When I first mentioned that I was planning to go to Slovenia, a few people (and it was only a few, as Slovenia is still something of an undiscovered gem) responded by telling me that the best way to see the country would be to hire a car. This advice is all well and good but when you are hopeless at navigating (check), hopeless at parking (check) and your definition of a holiday does not involve driving around for miles lost (check), then this option becomes less appealing.
Of course, there is always Pumpkin, whose precise navigational skills are more suited to the military than they are to daily life but rather than forcing him to chauffeur me around in true diva style, we opted to get the most of our time in Slovenia with Roundabout Travel.
Roundabout Travel Slovenia
We took two tours with Roundabout:
- Karst and Coast Mystery tour, involving a visit to the magnificent UNESCO-listed Skocjan caves and a brief stop at the Lipica horse farm, famed for its Lipizzaner breed of horses; the tour also includes a visit to the coastal town of Piran and a pit stop for some delicious locally made cheese, olives and renowned Karst Prosciutto before finally ending the day at the Predjama castle. Personally, I liked the added little extras and always believe that sampling local flavours helps to hallmark the customs and cultures of a place.
- Alpine Fairytale Tour, involving a visit to Lake Bled and Bohinj, the medieval town of Skofja Loka and a lunch stop at a delicious Slovenian restaurant – just look at those moreish Strukli (traditional Slovenian dumplings). Usually, this itinerary includes a visit to the Vintgar gorge but due to damage during the winter storms in Slovenia earlier this year, we were unable to see this. We were, however, taken to one of Slovenia’s most impressive waterfalls instead.
As one of the leading tour companies in Slovenia, I chose Roundabout for a number of reasons:
- Group Size is restricted to a maximum of 8 so there will be no giant coaches or sluggish crowds. On our trip to Iceland last year, we compared and contrasted both styles of tour and it’s safe to say that given a choice, our large coach tour days are well and truly over. Roundabout , in contrast, offer personal and friendly service with group sizes small enough to be able to mingle with both guides and fellow travellers with comfortable, air-conditioned, seat-belted vehicles.
- Range of tours – I was really keen to see Piran and the Skocjan caves in one day, both of which are amongst Slovenia’s most popular sights. And yet, it was surprisingly difficult to find companies that offered this. Bespoke tours were very costly so I was delighted to find the Karst and Coast Tour, which included both places as well as additional locations. Their range of itineraries include other parts of Slovenia such as Postojna caves or their Emerald River tour, which allows an opportunity to participate in rafting and watersports. They also have full and half day tours, private as well as group tours and if you are visiting for longer, some tour packages include visits to surrounding countries including Bosnia and Croatia.
- Flexibility – although they adhere to the basic structure for the day, if there are elements you want added or removed, then within reason, they’ll try to accommodate this. Here’s an example: when there is a local cake to be tried, you can guarantee I’ll be indulging in it. When my cake-radar sounded out the other sweet teeth in our group, it took nothing more than a passing comment before our guide kindly arranged a cake stop with a panoramic view of the impossibly stunning Lake Bled, allowing us to devour the famous Bled cream cake.
- The Guides, aside from speaking excellent English, are flowing fountains of information! I can only comment on Matjaz and Tjasa, who led our trips but both had vast knowledge about Slovenian history and culture and added a warm, personal dimension to their guiding. It was apparent that the individual customer experience was of paramount importance to them.
- Tours mentioned in this post cost between €46 – 49 per person but are not inclusive of individual activities, entrance fees and meals but there is no compulsion to get involved in all the activities e.g. the prosciutto tasting. Payment is usually made in cash at the end of the tour.
- Morning pick up may be either be directly from your hotel or a nearby hotel.
- A visit to Skocjan involves a walk inside the caves of more than an hour, which includes stairs and is dimly lit; it is a leisurely walk and you don’t need to be an athlete (I’m certainly not) but it may be less suitable for those with reduced mobility or impaired vision, for whom Postojna caves may be a better alternative, as there is a train to take you through the caves at that location.
- At Skocjan caves, the Roundabout guides accompany you for ticket purchase and give information before and after the tour but the cave tour guides are from a separate company and whilst inside, you are part of a much larger tour group.
- Photography (with or without flash) is not permitted within the caves and guides did not take kindly to tourists who were not respectful of this but there is an opportunity to take photographs at one end of the caves, where it opens up.
My experience with Roundabout?
From the outset, they were punctual with emails and communication between different team members was seamless. Open to feedback, the staff were genuinely grateful for tips without any expectation and were hugely passionate about their country. They were also considerate of the needs of different members of the group e.g. mixed ages and abilities, taking care to ensure that everyone was managing. Most importantly though, the tours were personal, really enjoyable and informative and gave us a wonderful introduction to a beautiful country.
Disclaimer: I was a guest of Roundabout Travel Slovenia but I am an opinionated, little lady and all views, good or bad, are entirely my own.