Why visit both…
… and how to tell them apart.
Well, this is a tough one. Even experienced European travellers sometimes mistake Slovakia for Slovenia and vice versa.
No hard feelings, this is what we’re here for. Let us show you why both countries are worth visiting – preferably on two separate trips :) – and how to tell them apart.
Slovenia is located in Southern Central Europe. It shares borders with Austria, Hungary, Italy, and Croatia. It has riviera at the Adriatic Sea, while the mountain range of Julian Alps crosses the country’s North.
Slovakia lies in Central Europe. It shares borders with Hungary, Austria, Czechia, Poland, and Ukraine. Slovakia’s Eastern border is also the outer border of the EU.
The states share a similar history with some significant differences. Both countries belonged to the Habsburg Monarchy until the end of WW I.
After that Slovenia co-founded a confederation of Southern Slavic states, which later established Yugoslavia. In 1918 Slovakia became a part of Czechoslovakia. After WW II, Yugoslavia remained a member of the Eastern Bloc but never entered the Warsaw pact. Czechoslovakia faced much harder communism. The most important difference, however, is the dissolution from their larger federations. Slovakia and Czechia split up peacefully in Velvet Divorce in 1993. Slovenia’s separation from Yugoslavia in 1991 was accompanied by a war conflict.
Beautiful limestone Julian Alps cross Slovenia in the North. The municipality of Kranjska Gora is the entrance gate to fantastic hiking paths and ski slopes under the highest peak of the Julian Alps – Triglav.
We enjoyed the hike to Slemenova Špica from Vršič Pass very much. And although it was June, snow still covered most of the path.
Slovakia’s territory is mainly mountainous. The 10 highest peaks of the Carpathian range lie on Slovakia’s northern border in the High Tatras.
Hiking in valleys of Tatra mountains is an experience you’ll never forget. In the eastern part of High Tatras, chamois will be your fellow companions on tour.
Most visits to High Tatras National Park start in the city of Poprad, in Northeastern Slovakia.
4. Sea and Spas
Slovenia has a short coastline. You can enjoy a swim in the warm Adriatic Sea. Just head south to the town of Portorož and enjoy the beach fun. Beautiful sunsets await you along the coast in the old town of Piran.
Slovakia, on the other hand, is one of 49 landlocked states. But it is rich in hot springs. There are 123 springs with water temperatures over 25°C (77F). So you’ll find thermal spas with healing and curative water all over the country.
After a hike in the High Tatras, head to Aquacity in Poprad, which has both indoor and outdoor thermal swimming pools as well as wellness areas. About a 20 minutes drive from Poprad, you’ll find a little village of Vrbov when you can heal your aching joints in a smaller thermal park. The view over the Tatras from the pools is phenomenal. For a real spa experience, under medical supervision, head even more to the East to Bardejovské Kúpele (Bardejov spa).
Spectacular caves are a must-see in both countries. Only a few other caves can compete with the magnificent Postojnska Jama (Postojna cave). Its karst cave system is more than 20 km long and contains some million years old stalagmites and stalactites.
Slovakia’s caves are a little smaller, but with 2.400 different ones, the diversity is spectacular. The Belianska karst cave is located in Tatranská Kotlina, in the heart of the Tatra Mountains. If you need to cool down during a hot summer day, try the Dobšinská Ice Cave (Dobšinská ľadová jaskyňa). Ochtinská Aragonite Cave is much smaller (about 300 meters long) but pretty unique. It is one of three currently discovered caves with aragonite filling in the world. It is also listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
6. Medieval Towns
Slovenia and Slovakia have many ancient paths and sights to follow. Just stroll around the side streets of Slovenia’s capital Ljubljana or Košice in Slovakia’s East.
But you can choose any other city. The rich history of both countries can still be admired through the beautiful architecture of their old towns.
For example, get a perfect view of Piran and the Church of Saint George from the town walls.
In Bratislava, the Capital of Slovakia, you can get a similarly stunning view of the old town and the Bratislava Castle from the “UFO” Observation deck on the SNP bridge.
In Slovakia, we recommend heading more to the East. In the and, being in Slovakia and staying only in Bratislava is like visiting Bavaria without drinking beer. For example, the square of Spišská Sobota (belongs to the municipality of Poprad) will get you insight into the medieval architecture of the 13th and 14th century.
Both Slovakia and Slovenia are highland countries. Traditionally, mountain ranges build natural borders between states and regions. Therefore, you need castles to keep an eye on your border and to intervene in case the enemy attacks.
In Slovenia, the perfect example of such a castle is in Bled. Located on a cliff high above Lake Bled, it provides a stunning view over the peaks of the Julian Alps and the lake itself. A walk around the most visited Slovenian Lake Bled is a must. The scenery is magnificent. If you feel up to it, hire a traditional wooden boat to get to the lake’s island. After the trip, try the Bled Cream Cake (Bledska kremšnita) in one of the lakeside restaurants. Yummy!
The biggest of many spectacular castles in Slovakia is Spišský Hrad, a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is located on a hill above the town of Spišské Podhradie in the region of Spiš in eastern Slovakia. Admire magnificent views from the castle’s yard. If the weather plays along, you can even see Tatra’s peaks.
Now, this is a topic that could take up more than one blog post. Both Slovenians and Slovaks are proud of their beers, and they both make some tasty brews. Here are our favourites from both countries. Make sure that you try them while visiting.
In Slovenia, we loved Laško. Be sure to ask for “veliko točeno pivo” meaning large draft beer at the tap.
In Slovakia, Šariš is our favourite kind. Order a “veľké čapované pivo” – large draft beer in a pub, and you’ll be safe.
And yes, you got it right. Pivo means beer in Slovak as well as Slovenian. In the end, don’t worry if you mix the countries up. Ordering beer is the same in both!
We hope we could give you some reasons why to visit Slovenia and Slovakia.
Of course, going into details would extend the dimensions of a single post. More articles on sights of Slovenia and Slovakia will follow. Stay tuned!