Slovenia is a small country, but it is home to a bewildering diversity of plants. No less than 3000 species of higher plants can be found here. Among these are wild orchids, which we will see during our specialised orchid tour.
Orchids are highly specialised plants with extraordinary adaptations to their habitats and intricate relationships with pollinating insects. Most people are familiar with the showy tropical orchids which are sold as indoor plants. In contrast, European orchids are much smaller, but not less interesting or beautiful.
Slovenia is one of the best places to observe wild orchids in Central Europe. When we visit the right places at the right time of the year, we can expect to see up to 50 different orchid species in a single week. This is what we will aim for during this tour. Of course, we also keep an open eye for many other interesting plants as well as for butterflies, birds and other animals. We travel at a slow pace to provide excellent opportunities for photography.
We will spend considerable time in the southern part of the country, where we can find most orchid species. One day, we drive right to the northern border in search of the biggest and most spectacular species: the ladies slipper orchid.
We plan this tour for a small group of between 5 and 8 participants. Since we aim for an international group, we expect to speak mainly English. However, since the guide also speaks Dutch and German, we can accommodate a multilingual group as well.
Participants from any country are welcome but should arrange own flight ticket from the most convenient airport to Ljubljana Airport, Slovenia.
135 € per person
We visit a different area each day. Shortly after breakfast, we depart from the accommodation. Slovenia is a small country, so our driving time is limited to 1-2 hours most of the days. At each destination, we stop close to the sites which we intend to visit, to maximise the time we spend in nature.
We have lunch in the field (picnic), for this, we take everything we need with us in the van. Dinner is planned around 6.30. This leaves us time in the evening for sorting photographs, socialising, or a walk in the surroundings of the accommodation.
The following orchid species are widespread in the region, and we expect to see them in many places:
Anacamptis morio, Anacamptis pyramidalis, Cephalanthera damasonium, Cephalanthera longifolia, Dactylorhiza fuchsii, Dactylorhiza majalis, Gymnadenia conopsea, Listera ovata, Neotinea tridentata, Neottia nidus-avis, Platanthera bifolia, Platanthera chlorantha
Of course, we are outside most of the time and we will have as much time as we want to take pictures. And we visit some of Slovenia’s nicest nature areas with a very diverse landscape.
Please note that taking any plants from nature is not permitted during this tour.
Participants should plan their own journey to Slovenia. Ljubljana airport has connections with many international airports. Other nearby airports are Trieste (Italy), Venezia Marco Polo (Italy) and Zagreb (Croatia). There is a good shuttle service available from all major airports (make an early booking for a lower price). This shuttle can bring you to town Unec, where the guide will pick you up and take you to the accommodation.
Depending on the arrival time of participants we will visit extensive flower-rich meadows which are close to the highway or close to the accommodation. Here, we will see the first Slovenian orchids as well as many other plant species. After dinner, the guide will have an informal presentation to discuss the program, to provide general information about the landscapes which we will visit.
This day we stay close to the accommodation, which is situated in the Cerknica valley. The valley is situated in the Slovenian Karst. Rainwater finds its way through the limestone underground of the surrounding low mountains (to 1000 m asl.) and emerges in springs at the edge of the valley. When the snow melts in spring, the streams overflow and much of the valley becomes flooded and forms intermittent Lake Cerknica.
When we visit the area, the lake is most likely dry, and we find extensive wet meadows in the lakebed. The intermittent lake Cerknica is an Important Bird Area as well as a RAMSAR site. It is protected as part of the Notranjska Regional Park.
Expected species: Dactylorhiza incarnata, Anacamptis palustris, Orchis mascula ssp. speciosa, Coeloglossum viride, Iris sibirica, Gladiolus illyricus, Utricularia intermedia, Leucojum aestivum, Lamium orvale, Lilium bulbiferum, Thalictrum aquilegiifolium.
Between yesterday’s area and the area which we visit today is just a single mountain ridge. Nevertheless, the climate here is markedly warmer and drier. We visit mountain slopes which were once intensively grazed pastureland for sheep. When the grazing was legally restricted, the vegetation recovered and we now find interesting stages of succession from open land to forest. Part of the area, a gentle, open slope called Volovja reber, is of special interest. Floristically, this is one of the richest areas in Slovenia while it is also designated as an Important Bird Area (IBA) and a Natura 2000 site. In recent years, the destiny of this area was heavily disputed because of a plan to use the site for windmills. After several years battle in court, the plan was cancelled, and we can continue to enjoy the exceptional area like it is.
Expected species: Epipactis helleborine ssp.orbicularis, Epipactis microphyllum, Neotinea ustulata, Iris erirrhiza, Paeonia officinalis, Gentiana clusii, Daphne alpina, Stipa eriocaulis ssp. carniolica, Anthillys montana ssp. jaquiniana, Iris graminea, Gladiolus illyricus, Dictamnus albus, Asphodelus albus, Veratrum album
The warm Mediterranean region is well known for its high diversity of orchid species. Also in Slovenia, we can expect more different orchid species when we go in the direction of the coast. On the way there we pass a series of impressive inland cliffs, collectively known as “Kraški rob”, meaning the “Edge of the Karst”. These cliffs also mark the border between the central European and the (sub)Mediterranean climate zones. This is reflected in the vegetation, which is adapted to warm and dry summers with species like Downy Oak (Quercus pubescens).
In part of the area, pines have been extensively planted, but the native vegetation predominates. Here, we visit areas with small, extensive meadows bordered with overgrown stone walls. The Karst edge is included in the Natura 2000 network but is despite the occurrence of a number of endemic species not included in any protected area.
Expected species: Ophrys sphegodes, Ophrys sulcata, Ophrys holosericea, Ophrys holosericea ssp. untchjii, Ophrys apifera, Neottia ustulata, Orchis purpurea, Orchis papilionicera (few, not every year flowering), Orchis militaris, Limnodorum abortivum, Serapias vomeracea.
Without a doubt, the Ladies Slipper is the most outstanding of Slovenian orchids. Ladies slippers do occur in Southern Slovenia, but here, populations consist of only a handful of plants and they do not flower every year. Much larger populations occur in the north of the country, in the foothills of the Alps. Today, we drive up there to visit the largest known population of this enigmatic plant! Since Slovenia is a small country, this will take us only a little over two hours. We find the plants in an open forest, where we will spend the first part of the day admiring them.
Behind this forest, the landscape is more open, and we find typical Alpine plant species. The path goes upwards and is more steep, but not dangerous, so we slowly hike up where we find ourselves between low pine trees and a mass of Hairy Alpenrose (Rhododendron hirsutum) and associated plants!
Expected species: Cypripedium calceolus, Orchis mascula ssp. speciosa, Rosa pendulina, Rhododendron hirsutum, Erica carnea, Hepatica nobilis, Helleborus niger, Daphne mezereum, Lycopodium annotinum.
Today we go back to the south to visit the Slovenian part of Istria. The climate here is similar to that at the “Karst edge”, but even a bit warmer, so the season is somewhat more advanced. Of particular interest is the small border-river Dragonja, which flows nearly unregulated over white rocks. The surroundings of this river have an open vegetation, with herbs between thorny bushes: an excellent orchid habitat!
Expected species: Anacamptis coriophora ssp. fragrans, Ophrys holosericea, Ophrys insectifera, Neottia ustulata, Orchis purpurea, Orchis papilionicera (few, not every year flowering), Orchis militaris, Orchis simia, Limnodorum abortivum, Serapias vomeracea, Himantoglossum adriaticum.
We stay close to the accommodation and go to an area with a colder climate. In winter, it is so cold that centuries ago the local people have invented wooden skis to move through the snow. In summer, the climate is mostly pleasant, but the season is clearly behind to what we have experienced At one place, a beautiful small stream meanders through peat meadows and here we can find sundew as well as bladderwort, small carnivorous plants. Away from the stream, the meadows present a gradient from wet to dry habitats and in this area. Here, we will find several orchid species which we had not encountered yet.
Expected species: Ophrys insectifera, Ophrys holosericea, Dactylorhiza sambucina, Dactylorhiza lapponica, Gymnadenia odoratissima (maybe we are a bit too early in the season), Neotinea ustulata, Orchis mascula ssp. speciosa, Veratrum album, Lilium bulbiferum, Asarum europaeum, Aquilegia nigricans, Drosera anglica, Utricularia minor.
The scheduled direct flight Ljubljana-Amsterdam departs flight departs at 9.20. therefore, we will have an early rising and make sure that you are well in time to catch your flight! For those who would like to extend their stay in Slovenia: we can take you to the city of Ljubljana after we leave the rest of the group at the airport.
During the tour, we will walk slowly and not very far: we expect to walk at most 4 or 5 kilometres each day. However, we will walk off-road and sometimes in wet vegetation or on hard, rocky ground.
We will spend much of the time in meadows and other open habitats in the full sunlight. Please make sure that you bring a sunhat, suncream, and clothes with long sleeves against sunburn! Comfortable and water resistant shoes are also recommended.
Expect to stay many hours in the field: on some days, we drive home only after dinner and are back at the accommodation around 21.00 h.
During the tour, we will be staying at the Logar Tourist Farm with whom we cooperate for over 15 years. The farm is located in a small village of 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 one shared bathroom per two rooms 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, the Logar Tourist Farm offers other advantages:
Participants should arrange the transport to Ljubljana airport or train station. Depending on arrival times, we may be able to arrange a common transfer from the airport to the accommodation on the arrival day.
If there is no suitable flight to Ljubljana airport, you may also check connections to Trieste Airport (Italy) (1,5-hour travel to the accommodation) or Venice Marco Polo Airport (Italy) (2,5 hours travel time to the accommodation), but in this case you should arrange a shuttle transport from the airport to Unec (Gostilna in Pizzeria Portus, Unec), which you can book online through service Go Opti. We will give you more detailed instructions at the time of booking.
During this tour, we will use a van which has eight seats for participants and one for the driver. The tour guide will also be the driver of the van. This gives us a maximum of flexibility: how long we like to stay at each place, is up to us.