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Discover the attractive small towns of Slovenia

Text: Danijela Cigale

The crown jewels of Slovenian tourism – Ljubljana, Bled, Piran and Postojna Cave – are complemented by numerous smaller destinations that attract enthusiastic visitors with beautiful natural surroundings, opportunities for sport and adventure, authentic architecture, cultural and technical heritage, festivals and local cuisine. These pearls ensure that tourists keep returning time and again.

We are pleased to present 9 attractive destinations with enough distinctive features to make them well worth visiting, and where you can enjoy new experiences and adventures.

Damijan Simčič ZOSO
Damijan Simčič ZOSO

Štanjel

Štanjel is one of the most picturesque villages in the Karst. Rising up in terraces on a hillside, it captivates visitors with its narrow streets and huddled stone houses, bleached almost white, with its walls, its castle, its Gothic church, and Villa Ferrari with its unique garden. The stone roofs of the houses are a characteristic feature of the Karst region: made of stone, the strong north-easterly Bora (burja) cannot blow them away.

Dominating the centre of the village is the castle, which today houses a museum. The castle has an extremely varied history, having housed a hospital, a school, library and even a cinema in times past. The architect Max Fabiani hit upon the idea of converting the castle into a multi-purpose public building or centre, which was a very novel concept at the time.

Villa Ferrari is actually a complex of several houses. On the slope below them lies a park known as the Ferrari Garden. The estate was once the property of a doctor from nearby Trieste, Enrico Ferrari, who in the early years of the twentieth century hoped to build a rural sanatorium for patients suffering from lung diseases. The architect Fabiani showed great respect for the medieval settlement and his renovation left the façades of the houses untouched. The magnificence and remarkable character of the Ferrari Garden, now protected as a cultural monument of national importance, can still be appreciated by visitors today.

A word of advice for anyone planning to visit Štanjel: the village's only cash machine (ATM) has recently been removed, so make sure you have some cash on you, if only for a coffee!

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Ana Rojc, Šimen Zupančič

108 km from Ljubljana Airport

Most na Soči

The most notable feature of Most na Soči is its reservoir, which is fed by the river Soča – the source of its astonishing, almost unearthly emerald green colour.

The lakeside path does not yet offer a full circuit of the reservoir, but it does run right along the edge of the lake, meaning that you constantly have a view over the water. A stroll by the lake is particularly pleasant in spring, with the ducks swimming across its surface and the willow trees coming into bud on the banks. From April to October you can take a boat trip on the lake aboard the Lucija (booking required) and even enjoy lunch on board.

The lake is a popular destination for anglers from all over the world, while Most na Soči serves as a starting point for hiking and cycling trails in the surrounding area. A car-carrying shuttle train (avtovlak) runs daily through the tunnel under the mountains from the Gorenjska region, significantly reducing the journey time. A trip to Most na Soči aboard the heritage steam train that puffs along the picturesque Bohinj Line between Bled and Nova Gorica in the warmer months of the year is a special experience in itself.

"Night on the Lake" is a traditional event that takes place in Most na Soči each June and includes a diving competition that sees the bravest divers plunge from the bridge into the icy cold Soča. You might not want to take part yourself, but you are welcome to come and cheer on the competitors. A second diving competition is held in the month of August.

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Milijko Lesjak, paolo Petrignani, arhiv Turizem Dolina Soče, Marko Bijuklič, www.slovenia.info

80 km from Ljubljana Airport

Kostanjevica na Krki

Slovenia's smallest town is an important cultural centre of the Dolenjska region. The old town centre lies on an artificial island in the middle of the river Krka. Frequent flooding has earned the little town the nickname the "Venice of Dolenjska". Rapid development followed the founding of the nearby Cistercian monastery in the thirteenth century.

You don't need a map on the Kostanjevica island, since it is only 500 metres long and 200 metres wide. The island is reached by two wooden road bridges and a third bridge reserved exclusively for pedestrians. The island has two streets and two churches.

A stone's throw away lies the former Cistercian monastery, which today houses the Božidar Jakac Gallery, a well laid out art gallery containing works by notable Slovene artists of the past century. The former monastery is surrounded by an extensive park in which numerous wooden sculptures may be seen. These were created as part of the international sculpture symposium Forma Viva. Lying just a kilometre and a half from the town, Kostanjevica Cave offers visitors the chance to explore the karst underworld in the company of a cave guide. The cave is also accessible to children and the elderly.

Visit a local restaurant and sample Dolenjska's famous cviček, a local wine made from a mixture of white and red grapes.

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Tomaž Grdin, Občina Kostanjevica na Krki

121 km from Ljubljana Airport

Šmartno v Brdih

Look at a photograph of Šmartno v Brdih, and for a moment you will think you are looking at a view of Tuscany. This picturesque walled Slovene village with its five surviving towers perches on a hilltop and is visible from far off. Originally a fortified stronghold, the settlement is today prized as an architectural jewel and cultural monument, full of enchanting details and representing a harmonious whole.

Not far from Šmartno lies Villa Vipolže, the most beautiful Renaissance villa with garden in Slovenia. Recently fully restored, it is today open to visitors. In fine weather, the view from Gonjača, a 23-metre-high observation tower with 144 steps, extends across the Brda region as far as the Julian Alps, the Gulf of Trieste, the Karst and beyond. Dobrovo Castle is one of the most beautiful Renaissance castles in the wider region surrounding the Italian city of Gorizia, which includes the present-day Goriška region of Slovenia. Today the castle's Great Hall is used for weddings and banquets.

What else is there to experience and taste? Besides the excellent Brda wines, olive oil and cuisine, the surrounding countryside with its many little hills offers countless opportunities for active leisure in the great outdoors. Did you know that even cherries have their own festival? All cherry lovers are invited to Dobrovo on 8 June.

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Damijan Simčič

142 km from Ljubljana Airport

Radovljica

Radovljica is only a short hop from the busy tourist destination of Bled. Linhart Square, the heart and soul of Radovljica, has been described as one of the most beautiful old town centres in Slovenia. The square is flanked by notable buildings that today house museums. You can rest your weary legs in the park close to the square. Radovljica is surrounded by the extraordinary natural backdrop of the Triglav National Park. No less important is its cultural heritage, including beekeeping, blacksmithing and popular folk music (which you will hear at practically every step).

The town lies on a plain and the area is criss-crossed by numerous hiking and walking trails and well provided with sports infrastructure. It is conveniently located close to major routes, and the vicinity of rivers and mountains means that numerous options for recreation and day trips are available throughout the year.

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Jošt Gantar, Miran Kambič

Jezersko

A narrow winding road full of hairpins leads to Jezersko, from where a wide view opens up over the mountain valley and the peaks of the Kamnik-Savinja Alps.

The mountainous landscape, with towering peaks as a backdrop, makes the area an ideal starting point for more demanding expeditions to Grintavec (2558 m), Storžič and other summits, or for shorter hikes at all times of the year. The tourist facilities offered by the valley encourage active leisure, while the area has long been known as a climatic health resort in the midst of mountains. As regards accommodation, a range of apartments and holiday houses are available, while Villa Planika, a boutique hotel catering for wealthier guests, is set to open its doors soon. The area offers a wide variety of mountaineering experiences, since it is criss-crossed by walking trails and mountain paths, while extreme sports enthusiasts can try climbing or ski touring, depending on the season. There are also several marked cross-country skiing trails. The warmer part of the year is perfect for bike trekking, hiking, climbing and running.

Črnava Lake was formed by damming a stream. The area around it is ideal for various sports activities, and there is also a campsite. Above the lake stands Turn Castle, with a popular walking trail running past it. You can also visit Čedca, Slovenia's tallest waterfall, where the water plunges 130 metres down a great cliff.

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Primož Šenk, Jošt Gantar, www.slovenia.info

30 km from Ljubljana Airport

Laško

Laško is a small spa and brewery town with a long history that offers as many experiences as you are willing to discover. In this town where mead and gingerbread maker Franc Gayer brewed his first batch of beer way back in 1825, be sure to visit the brewery to see how beer is brewed in Laško today. You can end your guided tour with a visit to the brewery museum and a beer tasting.

Good beer needs good water, something of which there is no shortage in Laško. The town also boasts a number of medicinal thermal springs that come bubbling to the surface close to the river Savinja and have been recognised as a source of health and well-being since ancient times. At the Termana Laško and Rimske Terme spa resorts, the beneficial effects of water are complemented by pools and water attractions, saunas, wellness services and traditional therapies tailored to your individual needs and designed to pamper you and improve your sense of well-being. Other accommodation options, besides the health resorts, include farm stays, guesthouses, apartments and mountain huts. Wherever you go, you can count on good hospitality.

Notable cultural experiences include the Laško Beer and Flowers Festival, a major musical and tourist event characterised by concerts, traditional culture and beer that represents the climax of the summer. Adventure lovers can try Laško's Enigmarium, the world's first brewery-themed escape room.

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Tomo Jeseničnik

94 km from Ljubljana Airport