Think of Slovenia and you’ll likely picture the glasslike waters of Lake Bled surrounded by snow-capped peaks, or chocolate-box towns tucked between rolling hills. The enduring image of Slovenia matches up perfectly with its growing reputation as one of the world’s greenest and most sustainable destinations. Slovenia was crowned Europe’s most sustainable destination at ITB Berlin 2020 and has established a Green&Safe responsible travel label, which ensures high hygiene standards and Covid-safe protocols. In June 2020, Slovenia became one of the first recipients of the Safe Travels Stamp from the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC).
Currently on the UK’s amber list, Slovenia’s mass vaccination programme is now gaining momentum to prepare for a summer season that’s open for tourism. While visitors should currently only be travelling there for essential reasons, and the UK requires a 10-day quarantine period on arrival from Slovenia, this is set to change as the vaccination programme takes hold in the country.
And it won’t be a moment too soon, as Slovenia offers British travellers the kind of holiday that they’ll be craving post-lockdown: safe, outdoor adventures in some of Europe’s cleanest, greenest nature.
Green activities in the great outdoors
Slovenia crams a huge variety of landscapes into its modest landmass. The peaks of the Julian Alps soar skyward in the country’s northwest, while turquoise lakes glitter in the foothills. Over 50 per cent of the country is covered in forest, and the Soča River cascades emerald-green from the mountains to the Adriatic Sea. Literally one of the greenest countries on earth, it’s no surprise that hiking, cycling and adventure sports take centre stage in Slovenia’s tourism offerings.
Hiking for all
Swap two wheels for your own two feet on Slovenia’s 10,000km of hiking trails. The Juliana Trail opened in 2019 and takes hikers 280km from the Italian border through Slovenia’s most picturesque natural wonders, like the mountainous Kranjska Gora region, the iconic shores of Lake Bled and ascending into the Triglav National Park – overshadowed by Slovenia’s highest peak, Mount Triglav. You can hike into the Alps, too, leading you to the craggy border with Austria.
Family-friendly treks take place on Slovenia’s highlands, through the forests of the Pohorje Hills or the ambling Polhov Gradec Dolomites. The Slovenian Mountain Trail takes you from northeastern Maribor, between peat bogs and river rapids, to the makeshift lodges in the Lovrenc Lakes.
Cycling for champions
Keen cyclists can follow in the tyre tracks of Tadej Pogačar, the first Slovenian to win the Tour de France’s yellow jersey, in 2020. There are plenty of road biking challenges across Slovenia, with the toughest winding through the Vršič Pass to 1,611m elevation in the Trenta Valley. Then there are the endurance tests – like the long-distance Circular Tour through the Julian Alps, which traverses 232km from alpine resort Kranjska Gora through the idyllic Soča Valley.
But you don’t have to be a pro to take on some of the longest-distance cycling trails, like the Trans-Slovenia 01 trail, which spans Slovenia, Italy and Austria over seven days and offers lots of opportunities for R&R on the way. Then there’s the 710km Drava Cycling Route, which crosses Italy, Austria, Slovenia and Croatia – or Bike Slovenia Green, a series of one-day cycling loops around the Julian Alps, Lake Bled or the Adriatic coastline.
Slovenia is emerging as a top European wine destination, having picked up a record 186 medals in the 2020 Decanter World Wine Awards. Visitors should make a beeline for Maribor, home to the oldest vine in the world still producing grapes, as well as the Posavje wine region in the southeast of the country, and the Primorska region in the west.
For a summer adventure that restores mind and body, with nourishing natural food and outdoor activities in the fresh air, Slovenia will provide.
Slovenia has been named 2021 European Region of Gastronomy and is taking the opportunity to focus on sustainable cuisine, encompassing education and agricultural development into its ethos.
With culinary influences from neighbouring Italy, Hungary, Austria and Croatia, Slovenia’s national cuisine relies heavily on its fresh, local ingredients, with its chefs making a name for themselves with their ‘garden to table’ approach. Those with a sweet tooth should make a beeline for the alpine town of Radovljica, home of honeybread, beekeeping and the Chocolate Festival. For innovative takes on traditional produce, hunt out the first two restaurants to receive the Green Key international certificate: Gostilna pri Lojzetu in the Vipava Valley, and Galerija okusov in the Lower Savinja Valley.
Sustainable fine dining
2020 saw the first-ever Michelin guide to Slovenia, with 52 restaurants mentioned and six chefs receiving a total of seven Michelin stars. The top-awarded chef was Ana Ros, named the world’s best female chef in 2017. She received two stars for her restaurant Hiša Franko, a stone’s throw from the Italian border. Heavily influenced by the area’s dairy and meat-based traditions, the menu showcases the produce of local foragers, shepherds, fishermen and hunters.
A further six Slovenian restaurants received a Michelin Sustainability Award for their work on preserving biodiversity, reducing food waste and using renewable energy – and many more were listed in the Bib Gourmand and The Plate categories.
Main image: slovenia.info. Photo by Jošt Gantar