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The Wine Roads of Eastern Slovenia

Duration
7 Days
Prices From:
AU$ 4,062

Explore a landscape of terraced vineyards, rolling hills, and scenic villages on this journey through Slovenia. This privately-guided trip brings out the best of Eastern Slovenia and showcases the region’s wine and history, capturing the essence of this rising star in the world of travel.


This 7-day Slovenian vacation takes you to Banovci, Ptuj, Bled, and Ljubljana on a journey around the eastern part of the country. It features first-class and boutique accommodations, private tours, and is a perfect European vacation for wine lovers.

Your journey begins in the capital Ljubljana, where you’ll connect to Banovci in the easternmost corner of the country. If you have time after arriving, visit some of the famous floating mills near the town on the Mura River. The next day, you’ll begin your comprehensive exploration of Eastern Slovenia. First stop is Ptuj, the oldest town in the country, where you’ll head on a walking tour to see historical remnants from the town's several millennia of history. Among the highlights are the Dominican Monastery, the City Tower, and the castle overlooking the town. You’ll then stop by Ptuj Cellar for a wine tasting before reaching Jeruzalem, a town named after the centre the Holy Land due to its position along Crusader paths during the Middle Ages. Afterwards, visit the Vineyard Cootage Malek and Praprotnik-Curin Winery for more wine tastings.

In Maribor, you’ll head on a private walking tour through the old township and see the Old Vine, known as the oldest grape-producing vine in the world, the old district of Lent with its tower fortifications, and the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist. You’ll also enjoy wine tastings at Gaube Winery and Dveri-Pax, where Benedictine monks have produced wine for generations. At Kocbek Farm, you’ll learn about another Slovenian stable, pumpkin oil, before heading back to Ljubljana to explore the city in full. A walking tour will reveal some of the highlights of this hidden gem, including the lovely environs along Ljubljana River, the Triple Bridge, and Ljubljana Castle, the 15th-century fortification that overlooks the town.

From Ljubljana, you’ll head to Postojna Caves, one of the most beautiful and largest cave systems in Europe. Explore some of the 24km of underground passages before heading to the medieval village of Stanjel to see the castle complex built in the region of karst rocks. Then connect to Sutor Farm and Zmago Petric Winery for some more wine tastings. Round out your trip to Slovenia with a day in the lake country. Head to Castle Bled, the country’s most famous landmark, and enjoy the stunning views over the lake. Continue to the town of Bled to explore the gorgeous lakeside town and see some landmarks like the central Gothic church. Then connect to Lake Bohinj, which is less popular than Bled, but no-less beautiful. You’ll have a chance to ride the cable car up Mount Vogel to enjoy views over the snowdrifts of the Slovenian Alps and enjoy some of the best views in the whole country.

Return to Ljubljana. The next morning, you’ll head to the airport to connect back home.


 

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Duration
7 Days
Prices From:
AU$ 4,062

Itinerary View Trip Map

Day 1

Ljubljana - Banovci

After arrival at Ljubljana Airport, meet your English-speaking driver-guide before heading out towards the village of Banovci to explore Slovenia's easternmost corner, a relatively unknown part, which it shares with Austria, Hungary and Croatia. It's just over two hours from Ljubljana which, as many Slovenians will tell you, is a longer drive than to anywhere else in the country. It's a dynamic region with wonderfully green-golden landscapes, gently undulating hills, quaint villages, springs of natural mineral and thermal waters and, lest we forget, fabulous vineyards. Those grapes are the focus of this program and by the end of this trip you might see Slovenian wines in a very different light.

You might not expect to find a seriously swish hotel in Banovci but Soncna Hisa, your home and hub for the next three nights is precisely that. It's a marvellous place to return to and reminisce about the discoveries of your daily excursions. Depending on your time of arrival at the property, you might simply stay put and chill, perhaps try the spa, or let your driver-guide take you on a short, unhurried tour to learn about the nearby floating mills and the Island of Love.

A few decades ago, there were over 40 floating mills operating on the Mura River, using the river to generate power for its water wheels. Today, just two remain and only one of them, Babic's Mill in the village of Verzej, is still operating. The Babic family bought the first mill in 1912 but what you see today is the fourth incarnation as the previous ones were destroyed by various natural disasters. The mill is a few minutes from your hotel and, today, protected as a technical cultural monument on the Mura River, the only such facility in Slovenia. The second floating mill is on a nearby island, reconstructed in 1999 from the plans of former river mills. The Breg House beside it functions as a small museum, a tourist information office and a shop selling handicrafts.

After returning to your hotel, the rest of your day is at leisure.

Duration3 Nights
Accommodation

Hotel Soncna Hisa

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    Hotel Soncna Hisa



    The five spacious and luxuriously furnished suites of this boutique hotel, tucked away in a rural part of the Prlekija region, accommodate up to 13 guests at a time, allowing you to truly unwind. The tranquility of the unique Spa Garden together with the outdoor …

    The five spacious and luxuriously furnished suites of this boutique hotel, tucked away in a rural part of the Prlekija region, accommodate up to 13 guests at a time, allowing you to truly unwind.

    The tranquility of the unique Spa Garden together with the outdoor terrace and jacuzzi will help with that process. The design of the property is ultra-stylish with parquet flooring, chrome and leather chairs, big vases full of lilies and pussy willow, and contemporary art on the walls. The rooms, while similar in lay-out, are distinctly different in detail, ranging from über-trendy to sunny orange décor for families, and include all modern amenities.

    Facilities

    • Free Parking
    • Free WiFi
    • Spa

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Day 2

Banovci - Ptuj - Banovci

Your first journey to explore local wineries takes you to Ptuj, the oldest town in Slovenia and a delightfully languorous place, where daily life seems to unfold at a pleasantly calm pace. A riverside location ensured the town's significance over the centuries, flowering during Roman times when it was granted city status by the Emperor Trajan, although its full history can be traced back to the Stone Age. Your walking tour includes the impressive castle above town and climbing up the steep hill to reach it will be rewarded with magnificent views. Its grand chambers host several exhibits, including an interesting array of rifles, Slovenia's largest collection of musical instruments and an exhibition of traditional Ptuj Carnival masks.

Down in the city center, you'll walk past the Dominican Monastery, a Baroque and Gothic-style structure from the 13th century, steps away from Stari Zapori, the Old Prison, which is now a unique historical exhibition center. All attractions in town are very close to each other, which means that a leisurely stroll should be your speed limit. The Slovenian Square, a key highlight, has played an essential part in everyday life since antiquity. The Orpheus Monument is one of its notable attractions but so is the nearby City Tower, famous for missing a clock on the side that faces Ptuj Castle. Legend has it that the citizens only installed three clocks because the lords of the castle refused to pay their share of the installation.

Moving away from old historical sites in town, you'll now visit the oldest winery in Slovenia. While viticulture in the area dates back at least two millennia, Ptuj Cellar is proud of its seven-hundred-year-old tradition of wine production. Many memories and the spirit of the past are preserved in the bottles that are kept here, among them the oldest archival wine in Slovenia, Zlata trta, meaning Golden Vine, from the year 1917. Today, wines from Ptuj Cellar have been awarded many prizes at prestigious competitions all over Europe and farther afield. You'll experience a guided tour of the cellars followed by a brief tasting that might include Pullus, Halozan, Pinky Chick and Petovia.

Your wine journey continues with a drive to Jeruzalem, a name given, according to legend bestowed by passing crusaders, because the area represented their ideal image of the Holy Land. A variation of that story suggests that they were so taken by the beautiful surroundings that they decided to stay and call it Jeruzalem. Set on the highest peak in the area, at 1,100 ft, with views that can extend as far as Hungary's Lake Balaton, it also lies along the Sipon Wine Route, the name of the area's signature grape variety, which wine aficionados know as Furmint, the principal grape in the better-known Tokaji dessert wines. The rolling hills and terraced vineyards are white wine heaven and you'll visit one of its finest establishments, the Vineyard Cottage Malek, a 300-year old building with a house chapel that contains a preserved fresco of the Assumption of Mary, a baroque masterpiece from the first half of the 18th century.

Enjoy another tasting here with brands developed by the current owners, the Puklavec family, that includes Jeruzalem Ormoz, 'puklavec and friends' and 'Seven Numbers'. Lunch (not included) is planned at the lovely local Tramsek restaurant, though subject to change. It's small, intimate and prides itself on a long tradition of the area's cuisine inherited from their great-grandmothers. After lunch, a quick 20-minute drive past the village of Kog takes you to one last sampling of fine Slovenian grapes at the Praprotnik-Curin winery. This is a family estate with a long and proud history of viticulture going back several generations. A boutique operation, it strictly follows a 'low load' concept, meaning it restricts the vines to be cultivated to the maximum crop that can be ripened without losing quality. The estate produces about 40,000 litres annually, which translates into roughly a litre per vine. During your tasting, you will get to know their range of varietal wines, as well as some of their sweet and natural predicate and ice wines.

Following your first day of vineyards and wineries, your driver-guide will take you back to the hotel where the rest of your day is at leisure.

Please note that the Wine Cottage visit is only available from May 1st to November 11th, annually. During other times of the year, this trip is replaced with extended visits elsewhere.

Meal Plan Breakfast
Day 3

Banovci - Maribor - Banovci

This morning's drive to Maribor, Slovenia's second largest city, is a mere 45 minutes and you can look forward to discovering a beautiful city on a lovely waterfront, with plenty of interesting sites to enjoy during your private walking tour. The winemaking thread briefly continues because Maribor is home to the Old Vine, a plant that according to the Guinness World Records is the world's oldest vine, having produced grapes for 450 years.

An interesting tiny museum next door tells the full story and the vine still produces 75-120 pounds of grapes each year, making this a very valuable wine. It's not for sale, though, on account of being virtually undrinkable. Lent is the city's oldest district, beautifully laid out along the Drava River. Some of its old fortifications survived a series of attacks by Turkish forces during the 15th and 16th century, including the Judgement Tower and Water Tower, with quaint, red-tiled roofs reminiscent of hats, typically, worn by witches. The Lent is also a key entertainment district with oodles of cafes, excellent restaurants and bars. Promenading throughout the Lent and city center offers delightful views of impressive architecture along pedestrian-only streets and lovely squares.

Look out for the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist with its impressive bell tower, the 15th century castle and the old Jewish Quarter. Your city walk is followed by lunch (not included), then it's a short drive from Maribor and time for more wine tastings, starting with the well-known Gaube winery. Here, winegrowing dates to the 19th century but, except for the family's dedication to 'the vine', many things have changed. In 2008, the construction of a new wine cellar gave the winery a capacity of 60,000 litres which is the maximum the 8-hectares vineyard can, currently, produce. The focus is on producing fresh and fruity wines, including Pinot Gris, Grüner Silvaner, Chardonnay, Rhine Riesling, Moscatel, Sauvignon, and a young wine called Prvenec, most of which are matured in stainless steel containers. One of the winery's novelties is Rose, a cuvee of Pinot Noir, Zweigelt, and Blue Franconian. The only variety matured in wooden barrels is their Pinot Noir.

From stainless steel at Gaube to an 800-year tradition of Benedictine winemaking at Dveri-Pax will make for an interesting transition, and it's only 11 km away. At this winery, a deep respect for tradition goes back to 1130 CE when the estate was donated to the church by Rudolf Wittenswald, a nobleman, and then assigned to the Benedictine monastery at Admont in Austria. The Abbey owns 168 acres of vineyards in the regions of Maribor, Jeruzalem, Radgona and Kapela and records show that Benedictine monks were making wine in this part of Northern Slovenia since 1139, which shows that the monks were skillful winemakers. Today, Dveri-Pax combines the skills honed over the centuries with the benefits of cutting-edge technology. What distinguishes the wines that bear the Dveri-Pax label is their premium quality and diversity, ranging from full-bodied, spicy reds to fruity white wines, that have won them various international awards.

After finishing your last tasting of the day, you'll return to Banovci and your hotel where the rest of the day is at leisure.

Meal Plan Breakfast
Day 4

Banovci - Sveti Jurij ob Scavnici - Ljubljana

Pumpkin oil occupies its own, unique place in the world of luxury, and pumpkin seed oil is one of Slovenia's trademarks. Apparently, it is "conquering the World one restaurant at a time.". You can see for yourself what the hype is all about when you visit the Kocbek Farm for another tasting, however, this time it will be three different oils. In 1994, the family's third generation were the first to produce cold-pressed oils, where the seeds are not ground, roasted or pressed but where the oil is squeezed from the seeds with a special press. The maximum temperature in this procedure is 40 C and which ensures a completely natural oil that is identical to the seed in its fragrance, color and flavor. These oils are mild and preserve all the important vitamins and minerals.

The Kocbek family's oil is pressed from highly selected pumpkin seeds which are grown for the producer by local farmers. To produce just one litre of oil, about 30 pumpkins are needed if the seeds are treated the traditional way, that is roasted and then pressed. If the seeds are cold pressed, about 60 pumpkins are needed for a litre. This is what produces that silky and smooth organic oil, rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

Produced under strict EU regulations, Kocbek's Slovenian Pumpkin Seed Oil is made without any additives and guarantees a minimal purity of 98%. You'll be able to observe a presentation of the oil pressing process before your tasting. A prestigious product, the bottles are aimed at top restaurants and packaged together with a small pipette to allow chefs to, carefully, add oil in drops. A 350 ml bottle might set you back around $400.00 US. After tasting three different and intriguing oils, it is time to head for the capital, Ljubljana, in time for lunch (not included).

After lunch, your guide will take you for an enjoyable walking tour of Ljubljana, a city which is easily one of Europe's best-kept secrets. Looking back on a vibrant history that traces 3,000 years of Roman, Medieval, Baroque and Italian influences, it's a friendly and cosmopolitan city today, offering a broad range of delightful diversions. Your tour takes in all the major attractions and over the next 90 minutes, you'll see the Republic, Congress and Preseren squares, before savouring a stroll alongside the shimmering Ljubljana River, dotted with outdoor cafes and eateries.

A unique architectural gem is the Triple Bridge, the central part of three separate bridges, which is close to the bustling Ljubljana Central Market colonnade. Wandering the cobblestone streets of the Old Town reveals another bright cafe society and more atmospheric bars and restaurants. Ask your guide to tell you the story about the city's most recognizable resident, and sentinel of the iconic Emperor Franz Josef Jubilee Bridge: the Ljubljana Dragon. From the Old Town, you connect to Ljubljana Castle riding on a modern and unobtrusively designed funicular. Built in the 15th century, this is the city's most impressive castle and while the views from the cable car are fabulous, wait until you reach the top and stand on the castle's ramparts. At the top of the viewing tower, they are stunningly beautiful.

Meal Plan Breakfast
Duration2 Nights
Accommodation

Intercontinental Ljubljana

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    Intercontinental Ljubljana



    This smoke-free hotel features a restaurant, an indoor pool, and 2 bars/lounges. WiFi in public areas is free. Additionally, a health club, a coffee shop/cafe, and a rooftop terrace are onsite. Located in Ljubljana City Centre, this hotel is within a 15-minute walk of GR- …

    This smoke-free hotel features a restaurant, an indoor pool, and 2 bars/lounges. WiFi in public areas is free. Additionally, a health club, a coffee shop/cafe, and a rooftop terrace are onsite. Located in Ljubljana City Centre, this hotel is within a 15-minute walk of GR- Ljubljana Exhibition and Convention Centre, Triple Bridge, and Dragon Bridge. St. Nicholas Cathedral and Ljubljana Castle are also within 1 mi (2 km).

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Day 5

Ljubljana - Postojna Caves - Stanjel - Podraga - Planina - Ljubljana

It's going to be a busy day, starting with one of Slovenia's signature natural attractions, the Postojna Caves. A magnificent underground world discovered 200 years ago, it is one of the largest and most beautiful caves in Europe with 24 km of passages and subterranean halls. A rare example of Karst formations, this expansive cave system was shaped by the river Pivka over millions of years. It's like a whole new world below the surface, with its own mountains, rivers, vast underground chambers as well as smaller passages that have created a breathtaking diversity of shapes and cave formations. It is also home to over 150 animal species. The most unique one is the olm, an aquatic salamander. Blind and completely adapted to life in the dark, this strange-looking animal is endemic to the underground waters of the European Karst region and eats, sleeps, and breeds strictly underwater. A selection of the most typical cave animals can be admired in the exhibition section of the Vivarium, very near to the cave entrance. Your regular tour lasts 90 minutes, allowing you to explore 5 km of the cave passages, including 1,5km of walking, while the legendary Postojna Cave railway takes you around for the remaining 3.5 km. As you walk among these magnificent creations of nature, you encounter highlights such as the 16-feet stalagmite 'Brilliant', the even more formidable 52-feet 'Skyscraper' and a vast subterranean hall called 'The Cavalry.'

Emerging from down under, your next stop is the medieval village of Stanjel, an authentic showpiece of Karst architecture and culture. It's a magnificent sight from above as it seems to adorn the top of a terraced hill like a piece of jewelry. One of the oldest settlements in the Karst region, you can enjoy truly enchanting panoramic views from the top. The castle complex, the Church of St. Daniel with its lemon-shaped bell tower and the Ferrari Garden are particularly captivating. Because of its strategic location it was an important settlement from the iron age through to Roman times. It had walls built around the village in the 15th century as a defence against Turkish invasions and reached its pinnacle of development over the next two centuries. Between the two world wars, Max Fabiani - one of the greatest architects and urbanists in Central Europe - who was then mayor of Štanjel, left his considerable mark here. His architectural signature style was secession-tinged modernism, which he also imprinted into the urban landscape of other European cities, most notably, Vienna, Trieste, and Ljubljana as well as Bielsko in Poland and Opatija in Croatia. The village served as a base for occupying German troops during the second world war and was heavily damaged by Allied bombing at the end of the war. Since then it has been slowly rebuilt.

From Stanjel, your journey continues to Slap for lunch (not included) and then to Sutor Farm in Podraga for the first of two, you guessed it, wine tastings of the afternoon. Sutor means shoemaker in Latin and, apparently, there was once a cobbler's shop on the site of today's wine cultivating farm. Podraga is one of the first villages in this area to develop viticulture, a finely balanced undertaking given the extreme weather conditions created by, geographically speaking, the Alps meeting the Sea. The farm itself fits right into the architecture of the village with its narrow streets, stone walls and small-framed windows. The Sutor estate of Edvard and Mitja Lavrencic has, for some considerable time, produced what in some people's opinion represents Slovenia's best Sauvignon, creating a wine with the mineral depth of the great Sancerres but a little more fruit. Unlike many other European vintners, they do not ascribe to the idea of harvesting grapes as late as possible to obtain higher alcohol levels, and almost exaggerated fruity taste. The Sutor Estate has perfected their own harvest times, retaining enough natural freshness and reasonable alcohol levels without compromising a fruity flavour. You be the judge.

The next, and last, tasting stop is 20 minutes away at Zmago Petric's family winery in the Planina-Vipava valley, wedged between Mediterranean and Alpine climates. A proud winery of 12 hectares, with a serious history of winemaking to rely on, they concentrate on the varieties of Zelen and Pinela which are only grown in this region and nowhere else in the world. Every grape is hand-picked, naturally fermented and then bottled, unfiltered, with a minimal sulphur addition, resulting in wines that are delicate and full of freshness. The total production is incredibly small, just forty thousand bottles a year, and apart from the indigenous Zelen and Pinela vines, the estate cultivates Barbera, a red wine grape variety and Cabernet Franc. All wines are naturally settled, the whites on their lees in stainless steel containers, while reds make their home in old French or Slovenian oak.

After an amazingly varied day, it's time to return to Ljubljana and your hotel where the rest of your day is at leisure.

Meal Plan Breakfast
Day 6

Ljubljana - Bled - Lake Bohinj - Mount Vogel - Ljubljana

No wine today, but a wonderful menu of breathtaking natural sights. First up, perched high on a steep cliff on the mountain slopes, and presenting that famous signature view over the lake, is Castle Bled. Its appearance is decidedly romantic rather than martial and its drawbridge, the now filled-in moat and red-topped turrets might have come straight out of a fairy tale. The castle has a distinctive double structure with the fortified center part reserved as residence for feudal lords while the outer part was home for servants. The Gothic chapel on the upper courtyard is, probably, the most interesting of all the preserved buildings displaying portraits of the German Emperor Henry II and his wife Kunigunda, the donors of the original Bled estate. Today's castle serves as an exhibition with display rooms next to the chapel, a castle printing shop, a castle cellar where you can order a small bottle of wine and seal it with sealing wax, as well as an excellent museum.

Driving down into Bled, you are going to visit the small island that presented such a beautiful sight back at the castle. The island is tiny but offers one of the finest walks imaginable. It's a short trip and getting there is easy. Traditional Pletna boats, usually adorned with colourful awnings and reminiscent of a type of gondola, take visitors to and from the island all day. The Gothic church, the centrepiece of what has become that iconic picture, replaced what was once a temple of the ancient Slavic goddess of love Ziva, however the lush greenery hides other interesting island buildings too, like the chaplain's house or the small hermitage. Being an old place Bled, naturally, has its own treasure chest of magic tales and legends. One of these relates to the 'Wishing Bell' which hangs in the upper roof beam above the church nave. Ask your guide to tell you the whole story when you step inside the church and admire its gold-plated main altar or consider climbing up the 99 stairs to the top of the bell tower.

Back on the mainland, you'll make your way to Lake Bohinj, another iconic spot, but there will be a break for lunch (not included) before you get there. Lake Bohinj is right in the middle of a glacier valley, in the heart of Triglav National Park and while a little more remote and not as widely known as Lake Bled, it is a magical and incredibly tranquil spot. There's a saying locally that Bohinj is two days behind the rest of the world. Agatha Christie used to come here but, apparently, not to write and, allegedly, said that the valley was "too beautiful a place for murder." She was not the only writer to come under the thrall of Bohinj Lake. The famous French existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre was a regular visitor to Ukanc, a delightful hamlet on the Southwestern part of the lake that, interestingly, translates into 'the end of the world'.

Seeing the lake from a higher vantage point is a terrific experience, waiting for you at Mount Vogel. This is a very popular destination in the Southern parts of the Julian Alps because of its relatively easy yet beautiful hikes. But non-hikers have a good reason to stop here too, namely the Mount Vogel cable car. As you join other travellers inside the spacious cable car compartment, its good to remember that the short but exhilarating 4-minute ride upwards might, probably, take much of the day to hike. As the car starts to pull upwards, forests give way to bare cliffs and it is possible to see goat-like chamois leaping across the snowdrifts. Yes, snowdrifts, there are no seasonal breaks at the very top of Mount Vogel where snow shrouds might slowly float into the horizon while you watch people enjoying a swim down below. After a very steep ascent up to about 5,000 feet above sea level the views of Lake Bohinj framed by the surrounding mountains of the Slovenian Alps are totally stunning.

After a day of wonderful scenery, you return to Ljubljana and your hotel, where the rest of your day is at leisure.

Meal Plan Breakfast
Day 7

Ljubljana Departure

After breakfast at your hotel and check-out, your English-speaking driver will take you to the airport for your scheduled departure.

Meal Plan Breakfast

Other Information

DEPARTURES:

Daily

PRICE INCLUDES:

  • Arrival and departure transfers
  • 6 nights boutique and first class accommodation
  • Wine tastings
  • Entrance fees as specified
  • English-speaking driver-guide

PRICE EXCLUDES:

  • Travel insurance
  • International and domestic airfare & airfare taxes
  • Visa fees if applicable
  • Meals and beverages not mentioned
  • Gratuities
  • Items of a personal nature

TERMS AND CONDITIONS:

Prices are "from" per person based on twin/double share accommodation and for travel in low season. Seasonal surcharges and blackout dates may apply. Limited seat/spaces and all pricing is subject to change and availability. Rates for single or triple travellers are available on request - please inquire.

TB LIBERTYLJU0320: TWRES 2
11 Dec 2020
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