. They also have photosensitive skin which means that they swim away if a light is shone at them. This is why we didn’t take any photographs of them. Olms can also survive for up to 10 years without food!
There are different types of tickets that can be purchased. They can include the vivarium, an interactive museum and a ticket for Predjama castle. Because we didn’t have much time we just purchased the basic ticket to see the cave.
Predjama castle is one of the most unique castles in the world! The structure is built into the side of a rocky cliff face and has a network of secret tunnels in the cave connected to it. It is even more impressive in person than in the photos and looks truly beautiful in the winter covered in snow.
The striking look of this 800 year old castle and the fact that it is connected to an elaborate cave system, makes it the perfect setting for a gothic fairytale. And it actually has its own fascinating story about Erazem, the rebellious knight who once resided there. He managed to withstand a siege from the imperial army whilst hiding out in the castle and receiving supplies through its secret tunnels. This went on for a year until knight Erazem was apparently betrayed by a servant and shot by a canon and killed on the toilet. I would love to go back for a tour around the castle and its caves and hear more about this story.
Getting to Predjama castle from Postojna caves only took 15 minutes by taxi. The staff at Postojna cave kindly called us a taxi, and I am not sure if it was due to the time of year but he seemed to be the only taxi driver in the town. He was combining all of the drop ups and picks and had constant phone calls. But he waited patiently for us while we had a look around the outside of the castle. It is open all year round but we didn’t have time to look inside.
During July and August there is a free shuttle bus between Postojna caves and Predjama castle if you buy a combined ticket for both attractions. There is also a cave below the castle that is part of the Predjama cave system. These are only open to the public between June and August due to the hibernation period of the bats that live there.
There are a few downsides to visiting Slovenia during winter. In the more touristy areas like Lake Bled, a lot of restaurants are closed so the choice is limited. Buses run less frequently and some places are harder to get to like Škocjanske Caves and Soca river. The route to Soca river involves small roads country roads that aren’t very easy to drive on. We didn’t even attempt it and this was part of the reason that we returned to Slovenia again in September.
If you are not comfortable driving then in the snow then it is best to stay in Ljubljana and go on day trips from there as the transport links are good. It is possible to stay overnight at Lake Bled to have more time there.
But the positives are that a lot of attractions like Postojna cave have off peak prices so you can save some money. Also the tourist destinations are much quieter which makes it a lot more relaxing. We only saw 2 large tour buses the whole time we were in Slovenia. And managed to walk around Lake Bled without seeing many people, this meant we could easily take photos with no one in them. The main one is that the snow gives everywhere such a magical atmosphere and enhances the already amazing attractions in Slovenia.
Although visiting during winter is not as straightforward, it is completely worth it. Making Slovenia the perfect destination for a post Christmas pick me up.
Visited: 4 days in the middle of January 2017