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Small but perfectly formed, Slovenia is a natural beauty oozing rustic charm. A jewel of central Europe, far from the tourist trail, its pristine landscape features sparkling emerald lakes and rivers, an Adriatic coastline, and majestic Alpine peaks, hills and dales. Bordered by Austria, Italy, Hungary and Croatia, Slovenia is an independent republic and now an EU member.

One of Europe’s smallest capital cities, Ljubljana is known as the City of Palaces, with its ornate art nouveau architecture. In the festive season its historic squares are lined with Christmas markets.

Perched on the edge of the Julian Alps, close to the Triglav National Park, is the tranquil town of Bled with its stunning glacial lake. In the lake’s centre, Bled Island is adorned by a tiny baroque chapel with its famous bell that has been tolling since 1534.

The subterranean Postojna caves, accessed by a thrilling train ride, feature sculptured galleries, chambers and halls carved over millions of years by tiny drops of water. Equally awe-inspiring is the nearby cliff-side castle of Predjama, which is situated in the gaping mouth of a cavern.