Riddled with gorges, rolling with vineyards, and carpeted with spectacular Alpine scenery, Slovenia and its neighbors, Austria and Italy, are enchanting places to discover on foot. Hike above emerald valleys and through medieval villages, find gorgeous waterfalls, and soak up serene mountain scenery that once figured in World War I battles. Watch the sunset over stunning Lake Bled, sample some of region’s best wines and cuisine, and experience the unusual and engaging cultural blend of some of Central Europe’s least-discovered landscapes.
Arrive in Ljubljana, Slovenia’s delightful capital, where a bright and lively mix of cultures thrives along the Ljubljanica River. Gather for a walk through the leafy old city, and sit down to a welcome dinner this evening.
Venture into the Julian Alps, stopping for a walk through the plunging Vintgar Gorge. Traverse wooden walkways suspended over the gorge’s Radovna River, crossing bridges that span tumbling waterfalls and aquamarine pools. Loop back through wooded groves, and enjoy views over the Bled plain. Continue to picturesque Lake Bled. Follow a footpath up to medieval Bled Castle, Slovenia’s oldest, which clings to cliffs above the water. Later, hike along Lake Bled; then settle in to our hotel before a dinner overlooking the lake. (6-7 miles hiking, 4 hours)
The mountains that embrace Lake Bohinj belong to one of Europe’s oldest national parks, Triglav. Here, we’ll take a morning hike along the Mostnica River, passing through gorges that harbor secluded turquoise pools and tiered waterfalls. Continue to Lake Bohinj to picnic in a lush meadow near the water’s edge and discover secluded beaches. Then take a gondola to the top of Mount Vogel for panoramic views over the highest peaks in the Julian Alps. Return to Lake Bled, where a gondolier oars us across the lake aboard a traditional wooden pletna to see the 17th-century Church of the Assumption, charmingly perched on a tiny island. (8 miles hiking, 4-5 hours)
Journey through the foothills of the mighty Mount Triglav, and stop to admire the breathtaking vista from Vršič Pass, built by Russian prisoners of war during World War I. Ascend an old mule track above the pass; then descend to the village of Kranjska Gora, nestled amid the emerald folds of Sava Dolinka Valley, near the meeting point of Italy, Austria, and Slovenia. Enjoy regional fusion fare during dinner at our hotel this evening. (7 miles hiking, 6 hours)
Cross the border into Austria’s Carinthia region and enjoy a scenic drive to Dobratsch mountain. Climb to the two pilgrimage churches that crown the summit and step into these charming chapels—the highest in all of Europe. Along your journey, refuel with an authentic Austrian kaiserrscmarn (emperor’s mess), a shredded pancake named for Emperor Franz Josef I. Descend the massif and return to our hotel for dinner. (5-6 miles, 5 hours)
Travel to the Udine province of Italy for a hike along the base of craggy Mount Montasio. Meet local shepherds and sample some cheese, salami, and grappa—a tradition dating back to the 13th century. Continue to Slovenia’s Soča Valley and settle in to our hotel. The valley was the setting for the fierce battles of World War One’s Isonzo Front, described in Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms. Trace this turbulent history at the Kobarid Museum. Then return to our hotel—also the countryside villa of Ana Ros, named World’s Best Female Chef in 2017. Meet Chef Ana and enjoy an unforgettable dinner in her restaurant tonight. (6 miles, 4-5 hours)
Set out on a hike to the peak of Mount Matajur, which straddles the border between Italy and Slovenia. From the summit, take in breathtaking views over the region, and glimpse the Adriatic on a clear day. Later, follow the scenic wine route of the Goriška Brda, stopping to taste local wines, including the native Rebula whites. Return to the Soča Valley to enjoy a delicious dinner in town. (3 miles, 3 hours)
Begin the day with a selection of local cheeses, and then set out to sample more varieties straight from the source as we journey along the region’s cheese trail. Travel between high Alpine pastures, and meet local cheesemongers to learn about the production process. Continue to the town of Idrija, once a wealthy trade center for mercury, and home to one of the world’s largest mercury mines—a UNESCO World Heritage site. The town is also known for its traditional bobbin lace, and we’ll get an introduction to the craft from a local artisan. Continue to our country manor hotel for dinner. (6 miles, 4-5 hours)
Hike along a remote trail to the Franja Partisan Hospital, a cluster of clandestine World War II hospital buildings hidden in the nearly impassable Pasica gorge. Step into these wooden buildings, which still hold equipment used during the conflict. Later, visit a typical mining house to feast on zlikrofi, a traditional Idrija pasta dish. Toast our adventure with a slivovica (plum wine), and then return to Ljubljana to catch your flight home.