In our blog series these next few weeks, we will share with you some "hidden gems" that we love! The Mediterranean is rich with so many special destinations. There are seemingly never-ending options and choices for those looking to discover the countries that Bella Vita Travels designs vacations to, and this week we will share some destinations that are just starting to make their way onto our client dream lists- inland Croatia and Slovenia. Though Slovenia isn’t on the Mediterranean sea, its strategic location nestled between northern Italy and Croatia make it an interesting, unique “add on” to an itinerary in that area.
Croatia is a country that in past years has skyrocketed to the top of travelers requests, and most frequently, the long stretch of coast dotted with charming islands, the bluest water and the lure of “island life” are what people associate with this seaside country, but the inland capital of Zagreb is a city that is worth of visit for those looking for an alternative to the sea. What we love about Zagreb is that being a smaller city and one less “known” by foreign tourists is that it takes the pressure off you to feel that you need to see it all. There’s no Eiffel Tower or Colosseum that you feel that you need to add to your itinerary, so your experience is that this fascinating city is truly yours to discover. It’s a smaller city that lends itself to be explored on foot- the “upper town” is full of enchanting cobblestone streets and medieval churches and (of course) a magnificent castle, whereas the “lower town” is more colorful, both architecturally and culturally. There are quirky museums (the museum of broken relationships for one), cathedrals with spires that sweep the sky, beautiful wooded parks with lakes. It’s also an amazing place to experience Croatia cafe culture- the streets are lined with tiny bars of people sitting outside and enjoying the day, sipping coffee or a glass of local beer.
Zagreb is also only a half hour drive to the Slovenian border, and two hours to the Slovenian capital of Ljubljana, another hidden gem and a great starting point for a Slovenian side trip.
Ljubljana is one of Europe’s smallest capitals population wise (a little over 200,000 people) and is also a great city for strolling by foot. Like Zagreb, this city has no “world famous” monuments which means that your time here is spent truly immersing yourself in the cultural capital of Slovenia. The old town falls in the shadows of a castle, full of tiny alleyways that weave through the historical center- it’s a wonderful way to explore. Slovenia has been promoting “green” tourism for a few years now, and the capital is no exception- in the summer many pieces of the city become pedestrian only and evening events stretch out into the many parks, cafes and bars that run through Ljubljana.
From the cozy capital, you are also a 2 hour ride to one of Slovenia’s most picturesque towns, Bled. It’s the country’s most popular resort town, nestled in the Julian alp mountains, the turquoise lake and picturesque island church are just as gorgeous in real life. The fresh mountain air, forests and crystal clear lake are a dream for our more active guests and hiking enthusiasts. It's an incredibly popular destination for Slovenian locals and tourists, so it's better to visit in the spring or fall (August is quite busy) - but anyone who has seen a picture of Slovenia has most likely seen a picture of beautiful Bled. It's worth the trip.
Just under two hours further southwest, the Venetian gothic gem of Piran lays on the Adriatic coast. This pretty town lies on a picturesque peninsula on some of Slovenia’s coast (they have a tiny stretch tucked between Italy and Croatia) and was actually part of Italy until 1954 (it’s a 30 minute drive to the Italian border). This medieval walled town is considered to be one of the most beautiful in Slovenia.