We’ve been tent campers for years, but some things happen as you get older that dampen the enthusiasm you once had. You get tired of pitching a tent, packing-unpacking-repacking your gear, airing out sleeping bags, and waking up a bit stiffer than you once did. But we still love staying in the outdoors as often as we can. So of course when we were invited to try glamping in Slovenia on our recent visit to Central Europe, we jumped at the chance. The luxury lifestyle resort, Big Berry Slovenia, sits quietly on the Kolpa River in the town of Primostek, a small town in Bela Krajina, and one of the most beautiful places in Slovenia.
Have you been glamping before?
There’s nothing like peeking outside in the dead of night to hear the noctural stillness around you without suiting up or even donning your robe. Or seeing the stars so close you could touch them because there’s no ambient light from the parking lot. Maybe that’s why we love glamping so much and have been doing it like so many other travelers - Baby Boomer and not - since before it got its name. But if you’re new to the term, glamping is simply glamorous camping, light years beyond hoisting your leaky backpack and cool showers. Glamping experiences now typically include a comfy bed and even luxe linens, and can range from funky safari-style camps and thatched-roof bungalows like the ones we loved in Costa Rica to boho-chic huts made from twigs like where we stayed in Tulum. We even stayed in some pretty cool geodomes in Patagonia. We didn’t know it before we went, but Slovenia is simply made for glamping.
Where is Slovenia
Slovenia is located in the southern part of Central Europe, a green destination that was formerly a part of what was Yugoslavia. Bordered by Croatia, Austria, Italy, and Hungary with a 46 kilometer (28.6 miles) coastline on the Adriatic Sea, it’s been part of the European Union since 2004. The country is mostly mountainous with diverse ecosystems and an intricate river system creating a spectacular world for eco and adventure travelers. More than half of the country is forested and roughly half of the over 2 million residents live in and around Ljubljana, the capital city. You read that right, Slovenia is not a big place. It’s about the same size as the state of New Jersey in the USA and easy to get to with many of the air carriers serving Europe offering flights into Ljubljana or nearby Zagreb, Croatia.
Getting to Big Berry
Getting to Big Berry is really quite simple.
Big Berry transfer: Big Berry will arrange your transfer to the camp whether you arrive from Ljubljana or Zagreb, Croatia. It’s a scenic drive from either. Our Big Berry driver picked us up in Zagreb and in a few minutes we were out of the city.
Rental Car: No worries when renting a car in Slovenia, which has an easy and well-marked road system. Slovenia is part of the European Union so crossing borders from neighboring countries is relatively simple. Check guidelines, such as picking up a vignette (decal) for your vehicle.
Train: There’s regular train service to Primostek from Ljubljana, which we took when we left Big Berry to continue north. We had the whole train to ourselves most of the way and the journey took about 3.5 hours.
However you travel to Big Berry, you’ll pass small villages, orchards, and scattered quaint houses with orange-tiled rooftops. The surrounding countryside is stunning and has surely been painted on canvas a thousand times.
We knew we were going to like it at the Big Berry camp as our car slowed down the lane. The staff greeted us like old friends and offered us refreshments as they gave us the lay of the land. They were far less formal than you’d find with a typical hotel greeting, and their demeanor suited the laid-back vibe...lots of smiles from team members working on all sorts of projects and everyone stopped to introduce themselves and welcome us. Even nicer was how quiet it was outside. Birds chattered and there was an occasional bellow from the cattle grazing in the field just steps away. Wait, what? Yay, we love cows! We figured it was all part of the greeting.
There are seven glamping cabins or berries nestled along the Kolpa River which divides Slovenia and Croatia, and it seemed funny to be standing in Slovenia just a short swim away from another country on the opposite bank of the river - made us feel very international. The berries all face a wide expanse of well-groomed grass with mature trees that rain down acorns onto the rooftops during warm mid-Septembers. The staff refers to it as a “luxury landscape” and it really is if you love nature. Each berry has a distinct IKEA feel and features a unique and brightly-painted mural on their exterior. Combining Big Berry’s luxury philosophy with the beauty of the Slovenian countryside, street artists and muralists were invited to create these one-of-a-kind paintings - some mystical and others more whimsical - but all of them give the property a fresh fun feel.
Whatever we may have thought this experience was going to be like, inside our berry was a fun surprise. A few steps up the front porch was a table and chairs to dine outdoors, and a hot tub, filled and ready to go! A sliding glass door opened into a modern living space with a comfy sectional sofa and a nicely equipped kitchen. A counter height island had everything one would need to cook meals including a generously sized fridge and freezer. This would be an ideal spot for late night computer work with a cup of Turkish coffee (yep, they have that!)
On the table was a lovely welcome basket with some locally produced goodies, bath soap, and a local beer - another very nice touch. We were happy to see a roomy bathroom with a walk-in shower and plenty of light - no crawling out of a tent in the dark to find the bathhouse! The single bedroom was so cozy with a large window, a view of the pasture (and cows), and a Queen bed that was oh-so comfortable. There was enough drawer space and lighted wardrobe to hang things in and even a full size mirror. Now there’s something you won’t find in a campground.
Air conditioning, heat, hot water, wifi, and a hot tub? We could get used to this and say so long to our tent forever. This was comfy to say the least and outdoorsy luxury at its best - welcome to glamping. And there was more. Every day we made selections from a menu for our breakfast the next day of local foods made by local producers in partnership with Big Berry. Our breakfast was then delivered to us the next morning in a small wooden basket or crate like Saint Nick delivering gifts at Christmastime. How cool is that? And what delectable gifts they were!
We had all sorts of yummy foods like fresh yogurt and farm-fresh milk, honey and fresh fruit, apple juice, jams, and traditional meats and cheeses if you like. But our favorite thing was - I’m still drooling - the homemade bread. This was our first introduction to traditional Slovenian pogača - the locally baked focaccia-style bread - and how fitting that it’s a symbol of hospitality here. Make sure you order the homemade ghee, or clarified butter, to slather on your bread. We loved having breakfast every morning outside on our porch, eating such fresh local foods that actually had the flavor that nature intended. Did we mention how quiet it is here? Talk about the perfect place to unplug for a while.
What to do at Big Berry
There’s no shortage of things to do at Big Berry. Grab a canoe whenever you want and go paddling on the Kolpa River. We took advantage of this on a warm and sunny Fall afternoon to paddle upstream. It was an easy and scenic paddle that ends at a small waterfall.
Not sure about paddling? Then jump in for a swim in the Kolpa. Instead of slipping and sliding into the water from the river bank, there are steps down to the rivers edge. There’s a floating pool in the river anchored to the steps that makes it safe for kids or non-swimmers to still enjoy a refreshing dip. Dive in and swim to the far bank and Croatia. There’s a tall blue sliding board on the other side of the river that looked so inviting, just waiting for someone to take the plunge.
If you want to check out the local countryside, there are bicycles for rent. The town of Primostek has restaurants, small cafes, roadside produce stands, and grocery stores within an easy distance of the resort. Or go for a quiet peddle through the beautiful Bela Krajina landscape.
After the peddling and paddling, you might love a good stretch as much as we did. There are regular yoga sessions on the upper outside deck complete with mats and a qualified instructor. For something a little less zen, grab some friends or other guests for a lively game of volleyball game in the sandy court. What are also cool are the ongoing workshops that might coincide with your stay. We were so lucky to be there when Borut Peterlin of TOPSHIT Photography, a local photographer who specializes in wet-plate colloidian photography gave a demonstration. We were pretty blown away by his mad retro skills and it was a fun and unexpected afternoon. They also have local chefs, artists, and other talented people stop by for all sorts of interesting talks and demonstrations.
There’s a barbecue area, plenty of private covered lounges scattered around the property, an outdoor cinema, and a family-friendly playground area.
Or don’t do anything but relax. That’s the beauty - and the bliss - of Big Berry.
What to do in Bela Krajina
Bela Krajina literally means “white march” - the white alludes to the abundance of white birch trees you see throughout the countryside, and march refers to a border territory or line of defense. These beautiful trees seem to stand guard throughout the region.
We were super excited about exploring the region of Bela Krajina and particularly the local food, as we are wherever we go. We love soaking up all the tradition and history surrounding food, whether we’re eating it in a distinct food culture like Italy, Chile, or Jamaica, or doing something more interactive like learning to cook a particular local food. This area of Slovenia is known as one of the most beautiful regions in the country with incredible eco activities like hiking, horseback riding, and river rafting.
But our personal favorite was getting to try the local food and drink from several farms and producers. Can you say rakja?
Lunch and Dinner at Gostilna Müller
We joined our friends from Big Berry for lunch here shortly after we arrived. It’s a warm and friendly restaurant that specializes in local Slovenian food. It was mushroom season so of course we tried the house specialty, mushroom soup. We sat on their outdoor deck and savored some other house specialties like homemade pasta, buckwheat noodles, sausage, and seasonal vegetables. And the bread…oh the fresh baked bread! Everything we tried was delicious, so much so, that we went back the next night for dinner. We had their wild mushroom risotto made with several types of local mushrooms, and a few glasses of the local Slovenian wine. There were a few interesting vegetarian options on the menu too, maybe not because they’re catering to vegetarians necessarily, but because there are so many delicious and locally grown seasonal veggies.
History with a Kick - Domačija Kuzma
This estate and farm on the Kolpa River has been in the same family since 1909, and visiting here is like stepping back to that time. There’s a working flour mill that still uses water driven mill stones to grind wheat into flour. At one time different cereals were ground but times change along with what farmers are growing.
But there’s more going on here than milling flour. The property has an area for tent camping and will even accommodate motorhomes. They offer canoe rentals, a lovely space in one of the original buildings for weddings and special events, and a beautiful old barn with a kitchen and a loft with beds for rent.
We met Urska, whose family owns the property and she showed us around, sharing the history and stories about growing up here. It’s common for local families to make their own wine and spirits at home and Domačija Kuzma is no exception. They use their own grapes and other grapes from the Bela Krajina region to make wine, but the star of this show is the house made rakija (pronounced rakia), a liquor in the brandy family made from grapes or sometimes plums that have been pressed and stored in vats in a cool room. Rakja is strong but goes down smooth - a little like moonshine but with more flavor! The several rakias we tasted were infused with all sorts of aromatic herbs, chilis, and fruits. You can visit here and have a tasting on the porch overlooking the river or in the cozy wine bar.
Most importantly, we learned the etiquette for drinking in Slovenia here:
Click your glasses together, slam your glass on the table and throw it back… all the while looking into the eyes of those you’re drinking with.
Lunch at Gostišče Veselič
This traditional restaurant in Podzemelj not far from Big Berry has great food, very friendly service, and reasonable pricing. Their menu is a good example of the authentic local Slovenian cuisine that’s such a large part of Bela Krajina culture. Fresh local trout baked to perfection and lamb roasted in a wood-fired oven are two of their featured dishes. Two things you must try: the fresh baked pogača bread, and a bowl of vanilla ice cream drizzled with one of the famous local delicacies - fresh pressed pumpkin seed oil. We know what you’re thinking, but trust us. It’s heaven in a bowl!
Making Pogača at Domačija Šrajf
This may have been the best homemade meal we had on our tour of local foods and dishes. Welcome to ‘Sonja’s Place’ and a lunch experience we’ll remember for a long time. We were finally going to learn how to make the famous Slovenian pogača bread! We sat around a small table in a warm, sunlit room as Sonja began showing us how she makes certified Belokranjska pogača (from Bela Krajina). Pogača is a yeasted and flatbread topped with coarse salt and caraway seed. It’s one of Slovenia's official EU-protected specialty foods made with a precise recipe to very exact dimensions. Sonja is quite the baker making pastries, cakes and breads of all sizes and shapes.
After learning how to make the bread, she popped it into the oven to bake before bringing a tray of shot glasses and what else but homemade rakia! Our lunch of traditional Slovenian food was amazing and everything was homemade by Sonja. She started us off with beef soup with really delicate egg noodles. The main dishes were roasted chicken, a risotto-like buckwheat-mushroom porridge, roasted pork, and cheese struckli - layers of light flaky dough with cheese between the layers. Talk about comfort food! And lest you think there’s no salad in Slovenia, there is, and it comes in the form of cabbage. The ubiquitous finely shredded cabbage salad made with a touch of vinegar is at nearly every table, and it’s the perfect ending to a heavy meal. We had both white and red cabbage during our stay and both were equally good.
Add Sonja’s fresh-baked pogača, local red and white table wines, and a dessert of kiffles filled with marmalade and we were ready for a nap! She was a gracious host and excellent chef/baker, and she educated us on what we were eating throughout our visit. We loved our experience here.
Oil-Tasting at Oljarna Pečarič
Once upon a time, oil made from petroleum was much too expensive to burn just to provide some light to read. So in 1937, using a wine press rigged with nothing more than a cylinder and a cloth filter, the Pecaric family began pressing oil from walnuts. Their methods have certainly changed but they haven’t stopped pressing. This family owned and operated company now produces over 22 different oils pressed from nuts and seeds - almonds, hazelnuts, mustard seeds, black cumin seeds, and many more. Their eco-friendly production of cold pressed, unrefined oils has become renowned for their high quality and flavor and are now shipped worldwide. They even make chocolates with different flavorings like chestnut chocolate, rum, and even pumpkin chocolate. It’s hard to believe they manage all this from what appears to be a small operation.
The reception area, educational center, and retail store are all housed in a beautiful wooden building made completely of local wood. They run guided tastings and host educational and special events. The owner and our host Martin led us upstairs to a long wooden table with all the oils they produce lined up for tasting, walking us through the origins and benefits of each one. This reminded me of the essential oils many people are fond of using these days. It seems to me that using these food-based oils, with their many holistic and medicinal uses, would be an even better supplement to your diet. Very cool. We tried so many of the oils and couldn’t leave the shop without a few favorites in our backpacks.
Hiking at Krajinski Park Lahinja
The Lahinja Park in the heart of the Bela Krajina region is a varied and beautiful ecosystem, made-up of forests, meadows, and wetlands. It’s where the headwaters of the Lahinja River begin, and the first seven kilometers of the river are a protected area and a naturalist’s dream. The large spring from which the Lahinja River starts is actually owned by the eight surrounding villages and you can visit and hike the Park on your own, though it’s restricted to 6,000 visitors a year in an effort to protect and maintain this natural environment.
We met with Gregor, a local resident and guide who showed us some of the historical houses with artifacts here that you can also visit. These are typical for the time period in which they were built - small, dimly lit rooms and a ‘black’ kitchen, so named because there was no chimney.
But first, there was more rakia. And something called Lamut.
Are you sensing a theme here? Slovenians are very hospitable!
The richness of the history, culture and the natural world of Bela Krajina is on full display here during a good hike. It’s a tour well worth a couple of hours with eight protected natural sites, six cultural monuments and two natural reserves to enjoy.
The Luxury of Freedom
If you’ve followed along with us before, you know how much we love slow travel - having more immersive travel experiences and making connections with real people, local foods and culture. So it was great to find a resort like Big Berry working so closely with local businesses and producers, so they in turn can offer their guests a more authentic travel experience and local view of Bela Krajina and Slovenia. Awesome business model props to the Big Berry team.
Big Berry describes their modern brand as the “luxury of freedom”, a concept that’s not easily defined, but easy to make up as you go. And that’s exactly the point. For us it’s simple, freedom to decide what to do, how to enjoy the experience is the very essence of luxury. Whatever it means to you, a stay here will set you free.
So how was our glamping experience at Big Berry?
We loved it - but not just for the comfort and amenities that the resort offers. What struck us more was the warm hospitality we found everywhere we visited. From the staff and local residents to shop owners, farmers, and restaurateurs - all were happy to spend time with us and talk about their small corner of the world.
The sense of place, the sense of community…Big Berry is total fun and relaxation. If you visit Central Europe, try glamping Slovenia with a stay at Big Berry, and be sure to try the local food. To us, this just might be one of the best places to stay in Slovenia, and we’re sure you’ll love it as much as we did!
We were guests of Big Berry during our stay, but as always, all opinions, photos, and stories are ours based on our firsthand experiences.
If You Go
Big Berry will be happy to arrange tours for you during your stay with their partners and local producers. Email them for more info or to plan your luxury of freedom.
One- to Two-Bedroom berries sleep 2-6 people and range in price from $170-$210€/night ($192-$237 USD (check current exchange rate) - and they’re pet-friendly!
Your stay includes:
Welcome basket filled with locally-made products
A local foods breakfast basket each morning
Private hot tub
Use of BBQ area and open lounge houses
Free use use of on-site sports equipment (canoes, bicycles, open door fitness, volleyball court)
We think Big Berry is a very good value for a unique romantic stay for two or the perfect family vacation. It’s not every day you find such a gorgeous and green place to unplug, explore with your kids, and reconnect in more important ways.