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If you’re planning a train trip through Europe, Slovenia might not be one of the first places you’d think to add to your itinerary.  But with neighboring Croatia’s popularity exploding, travelers would be wise to plan a stop here, as you’ll likely find even a week in the capital city of Ljubljana (pronounced loo-blee-ah-na) and Lake Bled just isn’t enough. In tribute to one of the most beautiful countries you probably never expected to visit, here are nine reasons why you’ll fall in love with Slovenia.

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1. Slovenia feels like Italy (without all the tourists)

A former part of the Roman Empire, Slovenia shares a border with Italy, but it doesn’t have the same crowds as its southeastern neighbor. Slovenia is one-fifteenth the size of Italy, but hosts under one tenth the number of tourists, which means you can explore all the country has to offer without having to deal with swarms of selfie-snapping travelers. You’ll get the same Mediterranean weather and homemade gnocchi, though—just without the price tag.

Photo courtesy of @Jorge_Franganillo

2. Eat your heart out in Ljubljana

Dine in the Archer’s Tower of a 12th-century medieval fortress at Strelec in Ljubljana. Whether you hitch a ride up or hike instead, feast on an eleven-course fine dining experience you won’t forget, courtesy of Chef Igor Jagodic (formerly of Copenhagen’s Noma). And if you still have room, head down the hill to the Open Kitchen Food Market on Fridays for burek pastries with cherry filling, homemade gnocchi, or sliced Carniolan sausage topped with mustard.

Photo courtesy of @Vjeko_Kršanac

3. Ski the Alps without breaking the bank

Less expensive than its Swiss neighbors, Slovenia is home to the Julian Alps. Visit Kranjska Gora for a fraction of the price of similar quality ski resorts in the Swiss Alps, or Vogel in the heart of Triglav National Park. Don’t despair if you plan your visit during the spring or summer—some ski resorts in the area do double duty as jumping off points for paragliding excursions.

Photo courtesy of @Gilad_Rom

4. Walk along the ice blue water at Vintgar Gorge

Just outside of Bled, the Vintgar Gorge features a snaking boardwalk with breathtaking limestone cliffs carved from the Radovna River. Previously impassable, a wooden walkway was installed in 1893 (rest assured, it has since been renovated). Explore the pools and rapids on foot—swimming is not allowed at the gorge—and you’ll be rewarded at the end with the spectacular 13-meter Sum waterfall.

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5. Get an adrenaline rush in Bovec

Close to the border of Italy, Austria and Slovenia, this water sports mecca is right between the Alps and the Adriatic Sea. In Bovec, you’ll want to go whitewater rafting, kayaking, and fly fishing in the turquoise Soca River, or hike the lush moss-covered path to the Virje waterfall that springs from the Kanin mountains.

6. Go for a stroll around the postcard-perfect Lake Bled

Bled is home to a glacial lake, set to a picturesque backdrop of the snow-peaked Julian Alps. After an afternoon of hiking or biking around Lake Bled, cool off at one of many swimming holes along the way. Just be sure to dip your toe in first to test the water; the temperatures can be chilly thanks to mountain runoff. Then, take a short boat ride to Bled Island (or kayak there on your own), where you can ring the bell at the Assumption of Mary Church. And when you’re done exploring the lake, reward yourself with a generous slice of Bled Cream Cake around town.

7. Get the most bang for your buck (or Euro)

In January 2007, Slovenia became the first formerly communist country to use the Euro. It’s now one of the most affordable countries in the system with a cost of living 42% lower than New York. A domestic beer will set you back less than $3 USD, and a three- or four-star hotel costs less than $100 USD. The country has slowly but steadily recovered from the Eurozone crisis, and is now an affordable alternative to nearby countries like Austria.

Photo courtesy of @Karen

8. The vineyard-to-population ratio is purportedly 1:70

Enjoy a glass of white wine, harvested in Slovenia’s Mediterranean climate, without elbowing your way through a crowded winery. The majority of the country’s production is premium whites from the Drava, Lower Sava and Littoral regions. For those who prefer red, head to Vipava Valley near the Italian border, which produces world-renowned Merlot and Teran.

Photo courtesy of @Lassi_Kurkijärviuper

9. Slovenia is super green

From the turquoise waters of Lake Bled to the tree-lined streets of Ljubljana, Slovenia is literally a green country—but it’s notably environmentally friendly, as well. Named the European Green Capital in 2016, you’ll find methane-powered public buses, ample city biking lanes and plenty of fresh air. Second only to Finland, Slovenia is the greenest country on the continent, with forest covering half of the nation’s territory.

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Tagged: Europe

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Hope Nardini
Hope is a freelance travel writer, salsa dancer, and shameless chocoholic. Although she's lived all over the U.S. and South America, she now calls the wonderful city of Chicago home. Find her on Twitter: @HKNARDINI

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