I’m Going To Slovenia & Macedonia!

Filed Under: Travel

While I’ve really been enjoying flying less lately, I also recently wrote about how it’s time I get back in the air for a variety of reasons.

I actually already have a significant amount of travel planned for April, as I’m traveling to Dubai and Beirut, and then later in the month am flying WestJet’s new 787 to Europe, and am returning on Air Europa’s 787.

However, I just pulled the trigger on another trip I’ll be taking shortly, which I wanted to share the details of.

The destinations

I’ll be sharing the flights below, but in terms of destinations, I’ll be spending a couple of days in each of Ljubljana, Slovenia, and Skopje, Macedonia.

I’ve heard that Ljubljana is an absolutely ljubley lovely city, and Slovenia is also a country I haven’t been to. I’ll also be curious to see their impression of Americans, given that our first lady Melania comes from there.

Macedonia is another new country for me, and I’m so excited to visit, even though I don’t really know what to expect. Macedonia has been on my radar ever since the “Invest in Macedonia” commercials played on CNN International.

I’m imagining that Ljubljana will be a charming European city, perhaps along the lines of Tallinn or Riga in terms of beauty and charm.

As far as Skopje goes, I don’t know what to expect. In my mind I’m sort of picturing something along the lines of Yerevan, Armenia, but I guess we’ll see.

Again, those are both just the initial impressions I have when thinking of both places, though I’m excited to see what they’re really like. If anyone has any recommendations for either place, I’d love to hear them!

The flights

I’m really happy with the flights I managed to book as part of this:

Bottom line

I’m excited to once again be taking a review trip, as it has been too long. I’m really happy with the way this came together, as I’ll get to visit two new countries, will fly two new airlines altogether, and will try several new products on airlines I’ve already flown, all while checking out Istanbul’s new airport.

Comments
  1. Hey Ben, how did you end up booking the RAM flights since membership rewards and TYP transfers to EY are currently broken?

  2. Welcome to Slovenia, country I am from. It is a very beautiful small country in center of Europe. Adria Airways is our national airline providing us link with Lufthansa Group and flights from Ljubljana (capital city) to Lufthansa Group hub airports ( Frankfurt, Munich, Vienna and Zurich) for the intercontinental flights. It is also a common choice for passengers from southern Balkan on their flights to Europe. Lately many passengers also choose Turkish Airlines (offering 2 daily flights) for flights to Asia, America and Africa. Unfortunately we don’t have any direct flights to Middle East, so we need to drive to ZAG or VCE for non-stop flights.

  3. I wish you wouldn’t post what airlines you’re flying until after you fly because there is always a significant chance that your experience will be different than other passengers. Same for hotels.

  4. Well, I am from Slovenia and would be happy to help with any pointers. Ljubljana is more inline with Austrian cities than Baltics. Adria is LH/LX/OS feeder airlines with typical European business class, with blocked muddle/next seat. Would highly recommend visiting Postojna cave and Predjama castle (both are close and less than hour from Ljubljana), Bled lake and castle, and also Ptuj as oldest Roman-times city in the region with majestic castle. All easy to reach from Ljubljana. I can take you to any if those.

  5. Ljubljana is great, one.of.my favorite cities in Europe! I highly recommend the Intercontinental…..I used 40k points to become an Ambassador member….the uswd the free night to get a Suite in there in addition to my one IHG night reward night from the Chase IHG card and paid for the last night….totally worth it!

  6. Slovenia is fairyland. I’m glad that it’s still under the radar of those American fellows who can’t behave themselves even on vacation, unlike neighboring Croatia. #makesloveniagreatalways

  7. expect “Las Vegas” in Skopje, I can’t wait to read your impressions, food is excellent in Macedonia

    Ljubljana is small but lovely, but real beauty in Slovenia are Alps and its summits, rivers, valleys, lakes… breathtaking

  8. I was born in Macedonia, but I currently live in the US. I would highly encourage you to go outside of Skopje to explore some of the untouched nature in the country. I would also highly recommend going down to Ohrid.

  9. Careful with Skopje. I got robbed there by gypsies, so be very mindful(the only time I got robbed in my life). They are all over the place.

  10. If you need any assistance when in Slovenia I am more than happy to help you out.

    Best hotel in Ljubljana is Inter Continental (opened 2 years ago). It is only 5 star hotel in Ljubljana. Inter Continental is located right in the downtown (5 minute walk from the center). Beside Inter Continental there is also Radisson Blu and Four Points by Sheraton. Both hotels are on the outskirts of city near the expressway (about 10 minutes drive from downtown).

    Ljubljana is lovely small town, we have a nice waterfront area along the river in the downtown. Ljubljana is also very safe and clean city.

  11. Skopje is so weird. As previously stated, certainly more European than Yerevan, but with some seriously funny new architecture.

  12. Have fun at Casablanca airport.. worst sh**hole I have ever had the pleasure of stopping in.. both the airport and the city. Oh man.. it was a terrible layover.. both times

  13. Ljubljana is lovely (stay in the center, it is fully pedestrian), food is great.

    Try to get out of the city and go to fun nature areas: Logarska Dolina, Skojcan cave (more impressive than Postojna, also less touristy), Triglav National Park, etc.

    Piran is also nice for a quick visit if the weather is pleasant.

    Bled is rather overrated, IMHO, but Slovenia was one of my favorite countries to visit.

  14. Ben as there are some people from Slovenia who are following you, we can meet for a drink.

  15. Slovenia is absolutely stunning. Do try and get out to Lake Ohrid as well, it’s one of the most underrated destinations in Europe and well worth the trip from Skopje.

  16. Slovenia is awesome. I second Postojna cave and Predjama castle as suggested, both very worthy of a visit. That is all I have seen as it was a one day cruise tour but I would very much like to go back and see more.

  17. Hi Ben,
    You are probably going to drive from LJU to ZAG-something is telling me you are not going to add FLIXBUS review to your trip:-) ? OU segment you are mentioning can only be ZAG SKP early afternoon or late evening service. Drive through Slovenia and west Croatia is so scenic in the spring and I strongly recommend taking regional roads instead of the highways. Just after the border is city of Samobor, small, charming, great 1/2h to have a cup of coffee at the main square before continuing to ZAG. Safe travels, cheers!

  18. Went about 1 year and a half ago to Skopje. Although I barely explored the place (business trip), I got more central European vibes than Baltic ones (coming from someone living in central Europe). I’ve wanted to go back, but haven’t had the chance yet. The Marriott was really clean and pretty modern, so given their usually low prices (sub 100€), that should be your best choice. Though I think that there were plans for a Hilton to open. Not sure whether that has capitalized or not

  19. Hi guys,

    Thank you for all the comments and recommendation. I will be heading to Macedonia in April and Slovenia in July. What a coincidence.

    I live in Sydney and flying to Europe is usually > 20 hours. In 2 weeks, I will be flying TK via IST new airport and spend a few days there before heading to Skopje and then Kosovo.

    With the recent Turkish election and new IST airport opening, does anyone has any advice or comment regarding traveling in Istanbul?

  20. Ben,
    I wrote above post thinking like…well. not like Ben.
    You fly somewhere from EU-LJU-SKP-ZAG-IST-USA? Why should you drive 200 km when you can take two 1.5h flights instead? Oh, life of rich and famous… 🙂
    I might be wrong again but this routing seems more realistic. For you, not for us mortals. Cheers!

  21. There is really no discernable difference between Turkish A330 and 777 business class seats with the exception of 2-2-2 vs 2-3-2 layout.

  22. Ljubljana is a beautiful and picturesque city. I did volunteer work there many years ago. Check out the Fortress, the Castle, and the Tivoli City Park with a coffee and take a walk along the river and the gorgeous parks. My favorite restaurant is Spajza and my favorite cafe, Lolita Cafe. Enjoy!

    As for Skopje, head to the Memorial House to Mother Teresa, the Mustafa Pasha Mosque, traverse around Lake Matka and check out Skopje Fortress, in that order of preference. For food, check out the Old City House and the Vila Vesnica Ethno Restaurant.

    Cheers!

  23. You gonna love Macedonia! It’s such an underrated country. Extremely affordable and nice people. Make sure to visit Matka Canyon nearby Skopje and Lake Ohrid in the south! Bon Voyage!

  24. Skopje is very nice! Marriott is close to Macedonia Square (downtown). Look for Matka Canyon, very close to city. Walking for Old Bazar area. Enjoy the city!

  25. Does no one understand the difference between “Baltics” and “Balkans”??? Enjoy Slovenia – it’s pretty but, from a cultural perspective, a bunch of Austrian wannabees with Slav inferiority complex. Croatia or Bosnia are far more rewarding for visitors.

  26. I am surprised nobody has mentioned the old city or the bazaar area in Skopje–probably the only authentic part of the city left after it has been architecturally raped by the previous nationalistic government. Also, probably the most authentic bazaar left in the Balkans today. The Macedonians are lucky to have managed a government change last year and opening the prospects for EU and NATO membership after signing the name deal with Greece. However, unfortunately the EU has no guts to follow through. The Americans will push NATO to adopt North Macedonia at the newest member.

    If you get bored in Skopje and want to add another country to your list hop over the border to Kosovo and visit Prizren (an hour-long car ride). An hour or two in Prizren are enough and then head over to the capital, Pristina for the rest of the day and drive back to Skopje.

    And Slovenia is indeed lovely.

  27. Hi Ben,

    I am flattered that you included the link to the CNN commercial. Once upon a time, I negotiated the contract for that commercial with CNN for the country.

    Over the last 20 years, I also attracted the aforementioned Marriott to Skopje. On the aviation side, I brought in British Airways to Skopje in the late 1990s (lasted for about 5 or so years — but that route to London Gatwick was BA’s single most profitable intra-European route during that timeframe).

    I also brought in the now-defunct Air Berlin — and Wizz Air (which today has over half the market share in SKP) and also had a hand with Qatar Airways’ nonstop flight to Doha. I am working with others to try to convince THY to go nonstop from EWR to SKP with continuing service to IST.

    I would actually recommend that you fly into OHD rather than SKP and have a look around (largest freshwater lake in Europe with a church for every day of the year ringing the area) and then take a car or a bus to SKP. Look at the http://www.wizzair.com website since you can’t easily find those flights on other search engines.

    See also http://www.exploringmacedonia.com

    I can also arrange a meeting for you with the airports director if you want to talk shop.

    I’m sure you can get my contact details from below and I look forward to hearing from you.

    Safe onward travels!

  28. I took Adria last year from Vienna.

    The flight attendants changed uniforms during the flight. Took off in one uniform, landed in a completely different one! For the life of me, I can’t figure out why and was too shy to ask.

    And yes, go to Bled.

    Intercontinental… not that great. Decent hard product, but they haven’t figured out how to properly run a hotel yet.

  29. Ljubljana is a true gem, and Skopke + Lake Ohrid were definite highlights of 2018 travel for me.

  30. Having travelled to every single country in Europe, Slovenia is my recommended destination. The gastronomy scene is taking off in Slovenia, owing to the abundance of fresh and high quality ingredients from the picturesque country. I am not one for tourist attractions – just stroll through the beautiful city and enjoy the sights, sounds, smell of cafes, and people watch. Much love and enjoy!

  31. You really should try to get out the capital when you are in Slovenia. There is a cave a short drive from the capital that has a train built inside the cave. It is reputed to be the longest railroad in any cave in the world — and possibly the only one. The train runs within inches of the cave walls.
    The sign outside the cave, when translated, reads “Cave Cave”.

    Also, there is a beautiful lake (with an island in the middle) where General Tito used to take his vacations. It is so beautiful that I recently saw it on the cover of a world travel brochure.

  32. The thing I learned from this post is that Slovenians approach Fijian levels of friendliness. It definitely makes me want to visit.

  33. You can’t go wrong with Turkish Airlines. I flew them IST – SFO yesterday … probably 20+ business flights on them now … always excellent. They make United, Virgin, BA, AA all look like amateurs in business.

  34. Ljubljana is architecturally and ‘vibe’ similar to a smaller Austrian/Italian country blend. Think Graz etc. Due to Austro-Hungarians + Italian influences from way back.

  35. Assuming you booked the Maroc trip with Etihad, can you update how that got resolved? Trying to book the same but scared to transfer the miles without some datapoints

  36. Agree with chiguy. Personally, didn’t enjoy Slovenia ‘as a local’ but the city centre, and tourist attractions like Bled, postojna and so on are fine for a few days.

  37. @JY… my wife and I spent 5 nights in Istanbul and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and always felt safe and welcomed. The food, architecture and Bosphorus setting were a great basis for a fun short break. Turkey’s tourism is rebounding but with a different tourism demographic than 5-8 years ago so they are in the process of figuring it out. Most everything was very very reasonable from Taxi’s to restaurants.
    @Lucky. I booked the business class points milk run home with TK from IST-ZHR, reverse herrringbone, no complaints but really no window seats as the window rows all face in, LX from ZRH to MIA business class – middle row to myself , comfortable for a daytime flight but if I wanted to fully lie flat would get an aisle seat with some breathing room, I went fully flat in a middle throne seat to see what it was like and it was very tight. ZRH airport and LX lounge; one of the best I have experienced. LX in flight service – top notch.
    MIA-ATL in AA extra legroom, 737’s are just tight left to right no matter in economy or economy xtra.
    IST-ATL TK Non Stop A 330 coach came available after I had booked my milk run home for 30K points … 13+ hours in TK economy over my two stops, I think I would opt for that next time.
    Look forward to visiting Slovenia & Macedonia in the near future.

  38. Macedonia is wonderful. Muslim bazaar market has the best shirts in Europe. Also, the Holocaust Museum in Skopje is so moving. Tremendous art and artefacts. The Bulgarian carriages used to transport people hit you emotionally like lightning bolt. Lake Ohrid has the greatest food and the cleanest, sparkling water.

  39. I went to Ljubljana almost 10 years ago, and it was a wonderful city. Bled, Skopje, and other cities in the former Yugoslavia have all held famous chess tournaments at one time or another. As I was there for an investment conference, I got to see a fair number of folks from “Invest in Macedonia” (…Poland, Serbia, and of course Slovenia), so it’s funny that’s why North Macedonia is on your radar. I was stuck at the conference except for a trip to the Fortress and wandering around downtown one morning, but you definitely should get out to see the countryside from what I’ve heard and your other readers clearly know more about.

  40. @Ali — Emirates does not plan to have Netflix on their aircraft. They aim to have a “Netflix-style” entertainment system on their flights. Read the article you posted.

  41. I was in Ljubljana last year what a quaint, and walkable city. I stayed at the InterContinental and enjoyed it, the penthouse terrace restaurant affords great views of the city. I would recommend a visit to close by Lake Bled and look forward to your Skopje, North Macedonia trip report, since I will be visiting it in May!!!

  42. i hope you have enough time in Slovenia to be convinced when i say that i’m not very gracious when giving compliments to countries i’ve visited (100+) but slovenia (all of it) was absolutely stunning. Ljubljana is charming and lovely but not much different from many other european countries. driving around in slovenia was amazing and Skopje was definitely a weird experience. please set aside some extra time for slovenia

  43. Skopje, Macedonia is much X higher standart than Armenia, cannot compare.

    I urge you to take your time and make a trip down to lovely OHRID city thats placed coast of Lake Ohrid. And the wooden walkway along the river is one of the most romantic places to take a walk I have ever been to, given there wont be much crowds compared to summer time. Oops when are you going anyway ?

  44. Lake Ohrid is on the border between Macedonia and Albania. It is reputed to have some of the best-tasting grilled fresh-water fish in the world (but that’s a matter of opinion, of course).

    If you cross the border, you’ll find that Albanians are more fun. Be aware that some Albanians still introduce themselves by bumping your shoulder. We have our handshakes, Japanese have their bows, Albanians have their shoulder bumps.

  45. If you want to be a credible blog, change the name to “North Macedonia” because the official name has changed.

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