Every great hike in Italy ends with gelato. At least that’s the way it feels when I’m hiking in the Dolomites. So as we hike in the Julian Alps in Slovenia, I wasn’t expecting the same reward. But finding great gelato here has been the icing on my hiking cake.
Slovenia is where the Alps meet the Adriatic. This tiny Alpine country is an undiscovered gem. It’s home to just 2 million people in a country smaller than Vermont. The rugged Julian Alps are a hiker’s paradise and a haven for nature lovers.
Slovenia the most densely forested of all the Alpine countries. Walking in Slovenia begins on a shaded cushion of pine needles in a fragrant forest. We walked through meadows where alpine farmers take their cows to graze on rich grasses and wildflowers. Then we break out above timberline and enter the realm of the marmots. And then—before you know it—we reached the rocky ridge-lines and alpine wilderness where only the ibex roam.
The Julian Alps, are named after Julius Caesar who planted settlements here over 2000 years ago. These steep-sided mountains are known for their well-crafted hiking trails as well as for their biodiversity. Here you’ll find an abundance of rare wildflowers—including many lilies and orchids which you’ll find nowhere else. But one thing you won’t find is crowds. You’ll love the peace and solitude here.
Glistening lakes dot the Julian Alps. We stayed on Lake Bled, one of the most beautiful mountain resorts imaginable. It’s a fairy-tale setting overseen by an 11th century Romanesque castle. In the center of Lake Bled there’s an island with a church that rises above the shimmering water. Within the Soča Valley waterfalls burst from natural springs in karst caves. In the dazzling emerald-green waters of the Soča River you can do whitewater rafting and kayaking.
We concluded our trip in Ljubljana. It’s Slovenia’s capital city, but it’s small by European standards. So you can walk most everywhere. And you’re always close the river that winds its way through the old town, and the 12th century hilltop castle that rises above.
Is it possible to have great gelato outside of Italy?
When you’re in Ljubljana, don’t miss Fetiche Patisserie, right in the pedestrian heart of the city, on the river. I sampled several, but when it came time to buy, I went with the dark chocolate—a flavor I choose as a benchmark, as a means of comparing one gelateria against another. This was the best chocolate gelato I’ve ever eaten. And I was most impressed with their exotic selections—Try the black sesame! The cognac plum and the ginger were both outstanding.
Slovenia is the only country with “Love” in its name. So If you love hiking, love forests, love mountains, and love great gelato, then you’ll love Slovenia.
Note: Alpenwild will be offering an exciting new tour for 2020: Best of Slovenia and the Julian Alps.