exploring Slovenia’s Vipava Valley, one of our top European destinations for 2018 – Lonely Planet’s travel blog

Winding roads through the beautiful Vipava Valley countryside © Dan Flying Solo

Lonely Planet Trailblazer Daniel Clarke of Dan Flying Solo recently took a trip to Slovenia’s lush Vipava Valley – one of our Best in Europe destinations for 2018. From dazzling countryside to world-class wine, he shares his discoveries with us…

I’ve been vocal about my love for Slovenia since my first visit six years ago, but exploring the lesser-visited region of Vipava Valley felt like discovering a brand new side of the country. Countless knarled vines sit alongside imposing mountains and white-spired churches dot the landscape. Meanwhile, underground, small, family-run wine cellars hide away from the blazing summer heat.

Once you’re cycling among the verdant, rolling hills, it’s easy to joke that the picturesque setting is ‘just like the Italy you see in the movies’. But this is Slovenia through and through; it’s slow-paced, it’s sustainable, and all of the locals have stories to share. The passion of the people in Vipava Valley is unmistakable, and comes through in everything that the region has to offer.

Relax into lazy days exploring quiet countryside

While a road trip though Vipava Valley would be incredible, it would also be relatively short (given the region’s size) and would offer limited opportunities to sample its most prized produce – wine. Cycling tours between local vineyards provide the perfect way to take in the impeccable landscapes before sipping on the good stuff, including local grape Zelen, at various producers. Local enterprises such as Wajdušna can arrange both bike tours and tastings.

Hike and fly over amazing mountains

Such is the importance and strength of the wind in the Vipava Valley, it even has its own name. The Bora Wind, which can hit the north Adriatic regions at speeds of up to 200 km/h, is vital for wine production here, but it also makes the Vipava Valley a popular place to hike up a mountain, and paraglide back down! With the promise of incredible views across Slovenia, Italy and the Adriatic Sea, and fantastic wines waiting for you at the bottom, it’s easy to see why this is quickly becoming a popular destination for adrenaline seekers.

Stop by serene springs and rivers

The Vipava River runs through the valley and into the town which shares its name, where you can kick back at local bars alongside the cool springs and small waterfalls. Slovenians pride themselves on taking care of their environment and these pristine waters, offering mirror-like reflections, are testimony to that.

Visit family-run wine estates

During my time in Vipava, plenty of people joked that half the valley was underground, due to the vast number of wine cellars you can find here. Some are small, private, family ones, while others bottle and export internationally. No matter the size of production, the passion for the product is evident at every tasting or cellar you visit, and trust me, you should attend as many as you can to hear the individual stories that are served with each glass.

Discover small villages with long histories

The small villages throughout the valley all have something unique to offer. From the family restaurants and stone houses of Goče to the quaint streets in Vipavski Križ – a fascinating spot thanks to its historical trade route position and 15th-century castle – you’ll find plenty of stories covering over a thousand years of history, no matter where your two wheels take you.

Indulge in amazing views with incredible food

When it comes to food in the Vipava Valley, the focus is on sustainable, seasonal and locally-sourced ingredients. A wine tasting will always come with snacks that could easily replace a meal, and local produce stores such as Faladur, housed in an old castle turret, also double up as fantastic lunch spots. Impressive fine-dining at Dvorec Zemono provides an indulgent yet relaxed treat, thanks to one of the country’s top chefs, Tomaž Kavčič. Since my visit was accompanied by an incredible sunset from the restaurant’s terrace, it’s certainly a meal I’ll never forget.

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