It is the oldest magic trick in the book.. "now you see it.. now you don't".. well the Green nature in Slovenia is so amazing, it has been doing this trick with our Disappearing Lakes every year.. for a very long time!
The disappearing lakes are just one more unique feature of the Green Slovenian landscape..they fill up with massive amounts of water in just a couple of days at some point in the autumn or winter and then completely disappear in the summer.. some clues of their existence remain, but otherwise.. clean and green flower covered meadows cover the scene of the crime!
And you can forget about Slovenia being a tiddly little country when it comes to these amazing lakes.. Green Slovenia is the European Superpower of Disappearing lakes.. Lake Cerknica is the largest disappearing lake in Europe and absolutely dwarfs the permanent lakes of Bled and Bohinj..
..how about that then!
So if you were playing the card game "Lake Top Trumps" with Slovenian lakes, you would need two cards for each disappearing lake.. one for the winter, which would likely be a winner in the "size catergory" and another card for the summer that would completely lose on "size", but be extremely strong on "natural beauty, paradise, butterflies and Green nature"!
What is a Disappearing Lake?
You might have heard about some of the amazing caves in Slovenia and just like disappering lakes, these are all part of the "Karst" geological region that sporadically covers about half of the country..
A Karst area has leaky rock, often limestone, that has been shaped by the power of water into caverns, gorges and underground rivers over millions of years.. this has happened on a massive scale in Slovenia, but you wouldn't notice a lot of it until you go underground.
Green Slovenia has loads of natural water from rainfall and snow in the Alps and a lot of this flows down the rivers ending up in either the Meditteranean or Black seas.. but when it all gets a bit too much, usually in autumn, the water table rises and fresh natural water floods into numerous meadows around Slovenia to form these lakes.
The water comes up from sinkholes, (like open plug holes in a bath).. caves & rivers and these lakes appear magically fast.. and then they disappear just as quickly in the spring or summer when the water table reduces and the lakes are sucked back underground!
We want to stress the special features of this process again to you.. This all happens VERY QUICKLY and on a MASSIVE scale in little old Slovenia and is COMPLETELY UNPREDICTABLE.. Nature decides when this phenomena happens.. but it will happen.. every year..
Indeed, humans have tried to manipulate these lakes over time by blocking up sinkholes, trying to divert rivers or building new plug holes.. but you need to imagine that underground there is the most wiggliest plate of spaghetti waterways possible .. this is how the massive network of little rivers, caves and avenues that transport all this water look like.. all completely outside man's control.. Mother nature always wins!
Valvasor.. what a Guy!
The unique natural phenomena of disappearing lakes was brought to the attention of the world by a genius who was, in effect, Slovenia's first ever travel guide!
Valvasor was even admitted to the prestigious London Royal Society in 1687 when his incredibly detailed articles and drawings including Cerknica lake were presented in a huge encyclopedia of Green Slovenia, (or Carniola as much of it was known as then)..
We suppose that finding out back then about a magical disappearing lake was big news without sci fi films, mobile phones and Hollywood.. BUT don't forget these lakes are REAL and still magical AND still here to this day.. there is so much fake stuff around nowadays that maybe we have forgotten the true wonder and power of nature.. and it is all here in Green Slovenia, if you want to come see it!
We cannot recommend enough that you go to his fairy tale Bogensperk castle for a visit.. it's one of Green Slovenia's many fantastic secret castles and you can also find out much more about him.. there is also a whole exhibition room with larger than life excerps about Cerknica lake and large illustrations from the book.
Visiting a Disappearing lake..
Nobody can tell you exactly when a lake will fill or empty.. it can take just a couple of days and some empty and fill overnight!..
Local Fishermen are on red alert for a phonecall when the massive Cerknica lake drains.. then it is a race agsinst time to get to the main sinkhole and save the fish! They take them to a nearby permanent lake, otherwise they would all be sucked under the earth for ever!
We have been lucky enough to see a lake filling, but we live here, so have a much better hope of catching it!
So the chances are when you visit Slovenia you will either be seeing a water filled disappearing lake or a huge empty green bowl bursting with nature.. either way you will need to know where to look to find one..
If you are here in the summer you will be able to explore the vast expanse of stunning greeness where a lake disappeared.. you might not even believe that such a large area of green becomes a lake.. there will be carpets of meadow flowers, wildlife, big trees, even wooden telegraph poles!
You can walk or cycle along the stone track roads that you might never believe spend more than half the year deep underwater.. and go looking for the sink holes!
We think that if people only knew how much there was to do and see in Slovenia outside the traditional summer holiday period when absolutely nobody is here and you have all the hiking, vineyards and caves completely to yourselves.. then Slovenia could and should be an all year round natural paradise getaway..
There is no law preventing you visiting Slovenia outside the summer!.. it is your decision to make, but one of the extra special things you can only see here will be a full disappearing lake.. and lots of them!
Just driving into our local town of Postojna, we could nod left at a small green meadow behind some beautiful old trees and tell you that in the winter kids go ice skating there and you would very likely not believe us!
What can I get up to at a Disappearing lake?
In the summer you can have a wonderful day in nature on the green floor of a disappearing lake, exploring the huge meadow craters and searching for the sink holes, rivers or caves where the water gushes in from.
These lakes have been appearing and disappearing for ever, so a whole microsystem of flora, fauna and wildlife is used to springing up when the water has gone.. the thing we have especially noticed is how incredibly green the grass looks in these massive meadows.. if you come in May for example, there is an excellent chance of seeing carpets of new meadow flowers growing on these lush carpets.
Climb a mountain for a view and sense of size of the lake..
It is also fun to climb up the hills and mountains bordeing these lakes to get a great view of how they look from above and spot the network of stone tracks that are used by the farmers to go cut the grass in the summer and then completely disappear in the winter.
When the water does appear you can walk for miles and miles around these lakes or take a kayak to explore across them.. Huge numbers of birds depend on these lakes appearing and sometimes in winter they also freeze to make massive temporary ice rinks!
For us the most exciting thing about visiting a disappearing lake at any time of the year is simply the knowledge that this is one of those magical disappearing lakes and to go look for all the clues nature leaves behind..
it is discovering where the water line fills the lake.. seeing the line of village houses directly along the shoreline of the lake and realising that people have learnt over time where they can build and where they cannot..
it is finding the caves and sink holes like huge taps, where the water comes from.. utterly fascinating..
Where to find Green Slovenia's Disappearing Lakes..
We have written several Secret Places to Visit articles on some of these disappearing lakes and several are really close to Lipizzaner Lodge, so our guests like to know that a disappearing lake is a serious contender to form part of their day's Green adventures.
There is very little info about these lakes in English and even fewer signs to show you where they actually are, so you need to at least know the word "Jezero", which means lake.. (any stargazers might note this is the name given to the Martian lake that robot landed in)..
Disappearing lakes of all shapes and sizes pop up all over Green Slovenia, but here are a few of the ones that you could visit at any time of the year from the Lodge..
Cerknica Disappearing Lake (25 mins from the Lodge)..
Cerknica lake is the biggest disappearing lake in Europe reaching up to 40 sq km some seasons!
It is an absolutely perfect Green paradise to go biking, E Biking or hiking at any time of the year..
In winter, over 50% of all European bird species live on the lake and there is a stone track road that you can use all year round to explore a corner loop of this huge lake to see some of the secret natutral features and get an idea of how big it really is!
In summer you can easily find the massive dusty sinkholes that suck the water away in a place that looks a little more like the moon than earth!
There is also a little village sat on a hill in the middle of the lake that becomes an island in the winter! It is called Otok, which you won't be surprised to learn, means island!!
Planina Disappearing lake (15 mins away)..
This lake is so huge you can see it from the motorway down from Ljubblyjana on the way to the coast!
It is formed when a magical river known as the River of 7 names floods out of the Planina cave and creates a long lake with kilometres of water.
The main road crosses it like a Dutch dyke above the water level so that road survives all year round, but you can cleary see where the village houses are lined up along the shore..
Once again there are so many hiking and biking possibilities here if you only knew where it is.. and what you could get up to here.. so..
the 17 Disappearing Lakes of Pivka.. (20 mins away)..
You could have days of Green adventures exploring the 17 interconnected disappearing lakes that are scattered south of Pivka, 20 mins from the Lodge.
These lakes are all different shapes and sizes.. one drains overnight and the next is full the next morning.. one swallowed an entire village crossing it on thin ice.. and you can find out much more about them all at a lovely little micro museum in a little village just outside Pivka..
(We plan to do an article on these lakes and the museum soon)!
Grosuplje Disappearing Lake.. (45 mins away)..
A lot of the better known Karst features are located in the south west of Slovenia, but there are pockets of Karst geology and mini regions all over Slovenia and we found another disappearing lake near Grosuplje, which is just 20 mins south of Ljubljana..
They are building a viewing tower here on a hill by a ruined castle, a nature path and hopefully will offer E Bikes so you can explore all the amazing natural features around the lake..
You would need a friendly guide from the local TIC (tourist info centre) to help you discover this lake.. in fact we strongly recommend GO WITH A GUIDE.. otherwise you will miss lots of the amazing secret features we found when we were shown around..
There is truly something magical and unique about Slovenian disappearing lakes and you will get an overwhelming sense of the beauty and power of Green nature here..
There are numerous disappearing lakes in all shapes and sizes for you to discover and we sincerely hope that you add at least one visit to a disappearing lake into your busy Slovenian holiday adventure list!
If you would like any help locating one or 17 of them, finding a local guide or sorting out your logistics, then please just get in touch, we are happy to help!