Lonely trails, tiny villages and a real adventure off the beaten track — how about the Trans-Slovenia-Alpine Cross? Slovenia is still a relatively unknown country for many cyclists, even though it's home to some breathtaking landscapes.
Slovenia lies at the southeastern foothills of the Alps between Austria and Croatia. About two million people live in an area about twice the size of Greater London, allowing for a country that is fairly sparsely populated and full of interesting culture and traditions. On both the northern and southern sides of the country, you'll find Alpine mountains, emerald rivers and lakes, wide karst areas with spectacular caves, endless forests, vineyards and a slice of Mediterranean coast — all traversed by a dense network of small roads, paths and trails.
This adventure will take you off the beaten track on old military roads from the First World War over a total of 260 miles (416 kilometers). And every day will be eventful: You can expect stunning landscapes and fantastic, lonely trails. From Villach in Austria, you'll cross the Karawanken Mountains to Slovenia and the ski resort of Kranjska Gora. Then, you'll ride through the distinctive Julian Alps and the Triglav National Park, past the highest mountain in the country, the Triglav at almost 10,000 feet (2864 meters). You and your bike will then ride through the romantic säumen valley to Kobarid and Tolmin, where ruins and positions from the mountain battles of the First World War still line the paths today. In the final third section, you'll ride through wine regions in the Vipava valley and into the unique karst region around Postojna. As a reward for all your efforts, you will travel to the sunny Piran on the Adriatic coast.
Best travel time
The location on the southern edge of the Alps and the proximity to the Adriatic Sea determine the climate in the west of the country. In the north, the climate is very Alpine whereas it's wonderfully Mediterranean in the south. The pass is usually closed from the end of October and snow-free from the end of May. In the regions close to the coast, you can sometimes bike all year round. Therefore, the months of June, September and October are recommended for this ride as it can get very hot in July and August, especially towards the coast.
For this Alpine crossing, you'll need to be in peak physical condition and be able to cycle up 55 miles (85 kilometers) per day, conquering elevations of up to 7,200 feet (2,200 meters). Many of the singletracks will also prove highly demanding, with many stretches over tracks with an S2 rating and the odd run down tracks up to S4. Occasionally you should expect to have to dismount and to either push or carry your bike.
In order to master and enjoy the descents, we recommend taking an all-mountain bike with a leaf spring of at least 120 mm. The Tour is not suitable for e-mountain bikes. We do not recommend you attempt this Tour on an e-mountain bikes. Some sections will require you to push or carry your bike and the trail becomes incredibly narrow and steep. Moreover, depending on the exact route you follow, you may have to ride across stone fields and/or blocked routes.
Your first bike day - the adventure Slovenia Crossing by bike and backpack starts. After a fortifying breakfast and the last checks on the bike you roll comfortably through the old town of Villach along the river Drau and over the Gail towards Faaker See.First, you ride on well-maintained cycle paths along a quiet main road in the direction of Faak am See, from where you tackle the first climb of the day. You drive over green meadows, lush fields and charming farms to the foot of the Karawanken.After Altfinkenstein begins a very well mobile S0-way, which brings you to the Annahüttensattel, today's summit. The driveway offers a unique panorama of the Carinthian lakes and the Gurktal Alps.The Karawanken mountain range still blocks the view of the Julian Alps, but after about 1000 meters of altitude on a well-groomed forest track, you reach the Annahüttensattel at 1590 meters - the border to Slovenia. Once at the top, you can look forward to a rapid descent into the Sava Valley on a good mobile forest, which runs at some point parallel to the mountain river Belca.After about 38 kilometers, there is a tunnel that you do not need to drive through, because the track is no longer passable. A huge landslide has completely demolished the forest road. In front of the tunnel there is an S2 trail that allows you to pass the Mure. In places, this section is even a real pleasure for experienced drivers. But check that you do not get too fast, because both the Mure and the left hand lying mountain river Belca have to be passed. In front of a rickety wooden bridge over the Belca you will see the full extent of the slide.After the bridge there is a short passage of a well-traveled S2-Trail, before you reach a paved road at Podkuže. From here you can comfortably drive on a very well-developed cycle path, passing Gozd Martuljek along the Sava Dolinka to Kranjska Gora, the well-known winter sports resort and today's stage destination.Bad weather variant: A crossing of the Karawanken is also possible over the Wurzenpass (Crainberg). However, the pass road built in 1734 up to an altitude of 1073 meters with an 18 percent gradient is very steep and extremely winding. After the pass-departure you come out in Podkoren. From here it is about four to five kilometers to Kranjska Gora.Kranjska Gora (German: Kronau, translated: Krainer Berg) is located at about 806 meters and is an alpine resort in north-western Slovenia, near the mountains and glacial lakes of the Triglav National Park. The community in Upper Carniola in the far north-west of Slovenia with about 5,000 inhabitants is known primarily as a recreational and winter sports resort.You will see signs on bears on the forest and forest roads again and again. If you are driving in a group try to stay together. Bear reading is very unlikely but not ruled out, so be advised to look into the topic in advance and read the signs carefully to see how you behave best in the event of an encounter.
Today you are right in the middle of the impressive mountains of the Julian Alps. Right at the end of Kranjska Gora begins the Triglav National Park. On gravel roads you drive along the river Pišnica.You will have to go through the riverbed again and again, sometimes with dry feet but also on water-bearing spots. After about six kilometers, the actual ascent begins on the Vršič pass, the highest passable Slovenian pass at 1611 meters.The partially paved mountain road is still a relic from the First World War. In the upper third you drive on a grown old military track, which meanders off the pass road in a pleasant slope and with many serpentines to the summit. On the way up the limestone peaks of the Julian Alps tower and you will have to stop again and again to let the gigantic views look good.At the top you think you have arrived in the heart of the Julian Alps. This sight is best enjoyed at the rustic Tičarjev Dom, where you can fortify yourself with "Strukli" or "Jota", a hearty sauerkraut soup.The descent from Vršič Pass is just as exciting as the driveway, with a gradient of 14 percent. On a paved and promising pass road you rush down 27 hairpin bends into the wild and romantic Soča valley.Among connoisseurs, the Soča is considered the most beautiful mountain river in the Alps. Through a wild valley she meanders with her pools, bays and roaring rapids in the direction of the Adriatic Sea. At the end of the descent and a short breather, you drive again a short distance up to the source of the Soča.In the direction of Kobarid you are now rolling on a mixture of asphalt, gravel and trails via the outdoor center Bovec along the sometimes emerald-green, sometimes turquoise-blue Soča. Depending on your physical condition and time of day, you can always go back to the Alpe-Adria Trail. On paths, root trails and swaying suspension bridges you come very close to the Soča.From the village of Žaga you can drive to Mount Stol, your second long driveway of the day. Mount Stol is a popular panorama mountain for paragliders and offers amazing views of the Soča Valley. Not really steep, but almost endless, the gravel road screwed again about 1000 meters high.Once at the top, you drive on the striking and long ridge promising and slightly sloping on an old, flowy military runway. The descent on the playful trail is getting more and more demanding, so that you have to carry the last few meters of altitude at one point or another. Overall, the descent from Stol to Kobarid is a dream.If you're too tired at Žaga or do not have enough time left, head to Kobarid and enjoy the beautiful scenery. The descent from Mount Stol you should in any case drive in daylight.Kobarid (German: Karfreit) is located at about 234 meters and is the westernmost municipality with about 4400 inhabitants in the upper Soča Valley in Slovenia. It was part of the scene and eponym of the Twelfth Isonzo Battle in 1917, which is called in most languages "Battle of Caporetto" ("Battle of Karfreit"). If you still have time, then check out the War Museum. It is really impressive.If you have any technical problems with your bike, you have the opportunity here to ask the mechanics of the bike shop in the middle of the marketplace for advice. There will not be many bike shops on the tour and nothing is more annoying than a bike that does not run around on your Alpencross.
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From Kobarid you drive to the summit with probably the most beautiful view in the Soča valley: the Matajur on the Italian side at 1641 meters.About a relatively little-used asphalt road you drive serpentine rich about 500 meters high to Livek, a relaxed mountain village. From here you crank on fantastic forest roads and lonely paths towards the border to Italy. The driveway is long, but promising and the slope pleasant.The peak of the Matajur is high for about 25 minutes wear, as the trails are highly mobile hardly. The effort will be rewarded immediately. In clear weather you can enjoy a 360-degree panorama with views over the Julian Alps, the Dolomites and the Adriatic Sea. Impressive is the yesterday climbed Mount Stol with its magnificent mountain ridge in the north before your eyes.
The breathtaking two-hour descent from Matajur is by far the culmination of the day.Shortly thereafter, you cross the border to Slovenia on the finest trails. Back in Livek, you're advised to replenish your water supply at the drinking fountain before tackling the second climb.On tar you crank up the Kolovrat, another strategically important ridge of the Isonzo front. The remains of the old positions you can still see on the side of the road, boards explain the story. Again, enjoy the view and then thread down to Tolmin in beautiful, partially hidden trails. You can also change to the asphalt road again and again, because at this descent you may reach speeds of up to 75 kilometers per hour.At the entrance of Tolmin there is a beautiful pebble beach directly on the Soča. Here you can let the day and the tour sink first. Cooling with eight degrees cold Soča water included. The remaining meters to the center of Tolmin you can roll out relaxed.Tolmin (German: Tolmein) is a small town and is located on about 200 meters on an advanced plateau between the rivers Soča and Tolminka and has about 3,850 inhabitants.If something with your bike did not work properly on this day or if you still need spare parts, then you can head for the Bike Shop in the center. It will be the last for the next two days.
Along the dammed Soča you will roll on fine little trails past Most na Soči in the direction of Idrijca and finally into the Trebuša valley. At Dolenja-Trebuša, your first climb begins on a freshly tarred mountain road. After a few hundred meters of altitude, the original condition of this road is revealed: gravel sections carved into the mountain take you to Čepovan. Once at the top you can fill up your water supply and take a short break before it goes up very steeply on gravel to Lokve again.On lonely, sometimes over 130 years old gravel and asphalt roads you cross the Paradana forest area north of the Mali Golak. These gigantic mixed forests are incredibly densely overgrown, uninhabited and bursting with health and beautiful bike trails. Here you will also find sinkholes, karst and ice caves, from which ice was once transported to Egypt.At an elevation of about 1100 meters you pass an ice cave, which is accessible via a mouth hole. The cave is a real highlight. It is about 385 meters deep and about 1550 meters long. The descent to the first plateau does not take long. Here you have to leave your bike and master the rest of the descent on foot. With each step further down you feel the icy coldness that flows up from this cave. The vegetation is getting barren to barren what in turn is related to the sinking temperature. This phenomenon is called inverse vegetation or vegetation reversal.After the sinkhole you roll out of the forest on forest roads. An awesome panorama opens up for you with a view of the Vipava valley. Descend to Ajdovščina via a mixture of the finest trails and asphalt. On the way, you will always have breathtaking views of the Vipava Valley and a foretaste of tomorrow's stage, which will take you to the Nanos Plateau. From Ajdovščina you will cycle along field and forest trails along smaller streams and rivers through beautiful vineyards to Slap near Vipava.Vipava (German: Wippach) is a town and municipality in western Slovenia near Nova Gorica with about 5500 inhabitants (2008). It lies at the source of the river of the same name in the Vipava Valley (Vipavska dolina) at an altitude of 102 meters. The area around Vipava is known for its bird cherries and wine.
Right at the beginning of the stage, you will climb the Nanos Plateau to 1262 meters, the last major elevation before the karst plateau. On a mixture of asphalt and gravel roads, you will reach the Turistična kmetija Abram Nanos mountain hut just before the Nanos Plateau, where you can stop for lunch. Because the following increase has it really in itself. He starts with a trail that always forces him to push. Here, too, likes to blow the Bora, as betrayed by the winds completely distorted tree branches.After this challenging climb you reach the plateau with fantastic views. Here you can surf, sometimes down with 180 degrees panorama. The highest point of the day, the mountain lodge on the Pleša, can not be reached without sweating. But your effort will be absolutely rewarded again: top views, great trails. So great that even a rare species can be found here: Slovenian mountain bikers.
On a very challenging but sometimes mega flowy trail you ride downhill in the direction of Predjama, where you can visit the unique cave castle.Today's stage destination Postojna you reach relaxed on field and meadow paths.
Postojna (German: Adelsberg) is a town and a municipality in the southwest of Slovenia and the former crown land Krain with about 8,500 inhabitants (2002). The area around Postojna is known for its huge karst caves.
The start of the day starts for you on crisp trails with a fun factor. As soon as you get out of Postojna, you take along old bridges and smaller streams on the first kilometers of the day.On gravel roads you will roam one of the largest non-populated areas in Europe: the forest area north of the Snežnik before the border with Croatia. This area is the area of more than 125 brown bears. An encounter is unlikely, as the bears live in higher levels, but a minimal residual risk remains. So here are the tips for behavior in bear areas.On a mix of great forest trails and small streets you swing in the direction of Pivka. From Pivka, you first roll on a road in the direction of Ribnica, from where you make your way back into the woods with forest roads. Today, you are mainly on reasonably paved paths. Nevertheless, it offers you unique landscapes in connection with trails.On small side roads you drive to Artivce, from where you again come to enjoy a great descent. Over the last hundred meters of the tour, you will discover a grown-up but fun singletrack that spits you out in the mountain village of Rodik, near Kozina, your current destination.Rodik is a small mountain village with about 300 inhabitants in the northeast of Kozina.
At the beginning of the final stage you can tackle the last higher summit on the Slavnik (1028 meters).If you want to do it more relaxed on the last day, then you go on an equally exciting route. On lonely forest roads and military roads along a railway track, you scrub one kilometer after the other. It still feels like a roller coaster, as the roads mean curvy and sometimes high, sometimes down. Again and again you have on the rather short runs top trails here. Today you drive mainly through lonely karst landscape near the Croatian border in the Dragonja Valley.At the village Zazid you drive one last time a hammer trail, which pumps you the adrenalin in the veins. Over bumpy gravel you shoot past old railway lines and into a riverbed. The trail here is a washed-out channel cut into the rock. Be careful and brake well dosed, then you can have a lot of fun here.
The trail spits you out on a road that you can now roll to Rizana. Shortly before Rizana you have the opportunity to enjoy a short trail section again.With Rizana you treat yourself best again a last coffee before it goes to the sea. On super-developed bike paths you roll along the Rizana River through vineyards in the direction of the port city of Koper, Slovenia's gateway to the world. From Koper on the other hand, an absolutely fantastic bike path leads you directly to the sea towards Isola.From Isola you drive again slightly hilly through wonderful landscapes and then finally Prian (German: Pirian) on Portoroz from the south to head. After 85 kilometers you will reach today the final destination of the Slovenia crossing: the picturesque coastal town of Piran.Piran is a historical place on the Slovenian Adriatic coast, known for its long pier and its Venetian architecture. With almost 17,000 inhabitants in the surrounding area and around 4,100 inhabitants in the innermost town center, Piran is comparatively densely populated. Piran is known among other things for the extraction of sea salt in the adjacent salt pans.Returning from Piran, you can either take the shuttle service to Kransjka Gora in about two and a half to three hours, or take the trains to the capital, Ljubljana. From here either by bus or train to Villach.