Culture

Vintage Slovenia (and Lake Bled) 2018

14 to 23 September
Slovenia

If you’ve ever wanted to visit a place that few people even know exists (and fewer still can point out on a map), then come with us to Slovenia; it won’t be long before this smart central European country is setting the tone for fashionable travel.

With less than two million inhabitants, and a few tourists attracted by tales of its idyllic beauty, Slovenia is very tranquil and sophisticated. 25 years after gently wresting itself from former Yugoslavia, there’s an exuberance of spirit here suggesting a nation still enjoying its independence. Its beauty has drawn comparisons with Switzerland, a country twice its size but with some similarities. Slovenia is imbued with fantastic, jagged mountains, turquoise rivers and silver lakes, vast subterranean caves and just enough medieval castles to conjure up a fairytale or two!

To top all of this it has some of the most stunningly scenic rail journeys in the whole of Europe with many comfortable locomotive hauled trains, quaint stations and welcoming staff.

This is now one of our most popular and longest running tours.

Highlights

  • Spectacular scenery in an un-spoilt country
  • Castle and funicular in Ljubljana
  • Lake Bled
  • Postojna caves and underground railway
  • Scenic rail journeys
  • Two scenic trips by steam train including the wonderful Bohinj railway
  • Services of our tour manager (this tour is fully escorted from Ljubljana)

Tour Manager: Marion    marion@ptg.co.uk

Itinerary

Day 1 Friday 14 September (D) We leave London Stansted at 13.15 for our two hour flight to Ljubljana. It is also possible to fly from Birmingham or Manchester (via Zurich) or go overland via  Eurostar. Landing at Ljubljana airport you are immediately struck by the natural beauty of Slovenia. The airport has spectacular views of mountains and appears to be built in a clearing in the woods. Our coach will meet us and transfer us to our hotel in one of Europe’s smallest capital cities for the first night of our five-night stay. The rest of the day is free for your own relaxation and we meet up at 19.00 for our welcome dinner. This is in a fine restaurant just a few minutes walk from the hotel and  dates back to the 15th century.

Day 2 Saturday 15 September (B, L) Today we will explore Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia. It is a fascinating little city and we meet in reception at 09.30 for a guided walk. First, we will visit the castle, via the funicular, that overlooks Ljubljana and the River Ljubljanica which flows through this picturesque city of beautiful bridges and Baroque townhouses. Our tour will end at the quayside where we join our boat for a river cruise on the Ljubljanica. We will have lunch on board. The rest of the day is free for your own relaxation or perhaps a visit to the railway museum.

Day 3 Sunday 16 September (B, L) We take a morning train from Ljubljana to Celje to join a one-hour ride on the historic steam train that runs from Celje to Podčetrtek; the first part of this railway  constitutes the very first constructed railway track in Slovenia. We will spend the whole day in the Kozjansko region, which is an area of forests, rolling hills, vineyards and scattered farms. A road train will take us to visit the renovated Minoriti monastery complex (part of the convent is also a celebrated pharmacy, which is one of the oldest monastic pharmacies in Europe). We will taste the local produced chocolate in a Chocolate Boutique in Olimje as well as visiting a deer breeder. In this fairy tale-like countryside we will have a local lunch in one of the welcoming farmhouses. The tidiness and beauty of these places convinced even the strict European Commission to award the village of Olimje with the golden medal for the 2009 Entente Florale contest. After our lunch we will take our road train to a local brewery where we can have a drink and enjoy the lovely countryside before our return to Ljubljana.

Day 4 Monday 17 September (B, D) A short walk will take us to the main railway station where we catch our train (09.32) to Postojna. This is a fine stretch of railway line which passes through the mountains en-route. On arrival, we have a short road transfer to the Postojna Cave which is a network of 20 kilometres of passages, galleries and chambers into which experienced guides have accompanied more than 31 million visitors in the last 188 years. It is Slovenia’s largest cave in the “classic karst” and the most visited show cave in Slovenia. In 1872 railway lines were laid in the cave; electricity arrived in 1884. Today we begin our visit aboard the cave train; the electric lighting allows you to admire the size and splendour of the underground world on an amazing 4 km ride. We will also see the largest collection of different cave dwelling creatures in Slovenia including the “Human Fish”, which is one of the most mysterious creatures in the world. A kind of Salamander, but related to no other amphibian, it is the largest known permanent cave-dwelling vertebrate. After a break, with time for some lunch, we visit the nearby Predjama Castle, just 10 kilometres from the Postojna Cave. For more than 700 years it has perched proudly on its 123-metre high cliff: powerful, defiant and impregnable. Evening return by train to Ljubljana.

Day 5 Tuesday 18 September (B, L) Another superbly scenic railway journey today as we head east along the Sava river valley to Dobova. The railway hugs the river pretty much all of the way as we weave our way through the mountains. Dobova is near the border with Croatia and we alight here and take our road coach to the nearby wine cellars of Najger’s Repnice. Repnice are caves, dug in the flint-stone which was washed up by the Pannonian Sea millions of years ago. They got their name after turnips (repa), because the locals stored turnips and other vegetable produce in them. The sand caves are a part of the cultural heritage in this region and one of the most interesting sights on the Bizeljsko-sremiska wine route. At the top of the Graben valley Jozica and Martin Najger open for us their remarkable Repnice, dug by Martin’s great-grandfather in the 19th century. In the first room is a natural fresco formed in the sand walls and ceiling. We have wine tasting in the main room of the cave and can visit the third room where the wine is aged. Of course we will sample these wines and also some savoury specialties of the house, followed by lunch served in the outer farm building. In the late afternoon we return by rail to Ljubljana.

Day 6 Wednesday 19 September (B, D) We meet in reception for our coach transfer to the station and our train to Bled. The town of Bled is over a thousand years old and is by far the country’s most popular tourist destination because of the fairytale lake and island, dramatically sited castle and snow-tipped mountains. We will be staying in a central hotel. The rest of the day is free for your own relaxation and to enjoy Bled at your own pace. Perhaps visit the castle and have lunch in the castle restaurant overlooking the lake. Or take a walk around the lake stopping to take photos as you go along.

Day 7 Thursday 20 September (B, D) Lake Bled is extremely picturesque and one of the most romantic places to visit. On the small island in the middle of the lake many people travel by boat to get married. So today we will make the same journey (but not to get married) to visit the church and tower. You may even ring the bell in the church and make a wish. Later, after lunch we have an optional visit to the spectacular Vintgar Gorge where we take a walk, and feel as if we are in another world. Don’t forget your cameras and walking shoes.

Day 8 Friday 21 September (B, L) Today we take the local train to Most na Soči, located on a rocky crest above the confluence of the Soča (you will be amazed by the beautiful colour of the river) and Idrijca rivers. In the past these two riverbeds, deeply carved into the rocky slopes, provided the settlement with excellent protection from intruders. Due to the nearby Doblar Hydro Plant, the basins of the river were entirely inundated and below the settlement a vast lake was formed which now attracts both fishermen and visitors. We will go on a two hour cruise on the river. Time to relax, have lunch and enjoy the views from the boat. Mid-afternoon return by rail to Bled.

Day 9 Saturday 22 September (B,L) A short walk to the railway station for our rail journey by steam train complete with restored vintage carriages. We will partly retrace yesterday’s journey, but the two hour ride along the historic Bohinj Railway is an unforgettable experience through stunning scenery. During our journey we will follow the river ‘Sava Bohinjka’ until we reach the 6,372 metre-long railway tunnel at Bohinjska Bistrica. We will be accompanied by Bohinj Railway staff who will inform us about the train, the Bohinj Railway itself and the regions we will be travelling through. Alighting at Kanal we drive alongside the river Soča past the villages of Anhovo and Plave to the wine growing region at the Slovene-Italian border known as  Goriška Brda. We will also stop in the village of Gonjače on the way to Dobrovo where we can climb up a 23 metre-high belvedere tower, from where the whole Goriška Brda region can be seen. At Dobrovo we will have time for lunch before our return to the Soca Valley, where we also visit the largest wine cellar in the region. Here we are able to taste and purchase some of the prominent wines of Goriška Brda. Return to Bled on the steam train.

Day 10 Sunday 23 September (B) The morning is free before our coach takes us back to Ljubljana airport (approx 45 minutes) for our flight back to the UK.

This is a moderately active tour.  To fully enjoy this program, participants should be able to climb a flight of stairs and walk at least a half-mile on uneven ground during several of the sightseeing trips.

Hotels

Quality hotels (recommended):

Ljubljana – City Hotel   www.cityhotel.si
Bled – Hotel Lovec    www.lovechotel.com

Standard hotels:

Ljubljana – Art Hotel    www.epiceco-hotels.com/en/
Bled – Garni Hotel Jadran     www.sava-hotels-resorts.com

Flights

EZY8421 13.00 London Gatwick to Ljubljana (arr.15.50)
EZY8422 21.55 Ljubljana to London Gatwick (arr.23.15)

EZY3245 13.05 Stansted to Ljubljana (arr.16.00)
EZY3246 16.45 Ljubljana to Stansted (arr.17.45)

 

Place(s) available

Holiday Prices (per person)

  • Full 10 day holiday including flight from London Stansted: £1,699 quality, £1,499 standard
  • Full 12 day holiday overland from St Pancras: Price on application
  • Own travel to and from Ljubljana: £1,499 quality, £1,299 standard

Options

  • Single room Supplement: £360 quality, £290 standard
  • Fly from Manchester: Price on application

Deposit

  • Travelling by air: £500
  • Travelling by land: £1,000
  • Own travel: £300

Price includes

  • All travel and excursions as outlined in the itinerary
  • Good quality en-suite accommodation
  • Five nights in Ljubljana, four nights at Lake Bled,
  • Lunch or dinner included everyday
  • Services of our tour manager

Flights

  • Direct flights from Stansted with Easyjet. Indirect flights from other UK airports
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We recommend you also check the FCO website for the latest travel advice https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice