Mountain Kingdom

Author: Ana Kraševec

Date: 1. November 2019

Time to read: 7 min

As part of the Slovenia-wide environmental protection campaign Let's Clean Up Our Mountains (Očistimo naše gore), which took place for the ninth time this year, Slovenians voted for the most beautiful mountain trail. The circular route Planina Blato – Planina pri Jezeru – Planina Dedno polje – Vrata (za Kopico) – Prehodavci – Dvojno jezero – Štapce – Planina Ovčarija – Planina pri Jezeru – Planina Blato emerged the clear winner in this category, beating over sixty other competing trails. The winning trail, which lies at the very heart of the Julian Alps and Triglav National Park, received almost twice as many votes as the second ranked one. The trail takes an average hiker up to 11 hours to walk, without accounting for stops.

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The fact that the trail won the most votes not only confirms that it is very popular with hikers, but also offers recognition and praise to the trail markers who make sure that it is well-maintained, safe and well-marked.

Few people know that Slovenian mountain trails are among the best marked and most secure trails in Europe, and indeed the world, a fact confirmed by foreign hikers and experts.

Most of the credit for this goes to trail markers. In Slovenia, mountain trails are maintained by volunteers, members of trail marking sections within alpine clubs. According to the latest data, 1.7 million people visit the Slovenian mountains each year and the number is expected to increase. This means more work for trail markers, who in 2017 did as many as 32,000 hours of volunteer work.

The magnificent world of the Julian Alps

The most beautiful mountain trail runs through the stunning world of the Julian Alps, which in 2003 were included in UNESCO's Man and the Biosphere Programme and declared a biosphere reserve - an area of special protection for its natural resources and biodiversity. The Julian Alps are the highest mountain range in Slovenia. Most of the area is covered by Triglav National Park, whose purpose is to conserve the exceptional natural and cultural value of the Alps and to protect native plant and animal species, ecosystems and features of inanimate nature.

The diverse flora and fauna have a high and well-deserved reputation: here you can find towering rocky peaks that offer spectacular views, crystal waters shimmering in the sun, green landscapes with colourful alpine flowers.

In higher areas, it is not unusual to cross paths with an ibex or chamois. The landscape, which due to its beauty, uniqueness and serenity seems and feels like a fairy tale land, will certainly not leave anyone indifferent. 

Trail of breathtaking views and adventures

More experienced and faster hikers can cover the trail in one day provided they start in the very early hours of the morning, finish near the starting point late in the evening and spend the night at the mountain hut at Planina pri Jezeru. As a little extra treat, the next day they can then hike to the nearby Pršivec (1761 m), which is known as "the Balcony over Bohinj" as it offers a beautiful view of Lake Bohinj beneath. Those less experienced or those who would like to hike the trail at a leisurely pace can cover the trail in two days and spend the night either at the mountain hut Zasavska koča na Prehodavcih or at the hut at the Triglav Lakes (Koča pri Triglavskih jezerih). Keep in mind that it is wise to book a bed at any of the huts in advance, as there are many visitors in the summer, especially on sunny weekends.

Our adventure begins at Planina Blato, which lies above Lake Bohinj at an altitude of 1100 metres. You can access the starting point by car or go for the cheaper and simpler option and use public transport from Bohinj, which has been introduced this year to reduce the number of cars in Triglav National Park.

First, the trail ascends moderately across the forested landscape, which provides pleasant, cool shade and prevents exhaustion from kicking in too soon. After less than an hour of walking, you arrive at the first stop: the hut at Planina pri jezeru. The hut is well known for its extremely friendly and helpful staff, and holds a "Family-friendly mountain hut" certificate. This is why you should definitely stop there and treat yourself to a delicious alpine breakfast, perhaps a homemade apple strudel and alpine tea made from local herbs, to prepare yourself for the long journey ahead.

From the hut at Planina pri Jezeru you make a short ascent to Planina Dedno Polje and take a path to the right; the landscape gradually becomes more open, resembling a wonderland of green bursting with colourful flowers. Continuing along the Za Kopico Valley, you follow a slightly ascending white path, enjoying the beautiful sight of the peaks surrounding the first part of the valley. After just over two hours you arrive at the Vrata (Slovenian word for "door") saddle, the very name of which implies that you are about to enter the world of high mountains – you are now well above the tree line and with a bit of luck you might see an ibex up close. From Vrata to the hut on the Prehodavci Pass it takes less than an hour of walking along the rocky landscape, which may still be covered with patches of snow, and extra caution should be taken when crossing these.

The hut at Prehodavci is always buzzing with life. If the weather is good, you will be rewarded with truly magnificent views of many mighty peaks of the Julian Alps, making your long hike very worthwhile. After having rested and refreshed, you should head off to complete the second half of this circular route. From the hut, it takes two hours to get to the next one at the Triglav Lakes, the path leading past the seven Triglav Lakes, including Ledvica, which is the largest and, many believe, most beautiful of all the lakes. Unfortunately, it is being slowly but insistently filled with sediment from the surrounding scree slopes.

The hut at the Triglav Lakes is located at the Double Lake (Dvojno jezero). There you will be able to see algae in the lake, which is also an issue in some of the other lakes here. The algae are a consequence of people bringing fish into the lake years before strict environmental rules were imposed.

From here, you embark on the last quarter of the journey; the path, which leads over the Štapce pass, is a bit more demanding, but well secured. After an hour or more of hiking, you are back at Planina Dedno Polje, from where you follow the now already familiar path leading back to the starting point.

All who decide to hike this trail will surely not regret having experienced the primal essence and breathtaking beauty of the pristine nature on display. The varied impressions and memories you will collect on this day or two will undoubtedly stay with you forever, making you want to return again and again.