Mention Slovenia to a handful of people of a certain age and they will probably tell you about holidays in Yugoslavia in the 1980s that included an excursion to visit the caves at Postojna or the beautiful white Lipizzaner horses. These attractions continue to draw the crowds, and understandably so, but where are the really special places that the locals like to keep quiet about?
Slovenia has always been a largely rural society. Yes, there are lively cities and towns, but, especially for family life, people prefer villages; in fact only one third of Slovenians live in urban areas with more than 10,000 inhabitants.
Karst & Coast
Štanjel is a little treasure in Slovenia's Karst region. It's a charming hilltop village that numbers little more than 300 residents and was originally the site of a Roman fortress and was subsequently the location of a castle built to help withstand Ottoman invasions. The handsome castle still stands, as well as the Church of St. Daniel, from which the village gets its name. Perhaps the most attractive feature of Štanjel is simply the collection of old stone houses perched on the hillside. Historically This is known as a dry part of Slovenia and a series of stone wells in the village squares show how villagers have historically found ways of coping with this environment.
Today the castle is a popular place to tie the knot but it is also home to a small museum. Štanjel is also known for Villa Ferrari, or more precisely its beautiful Mediterranean-style garden which was designed by Maks Fabiani, best known for his redesign of the border city Nova gorica. Visitors can see the special system which was created to provide water for the garden, a system which can also be used by villagers for their own gardens.
Not far from the lively seaside town Izola there you can find plenty of pretty Istrian villages, among them Korte, Cetore and Šared. The area is rich with history, partly because of its elevated position which made it an obvious choice from which to defend against invasion. The area is attractive to popular with people who wish to fans of outdoor activities such as hiking and cycling. It is also known for its superb local cuisine and distinctive wines. A particular gem is the hamlet of Malija which is associated for continuing the old traditions and retaining its remarkable dialect.
Gorenjska is the most mountainous region of the country, celebrated excellent ski resorts such as Vogel and Kobla, as well as being the location of Bled and Bohinj, Slovenia's best known lakes. In summer tourists continue to be drawn to Gorenjska for hiking and mountain biking, as well as for bathing in the thermal waters of Bled.
Begunje na Gorenjskem is situated at the entrance to the Karavanke mountains, making it a great base for people who want to have opportunities for excellent hiking right on the doorstep. It's a typical Gorenjska village, though it does have one particular distinction because it was the birthplace of Slavko Avsenik, the composer and performer regarded as the father of popular Slovene folk music. Other attractions like Kamen Castle and Katzenstein Mansion, and the renovated Robačnek Mill also put the village on the map.
Kropa is another typical village of the Gorenjska region. It's known countrywide for its traditional St. Gregory's Day celebrations when, on 11 March each year, the village schoolchildren float candles on the village pond, a custom that marks the arrival of springtime.
Traditionally one exterior wall of Gorenjska cottages were decorated with a painted fresco but this tradition fell out of practice and only a few houses still retained this feature. In recent years, however, the custom was revived in the village of Ljubno, near Radovlijca. Maša Bersan Mašuk and Nikolaj Aleksandovič Mašuk are Russian artists who moved to Ljubno in the 1990s. They loved the old tradition and painted a fresco on their own house; locals loved the result and so the artists painted frescoes on other houses too.
Brezje is an important pilgrimage destination and the village has lately gained plenty of facilities without losing any of its charm. and Brezje draws many visitors each year because of the imposing Church of Mary Help of Christians which was given the status of Basilica by Pope John Paul II in 1988.
Slovenia's most easterly region is Pomurska and it offers a variety of beautiful landscapes ranging from the Slovenske Gorice hills to the flat expanse of the Pannonian plain extends far into neighbouring Hungary. Pomurska is mostly rural with only a few larger towns. While agriculture has seen a decline here, newcomers have been attracted to the slower pace of life and it's easy to see why many think it's a great place to bring up a family.
Pomurska is well-known as being a haven for wildlife. Almost every community has its own stork's nest while the River Mura and several scenic lakes provide a home for a variety of birds. The lake at Ormož is an important reserve and a stopping off point for migrating birds.
Viticulture continues to be an important part of the local economy; fruit growing is also important and harvest time is celebrated with gusto. A distinctive feature of villages here are the L-shaped cottages which once provided shelter to both the farmer and his family, and his livestock, but which have since been converted into contemporary homes with adjoining land, perfect for those who want to grow their own fruit and vegetables.
Puconci is increasingly popular with families and has grown in the last few years but it retains its village atmosphere. Formerly part of Murska Sobota it is now a municipality in its own right and is investing in new amenities. However, with well regarded school, various sports clubs and numerous other community associations, Puconci already offers a lot to people looking for village life in Pomurska.
Not far from the famous spa Moravske Toplice, Bogojina is a delightful little community, famous for the striking church designed by Jože Plečnik, better known for putting his distinctive mark on the capital in the early part of the last century. The Church of the Ascension stands at the bottom of Vršič hill and is one of area's best-known landmarks.
The people of Bogojina work ceaselessly to keep their community thriving. Several societies There is a village herb garden, as well as numerous annual events which foster a wonderful community spirit and also attract visitors. Košič's Days of Culture is an annual arts event which remembers Jožef Košič, an important writer and cleric who once lived in the village.
Want to know more?
This article highlights just a small selection of the beautiful villages in various parts of Slovenia. Whether you're looking for a location for an active retirement, property for investment, or the perfect place to bring up a young family, Elite Property Slovenia is here to give you advice.