With nature right on its doorstep, Slovenia is a land filled with adventure. Whether you wild swim in its pristine waters or take to off-beat trails by bike, there’s an experience waiting to be shared...
As a travel writer who has visited over 100 countries it always amazes me when couples jet off from Europe to the likes of Canada and New Zealand in search of adventure. I’m amazed as there is a country in Europe that offers a swathe of adventure sports and outdoor activities that are up there with anything else you will find further afield. That country is Slovenia. I’ve spent many glorious trips here myself with my wife bashing around its vaulting mountains on two feet or two wheels, flinging ourselves around in its whitewater rivers and delving deep into some of the world’s most dramatic cave systems.
Slovenia could have been sculpted with active recreation in mind. That is not lost on its people, who love nothing more than getting active in the great outdoors. This bijou bolthole sports everything from the epic mountain peaks of the Julian Alps, through to the surging Soča River and on to the shimmering Adriatic Coast. It’s time to put down that longhaul brochure, stop searching the web for expensive flights to the other side of the world and head for Slovenia. Here are five adrenaline pumping outdoor activities to get the heart and head racing in this most special of countries.
Slovenia is a paradise whether you are into road cycling or prefer heading off road on a mountain bike. Even on the edge of the capital of Ljubljana the UNESCO World Heritage Ljubljana Marshes Nature Park tempts, where you cycle through history of the pile-dwellers who once eked out a living.
Down on the Slovenian coast you can ride on the Parenzana, a journey that sweeps through the Secovlje Salt Pans Natural Park and an ever changing panorama of vineyards, orchards and olive groves.
If you prefer tackling mountains, the Alpine route between the lakes of Bohinj and Bled opens up the pristine Triglav National Park. Bela Krajina is a less heralded region where you can enjoy an idyllic cycle by the River Kolpa, a natural wonder awarded the title of EDEN (European Destination of Excellence) in 2010. Major cycling events include the Franja Marathon, which whirls through Ljubljana in June and the Tour of Slovenia. On the first Saturday of September you can join in the Ride on Vršič, a testing 13.5km challenge over the country’s highest mountain pass.
Slovenia is a hub for both river and sea based watersports. The epicentre of the former is the Soča Valley. This mighty glacial river dishes up plenty of whitewater thrills, whether you tackle it in a raft or a kayak. Further whitewater thrills await on the River Savinja in Štajerska, River Kolpa in Bela Krajina and the River Krka in Dolenjska.
For a gentler experience you can take a kayak out on the country’s serene glacial lakes. On the coast sailing is popular with a sprinkling of marinas, while the popularity of stand up paddle boarding is soaring.
Wild swimming is a national obsession, whether in the Adriatic, in the sparklingly clear glacial lakes of Bled and Bohinj, or clean rivers such as the Kolpa.
Slovenia is quite simply a world class hiking destination, with 10,000km of marked hiking trails and a choice of almost 200 overnight mountain huts.
A great base in the Julian Alps is the resort town of Kranjska Gora, with myriad routes in both summer and winter. You can tackle the ‘big one’, Mount Triglav, which soars to a whopping 2,864m high. Or how about the Three Borders? Take on Mt. Mojstrovka, Mt. Špik, and Mt. Prisojnik and see countries converge in a breathtaking wildscape.
Bled is another ideal base for exploring the Triglav National Park and also offers the option of an easy walk around its shores plus the nearby Vintgar Gorge, where wooden walkways guide you around a spectacular canyon.
The Logar Valley is easily one of the most beautiful Alpine glacial valleys, its vaulting snow-capped peaks rising up from a wildflower strewn Alpine valley floor. You can take on the highest peaks using the local mountain huts or just enjoy a short trek to Rinka Waterfall, one of Slovenia’s highest.
Slovenes are crazy about their caves and its no wonder as this compact country boasts no fewer than 12,000 with speleologists constantly discovering more! They come in all shapes and sizes in this porous karst wonderland.
The most famous are the Postojna Caves, where a wee train trundles you deep into a vast subterranean lair fit for a James Bond villain. As well as epic stalactites and stalagmites, there are all manner of otherworldly wonderful rock formations, Postojna is home to the human fish, as strange and fascinating a creature as you will ever encounter.
Nearby lies Predjama Castle, the world’s largest cave castle. UNESCO have also placed the Škocjan Caves on their World Heritage list and no wonder. The vast halls, tunnels and remarkable rock formations here are if anything even more jaw dropping.
The Krizna Jama meanwhile boasts 45 subterranean lakes and is said to be home to more than 40 species, making it one of the world’s top five cave systems in terms of eco-diversity.
Why jet off to New Zealand or Canada when you can hurl yourself off a bridge with only a bungee cord for company, whizz down a zipline, or paraglide high in the sky in Slovenia?
Slovenia offers several paragliding schools where you can learn the basics, or you can just hook up in tandem with an instructor. If you prefer staying in the plane there are panoramic and acrobatic flights too. You can also fling yourself off much lower land canyoning. This thrilling sport sees you hurl yourself off cliffs, bash through rapids and wade through pools in Slovenia’s rivers and gorges – it’s a sort of mixture of climbing, swimming and diving. The Susec and Kozjak canyons are the most popular spots.
Nature is tamed and then cranked up meanwhile at Slovenia’s network of Adrenaline Parks. They offer a great way to enjoy the great outdoors in safety, tackling rope bridges, via ferrata, forest high wire courses and ziplines. Three of the most popular are the Bohinj Adrenaline Park, Adventure Park Srnica and the Soča Fun Park in Solkan.
The latter begins by crossing the river on a raft and ends sliding down a zipline from one side of the River Soča to the other. You won’t forget zip-lining over the mighty ski jump in the Planica Valley in a hurry either as you hurtle 566 metres reaching speeds of up to 85 km/h.
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