STUNNING PLACES ALONG KRKA RIVER SLOVENIA
In Dolenjska region of Slovenia (historical Lower Carniola Region), among lush green hills and vivid fields lies a tiny village called Krka. Not far away from there springs a river with the same name which defines the region by its course. As the second-longest completely Slovenian river, Krka river impresses along its entire length, from the rapids in the upper course to the slow turns in the lower half.
See what’s going around here?
I’m getting slightly emotional, I know.
But, imagine this: Lush green landscape ideal for picnics. Impressive medieval castles. Picturesque towns. Colorful fields in the spring. Astonishing views. …Interested already? Then keep reading, cos I’m gonna show you the most scenic places along Krka river in Slovenia.
Hey, but I think we gotta avoid confusion right here, so let me explain:
When typing “Krka river” into Google, you just might get slightly confused! Why? Well, because our neighbor, Croatia, happens to have a river with the same name as well.
Er – great minds think alike? Or perhaps just some healthy neighbor rivalry? 🤔😁
Anyhow, their Krka river, specifically the Krka River National Park in its lower course is quite famous, so you might stumble upon photos from there as well while researching about your trip to Slovenia.
But while I’d totally recommend visiting it, let’s focus here on OUR Krka river (nope, not being patriotic at all😆), which is equally breathtaking. Or should I – as Slovenian – say: “even more breathtaking?”
FUN FACT: Bojan is from Dolenjska region in Slovenia and he is kinda in love with it (can’t put it any other way – these are his words), so throughout the years I started to share his enthusiasm about this part of our country. Gotta say – the more I get to know it, the more I like it as well! Now, if I think of it… he’s got some persuasive skills up his sleeve, obviously.
HOW TO GO KRKA RIVER VALLEY
Krka river valley lies in the eastern part of Slovenia and its spring is located approx. 25 miles from Ljubljana.
While it’s possible to visit several of these places from the article with public transport from Ljubljana to the desired town (bus or train) or with an organized tour, we’d still recommend you to rent a car, especially if you’d like to visit all of the places (um – you totally should).
This would make a wonderful weekend trip where you’ll go all the way from the source of Krka to its end.
Offers at Rentalcars.com start at $20 / day, so that’s actually – besides being the most comfortable – also really affordable way to travel around Slovenia, especially if you’re not traveling alone.
MUST-SEE PLACES BY THE SLOVENIAN KRKA RIVER
1. SOURCE OF KRKA RIVER in SLOVENIA AND KRKA CAVE
Ok, let’s start at the beginning – at the source of Krka river! Close to the Krka village in Dolenjska region, there’s an even tinier village, called Gradicek (which means “little castle”). From the parking lot, it’s easy to follow a path through this village that will take you straight to the source (10 min walk).
Krka river sources in a karst spring that resembles a large emerald-green pond. The dark glistening surface and a silky green edge of the pond create an image of a tranquil place, perfect for unwinding.
Ha, but it’s not always peaceful around here! Next to the spring, there are steps that lead to Krka cave and during heavy downpours, water burst through the entrance of the cave and flows down these stairs in a torrential waterfall. You won’t want to get too close!
Er – but otherwise, Krka cave is perfectly safe to visit! 🙂 The cave opens to a grand hall and at its end, you’ll find an underground lake. Pretty cool!
Admission to the cave: for adults $3, for children $2
PRO TIP: When you’ll be returning from the cave towards the parking lot, instead of going through the village, walk over a meadow and a bridge with a special name – The bridge of Love. You know, for a cute photo. Or a ridiculous one, if you’re us.
2. DAM AT ZAGRADEC VILLAGE
In the upper course of Krka river, you can find several rapids and cascades. If you’ll drive along the river, make a quick stop at the Zagradec for a nice view and a photo or two. See, I write rhymes too!
3. LOKA PARK
Loka Park is a definite hidden gem along Krka river!
This place is easy to miss – drive around 0.25 miles from Zagradec village in the direction of Novo mesto and you’ll come to the small forest. You’ll spot a big parking lot with a small cute wooden inn, with the name “Kasca” on it – park there.
The gravel road will take you downhill through the forest (5 min walk) to the riverside of Krka. Bring a blanket and a picnic basket, cos you’ll want to stay here for a while – vivid green silky grass, wooden bridges and cascades on the river couldn’t make a better background for a romantic picnic! Er – or for a photo session – whichever you prefer 😄 (wedding photo shootings are done here, so it must be something about this place!)
Whether you’re planning to drive along Krka river or just make a few stops – Žužeberk is a must-see place! The town, which dates back to the 13th century, lies at the bank of the Krka river and is dominated by one of the most beautiful medieval castles in Slovenia.
You can visit the castle (approx. 1$), but the best view of its grandeur is from below – by the riverbank.
Talk a walk along the riverbank and across the bridge, where you can marvel at several tufa thresholds* under the castle.
*tufa is secreted from dissolved limestone, accumulates on plants and when plants die, tufa sediments create thresholds
PRO TIP 1: During summer, bring swimsuits – the riverbank in Žužemberk serves as a “beach” and when it will get too hot, Krka is there for a refreshment (er – alongside cold beer that is served in a “beach bar” 😉 )
PRO TIP 2: During the summer months, castle holds cultural events – Medieval market days. If you’d like to step in the past, that’s a place to be in July! More info here.
Feeling hungry? Close to the castle, you’ll find yummy pizzas – in Gobja hiška (“Mushroom’s house) pizzeria they serve oven-baked Italian pizzas and the terrace has a lovely view over the river. If you’re not into pizzas, restaurant Pri Gradu (“At the castle”) is a good alternative.
Krka river was important for mills as well and you can still see a few of them – two old ones you’ll find just before Žužemberk.
5. THE IRON-FOUNDRY MUSEUM AND TUFA THRESHOLDS (CASCADES) AT DVOR
A splash of history! Krka river was important for the development of the industry in the region and one of those was Ironworks in the Dvor village, which was one of the biggest industrial plants in Slovenia. Nowadays only a few remains of the once enormous building are seen, but you can learn more about it in the iron-foundry museum across the street.
Not a history geek and more of a visual type? No problem – at this place you’ll find one of the most picturesque tufa thresholds on the river Krka.
6. SOTESKA MANOR AND THE DEVIL’S TOWER
Ok, here we are – my absolute favorite place alongside Krka river!
Soteska Manor was once a majestic building that was unfortunately burnt after WWII. Nevertheless, its high walls covered with ivy and the evening light, shining through the windows still create a magical atmosphere.
But what really stands out, it’s a nearby garden pavilion in the shape of a cloverleaf, called Devil’s tower.
I visited this place for the first time almost 20 years ago and while I forgot about the location, its legend about cunning lords, who supposedly held hedonistic parties in the tower, stayed in my mind. You know, if you’re bringing in farmer girls who just got married, to have “fun” with them, there’s a pretty good chance your party place will become known as a “devil’s tower”. 🙂 Anyhow, I forgot about the place but remembered the story vaguely and when we started dating, Bojan brought me here. I was like: Omg, this place is real, I thought I dreamt about visiting it! 😅
Wait, it gets better… Nowadays you can get married in the pavilion!
And yep, you guessed it… I wanted to get married here 😆
But we ended up deciding for another place since we were worried about where to put guests in the case of rain. But if we ever decide to renew our vows, this quirky & incredibly picturesque tower will be the place to do it!
Somebody had a clever idea of putting a picture-worthy swing on the nearby tree and now the once pretty-unknown-place is becoming more and more popular. I wonder why. Ehm. 😉
7. NOVO MESTO
Novo mesto (translates to “New town”) is a historical and economic center of Dolenjska region. Positioned within a river bend, it has a charming outline and the historical part of the city with its colorful houses is perfect for a lazy stroll. Visit museums and take a walk across the Kandija bridge or along the path next to the river.
Sipping creamy coffee by the riverbank while watching swans gliding on the river? Sure, it’s a must!
In fact, Novo mesto makes a great one-day trip from Ljubljana as well, as there are quite a few things to see & do around here!
8. OTOČEC CASTLE
If you’ve ever read about the most stunning places in Slovenia, chances are that you stumbled upon Otočec castle as well. This fairytale gothic castle lies on an island on Krka river and is the only water castle in Slovenia. In the beginning, it actually stood on the right bank of the river, but later one of the owners ordered the excavation of the land to create an islet.
Around the castle there is a beautiful park, the river is full of ducks and swans and for the ones with a sweet tooth (ummm, yeah, that would be me) cafe in the castle offers delicious treats. Aaand – one of the castle towers is converted into the winery! Yaasss! *gets carried away and is searching for contact info*
Wait for it, it gets better – the Otočec castle is actually a charming boutique hotel with an excellent restaurant, so if it fits your budget, that’s an outstanding place to spend a night.
Don’t believe me? Have you ever heard of Anze Kopitar? If this doesn’t ring a bell, what about Los Angeles Kings? 😀 This famous ice hockey player is Slovenian, and – he got married at Otočec Castle! I probably don’t need to tell you that quite a few superstars were here with him. #luckywaiters
Click the link for more info about the Otočec Castle.
9. GOLF OTOČEC & CASTLE STRUGA
Not far from Otočec castle hotel there is a slightly lesser-known Struga castle, which is located right next to the Otočec Castle Golf Course.
Even if you don’t play golf (er – not our cup of tea either ), it’s a lovely place to stop by and enjoy the actual
cuppa champagne & strawberries. With a view over “Teletubby hills”. Nope, I can’t resist THAT.
Visit the Struga castle which is transformed into the museum and step into the late middle ages. I haven’t been to the animated tour yet where castle’s lady and lord take you around, so if you go – tell me all about it in the comments below! 🙂
10. THE PLETERJE CHARTERHOUSE
To visit the Pleterje Carthusian Monastery, you actually have to go slightly south of the Krka River. Hidden at the edge of the forest, there is a huge monastery complex, surrounded by high defense walls, that was built in the 15th century. What’s interesting about it is, that for almost 300 years in between, the monastery did not actually belong to the Carthusian – Jesuits were its patrons during that time.
Today, the Pleterje Carthusian Monastery is the only functioning Carthusian monastery in Slovenia, and since members of the small order live in solitary, it is not possible to see the interior of the building.
However, it is possible to see the old Gothic church, which is part of the complex, and watch the multimedia about the history of the Carthusian order. Next to the monastery, there is also an open-air museum with a replica of old farm buildings.
And now, the real deal – another thing not to be missed when coming here, is a little shop by the gate of the complex, where a monastery guard keeper sells goodies produced by the monks. Among them, there is a famous liqueur called “Pleterje pear”.
Nope, this wasn’t the main reason we stopped here a couple of weeks ago. Of course not. Ah-ah. #pinocchionose
Oh, what is the specialty of Pleterje pear liqueur?
The monks hang the bottles on the branches of the tree when pears are still quite small in then they grow and ripe inside the bottle. When pears are ripe, the pear brandy is added and voilá – a liqueur with a delicious flavor is created!
11. KOSTANJEVICA NA KRKI
Kostanjevica na Krki is, without doubt, one of the most romantic places in Slovenia. The dark green Krka surrounds the entire center of the oldest and smallest town in Dolenjska region. An island town? You bet.
Silence and peace. Old townhouses with charming facades. The wide and vivid green Krka, on which swans ride in pairs in slow motion. Fluffy grass on the river edge, on which visitors rest. Old balconies leaning over the river where grandpas are solving crossword puzzles… for a moment it almost seems as if the town is frozen in the past. Ah, perhaps that’s exactly what gives it the charm.
The town itself is small and you can quickly circle it – but take your time, walk across the pedestrian-only “Tercialski” bridge, sit down by the river with an ice-cream in your hand and simply disconnect.
Or – rent a boat and go paddling. With the picnic basket full of home-made goodies with you. And an engagement ring in your pocket perhaps? #justkidding #ornot
Near the Kostanjevica town, there is Kostanjevica Monastery. This Cistercian monastery was built in the 13th century and its arcade courtyard is one of the biggest in Central Europe.
It no longer operates as a monastery, but it features Art gallery of Božidar Jakac, the largest gallery complex in Slovenia. At the outer courtyard and in the surrounding area, a Wood Sculpture Collection of Forma Viva is displayed (with the oldest sculptures from the 1960s).
Thirsty from admiring the art? Hehe, I have good news for you – again 🙂 Inside the former monastery, there is a wine cellar, where you can taste and buy Slovenian wine Cviček from various wine producers in the area.
In the vicinity of Kostanjevica na Krki, there is also Kostanjevica Cave, which is the longest cave network in Dolenjska region. A part of the cave complex is open to visitors and you’ll be able to admire nature’s underground creations (Unfortunately it was closed due to COVID during our last visit, therefore just photo with Nano sniffing around the entrance. It’s already opened now!).
Brežice is a town in Eastern Slovenia, located in the lower Sava river valley (Er – another river valley in Slovenia. Yep, we have many). Buuut, Brežice is also a place where Krka river ends its course and flows into Sava river.
The old part of the town consists of two charismatic streets that end at yet another medieval castle, Brežice castle. The castle is home to Posavje museum (Posavje = region around Sava river) which presents the heritage of the regions from the old days until today. My favorite thing in the castle? The Knight’s hall with baroque frescoes.
Old painted houses are huddled together on the Ulica Stare Pravde (Old Justice’s Street) and at its end, there’s a pastel-pink water tower that strongly reminds me of those fairytale towers where princesses were kept in. I did read a lot of Disney books in case you were wondering.
To see the exact spot where Krka river flows into the Sava river, head to the main bridge that leads into the town.
PRO TIP: Towards the end of Krka river, you’ll find a funky-looking beach bar at the riverbank (Tochka bar). I’m talking pallet furniture, wooden menus, and tasty coffee and beer. Oh yeah, our kind of pit stop. They also have a food truck, kayaks and SUPs for rent, and picnic areas for a barbeque. Sold.
WHERE TO STAY IN KRKA RIVER VALLEY
Slovenia is small, which means you can easily visit these places on a few day trips from Ljubljana. But for an even better experience, we’d suggest you stay in Dolenjska region while exploring it.
Options are plentiful!
You can stay at one of the hotels in Novo mesto, opt for accommodation at thermal parks (Dolenjske toplice, Šmarješke toplice) and pair exploring with spa fun or spend a night in one of many tourist farms (with delicious home-made goodies for breakfast, yummy!) or authentic vineyard cottages.
⇨ Not on Airbnb yet? Book through this link and you’ll get up to $44 off your first trip!
While planning more trips around Slovenia, make sure not to miss this:
Already dreaming about a trip to Krka river valley? I sure do hope so! 🙂
But – as always, if you happen to have any questions just put it in the comments below or write to us (helloatbluemarblevagabonds.com). We’ll be more than happy to help – after all, we’re locals 😀
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