Slovenia in Autumn 2021 Trip Report

By Luka Esenko on Nov 30, 2021

Slovenia in autumn is at its most beautiful for photography. I was really looking forward to leading this tour in my home country. Some of our group had just completed our Undiscovered Montenegro tour where fall colors had just started, so expectations were high that Slovenia would be in full autumn color by now. How exciting!

We started our tour at Lake Bled. This is one of the most iconic locations in Slovenia—a small alpine lake with an island in the middle with a small baroque church perched on top. Our family-run pension was located in Selo, a nearby village. Our host Brigita was happy to see some returning clients. Some of our travelers were with us here for the third time! Personally, I was looking forward the most to Brigita’s fantastic cooking.

Our first day we drove to nearby Kropa town—a small medieval town, famous for its old iron works. We photographed a nearby forest stream with mossy rocks and autumn foliage around. What a beautiful start! Then we drove up the mountain for a sunset shoot. A small hilltop church with mountains as a backdrop was our subject. The sunset did not happen, so we waited to shoot blue hour. That was well worth waiting for, despite strong and cold winds! Afterwards, we warmed up at a cozy family-run restaurant in Radovljica, another charming medieval town.

The next three days we explored the surrounding area. The “must do” sunrise at Lake Bled was an amazing experience! We arrived when it was still pitch dark and drizzling. The weather cleared just in time for the morning sun to light up the island! What a fantastic sight!

Lake Bohinj, another glacially-carved lake lies about half an hour drive away. We drove there twice, for a sunset and a sunrise. We had two completely different photo opportunities at this pristine mountain lake. We even walked to the Savica waterfall, despite its 500 steps!

The next day, fog was forecast in the valleys. So, we decided to take a longer drive to St Thomas church—another iconic hilltop church of Slovenia and one I never tire of photographing. The forecast was right, the fog levels were perfect, rolling over nearby hills, sometimes covering the church in fog, sometimes creating a thin layer like a veil. It was one of the best mornings I’ve ever experienced at this location. All JVOPS trips to Slovenia have had extremely nice conditions here. A coincidence? The hearty breakfast and hot coffee that followed felt nice. We enjoyed reviewing our photos from the morning.

After four days around Lake Bled, our next stop was Soča River Valley. The valley is in the heart of the Julian Alps and the most scenic way to get there is via Vršič pass. This is an incredible drive with multiple photo stops along the way. The autumn colors here are the most pronounced, and we hit the peak of color. On the way to Soča River Valley we got many cool shots of mountain lakes with reflections, alpine valleys with traditional huts, and mountains decorated with autumn colors.

For the next two nights we were based in Bovec, a convenient base to explore the valley of Soča River and its waterfalls. Our time was well spent here. The emerald color of Soča River contrasts nicely with the warm tones of the autumn forest. One evening we drove to Mt Mangart, the highest road in Slovenia. Before we could go all the way to the top, we were stopped by piles of fresh snow that blocked the road. Nevertheless, we got high enough to photograph autumn forest along the way and to wait for a setting sun to touch the horizon. Larch trees were still largely green. It would take them another couple of weeks to blaze with yellow.

The next stop was the Slovenian coast. Our hotel was located on the main square in Piran, a small, charming Venetian-style coastal town. The scenery here is completely different from the mountains where we were for the last week. First night we photographed around the harbor where fishing boats are moored. The reflections of the town and its church were perfect. Next day we spent a relaxing day in Piran. We went for a walking tour of the town as well as around scenic viewpoints for elevated views. Our dinner was in a small family-run restaurant famous for Italian pasta with local flavors—and the wine!

The last part of our trip was in Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia and my hometown. On the way there we stopped at Lipica stud farm where the famous Lipizzaner horses originate. We were treated with a “stampedo” of playful horses who were running around the estate—so fun to photograph!

In Ljubljana we walked into the old town for dinner and blue hour photography. We photographed around the city hall and Ljubljanica river where there are endless photo opportunities. Next morning, we drove out of the city to nearby hills. Our subject was—surprise—more hilltop churches! We managed to photograph at two locations. First, we photographed pre-dawn scenery of the beautifully colored sky and the lit-up church of St Andrew. Then we drove to a nearby hill from where we photographed layers of fog and another little church sticking out of the fog. I still cannot decide which location was nicer!

On return to Ljubljana, we agreed to meet for a city walk and an early farewell dinner at Ljubljana castle. And what a treat that was! A five-course dinner, coupled with some of the best Slovenian wines. It was a wonderful way to conclude our Slovenia photography tour.