Best things to do in Dolenjska | Slovenia’s Southeastern region
You planning on visiting Dolenjska (in English sometimes referred to as Lower Carniola), Slovenia’s Southeastern region? Are you asking yourself what are the best things to do there? Just for you, we wrote about the best things to do in Dolenjska, Slovenia’s Southeastern region.
I have to admit, I didn’t know this part of Slovenia very well. So it was about time to go for a trip there to see and learn something new. And I can tell you, it was an amazing trip!
So, what is Dolenjska famous for?
Dolenjska is full of vineyards and most of them produce a unique wine, called Cvicek. This wine is so unique that, if you mention the word “Dolenjska” to any Slovene, the first word out of their mouths will be “Cvicek”. It is also called a Slovenian specialty because it is one of the few wines in the world that is made out of red and white grapes.
Next to every vineyard, you can notice zidanica – a beautiful grape cottage, also known for this area. We suggest you visit one, it is a unique experience! In every cottage, you will find a wine cellar with the grape press and the living area on the top. The living area is meant for occasional overnight stays during intensive work in the vineyard.
Dolenjska is also full of beautiful wooden bridges, we saw many of them on our trip!
One of the best things to do in Dolenjska is for sure enjoying the Krka river that runs through this region. This calm, mystical river is one of the most beautiful rivers in Slovenia especially in the summer months offers lots of water activities.
Castles are another reason why you should visit Dolenjska – sometimes also referred to as the land of castles. There used to be 65 castles in this region, some of them got demolished but many of them still stand today.
Positive effects of thermal water have been known for centuries in this region and you have a couple of thermal spas to choose from.
You ever heard of Hayrack? Hayrack (Slovene: kozolec) is usually a wooden structure for drying crops or hay. You can see them (almost) only in Slovenia, many of them are in Dolenjska!
Best things to do in Dolenjska – Slovenia’s Southeastern region
Here are some highlights of the best things to do in Dolenjska:
Zuzemberg was our first pit stop and we loved this small city very much, the entire city lies on a terrace above the Krka river. The central part of Zuzemberg is a small town square with a fountain in front of the castle. Zuzemberg castle is one of the most picturesque medieval castles in Slovenia.
If you are visiting in the summer months you need to stop at the city beach which attracts locals and also other visitors. Krka river is perfect to cool down in the summer heat, you can enjoy your day, chilling under the tree and enjoy the views this place has to offer. There is free parking next to the city beach.
The Devil’s Tower and the Soteska mansion
On the way from Zuzemberk to Novo mesto you will find an ancient Soteska mansion from the 17th century. According to some Slovenian historians, this used to be the most beautiful mansion in the region. Nowadays, there are just ruins of remaining walls, which are all covered with vegetation. The mansion became a part of nature, which is a nice thing to see.
The Devil’s tower
It’s really hard to miss this unique clover shape tower from the road, it captures your eye immediately, and you have to wonder what’s the story all about. It the part of the park that used to be connected with the mansion. The tower itself is not tall as usual towers are, and there’s a perfectly placed arched brick gate just a few meters from the tower that gives a nice visual before approaching – perfect for taking photos.
Next to the tower, you will notice a beautiful tree with its famous swing – you can’t leave this place without taking a photo.
Stroll around Novo mesto – Best things to do in Dolenjska
This is the capital city of the Southeast region and the cultural center of the area. It has the charm of a classic historical European town with the main square that has a church, restaurants, and chillout cafe bars. The perfect pit stop for lunch or coffee while traveling amazing Southeastern Slovenia.
Take an easy hike to Trska Gora church
Trska Gora has one of the most famous Slovenian vineyards, its southern slope has the most vineyard cottages in the world and the unique Cvicek wine is made behind their walls. The northern slope is wooded. On top of Trska Gora hill, you will find a pilgrimage church of the Nativity of Mary.
We loved the views of Novo mesto and beautiful Gorjanci in the back. The hill itself is perfect for a hike due to many vineyards and picturesque houses. Many roads lead to the church viewpoint where you can spend the day exploring around.
If you are not in the mood for walking, you can also drive to the top. Be careful not to get lost – the road gets very steep on some parts and it can be dangerous and even not drivable. Please, check the map before.
Otocec Castle – Best things to do in Dolenjska
Otocec castle is placed on a tiny island, situated on the mystical Krka river. It’s the only island castle in Slovenia, which makes it even more romantic. This place is very special, with a green park where you can stroll, have a picnic, meet some swans or ducks, and just enjoy the relaxed atmosphere.
Another great way to spend time at this place is on the water – by renting a boat or canoe and enjoy the sun stroking you while floating on the calm Krka river.
Inside the castle, there is a luxury 5* hotel and a restaurant. If you want to eat at their prestigious restaurant (rewarded with the Michelin Plate), be sure to make the reservation in advance.
You can also just enjoy the picturesque castle just from the outside.
Relax in Klevevz thermal water spring
A natural warm water spring, surrounded by the amazing ambiance of green forest and rocky streams. The spring has impressive clear blue water that is just waiting for you to deep in, relax, and enjoy its calming therapeutic properties.
The water has a constant temperature of 24,8 degrees, which is not as much as we expected. It is still warm enough to feel comfortable even in cold weather, some brave people will go in even when it is snowing.
The entrance is free of charge and there is an easy-going walking path from the parking area. There is also a small stand just next to the parking lot if you fancy a coffee or the famous Cvicek.
Visit Pleterje Carthusian Monastery – Best things to do in Dolenjska
The Pleterje Carthusian Monastery is a Catholic monastery where monks dedicate themselves to walking after Christ in the exclusively contemplative life. The monks are living in solitude and silence practicing the religion, therefore, most of the monastery is in a closure – inaccessible to the public.
The old Gothic church from 1406 is open to visitors, where the presentation about the life of monks, the cultural and historical attractions of the Carthusian monastery is on display.
The road to the monastery area is majestic – you will pass peaceful villages and the views on the vineyards are mind-blowing. Along the way, you will notice road signs that instruct to be quiet with respect to the local monks. That means that you are getting closer.
We weren’t very impressed with the monastery itself, it is mostly closed for visitors anyway. But we enjoyed the surroundings very much.
Learn something new in the open-air museum Pleterje
Just next to the parking lot you will find the open-air museum Pleterje where you can feel the traditional Slovenian village lifestyle from the 19th century. Each of the buildings there has a story to tell and all together will create a beautiful image of old Slovenian traditions.
Explore Kostanjevica na Krki – Best things to do in Dolenjska
It was the first time visit for both of us and we loved it! Kostajevica na Krki is the smallest, one of the oldest towns in Slovenia, and the locals are proud of this wonder of nature. Why do we call it a beautiful wonder of nature? Because the old part of the city is an island, situated on the Krka river.
The city structure with two parallel streets has been preserved to this day and the city is declared as a protected cultural monument. Because of its location on the river, the city gets flooded often, and sometimes the only possible way to get around is by boat. Kostanjevica na Krki is also called »Slovenian Venice«.
You can read more about Kostanjevica na Krki HERE.
Dolenjska is full of diversity
Dolenjska will offer you a diverse landscape, unique culture, friendly locals, and beautiful natural attractions.
If I do a summary of our trip, it really was something special. From the beautiful Krka river to water castle, then to relaxing natural springs, to many walks among vineyards and romantic strolls on the only inhabited island city in Slovenia. The only problem was that in the end, we didn’t have the time to explore more places that this region has to offer. But it is also good to leave something for next time.
Thank you Dolenjska, we will be back for sure!