July 13, 2024
Forget Switzerland! This European Country With Alpine Lakes Is Much Cheaper

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Home to a dramatic nature and mountainous areas of outstanding beauty, Switzerland is one of the most popular destinations in Europe, but to the average traveler who’s on a budget of under $1,000 per week, it’s just too expensive to visit.

Aerial view of castle in Slovenia

A one-week stay in a hotel anywhere in Switzerland, whether it’s a big city like Zurich, or even quaint Grindelwald, will easily break a $1,000 per week budget.

Switzerland has a reputation for being expensive, accommodation options range from luxury hotels to more budget-friendly hostels and guesthouses, but in general it can be harder to save money here than in other destinations.

But Switzerland is not the only European country boasting gorgeous alpine lakes, scenic train rides, and picturesque medieval villages: Slovenia has all that, and then some, and it’s around 50% cheaper.

How Does Slovenia Compare To Switzerland?

Jamnik Church In The Slovenian Alps, Slovenia, Central EuropeJamnik Church In The Slovenian Alps, Slovenia, Central Europe

Slovenia is a tiny country in Central Europe that is often ignored in round-ups of the continent’s gems of the Alps, which are typically restricted to Southwestern France, Northern Italy, Switzerland, Austria, and Southwestern Germany.

Though it is not as popular as the above group, hosting just over 6 million guests per year, it too is bounded by a subsection of the Central European Alps, namely the Julian Alps, and there’s no shortage of natural wonders to be found here.

Gorgeous Mountains And Lookouts

Triglav Mountain In The Slovenian Alps, Slovenia, Central EuropeTriglav Mountain In The Slovenian Alps, Slovenia, Central Europe

It doesn’t have Switzerland’s Matterhorn, nor Italy’s Dolomites, but the Triglav summit is arguably just as impressive, rising 2,863 meters above sea level, and offering a breathtaking panorama of the surrounding alps.

Tourists love Switzerland for the snow-dusted jagged peaks, even when it’s scorching hot in summer, and they’re sure to be mesmerized by the offbeat, crowd-free Slovenian Highlands, traversed by hiking trails and cycling paths.

Slovenian Alps In Slovenia, Central EuropeSlovenian Alps In Slovenia, Central Europe

These lead to landmarks such as Dreiländereck, a mountain that’s at the exact tripoint of the Italian, Austrian and Slovenian borders: just imagine being not only at the top of Slovenia, but three countries at once, with mountain chains as far as the eyes can see beneath you.

Other fantastic peaks include Krn, Slemenova Špica, and Monte Matajur, but there’s more to Slovenia than just hikes:

Beautiful Glacial Lakes

Lake Bled In Slovenia, Central EuropeLake Bled In Slovenia, Central Europe

The country’s leading tourist attraction is in fact Bled, a crystal-clear, alpine lake famous for the historic church that rests on an islet in its center, as well as the spa town and adjacent medieval castle, perched on a hill overlooking the Alps, that are both named after it.

Other than the Adriatic Coast, Lake Bled is every Slovenian’s go-to weekend destination in summer, as there are lots of activities you can take part in, whether you’re here for a relaxing break, or you’re keen on adventure and going into nature.

The lake can get more crowded in the summer as it is a very popular destination, but there are always less crowded sections of the lake to explore!

woman overlooking lake bled in sloveniawoman overlooking lake bled in slovenia

You can go bask in the sun at Grajsko kopališče, the designated bathing area, take boat tours around Lake Bled, and up to the isolated church, walk the lakeside promenade, or even kayak for as cheap as $10 for every continuing hour.

Gorges, Waterfalls, Medieval Castles, You Name It

Not far from Bled, the mile-long Bled Gorge, on the edge of the Triglav National Park, is known for its fast-flowing, emerald-green waters, and further afield in the verdant Kamnik Alps, it’s sleepy settlements dating back hundreds of years and rolling, verdant hills that await discovery.

Waterfall Kozjak In Slovenia, Central EuropeWaterfall Kozjak In Slovenia, Central Europe

Even the local waterfalls rival Switzerland’s. Waterfall Kozjak is a hidden gem you MUST check out; emptying into a turquoise pool nestled in a limestone chamber.

Albeit small, the Slovenian territory has no shortage of magnificent castles, either, from the fortified Celje Citadel, to the recluse Rihemberk, distinguished for its circular tower, to the 12th-century Predjama, partially framed by a limestone cave, to the aforementioned Bled Castle.

Predjama Castle Framed By A Limestone Cave In Slovenia, Central EuropePredjama Castle Framed By A Limestone Cave In Slovenia, Central Europe

Scenic Alpine Train Rides

Don’t get us started on trains:

No trip to Switzerland is complete without a panoramic rail trip across the Alps, and in Slovenia, train journeys are just as relevant a part of the experience, whether it’s as simple as commuting between different cities, or heritage train journeys.

Our top picks are the Bohinj Railway and the Vipava Valley ‘Wine’ Train, a wine-tasting excursion with nature views lasting five hours.

Scenic Railway In Slovenia, Central EuropeScenic Railway In Slovenia, Central Europe

Fairytale Medieval Cities

Also, can we talk about how fascinating, picture-perfect Slovenian cities are?

While Swiss cities like Basel, Bern, and Lucerne boast their own distinct character and allure, Slovenian cities like Ljubljana, Maribor, and Piran offer a unique blend of history, culture, and affordability.

Aerial View Of Ljubljana Old Town, Slovenia, Central EuropeAerial View Of Ljubljana Old Town, Slovenia, Central Europe

Ljubljana is the capital of Slovenia, and a fairytale city dominated by a central fortress and criss-crossed by narrow, cobbled alleys laden with cobblestones: it’s so peaceful, even in the warm summer months, it barely feels like an administrative center.

Maribor, on the other hand, is a preserved, medieval riverside town nestled amid the Drava vineyards, characterized by its Renaissance architecture, and imposing, 15th-century Maribor Castle, housing an ornate frescoed interior.

Old Town Maribor, Slovenia, Central EuropeOld Town Maribor, Slovenia, Central Europe

As for Piran, it is a trendy resort city on Slovenia’s Adriatic Coast, standing out among its peers due to its Venice-inspired architecture, waterfront lined by salt water, as opposed to glacial lakes, and Ancient Roman History.

There’s the plot twist you couldn’t have foreseen: yes, Slovenia is Central European, but it is not landlocked.

Slovenia Has The One Thing Switzerland Doesn’t Have

Aerial View Of Piran Town, Slovenia, Adriatic SeaAerial View Of Piran Town, Slovenia, Adriatic Sea

Albeit short at only 29 miles, it does have a coastline, unlike Switzerland, and in the bright-blue Mediterranean of all places; needless to say, there are one or two beautiful beach areas to be explored, with Mestna Beach around Koper and Svetilnik Beach to name a couple.

Finally, onto the most important part, at least for budget-conscious travelers: in case you’ve been wondering, Slovenia is incredibly cheap to visit.

On average, consumer prices here are 48.8% lower than in Switzerland, thanks to the lower national wages and lower cost of living: while an inexpensive meal in a local restaurant in Zurich would cost you $27.32, in Ljubljana you should expect to pay $15.19.

restriction free travelrestriction free travel

All around Slovenia, hotels are much cheaper as well, averaging $114 per night against its counterpart’s eye-watering $331, based on figures divulged by Budget Your Trip: roughly, a one-week trip to Slovenia will set you back $710, against Switzerland’s $1,969.

Slovenia is a steal of a deal, and it’s a wonder most American tourists have yet to tick it off the list.

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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com

Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.

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