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Archaic Beauty Of Slovenia – Adventure Anniversary Trip & Extreme Outdoor Tourism


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Slovenia, a country in Central Europe, is known for its mountains, outdoor recreation and ski resorts. Set on a glacial lake fed by thermal springs, the town of Bled contains a church-topped islet and a cliffside medieval castle. Nearby Triglav National Park in the Julian Alps offers skiing and hiking, plus rafting along the Soča River, renowned for aquamarine water.
Capital: Ljubljana
Currency: Euro
Population: 2.06 million (2013) World Bank
Official language: Slovenian

Here are top 11 things you should try when visit this beautiful country.

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1. Bled area activities

There’s a lot more to Bled than a picture-postcard lake with an island in the centre and a medieval castle looming overhead. Slovenes are very enthusiastic about outdoor activities and locals here are no different. You can swim in the lake – Bled’s warm (26°C at source) and crystal-clear water rates a Blue Flag – and there are swimming areas on the northern and western shores. But if you’re looking for something a bit more adventurous, a number of agencies organise a wide range of outdoor activities in the area, including trekking, mountaineering, rock climbing, ski touring, cross-country skiing, mountain biking, rafting, kayaking, canyoning, caving, horse riding and paragliding. Among the most reliable here is 3glav Adventures (contact details below), whose Emerald River Adventure, an 11-hour hiking and swimming foray into Triglav National Park and along the Soča River, comes recommended. Or try out one of my favourite sports – canyoning – an adrenaline-heightening pursuit in which you slip down a water course wearing a neoprene suit and helmet and attached to a safety line.

Address: 3glav Adventures: Ljubljanska cesta 1, Bled 4260
Contact: 00 386 41 683 184; 3glav-adventures.com
Getting there: bus to Bled centre or train to Lesce-Bled station (multiple services from Ljubljana)
Opening times: activities available year round; 3glav Adventures runs its programme from April to October
Admission: Emerald River Adventure: €65. Canyoning: €55 for three hours
Payment type: credit cards accepted
Reservations: recommended

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2. Mount Triglav

Mount Triglav (2,864m), in the national park of that name, is Slovenia’s highest peak. It appears on the nation’s flag and folk here don’t consider themselves true Slovenes until they scale old `Three Heads’ at least once. Even foreigners like me have achieved that status by climbing to the top. There are as many as 20 different ways to reach the peak, but unless you are extremely experienced, it’s best to follow the trail from the Pokljuka Plateau south west of Bled. A strong climber could make it up and down in 12 hours, but it’s best to spend the night in one of two mountain huts closer to the summit. The last hour involves a dizzying scramble along the rocky and very narrow edge. You can tackle Triglav independently but I highly recommend you hire a guide – qualified mountain guides are available through the Alpine Association of Slovenia (pzs.si). Seek information about the park from the Triglav National Park Information Centre in Bled.

Address: Triglav National Park Information Centre: Ljubljanska cesta 27, Bled 4260
Contact: 00 386 4 578 02 05; tnp.si
Getting there: bus to Bled centre or train to Lesce-Bled station (multiple services from Ljubljana)
Opening times: ascents possible late May/early June to mid-October
Admission: guided ascent from €200 (per guide)
Payment type: credit cards accepted
Reservations: essential

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3. Soča River Rafting

One of the most thrilling places for white-water rafting in Europe is the impossibly blue Soča River at Bovec as it makes its increasingly speedy way to the Adriatic Sea. Doable from April to October, the usual trip in an inflatable lasts between 1 1/2 and 2 1/2 hours, depending on the water levels and weather. Things may start off a bit placid but you’ll soon be grateful for that wetsuit and helmet as the swirls turn to rapids of grade 2/3 plus. You’ll get some excellent views of the Julian Alps, including Triglav, towering almost 3,000 metres above you. Any number of outfits offer trips of varying levels and lengths but my personal favourite is Aktivni Planet in the centre of town. Make sure to bring a change of dry clothes and a towel with you. Soča rafting trips are generally not suitable for children under 10 years of age.

Address: Aktivni Planet: Trg Golobarskih Žrtev 19, Bovec 5230
Contact: 00 386 31 653 417; aktivniplanet.si
Getting there: bus to Bovec centre (multiple services from Ljubljana and, in summer, Kranjska Gora)
Opening times: April to October
Admission: rafting trips from €37
Payment type: credit cards accepted
Reservations: recommended

4. Postojna Cave

Postojna Cave is Slovenia’s most visited sight – it’s touristy in the extreme but never fails to work its magic, even on repeat visitors like me. Its formations of stalagmites and stalactites are unrivalled anywhere and it is home to the endangered Proteus anguinus, a blind salamander known as ‘the human fish’ because of its pinkish skin colour. Created by the Pivka River two million years ago, the ‘cave’ is in fact a series of caverns, halls and passages 20.6km long. Visitors get to see 5.7km of it on a 1 1/2-hour tour – 4km via an underground train and the rest on foot on a path with some gradients but no steps. The cave has a constant temperature of 8°C to 10°C with a humidity of 95 per cent, so a waterproof jacket and decent shoes are essential. Thick felt capes can be hired at the entrance for €2.50. Check the website for package deals, including combination tickets that include Predjama Castle.

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Address: Jamska cesta 30, Postojna 6230
Contact: 00 386 5 700 01 00; postojnska-jama.eu
Getting there: train or bus to Postojna (multiple services from Ljubljana). For joint Postojna Cave and Predjama Castle ticket holders, there’s free shuttle bus between the attractions afternoons in July and August
Opening times: May-Sep: daily, hourly, 9am-6pm. Mar: daily, 10am, noon, 2pm, 4pm. Apr, Oct: Mon-Fri, 10am, noon, 2pm, 4pm; Sat, Sun, hourly 10am-5pm. Nov-Feb: Mon-Fri, 10am, 2pm; Sat, Sun, 10am, noon, 2pm, 4pm. Times given are for tours
Admission: €22.90; students, €18.30; children 6-15, €13.70; 5 and under, €1
Payment type: credit cards accepted
Reservations: not necessary

5. Bled Castle

Bled Castle is about as dramatic as a medieval fortress gets, with towers, ramparts, moats and a terrace with grand views perched atop a steep cliff more than 100m above the lake. The baroque southern wing houses a museum collection that traces the lake’s history from earliest times to its development as a resort in the 19th century, and a chapel which was consecrated in April 2014 after 70 years of disuse. Admission to the castle includes entry to the castle printworks, wine cellar and forge, all of which are essentially shops. The terrace of the popular Castle Restaurant affords wonderful views of the lake and surrounding mountains. There are several trails up to the castle but the most central is the path that starts just north of the neo-Gothic Parish Church of St Martin at the lake’s northeast shore.

Address: Grajska cesta 25, Bled 4260
Contact: 00 386 4 572 97 82; blejski-grad.si
Getting there: bus to Bled centre or train to Lesce-Bled station (multiple services from Ljubljana)
Opening times: Mid-Jun to mid-Sep: daily, 8am-9pm. Apr to mid-Jun, mid-Sep to Oct: daily, 8am-8pm. Nov-Mar: daily, 8am-6pm
Admission: €9; students, €7; children 5-14, €4.50; 4 and under, free
Payment type: credit cards accepted
Reservations: not possible

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6. Predjama Castle
It’s certain you’ve never seen anything like Predjama Castle, 10km north-west of Postojna. It’s a four-storey fortress in the mouth of a cavern halfway up a 123m-high cliff that has stood on this site since the early 13th century. It contains all the features you’d expect from a medieval castle: a drawbridge above a raging river, ‘murder holes’ in the entry tower for pouring boiling oil and hot sand on intruders, and a very dank dungeon. Have a look at the eyrie at the top of the castle called Erazem’s Nook, which is named after Erazem Lueger, a 15th-century highwayman who used it as a hiding place. He gained access to it via a secret passage, confusing and angering the local authorities. One day, having gone ‘to where even the sultan must go on alone’ (as I’m told), Erazem was hit by a cannon ball while sitting on the toilet. Apparently a turncoat servant had betrayed him by marking the location of the WC with a little flag for the enemy.

Address: Predjama 1, Predjama 6225
Contact: 00 386 5 700 01 03; postojnska-jama.eu
Getting there: train or bus to Postojna (multiple services from Ljubljana). For joint Postojna Cave and Predjama Castle ticket holders, there’s free shuttle bus between the attractions afternoons in July and August
Opening times: Jul, Aug: daily, 9am-7pm. May, Jun, Sep: daily, 9am-6pm. Apr, Oct: daily, 10am-5pm. Nov-Mar: daily, 10am-4pm
Admission: €9; students, €7.20; children 6-15, €5.40; 5 and under, €1
Payment type: credit cards accepted
Reservations: not necessary

7. Lake Bled

This impossibly beautiful cobalt-blue lake, measuring just 2km by about 1.5km, is one of Slovenia’s top attractions. Mild thermal springs warm the water to 26°C, making it a great place for a dip well into autumn: there are swimming areas on the northern and western shores. But what makes it even more special is the tiny, tear-shaped island toward the western side of the lake. On it you can visit a small museum and the lovely Church of the Assumption with some 14th-century fresco fragments and a gold baroque altar. If you need a special favour, ring the ‘wishing bell’ in the 15th-century church belfry and it will be granted. Wishing aside, the reason I continue to make my way out to the island is to ride in a pletna (gondola) which will set you down at the monumental South Staircase, with 99 steps.

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