Here’s a great tip for a summer holiday in Europe. Active families will love Slovenia’s wide open spaces, challenging hikes and spectacular views. There are caves and castles to explore as well as delicious food and a friendly welcome.
- Hiking and cycling
- Lakes and mountains
- Castles and caves
- Summertime in a ski resort
Who went Sarah-Jane and David, Oliver 17 and Alexander 15
Where Kompas hotel, Kranjska Gora, North Slovenia, August 2016 for 2 weeks. The flight from Gatwick to Ljubljana airport took two and a half hours with an hour transfer to the hotel.
Why Slovenia Sarah-Jane:”We joke that our trips are always the same: hiking, biking, rocks and animals! I’m a geologist so I love mountains, the boys both like hiking and being outdoors and there’s usually wildlife to spot when we’re out exploring. In previous years we’ve booked trips to the Swiss Alps with Thomson and they’ve always been good value. We were looking through the Thomson brochure again when we noticed they offered packages to Slovenia.
We found a hotel we liked with a swimming pool, free wi-fi (very important) and half board. As part of the deal Thomson added a Discovery pack which included two day trips. Not all their hotels offer this but it’s worth researching before booking.
There were additional tours we could have taken too including Venice for the day. In the end we went on three trips to see different parts of the Slovenian Alps.
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Staying in Kranjska Gora
“Kranjska Gora in northern Slovenia is a ski resort in the winter. It’s on the valley floor surrounded by meadows and mountains and close to the Triglav national park. We chose the Kompas hotel which is just a few minutes walk from town and has an indoor pool and sauna and steam room. It’s a small traditional town with a few pavement cafes and shops and didn’t feel particularly touristy. During our stay, there was a culture festival in town with Slovenian music and dancing in the evening. There were Slovenians on holiday there but not many other Brits around. On the Thomson tours we met a mix of older people and a few other families with teens.
The weather was pretty good. One day it rained for 24 hours with terrific electric storms but that was quite entertaining in itself since we don’t have that sort of intensity of weather in Britain! The next morning we saw there was new snow on the mountain tops. Otherwise it was fine and quite warm with temperatures in the 20s even when it rained.
5 things to do on a family trip to Slovenia
Walk the trails from Kranjska Gora
“Slovenia is a tiny little country but it is so beautiful! The views are spectacular. Most days after breakfast we set off with hiking poles and rucksacks and picked up a picnic lunch in the village. We had a local map showing lots of trails and we asked people at the hotel to recommend walks too.
It was all fairly easy walking apart from the day we tackled the climb up to the Russian Chapel on the Vršič pass. Some days we hired bikes in town too.
One evening the hotel organised a torch lit walk to Lake Jasna a mile up the road. We set off with a guide and long torches of rags soaked in paraffin. Bats were flying around and the lake looked beautiful in the darkness. It was fun and different and we enjoyed chatting to the guide about life in Slovenia.
Visit the Julian Alps
“The first trip we took was a day tour of the Julian Alps, over the Vršič mountain pass, dropping down on a winding Alpine road to the Trenta valley and stopping for lunch in Bovec. The scenery is spectacular: on this trip we saw the turquoise blue Soca river which is also great for watersports.
On the way we visited the Russian Chapel on the Vršič pass. It was built in 1916 by Russian prisoners of war who were working on a road across the Alps to Italy.
Many of the prisoners of war died there and that month President Putin had attended a ceremony to lay a wreath and mark the chapel’s 100th anniversary. Incidentally his departure had caused a big holdup at the airport when we arrived at Ljubljana! There was a temporary plastic porch on the front of the chapel so we decided to come back later in the holiday on foot to see it again. We made it – but it was a heck of a walk and very steep!
There was fierce fighting in this region of Slovenia during the First World War. In Britain we tend to only learn about the trenches so it was interesting to hear our guide talk about the battles in the Alps and to see the pill boxes that still remain there.
Go to Lake Bled and Lake Bohinj
SJ: Later in the week we took a day trip to beautiful Lake Bled. It’s only a half an hour drive from Kranjska Gora so in the morning we visited the medieval castle up on the cliff above the lake.
Then we had a couple of hours to explore. We could have swum in the lake or rowed across to the island. Instead we decided to have lunch and track down the famous Bled cream cake. It lived up to its reputation. Alex, who did the maths, reckoned his slice contained about 7 cubic cm of cream!
In the afternoon we went on to Lake Bohinj. From here we took the cable car up Mt Vogel to the ski station above Ukanc and a plateau with panoramic views of the Alps. When we came down again we stopped off to see the church of St John the Baptist by the lake in the hamlet of Ribcev Laz. Its walls and ceilings are covered in colourful 15th century frescoes.
Cycle to the border of 3 countries
“One sunny day we cycled to Italy… and Austria! In fact we went to the summit of Mount Peč to Tromeja, the junction of three countries: Slovenia, Italy and Austria. For this trip we took two pedal bikes and two electric bikes and swopped a bit through the day. It was the first time we’d used electric bikes and they were brilliant – especially on the steep bits where even the pro bikers in lycra were struggling a little! We’d definitely recommend them and they were fun too.
It took a couple of hours to reach the Tromeja summit. It’s 1509m at the top and we started from the valley floor at 600m so it was a fair way up the very steep gravelled road.
I do cycle but I’m not the fittest so I took one of the electric bikes and Oliver had the other – I don’t think he pedalled much at all. That didn’t stop his chain falling off though. Luckily I’d packed disposable gloves – a hangover from uni when I really relied on my bike! – and we managed to fix it quickly.
We had to lock and leave the bikes and walk up the last bit to the summit. It’s a winding path and the hairpin bends are numbered so you know how far you’ve got to go. There were 31 altogether!
But it was exhilarating to get to the top at last! We soaked up the brilliant views and enjoyed the achievement of cycling into another country.
By contrast coming down again took half an hour – with the bicycle brakes practically smoking!
Explore a medieval castle and caves
On another day we went to see the medieval castle, Predjama, and the Postojna caves. It was quite a drive, probably around two hours, but we were in minibuses rather than a coach and so were able to chat to our guide who talked to us about growing up in Solvenia and the brief war of independence in the 1990s.
Predjama castle is built into a cave and is beautiful and full of stories. We took a guided tour and then in the afternoon we went to the Posotojna underground caves.
Slovenia is renowned for its natural cave systems – some of the biggest in the world – and the Postojna caves are the most famous. We got onto a little train that runs 2km underground then walked for another kilometre or two with a guide. There are huge underground chambers and in fact a full symphony orchestra has played in there.
Tips for travelling with teens
We used to go on self catering holidays but as the boys got older I found I was spending a lot of time in supermarkets doing the food shopping because they all eat so much! So for the last few years we’ve stayed in hotels with half board which has been much better. The Kompas hotel had a generous self service buffet for breakfast and dinner. The boys loved this as they could have three or four courses and then seconds.
Our boys are happy with this kind of holiday. We spend the day together, walking or taking a tour until around 4.30pm. From then on it’s the boys’ down time and they do their own thing and connect to laptop or iPad if they want. We always make sure that wherever we stay has free wi-fi and the boys have their own room and can be independent from us.
Slovenia Family Trip with Teens
Sarah-Jane and family booked their holiday with Thomson Lakes and Mountains. Find out more on their website www.thomsonlakes.co.uk
All photos by Sarah-Jane and family are all rights reserved. Photos may not be reproduced without prior written permission.