In August of 2018, I hiked for 6 days on the Alpe Adria trail, a 43 stage, 750 km marked trail that covers parts of Austria, Slovenia and Italy. The byline for the trail is “Hiking in the Garden of Eden”, thus the corny title of this post.
I started on Stage 23 in the village of Kranjska Gora, a town ~1 hour from Ljubljana and finished in Cividale del Friuli, Italy, covering around 120km in total. Below are a few selected highlights from each of the stages I completed.
Stage 23 Kranjska Gora to Trenta (Distance: 18.7 km)
Kranjska Gora is known as a ski town, each year hosting a World Cup slalom race. My brief time there would suggest that it would also be a great place to visit in summer, offering up endless opportunities for hiking, mountain biking and swimming in the nearby Lake Jasna.
From Kranjska Gora I made my way up to the Vrsic Pass, the highest point of the stage and indeed the highest mountain pass in Slovenia. The pass was built by Russian prisoners during the First World War.
Having worked up a substantial appetite on the climb up to the pass, I was more than ready to indulge in some local cuisine. This area of Slovenia is well known for the Kranjska sausage, which at the Vrsic Hut was served with homemade fries and sauerkraut. The verdict – just perfect.
From Vrsic Hut you are offered a great view of “Pagan Girl”, who could, according to legend, predict one’s destiny (I should have heeded her warning of an impending torrential downpour more seriously!:).
From the Vrsic pass it was mostly a downhill trek through a densely forested trail to my accommodation just outside Trenta. On the way down I was caught in a torrential downpour, and being the experienced, highly organized hiker that I am :), in the rush to keep myself and gear from getting drenched, I put my poncho on the wrong way round! Suffice to say that when I arrived at the retreat style accommodation of Kekcea Domacija, located in the Triglav National Park, I was drenched from head to toe.
The owners of Kekceva Domacija also run a winery, supplying wines to many Slovenian and international restaurants, including NOMA. It turns out that they also wonderful cooks, evidenced by the three course meal they provided, which included a mushroom soup and a sublime ravioli with butter sage sauce, all of which (of course) was washed down with a couple of glasses beautiful white wine.
Stage 24 Trenta to Bovec (Distance: 21km)
A long, but ultimately very rewarding hike that for the most part followed the beautifully clear blue Soca river. One of the highlights of the day was going for a very quick dip in the icy cold waters of the river, along with locals of all ages, shapes and sizes.
Having gone well past the 21km listed in the guide book and with no sign Bovec in the distance, and a little bit of “hangriness” setting in, I was beginning to doubt if the town really existed! There was an overwhelming sense of relief when after nearly 7 hours of hiking I saw the town in the distance. Arriving near dusk did afford me some spectacular views of the Julian Alps.
A few other scenes from the the hike from Trenta to Bovec.
Stage 25: Bovec to Dreznica (Distance: 23 km)
Day 3’s hike was a story of loss (of my sunglasses, after I sat on them), of survival (of my phone, after a 30 foot drop off a bridge) and waterfalls, namely the Virje and the Boka. Though the latter is the biggest in Slovenia, I found the Virje to be much more impressive.
During the hike I met a fellow Melbournian, now living in Paris, who was riding her bike from northern Scotland to Turkey, camping most of the way (yeah well, I’m hiking for six days, having most of my luggage carried for me and staying in hotels that provide nice breakfasts – I’m so hard core!). Our brief encounter did provide inspiration for another possible adventure to add to my travel bucket list, at least after I improve my bike maintenance skills and get over my aversion to sleeping in tents!
During this six days of hiking I tried to make a habit of noting down highlights/insights of each stage, with the view to expand on them when it came time to write about it in this blog. A quick glance at my notes from today’s hike included “lots of forested trails with fallen leaves, watching kids learning to paddle and admiring an older man swimming in the icy cold waters of the Soca river”. Maybe I should just let the pictures tell the story 🙂
Dreznica is a gorgeous little village set above the Isonzo valley. It’s dominant feature is the church of the Heart of Christ.
I celebrated my arrival in the town with a beautifully cheap glass of wine (served on tap) and ice cream (weird combo, but when in Dreznica…) from Jelkin Hram. Unfortunately, due to lack of accommodation options, I had to take a taxi back to Bovec, which in a small way spoiled the romance associated with multi-day hikes such as this one, where one of the attractions is being able to discover and explore a new town each day.
Some other pics from the stage.
Stage 26: Zreznica to Tolmin (Distance: 20 km)
The first part of this stage (forgetting about the taxi ride from Bovec back to Dreznica!) involved a 6 km climb that ended at the Chapel on the Planica, which was built in memory of Italian soldiers that died during the First World War. While the first 4 – 5 km was up a very manageable gradient, the last section of the climb was very steep and at times slippery (i.e. be sure to be wearing hiking shoes with very good grip and/or take a hiking pole if you are ever doing this hike). The climb was well worth it, affording some fantastic views of the valley below.
After the accent, the rest of the hike involved a long, long downhill (~1000 m elevation change) before a 2 – 3 km flat section along the Soca river leading to the town of Tolmin. I will let the pictures below describe the beauty of the natural environment encountered along the way.
Stage 27: Tolmin to Tribil di Sopra (Distance: 19.5 km)
Growing up in Australia, the very idea of going for a walk and finishing in a different country is, for obvious reasons, quite absurd. But I can imagine for many Europeans it’s seen as a very normal thing to do. I really do love Italy and was excited to explore a part I had not yet visited. All that being said, my few days in Slovenia had been an absolute revelation, and I can’t wait to go back and enjoy more of the beautiful natural environment that it has to offer.
The first part of the hike involved a 6 km ascent to the top of Kolovat mountain, again affording spectacular views of the surrounding valley and mountains.
At the top of the climb there is an open air museum, that includes remnants of fortifications built by the Italians in the First World War.
A quick, steep decent from the top of Mt Kolovrat brings you to here…”Un expresso per favor!”
I’m still very much a novice hiker, which is especially apparent when it comes to reading maps/interpreting written directions. By way of example, it took me six loops around the small town of Clabuzzaro before I found the right path, and that was only because another hiker came by to show me the way. At one point during my search for the trail I found myself fighting my way through overgrown vines a on a path thinking “something is not quite right here!”.
The final destination of this stage was Tribil di Sopra, which has a population of only 40 people! As luck would have it, most in the town (as well as some who had left), were celebrating the feast day of the Assumption of Mary, with a communal BBQ that they were more than happy for a fellow hiker and I to join. It turned out to be one of those magical travel experiences – enjoying great food with welcoming strangers on a beautiful summer’s evening.
The evening was hosted by a lovely lady who owns/manages Alla Rosa Dei Venti. While I didn’t stay there, reports from fellow hikers suggest that it is a great place to stay if passing through.
Stage 28: Tribil di Sopra to Cividale del Friuli (23.4 km)
Sadly, this was the last day of the hike. As had been the theme through the entire journey, the path was filled with stunning mountain vistas, forested trails and near the end, some beautiful vineyards.
For the most part today’s hike was not very difficult, with the climb up to The Santuary of Castelmonte the only challenging section. Upon reaching the top, I thought it only appropriate to reward myself with a slice Torta di Ricotta, which was absolutely divine.
From the Sanctuary it was mostly downhill and a little bit of flat to the final destination of Cividale del Friuli. My sublime navigation skills meant I added an extra 4 km to the already relatively long stage, so when I finally reached the town I was more than a little hungry and thirsty. As I soon discovered, this beautiful small town in Northern Italy is far from the worst place in the world to be when in need of tasty recovery food and fluids.
When I first travelled to Italy a very good friend of mine, whose family is from Italy, suggested one thing I must do when there is to go to the main Piazza, order an Aperol Spritz and watch the world go by. So when finishing a hike in Civildale…
Below is a scene from one of the main Piazzas and a view from the bridge leading into the old town.
Waking up the next day, tired but somewhat proud of my efforts, the idea of having to catch a bus and train to my next destination, instead of putting my hiking boots and going for a walk, didn’t fill me with the same sense of anticipation, and in many ways felt a little like cheating. This hike definitely wet my appetite for similar hiking adventures, whether in Italy/Slovenia or indeed any country that offers up beautiful and diverse natural environments similar to those that were on show in these stages of the Alpe-Adria trail.
While my tour was organized by The Natural Adventure Company, via a local operator Helia Travel Agency, you can organize an itinerary through the Alpe-Adria trail website, or of course, as a few fellow hikers I met on the trail had done, organize it all yourself.
To get to the starting point in Kranskja Gora, you can catch a bus from the main bus terminal in Ljbubjana (visit this site for more information: https://www.kranjska-gora.si/en/info/how-to-find-us).
All the accommodation was arranged by the Helia Travel Agency.
Hotel Miklic (Kransjska Gora):Really nice, clean hotel 5 minutes walk from the centre. My spacious room on the second floor had a balcony which overlooked the Julian Alps. Worth being hungry for the extensive and tasty buffet breakfast.
Kekceva Domacija (Triglav National Park, near Trenta): Beautiful accommodation in a gorgeous setting, with wonderful food and wine to boot.
Alp Hotel (Bovec): Large, basic hotel, very centrally located. The breakfast buffet made me miss Hotel Miklic.
Casa Cebajova (Tribil di Sopra): Beautifully fitted out and very spacious self-contained apartment.
Hotel Roma (Cividale del Friuli): Pleasant, centrally located 3-star hotel close to all the main attractions of the town.
I was in Ljubljana for less than 24 hours, but feel it’s definitely a town worth exploring for longer. If visiting, make sure you do the free walking tour and visit Mala Prazarna for a fantastic cup of coffee in a cozy and cool setting.