Cycling in Slovenia is a road trip filled with unforgettable moments in one of the world’s greenest countries. “It’s not just bike riding,” says Urša, one of the two outdoor enthusiasts who founded SloActive Tours. “You are seeing the sights at your own pace and experiencing the local life.” Watch the video and then read on to learn more about planning the perfect itinerary for your ability level and interests.
Planning your Slovenia Cycling Tour
I’ll admit to being a bit intimidated by the idea of cycling in the foothills of the Alps. Although I ride like a beast when teaching indoor spin classes, no one is going to confuse me with a competitor in the Tour de France. SloActive takes care of that by providing a choice of easy (mostly flat), moderate (some mild hills) and tough (use your imagination). Tours are available from April through October on SloActive’s website in English.
Electric-assisted bikes have made cycling tours a realistic option for more travelers. Urša and Tomaž told me the participants range from teenagers to seniors in their seventies. SloActive makes sure your rented trail bike is in top working condition and help is always nearby if there’s a problem. They also transport your luggage so that you can devote your full energy to enjoying Slovenia’s stunning scenery. Detailed directions guide you to overnight stops at family-run local inns and small hotels, with posted green arrows assuring you that you’re on the right road to a locally-sourced meal at the end of the day’s ride.
I signed up for a shortened version of the 8-day Mighty Caves and Karst tour. It includes stops at a few top destinations I had already visited by car: Predjama Castle, Postojna Cave and the UNESCO-protected Škocjan Cave. Urša and Tomaž assured me there was a lot more to discover by bike. Instead of the usual starting point in Postojna, they met me in the small town of Divača, a 90-bus ride or two-hour train ride from Ljubljana. After a morning coffee stop at the Hotel Malovec, we hit the road.
Royal Lipizzaner Horses in Lipica
Our first stop, Lipica, is the home of the aristocratic Lipizzaner horses, bred and born in Slovenia but prized by Austrian royalty and modern-day visitors to Vienna. Seeing these elegant animals against a pastoral green backdrop took my breath away. The foals are born with dark-colored coats and lighten gradually to grayish white as they age.
You might wish to spend more time touring the world’s oldest continuously operating stud farm (established in 1580) and enjoying a show of the trained horses’ dancing skills. I didn’t even have to get off my bike to meet a Lipizzaner. A small group of young horses was grazing right next to the road through the stud farm. The curious animals came over to the fence to sniff out the visitors. I think they knew they were Instagram stars.
War Museum Tabor in Lokev
My companion on the tour was my son, author Andrew Anzur Clement. Customizing our cycling tour to his research interests, Tomaž led us to the Military Museum Tabor in Lokev. The small town is most famous for the high-quality pršut, ham from the prized local pigs. It also boasts an extensive collection of military artifacts in a defense tower dating back to 1485.
If you’re still under the illusion Slovenia is a fairytale, this three-story exhibit is packed with evidence of another side to the story. Some of the fiercest fighting in World War I took place between Italians and Austrians here. Present-day Slovenia was caught between Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany in World War II, and liberated by Communist partisans who would go on to establish Yugoslavia. The bottom floor displays weapons and uniforms leading up to Slovenia’s independence today.
Even more astonishing: this vast collection was assembled by one man. Šrečko Rože began collecting military objects from the local area under the guidance of his grandfather, a World War I survivor. The military confiscated everything in 1983, but he continued building the award-winning exhibits you see today. His wife patiently showed us around and answered Andrew’s research questions about the weapons. With rare exceptions, cameras are not allowed inside. Instead of photographs, you’ll come away with a heightened awareness of the horrors of war.
Historic Škocjan Village
Like many visitors to the UNESCO heritage Škocjan Cave, I hadn’t stopped to discover the charm of the surrounding area. Urša walked me through the charming Škocjan town, with a church dating back to 1606 perched on the lip of a dramatic karst canyon drop-off.
The paths are lined with “dry walls,” built without cement from the stones farmers collected as they cleared their fields in past centuries. Brave local folks also played a key role in the exploration of the caves that now draw hundred of thousands of tourists every year. Surrounding hills are dotted with small villages and church steeples, giving the landscape a Tuscan feel.
Back on the road, we slowed down to enjoy commanding views of the Vremska Valley and the Brkini region, where the River Reka disappears underground to form the caves.
Local Food and Wine of the Karst
Foodies will find a lot to love in the karst region. You’re on your own for lunch, but the half-board option includes a memorable meal at the end of your cycling day. On weekends, the area fills up with visitors crossing the nearby border from Italy for a high-quality feast at lower Slovenian prices. SloActive partners with local businesses to make sure you get to sample everything. Here are a few foodporn highlights from our meal at a charming roadside inn, Gostilna Prenocisci Pri Zotlarju.
Terry’s Travel Tips
Getting there: You can reach the starting point of your cycling tour from either of Slovenia’s two main tourism destinations, Ljubljana and Bled. Read this post for more tips on getting to Slovenia and preparing for your visit. For the karst tour we took the bus from Ljubljana, which stopped in Postojna and went on to Divača for less than 8 euros per person. Returning by train was slightly longer for about the same price. SloActive also offers a 10-day Grand Tour of Slovenia from the Alps to the Adriatic, as well as a shorter version. Hiking trips are also available. Book on the website, or send them an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Staying there: Breakfast is included with tour accommodations and the half-board option includes dinner. Being on your own for lunch allows the choice of buying local food for a picnic or stopping at a recommended eatery.
If cycling’s not your thing, you have option of a home base for exploring the karst region by car. Urša and Tomaž manage the well-equipped Domacija Jankovi apartments in the postage-stamp village of Vremski Britof, ranging from a cozy studio for two to a sprawling penthouse for groups of up to 6.
When to visit and what to bring: Tours are available from April to October. The weather can be a real tossup, but we were pleasantly surprised to find the karst sunny and warmer on a day when it was cloudy and raining in Ljubljana. Be prepared to dress up or down in layers and bring rain gear. Sturdy shoes for hiking or biking are a must. You might want a daypack for water and other necessities, but your luggage will be transported to your next overnight stop by SloActive.
Disclosure: This post was sponsored by SloActive. Post reflects the experience a typical visitor can expect. Research and opinions, as always, are my own. Booking through the ads and some links on this page results in a small commission to me, at no additional cost to you.
Recommended reading: Here’s a shameless plug for “Tito’s Lost Children,” the adventures of some fictional teenagers during the real events that led to the breakup of Yugoslavia. Some of the characters are carrying the kinds of weapons you’ll see in the Lokev military museum and the author did research there. Download and read on any e-reader device during your trip.
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