Valvasorjev dom – Voted Slovenia’s Best Mountain Hut for the 3rd Time in 5 years!

So, it’s official, Valvasorjev dom is the winner of the title of Slovenia’s Best Mountain Hut – making it the third time it has won this prestigious title!

Last year, due to the rules of the competition which state that huts cannot be nominated two years in-a-row, Valvasorjev dom wasn’t in the running, but this year it once again breezed to become the holder of the title ‘Slovenia’s Best Mountain Hut 2018’. Congratulations to Aleš Štefe and the team!

Having already won the title in 2014 and 2016, this is a pretty impressive feat for a hut that doesn’t even have much of a view! But what it lacks in views, it makes up for with its great food, friendly team and welcoming atmosphere – all of which have proved to be a winning combination.

Valvasorjev dom (1,181m) lies beneath Stol (2,236m) – the highest peak in the Karavanke range. For those looking for a short hike, the hut can be a destination in itself – you can reach it in a little over an hour from the car park at the Završnica reservoir, or you can visit as part of a longer hike to Stol itself or numerous other destinations – as can be seen from the signs (below) in front of the hut.

During summer, you can also visit the other mountain hut on Stol, Prešernova koča – just a short distance from the summit – from where there are also numerous choices of onward routes.

The fascinating Ajdna archaelogical site is just a 30-minute walk from Valvasorjev dom.

Or you can visit one or more of the numerous mountain pastures beneath Stol such as the Zabreška planina highland (1,225m), or the Zirovniška planina (1,200m) highland.

Valvasorjev dom is also a popular destination for mountain bike enthusiasts, who can ride up the 5km forest road before heading off to traverse some of the afore-mentioned mountain pastures.

The fact that it is one of the few huts that is open year-round is also an added bonus, and Valvasorjev dom is as popular in winter as it is in summer.

When conditions permit, the 5km road from the valley is turned into a sledging track, too.

So, as you can see, there are more than enough reasons to visit the Valvasorjev dom mountain hut and to find out for yourself why it is a three-time winner!

Click here to find out more about hiking and other activities in the Žirovnica area beneath Stol.

© Adele in Slovenia

The Begunje Lambergh Trail – Explore Kamen Castle, Archeological Sites and Caves in the Draga Valley

The Lambergh Trail (Lambergova pot) begins at the Krpin recreation area in Begunje na Gorenjskem. It leads through the forest past the ruins of Kamen Castle, passing two small archeological sites, and ending in the lush Draga valley at the Gostišče Draga restaurant, where you can enjoy a drink, snack or slap-up meal to gather your strength for the return journey, or you could even continue further on one of the trails that lead into the Karavanke mountains.

It takes around an hour to walk the almost 8km path (one-way), though if you stop to explore the castle, which is a must(!), then you should allow more time. The terrain is undulating, so good footwear is required. There are information boards along the way where you can find out more.

The Njivice archeological site dates back to the Old Iron Age.

There are vast caves to explore, too, some of which make you feel rather small!

Halfway along the trail you emerge briefly from the forest and are greeted by wonderful views over the upper part of the village.

You then reach the mighty and impressive ruins of Kamen Castle.

The castle was once home to the Counts of Lambergh – hence the name of the trail. It has preserved Gothic and Renaissance entrances and the partial restoration works that were recently carried out have made the castle more accessible.

Kamen Castle was built in the 12th century by the Counts of Ortenburg; later it was owned by the Counts of Celje, and from 1436 the Counts of Lambergh. The counts abandoned the castle in the 18th century when they moved to the more comfortable Katzenstein Mansion in the centre of the village.

The path ends at the Gostišče Draga restaurant at the head of the Draga valley. The restaurant, a member of Taste Radol’ca, is renowned for its game, fresh river trout, and numerous other traditional Slovene dishes.

The štruklji alone, both the sweet and savoury versions, are definitely worth the walk!

You can either return the same way following the signs back to the Krpin recreation centre, or alternatively you could first walk along the valley road beside the stream back to the castle, where you can rejoin the path back to the start.

You could also take time to explore Begunje itself; the Begunje Village Trail is just one of the many theme trails in the Radol’ca area. Click here for more.

© Adele in Slovenia

A Spectrum of Sports and Culture Beneath Stol!

Stol, the highest mountain in the Karavanke range, which presides majestically over the Žirovnica area, together with the villages that lie beneath it, offer a whole spectrum of sporting activities with something for everyone – from challenging hikes to summits and family-friendly meanders along the many mountain pastures, to horse riding, cycling, running and even an adrenaline-filled zipline over the Sava Dolinka river.

Zipline Dolinka is a new, exciting way to get some adrenaline whilst marvelling at the stunning scenery around and below you. Its 5 cables offer a total of 2,371 metres of descent over the Sava Dolinka river.

For those who prefer to have both feet on solid ground, the Žirovnica area offers walks and hikes for all the family.

For example, if you looking for a more level walk, you could drive the 5km mountain road up to the Valvasorjev dom mountain hut and then set off on foot, first passing the Žirovniška planina mountain pasture and then on to one of my favourite spots – the Zabreška planina mountain pasture.

Though not an official mountain hut, in fine weather at weekends you may be able to get refreshments at the pasture hut, where you can take a seat on the wonderful, unique wooden furniture and soak up the views!

Kids – big and small – will love it too!

You can even continue further to the Doslovška planina mountain pasture and towards the Dom pri Izviru Završnice mountain hut, which I wrote about in a previous blog here.

Those wanting more challenging hikes are well catered for too, with trails to the summit of Stol itself, as well as, among others, to the Valvasorjev dom mountain hut and the Ajdna Archaelogical Site. Find more information here about this and other hikes in the Žirovnica area.

For those that like running, why not take part in the popular ‘Run Under the Free Sun‘ (Tek pod svobodnim soncem) on Saturday 1st September. The 10.7km route, which begins at 10am, leads past the important sights along the Path of Cultural Heritage. There are also shorter 200m, 400m, 600m and 900m routes, beginning at 9am, for children. Hurry with your registrations by 28th August. Find more here about this event and running in the Žirovnica area.

Cyclists are also well catered for in the Žirovnica area. From short, easy rides on the flat Imperial Road, and along the Path of Cultural Heritage, to longer, more challenging rides in the Završnica valley and onwards to the numerous mountain pastures beneath Stol. More information and route descriptions can be found here.

So, as you can see, there really is something for everyone and lovers of sports, culture and, not forgetting, beekeeping, should make a beeline for Žirovnica! There’s a fair chance you will find me there on my bike or on foot too!

© Adele in Slovenia

Triglav 240: Hiking The Jubilee Mountain Trail

Of the many thousands of people who enjoy hiking in the Julian Alps and Triglav National Park, and the many who every year climb to the summit of Slovenia’s highest mountain, Triglav, there is probably only a tiny percentage of those who know, or give any thought to, how, when, and by whom, the summit was first conquered.

So, to coincide with the celebrations for the 240th anniversary since the first recorded summit of Triglav, join me to find out more about the four brave men who first conquered Slovenia’s magnificent 2,864m-high three-headed giant – the word Triglav means ‘three heads’!

The Jubilee Mountain Trail has been created to commemorate the first men who climbed to the summit of Triglav. The entire trail takes around 2-3 days. Along the way you can collect stamps at the nine destinations that make up the trail, or just take time to visit individuals sections, whether in the Bohinj valley or high up in the Julian Alps. It matters not, it’s not a competition, it’s a journey – one of discovery, appreciation and respect for the four brave men who first conquered Triglav, and one of personal satisfaction for each individual who undertakes it.

Since there are no actual documented records of the exact trail originally taken by the four friends, the Jubilee Mountain Trail is based on assumptions, according to where the men lived and how and where they gathered along the way.

The trail begins at the birth house of Štefan Rožič in the village of Savica in the Lower Bohinj valley then continues to Zoisova graščina, a mansion belonging to the initiator of the expedition, Baron Žiga Zois, in Stara Fužina. The village was also home to another of the four brave men, Lovrenc Willomitzer, whilst the remaining two, Matevž Kos and Luka Korošec, were from nearby Jereka and Koprivnik respectively.

From there it continues to the Planinska koča na Uskovnici mountain hut on the Pokljuka plateau, which I wrote more about in a recent blog post here . If you are following the entire trail you can get your next stamp here, or just enjoy and standalone trip, suitable for all the family, to this mountain pasture dotted with wooden weekend homes and cute-as-a-button chapel.

After a relatively gentle start, the trail leads up steeply to the Vodnikov dom na Velem polju mountain hut. The location of this hut, in the still green world of the Julian Alps before the rocky giants take over, makes it a worthy standalone trip – for an out-and-back day hike or as part of a longer hut-to-hut hike, even for those not wishing to walk the entire trail.

If you choose to continue your next target is Slovenia’s highest ‘hotel‘ – the Triglavski dom na Kredarici mountain hut (2,515m). The hut sits on a a ridge beneath Triglav and Rjavina. You have to overcome a few areas with steel ropes and foot rungs to reach it, and rarely is one lucky enough to get there when it isn’t shrouded in cloud, but it’s a welcome sight when you get there!

The large and unique hut even has its own chapelwind turbines and meteorological station. It can accommodate over 300 people and, even though it is officially closed in winter, there are meteorologists present 365 days per year.

Now comes Triglav itself, if you choose to undertake it. The final ascent, and of course the descent too, is considered a fixed climbing route, for which a helmet and harness is required. However, you certainly don’t have to hike to its summit to be able to enjoy and appreciate it. You can admire if from afar, get up close and admire it from below or, for those with a head for heights, go for the top to reach the famous Aljaž Tower.

From Triglav the trail continues to the Dom Planika pod Triglavom mountain hut, or for those who choose not to ascend Triglav itself, you can just descend from the Triglavski dom hut directly to Dom Planika.

From the Planika hut the route returns to the Vodnikov dom hut and then steeply down to the Koča na Vojah hut in the Voje valley, with its picture-perfect backdrop and exceedingly good blueberry pie!

The trail ends at the Monument to Four Brave Men in Ribčev Laz, where at the snack bar opposite the monument, you can get your final stamp, and/or just admire the magnificent monument whilst paying homage to the men who made it all possible!

If you intend to complete the entire trail, be sure to pick up a copy of the Jubilee Mountain Trail booklet before setting off and at each destination ensure you seek out the special Triglav 240 stamp. You have until December 2018 to collect all 9 stamps, and those who do will be eligible to receive a special award at the conclusion of the celebration of the 240th anniversary, which will take place on International Mountain Day on 11 December 2018.

There is a full programme of events taking place throughout the year to mark the anniversary, and on 2nd September there will be a special live TV broadcast ‘Doma pod Triglavom‘ at 8pm which everyone is invited to join, followed by the premiere of a new documentary at 10pm. In addition, a two-day guided hike of the Jubilee Trail will take place on 29th and 30th September – bookings are essential. Contact: info:bohinj.si, or tel: +386 (0)4 574 85 90

© Adele in Slovenia

 

The Begunje Shepherd’s Trail – My Favourite Hike in Radol’ca!

The Begunje Shepherd’s Trail (Pastirska pot) is one of my favourite of all the hiking trails in the Radol’ca area. The sheer variety of the terrain, the stunning views, and the fact that it is entirely circular all add up to one great hike!

The trail begins at the head of the Draga Valley in Begunje na Gorenjskem, where you can park and set off on foot on the 10.2km trail and where there is an information board showing the route.

The first mini ‘challenge’ that you encounter after just a few hundred metres, is crossing a stream – not advisable after heavy rainfall! Note: if it is impassable, then follow the road uphill for about 15 minutes to where it branches off steeply through the forest towards the Roblekov dom mountain hut, but continue past the next bend and then take a forest road (unmarked) to the right, which, eventually, meets the path coming up from the head of the valley.

The trail begins to lead up through the forest, passing a cascade of the stream.

Next comes a slightly bigger ‘challenge’, as the path leads up a steep gully between two rock faces, but there are iron foot rungs and an iron cable to help, so, with a steady hand (and feet!), it doesn’t present a major obstacle.

Its only a short climb, and the path soon levels out, well, until the next bit anyway! But that is why I love this path, as there’s never a dull moment, it keeps you on your toes – literally!

The path crosses the stream in several places, before reaching a ladder, equipped with a rope to hoist yourself up!

You then cross the stream one last time, before reaching a rest area with a bench, and then continuing up, ever steeper, through the forest.

Next you reach a giant fir tree, so giant, in fact, there was no way or being able to photograph it from within the confines of the trail, so you’ll just have to visit and see it for yourself! The statistics on the signpost below give the facts and figures: circumference 347cm, diameter 110cm, quantity of wood 12.5m3, height 35 metres

After about an hour to 1hr 15 mins, you reach the Preval mountain pasture and the Koča na Prevalu mountain hut, the first of four (yes, four!) mountain huts that you pass on this trail, where you can stop for refreshments (note: the huts are open daily during summer, but out of season some are closed whilst others open at weekends only) and enjoy the views before continuing on your way.

Now follow the road for about 10 minutes, which provides a mini-break from the steep path, before the path branches off to the right and begins to climb up again on the path ‘cez Roza’. But, it’s worth it, as you are soon rewarded with wonderful views of the Radovljica Plains, the Jelovica plateau, Lake Bled, and the Julian Alps.

There are still a couple of mini ‘hurdles’ to overcome, in the form of gullies to be crossed, but here and there, iron rods are provided to assist, and eventually the path levels out to become sheer enjoyment.

Shortly before the end of the path, you reach an abandoned manganese mine shaft with an information board, and the views open up further across the valley.

Click here for more information about the other themed hiking trails in the Radol’ca, and here for the Radol’ca hiking and biking map.

© Adele in Slovenia

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

Srednji Vrh: Seeking the Sun and a Stream in the Karavanke!

This ‘summer’ – not that it can really be called that thus far – hasn’t been kind to us outdoor types. This time last year we were basking in 35 degrees, whilst a week ago we had temperatures half that, and since the start of June there have only been a couple of days when there hasn’t been rain somewhere in Slovenia.

Thus, trying to find days with clear blue skies for hiking and getting some good snaps for my blog have been few and far between. Fed up with waiting, I just went anyway, and, though not as gloriously sunny as I would have liked, I managed to get in a good hike in the Karavanke mountains to Srednji vrh and the Dom pri izviru Završnice (mountain hut at the source of the Završnica stream) – and even stayed dry too!

Despite the less sunny photos, I hope you, nonetheless, enjoy this glimpse into just one of the many fantastic hikes in the Karavanke mountains in the Žirovnica area. Join me on my trip to see the source of the Završnica stream and Srednji vrh!

I started my hike from the Završnica valley. How far you go by car is a matter of choice – some choose to drive as far as possible along the valley, whilst I prefer to leave the car and set off on foot along the gravel road. You will want to stop and admire the reservoir (seen below on a sunnier day!), but if you have transport, then do continue along the valley further before parking, as its a long walk from here.

From here the road gets much rougher and it’s best to set off on foot. The area, with its many mountain pastures, is also popular for mountain biking.

The road rises gradually to reach the Tinčkova koca hut, which isn’t actually an official mountain hut, rather a private hut, but somehow the name has stuck!

The Dom pri izviru Završnice hut. which was recently renovated and has new beds and furniture, is situated at an altitude of 1425m above the Smokuč mountain pasture (Smokuška planina) and on the backside of the Zelenica ski piste (sadly, no longer operational).

The hut is open from 1st June to 1st October, and at other times at weekends, weather permitting, and by prior arrangement for groups. From the hut there are numerous options for continuing to explore the peaks of the Karavanke including Vrtača, Begunščica and Stol.

I always find the springs of rivers and streams fascinating. Where on earth does all the water come from? At the source of the Završnica stream, there is barely a trickle of water to be seen – and that despite the abundance of snow and rain this year – yet just a little further down the valley, it turns into a gushing stream.

The beauty of hiking in the Karavanke, particularly in the ‘summer’ (ahem!), is the lack of crowds. I hiked for close to 5 hours and only met around a dozen people in that time – bliss for those who really want to get away from it all.

As I like to make my hikes circular, where possible, I continued from the hut up the ski slope before turning left and heading on the slopes beneath Vrtača. In this area there is a lot of loose rock and scree, so you need to keep your wits about you. As you get higher, you are rewarded with a glimpse of Lake Bled in the distance.

Where the path branches off right to ascend the summit of Vrtača, I took the left fork marked for Stol. On reaching a junction I then descend to the Šija saddle, from where there is certainly no lack of choice of where to go next!

I chose the path to Srednji vrh (1796m), which is just a further 15 minute climb from the saddle. At the top there is a visitors’ book, a solitary bench and fab views!

I then descended back down towards the hut, which is less than half-an-hour from the Šija saddle before returning on the same road.

Click here for more information and this and other hikes in the Žirovnica area.

© Adele in Slovenia