National Geographic Traveler magazine recognizes this year's leaders in sustainable tourism.

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As the United Nations heralds 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, one place rises above the rest: Slovenia!

According to National Geographic last year this Adriatic enclave, nestled amid emerald fields, turquoise-green rivers, lakes like jewel boxes and snowy peaks was declared the world's most sustainable country. Slovenia achieved an eye-opening 96 out of 100 detailed sustainability indicators (think environment and climate, culture and authenticity, nature and biodiversity, among others.) And its quaint capital Ljubljana was also anointed Europe's Greenest Capital in 2016 by the European Union.

Based on an assessment by the Netherlands-based organisation Green Destinations, last year Slovenia has become the world's first country to be declared a green destination. "Slovenia is becoming known in the international tourism community as a small country which is taking big steps in sustainable tourism," said STO director Maja Pak, pointing to the STO's Green Scheme of Slovenian Tourism, which promotes the preservation of the environment and local authenticity and higher quality of life.

Nearly 60 percent of Slovenia is covered in lush forests, and more than 40 parks and reserves are home to some 20,000 different plants and animals, with a network of diverse hiking trails. The Alps, the Dinaric area, the Pannonian plain and the Mediterranean. Slovenia's highest mountain, the three-peaked Triglav, is depicted on the national flag.

Tiny Slovenia has a store of attractions and activities, from Venetian coastal towns, white-water rafting to small green villages with incredible mountains views.  Come, stop and stare to the sheer beauty of this land.

March 9, 2017 Living photo: Saša Kapetanovič, Ciril Komotar

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