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Slovenia – Europe’s diamond in the rough


Quick Overview

Okay, I don’t mind admitting that, before visiting the place, the only thing I knew about Slovenia was that it once formed part of the former communist block of Yugoslavia. Not a very positive note to start a visitor review maybe, but do your research and delve deeper into the history of the region and you will be pleasantly surprised by all that a country measuring up at only half the size of neighbouring Switzerland, has to offer.

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A spectacular two-hour flight over the Alps from London takes you to Slovenia’s main airport and within 20-minutes of its capital city, Ljubljana (pronounced loobli-yaana). Using this pretty and affordable city as your base you are barely 30 minutes north of the dramatic beaches of the Adriatic coast. Head west for a day trip to Northern Italy and Venice, north and you’re soon over the borders into Austria and Hungary. Travel east into the equally beautiful Croatia. However, with numerous hotels to suit most budgets, Ljubljana with the river Ljubljanica running through it, offers so many delights of its own that you may decide to skip some of your planned, cross-border excursions and explore an ancient city surrounded in myths and legend.


Picturesque and quaint, Ljubljana is dominated by its 12th century cliff-top castle. Accessed by a funicular railway, the castle boasts a terraced restaurant bar with views across a city that blends the earthy waterfront hues of Venice with the magisterial grandeur of Vienna – albeit in a smaller scale and setting.The riverside walkways host a myriad bijou restaurants and wine bars with food to suit most tastes. Mexican, Sushi, Indian, Cantonese, French, Italian or Swiss, you name your cuisine of choice and you’ll find it somewhere down Ljubljana’s cobbled back streets - all at reasonable prices


Slovenia’s golf season runs from mid-March to mid-November but time your visit at the beginning or end of the season and you might spend a day or two skiing here as well. We visited three courses which differed greatly in terms of quality, presentation and difficulty. At the base of the Kamniske Alps is the Arboretum Golf Club named after the dark pines that frame the red-tiled clubhouse and define the fairways. It’s hilly, tight, and not for the faint hearted. Long it’s not, but Arboretum tests your game in many ways. You’ll barely use your driver or find a flat lie, the dog-legs are severe with several blind approach shots to greens, yet some of the views are breathtaking. Bring your A game, or simply retire to the bar overlooking a scenic man-made lake.


Slovenia’s most historic club is Bled Golf & Country Club, A 40-mile drive north-west of Ljubljana. Its first nine holes were laid down in 1937, the second nine in 1993. Mount Triglav, the distinctive triple-peaked highest point of Slovenia dominates the backdrop of this fair and scenic parkland course which has hosted PGA Challenger Tour events.


Lipica, a nine-hole course in the far south west of Slovenia, is another ‘track’ to have sprung from the drawing board of British designer Donald Harradine. It only opened in 1989 and has yet to fully mature, but its wide fairways and shallow red-sand bunkers make it suitable for high handicap golfers looking to hone their skills. You can also play tennis here, or try out a short par three course.


Golf is taking off in a big way in Slovenia. The courses are generally well presented and affordable with good practice facilities. So, it may not be long too before we see Slovenian representation on the European Tour and, who knows, maybe in the Ryder Cup team.


Off-course delights


If photography is your thing, then Slovenia will keep you snapping away happily for hours. With stunning mountain views and idyllic lakes such as Lake Bled, complete with its pretty St Mary’s Island and an eighth century chapel that is licensed to hold weddings. Tourists come here for not only for romantic boat trips, but also to renew their wedding vows.


If equestrianism interests you then Slovenia has numerous riding stables catering specifically for tourists offering countryside hacks into the foothills. A visit to the world famous Lipica Stud Farm is a must, to experience the White Lipizzaner horses trained and raised here since 1580. Their equine dressage displays will amaze you.


So go discover Slovenia. It’s affordable, welcoming, historic and scenic – Europe’s uncut diamond.


May 21, 2023


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