Nestled on the western edge of Central Europe, bordered by Italy, Austria, Hungary and Croatia, as well the Adriatic Sea, it’s little wonder Slovenia has a very distinct multi-cultural feel. The local language, cuisine, charming villages and local traditions are testament to this. Yet with simply breathtaking mountain ranges, stunning lakeside views and natural beauty in abundance it’s also a haven for those who crave the great outdoors. Let’s take a whistle-stop tour of the highlights that await in stunning Slovenia…
Named after Julius Caesar, the Julian Alps stretch from north-eastern Italy into Slovenia, reaching a crescendo of 2,864m in the form of Mount Triglav, the highest peak in Slovenia and of the former Yugoslavia. The mountain is a true national symbol and features on both the national coat of arms and flag. The limestone massif offers some of the most impressive mountain scenery in the whole of Europe, and provides a formidable backdrop for any visitor, with stunning views the reward if you choose to tackle the challenging terrain.
While Mount Triglav claims the award for the range’s highest peak, there are numerous other summits towering over 2,000m delivering stunning scenic views from every angle. Beyond every ridge is a peaceful alpine village characterised by tree-lined rivers that snake through the gorge, rustic rest stops which ooze charm, and thought-provoking heritage which reveals the nation’s complex and tumultuous past.
While the stunning backdrop of the mountain range is guaranteed, the Julian Alps are at their wildest and most impressive in the Triglav National Park. This stunning natural reserve is vast, covering almost 3% of the territory of Slovenia. It extends across a mountainous region of rolling alpine pasture, lush pine forest, crystal-clear streams and a myriad of rocky lakes, creating an incredibly rich biodiversity. The result is a smorgasbord of flora and fauna including a number of endemic plants such as Triglav Hawksbeard, the Julian Poppy and Silver-leaved Cranesbill. Expect the stunning scenery to be punctuated with wildlife sightings aplenty including ibex, red deer, brown bear, lynx, and eagles. Keep your camera at the ready!
The park is littered with tiny villages and hamlets, each with its own unique, charming identity borne out of its inhabitants. In total, there are almost 50 settlements strung out across the reserve amidst the lush forests. The locals live off the land and rely on agriculture to both make their living and preserve the cultural landscape of the park. Cheese made from the milk of local livestock is particularly popular – Bovec has been awarded Protected Designation of Origin status and is made from sheep’s milk, characterised by an aromatic, full and slightly tangy smell. Be sure to try some!
Formed by a glacier, the shimmering waters of Lake Bled reflect the stunning Julian Alps that surround it providing a spectacular landscape. Numerous lakeside paths and trails offer the best way to view the lake and its iconic island castle, Bled Castle, which towers 130m above the mythical waters and is believed to be the oldest castle in Slovenia. The paths are gentle and the stunning scenery rewards you at every turn. There are also plenty of opportunities to stop at one of the many lakeside cafes along the way for a coffee and a chance to absorb the spectacular surroundings at your leisure. You might also wish to reward yourself with a slice of delicious kremsnita cake, a traditional cake associated with the town of Bled consisting of puff pastry and custard cream.
Boats are a common sight on the lake, although motor boats have been banned. Instead, traditional Pletna boats, only seen on Lake Bled and handed down through generations, have the run of the lake. The Pletna is a wooden, flat-bottomed boat operated by the Pletna oarsmen, a highly respected local profession unique to Bled. Take a ride in a Pletna boat for a special experience of the mythical lake and its amphitheatre-style surroundings forged by the Julian Alps – a local saying dictates that you haven’t really visited Bled if you haven’t taken a trip in the Pletna boat!
Whether it’s the breathtaking scenery, the mythical traditions or the dramatic wildlife that appeals to you – or perhaps a combination of all three – Slovenia represents a dramatic backdrop for any outdoor recreation. Find out more about our cycling holiday in this region, or request a brochure today.