Stuart Forster outlines reasons to go hiking and outlines the best hiking trails in Slovenia.
After touching down in Ljubljana, you might be tempted to hire a car, board a train or travel by bus. However, one of the most rewarding ways of exploring Slovenia is on foot, going hiking in Slovenia.
Trekking gives you the quietude and time to appreciate the chirp of birdsong and the relaxing sound of foliage whispering and rustling as it sways. Slovenia may occupy just 20,151 square kilometres of Europe’s landmass but if you take the percentage of ground covered by woodland as the measurement for ranking the continent’s most forested nations then it is third, behind the Scandinavian neighbours Sweden and Finland. Remarkably, around 58 per cent of Slovenia is covered by forest. This area can give you some of the best hiking trails in Slovenia.
Woodland and conservation zones
In addition to being one of Europe’s greenest nations, roughly 36 per cent of the country’s surface falls within the boundaries of conservation zones and nature protection areas forming part of the European Union’s Natura 2000 network. One of the strategic aims of Natura 2000 is to conserve the continent’s natural habitats and wildlife. Inevitably, trekking provides opportunities to catch glimpses of animals and birdlife and to form impressions as to the impact of the project.
The country has more than 7,000 kilometres of marked trails. Within Slovenia’s borders, you’ll have opportunities to trek through Alpine meadows, alongside the shores of lakes and approximately 27,000 kilometres of waterways, on rugged uplands and by the country’s 46.6 kilometres of Adriatic coastline.
Two European long-distance footpaths
Two of the twelve European long-distance footpaths created by the European Ramblers’ Association intersect the country. Even experienced trekkers need around 30 days to follow the 600-kilometre course of footpath E7 within Slovenia, just a fraction of the transnational trail connecting El Hierro in Spain and Novi Sad in Serbia. It crosses Slovenia between Robič, on the Italian border, and Hodoš, by the frontier with Hungary. Approaching Hodoš will take you through rolling vineyards and onto a 418-metre high hilltop in the Nature Park Goričko, giving views into neighbouring Austria and Hungary. These are some of the best Slovenia hiking trails and why walking in Slovenia is a fantastic experience.
The highest point on the trail is Mount Porezen, 1,632 metres above sea level, a peak offering views of the Julian Alps and, in clear conditions, the sea. The region witnessed heavy fighting during World War Two, so has points of interest for aficionados of military history. Thankfully peace reigns today, allowing wildlife to flourish. Chamois live on the slopes while, above, you may see golden eagles soaring gracefully on the thermals as they watch for prey.
Walking from Finland to Greece
The other long-distance footpath, the E6, cuts 6,300 kilometres across the continent on a north-south axis, between Finland and Greece. The trail runs for 350 kilometres within Slovenia. From Radelj, on the border with Austria, it takes around twenty days to reach the coast at Strunjan, by the elegant coastal town of Portorose, once a destination favoured by the well-to-do of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The path encompasses the Pohorje Mountains and Posavje Hills, meaning a trek on Mount Snežnik, whose peak reaches 1,796 metres over sea level.
If you enjoy mountain scenery then pack your boots and head to Triglav National Park, which covers an area of 838 square kilometres. It became a conservation area back in 1924 and remains Slovenia’s only national park. The three-peaked mountain which gives the park its name features on the country’s flag and, reaching to 2,864 metres, is the nation’s highest.
Mount Triglav and the Vrata Valley
Mountain huts provide refuge for those making an ascent to the peak, an exercise that normally requires a couple of days’ effort. Walking along the Vrata Valley provides views of the Peričnik Waterfall, where water first tumbles 16 metres before dropping a further 52 metres.
The area is popular with photographers and planning a trip in autumn means avoiding the steady stream of summer visitors. If water sports are your thing then plan to spend time at nearby Lake Bohinj, the country’s largest glacial lake.
European Destinations of Excellence
Walking here places you close to the Soča Valley, which in 2008 became the first of Slovenia’s five European Destinations of Excellence, known by the idyllic-sounding acronym EDEN. The scenic area is crisscrossed by trails revealing the horrors of conflict during World War One, including the Path of Peace.
Kluže Fortress, built by the Austrians in the late 19th century, hosts exhibitions about the history of the fortifications and the ecology of the region. If you enjoy outdoor activities then canyoning and kayaking are among the reasons to take off your boots. So too is Slovenia’s seasonal trout fishing.
Trekking and Slovenian cuisine
Trekking, of course, burns calories and Slovenians are proud of their cuisine. In 1799 the first Slovenian cookbook was published and a memorial to the author, Valentin Vodnik, stands at Ljubljana’s central market. Refuelling is essential but dining is also a means of tasting local produce. Freshwater fish plus Tomlin and Bovec cheeses are among the delicacies of the Soča Valley.
Find out more about the country and its attractions on the Visit Slovenia website.
All photos are supplied courtesy of www.slovenia.info. The photographer of the headline image is Ana Pogacar.
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This post was originally posted on 17 January 2016.