Cycling In Slovenia: The Best Itineraries
Witten by Tiago and Fernanda from Monday Feelings Travel Blog
A bike trip around Slovenia is one of the best ways to see the country. That’s because this boutique destination is much more than beautiful landscapes with well-preserved forests, it also offers excellent infrastructure and safety for cyclists.
Slovenia was recently awarded “Europe’s most sustainable country,” and the government not only financially support cycling in Slovenia as a form of tourism, they actually encourage it.
What Are The Top Things You Will See While Cycling In Slovenia?
Although Slovenia is full of charming little towns and has a lively capital city (with lots of pretty bridges) – which cannot be left out of your itinerary, by the way, the best part of it is the nature. With over 50% of the territory covered by forests, you can rest assured your most exciting routes will be hidden somewhere in the wild.
What Type Of Bike Do You need For Cycling In Slovenia?
The ideal bicycle for a trip in Slovenia are hybrids as they allow you some level of comfort in both paved and dirt roads. You don’t have to worry about having an expensive bike though, as the secret of biking has more to do with willpower rather than anything else. However, a bicycle with at least 18 gears is recommended because Slovenian mountains can be somewhat challenging at some points.
But let’s not get sidetracked.
The Best Itineraries For Cycling In Slovenia
1 – From Maribor To Ptuj
Distance: 35 km (21 mi)
With a population of around 95 thousand people, Maribor is Slovenia’s second largest city, just behind Ljubljana.
The place is full of bars, restaurants and coffee shops. It’s also where you will find the world’s oldest grapevine, which has been continuously growing grapes for the past 400 years!
Despite it all, a day is enough to see Maribor, after doing so you should definitely venture on a bike trip to the neighboring city of Ptuj.
The journey is around 35 km (21 mi) and mostly flat. It runs along the Drava River and crosses some incredibly beautiful parts of the Slovenian countryside.
Ptuj is the country’s oldest town and probably the most charming too. Once you get over there, make sure to wander around the cobblestoned historical center and to climb up the castle for a beautiful view.
Note: The cycling route along the Drava River is actually much longer. It has around 710 km (441 mi) and goes through Italy, Austria, Slovenia and Croatia. Which makes it an excellent option for those who have some extra time – and predisposition too.
2 – The Parenzana Rail Trail
Distance: 138 km (85 mi)
The Parenzana (Porečanka in Slovenian) is a defunct 138 km (85 mi) long railway that used to run from Trieste (Italy) to Porec (Croatia).
The way has been turned into a cycle and trekking path and still preserves many of the tunnels and bridges, adding up to the picturesque view.
The Slovenian part of the Parenzana Rail crosses some of the most beautiful towns of the Slovenian Riviera such as Koper, Izola, and Piran. It also passes some vineyards and olive groves on the countryside.
The whole way is almost traffic-free and has little up-hills, being a great option for families cycling in Slovenia.
Note: The most scenic part of this route is from Portoroz to Izola, which passes through two tunnels and by the Slovenian coast. Bring your swimsuit!
3 – From Ljubljana To Lake Bled
Distance: 70 km (43 mi)
Ljubljana means “beloved” in Slovenian language, and you will understand why as soon as you get over there. Ljubljana is small, yet quite vibrant, with a traffic-free city-center that allows you to quickly discover the city by bike or foot.
After exploring the Slovene capital head to Lake Bled, one of the country’s most famous sights. The way there is around 70 km (43 mi) and has a few up-hills. There are no specific routes, and the only way is to cycle amongst cars. However, you don’t need to worry, there are many local roads to choose, and drivers are very respectful towards cyclists too.
The way from Ljubljana to Bled is gorgeous and will take you through picturesque villages, historical towns, many forests and of course the incredibly beautiful Lake Bled.
Note: make sure to visit Vintgar Gorge, a spectacular 1.6 km (1 mi) long gorge just 4.5 km (2.7 mi) away from Bled.
4 – From Bled To Lake Bohinj, Tolmin And Kobarid (Exploring Triglav National Park)
Distance: Around 80 km (49 mi)
Bled is the most famous Slovenian Lake but what if I tell you Bohinj is probably the most beautiful one? Nestled in the Triglav Park in the region of the Julian Alps, Bohinj is the perfect destination for a bike trip.
Only 30 km (18 mi) away from Bled, the way there offers breathtaking views of the mountains and gives you a pretty good idea of why Slovenians are so proud of their nature.
Make sure to see the Bohinj Lake very early in the morning when there are no boats or people on the lake. The calm waters turn into a perfect mirror, and it’s one of the most gorgeous memories I have from there. Some other must-do activities are: cycling around the lake, visiting the iconic Savica Waterfall and taking the cable car up to Vogel Mountain.
From Bohinj to Tolmin, which is on the other side of the Triglav Park, the distance is around 30 km (18 mi), and you have two options: cycling or taking the train from the city of Bohinjska Bistrica to Most na Soci.
- The advantage of cycling: beautiful views.
- The advantage of taking the train: you avoid a 30 km steep road which peaks at 1500 m. Recommended for experienced cyclists only.
It’s up to you.
Despite which way you choose, from the Most na Soci, cycle towards Tolmin and visit the Tolmin Gorges. After that, it’s time for a quick stop on another charming mountainous town: Kobarid. Where you should visit the Kozjak Waterfall and the Napoleon Bridge.
This whole region on the West side of the Triglav National Park is where you will have the best views of the incredible emerald green Soca River.
Note: This area is famous for adrenaline sports, so ensure you spare some time for doing rafting and other activities on the river.
5 – From Ljubljana To The Coast, Passing By The Caves Of Postojna And Skocjan
Distance: 120 km (74 mi)
Another great route to take from the capital Ljubljana is towards the coast. On this journey, you will be able to see two of the most fascinating Slovenian caves, Postojna and Skocjan.
Postojna, at a 50 km (31 mi) cycle from Ljubljana, will be your first stop. This is the most famous and also the busier of the two. There are 5 km (3 mi) of galleries, passages, and chambers to be explored by foot and train. Although it wasn’t our first cave to visit, nothing is compared to the grandeur and the beauty of Postojna. Get prepared to be impressed.
PS: It is forbidden to touch the interior of the caves. Even though many tourists don’t respect this rule, you should know that by touching it, you completely stop the stalagmites, stalactites, and speleothems to grow. A process that has been going on for millions of years is completely suspended by a second of negligence.
After visiting Postojna, there are other unmissable attraction just 9 km away, the Predjama Castle. This is an XIII century castle built within a 123m high rock. Yes, within! It’s the only one of its kind in the whole world! There are audio-guided visits available, and it’s definitely worth going.
After that, it’s time to cycle to the second cave on the route. The Skocjan Cave is smaller and much less crowded, though equally interesting. This cave stands out by the river which flows inside it, adding to an even more dramatic experience.
But enough of caves, it’s time to refresh yourself by the coast. Now you will visit some of the most charming Slovenian seaside’s, Koper, Izola, and Piran. You don’t have to be in a rush for anything else, so just enjoy yourself, go for a swim and for a cocktail by the promenade.
When Is The Best Time For Cycling In Slovenia?
Slovenia will offer something unique at each season of the year.
The summer months are probably the only ones which will allow you to swim in the lakes and rivers. However, you will be restricted to cycle during the morning due to the high temperatures.
During autumn you will enjoy the most spectacular views due to the golden colors of the trees. In spring you can enjoy the gentle breeze and the lush vegetation.
The only time that it’s probably not a good idea for cycling in Slovenia is during winter as it can get pretty cold, especially in the Julian Alps region. However, there is plenty of skiing to be enjoyed at this time of year!
Further Tips For Cycling In Slovenia
- There are info points in many cities around the country. Despite this, if you get lost or need some advice, ask the locals. Slovenians are incredibly kind and hospitable and will try to help you.
- I definitely recommend downloading a free app called Maps.me for your trip. It works offline and gives you all the available routes, as well as the altimeter of the way.
- If you are considering doing some camping during your trip, sign up for a platform called Warmshowers. This is a network of cyclists which can offer you a place to sleep for free in case you have some problems or an emergency. It’s like Couchsurfing, but for cyclists.