Cycling holiday in Slovenia: Cycling & hiking around Triglav National Park
When we returned back home from Mexico this Spring after a year of cycling, we spent time with our family and friends in Belgium for two months. It didn't take long before our cycling legs felt restless once again, so in May we decided to hop back on our bikes and cycle from our front door in Belgium to Slovenia. This time a "short" two month cycling holiday, but a memorable one with plenty of highlights. But what was the real highlight of this cycling trip in Euroep? For us it was definitely the nature around Triglav National Park in the Julian Alps, Slovenia. A beautiful, rugged piece of nature where you can combine cycling and hiking perfectly. And that's exactly what we did, in this blog you will find all the information on how to plan your adventurous cycling (or hiking) holiday to Slovenia.
How to get to Slovenia?
Our trip to Slovenia was part of a longer cycling trip. Via the Alpe Adria cycling route we cycled from Austria through Italy for a short distance, passing the border village of Tarvisio. You enter Slovenia via a beautifully constructed bike path along an old railroad line. In the distance you already catch a glimpse of the Julian Alps so it's phenomenal cycling from the moment you enter Slovenia. After about an hour you come across the mountain town of Kransjka Gora, adjacent to Triglav National Park. A charming village where the popularity of Slovenia in summer quickly overwhelms us. We ourselves first make a stop in Gozd Martuljek for a family visit, 4 km outside Kransjka Gora. The view of the Julian Alps and the Karawanken Mountains is magnificent and you won't easily feel bored here. After just one day in Slovenia we shout, "How insanely beautiful it is here!".
If you plan to travel directly to Slovenia from Belgium or the Netherlands, we recommend taking a bus with bicycle transport with Cycletours.nl. From April to September, this organisation offers transportation to 8 countries in Europe. The bus departs from the Netherlands (Amsterdam, Utrecht or Arnhem) and takes you as far as Villach (Austria) and Bled (Slovenia). During the ride, you can safely store your bicycles in the bike trailer without having to disassemble them. Just turn your handlebars, take off the front rack and you're done! With 17 to 19 hours, it's a long bus ride, but you don't waste time in advance looking for bike boxes, taking the bikes apart (and putting it back together again) and we find it convenient not to have a hassle with this. Much more fun than traveling by plane and, in our opinion, also less time wasted with preparations. The seats on the bus are comfortable enough to take regular naps, as well there are plenty of stops along the way to stretch your legs and visit a restroom.
Where to stay during your cycling and hiking holiday?
Slovenia has become a hugely popular holiday destination in recent years and this reflects itself in the amount of sleeping arrangements. In addition to plenty of ho(s)tels, outdoor enthusiasts can also find great campsites and beautiful mountain huts. The downside of this popularity? We found it incredibly crowded in places, many ho(s)tels and campsites are fully booked weeks or even months in advance. So start your search early if you want to go on a Summer holiday in Slovenia during high season. On top of that, the cost of sleeping somewhere is not cheap, every type of accommodation was a lot more expensive than we had thought in advance!
As a cyclist, you obviously have one big advantage. Even if you arrive at fully booked campsites, there is always room for a tent and two exhausted cyclists. We have never (including in Slovenia) been turned away upon arrival at a campsite. Further on in this blog you will find where we slept (and other recommendations) in our daily summary, so you can conveniently plan a trip around Triglav National Park.
Another topic we would like to briefly touch upon is wild camping in Slovenia. During our world trip by bicycle we did this numerous times, always respecting the environment and locals with the "leave-no-trace principle". In Slovenia, however, we were soon told by locals and other travellers wild camping is prohibited. Many other travellers had already come into contact with the police and there are regular and strict checks with the necessary fines. We ourselves usually wanted to spend two nights in one place to explore the area, so hence our choice to opt for campsites and mountain huts to sleep in Slovenia. Do you still want to go wild camping? Do it with respect for nature and always check with locals, of course this is always at your own risk!
How to get around Slovenia?
Slovenia has generally been made very accessible to cyclists and hikers and they are constantly improving the cycling infrastructure. There are many well-maintained bicycle paths and quite a few long-distance bicycle routes as well.
If you travel by bicycle in Slovenia, there will still be times when you have to share the road with vehicles. In general, we felt very safe and the drivers behave courteously. As a cyclist, you also have to adapt to heavy traffic. A mirror on your bike is helpful, make yourself more visible with fluorescent vests and/or lights during bad weather and cycle in a line. Still, there are times when you prefer to avoid the crowds, for example on a national road that winds through the mountains. Fortunately, at those times there is always a solution to take your bike on a bus or train. We opted to take the train for the stretch between Most na Soçi and Bohinsjki Bistrica. You can find the train hours online this website and buy the tickets on the train itself, it's very cheap!
You're not cycling in Slovenia but would like to travel in a sustainable way in this adventurous country? You can! The public transportation around Triglav National Park is quite well organized and in Summer there are free buses in the tourist areas:
On the picture below you will find a brief overview of the major trips you can make by public transport around Triglav National Park. We only did this once ourselves, but to find out more about the possibilities we advise you to contact the tourist info locally.
Day-by-day overview of Triglav National Park
As mentioned earlier, we biked and hiked our way around Triglav National Park. Below you will find a detailed daily summary with tips and tricks, as well as the places where we slept. It's aimed at the adventurous cyclist and hiker, but can certainly be useful for other travellers who only want to implement certain bits for their trip to Slovenia.
Would you rather get a quick visual image on the map of what this route might look like? Then have a look at our Komoot profile where you can download the gpx files for free per stage (please also give us a "follow" on Komoot to stay updated on our other adventures). You will also find advice on places to sleep (campsites and hotels) where we have slept or heard good things about from others. We sometimes share the price, but please keep in mind that prices fluctuate and this advice is also purely subjective!
Day 1: Bled
We hade already been in Slovenia for one week, having cycled into the country via Tarvisio (Italy) and stayed with family in Gozd Martuljek for a week. To make things easy, we start this route from Bled, since it is very easy to reach by public transport and Cycletours buses also arrive here from the Netherlands.
Should you arrive in Bled after a long journey, it is just as nice to spend a night here and immediately enjoy beautiful surroundings. The walk around the lake is loaded with tourists and with good reason. The beautiful view is definitely worth a visit and you can have something to eat or drink at numerous cozy places around the lake. We ordered a delicious vegan pizza at Pizza Gallus. A visit to Bled Castle is also a highlight according to many (€14 entrance fee) and with our friends we went to the toboggan run to please the kids, and ourselves. A fun activity with great views from the top, but the wait is incredibly long. However, if you are sensitive to big crowds, Bled is probably not the best place to spend a lot of time.
If you want to camp, for cyclists we would recommend River Camping Bled outside the busy city center. Affordable accommodation about 5 km outside Bled can be found at Tourist Farm Anzk. If you want to sleep more central near the lake you immediately pay a lot more money. We are not into fancy-luxury accommodation and would recommend Pr Monck or Vila Alice.
Day 2: Bled - Gozd Martuljek
Today a first cycling day of relatively short distance (40km) to get into the mood. Since we ourselves entered Slovenia on the other side, we did not cycle this stretch. However, we heard only good things about it from other cyclists.
We recommend stopping in Gozd Martuljek and not sleeping in the busy village center of Kransjka Gora (unless you want to stay at a hotel). A nice campsite is Kamp-Spik where you can pitch your tent for €47 per night for 2 people. There is also a small supermarket near the campsite, although to save some money you might want to do some major shopping in Bled before you start the bike tour.
If you do prefer to stay in the center of Kransjka Gora where cozy restaurants and cafes are within walking distance, an affordable place is Apartments and Rooms Banic, a charming b&b can be found at B&B Grezov Gaj.
Day 3: Gozd Martuljek
For those who do not feel like a challenging hike, you can skip this day if necessary. However, you can add a cool day hike with a hike to Zgornji Martuljkjov Slap. The gpx of this beautiful hike can be found here. We always love to park the bikes for a while during our cycling vacation to add other activities, such as hiking. Not only do you see different things this way, but it is also a healthy change for your body.
We choose (see gpx) to do the hike in a different order than how it is signposted on the route. This way you sometimes avoid crowds and also see a little bit more of the area. If you follow our route, the first waterfall you see is immediately the highest. The route towards it is challenging, but generally doable and safe. On the more difficult sections there are pegs and cables you can hold on to. Only the very last climb to the highest waterfall is extremely steep and not recommended for those with a fear of heights. It is quite technical with a big drop. The view of the valley, even if you don't make it to the highest point, is magnificent on a clear day. A perfect place to have a nice lunch!
To retrace your steps from the highest waterfall, our route follows an old trail. This is no longer maintained and you sometimes have to climb over a fallen tree or walk through thick bushes, but it is very quiet and nice hiking. The last part of the hike, also the most touristy, is very accessible and actually the most beautiful. You get a nice view of several waterfalls and at the end you walk a bit along the river to Gozd Martuljek.
From the campsite, the return hike is only about 12km, but it's best to take three to four hours to fully enjoy it. End the day with a short bike ride to Kransjka Gora (4km) and enjoy a nice ice cream or coffee. Dining out can be done at the restaurant of Hotel Kotnik (can also be a nice place to sleep) where they serve various local dishes and tasty pizzas. They unfortunately do not offer vegan food, but there are plenty of vegetarian choices.
Day 4: Gozd Martuljek - Vrsic Pass
Tme to take out the bikes today for one of the most unique bicycle tours of Slovenia. From the campsite in Gozd Martuljek to the summit of the Vrsic Pass it's only 20 km of cycling, but you climb 970 meters to the summit (of which almost 800 meters in the last 12 km). You can find the route here. A tough day of cycling, but perhaps one of the most beautiful mountain passes we have ever cycled in our lives!
The Vrsic Pass is the highest mountain pass you can climb by bicyle in Slovenia. You climb to an altitude of 1,611m and the route consists of 50 switchbacks, which are more than on Alpe d'Huez! We were a bit hesitant beforehand because of the high number of altimeters and the not so good reviews you read about this mountain pass in terms of safety, but we are extremely glad that we went for it anyway. Often these reviews come from people who don't cycle much or have never cycled a route themselves, so we don't pay too much attention to this. The best way to get an idea about safety is to talk to other local cyclists and take into account your own cycling experience.
With a gravel bike (or slightly wider tires) you can also choose to follow the alternative gravel route to the summit. This way you avoid traffic for them most part because you only spend 4 km on a paved road. You find yourself amidst the rugged mountain peaks and quietly follow the Pišnica River for a long time. The detailed explanation of this route can be found on our Komoot profile. It is a challenging cycling route, but despite the elevation profile more doable than we anticipated. Except for a few very steep sections it is rideable 95% of the time, even with a packed bike.
If you are limited in time you can choose to start the descent towards Bovec on the same day. On top of the Pass you will find the Postman's Lodge where you can eat and drink something. We choose to spend 1 night here and pay €37 per person for one night in an 8-person dorm. Timely reservations are recommended in high season. Many hikers and cyclists make a stop at this mountain lodge, but if you stay overnight you can enjoy the natural tranquility of this area in the evening (weather permitting). The sunsets amidst the Julian Alps are something special and for this reason we recommend spending one night here anyway.
Day 5: Vrsic Pass - Bovec
Beams of sunlight awake us early in the morning and it's time for a delicious breakfast from Xfood! We choose to take some dehydrated food with us during our tour around Triglav National Park. This way we avoid carrying around too much weight. This is the first dehydrated breakfast we ever eat and we were again surprised by the great vegan food selection on their website. Don't feel like lugging food around yourself? You can also order breakfast for €10 at this mountain lodge.
An easy cycling day of 41km (gpx) awaits you today. The descent down to the Soça River is a joy and we have a blast. There is little room to make a safe stop on the descent and it is quite busy in terms of traffic, but fortunately it never gets dangerous. The rest of the day is lovely and easy cycling along the river and you can make several stops to refresh yourself in hot weather. It is worth stopping now and then to take a look upon the river from the many wooden bridges that cross it.
Today's destination is Bovec, the adrenaline town of Slovenia. It is clearly noticeable that most tourists plan their route through this town. Everywhere we hear people talking flemish and dutch. It is a hot day and we choose to cycle three km outside of town. Here you find a beautiful campground, Adrenaline-Check Eco Place. You can go here with a small tent, but they also rent out beautiful glamping tents that are apparently very popular with families. Please note, you are not allowed to spend the night here in a camper(van)! The facilities of this place are great with the cleanest kitchen we've ever seen on a campsite, outdoor showers heated by solar energy and an eco friendly environment. You do pay €44 per night to pitch a tent on a small meadow. The same price as anyone that arrives by car and also needs parking, which we still find on the expensive side. Still, it remains a great place to explore Bovec.
Day 6: Bovec
Bovec is known for the adrenaline activities you can book from here. You can go paragliding, canyoning, rafting.... and much more. In retrospect, we kind of regret not having done an activity (especially the canyoning looked super cool), but unfortunately our budget didn't allow for it.
On this "rest day" we put on our hiking boots and the nice thing is that you can start from the campsite. Of course you can choose to do only one hike, but it was fine to combine the hikes below. In the links you can find detailed information about the hikes:
If, like us, you're staying at the campground for two days, it's smart to buy groceries in advance. From the campground you cycle 3 km to the nearest supermarket an it's only uphill.
Day 7: Bovec - Most na Soçi
Today a nice bike ride of 40 km to Most na Soçi is planned. Unfortunately for us, due to heavy rain and storm last week, part of a gravel route along the Soça River has been closed so we are cycling longer on the national road. Fortunately, it is also beautiful and safe cycling on the road and after 13 km you end up on an old road that leads you for a long stretch next to the river. This stretch is one of the most beautiful ones we have cycled so far, it's amazing to continuously look down on this bright blue river.
Once halfway the route you will cycle more and more on small country roads that will lead you to Tolmin. There you can stop for groceries and find quite a few cafes and restaurants. If you want to stop here to spend the night in this quiet little town, we can recommend Hostel Hildegarden.
A nice campground can be found about 7 km away in the village of Most na Soçi. Here the Soça River is a lot calmer and ideal for swimming or paddle-boarding. We set up our tent at Sotorisce Senca, our favorite campsite in Slovenia. You get a discount here as a cyclist and pay €27 for one night with two people. You can rent a kayak or paddle-board at the campground to explore Slovenia from the water.
During our stay, a storm raged throughout Slovenia on the first evening, breaking one of our tent poles. The other tents on the campground were almost all blown to bits or and with some luck we were able to fix our strong Hilleberg Nallo 3GT ourselves with a spare tent pole. The campground staff was nothing short of fantastic. Everyone was offered warm blankets and/or sheets, materials to clean up their tents and they put down mattresses in an old barn for those whose tents were completely broken. It was and nerving and frightening storm, but it was beautiful to see people gravitate toward each other and offer help in these situations.
Day 8: Most na Soçi
The damage after the storm is enormous with branches floating around in the lake, roof tiles blown off houses and giant trees simply uprooted. Our plan to go paddle-boarding on the river gets cancelled when new thunderstorms are predicted. We take a short dip in the river and a have walk around the village, the rest of the day we find shelter at the campsite during yet another (luckily small) thunderstorm.
Day 9: Most na Soçi - Ribcev Laz
From Most na Soçi you have the choice of getting to Ribcev Laz by bicycle or by train. In our opinion, the train is the better and safer choice here, since you have to cover 60 km by bike on busy and steep roads with about 1,600 altimeters of altitude. So which route do you follow to take the train and get to Lake Bohinj?
From the campsite go to the train station in Most na Soçi. You can check the hours of the trains through this link. Be sure to arrive at least half an hour before the train departs.
A train ticket from Most na Soçi to Bohinsjki Bistrica costs €4.10 per person, including bikes. You can simply buy this on the train from the conductor.
Loading the bikes can be challenging with very steep steps, hence it is advisable to be there on time. On the train, there is plenty of room to store the bikes.
It is an approximately 50-minute train ride from Most na Soçi to Bohinsjki Bistrica.
From Bohinsjki Bistrica you follow a beautiful bike path all the way to Ribcev Laz!
We forgot to turn off the GPS during the train ride, so in our gpx file you will see both the bike routes and the train ride in one file.
At Lake Bohinj campground there's always a place to pitch a tent for cyclists even if it is fully booked. We got in touch with them via Instagram and they guaranteed this. They told us you could also safely store bikes in their boathouse if you want to do a hike to Triglav National Park, for example.
For the first time in Slovenia we choose a hotel to celebrate Stefanie's birthday. About 500 meters from Lake Bohinj you will find Hotel Gasperin, where you can also safely store the bikes for several days. A cozy hotel with simple but clean rooms and for us it proved ideal to start a three-day hike to Triglav National Park. The price for one night in high season is about €150 including breakfast. Far above our budget but for this occasion we wanted to make an exception. In the evening you can have a nice (veggie) burger at Karakter Bar.
Day 10-12: Hiken in Triglav National Park
The day starts with the most delicious breakfast we ever had in a hotel. They offer countless vegetarian and vegan options and the owners are incredibly hospitable and prepare the most diverse meals. Delicious to properly fill our stomachs before the hike in Triglav National Park.
Ribcev Laz is the perfect place to start a hike towards Triglav. In Summer there are a lot of free buses running to different starting points and you can choose to start a multi-day hike or opt for a day hike. A walk around Lake Bohinj can also be a great way to enjoy the beautiful nature in this area if you're not up for a tough hike.
If, just like us, you want to do a multi-day hike, we can recommend the following:
Take the free bus from Ribcev Laz to Vogar-Blato Crossing (line 3 or 4)
Day 2 (gpx): Koca Pri Triglavskih Jezerih - Zasavska Koca na Prehodarci
Day 3 (gpx): Koca Pri Triglavskih Jezerih - bus stop Vogar-Blato
The detailed explanations (and alternatives) can be found in the above gpx files. Overall, it is a doable hike with mostly climbing on day one. You can make it more challenging to opt for the Stapçe Pass on day one, something that is not recommended in rainy conditions. We do this hike in three days and that turned out to be perfect in the challenging weather conditions (wet, thunderstorms and storms especially on day one), but you can also easily make it a two-day hike by sleeping in Zasavska Koca na Prehodarci on day two. This mountain lodge is certainly the more charming of the two, and no matter what direction you look at, the view of the Julian Alps is magnificent!
As mentioned earlier we took dehydrated vegan food on the hiking trip that we ordered with Xfood.nl. Super lightweight to carry and also healthy after a tough hike. You can of course also order tasty meals in Slovenian mountain huts all the time, unfortunately not always vegan.
This hike to the seven lakes in Triglav National Park is impressively beautiful and hugely worth adding to your cycling holiday in Slovenia. Despite the challenging weather, we thoroughly enjoyed the Julian Alps and the character of this hike. Start planning your hike in Triglav National Park early, especially if you would like to connect some huts!
Day 13: Ribcev Laz
After the three-day hike in Triglav, it is nice to have a recuperation day. Lake Bohinj is in our opinion a better place for this than Bled, as it is a lot quieter and less touristy. If the weather is good, you can spend a day relaxing by the water before getting back on your bike the next day. At Lake Bohinj you can also rent a paddle-board.
Day 14: Ribcev Laz to Bled
Today your wonderful cycling and hiking holiday through Slovenia comes to an end. We visited some friends in Bohinsjka Bela and made an extra stop there, but you can easily cycle all the way to Bled from Lake Bohinj in one day's time to catch the bus with Cycletours back home. Combine this and this gpx file to download the bike route to the bus stop.
To get back to Bled follow the same bike path from Ribcev Laz to Bohinsjki Bistrica and then follow the national road to Bohinsjka Bela. In between you can add about 7 km on a newly constructed bike path that is under construction and should connect Lake Bohinj with Bled by 2024. From Bohinsjka Bela to Bled, the bike path and national road alternate. Despite advance warnings about the heavy traffic on the national road, we again found it to be safe for cycling.
Our tips and tricks for Slovenia
In high season it is crowded and packed with tourists. In that regard, according to locals, May/June is the best travel period in Slovenia
Shopping can be done in the Mercator, where there are often plenty of vegetarian options. Supermarkets are closed on Sundays in Slovenia.
Paying in Slovenia is done with the €
You are in the Alps area so extreme weather conditions can happen at any time. Bring clothing to keep yourself warm and dry! Keep an eye out on Julian Alps' Instagram page for weather updates.
Many hikes are extremely challenging, bring appropriate security equipment if you want to go deeper into the mountains.
The Triglav is the highest point in the country!
Prekmurska gibanica is the local dessert of Slovenia, although we were not a super fan. The Kremsnica was much tastier!
You can cancel many mountain huts up to 24 to 48 hours in advance for free (check this carefully yourself), it can be smart to pin down your schedule well in advance
Campsites are always making room for cyclists
In some villages you have free Wifi with WIFI4EU
Slovenia is one of the greenest countries in Europe. And the only country in the world with LOVE in its name!
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