Selected departures from April to October 2019
From our hotel base in Slovenia’s beating heart capital Ljubljana, this six day tour will take you from east to west and south to north, for an all-encompassing experience of the best that this gloriously green Balkan beauty has to offer.
It might be one of the smallest countries in Central Europe, but Slovenia boasts an incredible diversity just waiting to be discovered during this cross-country six day tour. Nestled between Italy, Austria, Croatia and Hungary, at the very top of the Balkan peninsula, its unique position means that this exceptionally green and pleasant land proudly showcases a contrast of influences, including a trio of different climates, from Alpine in the north, to Mediterranean on the tiny sliver of Adriatic coastline and Italian border, and Continental elsewhere.
You take your flight to Ljubljana, or Zagreb in neighbouring Croatia where you will be met and transferred to the hotel.
Ljubljana is a capital city that represents Slovenia beautifully, wearing its green credentials with pride. As far from a concrete jungle as a city can possibly get, one of Ljubljana’s key attractions is the river found snaking its way around Castle Hill, a thickly forested mound with a 15th century castle perched at its top.
This morning we are shown around the highlights of the city by a local guide, including the pedestrianised Old Town that sits between the base of Castle Hill and the river. This lattice of white-walled, red-roofed buildings hides a trio of delightful squares that are home to some of the city’s most important landmarks, including the Town Hall in trademark Slovenian Venetian-gothic style, with a copy of the Rome-inspired Robba Fountain in front (the original you can see in the city’s National Museum), the Hercules Fountain, the Church of St Florian with its prominent spire and the famous Sticna Mansion. Another Roman-baroque building of beauty in the Old Town is St Nicholas’ Church, also know as Ljubljana Cathedral, a cream and white-coloured confection topped with a green dome and easily recognisable twin towers – a peek at the incredible frescoed and gilded interior will leave you open-mouthed in awe.
To reach another of Ljubljana’s must-see areas we’ll need to cross prominent city architect Jože Plecnik’s famous Triple Bridge, a key point for crossing the river from the Old Town, and one which leads directly to the city’s famous Prešeren (Prešernov) Square. There you’ll spot the distinctive salmon-coloured Franciscan Church of the Annunciation and the bronze statue monument of Slovenia’s national poet, France Prešeren, which stands in front of the elegant white façade of the Central Pharmacy building.
This afternoon you have free time to explore the city at your leisure. Perhaps, after grabbing a hearty bite to eat while perusing the Plecnik-designed Central Market, you’ll take the funicular up to the castle for the best bird’s eye view of the city, popping into the Virtual Castle attraction and the Museum of Puppetry while you’re there. Or you might choose to relax on a river boat cruise, or simply stroll the café-lined promenade – either way, be sure to look out for the Dragon Bridge as you go. If you need a sweet treat to keep you going, why not try one of the more unusual chocolate combinations offered – we imagine that the fig and prosciutto will be a new experience!
After breakfast we leave the bustling capital behind and head north east towards the Hungarian border, first stopping at almost impossibly pretty Ptuj, which sits quietly beside the Drava River. Said to be the oldest town in Slovenia, Ptuj packs plenty of historical importance into its small centre, and after a brief orientation of the Old Town, you’ll be left to uncover these gems for yourself.
From Ptuj it’s on to its big sister city further along the river, Maribor, which is the second largest in the country. During our arranged walking tour with a local guide, you’ll get chance to see the celebrated Old Vine in the lively Lent district – the oldest fruitful vine in the world – as well as this stunning city’s other sights, including the renaissance-style Town Hall and the Plague Column that sit on the bustling Main Square, and the imposing red-bricked Franciscan church and monastery. This afternoon experience a wine tasting in the underground tunnels of the Vinag wine cellar, which is one of the oldest and largest classic cellars in Europe.
This morning sees us crossing to the other side of the country, to the tiny stretch of coastline at the Gulf of Trieste. Facing Venice across the Adriatic, seaside Piran mirrors its Italian neighbour with its Venetian-gothic architecture, pristine marble-paved square (which used to be the inner harbour, until the off-putting smell of stagnant water encouraged the powers that be to fill it in), and its winding alleyways lined with a wishy-washy rainbow of shuttered houses. You’ve got many works of Venetian art to meander between, including the 19th century statue of local violinist and composer Giuseppe Tartini (who you can learn more about in the museum at nearby Tartini House), and depictions of St George by Venetian baroque painters in the town’s cathedral – a white-walled building that sits on a cliff beside the blue waters below. Piran even has its own ‘Venetian House’, an exquisite 15th century palace overlooked by the cathedral’s replica of St Mark’s bell tower in Venice.
Once you’ve perused this coastal town’s main landmarks, why not energise yourself with a walk up to the town walls, where you can scale the Gate Tower and walk along part of the parapet? Or simply stroll the harbour and promenade, perhaps stopping for a delicious seafood lunch made with ingredients that you’re unlikely to find fresher across the whole of land-locked Slovenia.
This afternoon our tour moves on to nearby Lipica, where we’ll enjoy the privilege of getting close to the rare and prestigious breed of Lipizzaner horses, known as being the horse of royalty. This short journey includes a quick trip over the Italian border, before we cross back to Slovenia just moments later!
A delightful presentation by the Classical Riding School of these highly trained horses performing their complex routines is followed by a guided tour of the 400-horse stud farm. During our visit there’s ample opportunity to learn about the distinctive white breed – who are branded with a letter L on their left cheek - their history, and the 436-year history of the farm.
There are so many superlatives to describe Slovenia’s most famous attraction, Lake Bled – beautiful, stunning, romantic, awe-inspiring, picturesque, charming – and yet you might find yourself rendered speechless at the sight of the glassy lake framed by forested hills, castle-topped cliffs and the mountains of the Julian Alps. You’ll feel spoilt for scenery as we arrive in Bled this morning, having passed through undulating tree-covered countryside, including the Soca Valley, with the odd spired church reminding us of our diminishing distance from Austria.
Of course, the prize for the most perfectly positioned church in all of Slovenia has to go to the Church of the Assumption, with its spired tower (complete with ‘wishing bell’ which you can request to ring to ask a special favour) reaching high above the trees that circle the tiny tear-shaped Bled Island. As our traditional canopied rowing boat cuts quietly through the still, shimmering waters, you’ll experience this storybook scene to its full effect.
On reaching the island, you can climb the 99 steps of the South Staircase (following in the weary footsteps of local new husbands who are led by tradition to carry their brides to the very top!) and if you wish you can visit the church and see the remains of the 15th century frescoes and the gold alter inside. Or you can choose to save your legs and simply stroll the circumference of the island, soaking up a full 360 degrees of jaw-dropping views back across the lake.
Once back on shore you’re free to make the most of the last day of our tour with a wander of the quaint town of Bled itself, and a stroll of the grassy lakeside promenade. Why not make a café stop-off to try the Kremsnita, a local speciality cake crammed with vanilla cream and custard that’s almost as heavenly as the setting?
You may also wish to visit medieval Bled Castle, the oldest in Slovenia, if you wish. Unapologetically dramatic, this two-level fortress perches precariously on the edge of a sheer 100m drop down a cliffside and into the water of the lake below, and will reward its visitors with a unique vantage point from which to survey the splendour of this true treasure of Slovenia.
At the appropriate time you will be transferred to the airport for your flight home.
The price of this holiday is per person based on two people sharing a twin room. Single rooms are subject to availability at the relevant supplement. Price includes return flights, transfers, five nights’ centrally located accommodation with breakfast, all local accommodation taxes, al touring as mentioned and the services of a Riviera Travel tour manager.
Included excursions are guided walking tours of Ljubljana and Maribor, visits to Ptuj, Lake Bled, and Piran, boat journey to Bled Island and Lipica Horse presentation and grounds tour.
All transfer times listed here are approximate, and dependent on traffic. If you have a question regarding transfer times please don't hesitate to contact us.
|Airport||Hotel location||Transfer time|
|Ljubjana Airport||Ljubjana||30 mins|
We want to ensure you make the correct choice before you book your holiday with us. If you have any concerns regarding the suitabilty of the holiday due to reduced mobility we would encourage you to call us to discuss these concerns. General information on mobility in connection with our tours can be found here.
This was our first trip with Riviera and we're already recommending you to our friends! Everything was handled efficiently starting with your excellent office staff who handled special requests quickly and cheerfully. The tours we...
A wonderful holiday ,hotel and food. Led by knowledgeable and caring Gema. I have been completely taken in by the country and its people. Enjoyed the whole experience...