I came back from an amazing trip to Eastern Europe just recently. And if you’ve been following me on my Instagram account, you’ve probably seen the pictures already.
I went to many countries this time, but two countries, in particular, caught my attention for their natural beauty, rich history, and impressive culture: Croatia and Slovenia.
When you ask someone who’s never been to Europe which countries they would like to visit first, these two Eastern European countries rarely make the top 5 in most people’s list. And I must admit, I wouldn’t mention them either if you had asked me just a few years ago. But if I knew what I know now, I would’ve probably visited them a lot sooner.
Let’s talk about Croatia first. Maybe Croatia has become more popular in recent years because of its landscapes, thanks to The Game of Thrones series. Although not totally unknown to some, it’s still not as popular as other destinations such as Italy or France, to name a few. So why Croatia is such a good idea?
First, if you want to avoid overly crowded touristic attractions but still want to experience an authentic European vacation, Croatia is your best bet. With a beautiful coastline and at a much affordable price than other destinations, you feel like you can do a lot more here. Although there aren’t as many discount flight options from the US, the overhead costs are much less here — thanks to the weakness of their local currency: the Croatian Kuna.
Croatia also offers many of the attractions that many destinations in Europe offer such as great museums, churches, beautiful architecture, and UNESCO world heritage sites.
Tired of sightseeing?
In Croatia, you also have the option of doing many outdoor activities such as visiting national parks, beautiful lakes with pristine bluish-green color water, beautiful beaches, hiking, and natural thermal spas. It’s no wonder that many royal families of the past had a vacation home here.
Because Croatia is a coastal country, there’s a great variety of seafood in almost every city. Also, due to its weather and geographical location, the country is a great producer of wine.
The main cities to visit in Croatia if it’s your first time are Zagreb (the capital) Split, and Dubrovnik.
Zagreb is a thriving and energetic city that hosts some of the top museums, shopping, dining and cafe culture. It’s also a city made for wandering with most of its main things to do found in the city center.
Split and Dubrovnik both are very cute coastal cities with many resorts, spas, and amazing clean beaches. If you’re a history lover, you get to see lots of old buildings from the Roman empire to medieval times. In Split, you will find an ancient palace built for the Roman Emperor Diocletian at the turn of the fourth century AD, which has a sphinx brought from Egypt that is over 2500 years old!
Dubrovnik is best known for its old city walls built in the 10th century, but also for many other scenarios featured in the famous HBO series The Game of Thrones.
The city gates are another famous attraction for history lovers in this city. These gates served as the main entrance to the old city for centuries.
I could talk about Croatia all day long. But for the sake of this post, I will keep it short and move on to another European hidden jewel: Slovenia.
Slovenia exceeded all my expectations. The country is small but extremely beautiful. Here you’ll find great history and amazing natural beauty from picturesque forests to pastures to meadows. Slovenia also borders the Alps on its northeast side, which you can guess provides stunning views. Planning a trip to this eastern European country is a great opportunity to see a variety of different scenarios. From vibrant cities to charming villages to snow-capped mountains — there’s plenty of beauty to go around.
The capital of Slovenia, Ljubljana ( pronounced lyoo-blyah-nuh) is also the largest city in the country, with lots of attractions and fun things to do. Ljubljana is very charming with its canals and architecture which some people think it resembles Amsterdam a little.
After the capital, a great place to visit is Maribor which is the second-largest city in the country and often overlooked as a tourist destination. Maribor is also charming but distinctly different from the capital for its picturesque and “real-life” vibe. Here, you will find that the area abounds in nature retreats and has an incredible inner-city wine culture. Because of its laid back approach, here you will feel more like a local and less like a tourist.
Another major attraction and a must-see in Slovenia is Lake Bled. The lake is just as popular in the winter as it is in the summer and many couples choose to get married here because of its romantic atmosphere. The view of the Alps combined with the bluish-green color of the water makes up for the perfect wedding background.
Lastly, another must-see attraction is the very impressive caves of Postojna. Postojna is a relatively small town but it is famous for its unique natural beauty. North of Postojna there is a medieval castle that is built into the side of a cave, creating a spectacular display of engineering that you have to see to believe it.
I was in Slovenia only for a few days, due to the duration of my trip, but it was enough to make me want to go back and explore more.
Beach, caves, forests, and mountains…
Croatia and Slovenia are both beautiful countries each in their own right. Whichever country you decide to visit first, it’ll depend on your personal preference.
If you are more into a laid-back beach culture and you love great ice ream, Croatia might just be perfect for you. The coastal cities are gorgeous and have a fascinating history.
If you love a mix of nature, city culture, and cooler temperatures, Slovenia might be more your cup of tea. Because Slovenia is such a small country, you can drive through the entire country in 3 hours. Within 1-hour of driving, you can go from swimming and eating ice cream to skiing in the Alps.
One thing you might not find in Croatia but you will find in Slovenia is a variety of caves and many important WWII sites. At the end of the day, it’s all a matter of personal preference and what you choose the theme of your vacation to be.
I hope I piqued your interest enough to visit these amazing countries. Which one would you choose?