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Trip Report 6 Days in Slovenia

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I posted this in response to my original pre-trip post on the Slovenia board, but I thought I should re-post it under Trip Reports as well.

First of all, Slovenia is awesome. Second, having a car was great and easy. We rented a manual VW Golf from Europcar (picked up in Ljubljana at City Hotel and dropped off in Portoroz). We were charged a "surprise" extra 11 euros or so per day for some sticker or something that would allow us to drive on the highways; I read about this ahead of time so we expected the extra charge. We were told that if we wanted to drive into Italy and/or Austria we had to pay an extra 30 euros per country. I don't know how they would know (perhaps by looking at the GPS history) but we did not pay this. For the drive from Ljubljana to Bovec, the Europcar guy told us that the best/fastest way to get to Bovec was in fact through part of Italy; he agreed to not charge us the extra 30 euros if that was the only part of Italy we were driving through.

Driving was very easy and the roads are well kept. We rented a GPS for about $50 and this was key. We never looked at the maps and directions I printed out ahead of time (although I will note that actual driving times and directions were basically identical to those on Google maps and Via Michelin). The one warning I want to give people is you might want to check the route your GPS gives you. For the Bovec to Piran route, the GPS took us on routes 609/607 between Tolmin and Nova Gorica. 609 and 607 here was a very narrow 2-lane mountainous road with tons of curves. We also constantly had to stop to pull over as far as possible to let cars pass because the road is so narrow. It added an hour to the drive and we would have much preferred to take 103 the entire way.

A brief overview of our trip:

Aug 10-11: flew NYC-BRU-LJU. Explored the city (which is more like a town). Easy trip and the LJU airport is small and a short distance from the city. A previous poster suggested flying into Zagreb but we had already booked our flight to LJU on Adria Air. It was admittedly a bit expensive.

Aug 12: explored LJU, including the castle and main churches. Highly recommend having coffee/lunch at the café on the top of Neboticnik. The dumplings with veal dish was excellent. There are also some great restaurants along the river in the old town, and the Dvorni wine bar is great with $3 glasses of excellent local wine.

Aug 13: overnight in LJU but drove out to Bled for the day. Easy drive. Rented bikes near the lake and completed a 33km ride around the countryside. This was the highlight of the trip for my husband, but be warned we probably biked closer to 40 km because the route was basically not marked at all. It was also extremely hilly. Despite this, it was an excellent way to see the countryside and small, traditional villages. We also spent some time in Bled, walked around the lake a bit, then drove up to the castle. The original plan was to also visit Lake Bohinj at the town of Stara Fuzina, but because our ride was longer and more exhausting than anticipated and initially delayed due to rain, we skipped it. Next time!

Aug 14: left rainy LJU and drove past Bled to Bovec. We skipped attempting the Vrsic Pass and drove through part of Italy. Because both countries are in the EU, there is no stop at the border. The drive was beautiful. In retrospect, we weren't sure if we wished we'd stayed the night before in Bled since we were there the day before, but when looking for hotels there wasn't much left in Bled at the time. In Bovec, we went white water rafting with the Soca Rafting Company. It was an amazing experience and we highly recommend it. There isn't much at all to do in the town itself.

Aug 15: Drove from Bovec to Piran, with a detour to Predjama Castle. Because of all the castles in Slovenia, and especially at this one, my husband, a big Game of Thrones fan, felt like he was in the show. We didn't go in the castle itself, nor did we tour the caves, but it was still worth a short visit. I would have liked to stop in Nova Gorica, but we both felt a bit sick after the aforementioned windy drive which tacked on an extra hour of driving, so we kept going. We drove to Portoroz to drop off the car. This was the one frustrating part of the car rental: no one was there but Europcar shares an office space with a travel agency, and the travel agent called the Europcar guy. We were told to wait 1 hour. It gave us the chance to walk around and check our Portoroz some, which is very glitzy and European-resort-ey. The Europcar guy drove us to our hotel in Piran. Piran was more our style: beautiful, medieval seaside town. In general, things (food, bottled water) were a tad more expensive in Piran than elsewhere in Slovenia, but still cheaper than Venice (our next stop).

Aug 16: We spent about half the day in Piran then around 1 or 2 we took a taxi to the train station in Trieste, Italy. This cost about 60 euros and my research revealed that it was the cheapest way to get there unless we took a bus from Piran at 645am or took some other crazy bus route which required like 3 different buses. In the end, we nixed the ferry to Venice idea because I read some stuff online that seemed to indicate that it wasn't reliable, and since we were getting on a cruise in Venice, we had to make sure we got there. Dropping the rental car off in Italy, while possible, would have added a good $200 or more.

In the end, we absolutely loved Slovenia and highly recommend it. We ended up cutting 2 days off our original Slovenia plan to cut flight prices, and to ensure we got to Venice a day before our cruise so we didn't miss it. We kind of wished we had another day in Piran, but time just did not allow it, and in the end we were a bit glad due to the noise at our hotel in Piran (see below). I had wanted to go to a winery in the Goriska Brda region, but the day we drove near there (Aug 15) was a national holiday and the wineries were closed. If we could have added an extra day, I may have added it here. I also wanted to go to Skocjan Caves, but my husband was not interested at all and time didn't allow, but that's another attraction that I read a lot of great reviews of. We also clearly did not explore eastern Slovenia at all but hope to get there one day!

Our hotels:
Ljubljana: Best Western Hotel Slon - excellent location, nice staff, very comfortable bed but the AC was not cool enough for us. The lobby was under construction while we were there but we could tell it was very nice. The breakfast that was included was absolutely excellent and included a spread of both European and American breakfast items, as well as eggs made to order. Parking was about $20/day. The hotel also has a small gym.

Bovec: Hotel Dobra Vila - we absolutely loved this small hotel/B&B. We got a room with a balcony and the view was amazing. The staff was very helpful (they got us a discount on the rafting trip). The breakfast was again excellent and included made to order eggs and cappuccinos. Our only frustration was that we couldn't get the WiFi to work, but we were only there for 1 night so we gave up. The hotel has a restaurant with a set 5 course meal that was excellent and well worth the price. The waiter also suggested a wonderful bottle of Slovenia wine to go with the meal.

Piran: Hotel Piran - we loved this hotel when we got here. Great location right on the water with lounge chairs at the ocean, another great breakfast, and a very nice staff who spoke English very well. We got a seaview room which was on the corner and had 3 windows overlooking the ocean and town. The problem came that evening after we got back from dinner; very very loud pop/club music was coming from somewhere and continued until 2am. Even with the windows closed and the AC on high it was very loud. Luckily, we brought and watched a movie on our laptop until shortly after 2, but otherwise had we been trying to sleep we would have been very upset. It is for this reason that we decided we were ultimately glad that we weren't staying a second night at this hotel. I don't know if this is a common occurrence or was just bad luck the one night we were there, but we did not read any reviews with complaints about noise before we booked the hotel, and we otherwise highly recommend the hotel.

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