Nestled between tall mountain plateaus and winegrowing hills, Slovenia’s fertile Vipava Valley can be found at the western edge of Slovenia next to the Italian border.
Although just an hour’s drive from buzzy Venice and 50 minutes from the Slovenian capital Ljubljana, the dreamy region of Vipava Valley remains largely undiscovered despite being a paradise for lovers of nature, wine and outdoor adventure.
But right now, the lack of crowds at Slovenia’s best-kept secret is a major draw. Reminiscent of Tuscany, this under-the-radar destination is picture-perfect with verdant vineyards and rolling hills, dotted with old stone houses and church belfries, medieval settlements and castles. It’s no surprise that it was voted one of Lonely Planet’s top 10 must-visit regions in 2018.
Blessed with a warm Mediterranean climate, the Vipava Valley is an all-year-round destination with sizzling summers and mild winters. Hyped as being the sunniest place in Slovenia, the valley boasts a whopping 2,100 hours of sun every year. Visit in springtime to see the trees in beautiful blossom and in autumn for its New England-like foliage.
And it’s thanks to its pleasant climate that this fertile valley is firmly on Europe’s wine trail. Oenophiles can sip on a raft of wine varieties here, with top picks including the crisp and refreshing indigenous Zelen; the boutique Klarnica; and Pinela, an old variety, all of which are perfect for drinking with a picnic in the bucolic surrounds. Visit a family-run winery to tour the vineyard and cellar, hear local tales and discover how winemakers merge time-honoured techniques with contemporary approaches.
To complement the world-class wines, the region is also a culinary hit with gastronomical treats galore. Feast on rustic and wholesome locally sourced fare at cosy inns and agritourism farms, where you can indulge in mouth-watering local cheeses, cured Vipava Valley prosciutto and heavenly baked goods, such as štruklji (rolled dumplings) and sweet strudels made of delicious fruits that grow in the valley. Visitors may also be lucky enough to be shown around the farm and the wine cellar, where wine can be enjoyed straight from the barrel.
Gourmands seeking high-end dining spots will not be disappointed: the Michelin Guide for Slovenia awarded the Vipava Valley and Goriska the greatest number of stars in the country.
Perfect for outdoor enthusiasts, the valley is a great spot to reconnect with nature away from the crowds. This adventure hub offers ideal conditions year-round for paragliding, climbing, paddleboarding, horse riding, hiking and fishing, to name just a few.
The area offers optimum thermal conditions for paragliding and hang gliding – beginners can fly in tandem. Join an organised hike to climb up the high plateaus and soak up epic views of the sea and hills punctuated with vineyards and orchards.
Explore the valley by bike to discover its hidden treasures, following picturesque trails through wine-growing hills and visiting sleepy centuries-old villages or tourist farms to refuel with local delicacies along the way. There are easy trails for families and novice cyclists, while more adventurous cyclists can get their kicks by ascending steep rocky plateaus on the mountain trails. Join a bike and wine tour to cycle along undemanding traffic-free paths, stopping off at local wineries to taste wine and tuck into tapas in rustic wine cellars.
Those with a passion for watersports can meander along the pretty River Vipava on a kayak or paddleboard, while soaking up the unspoiled wilderness and lush-green vegetation.
When it comes to rustic accommodation, the valley brims with idyllic options that make the most of the lyrical landscape. Camp under the stars in boutique campsites and charming glamping spots or enjoy a cosy slice of rural life at agritourism farms and countryside apartments, set in vineyards and old villages. There’s also an abundance of one-of-a-kind boutique hotels.
Those seeking buzzing nightlife should head to Nova Gorica to try their luck in the numerous casinos and gaming rooms. It’s also the only spot in Slovenia where you can go bungee jumping.
Lauded for its green credentials, the pristine and unspoilt Vipava Valley and frontier Goriška is committed to sustainable tourism. In 2019, the region was added to the top 100 most sustainable destinations in the world. There’s never been a better time to discover this hidden treasure.
Find out more about Vipava Valley here.