In our one-week tour: the Mysteries of the Karst – Slovenia Nature Tour, we explore the mysterious limestone-hills n Southern Slovenia. Long ago, dinosaurs roamed here, now we find a landscape of unexpected beauty, filled with Caves, Intermittent Lakes, Sinkholes, Cliffs and incredible mountain views. We experience how people live here, we ride on a traditional horse-cart and learn about the arts of salt-making and the use of medicinal herbs. This region is home to a rich flora and fauna, including rare and endemic species. During the tour, we may also encounter the master of the forest, the Brown Bear.
In 2019 we have two dates for this tour:
Please note that we can also organise the Mysteries of the Karst – Slovenia Nature Tour as a private tour for your group or as a custom-made tour for your tour-agency. Contact us for information about the price and availability.
Amsterdam Airport Schiphol for Inezia Tours
London Gatwick or Heathrow for Greentours
2 Hours Before Flight Time
1245,- Euro per person.
Please note that this is the price without a flight-tickets. When our tour is offered by international agencies including Inezia Tours and Greentours, they use a different price-rate because they offer this tour inclusive international flight!
175 € per person
Please note that taking any plants or animals from nature is not permitted during this tour.
We fly to either Ljubljana or Venice, where our local guide Paul Veenvliet is waiting for the group. 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.
Intermittent Lakes are a typical feature of Karst (limestone) landscapes. The water level fluctuates, one day they are full of water. A few days later, they may be dry. Always, they are full of life!
Lake Cerknica is the largest intermittent lake in Europe. In fact, it is also the largest lake in Slovenia and the only Slovenian lake with an inhabited island and an eldorado for water birds. That is when there is water in the lake. At other times, the lake-bed changes into a vast expanse of flower-rich meadows.
Our day starts with an incredible view over the whole lake Cerknica. We then go to see some of the most spectacular places from close-by, but what we see highly depends on the water level. We may see a crater-like landscape with deep sinkholes, into which the water disappears. Or, we may see a vast expanse of water, which reflects the surrounding hills like a mirror.
At the lake, a traditional horse-wagon, a so-called Lojtrnik, waits for us. This wagon takes us to a farmhouse in a nearby village, for our lunch.
In the afternoon, we take a 4-km hike at the most remote part of Lake Cerknica. Sometimes, forest animals come to drink here and we may see their footprints along the springs.
Southern Slovenia is dominated by limestone which originates from oceanic sediment, created at the time of the dinosaurs. When the African and European continents collided, the limestone got uplifted, forming the Alps and many other parts of Slovenia. 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 until now, and each year new caves are discovered.
We visit one of the most beautiful and natural show caves in the surroundings. At the entrance, the cave guide provides us with rubber boots 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 find troglobiotic millipedes, beetles and woodlice, which have various adaptations to living in complete darkness. 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 orchards and other edibles. They are wary of people and not easily seen. Our best chance is to wait at dusk in special hides at feeding places in the forest. If we are lucky, we can then observe them in their natural habitat. The feeding places attract other species as well, and we may see fox, badger, roe deer and several species of birds.
Kilometre after kilometre, the forest seems endless in hills of Southern Slovenia. In fact, it stretches all the way to the south Balkans and together, this is the largest forest in Central Europe. Today we explore the Beech-Silver Fir forest in the limestone hills. Here, we encounter few people, most only come to work. This forest has a major economic importance for forestry, Bee-keeping, mushroom-collecting and hunting. Sometimes, local people hike to one of the tops of the hills, but in spite of the beauty of the area, we encounter few foreign visitors.
Because of the vastness of the area, we drive over forest roads and make many stopovers on the way to explore the forest and features of the limestone karst. At one place, we have a longer stopover and hike to a low mountaintop. This place is a botanical reserve where we find a rich flora and numerous butterflies.
The Bloščica stream quietly meanders over the Bloke plateau. It is surrounded by low bog and peatland meadows, in an idyllic atmosphere. Among Slovenian naturalists, it is known as one of the best places for dragonflies and it is also a good place for butterflies and birdwatching. If we are lucky, we may even find otter tracks along the shores of the stream!
Only ten minutes driving from Bloščica, there is a totally different stream. Iška cascades through a steep valley and gives a true Alpine feel with rocky shores and fresh, cool air. Large parts of this stream are entirely natural, and we follow a narrow trail which is used by animals and the occasional human visitor alike.
The Art of Salt-making shaped the Slovenian coast when the shallow water was transformed into salt-pans. Today, there is a renewed interest in the natural sea salt from Slovenia, which is preferred for cooking by the famous chef Jamie Oliver! Only a part of the salt pan is still in use nowadays, over half of its surface is a bird reserve of international importance!
In the afternoon, we go inland to the Dragonja valley. Here, the tiny stream flows over white rocks. We get a true taste of the Mediterranean with colourful Bee-eaters, Orioles, Hoopoes and Shrikes, while Nightingales sing in the background. We rest in the pleasant shade at a local house, where the owners show how to extract rich scented oils from medicinal herbs.
Depending on our flight time, we will visit one or more nature areas on the way to the airport.
Moderately difficult. During the tour, we will hike up to 5 km in a morning or afternoon. We follow unpaved roads and small trails. While we walk slowly and stop many times, the terrain can be difficult, rocky and occasionally steep. However, we will leave the real climbing to others. Please make sure that you have good hiking shoes and sturdy trousers!
We will be out all day in sunny weather with temperatures up to, and above 30 oC. Please take a sun-hat and suncream. In the cave, it is cool, only around 12 oC. We hope for sunny weather, but it is wise to be prepared for rain as well.
During the tour, we will be staying at a countryside hotel or agritourism. This way, we are at an optimal driving distance from the areas which we intend to visit.
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.
In the tour versions for Inezia Tours and Greentours, these tour agencies will book a flight for you to Ljubljana (Brnik) airport. Here, we will come to pick you up.