Summer might be coming to a close—but we’re not ready to say goodbye just yet. In this edition, we’re telling you about our favorite spots for ice cream and gelato in cities around the world. And speaking of seeing the world, what better way to do it than with friends? We’re showcasing a group of friends who’ve been doing it for a decade. And our very own Jonathan Garcia—on this year’s list of Travel Agent magazine’s 30Under30—talks to us about the future of travel and more.
Erika Reategui and Fernando Gonzalez
We think Slovenia is the best of Europe rolled into one compact country. Until now, it’s sat quietly under the radar of American tourists, who’ve opted for neighboring Italy or Croatia. But that is all about to change as we recently found out on our private tour of the stunning homeland to our First Lady Melania Trump.
Over five action-packed days, we learned that the capital Ljubljana is about an hour away from all kinds of outdoor fun. From the Alps and breathtaking lakes to the north, wine country to the west, and the Adriatic Riviera to the south. Peppered along the way are thrilling caves, castles, and charming medieval towns.
No trip to Slovenia would be complete without a stop in the Brda wine region. This area is home to Slovenia’s best wine, olive oil and fruit producers. It shares the border with some of Italy’s best wine country. Surrounded by rolling fields of grapes, we visited organic micro-wineries, sampling rebula, the region’s excellent white wine, along with farm-to-table fare. We stayed at Hotel Gredic, a converted 400-year-old country castle with spacious, hip rooms complete with wine cellar and champagne temple.
Wine and food are taken seriously here. It is said there is a wine cellar for every 70 Slovenians. But because the country is so small, production is limited. Gastronomy, too, is thriving with modern interpretations of traditional Mediterranean fare, and passion for local, seasonal cooking. Fresh seafood, grilled meats, and pasta are particular standouts.
Ljubljana is a picturesque capital with a relaxed vibe. High on a hill, Ljubljana Castle watches over the city. The charming Old Town is easily walkable with a series of foot bridges, the most famous of which is the Triple Bridge. This series of three bridges crosses the Ljubljanica River and connects the historic, medieval side with the contemporary city. Hotel Cubo is stylish boutique property, just three blocks away from the Old Town. The new Hotel Intercontinental Ljubljana is also opening this fall to meet the demand for luxury rooms.
Two of the country’s most famous lakes are an hour north of the city in the Julian Alps. Lake Bohinj is the largest natural lake, a peaceful oasis surrounded by green forests and nearby Vogel ski resort. Lake Bled is the most photographed site in the country. A tiny island sits at its center and is only accessible by pletna, a handmade wooden row boat.
Along Slovenia’s Riviera, the medieval port town of Piran oozes charm, with cobblestone streets and a colorful main square. Both Italian and Slovenian are officially spoken here as it was once part of the Venetian republic. We climbed up the town’s peak, where old castle ruins overlook the Adriatic Sea. To our left, we saw Croatia’s jutting coastline. Italy’s shores were to the right. From here, Venice is an hour’s drive and a very popular day trip. The five-star Kempinski Palace in nearby Potoroz is the place to stay on a visit to the coast.
A really special experience for horse lovers is a visit to the Lipica Stud Farm, home to the world-famous Lipizzaner horses. Three hundred of these stunning white purebreds live on 750 acres of pasture. Our private tour included a horse-drawn carriage, outdoor picnic and the behind-the scenes-access to newborn foals and even Queen Elizabeth’s private stallion.
Another exciting outing is combining Postojna Cave and Predjama Castle. Postojna is Slovenia’s greatest tourist attraction, and one of the world’s largest and most famous caves. Its magnificent cathedral halls of stalactites and stalagmites are truly captivating. Nearby Predjama Castle is another national treasure. This Renaissance fortress was built entirely into a cave. Its magnificent and unusual design, along with mysterious tunnels, has made it a popular site for films.
We spent our final night at Hotel Grad Odocec, just outside of the capital. This 13th-century castle has been converted into a stunning Relais & Chateaux property, with fine dining and service. It sits on a secluded river island that reminded us of a fairytale. That experience pretty much summed up the trip: magical.
Our Sekita Ekrek and Stephen Scott love discovering hidden gems around the world. For more information on Slovenia, contact Sekita at Sekita@firstinservice.com or Stephen at Stephen@firstinservice.com.