Hop-On Hop-Off in Triglav National Park: Bohinj to Pokljuka

Triglav National Park, Slovenia’s only national park, extends over an area of 880km2 and covers almost the entire area of the Julian Alps in Slovenia.

Whilst many visitors to Slovenia, particularly those who visit to hike in the Julian Alps, are familiar with areas such as the ever-popular 7 Triglav Lakes Valley, and Slovenia’s highest mountain, Triglav, another area that is well worth a visit is the oustandingly beautiful Pokljuka Plateau, which during summer you can visit for FREE courtesy of the Hop-On Hop-Off Bohinj to Pokljuka bus.

The Pokljuka plateau is a paradise for lovers of the great outdoors, and offers activities year-round: hiking and cycling in summer, downhill and cross-country skiing, biathlon, snowshoeing and hiking in winter. The forested Karst plateau is around 20km in length and at an elevation of 1,100-1,400 metres.

Since parking charges have this year been introduced for the first time on Pokljuka, taking the Hop-On Hop-Off bus makes even more sense from both a financial and environmental perspective. The FREE bus runs three times per day from the Lower and Upper Bohinj valleys to the Triglav Pokljuka Sports Centre at Rudne polje on Pokljuka. Click here for the timetable.

Since Pokljuka is also a popular destination for cyclists – road cyclists enjoy the challenge of the long road that winds its way up to the plateau from either Bled or Bohinj, whilst mountain bike enthusiasts enjoy the gravel roads that criss-cross the plateau, the buses are also equipped with bike brackets and each bus can accommodate up to six bikes.

Personally, I love hiking on Pokljuka, both in summer and winter, though summer is, and always will be, my favourite time of year! There are walks to suit all levels – from easier, shorter walks to Pokljuka’s many mountain pastures, to more challenging hikes to its peaks.

If you are seeking a walk for all the family, I highly recommend walking from Rudne polje to the picturesque Uskovnica mountain pasture with its numerous small wooden chalets and interesting hummocks.

The route is well-marked and it only takes about 45-50 minutes to reach the pasture and the Koča na Uskovnici mountain hut.

The way there is pretty much all downhill, of course that does mean a bit of uphill on the return trip, but after a stop at the hut for some delicious blueberry strudel or one of the other homemade dishes, you will be raring to go! During summer on Pokljuka you can also buy cheese at one of the working dairies or mountain pastures.

En-route to the pasture you reach an ‘energy field‘, which attracts people from far and wide who come to sit on the various energy points that are believed to be beneficial for various ailments. There is an information board (in Slovene only) giving details of which point is for which ailment and how long should be spent at each point. I must admit to being rather cynical about such things, but if the number of people (and even dogs!) there every time I visit is anything to go by, I’m in the minority! So, why not go and try it out, and let me know the result(s)!

Uskovnica has one of the cutest little wooden chapels around. Here I am with parents on their recent visit!

Those looking for more challenging hikes are spoilt for choice. As you can see below, from Uskovnica, as well as from Rudno polje, there is a wide choice of paths to hike.

Among the most popular are the Zajamniki mountain pasture, Debela peč, the highest point of the Pokljuka plateau at 2,014m, and the peak of Viševnik, 2,050m.

After our walk we returned to the biathlon centre where we enjoyed a(nother!) drink at the hotel, ensuring we timed it right to catch the Hop-On Hop-Off bus back to the valley.

Even when the Hop-On Hop-Off bus ends its run for the season, from wherever you are staying in the Bohinj area you are never more than a 30-45 minutes drive from Pokljuka, and you can visit year-round.

Click here for more information and some interesting facts about Pokljuka.

© Adele in Slovenia

Winter Hiking and Snowshoeing in Slovenia’s Julian Alps

I’ve had quite a few enquiries recently via my blog regarding winter hiking in Slovenia. So, I thought I would put together a new blog post with some ideas about where to hike here in winter, and also about another alternative winter sport – snowshoeing.

Before I go on, however, one thing I would like to emphasise – and cannot emphasise enough – is that you MUST be properly prepared and equipped for winter hiking. In the past couple of weeks there have been a number of deaths in our mountains, and, as is so often the case, among them are tales of people going to the mountains in trainers or other such inappropriate attire. Proper equipment is essential year-round, but particularly so in winter, as is knowing the terrain. Personally, during winter, particularly when hiking alone, I stick to routes that I know and that I know are well-trodden.

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As I’m not a skier – never have been and never will be – snowshoeing provides great exercise and (can be!) great fun too, provided the conditions are right. Putting on a pair of snowshoes for the first time is a slightly strange experience. One feels rather awkward and clumsy walking around with, what look and feel like, tennis racquets strapped to your feet, though the modern versions, as seen below, are somewhat sleeker in their design.

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Once you get used to walking with a wider and slightly ungainly gait, you soon get used to it, though a pair of hiking poles is a requisite. Walking with snowshoes enable you to access places on foot that would otherwise be inaccessible during winter. However, snowshoes aren’t suitable for scaling high peaks, but rather for traversing wider, flatter snow-covered terrain.

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One of the best, and one of my favourite, places for winter activities is the Gorenjska region, where I live in the northwest of Slovenia, is the Pokljuka plateau. The entire forested Karst plateau, 20kms in length, is within Triglav National Park, and reaches an elevation of 1,400m. The highest peak is Debela peč (2014m), which, together with the peaks of Brda, Mrežce and Viševnik, are among the most popular with hikers year-round.

As can be seen below – me en-route to Debela peč – winter hiking, when at times you can be waist deep (or deeper!) in snow, can be exhausting at times, so isn’t for the faint-hearted!

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But the rewards can also be fantastic, provided you are well-equipped, sensible, know the terrain, and are fit enough!

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Pokljuka is approximately 15kms from Bled. Other than for a few months during summer, there is no regular, scheduled public transport to the plateau, so a car is essential. The plateau can also be reached from the road which turns off near Bohinjska Bistrica and leads up towards Gorjuše.

This year on 8-11th December Pokljuka hosted the annual BMW Biathlon World Cup. The plateau is a favourite training destination for many winter sports people from across Europe as well as for the Slovene military who have a barracks at Rudno Polje, which is also home to the Pokljuka Sports Centre and the Hotel Center http://www.center-pokljuka.si/en.html

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Pokljuka is a very popular destination with fans of cross-country skiing. I have tried it, on a few occasions, but me and skiing – of any kind – are never going to get along! Here’s me trying to ‘play it cool’ whilst a group of Slovenian military recruits go whizzing by!

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I’ve been there at times when the weather is less than favourable too, though once home in the warm with a cuppa, all is forgiven and forgotten!

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With its wide, open pastures and traditional wooden huts, the beautiful Planina Zajavornik highland is among the most popular parts of Pokljuka. The highland is also equally stunning during summer. You can cross the highland on foot and then head further up to the Blejska koča mountain hut, where you can enjoy hearty, traditional Slovenian food such as Carniolan sausage or a stew such as ričet, or, if the road is clear of snow, you can drive a little further by taking the road to the right from Mrzli studenec then park on the opposite side of the highland before continuing on foot up to the mountain hut.

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There are so many lovely parts of Pokljuka, it’s hard to choose a favourite and it’s equally beautiful, if not more so, during summer. Below you can see the Kranjska dolina highland, which you pass if you take the road as described above. I particularly like cycling in this area in summer.

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It’s fairly easy to navigate your way around Pokljuka, but a map of the Julian Alps will certainly aid you in planning routes.

I hope this has provided some ideas and inspiration for winter hiking in Slovenia. I wish you happy, and above all, safe, hiking!

© Adele in Slovenia

Snowy Slovenia Facts and Figures

Allow me to start this week’s blog by giving myself a small pat on the back. Why? Well, because last Friday my blog achieved its 50,000th view – something I’m really rather proud of. Ok, granted, it’s not up there matching the figures of some of the world’s ‘supper bloggers’, some of whom probably achieve that many views in a day, but for somewhat lesser-known Slovenia, and little old humble me, I think/hope/believe it’s quite an achievement. The greatest number of readers are actually in Slovenia, as often Slovenes themselves tell me that they turn to my blog for ideas and inspiration; this is followed by readers from the UK, USA, Australia, Canada, Germany, Austria, the Netherlands…… and as far away as Bangladesh, Mongolia, Senegal, Ghana, Martinique and more; a total of 110 countries to date.

It’s now been 3 weeks since my fall and, hopefully, that means I’m at least halfway through the healing time. Unfortunately, the fresh, and heavy snowfall on Friday, and again on Sunday afternoon, meant that I couldn’t get out much at the weekend as I’m just too scared at the moment in case I fall on ice again, particularly as I currently only have one arm for balance.

As I was sitting watching the snowfall from my window on Friday, and the snow was growing higher by the minute, I was wondering what the actual record snowfall figures are for Slovenia and set about finding out. Here, instead of a blog about MY latest snowy adventures, are some rather fascinating Slovenia snowy facts and figures:

  • The most amount of snowfall in 24 hours – 125cm – Dom na Komni mountain hut, 1951 & 1970
  • The most amount of snowfall at less than 500m above sea level – 105cm – village of Soča, near Bovec, 1970
  • The most amount of snow in one place – 700cm – Kredarica, below Mt. Triglav – 2001
  • The most snowfall in one season – 1662cm – Kredarica, winter 2000/2001
  • The longest lasting snow cover – 290 days, Kredarica – 1976/77 & 1984/85
  • The earliest snowfall in a place below 500m above sea level – Kotlje, Šmartno pri Slovenj Gradcu, 11 September 1970
  • The latest snowfall in a place below 500m above sea level – Nomenj – 10 June 1974

So, instead of being out there enjoying snowy hikes, I’m resigned to looking back wistfully at photos of previous ones and looking forward to future ones. With that in mind, and for those looking for somewhere to enjoy the snow, and/or those who are maybe thinking about a winter visit to Slovenia, I offer below a few ideas for some of my favourite winter hikes and other snowy activities in and around the Radovljica area:

  • The Pokljuka plateau is a haven for all things ‘snowy’ – there’s the biathlon centre, cross-country ski tracks, skiing, and hiking. A very popular destination is to the hut ‘Blejska koča’, which can be a destination in itself, or the more hardy can continue onwards towards Mrežce (as seen below), Brda or Debela peč, the highest peak of the plateau.

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  • The Dom na Komni hut is one of the few huts that is open all-year round and the route up, beginning from the car park by the Savica waterfall at Lake Bohinj, is usually well-frequented and trodden. From the hut there are also a number of other options to continue onwards on the Komna plateau.

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  • The Koča na Taležu hut (725m) is popular with locals from around the Radovljica area as it is easily accessed, offers fantastic views for relatively little effort, and offers good food and a warm welcome

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  • The Valvasor dom hut is another popular winter destination for hikers and sledgers. The path begins at the Završnica reservoir.

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There are also currently tracks prepared for cross-country skiing in Radovljica, behind the Spar supermarket, and in Kamna Gorica.

It should of course be remembered that during winter anyone visiting the mountains must be well-prepared, equipped, and experienced in such conditions. The current fresh snowfall means the risk of avalanches is high, currently level 4 out of 5 on the avalanche danger scale, and unless you are familiar with the terrain and the conditions its not recommended to take on anything too adventurous at this time of the year, hence I tend to stick to (relatively) easy and well-trodden routes.

You can also find out more about these destinations in previous posts by using this blog’s search facility (top right corner).

The week ahead looks like being snow all the way, so until next week……

© AdeleinSlovenia 2015