It's a hive of activity! Slovenia’s abuzz with bee tourism

In honey-mad Slovenia a new tour takes visitors around bee hives and api-wellness centres – with stops for deliciously sticky bread and cakes

I’m lying face down in a shed as a woman pours honey on me. A skylight throws fading rays on to the massage table. I close my eyes and try to relax as the masseuse starts to pat me with sticky hands. The room smells like a sauna, with overtones of sweetness, and gently vibrates with the sound of tens of thousands of bees, at work on the other side of the wall.

It’s well known that bees are in crisis. Numbers are falling in the face of habitat loss, climate change and pesticides – a potential disaster for humans, given that one in three mouthfuls of our food is said to be dependent on pollination – and this initiative is aiming to raise awareness of all things apiarian.

A woman receives a honey beauty treatment.
A woman receives a honey beauty treatment. Photograph: Alamy

Travel firm Aritours, based in Maribor, Slovenia’s second city, has teamed up with the Slovenian Beekeepers Association to offer ApiRoutes trips, including activities from api-therapy treatments to honey tasting. Yep, bee tourism is a thing.

I’m in this sticky situation as part of a four-day, bee-focused tour. Karl and Marija Vogrinčič offer api-wellness treatments in a shed built on to the back of their garden apiary in Pernice. There’s also a daybed above the hives for relaxing to the sound of the bees. I head there after my massage, my skin feeling like warm silk.

Traditionally painted beehives for sale in Slovenia.
Traditionally painted beehives for sale. Photograph: Alamy

It’s perhaps no surprise that api-tourism is exploding here: Slovenia, population two million, is bonkers about bees. There are five beekeepers for every thousand people, and eight hives per square km (in the UK, it’s just one). And the age of the average beekeeper is falling as more young people take it up: many turned pro during the economic crisis.

My tour continues at Kralov Med apiary (med means honey), in the village of Selo pri Bledu, near Lake Bled, with a lush mountain backdrop. A €4 ticket includes a “meet-and-greet” with the bees (Slovenes take pride in the gentleness of the indigenous Carniolan bee), a talk on beekeeping, and honey tasting. We sip honey liqueur, and learn about apitherapy, the medicinal use of bee products – pollen for vitamins, honey for insomnia, and beehive air for respiratory problems.

Beehives in the Tolmin region, Slovenia.
Beehives in the Tolmin region. Photograph: Alamy

For the dedicated there are beehive painting workshops (traditionally hives are adorned with religious or cartoonish scenes, such as women dragging husbands out of the pub), but I head instead to the beautiful town of Radovljica, 20 minutes away, where there’s a small but fascinating museum of apiculture and 200-year-old restaurant Lectar, which makes delicious heart-shaped honeybread in a basement bakery.

Even a city break to the capital, Ljubljana, can include a honey fix. There are around 30 beekeepers in the city, some open to visitors. Gorazd Trušnovec keeps bees on his balcony and in a community garden, and Franc Petrovčič of the Cankar Arts Centre started keeping bees on the theatre roof and gives jars of honey as gifts to the performers.
The trip was provided by ApiRoutes ( and the Slovenian Tourist Board ( A four-day eco tour costs from €660pp, including half-board accommodation, guide and local transport, flights extra


Erica Buist

The GuardianTramp

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