Our Nature in Slovenia Tours combine the most diverse areas in southern Slovenia: the meeting point of the major biogeographical zones of central Europe. From the mysterious dark world of a cave to a sunny mountain top, from extensive forests to a lake which disappears in the ground: we discover a new landscape every day. Here we find a rich Flora and Fauna and every day we encounter species which are rare in other parts of Europe. On several days we invite local specialists to join our tour including a buterfly specialist, brown bear specialists and a specialist guide in the primeaval forest. Every day, we will be walking on quiet trails as well as of-road, but I would not describe our tours as typical Hiking Tours: we stop often to admire and photograph flowers and animals and cover only a few kilometer on a single hike.
In 2018, we organise two Nature in Slovenia Tours. From 14h -21th June 2018 the tour is organised in cooperation with the Dutch travel agency Inezia Tours. From the 2nd-9th June 2017, the Nature in Slovenia Tour is organised in cooperation with the British travel agency Greentours. Please check their websites for other tour information and booking.
Day 1: arrival day
Day 2: Javorniki mountain (wide forests and great view from a mountain top)
Day 3: Cerknica valley (magical springs), Lož valley (bear watching)
Day 4: Kočevje (Primeaval Forest)
Day 5: Trnovski gozd (Butterflies at a Mountain Ridge with alpine flora)
Day 6: Intermittent Lake Cerknica and Collapsed cave at Rakov škocjan
Day 7: Kraški rob, Dragonja (Mediterranean day)
Day 8: departure day
We fly to either Ljubljana or Venice, where our local guide Paul Veenvliet is waiting for us. With a small van we drive to the accommodation. Depending on our arrival time we make stopovers on the way in one or more nature areas where we get a first impression of the rich nature of Slovenia.
The forest which starts in Southern Slovenia, continues uninterrupted all the way to the south Balkan. This morning we experience part of the extensiveness of the forest while we drive over unpaved roads to our fist destination. The forest is dominated by Beech, Spruce and Silver Fir, but includes small clearing where we find forest butterflies. After rain, Red deer, Brown bear and occasionally Wolf and Lynx leave footprints in muddy pools at the roadside. After a while we leave the van to hike up to our first destination: a mountain top of a little more than 1000 meter asl, crowned by a deserted church. In the past, cows and sheep kept this area open, but nowadays nature is taking over which results in an explosion of flowers! From the top we have a wide view to all sides. Around this mountain, we find flat valleys, the so called »poljes«, which transform into small lakes after heavy rainfall. In a delightfull exposition we learn how this goes.
The landscape in southern Slovenia is dominated by limestome which originates as oceanic sediment in the time of the dinosaurs. The limestone got uplifted whe the African and European continents collided; the same process which gave rise to the Alps. rainwater partially dissolved the limestone and created an »emmentaler cheese with holes« under our feet in the form of caves and underground rivers. Many of the underground holes are small, but there are also spectacular, kilometres long caves. In fact, well over 11.000 caves have been registered in Slovenia untill now, and each year new caves are discovered. We visit one of the most beautiful and natural caves in the surroundings. At the entrance, the cave guide provides us with rubberboots and special cave-lights which work on an accumulator. Armed with these we enter the darkness like real explorers. On the way, we encounter the remains of Cave bears which hibernated and sometimes died here in the Ice ages. Also nowadays there are animals living in the cave, but most of them are minute because there is very little food here. If we are lucky, we may find blind, pigmentless millipedes, beetles and woodlice. At the end of the cave we find an enchanting small underground lake …
Also nowadays we can encounter bears here, the Slovenian forests are home to a healthy population of several hundreds of Brown bears. Occasionally these bears enter the villages at night, in search of fruit from the ochards and other edibles. They are wary for people and not easily seen. Our best chance is to wait at dusk in hides at feeding places in the forest. If we are lucky we can then observe the King of European Beasts in it’s natural habitat. the feeding places attract other species as well and we may see fox, badger and roe deer, as well as several bird species.
Most of the Slovenian forests have a very natural appearance, with a species-rich undergrowth and a mysterious, vast expansiveness. You don’t meet many hikers: Slovenians go to the forest in search of mushrooms, to hunt or to fetch wood. The human impact on the forest is subtle, but visible to the trained eye. Today we visit a forest reserve where all human impacts are excluded. The regime is so strict that we are not allowed straight into the reserve, in stead we walk along the edge, through a buffer zone. the only difference between the buffer zone and the strict reserve is that visitors are allowed in this buffer zone. Otherwise the management consists of letting nature run it’s course. The unspoilt, primeaval forest often gids a disorganised impression: we encounter dead trees between the healthy growing ones and my have to make detours around mighty trunks and rocks. Small trees grow slowly underneath the canopy of the forest giants: they may have to wait for decades untill an old tree dies and it is their turn to reach for the sky. The Slovenian primeaval forest reserves are an important reference area for natural forest management and are recently added to the UESCO list of wold Heritage sites.
The large Vipava valley is bordere by impressive limestone cliffs. We approach these from the backside: we drive up around the cliffs and hike through a hilly landscape towards the edge. When the weather is clear we can see all the way to the Adriatic sea from up here. Sun and wind, during winter also snow and frost, limit the growth of threes here. Even though we are not much higher than 1000 meter, we find Alpine plants flowering between the rocks. Butterflies fly upwards along the cliffs and concentrate along the highest peaks. Especially swallowtai and scarce swallowtail stand out, both because of their size and because of their elegant »sailing« flight. They are not alone: depending on the seaosn it is possible to observe over 50 butterfly species here! On this day, a Slovenian butterfly specialist (resercher) teams up with our guide and together we identify blues, frittilaries and ringlets. With spme patience we can photograph many of these species from close by.
Our accommodation is located at the edge of the Cerknica valley. Characteristic for this valley is the highly variable water level: after heavy rain and when the snow melts in spring, the valley becomes flooded. For some time, Slovenia’s largest lake is formed with a surface up to 30 square kilometre! During much of the summer, the lake bed is dry and water is limited to slowly meandering streams. A special feature of the lake is that the water appears and disappears underground. along the edge of the valley we find countless springs while there are large holes in the underground at other places, the so-calles »sinkholes«, through which the water flows away in underground rivers. the lake appears because the capacity of the springs is larger than that of the sinkholes: water flows faster into the valley than it can flow out. As a consequence of the fluctuating waterlevel we find here an extensive wetland with a rich flora and fauna.
We start the day with a hike to the mysterious intermittent springs in the forest edge. In summer, forest animals often come to drink here and we may well encounter their tracks. We pass flower-rich meadows with wilde Gladiolus, Cottongrass and Summer Snowflakes. From small willow trees we hear Yellow wagtail, Reedwarbler and Whinchat while Corncrakes call from between high sedges. In teh Cerknica valley some 125 species of butterflies have been observed, but their density isn’t particularly high. In stead, we may find rare marshlant species like Enzian blue and Large Copper.
The water which disappears underground at Lake Cerknica reappears a few kilometer further in the springs at the small valley of rakov Škocjan. This valley orininated in the form of an underground criver, which over time has created a hughe cave, untill the ceiling became too thin and collapsed. The water has since then taken away the rocks from the former cave ceiling and a lovely small valley remains in the middle of the forest. At both ends of this valley the process of it’s formation continues nowadays, which results in spectacular rock formations where the above-ground and underground worlds meet. Here is a cool and moist microclimate in which mosses and ferns thrive. this is also the habitat of the rare Horvath’s mountain lizard, which is active for only a few hours each day. We will calmost certainly see Grey wagtails and have a good chance to observe Dippers and Kingfishers as well.
Today we go to the south, where a series of inland cliffs mark a sharp border between the central European and Submediterranean climate. The cliffs have a rick animal life, including Blue rock trush, Red rumped swallow and Rock pigeon as well as Green lizard, Dalmatian algyroides and Karst lizard. The forest is dominated by warmth-loving trees like Downy oak, Manna ash and Black pine, between which Nettle tree butterflies dwell.
In the afternoon we move even more to the south, to the small river Dragonja at the Slovenian-Croatian border. Here, we encounter a rich birdlife including Bee-eater, Oriole, Nightingale, Red backed shrike and Turtle dove.
Depending on our flight time, we will visit one or more nature areas on the way to the airport.
Remark: collecting of animals or plants, including all butterflies is not permitted during this tour. In some cases our lisenced guide may catch butterflies for identification purposes. Any caught butterflies will be released at the same location where they were found.
Highly diverse and beautiful landscapes including mountains, forests, meadows full of flowers and caves.
Many different bird species with over 100 bird species possible during the tour.
Many different butterfly species with over 50 butterfly species possible during the tour.
Diverse flora with hundreds of flowering plant species.
Mysterious Karst phenomena including caves, karst springs, intermittent lakes and sinkholes (it depends on the water level what we can see in some places).
One of the last Primeaval Forests in Europe, where no trees have been cut or planted.
A chance to see large mammals including deer and brown bear.
Good opportunities to take photographs.
For our Nature in Slovenia Tours, we made reservations at the Logar Tourist Farm with whom we cooperate for over 15 years. The farm is located in Žerovnica, in southern Slovenia. The accommodation consists of rooms in two authentic village houses and a third, newer building which is made in the local style. Both older buildings are fully restored to accommodate guests. Each of these has two rooms on the lower floor and two rooms on the first floor. Because these rooms are made in old farmhouses, there is a shared bathroom on each floor. The newer building has en-suite facilities. Please indicate what are your wishes so we can divide the rooms accordingly.
Besides good rooms and quality service, Logar Farm offers other advantages:
Depending on airplane scedules, you arrive in Slovenia either via the Ljubljana (Brnik) airport or the Venice (Marco Polo) airport. Here, the guide will wait for you with a van. During the whole tour, the Tour Guide will also be the driver of the van. This gives us a maximum of flexibility: how long we would like to stay at each place is up to us.
When Paul first came to Slovenia in 1998, he immediately realised how beautiful and unique this place is. Now that he is living in the Notranjska region, he got to know the countryside pretty well, but he never ceased to admire everything he sees. As a biologist and former lecturer in Wildlife Management, he is an engaged speaker, known for his enthusiasm. He started out as herpetologist but is an all-round naturalist with a broad knowledge. In Slovenia, he has worked on a variety of nature conservation and education projects. He recently returned to nature guiding and nature conservation projects as part of his activities. Paul is fluent in English, Dutch, Slovenian and German.
During parts of this tour, Paul will be accompanied by various local specialists, including a butterfly specialist, a cave-guide, a forest-specialist and brown bear specialists. Together, they will make sure that you see the best areas and some of the most special species which Southern Slovenia has to offer.
Our Nature in Slovenia Tours are moderately difficult: In the whole day, we will walk up to 10 kilometres at an easy pace. We will follow unpaved roads and also smaller paths.
During the Nature in Slovenia Tours, we sometimes make long days: generally, we have breakfast between 7 and 9 a.m. and dinner at 18.30 h. Some days we drive back to the accommodation only after dinner. On other days we have dinner earlier, and then go out bear-watching until nightfall (at 21.00 h!).
In 2016, we organised a highly succesfull 8-day Nature in Slovenia Tour with a similar itinerary. During this tour we observed the following species: 2016 Species List .pdf
For price-information and booking of our Nature in Slovenia Tours, please see the websites of our partner agencies: