Slovenia: Europe's Next Hot Destination

With the Serbo-Croatian conflict a thing of the past, many U.S. travelers are exploring Eastern Europe for its affordability, its quaint old European feel and reputation for friendliness, as well as the fact that many of their friends haven't been there yet. Slovenia, which is surrounded by Italy, Austria, Hungary, Croatia and the Adriatic Sea, is one country that is benefiting from this trend. A total of 2.5 million tourists visited Slovenia in 2006, a four percent increase over 2005. The number of tourist arrivals is expected to increase by six percent over the course of 2007. The Sava River in Ljubljana, Slovenia

"The one place I have been recommending is Slovenia, especially Ljubljana and Bled. The nice thing about Ljubljana is that it is a charming and colorful town and only a few hours from Venice by train," says Connie Greenspan, a top-producing independent contractor with Altour, in response to a question about up-and-coming, under-the-radar destinations. "Bled is a magical mountain lake town—every bit as charming as Switzerland in many respects—and the weather is wonderful in both places."

Ljubljana, Slovenia's capital, is a vibrant and attractive city with many cultural events, beautiful churches and university buildings, ancient sites and modern boutiques and restaurants. LakeBled, a day trip away, is a must-see alpine resort town.

The village Snovik, near Kamnik, is also worthy of a visit; the Snovik Thermal Spa is a participant in the international GreenBuilding project and has been recognized for its efforts to use renewable resources. Its hot springs are said to have medicinal effects, especially in treating stomach problems, skin diseases, and back and joint pain. Also recommend Kanin in the municipality of Bovec; it is Slovenia's top high-alpine ski center and the setting of Prince Caspian, the second Disney film in The Chronicles of Narnia series.

The first-ever international ultra marathon circuit cycling race organized in Slovenia will take place from May 10 to 13. The race will count toward the World Cup in ultra marathon cycling. It will start in front of the Sport Hotel (jure@sport-hotel.si) in Postojna, which is internationally known for being the site of one of the world's largest and most beautiful karst caves. For more information, visit www.dos-extreme.si.

The first vegetarian hotel in Slovenia officially opened this month in the popular health spa area of Rogaska Slatina. The three-star Hotel Manzato (03-58-161-40) lies on the north side of a hill directly above the town center of Rogaska Slatina; it has one quadruple room, two triple rooms and 20 double rooms, for a total of 50 beds. Guests at this hotel will be served strictly meatless meals, but there are many restaurants nearby that serve meat. On the weekends, the hotel offers seminars for guests who want to learn more about the particulars of preparing vegetarian food. Hotel Manzato also has a center for alternative medicine under the brand "Izvir (Source of): Health for Mind and Body."

Slovenia's national carrier Adria Airways (386-1369-1010, booking@adria.si) offers regularly scheduled flights between most major European cities and LjubljanaAirport (386-4206-1981, info@lju-airport.si). Adria Airways became a regional member of the global association Star Alliance. Ljubljana is also serviced by EasyJet (via London), the Hungarian airline Malév, Austrian Airlines and Turkish Airlines.

To enter the country, a valid passport is sufficient if the visit is no longer than three months. For more information, visit the Slovenia Tourist Board's web site, www.slovenia.info.