Slovenia: sustainable adventures in Ljubljana

The days when tourists wanted to fly to sun soaked destinations for two weeks, to bask in the rays on the beach, are behind us. Today and more than ever, travelers are interested in sustainable tourism, adventures and ticking as much off their bucket list as possible. Sustainable tourism is hot these days and almost every traveller is talking about it and after decades of hearing the term ‘carbon footprint’ we are starting to take it in. We want to continue traveling and reduce our negative impact on the environment. For six years, Ljubljana has been included in the Sustainable Destinations Top 100 list, and curious to know more, I booked a flight to Slovenia’s capital city.

This destination also participated in the 2020 Sustainable Top 100 Destination Awards at ITB Berlin and was the winner of the Best of Europe awards category together 7 Slovenia destinations.
Ljubljana Castle on Castle Hill above downtown Ljubljana
Stunning view of the capital

Average costs in this area

Transportation - Ljubljana is by far small enough to walk around and public transport is cheap. A taxi late one-night cost €17, which is standard anywhere in the city.

Accomodation - The most expensive cost incurred was the hostel, €43 per night, but as this included breakfast I didn’t feel like it was overpriced.

Food and drinks - Lunch and dinner prices vary, but I ate well on €15 a day. The big night out in Ljubljana is on a Friday, and wine is cheaper than beer at less than €2 a glass. Don’t waste money on bottled water as there are water fountains all over the city.

Suggested daily budget – I estimate that you can have a good time in the capital on €70 a day, but if you want to push the boat out and are going for a week €600 will go far.

TIps for first visit

There is wifi pretty much everywhere in the center and cafes, bars and restaurants offer it for free. I picked up an hour free per day while wandering the streets with WiFree Ljubljana.

1. Bike Park Ljubljana in Podutik – Bike Park Ljubljana is a mountain bike park with roughly ten dirt and wood trails running through an old quarry. I was keen to explore every trail and spent the day riding some of the best tracks I’ve experienced outside of Tuscon, Arizona.

Along with one of the bigger trails and during a short rest I met a local girl called Eva with a connection to the company providing hot air balloon tours over Ljubljana. I was apprehensive, I don’t like heights. I was also concerned about the environmental impact. Eva assured me that Balloon Adventure was committed to sustainable environmental practices as propane is a much cleaner fossil fuel than butane and petrol.

So, I arranged to be picked up outside the Slovenian Tourist Information Centre the following morning.

2. Ariel View of Ljubljana – I still felt apprehensive as I climbed into what looked like a giant picnic basket and my mind filled with thoughts of being whisked up high into the atmosphere without any safety equipment or escape route, and don’t get me started on the balloon fabric, connecting lines that looked no thicker than string and fireball designed to lift and support the picnic basket.

My guide, no doubt sensing my fear, distracted me and I soon forgot about my possible demise. We were up in the air in no time and at about 150 metres high I peeked over the edge and watched Ljubljana, the Julian Alps, and the Ljubljana Moors move further away.

The basket felt safe and there was no wind.

My first hot air balloon experience was a massive success.

3. Hiking in Ljubljana – Slovenia is a number one hiking destination and the Kamnik-Savinja Alps, the Julian Alps and the Karavanke Alps mountain ranges are extremely popular. I have hiked all three, but my mission in Ljubljana was to find a hiking spot in the city. Fortunately, I didn’t have to look far.

Rožnik Hill is less challenging than its Slovenian competitors and popular hiking and running spot for residents of Ljubljana, accessible from Tivoli Park.

I tagged along with a friendly couple in possession of a bottle of snaps (standard in this part of the world) and choose the Mostec trail that cuts through the wooded hill.

It took us just under an hour to reach the higher of the two peaks Šišenski Hill (429m). Cankar Peak (394m) is more popular as it has a place to eat and drink at the top, but I was more interested in the views of Ljubljana, which were just as impressive as they were from the hot air balloon. The route down took us less than 30 mins.

4. Stand Up Paddle Boarding with Bananaway – I love being on the water and was keen to experience paddleboarding or supping as it’s known in Slovenia.

We paddled through the heart of the city and stopped at various points of interest, surrounded by trees and curious onlookers as we glided under Ljubljana’s famous three bridges.

We took a few moments to relax near Dragon Bridge and were told that the fun was about to begin in the form of paddle yoga. My heart sank. I knew the inevitable outcome and within three minutes I unbalanced and was bobbing up and down in the water. I’d like to point out that yoga was entirely voluntary, but I crave new experiences regardless of the outcome.

5. Kayaking ISKA Adventure – Not deterred by my previous mishap in the water I returned to the river the next day for a relaxing rowing trip down the river Ljubljanica, from the village of Podpeč to Ljubljana. Through an area of outstanding beauty, not often found so close to a city, across the Ljubljana Marshes Nature Park, marshland, and fields.

It was so calm and relaxing that I spent most of the morning observing wildlife including a brown hare and a fox along the banks, and I didn’t fall in.

And I left Ljubljana wanting more.

Mountain biking in Bike Park Podutik
Paddleboarding in Ljubljana
Discovering the surroundings

Do’s and don’ts

Slovenian’s are welcoming to visitors and eager to help out. Everyone I spoke to replied in English and offered me a shot of snaps. It’s customary to carry a bottle and shot glasses around to drink with friends throughout the day. Although don’t expect local people to be rip-roaring drunk, they’re used to it. Tipping is expected but appreciated and be suitably dressed when entering religious buildings.

UK based travel journalist specialising in adventure and the great outdoors. Formerly the editor of TNT Magazine (UK) and TNT Down Under (Australia), tend not to shy away from anything.

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