Green, clean and keen to please, Slovenia might lack the pulling power of its heavyweight neighbours, but this charming country is rich in rewards for travellers willing to take a punt.
Sandwiched between Italy, Austria, Hungary and Croatia, this diminutive nation occupies a picturesque pocket of Europe, which is characterised by verdant valleys, glacial lakes and snow-capped mountains.
Slovenia has been greatly influenced by the countries surrounding it; the baroque architecture, ancient castles and sophisticated cuisine are evocative of western neighbours, while the quaint rural villages, Slavic language and low prices have a decidedly eastern flavour.
But, ultimately, Slovenia has its own identity. The first of the former Yugoslavian states to join the EU, the country is a progressive, forward-thinking nation and its people are easygoing and welcoming to outsiders.
Most travellers begin their Slovenian adventure in the capital, Ljubljana, a charming university city whose resident academics give the place a youthful vibe. Carved in two by the Ljubljana River, the city is peppered with cafés, independent shops and a gamut of excellent restaurants. It has a laidback vibe and a calm ambiance, unlike most capitals on the continent.
But it’s when you step outside the capital that Slovenia showcases her true charms; the beautiful Adriatic coastal towns; the rolling vineyards of Jeruzalem-Ormož; the picture-perfect lake Bled; the caves of Postojna and Škocjan; and the black ski runs of Kranjska Gora.
Slovenia is a particularly attractive proposition to outdoor enthusiasts and adrenaline junkies, who can try anything from cycling, hiking and paragliding to white-water rafting, caving and mountaineering. Less adventurous visitors occupy themselves basking on beaches, people-watching in cafés and quaffing some of the country’s excellent wines.
However you spend your time in Slovenia, you‘ll probably leave wondering why more people haven’t cottoned on to her many charms. But, ultimately, her quiet beauty and understated elegance make Slovenia all the more appealing.