The World’s Top Retirement Haven No One’s Ever Heard Of
Among the breakout destinations featured in our just-released Retire Overseas Index is one you’ve probably never heard of and likely will struggle to spell or pronounce much less pinpoint on a map.
I’m speaking of Ljubljana, Slovenia.
In our efforts to introduce you to the world’s best places to live or retire overseas, we’re ever on the lookout for under-appreciated (and, usually, therefore, under-valued) destinations of opportunity. Ljubljana is one such unsung gem.
First, let’s get our bearings…
Slovenia is nestled among Italy, Austria, Hungary, and Croatia in Central Europe. It’s the second richest of the 13 Slavic countries.
This is a mountainous territory, with 47 kms of Adriatic coastline and a rich aquifer system, much of it underground, that cuts through the limestone in subterranean rivers. The country is impressively bio-diverse, occupying an enviable position at the center of four major geographic points: the Alps, the Dinaric Alps, the Pannonian Plain, and the Adriatic Sea.
Though this is certainly a First-World country, it’s also refreshingly rural and largely forested.
Slovenia’s past is long and turbulent. This piece of earth has been shuffled among major world powers starting with the Roman Empire, then the Holy Roman Empire and the Habsburg monarchy. The country was annexed by Germany during World War II, made a socialist republic under Yugoslavia, and finally emerged an independent nation with multiparty democracy in 1991. It went on to gain EU membership in 2004.
This is a nation of resiliency and adaptability, its population hardy and determined.
Charming, Old World capital-city Ljubljana is the heart of the country, both literally and figuratively. It’s a small city of 272,000 people, but, with easy access to both beaches and ski resorts, it offers the best of all worlds in terms of lifestyle options.
Ljubljana is also a modern city with all the amenities of 21st-century living that manages to retain a small-town charm. Local farmers bring their produce to market in wooden carts each day.
An historical crossroads and key trade route, Ljubljana is home to Germanic, Slavic, and Mediterranean cultures and influences. Venice is only two-and-a-half hours away, and the country’s small coastal villages are undistinguishable from those of northern Italy.
The architecturally stunning Ljubljana boasts important Baroque, Art Nouveau, and Art Deco structures and landmarks, even though the city has been rebuilt several times over, after earthquakes. Hostel Celica is a wonderful example of the architectural ingenuity and integrity of the city. The country’s most popular hostel was resurrected from the skeleton of a former Yugoslavian military prison. Guests sleep behind bars, comfortable in artistically designed cells crafted by 80 artists over 10 years.
From Ljubljana, the coast is only an hour away. Head south to enjoy the olive groves, the breathtaking ocean views, and clean, clear water of the Adriatic… or head 45 minutes north of the city to experience Lake Bled, its small island (Bled Island), the pristine mountains and forests that surround the area, and medieval Bled Castle.
Slovenia is home to numerous golf courses, six of which are within about an hour’s drive of the capital city. Slovenia’s mountains are also a premier ski destination within Central Europe, with more than 50 ski areas, including several of international significance in the Julian Alps. Krvavec ski resort (with 26 kilometers of runs), Kranjska Gora, Vogel, and Cerkno are the nearest to the capital, just about an hour away.
Slovenia even has a wine region in the hills around Maribor, also only an hour from the capital. The northeast of the country is home to numerous spas, and the country boasts three UNESCO World Heritage Sites and more casinos than any other country in the EU.
Slovenia has a very low crime rate in general and is ranked the 10th safest country in the world. The OSAC (Overseas Security Advisory Council) has given the country its lowest danger rating. Violent crime is all but unheard of.
What cost all this Old World charm supported by top-notch, real-world infrastructure? A couple could live comfortably in Ljubljana for less than US$1,500 a month.
Yet, despite having so much to offer, this country remains off the world’s radar, with no large-scale tourism market… yet. Tourists to date are mainly European, and the few expats who have found their way to this corner of Europe are British retirees.
We hope to help change that. Ljubljana deserves a whole lot more attention than she’s been getting.