My bucket list is bursting with far-flung destinations. Some you may be familiar with, and others you’ve probably never heard of. Of the latter is Slovenia, a small nation in Central Europe that’s captured my curiosity for the better part of the last four years. A place with scenery so ethereal, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was AI-generated.

And what if I told you it’s got everything that other popular European destinations have, but for a fraction of the price? Think awe-inspiring natural landscapes, charming cobblestone towns, mouth-watering Michelin-star dining, and even a town guarded by dragons. Pretty cool, right?

Slovenia has sat simmering on my to-do list for years. And getting there is simpler than I thought. With points, I fly in comfort from Melbourne to London in Qantas Premium Economy. From there, it’s a short hop over to Ljubljana to begin my adventure. On my journey home – using points, of course – I treat myself to a blissful 14-hour leg in Finnair’s new A350 Business Class. My flights and a First Class train ride to Munich clock in at just $1,286 + 242,600 Qantas Points per person. Not bad for a stylish European sojourn!

And the good news is that you can absolutely do this trip yourself! We’ve even packaged it up over on Point Hacks Travel so you can experience all the highlights of Slovenia. But first, check out the video below to see what I get up to.

Flying to Slovenia from Australia

My journey begins in Melbourne onboard QF9, Qantas’ direct service from Melbourne to London Heathrow via Perth (this route iteration will cease from July 2024, commencing in Perth instead of Melbourne.) I’ve got 23 hours until I land in London, with a quick 90-minute stop in Perth. But thanks to the Premium Economy ticket I’m clutching, I’m not dreading the long flight one bit.

In fact, I manage around seven hours of uninterrupted sleep following the meal service and three movies. And I don’t even have a flatbed! I’m a mere 5’4″, so the wider seat, extra pitch, deeper recline and foot net make it very easy to get comfortable at 32,000 feet.

Finally, it’s time for my last leg – a short hop to Ljubljana in British Airways Economy. I get a bit of shut-eye on the two-hour flight, waking up just in time to catch a glimpse of the sprawling Julian Alps. As the plane descends over Slovenia, my eyes are glued to the view below. Towns are dotted through the valleys. The tallest peaks are sprinkled with snow. The lyrics ‘nothing feels better than this’ repeat through my earphones as I emerge from the clouds, the green landscape below inviting me to explore. Slovenia, it’s been a long time coming.

Breathtaking Bled

Ask me what’s on my bucket list, and I’ll scroll through the photos saved on my phone, enthusiastically searching for the ethereal image of a snowy Bled Island. Undoubtedly one of Slovenia’s most iconic views, I’d longed for years to stand on the edge of Lake Bled and admire it for myself. I step out onto the balcony of my room at Hotel Kompas and take a deep breath as the quaint town of Bled unfolds before me. Today’s the day.

Sauntering through the streets of Bled as the low cloud lingers above the lake, gently cloaking Bled Castle, I’m oddly amused at the sight before me. I let out a soft chuckle – it’s ridiculous how picturesque this place is. I’m convinced all this beauty is part of a simulation, and Slovenia isn’t real.

This feeling only amplifies when I arrive at Vintgar Gorge. Wooden walkways cling to the walls of the gorge, leading me alongside the gushing turquoise waters of the Radovna River. I stop every few minutes, turning in circles to admire every angle. I’m not a nature fiend by any means, but Vintgar Gorge easily tops my highlights of this trip.

As far as comfort food goes, Bled has it covered. In fact, the town has its very own dessert – a cream cake. The flaky, vanilla slab pairs well with a whipped cream coffee to fuel me up for the day. Even more pleasing is my cosy dinner – traditional Slovenian ravioli with cottage cheese and sausage. It’s the type of meal that leaves me feeling warm and fuzzy on the inside.

Thankfully, after eating my way around Bled, I have ample opportunities for unintentional workouts. A light hike up to Bled Castle rewards me with the best view over the town. But my afternoon stroll to Zaka campsite on the opposite end of the lake gets me the ultimate Instagram-worthy shot of Bled. The same view that cemented Slovenia’s spot on my to-do list all those years ago. Except this time, I wasn’t seeing it on a screen.

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Vibrant Ljubljana

There’s something about the essence of the nation’s capital, Ljubljana, that tugs at my heartstrings. Maybe it’s the seamless yet unlikely combination of Baroque and Art Nouveau architecture that pulses throughout the city. Maybe it’s the way the surrounding lights gently illuminate the river at night. Or perhaps it’s how every interaction ends with ‘have a nice day!’ – a warmth I’ve seldom felt elsewhere. Two hours into my visit to Ljubljana, I can already tell I’ll find it hard to leave.

Set inside a 16th-century Renaissance building, the boutique Hotel Heritage is my base for three nights. Here, I’m no more than a 10-minute walk away from almost everything on my itinerary. That includes the famous Triple Bridge, Preseren Square and the Old Town at the base of Ljubljana Castle.

Car-free zones – like the area around my hotel – are common in this city. But the best spots are found on foot anyway. Like the store in Old Town that hands out free samples of Slovenian blueberry liqueur (thank me later), the chocolate shops that are open far longer than any grocery store, and the coffee house in the square that serves up a pour-over coffee to easily rival any Melbourne cafe.

The town is buzzing in preparation for the Ljubljana Marathon. But its enthusiasm for sports is mirrored in its vibrant arts scene, which is more my style. Having never seen an opera, I decide the Ljubljana Opera House is the perfect spot to dip my toes into a double performance. As expected from a city that boasts a quirky arts district and countless galleries, the shows are unique, captivating, and leave an impression on me long after the curtains fall. Much like Ljubljana itself.

But beyond the city, there’s even more charm. Whizzing through the impressive underground caves of Postojna on an open train, I feel like a kid in a candy store. I mean, it’s not every day I get to explore cave formations that are millions of years old. So. Cool. Even cooler is the nearby Predjama Castle, perched on a cliff face overlooking a valley. I thought the unintentional workouts concluded in Bled, but I give myself one last push to ascend the stairs leading into the part of the castle that’s built into a cave. The sights speak for themselves.

Ljubljana’s culinary scene delights my curiosity. I order Slovenian dumplings, half-expecting a plate of several small dumplings similar to those served elsewhere in the world. But I’m ecstatic as two plates land in front of me with a single giant dumpling plopped on each – one sweet and one savoury. I practically inhale them, stopping briefly between bites to savour the textures and flavours. Have you ever had a dish overseas that you still dream about constantly? I’ll go first – Slovenian dumplings.

The culinary journey continues with a delectable dinner at the one Michelin-star Restavracija Strelec inside Ljubljana Castle. My seven-course meal is paired with Slovenian wine, each from a different part of the country. It’s a small nation, but Slovenia boasts over 28,000 wineries – a treasure trove for wine aficionados. The sommelier walks me through the diverse flavour profiles, with each glass providing a glimpse into Slovenia’s exceptional wine industry. I’m only scratching the surface!

As night falls and I gaze out over the city, sipping undoubtedly the most delicious dessert wine I’ve ever tasted, I realise that this dinner – and my time in Ljubljana – is drawing to a close. Sure enough, my initial feeling was correct. I’m not ready to leave just yet. But after spending the last few days basking in the beauty of this place, I know one thing’s for certain – I’ll definitely return.

Heading home

The first leg of my journey home from Ljubljana takes me to Munich via train. When flying out of Europe using points, it pays to be creative with departure cities. Backtracking to London to fly home would see me slugged with the UK’s hefty airport departure fees. So instead, I’ve got a leg in Finnair’s fantastic Business Class to look forward to.

After several days of exploring Slovenia on foot, I’m relieved to be sitting idly for six hours in a First Class train carriage from Ljubljana to Munich. And let me tell you, it’s worth the splurge. My window seat is spacious, the carriage is ultra-quiet, and I’m neighbourless for the entire journey as I float through the Austrian countryside. Bliss.

From Munich, it’s a short two-hour flight up to Helsinki to catch my flight to Hong Kong in Finnair’s A350 Business Class. My ticket grants me access to Finnair’s non-Schengen zone Business Class lounge, where I grab a midnight snack. But I’m saving my stomach for the full onboard experience.

There’s no better feeling than boarding a 14-hour flight and seeing a flatbed topped with Marimekko bedding and a matching amenity kit. I’m planning to get some shut-eye, stat. But when there’s an offering of Champagne during boarding, I figure the snooze can wait. It may be midnight in Helsinki, but it’s 5 pm somewhere in the world.

Another glass of wine – a red, this time – finds its way into my suite alongside dinner before I settle in for a much-needed rest. Now, Finnair’s new A350 Business Class seat doesn’t exactly recline into a flatbed. Rather, I flip the footrest up, unfold the soft topper, shimmy my way into the generous footwell and stretch all the way out, sinking into the warmth of my Marimekko blanket.

I enjoy a solid eight hours of sleep, waking up briefly to spritz my face and dab some lotion on in the privacy of my suite. One of my favourite things about flying up the pointy end is that I can refresh myself during a long flight without disturbing my neighbour!

In fact, I’m feeling so refreshed after my leg in Business Class that I’m completely unfazed during my red-eye Economy flight back to Australia. If the availability of reward seats only allows for one leg in Business Class, it’s still worth the journey. And when it only costs $413 to fly from Europe to Australia when using points, I’m not gonna not.

Soar to Slovenia with points

Slovenia can seem like one of those magical, far-flung destinations. But with points, it’s well within reach. Here’s a breakdown of the costs for this incredible escape:

  • Melbourne to London via Perth in Qantas Premium Economy: 108,400 Qantas Points + $344.72
  • London to Ljubljana in British Airways Economy: $386
  • Train from Ljubljana to Munich in First Class: $142.48
  • Munich – Helsinki in Finnair Economy, Helsinki to Hong Kong in Finnair Business Class, Hong Kong to Sydney in Cathay Pacific Economy: 134,200 Qantas Points + $412.98

The total cost of return flights – with most legs in premium cabins – and a First Class train journey is 242,600 Qantas Points and $1,286 per person. Not a bad price to fly from Australia to Europe in style!

And with Point Hacks Travel, you can nab exclusive deals to destinations around the world. Check out our Slovenia package below, which includes accommodation and a full-day wine tour. And with Slovenia located right next door to Croatia, there’s also the opportunity to extend your holiday. Prefer to travel elsewhere? We can even build a custom itinerary for your dream trip!

Wondering how to get your hands on some points to fly in style? There are loads of ways to earn Qantas Points from everyday activities (that’s right, you don’t even need to fly!) But my favourite way to boost my points balance is with a points-earning credit card, like the ones below. And by leveraging sign-up bonuses, you could be well on your way to exploring Slovenia in no time.

Having ventured to Slovenia and ticked off this long-time bucket list destination, I can undoubtedly confirm that its name rings true – there’s so much to love about Slovenia. But don’t just take my word for it. One of my favourite quotes is, ‘It’s better to see something once than to hear about it a thousand times.’ So, when will you be visiting?

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All photography by Victoria Kyriakopoulos, who travelled at Point Hacks’ expense.

Soak up spectacular Slovenia with Qantas Points was last modified: May 16th, 2024 by Victoria Kyriakopoulos