Come for a Stroll in Slovenia
Slovenia has some of the most phenomenal and varied scenery in the whole of Europe
Maps are deceptive. Take Slovenia, for example. In the grand cartographical scheme of things, Slovenia is one of those countries that causes you to squint. Even if you know exactly where it is, it causes you to squint. Shouldered by Croatia to the south, Hungary to the east and Austria to the north, and staunchly eyeballing the heel of Italy’s enormous boot to the south, the compact republic is a mere glint in Europe’s eye.
But don’t be fooled. Don’t be deceived by the measurements. Behind that glint lies some of the most phenomenal and varied scenery on the continent: jagged mountains in the north, vast plains in the east, emerald hills in the south and a slither of rugged coastline in the west. Oh, it’s also the third greenest country in Europe, with over half its surface covered in dense forest. So little wonder, then, that Slovenia, weighing in at just 8,0002 miles (417 times smaller than the Sahara Desert) attracts outdoor enthusiasts like moths to campfires.
This is not to say the country is swarming with tourists; not yet anyway. Many attractions in Slovenia are still blissfully empty. It was only in 2007 that visitor numbers exceeded Slovenia’s 2 million-strong population for the first time, and while this may seem like a rather excessive number, some perspective can be found when looking at London, a single city, which in the same year received ten times that amount.
But before we get too bogged down in stats, let’s move the conversation back to Slovenia’s great outdoors. And it really is great. Frankly you’re spoilt for choice with the ways in which you can make the most of it, but few can compare to a good old fashioned walk. (Men: you can butch this activity up by calling it a ‘hike’ or a ‘trek’, or if you’re really keen to increase the inferred testosterone, an ‘expedition’. Ladies: be mindful that Slovenia has some rather attractive golf courses, so if your spouse avoids the latter phrases and vaguely broaches the subject of a ‘walking holiday’, be very, very suspicious.)
So where to
torment stretch those legs? With over 6,000 miles of marked trails meandering across the country, this can be a very tricky decision indeed. Or at least it was before this article came into existence. We’ve highlighted eight of the very best routes, each varying in difficulty and each offering up something different in way of terrain.
At 2,864 metres, this is Slovenia’s highest peak, and though there are various ways to reach it, the best by far is the looping route that starts and finishes at Stara Fužina, a traditional alpine village in the Bohinj Valley, which is famous for its glacial lake. The path leads through magnificent mountain scenery, and once you’ve scaled the peak, you descend into Triglav Lakes Valley before ending the trek at Lake Bohinj.
Distance: 24 miles. Time: 15-17 hours (or three days). Start: Stara Fužina. Finish: ditto.
Put your feet up: Bohinj Park Hotel
Threading through a mountainous valley, this turquoise river is one of Slovenia’s greatest natural assets. Assuming you don’t want to feel its icy touch, one of the most memorable ways to experience it is to walk the trail that runs alongside it. Beginning at the Soca’s source, the route strings together old footpaths and tranquil spots, and crosses the river on picturesque wooden bridges at several intervals.
Distance: 15 miles. Time: 5 hours. Start: Koca pri izviru Soce. Finish: Bovec.
Put your feet up: Hotel Mangart
Skirting a lofty ridge in the Julian Alps, this trail is relatively short, but tough work. Beginning at the mountain pasture of Kašina and working its way up to the Lužnica Valley, the path then undulates over a couple of peaks – Prag and Batognica – before scaling the big one: Mount Krn. From here, the trail winds back to the starting point, offering spectacular views of Mount Kozljak along the way, which you can count as your reward.
Distance: 7 miles. Time: 6-7 hours. Start: Kašina. Finish: ditto.
Put your feet up: …in a tent.
Another reminder of the astounding geological diversity that Slovenia boasts, this striking gorge cuts through the heart of the Gorenjska region, in the northwest of the country. A well-marked walking route runs through it, which takes you alongside the river that carved the canyon in the first place. In some places the rock walls are only metres apart. Leaving the gorge, the path meanders over some scenic hills before returning you to the starting point.
Distance: 4 miles.Time: 2 hours.Start: Church of St Catherine.Finish: ditto.
Put your feet up: Hotel Triglav
Logarska Valley via Planjava
Taking in an area of outstanding natural beauty, this route begins as a nature trail, threading through the lush, pine-forested slopes of the Logarska Valley, then rounds off into a loop, which encompasses the peak of Mount Planjava. The main highlights include the Rinka Waterfall and the panoramic view from the top of the mountain. If you’re short on time, we’d suggest just doing the nature trail, which is lovely in its own right.
Distance:12 miles. Time: 10-12 hours (or two days). Start: Kmetija Logar. Finish: ditto
Put your feet up: Hotel Plesnik
Raduha and Snežna Jama Cave
Leading from the pretty town of Luce in the north of Slovenia, this trail will take you through pleasant rural scenery, including farmland, alpine meadows and green pastures. After you’ve passed the village of Loka, where you can sample some traditional fare, the path will take you to the top of Mount Raduha. From here you descend towards Snežna Jama Cave, a remarkable place, famed for its enormous pillar formations.
Distance: 12 miles. Time: 11-12 hours (or two days).Start: Luce.Finish: ditto
Put your feet up: Hotel Golte
Conveniently located just outside Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia, this walking route is long, but very easy going, and rather fittingly begins at a town called Laze. It will take you through pleasant, undulating scenery, at one point crossing the geometric centre of the country. The highest point is the sub-alpine Zasavska Sveta Gora (852m), which will present you with splendid views over the surrounding landscape; the heart of Slovenia.
Distance: 22 miles. Time: 13-15 hours (or two days). Start: Laze. Finish: Zagorje
Put your feet up: Kum Restaurant and Inn
Slovenia only has 26 miles of coastline, but what it lacks in quantity it makes up for in quality. The Strunjan Cliffs area is the best for scenery, so we suggest heading there for any walking excursions. If you begin at the village of Strunjan, a walking trail runs up through olive groves to the top of the cliffs, and from here you can follow a cliff-top path, which will give constantly great views of the sun-kissed Adriatic.
Put your feet up: Talaso Strunjan
Sorry, didn’t mean to make you jump there, but it’s better you know: Slovenia does indeed have bears. So here are the facts laid bare and some things to bear in mind: the upside of being consumed by 400 pounds of ravenous fur is that you will no longer have to suffer My Guide’s frightfully ‘paw’ puns; the downside is reasonably obvious. In truth, it’s highly unlikely you’ll see one, especially if you follow the cardinal rules of making lots of noise to warn them of your presence, and storing food and rubbish properly. If you do spy one of the 600 or so that live there, it will probably be in the heavily forested areas in the south of the country.
The kind of wildlife you can expect to see is slightly less alarming, and includes ibex, wild boar, deer, lynx and marmot in the mammal category, and owls, eagles, woodpeckers and storks in the bird category.
Slovenia’s climate varies as wildly as its terrain, so the best time for hiking really depends on where you want to do it. The mountainous north and northwest has an alpine climate, meaning the best time to be outdoors is the summer, when the temperatures are pleasantly crisp. The region that stretches from the Soca Valley down to the coast is characterised by a Mediterranean climate, with warm summers and cool winters, meaning this area is great for hiking whatever the season. The rest of the country experiences a typically continental climate, with baking hot summers and bitterly cold winters, so we’d recommend spring or autumn, when the colours are at their most resplendent and the temperatures at their most agreeable. But if you keep in mind this quote from Ted Hughes, you can’t go wrong: “There is no such thing as bad weather, only inadequate clothing.”
And on that note, we’ll wrap things up. For further information on all things Slovenia, come visit us at MyDestination.com/Slovenia for a comprehensive guide to the country, written by our local experts on the ground.
Check out this brochure from www.slovenia.info for more walks in Slovenia and for more detail on the walks mentioned in this article