Definitive list of things to do in Slovenia

Photographer’s edition

I was about to write another post about “top things to do in Slovenia“. But instead of that, I rather do a list of the best places to see and photograph in Slovenia.

Fotostrasse was invited to stay for 10 days in one of Europe’s greenest countries: Slovenia. We visited the country from bottom to top, from left to right during those wonderful 10 days and here are our favorite spots. Keep in mind that we are a travel blog with a strong focus in photography, so all of the places here will be perfect for you and your camera. Of course that this does not mean you won’t enjoy every single place without a camera. My goal is to show you the prettiest landscapes, spots and more.

Charge your batteries, check your CF cards and lets go.

A bit about Slovenia

If you are not sure where Slovenia is on the map, it is right between Croatia and Italy. And no, it is not Slovakia. Slovakia is a completely different country with a completely different history and we covered that before here.

Slovenia was part of the former Yugoslavia. Remember your history and geography teacher trying to teach you about Yugoslavia? I do. But in case you don’t, let me short the story for you: Yugoslavia was a conglomeration of eight federated entities. It was roughly divided along ethnic lines, including six republics. Our lovely Slovenia was one of them. Besides Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia were also part of Yugoslavia. And just to make things a bit more complicated, there were two autonomous provinces within Serbia, Vojvodina and Kosovo.

But Yugoslavia is no more, war happened, peace came and Slovenia remains. Even tho you can still taste and feel the former country while you’re in Slovenia, Slovenians are completely different from its neighbors. All of them are fantastic in their unique way.

The capital of Slovenia is Ljubljana. And you can call it the city of Dragons, too. This lovely and small European capital is filled with dragon statues all over. And because of that Ljubljana is our first stop.

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Ljubljana, dragons, castles, squats and more

Ljubljana is our first item because you will most probably arrive here if you’re flying to Slovenia. This city is cozy and filled with stuff to do and places to explore. I thought about adding Ljubljana to this list because of 3 main reasons. 2 of them you can kinda see it going side by side, the castle and dragons. But the third item it will be a surprise for you as it was for me: a huge art-punk-squat in the middle of the medieval town.

Metelkova or Metelkova City is an autonomous social centre with street art everywhere in the center of Slovenia’s capital. This place used to be the Slovenian headquarters of the Yugoslav National Army and it is squatted since 1993. Metelkova consists of seven buildings, a hostel, countless street art and sculptures in an area of more than 12,500m².

This name is not because of heavy metal like I thought it was, ok? – I know, I was disappointed too. It is named after nearby Metelko Street – or Metelkova ulica if you prefer the Slovenian name. The street which is named after the 19th-century Slovenian Roman Catholic priest, philologist, and unsuccessful language reformer Fran Metelko.

After spending a few hours trying to capture the raw beauty of this lovely place, I suggest you to head to the top of Ljubljana’s castle. The Castle is the highest point in the city and the view from there is breathtaking. Besides the whole castle-vibe, you can enjoy museums with permanent and temporary exhibitions, cafes and much more.

You can go up by foot or by funicular. I suggest to take the funicular since it is quite a way up, but if you’re more fit than I am, feel free to climb your way there.

The dragons are all over the old city and the old city it is not that big. Get lost and enjoy the lovely city of Ljubljana with your camera.

Lake Bled, the super famous postcard of Slovenia

If you’re familiar with Slovenia, you know my 2nd item in this list of things to do in Slovenia, right? Lake Bled!

Lake Bled is for sure one of the prettiest places on Earth. I’m not kidding. The only bad thing about it is the amount of tourists, of course. But you can’t expect a gorgeous place like that to be empty, right?

Bled is the lake and a village near the lake. The lake has a lovely Castle on the top of a mountain and a church isolated in the island located inside the lake, Bled Island. The view is fantastic from everywhere you go, so go crazy. I never made it to the Bled Island because there was a wedding happening there as far as I heard. I can’t blame a couple for wanting to get married there, so I wasn’t pissed.

Lake Bled has a magnificent blue color because it has partially glacial and partially tectonic origins. The lake is situated in a picturesque environment, surrounded by forests and mountains. The medieval Bled Castle stands above the lake on the north. The Zaka Valley lies at the west end of the lake, giving this place the fame for being the postcard of Slovenia.

On the top of Bled Castle, you can find a wine shop, museums, restaurants and a forge with a very rude dude that takes pride on mistreating its customers. Please don’t mind him because the whole experience too damn awesome for that. You can tell him that I wrote this about him here, I told him I would.

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From Castles to Caves

Did you know that Slovenia has one of Europe’s biggest caves? Well, now you know.

This cave is fantastic and it is home to a very curious and super rare salamander called Proteus. The proteus or olm, is an aquatic member of the family Proteidae. It is the only exclusively cave-dwelling chordate species found in Europe and you can see some in Postojna. So if you like weird animals, this is the cave for you!

Postojna Cave is a series of caverns, passages and halls. Some are over 24 km long and two million years old! The whole system was hollowed out by the Pivka River.

As a visitor you get to see 5km of this labyrinth on a 90 minutes tour. You start with a cool train ride inside the cave. So be prepare to be either on the first role or the last for better photo opportunities, ok?

Postojna Cave has a constant temperature of 8°C to 10°C with a humidity of 95%. I was with a light jacket and I was fine, but if you feel cold more than me, a warm jacket is advised. I’m telling you this here because overpriced jackets are being sold everywhere around the cave. Don’t fall for it. And since we’re talking about outfits, avoid uncomfortable shoes since you’ll be walking for more than 1 hour in a humid cave.

The cool train will take you to the Great Mountain cavern, on a trip that’s like entering the secret lair of Batman or a 007 villain. Pay attention to the part with the chandelier. If you don’t manage to get a good shot on the way in, try to memorize where it is because you’ll get a second chance on the way out.

After the train you’ll be escorted on foot around the cave by a tour guide. Take with you your clearest and fastest set of lenses, ok? No tripod and no flash are allowed inside the cave. The halls are too narrow for allowing people with tripods and the flash triggers algae to grow. And if algae grows, the whole ecosystem is doomed and the animals inside disturbed. So if somebody in your group is not following the “no flash” rule, please talk to them. The whole ecosystem depends on darkness.

A friendly advice for photographers like me that hate to share a confined space with billions of tourists, avoid the summer. Like I said, the temperature is around 10°C no matter what. It will not be colder if you go off season and you’ll have way more fun.

Things to do in Slovenia – South East edition, Bela Krajina.

Now the fun begins. Now I’ll give you a few places that are not filled with tourists in a side of Slovenia that not everybody goes: Bela Krajina.

Bela Krajina means White Carniola in English. This Slovenian region is a hidden gem even for the most experienced travelers.

Bela Krajina is located in the south-east part of Slovenia, almost on the border with Croatia. The place is filled with rivers, forests, fields and cute houses.

Fotostrasse chose this side of Slovenia to set its base, we chose the new Big Berry Camp because of the natural beauty, photo opportunities and proximity of some of the most amazing places there.

Big Berry is well located enough that you can order food and far enough from cities so you can try to shoot the Milky Way. Just don’t make the same mistakes I did and check the moon calendar so you don’t end up there with the full moon up your head.

The camp is right by the Kolpa River, the river that divided Slovenia and Croatia. If you like to photograph nature, this is the place to stay.

Good food, nice scenery, hot tub, comfy bed and my own kitchen – What else could I ask for? Besides that, Big Berry has a huge area with hammocks and chairs so you can easily spend hours in your night photography. 110% approved.

Big Berry also is 100% connected with some of the best local producers in the region and every morning a basket full of fresh food will arrive to your door. Be prepared to gain some extra kilos and not even feel bad for it since the food is so great.

Portraits that will teach you about culture

One of the best things about Big Berry is that they have tons of partners. And the partners are local producers, they are real people, you know? They are lovely folks! Having your bread and yogurt in the morning coming from real people rather than faceless companies is super important. And usually way more healthy.

The folks at Big Berry took me to countless interesting places to hear unique and amazing stories. I’ve met honey producers that have old military trucks, with bees instead of weapons, driving around Slovenia to get the best flowers for their honey. I’ve seen the lovely cows that go by themselves to get milk out. Alone. I mean, nobody is forcing them to give away the milk. They just go!!!

I’ve met the women and I’ve learned how to make their recipe of belokranjska pogača, the delicious and famous bread of this region. I’ve seen wine producers and the only craft beer brewery that is changing Slovenian beer scene. Fantastic people that lived through so much and are doing what they do in spite of all the happenings they lived. It is truly inspiring to see how lovely Slovenian people are and learn more about their culture through their food.

See where the river Krupa begins

Since we’re talking about Bela Krajina, another great location for photos is where the river Krupa begins. Located between the towns of Metlika, Semič and Podzemelj, this place is like a paradise.

A huge white wall, green everywhere, clear water and a peaceful a abandoned house makes this place looks like something from out of this world. I truly fell like I was living in a dream or something.

You can find a table and some chairs made out of wood there, so if you want to have a romantic picnic, just bring your cheese and wine. Or just go there and practice long exposure photography with running water and dreamy like landscape. Just please if you do the second one, tag us on your Instagram so I can see it, ok? Our name there is @Fotostrasse and you can also use the hashtag #Fotostrasse.

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And speaking about rivers…

In the same region, there’s a mountain you can hike all the way to the top and see from the best view possible where the countries divide.

The name is Kozice and if you’re too lazy to hike – like I am most of the times – you can go also by car. Just need to follow the signs on the road and bring some blankets and hot tea. Since it is pretty high the wind can make the temperature feels a bit to the colder side of the thermometer. Nothing major or anything but about short shorts and sleeveless shirts, you know? The marking signs for this route are the oak leaf, which marks a long path with starting points in Dol and Predgrad (about 14 km), and a hazelnut, which marks a shorter part of this route with a starting at Lazi (about 9km).

The Kozice viewpoint offers a great view of the Kolpa river valley, the small villages of Dol and give you an incredible sense of freedom. The Kolpa river is the river I told you before that divides Croatia and Slovenia. On the map below I give you where Dol is because Google Maps can’t find the viewpoint for me. I tried for 1 hour.

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Another paradise hidden between the trees called Pumpnca

Pumpnca is a cute little hidden gem, right by the river Krka next to Novo Mesto. Novo Mesto is traditionally considered the economic and cultural center of the historical Lower Carniola region. It is the biggest city around the Big Berry camp next to Črnomelj.

Slovenia is full of hidden gems and every single one is worth a visit. Pumpnca has a bunch of hammocks, books for you to read your afternoon away, hiking trails, a pier to swim in the river Krka, free wifi and much more. The place looks like a hippie heaven lost in the middle of Novo Mesto’s old water pump.

When we arrived we saw a party happening with some DJs, some BBQ on the side, a bunch of families swimming with their kids, dogs, people enjoying nature.. It was a perfect summer day. Everybody doing their business, sharing a space in peace.

An afternoon there can inspire you a lot for photos and bring you the peace you need to decide your next move in Slovenia. After all, don’t know about you guys but I got lost with so many options. I hate to decide where to go and where not to go. I always want it all but 10 days are not enough. After sitting down and carefully looking at the map, having a coffee and enjoying the view, my head was clearer.

There’s a bar with snacks, drinks and coffee there too. And you pay what you think you should pay. This place is for sure a cool break from reality.

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Domačija Kuzma, the vintage watermill in the South East Slovenia

Let’s go a bit to the south, shall we? Domačija Kuzma is a working watermill in Pobrežje, a city district of the City Municipality of Črnomelj in southeastern Slovenia.

The complex is not only about the watermill, tho. You can swim the clear water river, explore the area by kayak or just enjoy the countless photos opportunities this place has to offer. The history behind this family run water mill is super interesting too. The lovely daughter of the owner showed us everything around it and told us a bit about how a watermill works. It is incredible to see how people used to prepare food, all the machines and everything else.

If you’re lucky, the lovely Mike will show up to make your day a bit better. Mike comes from Mike Tyson, ok people? This lovely cat is a fighter and if you see him hurt, it is because he is the “guard dog” of the place.  His owner told me that there is a fox that sometimes wanders around the area and for Mike, his house is not open for fox visitation. So he hunts and fights the shit out of this fox. And for some reason, the small cat always wins. Tough – and lovely – , little fellow.

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So this post is coming to an end. After 3000 words I think I delivered a glimpse of what this lovely country has to offer to amateurs and professional photographers. Slovenia is an unexplored hidden gem right in the middle of Europe. There are more spots that I visited but I will leave some new material for our YouTube channel. It is just starting but every like is appreciated. Please go there and subscribe to get first hand videos and experiences from our summer in Slovenia.

Cheap, full of untold stories, filled with great scenarios and more. That’s the best way I can describe this wonderful country.

If you decide to include Slovenia in your future plans, please let us know. We have a cool facebook group where you can meet all kinds of travelers. And we also have our twitter and instagram, so make sure you stay connected, ok?