The new 300km Julian Alps Hiking Trail takes in some of Slovenia’s most beautiful scenery, from snow-capped peaks to Alpine valleys.
Stretching from northeastern Italy through Slovenia, where they rise to 2,864m at Mount Triglav, the Julian Alps take in some of Europe’s most magnificent scenery. Named after Julius Caesar, who founded the municipium of Cividale del Friuli at the foot of the mountains, these peaks offer incredible views, crystal-clean water, verdant green landscapes and the chance to explore picturesque remote villages.
Visitors to the beautiful country of Slovenia are now invited to tackle these majestic mountains with the new 300km Julian Alps Hiking Trail, in part or – for the more adventurous among us – all at once. Launching in autumn this year, the trail runs in a clockwise direction and is divided into various stages of about 20km. The plan is to incorporate cycling trails in the future.
Undoubtedly the king of this range is Triglav – not only Slovenia’s highest mountain but also the symbol of the Slovenian nation (the country’s coat of arms is a shield with the image of Mount Triglav, which appears on its flag).
First protected in 1924 and now covering some 838km2, Triglav National Park allows hikers to get reacquainted with nature. It’s home to vertiginous peaks, picturesque Alpine valleys, babbling brooks and lakes that reflect the blue sky, plus diverse flora and fauna.
There is an abundance of beauty along the trail: hikers will take in Lake Bohinj, the largest on the route, and the idyllic Lake Bled, home to Slovenia’s only natural island and one of Europe’s most beautiful spots. Here, hikers can visit the island on a traditional pletna boat. The island is home to Assumption of Mary Pilgrimage Church, where visitors often ring the bell for good luck. On the way to Gorje, a pretty village set at the top of a gently sloping ridge, the trail continues along the northern shore of the lake below Bled Castle to the Bled Jezero railway station. Those with time should visit the fortress (pictured above), which is thought to be the oldest castle in Slovenia, first mentioned in a 1011 donation deed as castellum Veldes.
On the trail, hikers will follow the beautiful emerald-coloured Soča river (pictured right) all the way to the vineyard hills of Brda, where merlot, cabernet sauvignon, pinot noir, pinot gris and sauvignon vert are produced. Besides grapes, the region also produces cherries, apricots, pears, figs and plums. Nestled between the Alps and the Adriatic Sea, Brda is a great example of Slovenia’s beauty and diversity.
The trail begins (and ends) at the state border between Slovenia and Italy in Rateče and continues past the beautiful Zelenci springs and beneath the hills of Vitranc to Kranjska Gora, an alpine resort in northwestern Slovenia. From there, the trail passes along the left bank of the Sava Dolinka river and rises to the picturesque viewing point of Srednji Vrh.
Continuing along the valley, the trail takes in Belca on the right bank of the Sava Dolinka and Mojstrana. It then leads to pretty Lipce and across the Dobravsko polje field (a large, flat plain) to Moste and other villages beneath Stol mountain, the highest mountain of the Karawanks which straddles the border between Slovenia and Austria.
From Žirovnica to Rodine, the villages beneath Stol are linked by a rich cultural heritage, allowing hikers to learn more about Slovenian history and traditional ways of living. From here, the trail ascends to Sveti Peter above Begunje, a hill that offers one of the most beautiful views of the Julian Alps from the east and opens the view almost to Ljubljana, the country’s stunning capital. Regardless of where hikers begin their journey, the small but culturally rich city is more than worthy of a visit either side of the trek.
The trail winds through the village of Begunje to Radovljica, one of the best-preserved town structures in Slovenia with houses dating from the 15th and 16th centuries. From the town, the trail descends to the Sava river and along its left bank past the confluence of both Sava headwaters – Bohinjka and Dolinka – and runs to Šobec and Bled.
After Gorje, hikers will begin a demanding ascent to Pokljuka, a forested karst plateau at an elevation of around 1,100-1,400m. Popular with climbers, cyclists and skiers, this unique landscape offers adventure in abundance and breathtaking views.
Regardless of whether hikers decide to tackle the entire trail or just a stage or two, they are guaranteed to enjoy magnificent scenery. For example, from Most na Soči to Bovec, the trail around the Julian Alps takes in the beautiful and pristine Soča river. When heading to Kobarid hikers will see the famous Kozjak Waterfall – just a few minutes’ walk away – and travel past the typically Slovene villages of Trnovo, Srpenica and Žaga.
In Bovec, hikers can search for the historic trail that leads past the Kluže Fortress, built in 1472, and walk further along the Koritnica River to Log pod Mangartom, set before the Mangart, Jalovec and Loška stena mountains.
Another beautiful stretch comes after Pokljuka and Bačarsko sedlo as hikers start their third major ascent across the Predel Pass, situated on the border with Italy. Behind the bridge at the end of the village there is a road that takes in the picturesque waterfalls in the Predilnica gorge. It continues to the Italian side along the old road to Rajbelj, an old mining town; on a hot day, the lake below is perfect for a refreshing swim. The trail from here leads to Rateče.
With direct flights to Ljubljana (average flight time 2h 10m) from London Gatwick, Heathrow, Luton and Stansted, and Manchester, it’s easy to join the trail at any junction. It’s a chance to escape the stresses and distractions of everyday life, reconnect with nature and, given Slovenia’s commitment to sustainable tourism, enjoy environmentally-friendly adventure.
For more information, see julian-alps.com