The best source for news on air travel in the region, Ex-Yu Aviation, has more good news for those still worried about holes in the schedule due to the collapse of the (perhaps soon to be revived) Adria Airways.
First, Turkish Airlines has announced plans to increase capacity for the summer season, starting late March 2020, by using a 178-seat Airbus A321 on its morning and evening services. Moreover, for the peak season – 3 May to 23 October – the second flight of the day will be served by a 289-seat Airbus A330-300, giving a total daily capacity of 467 seats each way from Ljubljana to Istanbul.
The website also reports that Air Serbia is boosting its schedule this summer, with 17 weekly flights planned between Ljubljana and Belgrade, up from 12 in summer 2019.
A lot of journalists, bloggers and “influencers” are helicoptered into Slovenia for a short trip and then go home and to spread the good news about their travels, with liberal use of the terms charming, green, hidden gem, best kept secret and so on. But not all of them, you may be surprised to hear, appear to be any great match for the trip they’re sent on, but that’s not the case with Owen Clarke, a writer for Outside Magazine.
This is a title that, as the name indicates, focuses on the great outdoors and the activities it affords, and is the publication that helped the launch the careers of, among others, Jon Krakauer and Sebastian Junger. So its writers, editors and readers know what’s what when it comes to hiking, biking, kayaking, climbing and more – the kind of activities that the Slovenian landscape really is world class in with regard to the opportunities it presents to get outside and have a good time.
The focus of Owen Clarke’s trip was the newly opened Juliana Trail, which is a 270-km long circular route in 16 stages, with the highlights including Triglav National Park, Bled and Bohinj Lakes, Soča River Valley, Radovljica, Kranjska Gora and Pokljuka Plateau.
We wrote about this before, but from the comfort of an armchair, in a dressing gown, while Clarke takes the more traditional approach and gets fully dressed, leaves the building – in that order, like a pro – and actually walks the route, staying overnight in unfamiliar beds, his diet at the mercy of whatever he carries or finds on the way, be it stale bread, restaurant food or, as his story opens, what an old woman in Log pod Mangartom offered him: a meal of “meat, cheese, bread, and sweet wine until my stomach ached”.
It’s a story that’s well worth reading to get a flavour of the trail, with lots of local colour and nice observations. For example, as Janko Humar, director of the Soča Valley Tourism Board and one the people who helped develop the route, tells Clarke: “The Julian Alps are an incredibly diverse region culturally. In the north, you will find communities which appear more Austrian, in the south, a style of life which is more Italian.” But, as befits a writer for Outside, Clarke doesn’t just talk to people and eat their cheese, but also notes the opportunities for climbing, canyoning and so on, and how the Juliana Trail can be used as stepping off point to other adventures – including historical as well sporting side trips.
It really is a great advertisement for Slovenia, and the Soča Valley area in particular, with Clarke concluding, in words to cheer the heart and encourage the more sedate armchair traveller; “The Juliana Trail won’t be the most challenging hike you’ve ever done, but you won’t find an experience quite like it anywhere else.”
Finally, since the trail is best experienced in spring and autumn, now’s the time to start planning a trip, if not to all 16 stages then at least to one or two. If you need more inspiration then you can read Owen Clarke’s full story here and learn more about what you can see and do on the way, while the official trail website is here.
STA, 9 January 2020 - The new operator of Bovec airport, a grass airfield in the Julian Alps, has decided to bring skiers from around Slovenia to the town of Bovec in the north-west by plane. The town hopes this service will help it stand out in Europe.
The airport's operator Aviofun intends to partner up with other smaller airfields around Slovenia in providing the full service to visitors of the Kanin-Sella Nevea ski slopes.
From Bovec, skiers will be taken to the ski slopes on Mt Kanin, the highest ski slopes in the country, by van.
The first flight took place on 2 January, and according to the Bovec municipality, which owns the airfield, the flight from the other part of Slovenia, Libeliče in the north, took 35 minutes.
"We want to offer something new to Bovec locals and visitors to the Soča Valley, so we'll also operate the route with small planes in the summer," Aviofun director Damjan Cehner told the STA.
The company expects to receive a licence to operate commercial passenger flights shortly, he added.
Aviofun was founded in 2005 and offers charter flights, panoramic flights, skydiving, maintenance, continuing airworthiness (CAMO) and aerial photography, according to its website. It operates Pilatus PC-6, Cessna Caravan C208 and Cessna C172 planes.
Cehnar believes flights will be a huge advantage for Bovec.
"Since we believe in the project we will shortly bring in another, bigger 15-seat plane with a special area for skiing equipment," he said when the first flight was organised.
The project was also welcomed by Mayor Valter Mlekuž, who hopes it would better connect the Kanin ski slopes and the municipality with the world.
More than 3,000 skiers skied on Kanin's ski slopes between 31 December and 2 January, with many also crossing onto the Slovenian side from Italy.
Several years ago a joint ski pass was introduced with the near-by Italian ski slope of Sella Nevea.
While tourism is booming in Slovenia, to the point where over-tourism is now an issue at the most visited locations, figures from August 2019, at the heart of the high season, show that the average visitor spends just 2.5 nights in the country.
There’s thus much room for growth, and for encouraging people to go out and see more than Bled, Postojna and Ljubljana Castle. Not only see more, but do more, be it through food tourism, cycling, hiking or any of the hundreds of other activities the varied climate and topography of the country enable, along with the infrastructure that exists to support them.
One such activity is fly-fishing, a meditative sport that requires the participant to go out in nature and watch and wait, gaining a deeper understanding of their immediate environment, and – in Slovenia – an appreciation for the clean waters that run over the riverbeds and play a vital role in various ecosystems.
Eager to learn more about this sport without getting wet, we got in touch with Matej Godec, of Flyfishingodec, a boutique tourist agency specialized in organizing fishing and other excursions around Slovenia, and he was kind enough to answer some questions.
How long have you been fly-fishing?
I’ve been fly-fishing since 2005. When I started I found it offered me a new dimension on life, and a new way of seeing myself. With fly-fishing, I realized that it pays to be persistent and committed to the things you love.
Of course, back then I never imagined that this commitment would mean I’d eventually have my own travel agency that could offer guest first-class guided fly-fishing tours and an excellent fly-fishing school, one that can organize complete fly-fishing holidays and other excursions around Slovenia.
When did you start running fly-fishing tours?
At the beginning of 2019 I decided to offer my guests a full service through my own boutique fly-fishing tourist agency. Flyfishingodec Slovenia is now fly-fishing tourist agency specialized in the organization of guided fly-fishing adventures, accommodation, daily fly-fishing trips and fly-fishing courses.
What different parts of Slovenia do the tours go to, and how are they different?
My organized fly-fishing tours or daily guided trips and fly-fishing school take place on all Slovenian rivers.
In my organized tours, I want to offer my guests only the best that the country has to offer for such holidays: excellent fishing, beautiful nature, outstanding cuisine and friendly people.
With the Best of Slovenia Fly-fishing Tour package my guests have the opportunity to enjoy fly-fishing on the top 7 rivers in Slovenia. The package offers the best that a guest can wish for when deciding on a fly-fishing holiday in Slovenia.
All the best fly-fishing areas in the country are included in the package: the Soča River with its tributaries Lepena and Kal-Koritnica, the Sava Bohinjka River, the Unica, the Krka, the Idrijca River and the Savinja.
It’s the River Soča that’s the most in demand among my guests, though, and the number one destination.
The Soča fly-fishing tour package is intended for anyone who wants to spend their fishing holidays in the Soča River Valley, enjoy the crystal clear alpine beauty of the air and water, and the high-quality fly-fishing.
I’d also like to highlight the Wild & Pure Package, which is designed for anglers in better physical condition who aren’t looking for the easiest places to fish. The Wild & Pure package covers fly-fishing in deep gorges and canyons of alpine rivers, which are sometimes very difficult to access and require well-prepared anglers. But in the end, the effort is always worth it, with beautiful catches of wild marble trout and brown trout, as well as incredible views and the peace and quiet that come with such locations.
What fish can people catch?
The fish that people go for the most during the regular season is still marble trout. The second most desirable fish is grayling, and then brown trout.
A marble trout
Do you do custom tours, if people want more than fishing?
As a travel agency, we specialize in organizing fishing holidays. However, in addition to fly-fishing, guests sometimes want to experience more than just spending a day by the water. That’s why we also offer a combination of guided fly-fishing tours with sightseeing and visits to major attractions near at fishing location.
For example, guests can fly-fish in the morning on the Sava Bohinjka, and in the afternoon spend the day at Lake Bohinj or Lake Bled, where they can bathe and enjoy their free time with some sightseeing, hiking, or whatever they want. Anyone interested just needs to send me a message and let me know their wishes.
We also offer daily guided tours, which are intended for all travellers and others who want to spend at least one day of their vacation fly-fishing, experiencing nature that way. For those trips there’s free rental of fly-fishing equipment – a fly rod and boots/waders – so people don’t need to bring anything special with them.
A Danube Salmon
It’s now winter, can you fly fish at this time of year?
The winter is very special time in our regular fly-fishing off-season. The winter is reserved for the King of Fish in Slovenia – Danube Salmon aka Huchen (Latin name Hucho hucho).
In recent years it’s become very popular to go fishing for Danube Salmon with a fly-fishing rod. Of course, you need to know some of the peculiarities involved in fishing for this remarkable species, but this is something we can teach you.
Anything else you want to say?
As I said at the start, fly-fishing is one of the most beautiful things that has happened to me in my life, and someone who fishes in a river is really spending quality time in nature, at the kind of slow pace that’s hard to find today.
As such, fly-fishing is a great form of anti-stress therapy, one that’s open to anyone who wants to go outside and try something new. Also, I think that if you haven’t been to Slovenia before then you can’t postpone your visit any longer. Fly-fishing is great, we have beautiful rivers and the landscape is just amazing. And we, the people of Slovenia are very welcoming and kind. So come and visit us soon, before the rest of the world discovers us. You won’t be sorry!
You learn more about Matej’s work, and book a tour, at his website, and see more pictures on Instagram. If your planning a fishing trip and not everyone in your party is an angler, then check out some of the other ways you can enjoy the River Soča and its surroundings - the ideal location for an active vacation.
Slovenia is seeing a growing number of tourists, but where do they come from, and how long do they stay? You might be surprised at the answers.
Using SURS data for August 2019, the peak month, a total of 879,291 tourist arrivals were recorded. The top two countries, by far, were Germany and Italy. With regard to the number of overnight stays, the shortest trips to the sunny side of the Alps were made by visitors from South Korea – just 1.22 nights, on average – with the average overall being 2.48. An outlier here is Malta, with an average of 5.01 nights, and visitors from Iceland (3.94), Russia (3.80), and Israel (3.66) also seeming to adopt a more leisurely pace to enjoying the country.
The full list, from most tourist arrivals to least, can be seen below, with more data to explore on SURS. Note that the figures are based on hotel, hostel and other accomodation registrations, which may explain the relatrively low numbers from next door Croatia
|Other Asian countries||15,090||2.52|
|Bosnia and Herzegovina||5,536||2.81|
|Other countries of South & Central America||3,674||1.85|
|Other European countries||3,416||2.10|
|Other African countries||1,259||3.16|
|Other countries of Oceania||47||2.15|
We’re used to seeing Slovenia appear in lists of up and coming destinations, but rarely does it make the top. True, “top” here means the first on the list and in the main image used, but since not everyone reads to the end of every listicle occupying such prime real estate on the page is important.
Along with a picture of Lake Bled there’s a short text by Jane Dunford that begins:
Slovenia’s landscape of mountains and lakes lends itself to outdoor adventure: nearly 60% of the country is covered in forests, and there are more than 40 parks and reserves. Some areas, such as Lake Bled, have seen an influx of tourists over recent years but much remains off the beaten track - and the government has a strategy for sustainable tourism growth.
Continuing in this theme, Dunford highlights the recently opened 270km Juliana Hiking Trail; and Bike Slovenia Green, with its multi-day cycling itinerary through the Julian Alps, around Lake Bohinj and Lake Bled and down to the Adriatic coast – a mini “Tour de Slovenia” where you can choose the colour of your shirt and take things at your own pace.
You can see what else she recommends, along with the other 19 destinations – all chosen because of their inspiring conservation and community projects – here.
The holidays are over and while the days are getting longer we’re still going into deeper winter, so it might be a good idea to focus on some of the more enjoyable public events ahead in the next three months and make a note in your calendar.
January 23 – 26: The BMW IBU World Cup Biathlon Pokljuka – details and tickets.
January 24 – 26: The Snow Castles of King Matjaž in Črna na Koroškem is a three-day family-friendly event with a focus on building snow castle, accompanied by a full entertainment programme. Details.
January 25: Ice Trophy on Jasna Lake. On this day “amateur and ex-pro ice hockey players will fight on the ice lake for one goal - winning the ICE TROPHY. Experience a unique and authentic sport and nature. All adult recreational players are welcome. In addition to the hockey competition, there will be a very varied accompanying program for families”. More details here and note that the whole thing is free.
January 29: February 1 GASTexpo Fair – Ljubljana, “offers various exhibitions, tastings, workshops, and competitions. The event includes wine fair with domestic and international wine offer. More information can be found here.”
January 29 – February 1st: Natour Alpe-Adria Fair, the main tourist fair in Slovenia which promotes green, active tourism is back for it’s 31st edition – details.
January 31 –2 February 6th: Festival AS at Festival Hall Bled: “The AS International Music Festival is a saxophone-themed event addressing a wide audience, amateurs and professionals alike, with a vision of becoming the central event of its type in this part of Europe. It is duly named after Belgian instrument inventor Adolphe Sax, whose most famous invention is the saxophone itself.” More details here.
February 2: Kurent - korant's jump, Ptuj, the start of the Carnival season. “Shortly before midnight, crackers announce the arrival of the kurents at the scene where a big bonfire awaits them. At midnight, they put on bells and dance their first year’s dance around the fire.” More here.
February 2 – 6: Winter Ljubljana Festival: “The fourth, now traditional, edition of the festival with the accompaniment of the Slovenian Philharmonic Orchestra, will feature selected internationally renowned pianists and present the most beautiful piano and symphonic works from Beethoven's extensive music treasury.” Programme notes here.
February 3–9: Winter Swimming World Championships, Lake Bled. Register or learn more here.
February 5 – 7: MENT, the international music showcase festival returns to Kino Šiška, with more details here.
February 15–25: The 60th Kurentovanje Carnival starts and ends in Ptuj, with the peak on the 23rd and the International Carnival Parade.
February 15 – 16: Women's World Cup slalom and giant slalom races will be held at the 56th Golden Fox competition in Maribor. Tickets and times here.
February 22: Dragon Carnival in the Streets of Ljubljana “The Dragon carnival traditionally held in Ljubljana consists of a large Shrovetide carnival parade through the city's streets and a programme of entertainment held in the centrally located Kongresni trg square. The carnival parade includes, among others, a number of typical Slovenian carnival figures rooted in pagan tradition, such as 'kurent', 'laufar', 'morostar' and several others.”
February 22 – 23: FIS Ski Jumping World Cup Women will take place in Ljubno, with tickets here.
February 25 Carnival in Kamnik (details).
24 February to 1 March the Festival of Mountain Film returns. The full programme will eventually be here (not at the time of writing).
March 7: The cutting of the oldest wine producing grape vine in the world will take place in Maribor, at 11am. Details.
March 11: St. Gregory's - Vuč u vodo, an event in which local children float their miniature houses down the Tržič Bistrica. The programme is enriched by an exhibition of the "gregorčki" houses lasting several days and numerous accompanying events.
March 14 – 15: Kranjska Gora will host the men's World Cup slalom and giant slalom races. Tickets.
March 20 – 21: The International Chilli and Chocolate Festival in Maribor will bring sweetness and spice, with details here.
March 19–22: Perhaps the sporting event of the year for Slovenian viewers, the FIS Ski Jumping World Cup Finals, in Planica, Kranjska Gora. Tickets.
If you’ve been paying any attention to the Slovenian travel and tourism scene in the last few years then you’ll be aware of the various attempts to being made to get people to stay longer and see more, broadening the profile of the country beyond Ljubljana, Bled and Postojna.
It’s an approach that’s bringing attention to a wide range of activities and areas, one of which is food and drink, with perhaps the guiding star in this regard being Slovenia’s coming time in the spotlight as a 2021 European Region of Gastronomy.
Source: Ljubljanayum's Instagram page
Foreign operations, like Michelin and Gault&Millau, already have guides for Slovenia in print or preparation, but what about something produced by people who actually live and work here, who are part of the scene and know how things compare within the city itself?
In this space you’ll find The Ljubljanayum Foodie Guide to Ljubljana, an e-book that’s free to anyone who joins a Ljubljanayum food tour of the capital or that can be purchased for €6. And that purchase price is important, because the text – written by Iva Gruden, Nina Purger, and Pia Kaplan – is based on experience, discovery and pleasure, and not on sponsorship or paid content, as you’ll find in some other guides available around town, with recommendations for sale, and the worst presented alongside the best.
The lead on the project was (and is) taken by Iva Gruden, one of the pioneers of the Ljubljana food tour scene, with the first one being offered back in 2013. It’s thus a guide by people who know the city well, and not a blogger who based their story on the biggest names or most Instagrammable locations.
The book contains descriptions of over 40 best shops, bakeries, take-aways, restaurants, bars, cafés, pubs and neighbourhoods in Ljubljana, including places offering vegan, brunch, speciality coffee and more, so you can find exactly what you want. There’s also a guide to local etiquette and customs, interviews with specialists, gastronomic words and phrases in Slovene, and foodie dates and events to base a vacation or day out around.
Personally, I lived in Ljubljana for five years, on Trubarjeva cesta – the city’s ethnic food centre – only leaving a month ago, and I still learned a lot learned a lot from The Ljubljanayum Foodie Guide, including more about places I’d never considered, as well as a fresh look at those I know well.
In short, if you’re coming to Ljubljana to eat and drink and don’t want to fly blind or rely on TripAdvisor and sponsored content, then consider taking a Ljubljanayum Food Tour (bookings here, and our interview with Iva Gruden, back when it was called Ljubljanajam, here), or picking up a copy of the related guide to the city.
The current e-book was published in 2019, and while a new one is in the works nothing much has changed in the months since it was released – just a little more attention being paid to Slovenian food and drink, attention that’s repaid with pleasure.
Source: Ljubljanayum's Instagram page
STA, 24 December 2019 - For years, Slovenia had been focussing on pushing tourism figures up, boasting new records year after year. Now, its main tourist destinations are slowly starting to take a step back. Acknowledging the grievances of local population and the environmental impact of mass tourism, their goals for the future are starting to change.
Ljubljana, where new hotels are popping up and old buildings in the city centre are being repurposed into accommodation facilities for rental on platforms such as Booking.com and AirBnB, has heard many complains from locals about the negative effects of tourism.
Bothered by the crowd and high prices, people have even started moving out of the city centre.
Ljubljana Tourism, the local tourism office, has taken notice and its vision for the future no longer speaks only of the city as a tourist destination but also of a city "with a high quality of living and a pleasant atmosphere for all its inhabitants, visitors and tourists".
It has also included questions about the negative effects of tourism in its regular surveys among the city's residents "because we believe visitors can only be happy here if the residents are happy."
Ljubljana will now be striving to "increase the added value of tourism, grow sustainably and offer high quality innovative products" to attract tourists in search of "green boutique destinations".
Even more far-reaching impacts of excessive tourism have also started to affect the lakeside resorts of Bled and Bohinj.
This summer, a press conference was called by the Environment Agency, the Triglav National Park, Turizem Bled and Turizem Bohinj to warn of excessive mass tourism and its effect on the quality of water in the lakes.
Since the 2016 tourism boom, the ecological status of Lake Bled - the status of water plants and animals - has deteriorated from good to moderate, the officials said. In Lake Bohinj too, analyses of microorganisms revealed a serious impact of swimmers on water quality.
Andrej Arih from the Triglav National Park said mountain lakes where swimming is not allowed were also affected by parking and camping in the area, while wild animals were being disturbed.
"We the tourism officials are aware of the value of our natural assets and we are becoming environmentalists ourselves," said Klemen Langus from Turizem Bohinj.
Both Bled and Bohinj are now restricting access to the lakes by car and introducing measures to improve the sewage system and waste collection.
Faced with the reality of a rapid tourism development, many other towns in Slovenia are staring to embrace the green concept of tourism as well, and are adjusting their services to attract high-end guests to slowly turn away from mass tourism.
As things stand, Slovenian tourism is in for another record year in terms of arrivals and nights by foreign tourists, although the pace is slowing down. Last year saw almost 6 million tourist arrivals and more than 15 million overnight stays.
A total of 5.2 million tourists were recorded in Slovenia in the first nine months, generating 13.2 million overnight stays, with the numbers going up 5.7% and 1.9%, respectively over the year before.
The number of foreign tourists was up by 7.1% and the number of overnight stays they generated by 3.5%.
Christmas is gone, but the lights are still up and the next party is coming fast, with the New Year bringing people out onto the streets of the capital to enjoy the last good excuse for mass public drinking, feasting and revelry this decade.
Weather permitting, you can have a great time just walking around and following your interests, be they food, drink, music or dancing. With regard to free and organised events the action takes place at four of the city’s main squares, all within easy walking distance, if walking is easy for you.
Here you’ll find stages and varied performers, with different genres in different places, and all shows lasting from 21:00 to 02:30. Eco-friendly fireworks will also be launched from the Castle, made of paper and biodegradable materials, and you can see for yourself what the effect is at just after midnight, as the capital enters 2020 with a bang, fizz and crackle.
Fireworks from last year, with good weather and a good vibe on the streets
With regard to the four squares and their musical offerings:
Kongresni trg / Congress Square, the one with the University building and Philharmonia, is the largest venue and the one aimed at the broadest audience, with the line-up headed by Kingston and Luka Basi.
Trg francoske revolucije / French Revolution Square, the one by Križanke, once again offers up alt-rock, this time in the form of stoner, sludge and metal bands such as Omega Sun, Alo! Dude, Srd and Niet.
Mestni trg / Town Square, the one with the Town Hall and the (genuine fake) Robba Fountain will present a programme of evergreen classics to remind you of the past as you move into the future, with the Špicikuc Orchestra and Neisha preparing to delight the audience.
Pogačarjev trg / Central Market Square, the one that hosts Open Kitchen and at this time of year is lined with stalls selling seasonal items, food and drink, is always fairly lively, attracting a crowd that enjoys the simple pleasures of beer and sausage and more beer, maybe with some Jaeger and mulled wine for your health. It’s here that you’ll be able to enjoy a live programme of Slovenian and Oberkrainer music, with the sounds being provided by the Ceglar Ensemble, Fredi Miller and the band Come Back.
If these events don’t appeal then you can always head to Metelkova, where alternative arrangements are being made and the party won't end till dawn. Some details, in Slovene, here.
Between December 20, 2019 and March 20, 2020 daily visits to ski resorts are possible with a shuttle bus from Bled.
The shuttle drives every day to Kranjska Gora, Krvavec, Pokljuka and Vogel, every Wednesday and Sunday to Tarvisio (Trbiž) in Italy, and to 3Laendereck (Podklošter) in Austria every Thursday and Sunday.
Return tickets cost €10 per adult and are free for children under 14 and holders of Julian Alps winter card.
For the timetables, tickets, reservations, and a map, please click here.