Leave your phone behind, surround yourself with nature and discover Slovenia's hidden treasures, from "baby dragons" to mouthwatering zlikrofi dumplings
Lock your smartphone inside a little wooden box at the reception of Vila Planinka and surrender to the majesty of nature, the conviviality of passionate hospitality and the harmony of locally sourced Slovenian food and wine pairings.
Explore the valley of Jezersko
Image by Vila Planinka
To arrive in the valley of Jezersko is to be humbled by the snow-capped peaks of the Kamnik-Savinja Alps, the enchantment of the Skuta glacier and the idyllic romance of the heart-shaped Lake Plansar.
Among pine, beech and larch forests in the foothills of the alpine landscape, you’ll find everything from the region’s famous black-eyed sheep to deer, wild boar and even the occasional migratory bear. For thousands of years, Jezersko’s mammals have thrived alongside a cornucopia of medicinal herbs, indigenous mountain orchids and soaring birds of prey. This is a place of biodiversity and natural rhythms.
"Escape the trappings and technology of modern life and ground yourself"
Of course, humans have left their mark on Jezersko too, with a scattering of stonewall farms, timber workshops and traditional houses. But to their credit, the local residents are united in their desire to remain peripheral figures in Mother Nature’s harmonious landscape.
Unwind at Vila Planinka
One manmade landmark that demands your attention is Vila Planinka, a sublime hotel decorated with calming natural features and characterised by a drive to reconnect with nature. Escape the trappings and technology of modern life, and ground yourself among warm timber cladded walls, gorgeous slate tiles and bucolic sheepskin hides.
Guests are encouraged to check phones in at reception. And, in addition to a notification-free vacation, you’ll be compensated with a welcome drink of delicious sparkling wine. Enjoy a toast to the simpler things in life in the communal lounge area, where a large widescreen glass cabinet emits heat from the roaring log fire within.
Unwind at Vila Planinka (image by Josh Ferry Woodard)
When you’ve spent the appropriate amount of time gazing out from your balcony at the dreamy alpine views, breathing in the glacial fresh mountain air, it’s time for an excursion. Strike up a conversation with the chatty and knowledgeable reception staff to find out what’s available.
Learn about the culture of Jezersko with a guided tour of the village, hire some snow shoes or an electric bike to explore the mountains by day, or stroll beneath the stars with an expert mountain guide by night. Warm up with an infrared or a Finnish sauna, relax with a private masseuse and enquire about a personal driver to take you to attractions further afield, such as Postojna Cave and Predjama Castle.
The "baby dragons" of Postojna Cave
Take a daytrip to Postojna Cave, a 15-mile-long subterranean world, and become fascinated by its millions-of-years-old stalagmite and stalactite formations, along with its most peculiar residents.
Hidden among the deepest, darkest recesses of the cave’s underground river live an extremely rare breed of juvenile salamander, the olm. This milky white, tubular amphibian creature with spindly arms and legs can live for over a hundred years, going without food for up to 10 years at a time and regenerating limbs as necessary.
The awe-inspiring Postojna Cave (image via Postojnska Jama)
Enchanting and elusive, the olms live in complete darkness. But from time to time, heavy flooding can flush these fragile creatures out of their cavernous habitat and into the surrounding fields. It was one such flood, back in the 17th century, that gave rise to their romantic nickname…
Having encountered a field full of strange “fish” with snow-white skin and frilly pink necks, the local people (who feared Postojna Cave to be the lair of a terrible dragon) proclaimed that the olms were in fact baby dragons!
Initially provoking terror, the baby dragons are now considered cute, and cherished by the people of Slovenia. View them in the flesh in a special exhibition vivarium at the end of your Postojna Cave tour.
The impenetrable Predjama Cave Castle
Predjama Cave Castle (image via Postojnska Jama)
Nearby Predjama Cave Castle is an 800-year-old medieval fortress perched on a 123-metre-high cliff. It’s a fairy tale image that belies the bastion’s brutal impenetrability.
Visit this vertiginous castle to marvel at the ingenuity of renowned knight and robber baron, Erazem of Predjama. In the 15th century, Erazem withstood a siege from the Imperial Army and the House of Habsburg for over a year by periodically escaping out of a secret tunnel at the back of the cave to stock up on food and supplies.
"It’s a fairy tale image that belies the bastion’s brutal impenetrability"
A habit of Erazem’s that both enraged and mystified the Habsburg soldiers was his penchant for hanging out of the window and cackling wildly as he threw black cherries at the bewildered combatants below. Unaware of his clandestine escape passage, the Imperial guard concluded that Erazem must have been a sorcerer possessing magical powers.
While the robber baron outwitted the House of Habsburg initially, he was eventually betrayed and succumbed to canon fire while using one of the castle’s unprotected (and draughty) toilets.
Harmonious food and wine pairings
Food and wine at Vila Planinka
However you decide to spend your days in Jezersko and wider Slovenia, nothing is likely to excite the senses more than the daring and accomplished tasting menu at Vila Planinka.
Each night, Chef Blaž Derlink and Sommelier Marko Koren put together a masterful selection of reimagined local dishes that are paired so perfectly with all manner of forward-thinking Slovenian wines that you may end up questioning which was chosen first: the wine or the food?
"Nothing is likely to excite the senses more than the daring and accomplished tasting menu at Vila Planinka"
Try bright red beef tartare with horseradish, smoked cheese and crunchy buckwheat popcorn alongside a dry, cherry fruit pinot noir. Sip an astonishingly well-balanced orange rebula as you tuck into a gloriously rich venison ragout with Slovenian zlikrofi dumplings and piquant bursts of whole cranberries.
Savour the sweet succulence of local lamb chops with confit shallots and sticky demi-glace paired with an organic strong-bodied cabernet franc. Finish the evening with an elegant, sweet riesling dessert wine with an olive oil-like consistency and delightful citrus, raisin and honey notes, served beside a fresh and fragrant lavender panna cotta with white-chocolate caramel, blueberry jam and floral bee pollen.
Flights were provided by EasyJet, which flies direct to Ljubljana from London Gatwick.
Read more: Dude ranches: How to holiday like a cowboy
Read more: 5 Ways to avoid parasites while travelling
TRAVEL OFFER - Get FREE membership to our Reader's Digest travel club with Tripbeat when you subscribe to the Reader's Digest magazine or newsletter - claim up to 60% off 600,000 hotels worldwide, plus discounted flights, car hire, activities and more.
Tripbeat members can enjoy:
- HOTELS up to 60% off 600,000+ hotels worldwide
- RESORT stays from £299 per week
- CAR HIRE –explore in the right vehicle with member-preferred rates
- ACTIVITIES –over 345,000 across the globe, handpicked for you
- FLIGHTS –get where you want to be at co
- TOURS –over 50,000 private, group and tailor-made tours to choose from
Click here to find out more about how you can make the most of your holidays, and gain access to these unparalleled travel discounts.
To claim your exclusive access code to our discounted travel club and to keep up with the top stories from Reader's Digest by subscribing to our weekly newsletter