VIPAVA Valley.. Green Slovenia's biggest secret
Stretching 40 km from the Mediterranean all the way up to the lower Soca valley and the Alps, the Vipava Valley is Slovenia's biggest kept secret.
Imagine a valley with a beautiful river flowing close to sea level down it's middle, with wine drenched slopes on one side and sheer, 1,000 metre plus high rocky mountain cliffs on the other..
Picture a valley where the Roman empire's fate was decided in a massive battle, where stunning little churches & castles sit on top of ridiculously lovely hilltops and where the indigenous wines are unique to the world..
You will find some of the best restaurants in Slovenia hidden away in sleepy villages here and there is even a secret café serving the best ice cream in the land, just waiting for you to discover it! (yummy)
Let's be clear, this is a huge green paradise.. a playground for nature lovers and how unbelievabubbly lucky for Lodge guests, just 15 mins from Lipizzaner Lodge! We are on the sub Mediterranean end of the valley on the other side of Mt Nanos (1,313m), which dominates our garden vista!
So why is such a beautiful place so undiscovered?!
There are 3 very simple reasons why this valley has pretty much remained undiscovered.
ONE: Just watch the legions of visitors to Slovenia walking around with arms outstretched like robots repeating stuff like.. "I must see lake Bled, I must see Lubleelana, I must go down that cave with the train", then they might break into a little dance and song, "oh Pirano Pirano, I love you"!. Ok, its not quite that bad, but you get the point here that there are so many secret places in Slovenia to see, people just don't know or can't quite believe that these "secret" places can be as good, (or in our humble opinion even better), as the places on the "monkey tick list" of Slovenia! And the Vipava valley is the biggest unknown secret of all!
TWO: Have a quick look at the map of Slovenia on our location page, (just enlarge twice and you will see the town of Vipava in the centre of the valley just 10km west of the Lodge as the crow flies). You can now see that the Vipava valley is tucked away and hidden from the "main" tourist routes of Bled, Ljubljana, Postojna and Piran. Added to this there is a super efficient and often empty motorway that speeds through the base of the valley and whisks visitors up to the Soca valley and the Vrsic pass to Bled & Bohinj, or takes people from these very places down to the Mediterranean coast, so visitors can admire the stunning views from the car and miss 99% of what's on offer in the valley!
THREE: Many of the local people themselves have not quite realised yet what they have here, so the tourist infrastructure is fractured, shy even. For example, only last year in the stunning hilltop fortress village of Kriz did a café appear! This village, (in our opinion) has everything going for it, looks, position, history and could compete with any of those Croatian hilltop villages you probably have actually heard of! But now you know the secret of the Vipava Valley, you also know you have to invest some of your probably very limited time in Slovenia AND be determined to get the best out of the Vipava valley.
When we talk about tourism finding the many secret parts of Green Slovenia we are absolutely NOT talking about bus loads of "tick list monkeys" turning up, looking at the world through "notsosmartphones", taking selfies and leaving without contributing anything worthwhile to the local economy! Oh no, the Vipava valley is the perfect place for everyone who loves the beauty of nature, for the couples, the families, the hikers, the bikers, YES, everyone who wants to explore somewhere new and exciting.
And if you don't believe us then Lonely Planet have themselves tipped the Vipava Valley as one of their Top 10 secret destinations to visit in Europe.
OK, so now you might be convinced, but how on earth can you find out what to see in this valley?.. just read on a bit.
It is perfectly possible to explore the Vipava valley, you need to be a bit resourceful and make time to get the best out of this place, but probably the best way to help you get started is to do a top 10 list, in no particular order, with our own tips to help you on your way..
1> The very best way to see the valley is to GET OFF THE MOTORWAY and drive or cycle along the country and side roads. It WILL take you 3-5 times longer to get around, but PLEASE just explore, even get lost a wee bit, there is a whole treasure trove of hidden villages and nature to discover here.
2> The town of Vipava is an absolute stunner and one of our favourite urban settlements in Slovenia. There is so much to do and see here that we will have a separate "secret place to visit" page on "Slovenia's Venice", (where we will also explain why it is often called this)! Incredibly, some of our guests have been here without tips and didn't think much of it, but most were well prepared and on the hunt for the 7 rivers that flow into the town, the Venetian like bridges, the ruined castle on the hill, the restaurants hidden away, the wine university or the 2 x 4,500 yr old Egyptian sarcophagi located in a quiet cemetery (only 6 of this type in the world)!
3> Wine, wine and more wine! The whole valley is one of Slovenia's 7 wine regions and absolutely drenched in vineyards, but thankfully you won't find large producers here, there are hundreds of smaller producers. There are also some UNIQUE local grapes producing UNIQUE wines such as Zelen, (Green), Pinella and Rebula. When we say unique, we mean that this valley is the only place in the world where you can get these wines and they are very, very good! Even Italian visitors go mad for the stunning "Vipava Barbera" that grows here. White, Red, Rose, even Orange wines are produced here by friendly, dedicated experts.
4> But despite the brown "Vinska Cesta" (wine road) signs everywhere, you will simply not just drive around and drop into vineyard after vineyard tasting wine there.. we tried it and failed, that is just not the Slovenian way! You need to make an appointment or phone ahead to ensure the wine experts are there, ready and waiting to entertain you. That is why we established our own little network of reliable wine partners all across the valley whom we can contact ahead for our guests and who actually want you to come see them and try their remarkable wines.
5> Take a guide where you can. As we said, the valley is slowly waking up to its massive beauty and potential and local people are making amazing efforts to help you discover the secrets.. So please help them to help you! Book up with friendly and professional locals like the Rockvelo E-Bike guys or maybe try a Winestronaut tour for example.
6> Spend some time along the Vipava river.. if you can find it. There are paths to follow alongside and its a really beautiful way to explore the valley from base level.
7> Go up a bit into the hills and try to drive or cycle ACROSS the "Italian" side of the valley, (opposite Nanos). The roads are curvy & crazy at times, but these make your adventures and even though you are only between 300 to 600 metres up at times, you feel as if you are high up a mountain as the views are amazing. You can even see the Italian Dolomites peaking out in the distance from some viewpoints.
8> Go up the other side of the valley, climb and explore Nanos (1,313m) and Caven (1,237m), the two main giant walls of rock lining the eastern side of the valley. You could easily spend a day on each and from the top of Nanos you can see Venice on a clear day!
9> 1,000 metres up and between Nanos and Caven you can find the amazing 7 metre high rock window known as "Okno". The hike there from the village of Otlica and the view down below into the valley is breath taking. Often you will see paragliders floating around like condors at almost the same level as you are! Some of our guests drive to the "window" from the forest road behind Predjama castle and have a wonderful day exploring the rocky Karst and then dropping down into the Vipava valley. You can also walk up from the valley floor to the window, but need a good head for heights.
10> There are some really, really good restaurants in the valley, but their names are almost unpronounceable! Our favourite is Theodosis in Vhrpolje, run by our friend Gregor on the site where two Roman brothers' armies are thought to have met and the 30,000 Christian troops were able to defeat the 50,000 Pagans and change the course of Roman history with the help of a "miracle" from the uberstrong Vipava valley wind. (Just ask Gregor)! There are 2 fantastic restaurants we would recommend in Vipava town itself, Podfavorz & Krhne, then, just outside the town in a Roman villa on top of a hill is Zemono and last but not least Marjerija in a village called "Slap" which means waterfall, but there is no waterfall, (please just don't ask)! All of these amazing establishments are reasons on their own to visit the Vipava valley!
11> And a bonus for you.. in case you were wondering where that yummy ice cream can be found, it is in a café in the centre of Vipava town, but don't leave it too late in the day to go there as the ice cream is so good they can't keep up with demand and often the trays are bare by the evening. So, ridiculously, we actually have to recommend to our guests that they go and have an ice cream there BEFORE they go to eat, just in case they miss out!
And a final little bonus for you.. when you are in the valley look out for rocks on top of the roofs of the Italian style houses and "speedometers" that don't seem to accurately measure your speed! Well, the rocks are there to stop the roofs being blown away when the extremely powerful Burja (Bora) wind blows and those speedometers are actually telling you the wind speed! Its so strong it can blow your wig off! This wind phenomenon sporadically captures air from the Alps and the Mediterranean to send large gulps of wind down the valley.. but good news.. its great for drying prosciutto meat, so please try some Vipava "Prsut"! (with a drop of Vipava valley wine)!
Now you can visit the Vipava Valley..