(The fact that I come from this beautiful little Slovenian gem has absolutely nothing to do with my belief that this is indeed an improved version of Tuscany...) (...weeeell I might be slightly biased but this does not mean you shouldn't take these recommendations seriously!)
Dolenjska is a wine-rich region with vast green patches of forests, vineyards and fields, and its beautiful river Krka lazily meandering among romantic towns and villages.
It's a real hidden gem - most tourists will visit Ljubljana and Bled and won't bother to go as far as Dolenjska region - although it's only 70 kilometers from Ljubljana. You'll have these charms all to yourself.
#1 TRAVEL THROUGH TIME IN ROMANTIC CASTLE OTOČEC
Castle Otočec rests on an island in the middle of river Krka. Although dating back to 13th century, it is incredibly well preserved as it hosts a luxury Relais Chateau hotel today. A popular wedding destination, it's also a perfect spot to have a leisurely stroll and a picnic on the island.
#2 EXPERIENCE HOW WINE IS MADE
Treat yourself to a pristine experience of spending the night in a zidanica (vineyard cabin) and watching the sunset with a glass of local wine in your hands, surrounded by nothing but vineyards.
#3 SPOIL YOURSELF IN ONE OF THE OLDEST SPAS IN EUROPE
Dolenjske Toplice, placed in a charming little town deep in the scenic countryside, is famous for its natural spa and thermal baths. End your spa day with a dinner in the fantastic Oštarija restaurant that will not only satisfy your taste buds but also comfort the soul.
(Keep in mind that due to it's popularity the spa can get a bit crowded - especially during the holidays. However, there's always an alternative - Šmarješke Toplice.)
#4 CHOOSE FROM A RICH SPORTS MENU
Canoeing, hiking, Nordic walking, cycling, skiing, you name it - sky is the limit in this part of Slovenia. Keep in mind that canoeing might not be as whimsical as on river Soča and skiing actually means going down one or two slopes and spending most of the day drinking mulled wine. (Which is the whole point of skiing anyway, right? Win-win situation.)
3 MUST-DO'S IN DOLENJSKA
§ Go canoeing on the river Krka.
§ Take a stroll through the island of castle Otočec.
§ Book a night or two in zidanica (vineyard cabin), surrouned by nothing but vineyards.
#5 SIP COFFEE IN A ROMANTIC OLD TOWN
Novo mesto - tiny town on the first photo of this post, offers a few cafes with terraces touching the green river. Coffee culture is BIG in this part of Slovenia and nobody will judge you if you spend a couple of hours leisurely soaking up the sun in a cafe.
I've got a couple of other hidden gems from this region prepared to share with you shortly so stay tuned!