Our first impression of Slovenia: spectacular. An hour of Zen from our hilltop in Postojna left us eager to explore and soak in more of Slovenia’s beautiful landscape. Just one question loomed: what do we do for the next 24 hours?
D had done some research on the relatively lesser-known Lake Bohinj – just down the road from Slovenia’s iconic Lake Bled. D’s research painted a picture of Bohinj as supposedly being as beautiful as Lake Bled…less crowded than Lake Bled…and most importantly: where the locals go.
We wanted to see what Bohinj was all about. Now, another question loomed: how do we get there? From our hilltop, we looked at a map and found ourselves at a crossroads:
- take the faster route through Ljubljana & Bled using national highways
- take the road less traveled through remote villages on narrow, twisting mountain roads
We chose the latter, and what we saw over the course of the next 3 hours stuck with us permanently. Prime Slovenian ski slopes define this stretch of wilderness in the winter. During summer: a landscape of rolling green hills, dense pine forests, steep ravines, simple shelters & scattered livestock.
This unplanned Alpine excursion turned out to be one of the most beautiful & memorable drives of that summer.
Let’s take that drive: from Postojna to Bohinj, with a few stops along the way.
First stop: Idrija. Located about an hour north of Postojna, this small mountain town has a lot going on:
- Mercury: Idrija is home to the 2nd largest mercury mines in the world, honored with UNESCO World Heritage status in 2012. The mines are no longer active, but have been converted to tourist destinations. Visit Anthony’s Mine Shaft to tour the upper levels of the mines. Check online for hours & ticket prices.
- Lace: Idrija is famous for — wait for it — Idrija Lace! Visit the Idrija Lace School for a half-day workshop (Saturday mornings) or sign up for a comprehensive 30-hour lacemaking course.
- Dumplings: the local specialty Idrijski žlikrofi (traditional Slovenian potato-filled dumplings) is apparently a can’t miss! Sadly, we missed them. And we’re pretty upset. So if you’re in the area, grab a few for yourself, and maybe a couple extra to-go for your travelhelix friends?!
- Prestige: Idrija was crowned Alpine Town of the Year in 2011, honoring its dedication to the protection and sustainable development of the surrounding Slovenian Alps. NOICE!
The Idrijca river flows directly through Idrija’s city center. This small waterway was used strategically to transport mercury & timber in past centuries. These days, you’re more likely to see local fishermen reeling in rainbow trout. Alongside the river, check out the beautiful Parish Church of Sv. Jožef (St. Joseph).
Contact the tourist bureau of Idrija
We said goodbye to Idrija and continued to climb into the mountains. Within 30 minutes, we reached a stretch of Alpine valley that took our breath away. We parked the car on the side of the road, and began to explore on foot. Do this!
The village of Cerkno is an idyllic Alpine gem built upon rolling green hills. It offers an extremely quiet, peaceful life in the summer, ideal for hikers, bikers & paragliders.
In the winter, Cerkno becomes one of Slovenia’s top destinations for ski-bums and snow-bunnies. The place to be is the modern and well-groomed Ski Resort Cerkno. It also happens to be a fan favorite: listeners of Radio Slovenia voted Ski Resort Cerkno as the best Slovenian ski resort 5 times since 2010!
Contact the tourist bureau of Cerkno
A half hour north of Cerkno we passed through Spodnja Sorica, a quiet farm town with just over 100 residents.
Spodnja Sorica is best known as being the birthplace of famous Impressionist painter Ivan Grohar. Tourists can visit Grohar’s childhood home, which has been converted to a museum and cultural education center.
As is the case with pretty much every one of these mountain villages, Spodnja Sorica becomes a ski destination during the winter. The local venue is Soriška Planina Ski Resort, only 10 minutes away.
Contact the tourist bureau of Spodnja Sorica
We didn’t spend much time here. In fact, we stopped only long enough to take this picture. But we will say: this Spodnja Sorica Stop Sign made sure we safely found the final stretch of road between here and Lake Bohinj!
Arrival: Lake Bohinj
Three hours after deciding to take the road less traveled through this spectacular slice of Slovenia, we made it to Lake Bohinj. The local tourist bureau helped us find the perfect place to stay, and we made it down to the lake just in time to skip a few stones before sunset.
Tomorrow, we’ll tackle the Savica Waterfall, and strongly consider (ok…fantasize about) some local real estate investments. But for now, we’re gonna say goodnight.
P.S. – Slovenian HELIX!