Apitourism in Slovenia is HUGE… but perhaps you’re not quite sure what it even is? While you may only associate Slovenia with the picturesque Lake Bled, lots of other people know it for one major thing: beekeeping.
In fact, Slovenia is the world capital of beekeeping. It has the most beekeepers per capita (1 per every 200 residents); has its own breed of honeybee; and was home to the world’s first beekeeping instructor (Anton Janša, in the 1700s).
From then on, beekeeping became a sacred tradition in Slovenia and a major part of everyday life. (It’s even been designated an example of Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO.) And this tradition is still going strong. You’ll see brightly painted beehives everywhere you go in Slovenia and fuzzy buzzy honeybees on every wildflower.
Apitourism in Slovenia
Given the importance of beekeeping in Slovenian culture, exploring this tradition should be on every visitor’s list. As a beekeeper myself (not sure if you knew that about me!), I was very excited to be able to check out all that the motherland (queenland?) has to offer in terms of apitourism in Slovenia during my June 2023 visit.
But these experiences aren’t just for beekeepers! Apitourism in Slovenia is for everyone—those who are just curious, those seeking health and wellness, adventure, or just sweet treats. For your next trip to the world capital of beekeeping, be sure to check out these 17 awesome examples of apitourism in Slovenia.
The lists of providers I’ve put in this post are not all-inclusive but just some good starting points. Before my own trip I found it extremely difficult to nail down some exact providers and locations, so this is my attempt at making it as easy as possible for you to experience apitourism in Slovenia.
1. Tour an apiary
If you’re not a beekeeper yourself and/or have never been around beehives and/or honeybees en masse, definitely start by touring an apiary.
An apiary is simply a collection of beehives and/or the area where beehives are kept.
Many Slovenian beekeepers even offer this service from their very own homes. You can visit their home apiary where they’ll suit you up and introduce you to the tradition of Slovenian beekeeping right there in their backyards.
An experienced beekeeper will teach you all about the history of beekeeping in Slovenia and honeybees in general. You’ll get to see the hives up close and all the crazy bee action going in and out of the hives. (I personally call this the “Honeybee Superhighway.”) You’ll also get to sample fresh honey and more. (I’ll talk about the “more” throughout this post.)
These aren’t large commercial ventures or anything—you’ll actually be learning about Slovenian beekeeping from local Slovenian beekeepers. This is as grassroots as it gets.
Apitourism in Slovenia: where to tour an apiary
There’s a long list of beekeepers who offer this service, but here are a few you can start with:
- Toni Zupančič in Rateče (near Kranjska Gora). Also on Instagram.
- Batištuta Beekeeping in Kojsko (near the Italian border). Also on Facebook.
- Panorama Glamping offers the chance to “become a beekeeper for a day.”
- Kralov Med offers a variety of different guided apiary tours.
- Čebelarstvo Kozmus in Lesično has comprehensive guided tours.
2. Spend the night in a beehive
While this one may be for the more open-minded traveler, it’s still not as daring (i.e. batshit crazy) as it sounds. When I first heard about beehive hotels as part of the apitourism in Slovenia, I knew instantly it was something I had to experience for myself! And it was definitely an adventure.
All over Slovenia people have constructed sleeping cabins that double as beehives. And, no, this is not the beginning of a horror movie. Rather, it’s the beginning of an extremely unique health and wellness experience.
“Sleeping with bees” is reported to have many physical and mental health benefits. The constant hum and vibration of the thousands of bees, the aromatherapy of the honey-scented room, and the highly ionized air from the hives are just the start of it.
The bees are never in the room with you, but their hives might be. (From which they can’t escape, so don’t worry.) While in there you also have the opportunity for beehive inhalation (which I’ll talk more about in a second), and just a whole lot of relaxation. If you’re the kind of person who can relax while surrounded by hundreds of thousands of bees, then you’ll love this!
But note that there are some hive hotel options that are simply beehive-themed and may not contain actual hives. This is in case you’ve ever wanted to feel like an actual queen yourself.
Bee hotels in Slovenia
If you’d like to get a jump on your stay at a beehive hotel in Slovenia, check out these awesome options:
- Sleeping with Bees in Grosuplje (just outside Ljubljana) – This is where I stayed and it was fantastic.
- Sleeping with the Bees in Kobarid (far western Slovenia)
- Carniolan Bee House in Višnja Gora, near Ljubljana – Bee-free but bee-themed
- Beeland Apartments in Mozirje (northeastern Slovenia) – Awesome hive-themed separate apartments on a beautiful property
- BEe in foREST in Pivka (southwestern Slovenia) – Bee-themed house but they also have a beehive house for rent as well (inquire here).
- The Apitourism Beehouse near Lake Bohinj
Book the bee house I stayed in here.
3. Taste Slovenia’s unique honeys
Here in the U.S. we are accustomed to a few popular varieties of honey—mostly, wildflower (the most common, and the kind I produce), clover honey, and orange blossom honey. But in Slovenia there are many other kinds of honey that are popular instead. Varieties like chestnut, linden, and forest honey dominate the shelves here.
Besides the honey you get with all your hotel breakfasts in Slovenia, you can also taste the wide range of Slovenian honeys at many different places. If you stay in one of the beehive hotels, your host will likely have their own honey for you to try as well.
The same goes for your apiary tour. These tours often include the chance to try the many different kinds of honey their bees produce.
Otherwise, you can head to any of the beekeeping centers or shops in Slovenia and try many different kinds of honey there too. At the Beekeeping Center in Maribor, I was able to try (and purchase) some:
- Chestnut honey –This is probably the most popular variety of honey in Slovenia and my favorite for sure! It is said to have more vitamins (vitamin bee, I assume?) and antioxidants than other honey types and be diabetic friendly.
- Linden honey—Light in color, big in flavor, popular in Europe
- Acacia honey—Super light in both color and flavor, great for sweetening tea.
- White fir honey—One of Slovenia’s famous “forest honeys,” the bees only produce this kind of honey every six years! And it’s green! Obviously I bought some of this too.
“Honey” in Slovenian is med.
4. Get a honey massage
Despite my aversion to both massages and being sticky, I still didn’t hesitate to sign up for a honey massage during my trip to Slovenia. (I hesitated hella hard when it came time to actually do it, but I survived.)
Slovenia, as the beekeeping capital of the world, produces more than 2,000 tons of honey each year. It’s sold in jars, used in cooking and winemaking, and all kinds of “normal” things you’d assume. But it’s also poured on people’s bodies and rubbed all over by trained apitherapists.
Besides being delicious, honey is all kinds of magic: antibiotic, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, just to name a few. Anyone can sign up for a honey massage and the cost is about the same as your typical Swedish or deep tissue massage. Trained therapists perform these massages all over the country and in many different kinds of settings.
I wrote an entire post on honey massage in Slovenia that includes everything you need to know: how it works, where to get one, and even TMI about my own hilarious honey massage experience.
5. Breathe in the bees with beehive inhalation
One of the more unique aspects of apitourism in Slovenia I discovered was hive inhalation (often just called “aerosol”). In case you didn’t think a honey massage was weird enough, they bring you: the chance to hook up a respirator to a beehive.
It’s believed that the air inside the beehive has all kinds of beneficial and restorative properties. And, “they say” it can help with ailments like asthma, respiratory diseases, bronchitis, allergies, and even stress disorders. Though, I guess that last one depends on how comfortable you are next to a beehive in the first place. Plus, it all smells very nice.
Get my sunflower shirt here.
If you’re interested in trying beehive inhalation, check out the following providers:
- Sleeping with Bees, the bee house I stayed in overnight offers this service.
- Apitourism Kozjak – This bee house offers this as well.
- Batištuta Beekeeping offers bee aerosol for children, adults, and seniors.
- BEe in foREST offers the chance to “breath the beneficial bee air.”
- Panorama Glamping Visole offers aerosol therapy in what seems like the most chill setting imaginable.
- Mr. Bee offers a 45-minute apitherapy aerosol session.
6. Take a beekeeping class
If you’ve ever considered becoming a beekeeper, sign up for one of Slovenia’s beekeeping education or training courses. Most beginner beekeepers take some kind of training course when they’re getting started, so you might as well do it in the home of the world’s first beekeeping instructor!
There are beekeeping centers throughout Slovenia and all offer education and training opportunities. You’ll get to learn the art of beekeeping from trained local beekeepers and get cool insight into Slovenia’s most treasured tradition.
7. Visit the Beehouse at Bled Castle
If you want to check out some apitourism in Slovenia but don’t want to go too far off the beaten path, stop by the hive shop at Bled Castle. The castle at Lake Bled is already a major(ish) tourist attraction and they have an awesome hive shop that’s pretty nondescript from the outside, so you could easily miss it.
At Castle Beehouse you can check out some of Slovenia’s unique bee products, taste different kinds of honey, and buy some bee-utiful gifts and souvenirs. Plus, this place is so cool! It really feels like you’re inside a beehive yourself. Probably.
Castle Beehouse is located down a few steps inside the main courtyard and is open year round.
8. Eat traditional Slovenian honey cookies
Traditional Slovenian honey cookies are heart-shaped gingerbread cookies known as Lectar. They use honey-heavy dough and are delicately decorated by hand in a process called lectarstvo. (A tradition that goes back to at least the 14th century.)
Only a couple of traditional lectarstvo workshops remain, and the biggest and most well-known is the Gostilna Lectar (who recently celebrated their 250th anniversary). Head to the town of Radovljica (not far from Ljubljana) for this delicious morsel of apitourism in Slovenia.
You can have a meal in their family-run restaurant, visit the gingerbread museum, watch the bakers decorate these ornate cookies, and even stay the night in their on-site hotel. (Which probably isn’t a gingerbread house in the woods owned by a child-eating witch, but you never can tell. You can check out some of the rooms here on Expedia and Hotels.com just to be sure.
9. Eat all the honey foods
OK but why stop at honey-bread cookies? There are actually plenty of honey-sweet treats to eat while you absorb all the apitourism in Slovenia.
At my house, we use honey in just about everything. Any recipe that calls for sugar? We use honey instead. In addition to beer, cider, and wine, my husband also brews mead with the honey from our hives.
Slovenia embraces this honey-centric food culture as well. Besides having honey available at every hotel breakfast, you can find delicious honey foods all over the country. Stop into these shops to see about their current offerings:
Hungry for honey? Check out my very own super simple recipe for honey walnut baklava.
10. Try the sparkling mead (honey wine):
Another delicacy you’ll find in Slovenia is sparkling mead. In case you’re new to alcohol, mead is an alcoholic beverage brewed with honey and water. And it’s fantastic!
Here in Slovenia, you can try their signature sparkling mead at a couple of different places. In Ljubljana, you can find great options from the Jere Meadery at:
11. Make your own beeswax candles
Honey isn’t the only byproduct of Slovenian beekeeping. Beeswax has its own place in the country’s apitourism as well. Besides the many beeswax products you can buy at the souvenir shops and beekeeping centers, you can also make your own beeswax candles.
12. Visit some apiculture museums
If you’d prefer to learn about Slovenia’s beekeeping tradition, like, not while surrounded by actual bees, maybe one of the country’s apiculture museums would be more up your alley.
These museums bring to life not only Slovenian beekeeping but also honeybees in general (especially their signature Carniolan bee). Special topics also include beekeeping history, biology, Slovenian painted hive panels, and honeybee conservation. Some even have observation hives where you can watch the innerworkings of the hive behind glass.
Consider adding one of these museums to your Slovenia itinerary:
- The Museum of Apiculture in Radovljica
- The Experiential Exhibition at the Carniolan Bee House in Višnja Gora
- Janša’s Apiary in Breznica – A reconstruction of Anton Janša’s beehouse (the first beekeeping teacher), guided tours, honey tastings, and it’s free to visit (does that make this a free-bee!).
- Museum of Beekeeping Cultural Heritage in Smarje Sap – Huge collection of painted hive panels and more.
13. Paint your own beehive panel
A big part of the Slovenian beekeeping tradition is the incorporation of brightly painted wooden panels into the beehives. Many are simple colors, but most depict all kinds of scenes and stories. Sometimes it’s stories from the Bible, sometimes it’s Slovenian history, other times it’s family histories, and still other times it’s just funny beekeeping moments.
You’ll see these all over Slovenia, and at some places you can even paint your own. At Kralov Med, for example, they provide the panel with a motif already drawn for you to paint.
14. Pray to the Patron Saint of Beekeepers
Because of course there’s a patron saint of beekeepers! His name is St. Ambrose and at the Slovenian Beekeepers’ Association you can even find a tiny little chapel among the wildflowers dedicated to him.
Apparently, this is where we get the Latin word for honey (ambrosia). So that’s something you probably didn’t already know! The sign next to the chapel tells you the whole interesting story.
15. Celebrate World Bee Day
In 2017, the UN declared May 20th to be World Bee Day in an effort to draw attention to the global threat honeybees face. (May 20th is Anton Janša’s birthday.) As the UN puts it:
The goal is to strengthen measures aimed at protecting bees and other pollinators, which would significantly contribute to solving problems related to the global food supply and eliminate hunger in developing countries.
And as the world capital of beekeeping, World Bee Day is a huge deal in Slovenia. While there, just a month later, I saw signs for it and heard it mentioned everywhere. In fact, it was Slovenia who lobbied so hard for the creation of it so they’re extremely proud of this victory.
If you happen to be in Slovenia on or around May 20th, keep an eye on the local beekeeping centers for a list of special events and programs.
16. Go inside a hive via virtual reality
OK, I get it, maybe hanging around bees and beehives isn’t for everyone. So for the rest of you, there’s the virtual reality beehive you can visit at the Čebelarstvo Kozmus in Lesično.
Pop on their VR headset and enter a virtual hive to learn how honeybees operate in 360°. Get all the information you need here.
17. Fly like a bee
And finally, the most out-there piece of apitourism in Slovenia of them all—you can fly like a bee in Maribor. It’s really just a zipline adventure that takes off from their giant “beehive” but it’s too cute. It’s actually the longest two-way zipline in Slovenia and certainly the closest way to experience what a bee does all day every day.
You can fly over the wildflowers in Maribor on this zipline bee flight from March to November. There’s even a gourmet culinary experience on site! Get all the information here.
I hope I’ve been able to open your eyes to the world of apitourism in Slovenia. Whether you’re a beekeeper or bee-phobic, you’ve got plenty of ways to enjoy the fruits of the Slovenian beekeeping tradition.
More info for your trip to Slovenia
- Heading to Slovenia? Read reviews and find great places to stay here on Booking.com and Expedia.
- Need a rental car? Check out the best Slovenia rental car deals here.
- Pick up a Slovenia guidebook for all your other sightseeing.
- And this Slovenia customs and culture guide (a must-have!)
Which of these activities would you do?
Let me know in the comments!
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