Summer time is usually not the best time to travel in Eastern Europe, as an influx of tourists usually pour into the hot spots and it becomes too crowded to enjoy. This year, however, was a different story. With border security heightened and some countries “red listed,” it dramatically reduced all tourist travel through our favorite regions. We noticed that most license plates were from Slovenia!
After a fantastic final tour of the Triglav region of Slovenia (Roadtrip Slovenia Part 1 blog here), we made our way to the Kamnik Alps and the beautiful Logar Valley for the very first time! Except for another visit to Batič winery, everything on this second half of the trip was brand new to us…
We made it to our little apartment in nearby Solčava on the Juričef river, and were immediately charmed. Nestled in the mountains, this little apartment was situated right on the river, with several little waterfalls rushing right outside our windows and making the most glorious sound! We didn’t need our sound machines thanks to the sound of the water. Our hosts even made a beautiful meal for us of fresh grilled whole fish and squid one of the nights – fantastic! By the time we got to the valley we were pretty pooped from our morning swimming in Lake Bled, a detour through Ljubljana for Tacos, and the road trip in general, so we were content just hanging out with the goats in the backyard of the apartment and getting good rest for the big hike the next day!
We woke to a beautiful morning, but we expected the afternoon to threaten thunder storms again, so we wanted to get out hiking right away! We drove to the entrance of the Logar Valley, where each car pays an entrance fee. Gorgeous green pastures are surrounded by craggy peaks and beautiful green mountains all around. It is a peaceful sight indeed! We made our way through on the singular road that cuts through the valley all the way to the end, where we could park for Rinka Waterfall.
This incredible waterfall sits at one end of the Logar Valley and is worth the visit just for this short hike and views of the slap and surrounding Kamnik mountain range. This is also a fairly easy hike (to the falls) and once you get there, the steep steps up to the viewing lodge will take your breath away! As usual, we were among the first to arrive (smart move if you are trying to avoid crowds) so we had the trails and “treehouse cabin,” as the kids called it, all to ourselves.
For more on Slap Rinka, other Slovenian waterfalls and all destinations H20, check out my blog Bucketlist Slovenia: THE WATER here.
Crossing the river at the bottom of the falls are trails that take you up into the mountains. We had an idea we wanted to reach Kamnik Saddle Lodge, but we weren’t sure if our legs could handle an all day hike, so we just started out and decided to stop when we were tired.
It was a hot day, so it was a good thing we packed plenty of water. But even if you ran out, there were plenty of places to fill up along the way! The water was freezing cold and the trail followed the babbling, cascading river almost all the way up the side of the mountain. The hiking was legit – and the kids did awesome. Some parts of the trail had wire to hold onto and steps as it was pretty steep, and in other places there were rocks to scramble up. We gained a lot of elevation quickly, so we took frequent breaks to sit and enjoy the views.
We reached an obvious stopping point for us when the trail opened up into a big valley with wildflowers, where the jagged peaks surrounded us on all sides. There were two areas to sit and relax, one of which even had a hut where you could buy frozen treats, beer or coffee! It also looks like they are building some sort of cabin up there, perhaps for lodging. It is a magnificent spot, so we stopped and took stock of where we were on the trails.
I’m not positive, but I think the point we decided to stop was this valley here. As we looked at the map, we realized it was going to take too long to get to our original destination at Kaminška saddle lodge, one of the most beautiful alpine valleys in Slovenia. With wobbly legs, we decided this was far enough. The kids were pretty spent at that point, and we still needed to hike down, so we played it safe. Maybe when they’re older we’ll make the all day trek to the top! Regardless, this was a really fun and positively gorgeous hike that we highly recommend! It took us almost 2 hours to get to the valley from the parking lot, but that includes time to stop at the waterfall and plenty of breaks as we climbed up the mountain to the valley rest stop.
On the way down we dipped our Keen-clad feet into the frigid waters near the trail and it felt soooo good to cool off. It took a lot less time to get down to the waterfall – maybe about 45 minutes. We were surprised to see so many people starting to ascend mid-day!
After hiking back down to the waterfall, we stopped to cool off in the mist by the pool and had our PB&J sack lunches. Phew! What a great morning! It was starting to get busy at Slap Rinka, so we headed back to our place to rest a bit and take Bonsai for a walk before venturing out again.
After a brief rest at our apartment we gathered up again to head to Robanov Kot, the neighboring valley, for a gentle walk with Bonsai. Our hosts mentioned this was one of their favorite hikes, so we took them up on it. This is a quiet area – very little traffic and again only one way in and out. It was indeed a beautiful place – perhaps the most picturesque section was right next to where we parked, here.
The Logar Valley and neighboring region is known for farm stays, where local farmers have opened up their land for hikes and homes for visitors to experience real Slovenian mountain valley life. It often feels like something out of a fairy tale, and is a perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of daily life. Things are peaceful here, almost as if the pandemic wasn’t a worry at all…
From there we headed back home for dinner. We were served the most beautiful homemade meal by our hosts in our backyard – greens from their garden, homemade pickles, fries and grilled fish and squid! Absolutely delicious! We loved our time in the Logar Valley!
The next day we went through Ljubljana again as I had a hankering for Eggs Benedict. We found a great little restaurant downtown called Le Petit Cafe and found sidewalk seating that was just adorable. The inside was really nice too, but everyone was sitting outside so we did too. We had a delicious meal and then walked around town.
Before going to Logarska, we stopped in town to snag tacos at “El Patron,” a real Mexican taco joint. It was a very tiny place that turned out terrific tacos!
We made our way along the river downtown to where all the sidewalk restaurants and shops are. We wandered the streets, with Bonsai leading the way! There are so many cute shops, markets, and restaurants – this is definitely city with character! We would love to go back!
The sculptures in Ljubljana were super fun to spot – and Willow appreciated all the dragons! The dragon is a symbol of Slovenia, similar to in Scotland.
From our detour in Ljubljana, we took our full bellies to the coast! We checked into our next apartment, this time in Črni Kal at apartment Čeh, and dropped off Bonsai so we could continue onto Piran. We highly recommend the apartment – the price was great, it was new, clean and very spacious, and the views were terrific!
We hadn’t heard much about Piran, but we had an idea it might be similar to some of the other coastal towns along the Adriatic. The coastline of Slovenia is very short – only about 29 miles long – but it has several cities and plenty of areas for swimmers. When we arrived and miraculously found a parking spot (hint: there’s not much parking available, and summertime is busy here), we started walking down through town to the coast. We realized quickly this place doesn’t really compare to Zadar, Split, Hvar, or any of the other Croatian waterside cities we have visited. Instead, Piran seemed tired, and on the grungy side. Walking the maze of streets (and the smell) actually reminded us a little bit of Venice, but not as clean.
We were aiming to take a dip since we hadn’t gone swimming in over a day (imagine! What kind of vacation is this?!) and we knew the “beaches” in the coastal cities of Slovenia were different than what we are used to, but it was still pretty jarring to see how people in Piran just walk down to the boardwalk, strip down and climb over the rocks into the water.
But we wanted to swim! So we followed suit. People were clustered all around the big Piran peninsula as far as the eyes could see. There were all kinds of sidewalk cafes and places to grab a drink, but I can’t imagine coming down and spending a whole day here. It’s good for a dip, but wouldn’t be especially comfortable or relaxing for more than that. Still, we had fun, and we were glad the rocks led down to fairly shallow waters that were great for the kids.
We decided pretty quickly to avoid any further city-beaches and planned to head to Moon Bay the following day to check out the proper Slovenian coastline. We stopped at the grocery store to pick up items for tuna sandwiches back at the house and snuggled down for a good night’s sleep.
The next morning we thought we were getting an early start, but it turned out that even early birds on the Slovenian coast will have a hard time getting prime parking. (There isn’t much.) We found a lot at the entrance of Strunjan, and then walked for about 45 minutes along sidewalks, up steep roads, and then zigzagging down hiking paths until we reached the narrow crescent beach of Moon Bay. For more specifics on how to get there, read this.
When we arrived, the beach already had lots of people on it! We walked around until we found a little are just for us, but it wasn’t easy, and there was always foot traffic back and forth past our spot throughout the day (occasionally even a nudist or two). The kids had a great time swimming, snorkeling, climbing on and jumping off rocks, and collecting tiny, jelly-like blobs called “salps” that were plentiful in the waters here!
It was clear that just past our spot was the nude section of the beach, so the girls followed suit and went with half their swimsuits too! We let the day linger on, again with snacks and bakery items to tide us over, and relaxed until mid afternoon.
None of us were looking forward to the hike back, but we put on our good attitude hats and headed out. It took a lot of distractions to get Willow all the way back up the zigzagging cliffside hiking trail, but she did it, and ended up getting a piggyback the rest of the way from big daddy.
On the way back to the apartment we stopped again at the grocery store, and this time got stuff to make tacos. Man, after the long day at the beach and all that walking, those tacos sure tasted delicious!
The next day was rainy. What a perfect time to go visit some caves? It didn’t rain the whole time, but the downpour in the morning probably helped us avoid the crowds once again. Postojna is one of the coolest cave systems I have ever visited – and we have seen quite a few! The caves are 377 feet deep and almost 80,000 feet long – the second largest system in Slovenia. About 3.5 miles of the caves are open for tourism – impressive! They were discovered in the 17th century and opened in the early 1800’s for tourism, although graffiti in the cave suggests it had been found as early as the 1200’s!
It is a well built-up area with a giant hotel, restaurants, and a museum aside from the huge cave system. We checked out the museum first, which was really interesting! We learned a lot about the caves and even saw a few prehistoric animals including a wooly rhino! The girls especially loved the big hall filled with a bug collection – the butterflies were a big hit!
We had to wear our masks the entire time we were inside the caves, and since it is so cold and wet in there, we also were sure to pack sweatshirts and rain coats! We packed onto a train car and it took us on a ride for about 10 minutes deep into the cave. It dropped us off on a platform where we continued on a tour with our little audio guides – the kids loved it! The walking tour took a little over an hour, through incredible rooms displaying the full gamut of cave phenomena. We especially loved the spaghetti ceiling in the white room!
One of the most unique features of this cave is a huge dark room where a closed aquarium houses several small olms, or proteus, which are translucent amphibians similar to a salamander and also known as the cave or white salamander.
Unlike the salamander, it is entirely aquatic, and is a cave-dwelling-only amphibian that resembles a short snake with very underdeveloped, almost useless legs. The proteus evolved to live inside of caves, and is therefore a very unique animal. It can grow up to 16″ long, has three toes on its front feet and two toes on its back, and can barely see as it is used to the darkness of caves. They rarely move, unless mating or eating, and are tricky to spot! The proteus (olm) has no pigment in it’s skin, and has evolved to endure long periods without food – in some cases up to 10 years! It is estimated that they can live up to 100 years, but most live to their mid 60’s. They are an incredible animal, and also very rare, so they are protected in Slovenia and other cave systems in Europe. Willow thought they were kind of cute!
Not far from the cave lies Predjama castle. After a long day in the caves, we decided not to tour the castle, but we wanted to be sure to see it. Didi and I made our way up the path from the parking lot to the lovely entrance area that had eateries and souvenir shops. Just below the castle there appeared to be a jousting arena, and as we looked up at the castle we could see the movement of people inside holes in the cliff rock face! Inside must be super cool. We just didn’t have time that day to check it out. This photo from Pinterest gave us an idea, though, of what the largest cave-castle looks like inside!
After the day at the caves (and castle) we were too spent to cook our own dinner, so we went up to this here burger joint and grabbed some mediocre burgers with a view. We were glad to have gotten a feel for this part of Slovenia, but we all agreed it doesn’t compare to the lakes, mountains, and rivers of the north and west of the country!
Fontana (Beer) and Batič Wine
On the way back East, we made our final stop at Batič winery, our favorite ever, to stock up on a few more boxes to take with us when we move. This biodynamic (organic) wine is unlike any other, and truly is an experience. We recommend calling or writing before you visit (and trying not to go on Sunday, as it is literally this family’s home you’re invited into), but it is every bit worth it. Message me if you want more info! We are so grateful to be able to bring a little taste of Slovenia with us as a reminder of all the wonderful times we had there.
From Batič in the Western Slovenian Vipava wine region in Šempas, we drove a couple of hours back east towards Žalec, where Fontana’s unique “beer fountain” is located. We purchased our microchipped souvenir beer mugs and made our way to the very clever fountain area. You place your glass at one of the fountains and push the button and voila! A little spout pops down and dispenses a perfect 4 deciliter mug of beer. We tried all six and agreed the hemp beer (green, below) was better than we expected even though we both liked the Slovenian pale ale best!
Photos below by my friend Nadja, who happened to visit Fontana the exact same day!
From Fonana we traveled to nearby Lasko, home of Lasko beer brewery. We didn’t go there, but we were staying up the street at a cute little boutique hotel.
Lasko is such a cute little town! When we arrived it was pouring rain, and over the next couple of days we were dodging thunder storms, but we were very cozy in our little apartment in the boutique hotel. We noticed the river was uncharacteristically brown – something unusual for Slovenia – and guessed that it must be due to all the rainfall and runoff. Sure enough, on one of our drives in the rain, we saw sections along the river flooded and all of the culverts positively gushing with dirty water straight into the river. We even saw a car stuck in the flood! There were rescue workers there and everything seemed to be fine, but still – it was unnerving!
Luckily the next morning we awoke to blue skies so we decided to go to the popular thermal water park across the river. We had breakfast at the hotel and got ready for the day.
On our walk there we spotted a cute little playground that we noted for later, and enjoyed the parks along the river that were peppered with very interesting statues and sculptures! It was a lovely walk to the thermals, about 10 minutes from our hotel.
Hotel Thermana Park Superior
This thermal pool complex is quite the destination. There is a full spa, sauna, and indoor-outdoor thermal water park capped by a magnificent glass dome that can open up in good weather. It was such a treat to play here all morning with the kiddos, and I even got to have a Thai massage – much needed after all that hiking! There were plenty of slides, various hot tubs, and even a wave pool, plus a full medical side of the complex for people who need physical therapy.
After swimming the kids played on this awesome playground until we got hungry and had to scope out another bakery (which we did, and it was awesome, because they had meat burrek!) before the storm rolled in!
While the boys ran to the bakery, the girls and I explored this super cool Alice in Wonderland pop up in the park. It was so creative and it really peaked the girls’ imaginations!
After we left the park with our pizza and burrek from the bakery for lunch, we headed back to the hotel just in time for a huge thunder clapper. Later on we wanted to go out to dinner, but we had to brave the weather to do so. We drove along the river towards Celje and watched the waters rise, culverts overflowing. The kids were amazed!
We would’ve loved to explore more in Celje, but the weather just wasn’t cooperating. We went to dinner at Koper Spageterija & Pizzeria, a cute little brick oven place downtown. It was a decent meal, and a fun place to reflect on our super fun time in Slovenia. We were heading home the next day, so we asked the kids what their favorite parts of the trip were. Beau said he loved swimming in the lakes, Didi loved hiking behind the waterfall and the castles, and Willow said she preferred our days at Lake Bohinj. I loved our mountain hikes and the cave, and D’s favorite was of course Lake Bohinj.
After dinner we walked around for a bit until it just got too darn wet. Celje is a cool town! We had heard about it years ago when a former basketball teammate of D’s ended up playing hoops overseas and his team was located right here in Celje. We wish we could’ve seen a bit more of it, but the weather just wasn’t cooperating. So, after dinner, we were done for the day.
The next morning I insisted on visiting the medieval Stari Grad Castle in Celje before we headed for home, even though the weather was medieval too (misty and stormy)! The girls were up for it, so the boys stayed in the car to keep Bonsai company and we headed up to see what we could see.
This castle is impressive, overlooking the city of Celje. On a clear day you can see far into the mountains. This day we couldn’t see far, but it was still a great view! The castle is known as the seat of the Counts of Celje, and there is quite the history and many dramatic stories of these counts! In the basement of the main tower there is an impressive exhibit of medieval torture devices – the girls were fascinated by it and also grossed out! We only spent about 45 minutes here bopping around, but I had to peel the girls off the giant chess set! The main tower made it worth the trip for me. And of course, thanks to the weather, we had the whole place to ourselves.
On our way home we were totally spent. 10 days of high-torque touring around Slovenia really wore us out, but we were full of gratitude (and a carload of bio wine!), basking in the afterglow. The wonders of this great country never cease, and we will certainly miss having it as our neighbor. We don’t know when we will see you again, Slovenia, but it has been one awesome ride! Thanks for the memories!