Hiking, like life, is not about the destination, it’s about the journey.
Hey there! Up for a walk?
– Sure. Where to?
Across the Alps.
– Say what?
Yes, it’s the Via Alpina hiking trail. A wonderful walk along 5 international trails, through 8 countries, and over 5000 km ranging between 0 and 3000 m above sea level. The route consists of 342 stages and runs across the serine countryside full of natural and cultural heritage.
– Wow, sounds interesting! Go on…
Well, it’s a really cool European project that’s been in operation since 2000. The Via Alpina crosses 30 regions, 10 national parks, 17 nature parks, and 22 nature reserves and passes through France, Monaco, Italy, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Germany, Austria, and Slovenia, all along 5 marked hiking trails. The Via Alpina is both a physical and intercultural link between Alpine regions. With a large number of intersections among other (local) Alpine trails, it offers a multitude of access points to explore areas beyond the five official trails. Perhaps the words of the organizers sum it best:
“The Via Alpina runs close to the most prestigious sites of cultural and natural interest to let you discover the Alpine heritage in all its shapes and forms and to allow you to meet local communities, their festivals, their traditions, their craft industries and their way of life."
– That sounds amazing! I’m currently interested in a hiking holiday in Slovenia. I just have a few more questions…
Do Via Alpina trails run across the Slovenian mountains?
Indeed. The Red and Purple Trails cross Slovenia. 14 stages of the Red Trail and 10 stages of the Purple Trail will introduce you to the three high mountain massifs of Slovenia and loads upon loads of the country’s unique natural and cultural heritage.
Hike duration: 10 days
Distance covered: 220 km
First stage: Krvavi Potok
Last stage: Korensko sedlo
The Red Trail crosses the Carso, which includes the north-western spur of the Dinaric Mountains – the Nanos plateau, a natural border between continental Slovenia and its coastal territory. The trail continues through the Trnovo forest and the hills of Idrija. Along this route, you’ll discover the less-known yet exceptionally gorgeous rural delights of Slovenia’s backcountry.
The Red Trail then leads you into the Julian Alps, down the Valle dell'Isonzo, and through the Triglav National Park. You’ll stop off at lodgings near the Triglav Lakes and the Trenta Valley. The trail runs near the tourist hub of Kranjska Gora, which offers a number of other local hiking and biking trails. It runs towards the Korensko sedlo Pass in the Karawanken, all the way towards Austria.
Hike duration: 7 days
Distance covered: 120 km
Degree of difficulty: all
First stage: Dolič
Last stage: Jezerski vrh
The Purple Trail begins in the heart of Slovenia’s highest mountain massif under Mount Triglav. Its winding path runs towards the Zadnjica Valley, passing through the spacious Zelenica Plateau and descends into the Valle di Vrata. Climbing from the village of Dovje to the southern perimeter of the Karawanken mountain range, the trail leads through a predominantly wooded area to Golica.
Rising up and across the rocky terrain of the Karawanks, you’ll eventually reach Begunjščica, which lies near the famous mountain pass Ljubelj. Entering Slovenia’s third massif, the Kamnik-Savinja Alps, the Purple Trail descends through the valley towards the old town of Tržič. The route then ascends to the Javornik Pass, before heading towards the rocky mass of Stegovnik e Javornik Saddle, ending with the final stage of the Slovenina Via Alpina at the stunningly picturesque Zgornje Jezersko.
How difficult are the Via Alpina trails in Slovenia?
Not difficult at all! The trails don’t require advanced mountaineering or climbing experience, ergo there’s no need for ropes, crampons, axes, etc. That being said, the Via Alpina trails do run across mountains, so basic physical stamina is necessary. Planning your trip is important, which of course includes levels of fitness and safety precautions. For more details on specific stages of the trails, seek further information with tourist offices, mountain hut keepers, local mountain guides, and the Alpine Association of Slovenia.
Finding your way down the trail(s) is easy, just follow the official identification provided by Via Alpina signs and the local “Knafelc blazes” – a white dot within a red circle.
What about the weather and the best time of year to hike?
In the Alps, the hiking season ranges from June till October. Snow can remain above the 2000-m mark during summer as well and permanent snow can be expected in those areas by September. It is therefore vital to inquire about the local weather conditions before setting off on your hike.
Remember, the weather changes quickly in the mountains. In the high season (summer), afternoon thunderstorms are common in the Slovenian Alps, so avoid exposed ridges.
Are accommodations available along the Via Alpina?
Yes, accommodations and catering facilities are available at the end of each daily stage. Yet mountain huts have to manage supplies closely, so make sure to let them know and book in advance. This also goes for villages and towns.
The high season is very popular for Slovenian hikers and local trails often lead on or near the Via Alpina routes, hence calling up and reserving a spot is warmly recommended.
In the Slovenian mountains, accommodation is synonymous with mountain huts, usually distant by a few hours of hiking. There are circa 170 huts in Slovenia.
In the high mountains, the huts are generally open between 15 June and 30 September. At lower altitudes, some are open all year round, and outside the high season, certain huts are only open on weekends. Apart from accommodation, the huts also offer meals and drinks at reasonable prices. Hut to hut hiking is an amazing hiker’s adventure in Slovenia, on and off the Via Alpina trail.
Sleeping in the open is a great way to experience nature, but make sure the local regulations permit it. Hint: National parks usually don’t. If you do bivouac, do so responsibly.
Avoid sensitive areas like meadows, copses, areas with animal tracks, wetlands, etc., and follow the outdoor etiquette.
There you have it, Slovenia truly is a superb hiking destination and the Via Alpina trails or parts of them are a wonderful idea for day trips or even entire walking holidays. And if you’re a true hiking enthusiast, you can try the entire Via Alpina trail. Any more questions?
– Nope. Sign me up!