Motorcycle tour of Slovenia - why not?
So, when I had the good fortune to take a business trip to Zagreb, Croatia, in June 2022, I added 10 vacation days to the end of it and arranged to rent a BMW F700 GS in Zagreb.
My goal was to get a taste of next-door Slovenia, to discover this gem of a country that despite its small size, has a surprising variety of terrain. That terrain ranges from the coast of the Adriatic Sea to the peaks of the Julian Alps and to the rolling hills of the south, which are dotted with vineyards and castles.
So I charted out a clockwise loop that would take me south from Zagreb, through the Croatian islands of Krk and Cres, north through the Istrian peninsula, into the heart of Slovenia and its capital city Ljubljana, and then finally back to Zagreb.
My small taste of Slovenia
As it turned out, because of my poor ability to accurately calculate distances and travel time — plus a one-day delay in starting my trip due to bad weather — I didn’t see as much of Slovenia as I had planned to. Yes, I rode around Lake Bled, an iconic Slovenian landmark with its magnificent emerald-green waters, a picture-postcard church on a small island, and the imposing Julian Alps as a backdrop. Sadly, however, I didn’t have time to ride in those surrounding mountains. I rode in some foothills and some valleys, which were gorgeous and fun, but not the mountain twisties we all crave.
As my brief tour was wrapping up, I visited Ljubljana for two days, where I explored this beautiful city and its abundance of galleries and museums. It's small enough to walk around, and it's packed with cultural attractions and Old World charm, all crowned by a 15th-century castle. I experienced the city’s cool, quirky energy of the cafe scene on the promenade along the embankments and bridges of the Ljubljanica River, which loops around the city center.
Both Lake Bled and Ljubljana are atop every “must-see” list of Slovenian sights, and so I’m grateful to have explored them. But that little taste of Slovenia only made me want to return to experience more of what this Alpine nation has to offer.
What makes me want to return?
But even on my brief tour, I did learn a few things. For example, I learnt that Slovenian roads are great, well-maintained, and generally free of wandering animals, which is not always the case in other Balkan countries. (I’m looking at you, Albania!)
And I learnt that Slovenian food is, in a word, superb. The country is on the crossroads of Central and Southeastern Europe, and Slovenian cuisine has skillfully borrowed the best flavors, ingredients, and cooking techniques from its neighbors Italy, Austria, Hungary, and Croatia.
Generally speaking, Slovenian food is heavy, meaty, and plain, such as cutlets (zrezek), sausage (klobasa) and goulash (golaž). But my favourite dish was štruklji, Slovenian dumplings that are prepared in a dozen different ways and are stuffed with sweet fillings, meat, or vegetables. Vegetarian dishes don’t lack for flavour, either, and the grilled or batter-fried vegetable dishes in Slovenian cuisine are sensationally spiced with a Balkan flair.
"Štruklji", typical Slovenian dumplings
Pale lagers are favored by Slovenian beer drinkers, with Laško being the most popular country-wide brand. But small-brewery craft beers are available in many styles, too. For wine, try kraški teran, a dry red wine that has a distinct flavour derived from the grapes grown in the karst soil of southwestern Slovenia. And for an after-dinner aperitif try češnjevec, a cherry brandy with more flavor than the traditional Balkan slivovitz plum brandy, which I find too harsh.
As you might have gathered from some of the Slovenian food names I’ve included here, the Slovenian language can be hard to pronounce for many people. Slovenians understand that, and so won’t look askance at you even if you grossly mispronounce a word or two or butcher an attempt to speak the language. Fortunately, English is widely spoken by the people you are likely to come into contact with as a tourist.
The right way to tour Slovenia on two wheels
My circumstances in 2022 prevented me from fully exploring all that this gem of a county has to offer a motorcycle tourist. But it gave me a desire to return and tour it right — and the right fit for me would be AMT’s “sLOVEnia” tour, a 9-day loop that can be organized as a self-guided or a guided tour.
As I compare my hastily developed 2022 itinerary with the routes and stops on the “sLOVEnia” tour, I see how much more Slovenia has to offer any visitor, but especially those touring it by motorcycle.
Do you love riding twisties through the mountains? (I know, silly question, right?) Then you’ll be thrilled with riding up into the Julian Alps just north of Lake Bled and crossing over the Vrsic Pass, the highest point in the country. You’ll get more mountain thrills the next day riding through the valley of the river Kokra, ascending to another pass — crossing into Austria for a couple of kilometers — before descending through the beautiful glacially formed Logarska valley.
Other riding opportunities I missed, but you can experience on the sLOVEnia tour:
- Riding through the valley of the Soca River, famous for its deep, almost unreal, turquoise color. Rafting on the river is an optional activity for riders.
- Poking around the stunning Podsreda and Predjama castles, plus the Otocec castle, which is one of Slovenia’s loveliest and most complete fortresses.
- Swimming in and hiking along the shores of Bohinj Lake, a glacial lake in Triglav National Park fed by the Savica waterfall, a magnificent 60m waterfall cutting deep into an Alpine gorge.
AMT tours, including the sLOVEnia tours, are about maximize riding thrills. But they are not about forcing you to ride from dawn until dusk. Most riding days are of a moderate length, giving riders time to enjoy other activities.
The rest days provide even more flexibility. On their day off in Portoroz, for example, riders can choose to dip south, into the Istrian peninsula, which is known for its truffles, Roman ruins, and the striking medieval hill town of Motovun, birthplace of Formula 1 race car driver Mario Andretti. I would recommend the day trip to Motovun, which I visited on my solo trip in 2022. But be advised, though, that the ride up to the the town’s very Italian main piazza is very steep, and on cobblestones that are sometimes loose. Thank goodness the surfaces were dry when I rode on them — but I still came close to dropping my BMW several times. But the effort to reach the top is worth it, as the town square is beautiful and the views of the surrounding countryside are stunning, as was the sunset I experienced.
My customized, flexible return to Slovenia
Like all of AMT’s self-guided tours, the sLOVEnia tours are customizable to best suit you in terms of number of days, distance, and things you would like to see or do and can be scheduled any time of the riding season that fits your schedule.
AMT can always custom-design a tour especially for you or they can modify any of the guided tours in their catalog to be self-guided, and you’ll choose your travel dates and travel partners.
I plan to return to Slovenia and Istria soon. I just have to decide among the several AMT options, whether to go solo or convince some friends to join me, and which AMT motorcycle to rent.
The Yamaha Tracer 7 I rode on the October 2022 AMT Sardinia and Corsica tour was a sweet ride. Maybe I’ll pick that one again.
Discover an Alpine jewel of a country. Small in size, but large in talent, is how Slovenia could be qualified.
Small in size, but large in talent, is how Slovenia could be qualified. The Julian Alps and eastern Slovenia have roads and scenery from your motorcycle wish list. Enjoy winding through rolling back country hills that make riding exciting and a real adventure, taste delicious food and find out all about the friendliness of the local people.
- Countries: Austria, Slovenia, Croatia
- Days: 9 Days: / 7 riding days
SLOVENIA 7 day self-guided tour
This tour is a shorter version of our 9 days Slovenia Tour. There are no rest days scheduled on this tour, which makes it more riding-intense (see our guided sLOVEnia tour).
- Countries: Austria, Slovenia, Croatia
- Days: 7 Days: / 5 riding days
Long Weekend SLOVENIA self-guided tour
A short motorcycle escape through Slovenia, for those who have very little time to explore this beautiful country (see our guided sLOVEnia tour).
- Countries: Slovenia
- Days: 5 Days: / 3 riding days
SLOVENIA & DOLOMITES self-guided tour
- Countries: Italy , Slovenia
- Days: 9 Days: / 7 riding days
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