A hiking and eating guide to Slovenia

I alluded to this in my last post of reasons to visit Slovenia – the joint is a hiking and eating wonderland. It’s a tiny country, but it packs in everything an adventurer with a refined appetite could ever wish for – lush forests, technical mountain climbs (via ferrata), pristine and warm (!) lakes, vineyards, mediaeval villages boasting world-class Gostilni (taverns)… In technicolour, with bonus incredible wine.

It’s Disneyland for the Outdoorsy Foodie Set.

A few things to note:

While tourism facilities are fantastic, working out an epic route on your own is nigh impossible from afar. I researched for a few weeks and then realized there are too many moving parts to coordinate – timing bookings in the mountain huts with transport timetables with reservations at the top restaurants with knowing where the knockout walks are etc. In my dive down the rabbit hole, I wound up connecting with one very amiable Miha who owns SloTrips. I searched “eco solo hiking trips Slovenia” and he emerged from the Google fray. Miha organizes bespoke adventure trips – for groups and for solos, and for all levels of fitness, but always with a unique and food-orientated slant. He is one of the few operators who is local (many, I learned, operate out of the UK or Germany etc).

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But here’s the thing…

Miha and I spent several months – in a fun email trail – nutting out THE MOST EPIC adventure ever. Very sadly I suffered a health issue days before setting off and had to pull out of the hiking. Miha insisted I do the trip by car, experiencing the highlights and some of the mountain huts and Gostilna. And he insisted on covering much of it, such was his disappointment for me.

My gesture back to him now, is to detail my bespoke hiking and eating guide should you want to try it for yourself.

We’ve called it the Sarah Wilson Slovenia Adventure.

  • It’s a lovingly crafted 33-page itinerary that opens with “Welcome to Slovenia. A country with a shape of a chicken, 2 million happy citizens and lots of LOVE. It’s in the name: sLOVEnia!”
  • Days required: 8 days of hiking and biking and a day of rafting
  • It’s hut-to-hut, traversing the Lake region, the Julian Alps and the Soca River. So you don’t have to carry camping gear, nor food. Indeed, a baggage transfer service can also be organised.
  • Strenuous? Miha rates it as 8 on a scale of 1-10 (1 being a stroll, 10 being serious mountaineering for very fit hikers/moutaineers).
  • Distance covered:60km hiking, 60km biking, 4000m elevation gain in a week.
  • It finishes at Hisa Franko, the infamous Michelin star restaurant run by Ana Ros and her husband of Chef’s Table fame. Ros was also awarded Best Female Chef in the world this year at the San Pellegrino restaurant awards.
  • Best time? July-September.

Here’s the gist of the walk, in pictures, to inspire you to give my trip a go, or to create your own itinerary. You can also contact Miha direct to get more details:

Lake Bled: hiking and eating

The trip kicks off here after a day hanging by the lake.

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A trip to Slovenia must include this place in the itinerary. There are a bunch of stunning hikes you can do around the lake, such as the climb to Ojstrica with this incredible view…

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You can also ride to beautiful gorges and nearby villages, including Lake Bohnij (which is a spiderweb of hiking trials).

I ate at Pension Berc. Which is worth the 15 minute stroll out of town.

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I had lunch with some journalists at Bled Castle restaurant, which leads the food waste programs in Slovenia. I ate the local buckwheat risotto.

I also ate at Oštarija Peglez’n which is great little local place for fish and bustle.

The Vila Preseren  on the lake does a bunch of deserts made with Stevia. Just saying.

The Julian Alps and Mt Triglav

This is the bit I didn’t get to, due to health stuff. You climb up out of Lake Bled for three days through meadows and then up scree. I was to be kitted out with a helmet and harness for several stretches of Via Ferrata. The overnight stays are in basic mountain huts where food is helicoptered in. You reach the top of Mt Triglav, the highest mountain in Slovenia and festooned on the flag.

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I’ve had to include one of Miha’s pictures for you here. Sad face.

Kranjska Gora and Soca River

Next follows several days of riding and hiking, and rafting, up and down through mountain ranges with waterfall stopoffs, meadow picnics and overnights stays in the most stunning huts and villages. You pass historic World War ll sites and chapels dripping in battle stories.

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And Miha provides coordinates for lunch stops at stunning mountain huts where you get served big bowls of pork and cabbage soup and a homemade beer. Miha uses his connections throughout the mountains to have bikes and rafts ready at various points. It all flows effortlessly.

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If you’re doing your own thing, a hike along the Soca Trail is really worth the visit. I did sections of it (I was kind of allowed to do small walks).

Hisa Franko

The last stretch of the Soca is done in a raft. You then get back on a bike and meander downhill close to the Italian border and the wine region to…dinner at this legendary restaurant – Hisa Franko. You do have to book many months in advance, but Miha was able to advise that they take a handful of 5pm reservations (and got me one such).

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Funnily, a girl called Sarah booked a table on her own at the same time. So we sat together and took photos of us taking photos.

Screen Shot 2017 08 20 at 9.15.12 PM A hiking and eating guide to Slovenia I sat outside and enjoyed sourdough made from a starter four years old and fermented in apple peels; fermented cucumber with curry, rabbit liver and peanut butter…and violets; cheese lollipops; lingon leaf wrapped around sheep ricotta and fermented beet. And a glass of Slovenian merlot. Then dinner started…

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As the sun set over the meadows with the Dolomites and the Julian Alps in the distance, I moved onto the above dignified feast. Ana Ros and her husband greet all diners and pop in and out all night to check you’re ok. It feels like you’re dining in their outdoor patio…which you pretty much are. Check out the Netflix Chef’s Table episode about the place to get a feel for things.

Miha then checked me into a great place in Smarto, a walled city on a hill declared a cultural heritage monument in the wine region close to Italy. The following day I took myself down to the coast to Piran. For details of my stay in Piran, check out my Slovenia highlights post.

Before I sign off I’ll also take on…

Eating highlights in Ljubliana

You’ll probably kick off or finish in the capital. See my previous Slovenia highlights post to get cafe pointers. Here are few stand-outs:

Strelec is in Ljubljana castle’s archer’s tower. I hiked to get there (you can take a gondola) and then you climb a spiral staircase to emerge into a stunning place with views over the city. Chef Igor Jagodic – a rising star in Slovenian gastronomic circles – does great stuff with local produce. Lots of tongue and liver and trout and.. cauliflower!

I ate at Biro Bistro in Ljubljana  I like this place for their salads and for the location. Gornij trg is my favourite street in Ljubljana. Also check out Crno Zrno, a lovely coffee house, nextdoor.

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I also loved Pri Skofu in Ljubljana. Just a five-minute wander out of the main centre on a cobblestoned suburban street is this gorgeous little joint run by women for 25 years and set on a big veggie garden. I had the most delightful meal – beef and Istrian truffles with vegetables and herbs – sitting under the vines in the dappled light. There are a lot of cute touches here – toys for kids, wild herbs from their garden, gorgeous service…

As I say, feel free to contact Miha and get more details about the Sarah Wilson Slovenian Adventure.

He can also tweak it to suit your needs – number of people, fitness level, number of days etc. Or he can do you your own trip – everything from gentle walking trips to food tours to Slovenian history routes….incorporating all the best village stays and foodie spots.

You can also contact Slovenia Tourism or follow them on social media for inspiration (this is how my trip started out).

For more information make sure you check out Slovenia Tourism’s very cool site. I found it super helpful.

Also follow the hashtags #sarahwilsontravels #sarahwilsonhikes #ifeelslovenia on instagram for extra inspiration.

You can see my other international hiking, eating, wellness, slow food guides here.

Got any questions? Miha and his team can help out!

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