Dolenjska is a region located in southeastern Slovenia. Sometimes also written as Lower Carniola in English. It is known for its vineyards, castles, rivers, monasteries, and thermal springs. This hidden gem should not be missed when visiting Slovenia. Dolenjska is just a short drive from Ljubljana and full of surprises. I wanted to share some of my recommendations and what I think are the most unique or interesting things you can see or do in Dolenjska.
Planning a trip to Slovenia? Then check out these articles, too!
- The Complete Travel Guide to Slovenia
- 11 Amazing Things to Do in Western Slovenia
- A Weekend of Slovenian Castles (Dolenjska)
15 Things to Do in Dolenjska
1. See Otočec Castle on a river island.
There are a lot of castles scattered around Dolenjska but none more special than Otočec Castle (Grad Otočec). It is on an island in the Krka River. The castle houses a hotel and restaurant but you can still walk around the grounds. Surrounding the castle is a park and it’s really beautiful to visit with lots of wildlife around.
2. See the Venice of Dolenjska.
It might take longer to say Kostanjevica na Krki than it does to walk across it but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t visit this tiny town near the Slovenian-Croatian border. Built on an island in the middle of the Krka River this town is something off the beaten path. On the island, you can visit Lamut’s Art Salon which is a small art gallery which doubles as a great tourist information center.
3. Go to the Land of Hayracks.
Traveling around Slovenia you might have seen these wooden structures near farms, in fields, or even next to some homes. In Slovene, they are called kozolec and they are (almost) exclusively found in Slovenia. They are often historical structures but some you will see still in use today.
Hayracks are for drying and storing hay or grain. In Dolenjska, you can visit the Land of Hayracks (Dežela Kozolcev) a museum all about these hayracks, which sounds funny but honestly, it was really interesting and cool to see them up close and even go inside some.
4. Drink Cviček.
Cviček is only made in Dolenjska and is a very unique wine made from a mix of red and white grapes. It contains grapes from the oldest known type of grapevine found in Europe. It has a ruby color and low alcohol content (7.5-10% compared to average ~12% as are most wines). Because of the low alcohol content, this wine is not very sweet, but rather more acidic. It is said that because of the flavonoids in Civček, it has healing properties so don’t be shy to have another glass!
5. Visit the First Lady’s birthplace.
Thanks to Melania Trump, Slovenia has become more familiar to Americans. You can visit her birthplace in Sevnica, and more of my personal interest, you can visit the Sevnica Castle. This castle has been around (in various forms) since the 1300s! Also, the views from the castle are quite beautiful. For those who love to wander around the smaller lesser-known towns, this is a perfect stop.
6. Relax at a beach bar on the Krka River.
Beach Bar Tochka is located in Brežice and is a nice beach vibe along the Krka River where they serve drinks and food. They also manage boat and sup rentals for the Krka River between May and September.
7. Learn About Local History at Brežice Castle
Part of the Posavje Castles, Brežice Castle is worth a visit! A 16th-century castle that houses the Posavje Museum. The castle also has two incredibly painted rooms that are an absolute treat. Nearby is Mokrice Castle where you can spend the night and Terme Čatež, perfect for a day of relaxing at the spa.
8. Taste local delicacies
Each region of Slovenia has their own twist on traditional recipes but also some of their own dishes. In Dolenjska there is no shortage of delicious dishes to try. Some dishes you should try include bean štruklji, žganci (typically done with buckwheat), matevž (mashed beans and potatoes with pork cracklings), mlinci (flatbread), or Belokranjska pogača (flat bread often topped with pork cracklings).
9. Bear watching at Kočevje
In Kočevje, they have virgin forests and no one is allowed inside, but some of them have trails along the edge of the forests so you can catch a glimpse of the untouched nature. It is popular to go wildlife watching in this region especially for brown bears, foxes, lynx, and wolves. Here you can read more about photography and other guided tours through the area.
10. Eat and Drink Around Bela Krajina
Bela Krajina is a small region at the border of Slovenia and Croatia. It is here you can explore the Kolpa River and participate in various adventure sports and even glamping. I suggest checking out a tourist farm to try some of the local delicacies.
11. Try the healing waters of Dolenjska
Tourists have been coming to Slovenia for hundreds of years to seek their healing thermal waters. These natural springs are in various places around the country and Dolenjska is no exception. A few to check out would be Terme Krka or Terme Čatež.
12. Wander the Devil’s Tower
The Devil’s Tower (Hudičev turn) has been standing over 300 years but today is a much different story than the original. The tower was used by Lords of a nearby castle in Soteska for entertainment, partying, secret activities, or any number of things. There is a lot of mystery around this structure. Today you can visit the tower to see the paintings inside or attend a concert as it has excellent acoustics.
13. Visit the Kostanjevica Monastery
Just a 3-minute drive from Kostanjevica na Krki you will find a huge complex that was once the local monastery. Today the monastery houses the Božidar Jakac Art Museum. Outside the monastery is an open air exhibit of wood sculptures. You can walk around and see them for free.
*Be careful if using GPS as there is another Kostanjevica Monastery in Nova Gorica on the border with Italy.
14. Indulge in History at Bogensperk Castle
Bogenšperk Castle (Grad Bogenšperk) is a 16th century castle that is known for its most-famous resident, Janez Vajkard Valvasor. He was a famous Slovenian natural historian known for his karst studies and records of Slovenian history. Today it houses a museum that shows reconstructions of his study, printing press, and other items such as a map collection.
15. Eat at Michelin awarded restaurants
Slovenian cuisine and restaurants are being elevated more and more each year. Hitting the global stage when the Michelin guide arrived in 2020. In Dolenjska, Gostilna Repovž was awarded Bib Gourmand (restaurants offering an affordable high quality experience) and three restaurants were awarded The Plate; Hiša Fink, Restaurant Castle Otočec, and Gostilna Vovko.
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As always, thank you so much for checking out this article and if you have any additional suggestions or recommendations drop them in the comments below! And be sure to follow me on Twitter and Instagram for daily updates of my adventures.