Surrounded by Italy, Austria, Hungary and Croatia, Slovenia lies at the northern end of the Adriatic Sea. Rich in resources, and persistently peaceful, Slovenia has been doing just fine since breaking away from Yugoslavia in 1991. It joined the European Union in 2004.
For centuries, Slovene culture was influenced by Eastern and Western Europe. Many of its cities and towns bear the imprint of the Habsburg Empire and the Venetian Republic, while up in the Julian Alps it resembles Austria or Bavaria. The 2 million Slovenes were economically the best off among the peoples of what was once Yugoslavia, and the relative affluence of this country on the "sunny side of the Alps" is immediately apparent. Except for a brief period in the summer of 1991, there has been no fighting, no war and no terrorism in Slovenia.
Slovenia is predominantly hilly, with over 90 percent of its surface sitting more than 300 meters (984 feet) above sea level. Forest covers almost half of the country - making Slovenia one of the world's greenest countries - and agricultural land - mostly made up of fields, orchards, vineyards and pastures - covers a further 43 percent.
There are six main regions within the country: the Alps; the pre-Alpine hills; the Dinaric karst (a limestone region of caves and underground rivers below the hills); the Slovenian Littoral, the Adriatic coastline (47 km / 29 miles long); and the lowlands (mostly in the east and northeast). The interior is drained by rivers including the Sava and the Drava that empty into the Danube; the Soca flowing into the Adriatic; and the Mura. The Kolpa River marks much of the border with Croatia.
Weather in Slovenia is varied. The northwest has an Alpine climate, and temperatures in the Alpine valleys are moderate in summer but cold in winter. The Adriatic coast and much of the Primorska (westernmost) province have a Mediterranean climate with warm, sunny days and mild winters. Most of eastern Slovenia has a continental climate with hot summers and cold winters.
January is the coldest month, when the average daytime temperature is -2 C (28 F). July is the warmest, with an average daytime temperature of 21 C (70 F). September is the best time for hiking and climbing; December to March is for skiers; while spring is a good time to be in the lowlands and valleys because everything is blooming.
Slovenia has numerous castles, churches, museums, art galleries and several monasteries including the Sticna Monastery and the Pleterje Carthusian Monastery.
Slovenia has three international airports (Ljubljana, Maribor or Portoroz), and the majority of travelers disembark at Ljubljana. There are regularly scheduled trips across the Adriatic on the Prince of Venice catamaran that runs between Venice and Izola, and three marinas to choose from should you arrive on your own boat. Slovenia can be reached by train via regular connections with Italy, Austria, Germany, The Netherlands, Belgium, Hungary and Croatia. Internal bus transport is well organized and relatively inexpensive.
Credit cards are accepted at upscale restaurants, shops and hotels, but in some places, only cash is accepted. Only a few of Slovenia's ATMs will work for foreign account holders. Credit card holders can get cash advances in tolars from some banks. Slovenia will launch the changeover to the euro in January 2007.
A circulation tax (not unlike value-added tax) is added to the price of most goods and services. Many hotels in Slovenia levy a tourist tax on overnight visitors. Most restaurants add a 10 percent service charge to the bill.
Slovenia has no natural hazards, few environmental problems, and for the most part is secure. Buses, commuter trains and trolleys, and their associated stations, are typical places that harbor thieves, pickpockets and purse snatchers.
About 82 percent of the population is Roman Catholic. Slovene is the national language, Serbo-Croat is widely spoken and English is spoken by many, but mostly in the cities. Slovenes are known for their friendliness and hospitality.
Slovenia's road network is extensive and in good repair. Since the country's new-found affluence has resulted in a large increase in the number of cars on the road, traffic congestion, mostly in Ljubljana, can be a problem, compounded by narrow country and inner-city roads. The phone system is reliable and modern; English-language media is relatively easy to find in the major cities.
Slovenian food is wholesome, simple and generally safe. Though prices tend to be closer to Western norms in Ljubljana, favorable exchange rates make finding good, dependable lodging, food and drink a relatively simple task.