10 Incredible Day Trips from Ljubljana Just One Hour Away
Slovenia is one country that embodies the very best of Central Europe, ticking off so many boxes with travelers. Delicious local food? Check. Safe to travel around on your own? Check. Friendly people? Everywhere. And the most quaint fairytale villages that transport you back in time. Bonus! The capital city of Ljubljana (loob-lee-AH-nah…keep practicing, it’ll come) is a small city whose historic center can be explored on foot from one end to the other. You’ll want to spend at least a few days here to see the main Ljubljana attractions, savor the food, and linger at the intimate coffee cafes strewn along the river Ljubljanica (c’mon, it’s just one more syllable!) ;-) But when you want to escape the city to see why Slovenia is known as one of the greenest countries in the world, here’s a list of our favorite day trips from Ljubljana that are just an hour away — close enough to get to, immerse yourself in for a day, and back in time to enjoy a cold beer and late dinner in the city.
There’s a lot to see in this part of Slovenia and much of it lies just outside the capital city. Getting in and out of Ljubljana is easy, and so is getting to these day trip destinations whether you drive yourself, catch a bus or the train.
Tips For the Slow Traveler
But first, let’s define what a “day trip” is to those of us who prefer slow travel and not the whirlwind kind — or maybe what a day trip is not. If it takes you several hours one way to get to a destination and you’ll spend 4-6 hours total on the road, train, or bus, we’d opt to spend the night and explore even more the next day. Hey, we’re always up for a good adventure and we love leisurely road trips. Once, we even spent 14 hours on a one-way bus to Argentinean Patagonia (totally worth it). But if you only have a precious week or two on holiday, why spend as much time on the road as you do on the day trip? Slovenia has plenty of inexpensive lodging options to spend the night like camping and glamping if you want a bit more comfort, especially in this part of the country.
As slow travelers, we love having as much time at the destination as we can whether we’re on a day trip or not. Spending more time is what slow travel is all about. So as you can probably guess from the title of this post, all of these Ljubljana day trips take just one hour to an hour fifteen, one way. Doesn’t that sound like a great way to travel?
Day Trips from Ljubljana
Kamnik (25 min)
The charming historic town of Kamnik, Slovenia is so close to Ljubljana, yet is largely under-visited in the region. There are several fun things to do in Kamnik but by far our favorite was the Arboretum Volčji Potok. Formerly a part of the wealthy Souvan family estate in the late 1800s, it was opened to the public in 1952 by the University of Ljubljana, and features flowers and trees from all over the world as well as several gardens with just native Slovenian species. The garden walkways are accessible over paved or packed gravel and stretch out over 197 flat acres. The Arboretum is known for their spring flower shows, and is quite popular with young families — kids love running around on the expansive lawn with giant whale sculptures that appear to be diving in and out of the ground. The Volčji Potok Arboretum is just one of the Kamnik attractions you can visit, and the town is so picturesque against the mountain backdrop. There are several castles and a monastery to explore, and two unique healing and health resorts: the Terme Snovik health resort has fabulous pools and wellness services for the whole family, and the Tunjice Healing Grove is renowned for its beneficial energies. Must be the crisp mountain air!
Getting from Ljubljana to Kamnik - Both trains and buses run to Kamnik, or it’s just a 20 minute drive from the city along Route 104. The train is actually quicker than the bus and runs $5 USD.
Kamniška Bistrica River Valley - (1 hr)
Just a few kilometers past Kamnik is the lush Kamniška Bistrica valley with its turquoise mountain lakes and cascading rivers that tumble down from the nearby Kamnik–Savinja Alps. There are spectacular gorges carved deep in the rocks throughout the region - just follow the sound of thundering water to so many beautiful sights. You can hike and chase waterfalls all day then relax in a local thermal hotel for the afternoon to soothe your tired muscles. Several local hotels offer day rates to take a dip.
Getting from Ljubljana to the Kamniška Bistrica River Valley - Drive to Kamnik, and follow route 923 and signs for the Kamniška Bistrica valley. Parking is available along the scenic roads and designated parking areas.
Predjama Castle and Postojna Cave (1 hr, 15 min)
The world’s largest cave castle and the enchanting story behind the brave knight who built it is the stuff of fairytales. But once you see it perched in the middle of a cliff nearly 400 feet high, it’s so much more. The rebellious knight Erazem of Predjama built this unique fortress 800 years ago amidst a network of caves and secret tunnels, which you tour today along with the castle and surrounding park. There are different tours and tour combinations you can take, including the castle, cave, park, and other interesting local sights. The castle is just a few kilometers from Postojna Cave, which is totally worth a visit especially is you love science or Game of Thrones. The home of baby dragons where small transluscent lizard-like creatures called olms live, will have you fixated to see one with your own eyes.
Getting from Ljubljana to Predjama Castle - You can take a bus to the nearby town of Postojna and taxi it from there, but the easiest way to get here is to drive.
Velika Planina (1 hr, 15 min)
The high mountain plateau near the town of Kamnik is one of the most fascinating experiences you can have in Slovenia and one of our favorite day trips. The traditional herdsmen settlement of Velika Planina (or big plateau) at the top of the mountains is a cultural treasure of Slovenia, and the place where local herdsmen take their cows to live during the summer months and graze the green pastures. Not only is it some of the best hiking in Slovenia and some of the most spectacular views you’ll ever see, but experiencing this historic Alpine way of life firsthand is something you’ll never forget. Take the Velika Planina gondola from the Kamniška Bistrica valley to the chair lift near the top, then ride the lift the rest of the way to the very top. So much fun!
Getting from Ljubljana to Velika Planina - Drive to Kamnik and follow the road toward 923 and the Kamniška Bistrica valley. You’ll find the parking lot for the Velika Planina gondola, or cable car, to take you to the top of the plateau.
Vintgar Gorge (1 hr, 15 min)
If you’re planning one of the most popular Ljubljana day trips to Lake Bled, Vintgar Gorge is just 3.5 kilmeters away, making it the perfect side trip to your day trip. The gorge is techically in Triglav National Park, though parts of the Park are much further away from Ljubljana. What a bonus that this place is so close to both Bled and the capital of Ljubljana. Vintgar Gorge is easy to hike with a well maintained boardwalk trail that follows the Radovna River. High rock walls carved from the river eons ago envelope you as you walk along the gorge past quiet pools and thunderous waterfalls. Toward the trail’s end, turn and hike toward the Šum waterfall for a final photo opp before the gorge opens up to spectacular views of the surrounding mountains. There’s a small cafe here to relax and grab a bite to eat, or even better - bring a picnic lunch with you to eat along the trail. It’s easy to see why Vintgar Gorge is one of the top attractions in Slovenia. It’s also fairly inexpensive to visit - around $5-6 USD - and parking is free. Woot!
Getting from Ljubljana to Vintgar Gorge - the easiest way to get to Vintgar Gorge is to drive.
Skofja Loka (26 km, 40 min)
One of the most charming medieval towns in the region, the pretty little town of Skofja Loka makes a great day trip and comes compete with a castle and romantic bridge to boot. It doesn’t take long to make your way around the picturesque and well preserved Old Town, which dates to the 10th century. The main attraction here is the Loka Castle which stands above the town and features an historic mill house and some lovely gardens. And if you’re looking for Instagrammable shots, well there’s no shortage of them here, and the first place to head is the Capuchin Bridge.
PHOTO TIP: Remember us talking about day trips that only take an hour? If you’re into night photography like we are, this is one day trip you’ll love. This town cries out to be photographed at the blue hour!
How to get from Ljubljana to Skofja Loka - A bus will get you to Skofja Loka from Ljubljana in around 40 minutes for roughly $5 USD. The train also runs through not as regularly as the bus. If you want to stay later for the best blue hour pics, we definitely recommend driving. It will only take around 40 minutes.
Kranj (30 min)
Kranj is the 4th largest city in this country, though in a country of just 2 million people, that means just 36,000 or so people call it home. During World War II those residents were kept safe in a network of underground tunnels - nearly a miles of them to be exact (over 1,300 meters) - which run under the city. This is one reason to visit Kranj on a day trip, but there are more than tunnels to explore. While it’s more industrial than other small towns, Kranj is considered the cultural center of the Slovenian Alps, so there’s Khislstein Castle to explore with its museum, summer stage performances, and a cafe. In the center of town, there’s also a gorge carved by the river Kokra which you can hike along for a relaxing afternoon.
How to Get from Ljubljana to Kranj - Bus, train, or driving, take your pic as this city is easy to get to from Ljubljana. The train is actually faster than the bus and will only cost you around $5 USD. Of course driving is a quick and easy 20 minute drive.
Trieste, Italy (1 hr, 14 min)
It’s always nice when you can visit a new country on a day trip from where you are - and even better when that country is Italy, one of our favorite places! The port city of Trieste sits on the Adriatic Sea near the Istrian Peninsula at the confluence of Italy, Slovenia, and Croatia, and the Italian, Austro-Hungarian and Slovenian influences can be felt everywhere from the look of the city and especially the Old Town, to its food, and people. It’s a multi-cultural place to be sure and a fun place to visit for the day. But this could easily be an overnighter. On a day trip, you can see the ancient city and Italian piazzas, or just stroll the waterfront harbor for ost of the day. The opulent 19th century Miramare Castle is also worth a trip.
How to Get to from Ljubljana to Trieste - The fastest way to get to Trieste from Ljubljana is to drive, and will take you just over an hour. Taking the train from Ljubljana is also an option though the ride is much longer — about 2-2.5 hours depending on the time of day.
Lake Bled (50 min)
34 miles north of Ljubljana is Lake Bled, a fairytale landscape and the reason many people come to this part of Slovenia. The dreamscape is multi-layered — a shimmering lake of turquoise backdropped by the Julien Alps and Bled castle perched precariously on top. And the centerpiece, Church of the Assumption of Mary, lies in the middle of the lake tempting you to venture out and explore the tiny island she sits upon. And many people do, in small rowboats called Pletna which can be rented by the hour. Can you imagine anything more charming? You can pay 12 Euros ($13 USD) for the quick 15-minute boat ride to the island, plus another 6 Euros ($6) to see the attractions. Or you can rent and row your own Pletna boat for $10 an hour at a number of boat rentals around the lake.
Lake Bled is also close to Vintgar Gorge (6 km away) and Triglav National Park beyond, making it a perfect jumping off point to hike some of the regions’ most amazing natural wonders. If you love castles, a visit to the Castle at Bled is a must. Take the marked hiking trail to get to the castle or drive the asphalt road leading to the castle walls. There’s plenty of dreamy Lake Bled walks around the lakeside town or the paved walking path that skirts the circumference of the lake, and you can find a delicious eatery that serves up the famous Bled Creme Cake (you have to try it!). A paved walking path skirts around the entire
For a more dramatic overhead view of the Lake — the one you see in all the pictures — hikers can take Trail 6 up steep forest paths to the Ojstrica and Osojnica viewpoints over the lake, two of the best trails for hiking in Lake Bled, Slovenia, though definitely more moderate to difficult hikes. It’s one of the most rewarding things to do in Lake Bled and your pictures will prove it. Swimming is allowed from the many beaches and on some days you can even join the cheering crowds during rowing competitions.
NOTE on hiking near Lake Bled: Wear good hiking shoes so you don’t ruin your day. We saw several flip flop-wearing hikers who made it to the top but not before almost severely hurt themselves. Don’t be those hikers! ;-) Rocks are extremely slippery and the trails narrow to just a few rock widths the higher you go.
Getting From Ljubljana to Bled - Bus or car, it really depends on how flexible you want to be for the day. The quickest and easiest way to get to Lake Bled is by car, and takes under an hour. But there’s a super reliable bus from Ljubljana for less than 10 Euros ($11-12 USD) that takes an hour.
Lake Bohinj (55 min)
Not far down the road from Lake Bled is it’s sleepier big sister, Lake Bohinj, the largest permanent lake in Slovenia. Although both Bled and Bohinj were formed from the Bohinj glacier moving to the north during the ice age, today they are different experiences altogether. Lake Bohinj may be quieter, but it’s larger size makes it more ideal for watersports like paddling and repelling. There were foilboarders racing across the lake when we were there, something we haven’t seen anywhere outside California. Hikers and waterfall chasers can hike to Savica Slap, the famous and super touristy A-shaped waterfall. But a less-crowded and equally epic option to visit is Mostnica Waterfall. Turn right at the east end of Lake Bohinj in Ribcev Laz across the bridge towards Stara Fuzina, and follow signs to Vogar and Mostnica. Park at any number of spots and hike to the waterfall.
The Church of St. John the Baptist in the hamlet of Ribcev Laz stands prominently at a small bridge and for a small fee you can see the frescoes inside. You can also get an extended ticket to walk up to the bell tower. Another must see if you love historic churches is the Succursal Church of the Holy Spirit by the Lake, a colorful church that sits right along the road on the lake’s south side. Though it was closed the day we visited, the frescoes here are said to be stunning, enough that you won’t mind the 8 Euro entrance fee. The Museum of Alpine Farming, just a few kilometers from Lake Bohinj is an interesting stop especially if you love cheese, or the art of cheesemaking. Quaint architecture aside, we found the museum especially interesting on the heels of our hike to the high pasture of Velika Planina near Kamnik the day before. Here was all the equipment needed to process and make the local cheese from the cows moving up and down the mountains to greener pastures.
How to Get From Ljubljana to Lake Bohinj - The quickest way and easiest way to get to Lake Bled is by car, and the drive takes about an hour. The reliable bus from Ljubljana takes around 2 hours and costs 5-11 Euros (around $10 USD).
South Styria (Steiermark), Austria (1 hr, 40 min)
OK, so this day trip is a bit longer than an hour — closer to 1 hour and 40 minutes — but if you’re up for seeing another country while you’re in Slovenia (sorry, no new passport stamp though since they’re EU partners) take the quick trip to South Styria (Südsteiermark), Austria. Also known as the Green Heart of Austria, South Styria looks more like Tuscany than any alpine vistas near northern Slovenia. The lush valley and vineyards have to be seen to be believed, and are definitely worth a little longer day trip especially if you’re visiting in the Fall during harvest time. Food and wine lovers will especially love it. Check out our food and wine tour through the South Styrian Wine Road, where you can taste amazing Austrian white wine, nibble on everything in the world made from pumpkin seeds and pumpkinseed oil, and eat dinner at a traditional Buschenshank. What is a buschenshank? Check out the post to find out more.
How to Get From Ljubljana to South Styria - Drive on the toll road from Ljubljana to Gamlitz, Austria. Since you’ll be crossing country borders, stop in to a convenience store on the way (there are several) and pick up a vehicle sticker known as a vignette (around $10USD). This highway toll sticker is needed to cross between neighboring EU countries.
Where to Stay in Ljubljana
Grand Hotel Union
The Grand Hotel Union is a 4-star hotel in the historic heart of Ljubljana, and the largest conference facility in the city. And while you might think staying at such a hotel wouldn’t be the most charming, that’s exactly what we loved about it and surprisingly so, not to mention the superb location just a 5 minute walk from the Triple Bridge. Despite being renovated to a modern luxury standard, the elegant hotel retains an inviting, even downright cozy feel. The hotel has everything you’d expect or could want — sumptuous wellness treatments and a lovely indoor pool, elegantly-appointed guest rooms, reliable wi-fi, several on-site restaurants, and a full-service barber shop including custom cuts and shaves. Yes, the Grand Hotel Union is that kind of place, well-appointed and approachable, with a more than ample and delicious breakfast buffet. It’s close to everything and all you could want in a Ljubljana hotel. Rates start at $125 USD for a queen room. Check rates and availability here.
Thank you to Visit Ljubljana for hosting our stay at the Grand Hotel Union. As always, all opinions are our own based on our firsthand experience.