Catherine is komoot’s London-based copywriter. After one of our team gatherings, she extended her trip on mainland Europe with a jaunt into the mountains of Slovenia. She learnt quite a lot from the experience and decided to share her tips with other wannabe Slovenia adventurers here.
Two-fifths of Slovenia is covered in mountains and the population of Berlin exceeds that of the entire country by almost a million humans (3.7 million vs 2.08 million respectively). If you love hiking and prefer having the trails to yourself, Slovenia is a no-brainer. But it can be tricky to plan a hiking trip there – wild camping is forbidden and most of the relevant websites are only available in Slovenian.
This is a guide to the basics to help you get on your way.
Tucked away in the southeast corner of Europe, bordering Italy, Austria, Hungary & Croatia, Slovenia is a tiny, unassuming country – I hadn’t even heard of it until a year ago (I grew up in Africa where European geography wasn’t high on the agenda). Not long after discovering it on the map, I experienced it for myself.
I headed straight to the Julian Alps (in the northeast of the country, along the border with Austria and Italy) to get some of that uncrowded mountain scenery for myself. Three days, two nights, and 6700 feet (2042 meters) in elevation gain later, I was a Slovenia convert.
Slovenia’s mountain scenery is worth its own series of postcards
The trails were beautifully maintained, with such frequent (and accurate) signage that I barely needed my own navigation, and the scenery was just as you’d hope for. Spend an hour stomping through a forested valley, with bare, rocky sun-tipped peaks just visible through the tops of the trees, then pop out on a precipice, suddenly confronted with a long, heart-stopping drop and mountains as far as the eye can see.
In between I passed through pretty meadows and clearings.On one occasion I was treated to the sight of an Alpine marmot and a family of deer, on another occasion, a small farmstead where I drank coffee and enjoyed a round of accordion-playing by a small man in a hat.
At the end of September, the trails weren’t empty, but neither did I have to queue to descend the ladders or enter the narrower sections of the trail. It was my idea of dreamy hiking.
How to book a Slovenian mountain hut
After ascertaining the general area you’d like to explore, it’s time to start planning your route. As wild camping is not allowed, multi-day hikes in Slovenia require you to plan your route around the mountain huts.
The official hiking season is open from May until early October. As you’d expect, the busiest time is the height of summer. The Slovenian mountains still don’t get as busy as the peaks further west, but there are certainly more people enjoying the trails from July to early September. As with any traveling, the beginning or end of the season is a good time to go if you want to avoid crowds.
However, the majority of mountain huts in Slovenia are seasonal. If you’re planning a multi-day hut to hut hike in Slovenia at the beginning or the end of the season, check that your preferred huts are open (you can do that on the Alpine Association of Slovenia website).
In the high season, book at least three weeks in advance. Neither of the huts I booked accepted bookings via email, so instead I phoned. That means no confirmation email. If you’re a nervous traveler, call a week or two ahead of your trip to ensure the reservation is there! If you’re able to reserve via email, print the confirmation and take it with you. Luckily, although English resources are limited, most Slovenians, including those who work in remote mountain huts, speak great English.
The names of the huts can also be slightly confusing. All of them will usually have koča (hut) or dom (hut or home) at the start, followed by their name in Slovenian. I geeked out and used a spreadsheet to make sure I booked the right huts for the right dates!
What to expect from a Slovenian mountain hut
Firstly, most of them only take cash so you’ll need to set off up the mountain with enough euros for your accommodation as well as breakfast, and dinner money. Usually you’re welcome to eat your own food in the huts, but you won’t be granted access to the kitchen so bear this in mind.
The huts are assigned a grade according to their altitude (grade 1 huts being high altitude, grade 3 huts being in the valleys), and their prices vary accordingly. In 2019 a dorm bed cost €25. You can get a discount by joining your local alpine club and using reciprocity rights, which will save you around 30% on the accommodation. The cost of the membership card means it’s only worth it if you are spending more than a night or two in the huts.
As with the rest of Europe, the huts usually have the choice between shared dormitories or private rooms. In most cases they provide pillows and blankets, but these are washed infrequently so you need to bring your own sleeping bag liner. Depending on the altitude you will find either flush or composting pit toilets, and tap water may be limited (although there is always bottled water available to buy). Showers are pretty rare except for the huts in the valleys.
Food and drink
Food served in the huts is simple and traditional: goulash and barley soup (ričet) make it onto just about every lunch and dinner menu, along with jota – a soup of sauerkraut and potato. Omelet and/or bread and spreads are common breakfast options.
A soup costs around €6, a coffee is about €2 and a simple breakfast is around the €5 mark. You’ll pay a little extra (between €0.80 and €1.50 ) for a slice of bread, butter and spreads (respectively). These prices also vary slightly according to altitude – at higher altitudes everything is a bit pricier.
There is usually an array of drinks available too. You can get an orange juice for about €3 and a beer for €4. Wine and spirits are also available.
How I planned my trip
Luckily I know a few people who had hiked in Slovenia recently so I asked them for their recommendations. I also did a Google search to find out what the internet recommends. The consensus was that Lake Bohinj (and the town of Ribčev Laz) was a good place to start. Because I didn’t have a specific place I wanted to see (I wasn’t planning on summiting Slovenia’s highest peak, Mount Triglav, for example) my route was an open book. I entered Ribčev Laz into komoot and started exploring with the desktop route planner.
I plotted a simple route taking in some points my friends had recommended, and from there set to adjusting the route to include mountain huts (I used a combo of komoot Highlights and the Open Street Maps overlay to spot the huts on the map). Then I checked that the ones I wanted were open.
Once I’d broken my route down into day-by-day chunks I got my spreadsheet out and plotted my itinerary…and of course, booked my Slovenian mountain huts.
If you want to simplify this whole process komoot Premium’s Sport specific hiking map shows the huts right alongside the trails so you don’t need to switch between map layers. Plus the Multi-day planner allows you to break up the entire route into daily chunks automatically.
If you also want to start your hike around Lake Bohinj, it is possible to get a transfer straight from Ljubljana airport to Bohinj, where you can walk to the trailhead(s). If you book flights carefully it’s possible to avoid the city altogether. I hate to rush though and preferred to book a night in Bohinj so I could ease into the mountain vibes and start my hike fresh on day one.