Travel to Slovenia With Your Family – Part 2: Underground Caves and the Slovene Coast
Continuing my article, Travel to Slovenia with Your Family, from last month, here are more ideas for your visit to Slovenia:
Explore Spectacular Underground Caves
Slovenia’s Karst region is known for its many limestone underground caves, the most famous and spectacular ones being those in Postojna or Škocjan.
For family visits, I am partial to the Postojna caves due to their easier access/touring and the small underground train that is sure to appeal to kids. The real prize, of course, is nature’s remarkable exhibition of stalagmites and stalactites, all hundreds and hundreds of years old in many different shapes and colors. Our children were fascinated by our guide’s explanation of how the underground caves are formed — a lesson in geology and chemistry.
Another special part of the visit is seeing the olm, a very famous inhabitant of the Postojna caves that is unique to this region, which lives in total darkness and can live to be a 100 years old. Slovenes refer to it as “human fish” due to its skin-like color. Tip: Make sure to bring jackets even if you visit the caves during the summer, as they are chilly (about 45° F).
Another reason I prefer Postojna caves is their proximity to the Predjama Castle, another spectacular medieval castle, built into a rock. (Have I mentioned Slovenia has an abundance of castles?) The whole family is bound to enjoy touring the castle grounds, browsing its museum and listening to a lecture about its rich and colorful history, including its headstrong and rebellious knight Erazem and his famous death. (Spoiler alert: he was killed while seated on a toilet, seriously!).
This itinerary makes for a great one-day trip from the capital city of Ljubljana (where most tourists stay) or you can continue on to the coast for a two day trip or longer.
Visit Slovenia’s Charming Adriatic Coast
Slovenia has a tiny part of the Adriatic Coast, wedged between neighboring Italy and Croatia. Proof that size does not matter, Slovenia’s coastal region is rich in history and reflects many centuries of Italian influence. The region is dotted with stately cypresses, colorful oleanders, fragrant rosemary and laurel bushes, and inviting fig trees, sure to delight all your senses.
Our family always tries to make a stop in Piran, a beautiful and highly picturesque town with Roman architecture and the birthplace of the famous Italian composer Tartini. There are no cars allowed (just service vehicles), so you will have to park on the outskirts of town and then take a shuttle bus or walk if you prefer to immediately take in the sun and smell of the sea.
I recommend starting your visit by heading over to Punta, the famous “point” of Piran and enjoying a delicious fresh seafood lunch at one of the many restaurants while taking in the lovely ambiance. Then, take your crew to the Tartini Square, a focal point of town life in Piran. From the Square, follow the signs and head to the famous church of St. Gabriel taking narrow streets and stairs past colorful houses with charming balconies, wooden shutters and hanging laundry.
When you reach your destination, you will be rewarded with spectacular views of the town and the glistening sea that surrounds it. Few know that the amazingly tall church bell tower is a smaller copy of the St Marco campanile of Venice.
Make sure you point out the twirling angel of St. Michael atop the tower to your kids and tell them that locals use it (and swear by it) to predict the weather, according to which way it points. From the church grounds, you can walk further to the old city walls for yet another amazing view and a great place to watch sunsets.
For a second day, I highly recommend a visit to nearby Sečovlje, the largest salt evaporation pond in Slovenia. (Tip: You will most enjoy your visit early in the morning as it can get really hot in the daytime during the summer months and there is no shade.)
The saltpans here have been active since the 13th century and are now among the very few remaining in the world where salt is produced in a traditional, artesian way. Our family loved walking through the serene grounds and listening to the sounds of seagulls. Sečovlje is also an important natural habitat for water bird species throughout the Mediterranean region.
After exploring the salt pans and observing production, all done manually, make sure to visit the Salt Museum for a great education on how sea salt is made. (I bet you didn’t know it takes 45-47 liters of sea water to produce 1 kilo of sea salt.) You will want to buy some Fleur de Sal, highly sought after by chefs and foodies alike as a great souvenir for your future cooking adventure or as a unique gift!
After your visit, I suggest heading to a near-by town of Portorož for lunch (most of the cuisine in this region of Slovenia has a heavy Italian influence) and the afternoon at the beach. The bustling Portorož, one of the leading Slovene coastal destinations, will be quite a change from your quiet morning excursion.
After lunch, rent a chair and an umbrella and join the many happy sunbathers enjoying one of the few sandy beaches in Slovenia, especially given that we are part of the Mediterranean most are rocky. Enjoy the beautiful and refreshing Adriatic Sea and don’t forget the obligatory sladoled (Slovene for gelato) to round off your experience!
You can get to Slovenia by connecting from any major European airport or, you can drive there from near-by cities such as Venice, Munich, Vienna or Zagreb.
Feel free to post any questions you may have, I would be happy to share more insights!
A native of Slovenia, Vera moved to the U.S. 20+ years ago after meeting her American husband. Together with their two children they live on the North…