A fairytale region of Slovenia you should visit! | Nest Campers

A fairytale region of Slovenia you should visit!

View on Cerknica Lake from Notranjska regional park
26. August 2019

Nothing can beat traveling Slovenia than renting a campervan and exploring it through a road trip. Many travelers come to Slovenia to tick off well known 'bucket list places' like lake Bled, Soča river, and Postojna cave, but there's so much more in this tiny country to explore. 

In this blog post, we cover an often-overlooked region, a mysterious and mystical part of Slovenia, called Notranjska, located in the south-western part of the country. 

 

Slovenia campervan, slovenia travel notranjska
Notranjska - a region too often overlooked.

 

 

Notranjska Regional Park is covered with nature's incredible Karst creations and beauty and one could think it's playing tricks!

This region is a playground for active adventurers, who love to explore off the beaten path and have a vivid imagination to go along. From the mountains where you might encounter a witch or a bear, across the lake, which is sometimes also a dry field, through a valley with crushing scenery to a beautiful castle hidden in the rocks. And all of this can be done with our campervans!

 

It all sounds like a fairytale, right? 

Jump behind the wheel and let´s discover this region together!

Thousands of years ago, when this area was covered with big, magnificent forest, people looked upon the surrounding mountains with fear and wonder. Especially terrifying one was Mount Slivnica, from which dark clouds of mist almost always turned into horrific thunderstorms. There was no man brave enough to climb it. Time passed and people started to wander into the forest as it was abundant with healing herbs and animals to hunt. One day a young man went too far and lost his way. After hours of wandering in the dark, he saw a light up the hill. The light led him into a cave where he found, much to his surprise, a group of beautiful young ladies sitting around a burning fire.

Not only that, hungry as he was, the smell of a tasty broth boiling could not make him leave. After a while, the ladies started playing music and dancing. The young man stood enchanted as they danced faster and faster. The sight the young man was observing changed rapidly and the young women started dancing in the air over two meters above him. The young man was terrified and started running. He did not stop until he reached his village and told all the people what he has seen. The people started seeing young ladies dancing as well, more and more often, seeing them fly and sending them rain and thunderstorms. They named the mountain Coprniška Gora or the Witch Mountain. For a long time, the mountain was thought to be the source of evil and wickedness by local people. 

Rather than the ´Witch Mountain´ the mountain is nowadays called Mount Slivnica and it´s a very popular walking destination for hikers of all ages and sizes. 

 

And here is also the start of our fairytale journey

The mountain hut on Mt. Slivnica is easily accessible from any of the surrounding villages. We suggest to park your campervan in village Cerknica and start the walk from there - the parking is located just a short drive from the center. When you cross river Cerkniščica, slowly turn left and look for the signs for the hut on Mt. Slivnica and shortly after you will find a parking space for the day. 

Mountain Slivnica and Cerknica lake, travel Slovenia
Our first stop in this journey is Mt. Slivnica that offers amazing panoramic views.
photo source: Jernej Trnkoczy
 

A trail to Mt. SLivnica is a nice 1,5 h walk suitable for all, just enough to work up your appetite and stop at the hut, say hello to the locals, and try a real homecooked meal or a proper herbal tea (with schnapps or rum). You can make your peak here, as the view is the best it gets, or continue towards the official peak called ´Velika Slivnica´(Big Slivnica) on the altitude of 1114m. 
 

If you feel fit enough and love a challenge, you can conquer the mountain on a mountain bike. The 10km long trail begins at Dolenjsko Lake and besides the beautiful views, it also provides some pit stops in the form of proper touristic Slovenian farmhouses along the way.

Slivnica mountain, biking Slovenia, campervan Slovenia travel
If you don't feel like hiking, summit Mt. Slivnica with a bike.

 

Bear bears in mind

As the area is covered with vast, lush beech forests, it naturally attracted people since ancient times. The shepherds and wood traders made the mountain area their home. Besides people, forest homes also quite an interesting collection of animals. From brown bears (yes, really) to foxes, dormice, mustelids, bats, and many more. Also, the flora of the forest is very diverse and full of healing herbs. 

If you want to spot a bear in nature, you can always join an organized bear watching trip. The most suitable time for spotting bears is summer, late in the afternoon, before the night sets in. The price for one person is usually set at 90 euros, for two at 120 euros, and for three persons at 150 euros. 

Bears in Notranjska region, Slovenia campervan travel, Cerknica bear, bear watching Slovenia
The Notranjska region is home to all three beasts found in Slovenia – wolf, lynx, and bear.
photo source: https://www.notranjski-park.si/en/visit-us/activities/bear-watching

 

The mountain Slivnica itself might not be bewitched any more, but the views on the surrounding Alps, Mount Nanos, and Cerknica lake will leave you enchanted.  Eating your well-deserved home-cooked soup or indulging in a piece of local pastry, you will get inspired to explore more. 

 

As you descend Mt. Slivnica you might catch a glance of a picturesque valley, filled with scrabbled rocks and forest, on the west. This valley is called Rakov Škocjan. To get there from Slivnica, drive to Cerknica and continue to Podskrajnik. After about 6 km turn left for Rakov Škocjan and find your space in the parking area.

At first, this area was an enormous karst cave, of which ceiling came crashing down, forming the valley we see today. The only two things standing from the original ceiling is the 42m tall Small Natural Bridge and the Big Natural Bridge with a height of 37m. With the natural beauty it holds, Rakov Škocjan was nominated for a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

 

Rakov Skocjan natural bridge, travel slovenia, slovenia things to see, campervan europe
The natural environment in Rakov Škocjan is incredible and the highlights of the trip are two natural bridges at each end of the valley - the "Great natural bridge" and the "Small natural bridge" (pictured here).
photo source: https://www.notranjski-park.si/narava/naravne-znamenitosti/rakov-skocjan

 

When you make your way through the thousands of years of geological processes, you will stumble over a river stream called Rak and its overflows. As this area is Karst based, it means waters appear and disappear on the surface, making its way through the stone and creating a maze underneath the surface.

This 2.5 km long natural heritage is Slovenia's first land park, enlisted in the year 1949 and until today it serves as a learning pathway.
 

Rakov Skocjan, Slovenia travel
A beautiful path through Rakov Škocjan. 
photo source: https://www.notranjski-park.si/
 

The flora and fauna of Rakov Škocjan is something special. You might think the riverbanks of river Rak are on some parts sandy, but that is not the case. They are covered with empty houses of snails who live under the ground. A few of them originated and are located in this area only. Besides a lot of battles and dragonflies, the trees are full of various birds and other flying creatures.

The best way to learn all about Rakov Škocjan is to walk the pathway. The informative signs all along a 6 km path will explain when and how it came to be, what are you looking at and also what is hidden. This trail is suitable for all, as it´s mostly flat. The starting point is the parking area at Mali Naravni Most (Small Natural Bridge).
 

Rakov Škocjan trail

Rakov Škocjan map
Non-demanding marked education trail through Rakov Škocjan features many interesting sights.

 

There is an alternative way if your legs are too tired from the hike up Mt. Slivnica. There is a picturesque, mostly flat bicycle trail crossing Rakov Škocjan. You can choose a trail that is19km long and starts at Dolenje Lake or 5km one with the starting point at Rakov Škocjan. And don´t feel bad if you choose the shorter one, it just gives you more time to soak in the surroundings and learn about the natural processes of this part of Slovenia.

 

Intrigued yet? Now let's explore something really extraordinary.

The next stop on this campervan adventure is a lake and also a field, it just depends on the time of your visit!

Cerknica lake, Slovenia travel itinerary, campervan Europe
Lake Cerknica (Cerkniško jezero) is one of the largest intermittent lakes in Europe.
photo source: https://www.notranjski-park.si/
 

It all begins as a fairytale ...

As old people like to tell, Lake Cerknica was once just a field, like all others. It was divided between two castles -The Karlovški and Štebrški. Many years ago, the ruler of Štebrški Caste had killed the ruler of Karlovški Castle and the hatred which had started, lasted for generations, until the day Šteberški son and Karlovški daughter, fell in love. As a young man does, Šteberški son went to ask the ruler of Karlovški Castle for his daughter's hand. The answer of the ruler was simple but unimaginable: ˝When you'll row your boat across the field, then you can marry my daughter˝. Lost in his thoughts Šteberški son went home and, on the way, encountered a big, hairy man appearing from the cave in which the waters were sinking into.

Desperate, Šteberški son asked for help. Following the advice the caveman gave him, he made a strong net, covered the sinking hole, and not long after the field became a lake. Rowing his boat to get his bride, Šteberški son quickly found that the word of the ruler of Karlovški Castle did not stand and marriage was off. Even so, Šteberški son rowed his boat to his beloved every night, finding his way by the light she left on her window. Soon another young man, smitten by the beauty of Karlovški daughter, saw what was happening and moved the light from the beautiful Karlovški castle window upon the sinking hole in Karlovci. Šteberški son had never reached his beloved that night. After the terrible news, the daughter of Karlovški Castle could not stand the loss of her love and jumped into the sinking hole herself.

 

Sinking hole, lake Cerknica
The water flows out underground through sinkholes.
photo source: https://www.notranjski-park.si/

 

But if you do not believe in fairytales, here are some other facts. Karst areas are specific as they do not retain water, so water makes its way underground, carving holes, caves, and sinks millimeter by millimeter through time.

Lake Cernica is a prime example of how nature can play with our surroundings and how people can adapt to anything. This lake is an ever-changing playground where you can fish, kayak, row your boat and hike, or mow the lawn or even ice skate, all in the same place.

Lake Cerknica, Slovenia travel
The Cerknica basin is home to Europe's largest intermittent lake.
photo credit: https://travelguide.michelin.com/europe/slovenia/postojna/lake-cerknica
 

Before you see the lake phenomena, there is another interesting thing you can find only here - 'Hiša izročila' or The Heritage house. It is a place where old traditions are passed on to young generations, a place that keeps the Slovenian culture alive. The Heritage House is located halfway or approximately 6.4km from the village Cerknica to the parking of Dolenje jezero, our entry point to Cerkniško lake.

Dolenje Lake is a short 6-minute drive from our last stop, the Heritage house, and there is big parking allocated for all who are in for a treat.

Cerknica Lake or Cerkniško Lake is one of the biggest sinking lakes in Europe and the biggest sinking lake in Slovenia. The streams from Javorniki, Slivnica, and Loška valley fill up the lake for about 9 months per year. Usually, the surface that is underwater measures a good 20 square kilometers, but when the water flow reaches its peak the surface of 30 square kilometers makes Lake Cerknica the biggest lake in Slovenia

Lake is full after two or three days of heavy rain in autumn. In springtime, it's fuller even quicker, as the snow from the mountains starts to melt. 

The sinking of the lake is slower and it takes three to four weeks of dry weather. All of the water flows underground in two directions. One goes down in Jamski Zaliv and comes back in Rakov Škocjan as Rak, and the other makes its way directly to the spring of river Ljubljanica, which crosses our capital. 

 

Cerknica lake from Mt. Slivnica, Slovenia travel blog
You'll get best panoramic views from Mt. Slivnica. 

 

The best way to learn all about the phenomena of a lake turning into a field is to visit the Museum of Cerknica Lake. The museum is called 'Jezerski hram' and it is opened from Tuesday to Sunday, with an entry fee of €7 per person.

The sinking does not affect only people, but it has a big influence on the flora and fauna of the region. We can find over 276 species of birds here, which makes the half of all European bird species combined. The same goes for mammal species and a third of all European butterflies, 125 of them! From the vegetation, there is much to see and observe. Three kinds of flesh-eating plants, lush meadows, and lots of plants adapted to the synchronized filling and sinking throughout the year. The diversity of this space is simply incredible and magical.

As it is only suitable for a place so special, the activities you can enjoy are also one of a kind. Besides strolling around and across the field, paddling on the water or ice-skating across the frozen lake, you can also take a ride with a 'Lojtrnik'. This is a traditional farm ˝train˝, a horse-pulled trailer made out of wooden boards and ladders. It holds up to 25 people and you can take a ride with one of these around the lake. Must do? Yes!

Lojtrnik carriage lake Cerknica, Slovenia travel
Take a ride around the lake with a traditional carriage called "lojtrnik".
photo source: https://www.notranjski-park.si/

 

When you are done making all your panorama pictures around the lake, it is the time to visit our last stop - Castle Snežnik.

Sneznik castle, travel Slovenia, campervan Europe
One of the most finely preserved castles in Slovenia is situated in a gorgeous natural environment.
photo source: https://www.itinari.com/

 

It is a flowing castle, hidden in the woods. In a perfect fairytale setting you can find it standing proud underneath the mountain it got its name from, Snežna mountain. Walking through four floors, it will take you back into the second half of the 19th century. The rooms are still intact and filled with the original furniture and that is what makes the castle so special. Family portraits, books, graphics, and paintings make it feel homely and warm.

 

Sneznik castle, travel Slovenia, cheap campervan Europe
Snežnik Castle is one of only two castles in Slovenia with a preserved authentic interior.
photo source: https://www.loskadolina.info/grad-sneznik.html

 

The first mention of the castle dates back to the 11th century. Over 700 years the castle changed a lot of owners, each of them leaving a mark, but the most work on the castle was done from 1853 onwards. That is also the era from which the furniture and the castle garden and park can still be admired today. The castle is now a museum, but in history, it played different roles. It was built for defending the important trade roots passing through the area, towards Istra and Kvarner in Croatia. From the year 1867 to 1875 Snežnik was the first Slovenian School of forestry and after World War II it was proclaimed as a state protocols hunting stand.

From 1983 onwards it is a museum opened to the public. It is opened daily from 10 AM to 7 PM with an entry fee of €5. In the summertime, they operate 6 days a week (not open on Monday) until 5 PM.

To find your way there from Dolenje Lake parking, drive back to Cerknica and follow the signs for Martinjak. In Grahovo, turn for Žerovnica and continue straight on the main road to Kozarišče. There you will find signs directing you to Snežnik Castle.

 

After the tour of the castle take time for a walk in the castle park.

Breathe in the fresh air and observe the beauty. This walk has inspired us to make this lovely journey through time and tales for you.

Now it´s your turn! Write your own fairytale memories with us and our campervans.

 

Panoramic view of Cerknica lake Slovenia

Written by: 

Martina Mestek

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