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Of all the things that Slovenia is known for, the country’s nature and mountains have to rank at the absolute top. Which is why it was strange that I’d barely seen that side of the country in past visits. Sure, cities and towns like Ljubljana and Piran are easy to like. But in Slovenia mountains are a defining feature of the country and I always felt like I was missing something. Thanks to my Slovenia tour with Mateja Travel this year, I feel like I’ve properly connected with the country now.
There are three alpine ranges that stretch across the north and west of the country. Between the Julian Alps, Kamnik–Savinja Alps and the Karawanks you’ll find a superb variety in the best outdoor destinations in Slovenia. The mountains, lakes and rivers that cover this part of the country offer countless beautiful places and opportunities for activities. To help you choose what you might like to do, here are the best places to visit in Slovenia’s mountains.
If there’s one place that people know of in the mountains of Slovenia then it’s scenic Lake Bled. There’s just so many reasons to adore this place that seems pulled from a fairytale. The downside though is that it’s popularity means that it’s rarely without masses of tourists.
The attraction starts with the incredible colour of the lake’s water. Crystal clear up close, the water takes on a turquoise hue when you take a step back. Then there’s the perfect little scene created by the Church on the Island. Taking a small pletna out to this lonely spot couldn’t be more lovely.
Vying for your attention is also Bled Castle, perched on a steep cliff over the lake with the Alps as its backdrop. You get some stunning views here, but not quite as phenomenal as those from the Ojstrica viewpoint. After a little hike up here, you’re rewarded with a view that puts all of this together for your unblinking eyes.
For a Bled visit with a twist, you should look at the Nočna desetka race. This 10km run takes place around Lake Bled at night and is a fun way to add some outdoor activities into your Slovenia travels.
From most popular we jump to a lesser known mountain destination in Slovenia called Velika Planina, a name you’ll surely want to remember. This scenic pastoral plateau in the Kamnik–Savinja Alps is a classic hiking destination in Slovenia and a really good day trip from Ljubljana. The plateau is best known for its picturesque mountain huts that dot the fields across the mountain scenery.
While it is possible to take a cable car and ski lifts up from Kamniška Bistrica, I’d recommend doing the hike from the Žaga area. Starting out at one of the many car parks, you can head up through the forest to reach the plateau. While the forest section is moderately steep, the trails flatten out once you clear the tree line. You’re then treated to the gorgeous rural landscape, with traditional huts scattered about.
Sadly, the original huts here were destroyed by the Germans in WWII, but their replacements keep the old-fashioned nature of Velika Planina alive and well. It’s even possible to rent a mountain hut for the night if you like. Oh and one last word of warning. It may not feel like it, but Velika Planina sits at 1,500 metres so there’s a decent change in elevation with a day trip here.
Triglav National Park
When talking about Slovenia outdoors destinations, there’s no way we can leave out Triglav National Park. After all, this important national park is home to Slovenia’s highest peak on Mount Triglav. But there’s much more to this huge national park beyond just one mountain in the Julian Alps.
Slovenia’s only national park, there are many impressive peaks to be seen here. But with those mountains you also get valleys, some of which like Krma Valley are stunning all on their own. With so much breathtaking terrain within its borders, Triglav National Park is definitely the chief Slovenia hiking destination. Countless hiking trails zigzag across its mountainous landscape and mountain huts mean you can spend days exploring to your hearts content.
Of course, the ultimate challenge offered by the national park is the chance to climb Mt Triglav. At 2864 metres, Triglav is not to be underestimated. Our hike there over two days in June included plenty of snow and ice, and was only possible thanks to our climbing equipment and my excellent guide Škof. While we encountered few others up there, it gets much busier up there when all the snow has cleared. Still a monumental feat regardless and one you soon won’t forget.
Hidden within Slovenia’s Alps, the Soca Valley is pretty much an outdoor adventure playground for travellers. This lush valley that follows the enchanting Soca River is a paradise for nature-lovers and thrill seekers. Spotted with rivers, canyons, gorges, waterfalls, forests and mountains, it has everything you could ask for in terms of nature. Sightseeing in the Soca Valley is a real treat thanks to spots like Kozjak Waterfall and the Great Soča Gorge.
But if gentle sightseeing seems a little tame for you, never fear, as the Soca Valley has plenty to get your blood pumping. The town of Bovec in the valley is Slovenia’s adventure capital and the base of operations for many adventure activities. Thanks to the region’s rivers and gorges, rafting and canyoning are two of the most popular activities here. Other options include skydiving, zip-lining, bungee jumping, mountain biking, hiking and plenty more.
Yet another way to experience this hidden valley of beauty in the Julian Alps is with the Bovec Marathon. One of many Slovenia marathons that take place in the country’s warmer months, this race gives runners the ultimate scenery for their herculean challenge. With a marathon like this, you get the benefit of combining the accomplishment of running the race, with days of sightseeing in this gorgeous slice of Slovenia.
It turns out the Vršič Pass is more than just the route between the Soca Valley and the Kranjska Gora ski resort. This pass through the Julian Alps actually has a few sights along its many, many switchbacks. Not only does it show off the majesty of the mountains in Slovenia with its views, but a few curious landmarks along the way.
Perhaps the best known stop along the road through the pass is the Russian Chapel, a landmark with a dark past despite its pretty exterior. That’s because this wooden Russian Orthodox chapel was built to commemorate the Russian POWs who died building the Vršič Pass road during WWI. The chapel was finished in 1916 to remember POWs who died due to avalanches or working conditions.
On the southern side of the pass, another place to stop at is the monument to Dr. Julius Kugy. This memorial is at a spot with some beautiful views of the valley and mountains. It seems a fitting spot for this monument, given that Kugy was one of Slovenia’s most prolific mountaineers and was the first up several of Slovenia’s mountain summits.
Lake Bled is the best known lake in Slovenia and tends to suffer the consequences of that popularity. For a lake destination that doesn’t find itself overwhelmed with tourists, you need only look to the region of Bohinj. Centred on Lake Bohinj, this area not far from Bled is a fantastic and peaceful alternative.
There’s a lot to love about Lake Bohinj. It’s the largest lake in Slovenia and enjoys the country’s signature icy clear water that is truly captivating to look at. During summertime, locals often come to Bohinj to swim, kayak and stand-up paddleboard. It’s easy to understand why when you have the soaring mountains of Triglav National Park looming over you to the north.
Besides spending time on the lake, the area around Bohinj has plenty of other things to do. For instance, you can explore the source of the lake with the Sava Bohinjka River and its magical, emerald colour. Little trails follow the river taking you from forest one moment to gleaming white stone beaches the next. Then there are all the hiking trails that loop around the lake and head up into the nearby mountains, creating endless possibilities for walks.
Whether you visit in winter or summer, there’s good reason to pay a trip to a Slovenia outdoor spot like Vogel. This 1922 metre-high mountain is a ski resort that overlooks Lake Bohinj. But even if you don’t ski, there’s plenty of reasons to make the trip up there.
For starters, Vogel ski resort is accessed by a nice cable car ride that just keeps going and going. Once you’re at the top, you’re presented with a superb view over Lake Bohinj, not to mention the mountain peaks of Triglav National Park. Honestly, this may be the best view of Slovenia’s highest peaks without actually climbing them yourself.
As for the ski resort, there’s plenty to do once you’re up there. In winter, you’ll naturally have the chance to ski and snowboard in the park’s well-maintained ski runs and snowpark. When summer rolls around and the snow melts, the area becomes perfect for gentle hikes and nature walks. It may not seem overly elaborate, but Vogel is just good, simple fun.
One place that I was glad Mateja introduced me to during my Slovenia trip was Jezersko. Pressed right up against the border with Austria, Jezersko sits in a valley at the foot of the Kamnik–Savinja Alps. Combining pleasant rural life with dramatic mountain scenery, it’s the perfect place for a quiet nature getaway.
Down in the valley, you’ll find bucolic landscapes home to quiet country resorts and lovely tourist farms. Then there are some pretty lakeside spots like Preddvor and the heart-shaped Planšarsko jezero. It’s a particularly pretty place to drive through, as the roads here wind through valleys and past small country chapels.
The big highlight here though is the hiking opportunities you have from the valley into the mountains. One of the best hikes is up to the Ceska Koca mountain hut. It’s not overly difficult for people where decent fitness and it takes you roughly a third of the way up into the mountains.
From Ceska Koca you can see some wonderful views down into the valley where you started. Plus, if you still have the legs, there’s plenty more trail and via ferrata if you want to continue on to the nearby passes or summits of Grintovec and Jezerska.
Which of these awesome Slovenia mountain destinations have you visited? Where else in the mountains of Slovenia would you recommend travellers visit? Please share them in the comments below.
*Disclosure: My tour in Slovenia with Mateja Travel was as a complimentary guest. As always, opinions are completely and genuinely my own. I wouldn’t recommend them otherwise!