2021 is still, at least for me, a year full of local trips in my home country Slovenia. As for the majority of the year I was pregnant (I still am and impatiently waiting for my baby, which is well past her due date at the moment, to arrive), with coronavirus and its many changing restrictions, I only once crossed Slovenian border. That was for my Italian summer holidays. Luckily, each time I go somewhere in Slovenia, I think to myself how lucky I am to live in a country with so many beautiful places and fun adventures. As I am sure this autumn will still bring lots of opportunities for local experiences, I am sharing my five favourite destinations for day trips we did in 2021.
1. Picnic with alpacas & charming Slovenj Gradec
Ever since my trip to Peru and Bolivia back in 2018 I am a little bit obsessed with llamas and alpacas. I think they are the cutest and I always wanted to pet and cuddle them. This year I got an opportunity to do just that and more. I visited Alpacas hill and I had the best time! Firstly, we fed alpacas to get to know them a little bit more, then we took them on a walk to a perfect picnic spot with green views of surrounding hills and meadows. Farm’s owners served us a delicious meal, full of their and other local products, then we had time to cuddle with friendly alpacas before we took them back to the farm. It was one of the best days ever!
On the trip we also stopped in Slovenj Gradec, a cute little town in Koroška region. We firstly went for a coffee – there are a few nice coffee shops on the old square, then walked around the lovely city center. We visited the Church of the Holy Spirit, passed the Koroška Art Gallery and the Koroška Regional Museum and stopped at the Roterturn Manor, which is today office of the municipality. It was Sunday, so unfortunately we could not visit the birth house of composer Hugo Wolf and the Perger gingerbread and candle makers workshop, which has been operating since 1757, as they were closed. But this is, together with timber rafting on the Drava river, something I will definitely do on my next visit.
2. Pumpkin seed oil tasting & exploring Ptuj
When I was studying in Madrid, Spain, I brought pumpkin seed oil with me, because I could not imagine eating a salad without it. That is how much I like its taste and am probably also used to it as the pumpkin seed oil is part of kitchen staples in almost every Slovenian household. However, it is really hard to buy it anywhere else in the world. So when I was planning the trip to the eastern part of my country, I know I wanted to visit Kocbek oil mill to get to know in detail how pumpkin seed oil is produced and also to taste different kinds of oil and other products made from it.
At Kocbek they are making the highest quality pumpkin seed oil since 1929 and they use only pumpkins from surrounding farms. They use the traditional production process of hot-pressing and also cold-pressing to make a few varieties of the oil. We learned so many interesting facts about this product, for example, did you know you need 33 pumpkins to make 1 litre of pumpkin seed oil? We also loved the tasting. Beside their oils we tried salami and spread with pumpkin seed oil and pumpkin seeds, and also sweets – like chocolate and roll with pumpkin seed oil and pumpkin seeds. I also recommend their sun dried tomatoes in pumpkin seed oil or vanilla ice cream with pumpkin seed oil. You can buy all these and many more delicious products in their store.
Ptuj is the oldest city in Slovenia as the records show it was inhabited already in the late Stone Age. It was also very important in the Roman times, when it was named Poetovium, so there are many Roman artefacts on display. Today however Ptuj it is a picturesque city, full of history, located on the shores of the Drava river.
When you are visiting, there are two amazing spots for the best views (in my opinion). 🙂 The first one is on the walking bridge that connects Zadružni trg and Dravska ulica, where you get an amazing overview of the Ptuj Castle on the hill and the old town. Then you can walk the narrow streets of the old city, pass the Minorite Monastery and stop on Mestni trg to see the Town Hall and Saint Florian monument. Continue your walk to Slovenski trg and admire the Orpheus Monument, the City Tower and St. George Parish Church. Before hiking up to the castle – to the second viewpoint – do also go pass the beautiful building of the Dominican Monastery. Up on Ptuj Castle you get amazing views of the red rooftops of the old town, Drava river and Ptuj lake. I also recommend visiting the castle museum, where you can – among many interesting exhibition – find out all about the local carnival traditions, including the famous Kurent carnival masks. They also have an interesting display of instruments, including the workshop of local violinmaker Maksimiljan Skalar. Fun fact: I played violin for many years when I was younger and Mr. Skalar is the one that made my violin.
The next time I am in Ptuj (and not pregnant) I will also visit Ptujska klet, the oldest winery in Slovenia. They date back to 1239 and also store the oldest Slovenian wine from the beginning of the 20th century.
3. Admiring nature in Jezersko
In the north of Slovenia, on the border with Austria, a small but gorgeous valley of Jezersko is located. It is mostly known for numerous summer or winter sports activities you can do there. Like hiking gorgeous peaks of the Kamnik-Savinja Alps, climbing, cross-country skiing, cycling, ice skating, but you can also do a lot of easy walks with amazing views.
We visited Jezersko in February, when I was in the middle of the many exhausting pregnancy symptoms of the first trimester, so we did a light hike. It started at the picturesque lake Planšarsko jezero, which locals have made in memory of a large glacier lake that was situated here and drained away. We continued the walk towards Jenk’s barracks, passed the oldest (and cutest) homestead in the valley – Šenk’s homestead and visited the church of St. Andrew, where we had a sandwich with a view on a nearby bench. Before returning to the lake we also checked out the source of magnesium-full mineral water named Jezerska slatina.
4. Solčava panoramic road & Logar valley
Breathtaking views of green meadows, mountains and valleys, highland farms, delicious local cuisine and more. All this you can experience on the Solčava panoramic road, which is said to be the route with the most beautiful views and I cannot disagree. You can travel the road with car (a part of it is macadam road), bike (I suggest using electrical bike as there are some steep hills) or hike along it. There are 12 stops with informative and panoramic boards that present you the natural and cultural heritage of Solčava region through the stories of Krištof the shepherd boy, Lintver the dragon and Solčava sheep Bicka. Or you can take one of two extended versions of the route to find out even more about the region.
After enjoying the Solčava panoramic road you can stop at Logar valley, one of the most beautiful Alpine glacial valleys in Europe. Here you can hike through the valley on a educational and ethnographic trail and enjoy the amazing views of Kamnik-Savinja Alps. At the end of the valley there is the majestic Rinka waterfall, which is with the height of 90 meters the second highest waterfall in Slovenia. It is also the source of Savinja river and a starting point to many great hiking trails. Do also take an opportunity to try all the delicious local food, like cured meat named Savinjski želodec (Upper Savinja Stomach).
5. Visiting gems of Dolenjska region
In the south of Slovenia, along the curves of green Krka river, Dolenjska region is situated. There are so many beautiful towns and spots here you definitely have a lot of fun things to do for days. But if you want to do a day trip and see the most beautiful places, I suggest visiting:
Kostanjevica na Krki – This picturesque city is one of the smallest and oldest cities in Slovenia. As it is situated on an artificial island and the only city on a river island in the country, its nickname is “the Venice of Dolenjska”. It is definitely worth walking its two main streets, admire colourful houses, cross many bridges, fall in love with views of small piers with wooden boats and take a swim in the Krka river.
Otočec Castle – Enchanting castle on a small island, surrounded with green river which you can admire while taking a stroll in a beautiful castle park? Although it sound as a start of a fairytale, this is the exact description of Otočec Castle. It is the only water castle in Slovenia and dates back to the 13th century. During the Second World War it was burned, however, later it was renovated and is today a home to a luxurious hotel.
Novo mesto – The old town of the capital city of Dolenjska region is situated on the bend of Krka river, so do visit bridge Kandijski most for a great view of the colourful houses and the green river. Then continue your walk along Glavni trg, were you can admire the Town hall, and hike up the hill to the beautiful Gothic Cathedral of St. Nicolas. Novo mesto is also known as the town of situlae, as Dolenjska is home to the biggest archaeological site of bronze situlae in Europe, and you can see many of the in the Museum of Dolenjska.
Hudičev turn – This castle garden pavilion shaped as four-leaved clover is named Hudičev turn (Devil’s turn) and is one of the most picturesque spots where you can enjoy a swing. It is situated in the castle garden of what today are the ruins of the Sosteka Mansion and especially beautiful in April, when the daffodils are blooming around it.
Žužemberk – In the center of city of Žužemberk a majestic old castle dating back to the 13th century is situated. Its shape is influenced by the seven huge round defence towers, from which you can have nice views of Krka river and the surrounding landscape. Do also go to the riverside for a refreshing swim and a drink with castle view.
Visited: February – August 2021