While Slovenia is a great all-year round destination, there’s something rather magical about winter holidays in Slovenia. This small, but incredibly varied country has a wealth of fabulous hotels, rural experiences, historical resources and fun, alternative destination ideas. Read on for 12 magical ways to spend your wonderful winter holidays in Slovenia.
1. Winter holidays in Slovenia: Great for skiing
Slovenia is a great choice for family friendly, good value skiing throughout the winter season. Mount Vogel, at 1922 metres, is home to one of the biggest ski resorts in Slovenia, typical of many Slovenian ski destinations – good value, easy to access and fun for all the family. As you’d expect, it offers skiing, snowboarding, ski touring, free skiing, cross-country skiing, sledging, airboarding and winter tandem paragliding.
Vogel is part of the southern Julian Alps and the Triglav National Park. Even if you’re not a skier, the cable car – which you can catch from Lake Bohinj – takes passengers to a height of 1537 m. This year, the first decent snows arrived in Vogel at the end of November, so the season can be long, too.
2. Winter holidays in Slovenia: Enjoy Slovenian spas
Spa and sauna culture is in the DNA of the Slovenian people. There is an extraordinary wealth of spa centres and spa hotels across the country, not least thanks to its naturally occurring thermal springs. It’s definitely a great way to escape the cold when you’re planning your winter holidays in Slovenia.
Terme Zrece is a huge spa complex in central eastern Slovenia, built in the centre of three hotels, Hotel Atrij, Vital and Klasic. Hotel packages start at €160 per person for two nights, including half board and a wellness package. It features a well equipped beauty area with Thai massage rooms, a machine area for deep tissue treatments, and a couples area for some romantic down time, with private Jacuzzi and treatment rooms from €49 per hour. Here I experienced a fabulous Turkish bath with a salt scrub, as well as a Finnish sauna featuring a cocoa butter treatment.
For South Eastern Slovenia, try Terme Krka in Dolenjske Toplice near Nove Mesto for an impressive pool and wellness complex which is also open to external guests. With its extensive range of state-of-the-art medical and wellness services and its swimming pool complex, it draws guests from all over Europe. For those staying in one of the centre’s hotels, there’s a private sauna area for hotel guests.
In North Western Slovenia, head to the picturesque town of Bohinj for a different experience. The Bohinj ECO hotel, the only five star hotel in town, it is entirely powered by turbines connected to an underground water basin. How about some night swimming (pictured below) in the gorgeous wellness centre while the snow silently falls outside?
3. Winter holidays in Slovenia: Sweat it out in the sauna
While pools and massages are fun, relaxing elements of the spa centres in Slovenia, you really need to get to grips with sauna culture for a real, local experience. They’re also incredibly good for you, improving circulation and boosting the immune system. The sauna area at Terme Zrece is an impressive maze of differing sauna types in cute chalet-style lodges, with towel waving sauna assistants to raise the temperature still more. We tried a super smoothing salt-peel treatment in the Turkish bath, followed by a plunge into cold pools, and then a cocoa butter and ice treatment in the rooftop Finnish sauna under the stars.
The Aquapark at the Bohinj ECO hotel is out of this world, with jacuzzi, spa and swimming pools, a great wellness centre offering massages, plus a cute chalet style sauna area. It’s open to hotel guests and to day visitors, with each area priced differently, if you just want to experience a part of it.
Meanwhile, Dolenjske Toplice has been a reputable health resort and spa for centuries and has wonderful sauna facilities. The spa areas at Terme Krka include a wonderful Japanese pool for a quick dip after trying its three different saunas. For a holiday at Terme Krka, Hotel Balnea is a top-of-the-range accommodation choice with direct spa access.
4. Winter holidays in Slovenia: Wine tasting
Eastern Slovenia was used as a wine growing region by the Romans, who built the first cantinas in and around Ptuj some 2000 years ago. Today, visit winegrowers like Zlati Gric to get a taste of Slovenia’s modern wine industry. Boasting one of the most modern wineries in the Styria region, a golf course and holiday apartments in the wine growers’ mansion dating back to the 15th century, it offers something for everyone. This vineyard produces 90% white wines and only 10% reds, but that includes an excellent pinot noir. Call ahead to plan a wine tasting or planned supper, or drop in the shop to stock up on local vintages – bottles start at around €5 each.
5. Winter holidays in Slovenia: Boat ride to the island of lake Bled
Bled, in north-west Slovenia, is a magical destination in winter or summer. Climb the medieval castle ramparts to enjoy fabulous views over Lake Bled and spy snow covered hills stretching as far as the eye can see.
While you’re there, catch a boat for a very reasonable €16 to the island in the middle of Lake Bled. The price includes the return trip and takes about 15 minutes each way. Lake Bled freezes over very rarely, so boats always leave, unless the weather is exceptionally bad. Did you know that this is actually the only island that belongs to Slovenia, and is an area rich in folklore surrounding its origins?
Once on the island, visit the cosy cafè to try a slice of potica cake, a seasonal winter treat which is, exceptionally, served here all year round. After that, visit the island chapel, to ring the wishing bell, strung on a long cord just before the middle of the apse in Church of the Assumption of Maria. According to local legend, if you ask for your hearts’ desire while ringing the bell, it will come true.
6. Winter holidays in Slovenia: The magical village of Bohinj
Bohinj is one of those chocolate-box villages that turns into something resembling a Christmas card under the first dustings of snow. It’s a great destination for skiers who want to head to Mount Vogel, as well as being close enough to Lake Bled to represent a useful hub for travelling around.
In total, the area offers more than 60 kilometres of cross-country ski trails (half in the valley and half at the Pokljuka plateau), various ski areas and plenty of other options (including a snow park, children’s park and sledging areas). There are also facilities for winter tandem paragliding, snow rafting, airboarding, ski touring, skijöring, ice climbing and winter cycling.
Two thirds of the Bohinj Municipality also lies within the area of the Triglav National Park, one of the oldest national parks in Europe. It covers as much as 880 square kilometres or 4% of the territory of Slovenia. Bohinj is a valley that stretches from Soteska to Ukanc.
Stay in the five star Bohinj Eco Hotel, which is entirely powered by water turbines in a natural underground lake, but combines Slovenian traditional hospitality and an extremely cosy vibe with a great spa and wellness centre and tasty restaurant.
For souvenirs, Šivalnica Rauter of Bohinjske Lisicke, which literally translates as Bohinj Foxes, is a local craftsman who fashions handmade slippers from boiled wool, jewellery from discarded antlers and other gifts carved from the forest.
7. Winter holidays in Slovenia: Cosy farmhouse restaurants
Kmetija Barkola (pictured below) is a Slovenian agriturismo just over the border with Italy, in the wooded hills above Gorizia. Come here for Sunday lunch, a family dinner, a wine tasting, or simply to buy homemade, kilometre zero goodies. Expect to find artisan salami, cheese, soups, stews and wines, all from the Barkola estate. Three course meals, wine included, start at an incredible €20 per head (that’s the Slovenia effect). The farm is run by a dynamic young couple who plan to open rooms for overnight guests in the future. I sampled premier bubbly Vita Extra Brut, all the sweeter for having origins beyond the window pane, in the 8 hectares of vineyard, and tried their typical farmhouse lunch. Call ahead to plan your magical day out.
Wayside gastro pub Gostilna Javornik, a cosy maze of rooms in a converted farmhouse, serves four course meals from €30 per head. I tried foie gras on a bed of black truffle risotto and Jerusalem artichoke, followed by tagliatelli with porcini mushrooms, roast octopus with local vegetables and rack of lamb oven roast in parchment. The chef’s secret is the immense wood fired oven, used for cooking nearly all the dishes.
8. Winter holidays in Slovenia: Travel back in time visiting typical homestead Matjazeva Domacija
Close to the village of Paha, in Otočec, travel back in time with a visit to a perfectly preserved old Slovenian farmer’s cottage called Majjazeva Domacija. Dating back 150 years, it has been refurbished with centuries old furnishings and details to accurately recreate how families lived over 100 years ago. Cottage visits can include wine tastings, sampling the local homemade salamis, or rent a bike in the warmer months. Local well-marked trails are excellent for hikers.
You can also stay in a traditional cottage with your family or small group, located near the heritage homestead. The owner of the cottage gives guests a key to the wine cellar, where you find not only local vintages but also various culinary delights.
Paha is very close to the thermal resort Šmarješke Toplice (3 km), the city of Novo Mesto (10 km), while Ljubljana are Zagreb are both 65 km away.
9. Winter holidays in Slovenia: Visit an historical monastery
Expect castles, churches and vast religious estates when you visit Slovenia, including this incredible former Carthusian monastery near the village of Zice in Slovenia’s North Eastern region, which can still be visited today. In Špitalič, in the so-called lower monastery, lay monks were essentially manual workers providing the Carthusians with everything necessary for the monastery’s existence and operation. Visit its museum today and then pop to the heritage pharmacy for a taste of medicinal spirits – just like the monks used to make!
10. Winter holidays in Slovenia: Chasing sun in Koper
From mountains to coastlines, with lakes and green plains in between, Slovenia is surprisingly diverse for a country you can cross in two hours. This gorgeous seaside town of Koper or Capodistria, close to the Italian border, is blessed with a sunny climate, great food traditions and plenty of maritime heritage. The mayor of Koper even recently planted a row of palms along the sea-front to enhance that mediterranean feel.
Located on the Adriatic sea, its medieval old town centres around Titov Trg, a square with Venetian-influenced landmarks such as the Praetorian Palace and a Gothic-style loggia, while nearby Da Ponte Fountain is a replica of Venice’s famed Rialto Bridge. Climb the clock tower for unparalleled views over the city and the sea.
11. Winter holidays in Slovenia: Stay in a Renaissance villa
Not far from the Italian border, the stunning country house hotel Vila Vipolze is a great place for a hearty lunch or glass of wine in its shabby-chic enoteca and restaurant, serving hearty soups and home-baked focaccia breads (pictured above) with delicious toppings. Stay overnight in the villa for the ultimate romantic weekend.
12. Winter holidays in Slovenia: Explore the mountains
The breathtaking cable car ride up Mount Vogel is worth the trip even if you’re not a skier. Enjoy the views and pause at the chalet at the summit for a hot toddy and some food. Starting from Lake Bohinj, the glass-sided car takes passengers up to a height of 1537 m. When the snow starts to thaw, Vogel is an excellent starting point for shorter and longer hiking tours. These include the new Vogel Trail and a walk through the Lopata virgin forest. Otherwise, catch the quad chairlift to Orlove Glave, where you can ring a wishing bell.
Slovenia: where to stay
When visiting Terme Zrece, Hotel Atrij, Hotel Vital and Hotel Klasik are positioned around the spa complex with indoor access to the pools and wellness centres.
For a holiday at Terme Krka, Hotel Balnea is a top-of-the-range accommodation choice with direct spa access.
When visiting the picturesque village of Bohinj, the only five star hotel in town is the Bohinj ECO Hotel, a comfortable choice with excellent facilities.
Testaccina was a guest of the three hotels recommended here, plus a variety of tourism partners for her trip to Slovenia, many of whom are mentioned in this article.