From the moment I touch down in Ljubljana, I know I’m about to experience a land of the Gods. Rich green fields spread as far as the eye can see, only broken by a spattering of wild flowers like the sprinkles on a cake. The depth and luciousness of these fields reduce me to my childhood, and I feel a primal urge to prance through them like fields in the Sound of Music.
I’m here to hike the Alpe Adria trail, which leads from the eternal ice glacier on the Grossglockner, to the azure blue of the Adriatic Sea – a journey of discovery between borders and cultures.
Crossing between three countries – Slovenia, Austria and Italy, this “easy-to-walk” pleasure leads you through rich alpine terrain full of stunning mountain lakes. It’s no wonder the trail is commonly referred to as ‘Hiking the Garden of Eden’.
As a new hiker – virgin to the trials of multi-day hikes, I’m off to earn my stripes on the Alpe Adria. Some excerpts from my hiking journal:
Stage 20: Ossiach to Velden, Austria.
It was one of those mornings with the low hanging cloud, where you feel like the sky may swallow you whole. The mountainside – lush after the spring rain and melting snow, is lost to the fog like a scene from Gorillas in the Mist. The forest is rich with the sounds of running water, and the plight of the woodpecker reverberates in my ears like the sound of tribal drums.
As we hike upwards through a small mountain gorge, we slip and slide on mossy rocks and our eyes are glued to the ground. Vast handfuls of Fire Salamander are scattered throughout the foliage and we are mindful not to stand on them as we weave our way upwards.
This stage begins uphill with dense alpine forest, and breaks into a trail following old forestry vehicle paths around lakes and pine. Should you get hungry you can take a leaf from the book of our guide – and pick yourself handfuls of watercress to eat.
Expect to see wooden hunting hideouts, views of Ossiach from above, and stumble across an agricultural museum in Kostenberg.
Kranjska Gora and the Fusine Lakes, Slovenia
The two lakes look like they’ve been infused with milk. Rich in calcium and fed from an underground spring, they reflect the stunning mountain views of towering peaks more than 900m above.
The kaleidoscope of green around me changes with the seasons, and you can’t help but feel like this place is magical. The water ripples as fish break the surface and I keep wishing I’d packed some bread to feed them.
As we make our way around the edge of the lakes, we weave in and out around huge slabs of limestone rock that have been deposited through the valley by an ancient glacier. They stand unmoveable among the trees and are rumoured to be the biggest free-standing rocks in Europe – A mecca for climbers and boulderers who trail ahead of us with climbing mats and chalk bags.
Our guide assures us that climbing these monstrosities is ‘not so hard’ and convinces us to follow him up a near vertical sliding slope of roots, rocks, and dirt. Feeling a bit like a boy scout, I charge my way towards the summit, relishing in the feeling of earth under my fingernails.
While it wasn’t a climb for the faint-hearted, the view was 100% worth the effort (just don’t think about climbing back down)!
Stage 24 in the Triglav National Park. Borders Slovenia and Italy
We transferred overnight into Triglav National Park via a steep mountain pass with 55 switchbacks. Game of the moment – try not to lose your lunch.
We were so deep in the heart of the valley that you’d only know the sky exists if you looked directly upwards. The mountains seemed to close in above you they’re so steep, and we ambled alongside the path of the picturesque Soča river.
Walking for hours you don’t meet another soul, until in the depths of the trail you stumble across little mountain abodes like so.
Life here seems so perfect, hiding away from the world. These two old souls were living in solitude, cooking in an outdoor wood fire, and drying their washing in the crisp mountain air. Smiling and waving, you can tell they’re content. This truly is the Garden of Eden.
I travelled care of the Slovenian Tourist Board, on behalf of the Ski Club of Great Britain. Packages can be purchased directly via the Alpe Adria Trail website or in Slovenia at the Soča Valley Tourist Board office.
Prices start at £148 pp which include:
- 3 nights in selected hotel, double room on half board or bed & breakfast with dinner in farmhouse-locanda.
- Alpe Adria Trail Map/information
- Private Transfer from Trieste to Prosecco
- One-Way Boat Ticket Muggia-Trieste