South East Introduction
The South East Region is not widely known outside of Slovenia but offers an extremely rich combination of natural beauty, outdoor activities, cultural and historic sites, spa and wellness facilities and excellent local food and wines - all coming together to create one of the country's most appealing holiday destinations.
The source of the Krka river is just 30km south east of Ljubljana and from there it winds its way east towards the Croatian border until it joins the Sava River east of Novo Mesto. Along the way are a number of Slovenia’s finest attractions, including Pleterje Monastery, Otočec castle and the village of Kostanjevica na Krki both on islands in the middle of the river, and further east, the historic town of Brežice, Mokrice castle (and golf course) and several spas including Slovenia’s largest at Čatež and one of its most elegant at Dolenjske Toplice.
The river itself is also something of a draw, with activities such as rafting and kayaking, not to mention swimming possible at many places along the picturesque valley.
East from here is the lovely Kozjansko regional park, centered around Podsreda and running down to Bizelsko on the Croatian border and one of Slovenia's major wine growing regions and the Bizeljsko wine route.
At the North of the region mid way between Ljubljana and Maribor lies the town of Celje, Slovenia’s third biggest with a charming old town and surrounded by pretty hill country to the north and south and a number of spa towns, including Rimsko Toplice and Laško (best known not for its spa but for being home to one of Slovenia's most popular beers of the same name).
For Novo Mesto Weather click here.
Kayaking on the Krka
Although not one of the Slovenia's best known rivers it is undoubtedly one of the most enjoyable for the unitiatied. Trips starting from the village of Krka, ckose to the source of the river and take you down a beautiful river broken up with with occasional easy rapid sections and a series of weirs which, with the help of a guide, make excellent kayak jumps and slides and a hugely enjoyable day out. We recommend the Carpe Diem kayak centre who also have a wonderful riverside bar and restaurant to complete an unforgettable day out. The river continues south through the region to Novo Mesto until it eventually joins the Sava River close to the Croatian border in the far South East of the country, some of which is navigable by kayak offering more techinical kayaking for more experienced paddlers.
Božidar Jakac Gallery
In the beautiful Kostanjevica na Krki monastery - one of Slovenia's most impressive medieval monuments - is one of the country's best galleries. the park surrounding the monastery is scattered with sculpture (the site plays host to the Forma Viva wood sculpture biennial) and inside there are a range of permanent collections - including modern Slovenian painting and graphic art, an extensive collection of 20th century Slovenian painting and a collection of European old master paintings and lapidary pieces. The gallery space is what many people also remember most about a visit - in the beautiful vaulted corridors and chambers of a medieval monastery. The gallery is also one of the country's most important temporary exhibition spaces regularly hosting artists from across Central Europe and beyond.
Centred around the town of Posdreda and its imposing castle is the beautiful Kozjansko Park occupying 206 km2 between Krsko & Rogaška Slatina. it is one of Slovenia's oldest protected areas, comprising thick forests, idyllic rolling hills, dotted with charming old villages, vineyards and crisscrossed with excellent gentle walking trails, many of which are focused on aspects of cultural interest in the area such as the "repnice" caves dug into the hills and used as wine cellars but originally used for storage of turnips! Podsreda castle offers wonderful views of the area and amongst other things plays host to a range of Summer concerts and events.
TOP 10 MUST SEE
Kayaking on the Krka River- a beautiful river rising 30km South East of Ljubljana with some of the best watersports at the village of Krka near the source of the river
The impressive Podsreda Castle, a 12th century castle, one of the best examples of Romanesque architecture in Slovenia in the Kozjansko Park
Autumn walks around the rolling hills of the Kozjansko Park which offers trails from 2-32km which are arranged around a range of cultural, natural and educational attrctions.
Sampling the outstanding slivovica (plum brandy) on a visit to the Pleterje Monastery which dates back to 1407 and is located at the foot of the Gorjanci hlls east of Novo Mesto.
Playing a round of golf at the beautiful Mokrice course on the border with Croatia near Brežice in the shadow of the imposing 15th century Mokrice Castle.
Staying at the wonderful Otočec Castle Hotel (or just visiting the castle), which is situated in a beautiful island on the Krka River east of Novo Mesto.
The region is Slovenia's spa and wellness centre hotspot with 6 out of the country's 15 certified natural spas - including some of its best known at Terme Čatez & Šmarješke Toplice - between them offering a huge range of treatments and relaxation facilities.
Enjoying a huge range of interesting wines in one of Slovenia's premier wine growing regions - from the excellent Istenič sparkling wines and "modra frankinja" (blue franconian) reds of the Bizeljsko region to the gentle cviček wine of the Dolenjska region which mixes red and white wines.
The tiny but charming 13th century town of Kostanjevica na Krki situated on an island in the middle on the Krka River. The beautiful medieval Kostanjevica monastery is home to the fantastic Božidar Jakac gallery.
ACTIVITIES & THINGS TO DO IN SOUTH EAST SLOVENIA
HIKING: There is excellent easy hiking in the Gorjanci Hills east of Novo Mesto and in the Kozjansko Park (there are a number of trails from 2km to 32km with a bias towards either educational, cultural or natural sights) between Krsko & Rogaška. Like most of Slovenia the region is a whole is criss-crossed with beautiful walking trails to suit all abilities.
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MOUNTAIN BIKING: The region offers excellent mountain biking with lots of marked trails for all abiilities but including many gentler routes in the lower rolling hills of the Gorjanci and the Kozjansko Park in idyllic natural surroundings.
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KAYAKING: There is excellent beginner - intermediate kayaking on the Krka River. One of the highlights of the upper Krka is a series of weirs which can be navigated (jumped off or slid down!) by kayak even by beginners (NB a guide is necessary!) Lower down the river is more techinical kayaking for more experienced paddlers.
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RAFTING: The Krka is suitable for rafting between the towns of Smihel and Žužemberk and makes an excellent day trip offered by a variety of local specialists.
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PARAGLIDING: The most popular start point for paragliding in the region is probably the iconic Lisca hill between Sevnica and Laško, but there are various others in the Laško / Radeče area.
FLY FISHING: Flyfishing licenses available at various points on the Krka - an idyllic river and wonderful place to fish.
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SWIMMING: Swimming is possible at various locations along the Krka valley and a the many spa and wellness centres in the region.
HORSE RIDING: The Krka Valley region is a wonderful area for horse riding with gentle hills, beautiful forests and riverside trails. The Tanja Grubačevič Riding School in the village of Češča Vas near Novo Mesto and the Lastrada riding centre in the village of Jakob pri Šentjurju south east of Celje can both organise riding tuition and tours and the Novo Mesto Tourist Office publish an excellent list of marked riding trails across the region.
GOLF: Spoilt for choice you will find three golfing options available: Golf Grad Otočec, Mokrice Golf Course and A Golf Olimje. All within easy driving distance and set in beautful, natural surrounds.
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FESTIVALS: A major festival across Slovenia but especially in wine growing areas such as the Karst and Goriška Brda is Martinovanje (St Martin's day) in early November which according to a tradition dating back to the middle ages is the day when the season's crop turns from "most" to wine. There are celebrations across the region mostly focusing on music, dancing, food and unsurprisingly, wine!
At different end of the musical spectrum there is the annual Sevicq festival of early music held in the delightful Knight's Hall in Brežice and the extremely popular Rock Otočec festival in Otočec.
ARCHITECTURE & HISTORICAL SITES: The Celje to Krka Valley region is extremely rich in historical sites. The highlights include castles at Podsreda, Otočec, Mokrice, Rogatec, Sevnica, Žužemberk, Olimia & Celje, the Knights' Hall at Brežice Castle and indeed the whole medieval centre of Brežice, the ancient island town of Kostanjevica na Krki with its beautiful monastery now one of Slovenia's leading art galleries and exhibition spaces. Other religious heritage sites include the Tri Fare pilgrimage site (3 beautiful gothic churches surrounded by a single church wall in the village of Rosalnice near Metlika) and last but not least the impressive Pleterje & Stična monasteries.
MUSEUMS & GALLERIES: Unsurprisingly for a region so rich in historical sights, there are also a number of excellent museums and galleries. The highlights is probably the outstanding Božidar Jakac Gallery and the Posavje Museum at Brežice Castle which includes the Knight's Hall, Townsmen and Rebel rooms and a museum of contemporary history of the region. Many of the region's other castles also offer scope for visits of renovated castle chambers and museums collections, the highlights of which are Podsreda, Otočec, Rogatec, Sevnica & Celje.
FOOD & DRINK: Like most of Slovenia the Celje to Krka Valley region offers excellent value and hearty traditional Slovenian cuisine at any number of local restaurants. As one of Slovenia's premier wine growing regions, what you drink is as important as what you eat and some of the best eating is to be found at tourist farms along the region's wine
WINE TASTING: The region is one of the country's most important wine producing areas and the opportunities for sampling wine at local producers are huge. The region also has a very varied list of wine related specialities including the delicious light modra frankinja (blue franconian variety in English) reds of the Bizeljsko region, not to mention its excellent sparkling white wine (most famous amongst which is probably Istenič). In addition the Dolenjska region is famous for its cviček wine - a blend of various red and white wine varieties which creates a very distinctive tasting wine - acidic but not sour, very low in alcohol (usually around 8%) and dangerously easy to drink! In the far south east of the country around the towns of Semič and Metlika is the beautiful Bela Krajina wine growing region offering delicious whites and the distinctive Metliška Crnina red and charming villages such Drašiči with ancient wine-making heritage.
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NATURAL ATTRACTIONS: Like most of Slovenia, the region offers a wealth of natural treasures and the natural heritage is generally extremely unspoilt and well preserved. Key attractions include the Kozjansko Park, the Gorjanci hills east of Novo Mesto and of course the beautiful Krka River which wends its way peacefully through the region and whose islands are home to both castles and medieval towns alike.
SPA & WELLNESS: The Celje - Krka Valley region is one of Slovenia's premier areas for spa and wellness, with 6 of Slovenia's fifteen certified natural spa resorts: Čatež Thermal Spa, Šmarješke Toplice, Dolenjske Toplice, Thermana Spa In Laško, Terme Olimia in Podčetertek and the Rogaška Health Resort all of which offer a wide range of recreational facilities, relaxation, health and beauty treatments and onsite accommodation. Rimske Toplice near Laško also deserves a mention as an excellent all round spa experience.
CLICK here for more information on Spa & Wellness in Slovenia.
SIGHTS & ATTRACTIONS IN SOUTH SLOVENIA