Magical Mountain Ponds
Picture this.. one of the best walks in Green Slovenia on top of a 1,562m high mountain plateau popping up into a massive forest of dwarf pine trees with thick roots sticking out of the path.. you follow a long curvy boardwalk into this spiky green jungle and come upon a series of black shiny circular ponds.. this place smashes the WOWometer!
Green Slovenia is one of those countries that is stuffed full of Green Secrets and we are constantly amazed when we go to a new place here and are totally blown away at how beautiful it is! This place is one of those and probably does take up a small paragragh or a footnote in a tourist guide book, but it should be jumping off the page and grabbing you by the collar and dragging you here.. cos it is absolutely amazing!!
The only reason we found it in the first place was we wanted to go find a mysterious new Tree Top walk and didnt have a clue where it was! So we found out it was on top of a mountain called Rogla.. so off we went one day and explored.
So how do I get to the Magical Mountain Ponds?
It would take you just over 2 hours to drive directly to the top of Rogla from the Lodge.. if you use gurglemaps, then for an extra 2 mins it might be worth staying on the motorway after Celje to the unpronounceable junction of Slovenske Konjice, (Horseville).
But you can stop off at so many lovely places close to here that you would probably save this walk until after lunch at the local vineyard in the valley below.. We found so much to do and see in the Rogla mini region that we wrote a whole Rogla Secret Place article about it all and you could easily mix these places up into your day to make the most wonderful round trip adventure.. these magical mountain ponds would be the icing on top of the cake!
In Slovenian, the magical ponds are called "Lovrenska Jezera", (Hunters Lakes) so let's face it, you would have zero chance of just stumbling upon them if you didnt know in advance where to look..
We had been told there was a "lake at the end of the walk on Rogla".. that's it and for a local person this might be truly all they actually see it as, but cockadoodledo!..we had the shock of our summer when we happened upon these "Hunters lakes" and we think you will find them amazing too!
Rogla is easy to drive up on a lovely wiggly but regular road and when you are up top, if you didnt have the views then it is so large and flat up here you might not realise you are over 1,500m up.
There is a long kinda holiday village type road all along the plateau with plenty of parking spaces, but aim to park near or get back to the funky new church to start the walk.. from here cross the road and follow the red signs for "Lovrenska Jezera" , going past the raised man made lake and through a cow field!
The walk is amazing on it's own and to be honest, that is what we were excited about doing.. a quick 2 hours there and back with a photo of the lake(s) and back to do the Tree Top Walk at the end of it.. Having been here, now we would politely suggest you will need a lot more time, oh yes and bring something to catch your jaw with as it drops when you get to the "lake(s)"..
Slovenia is such a refreshingly Green destination cos it is just a small country with wildly different geography, geology, flora & fauna packed into every single nook, cranny and corner.. you won't believe it till you get here and see it with your own eyes, but it really does have everything that is lovely about Europe in one small chocolate box.
Rogla is no exception to this rule.. we have never seen so many pine trees in Slovenia in just one place and the top is covered with them.. very different to other Slovenian forests where you may have different trees types or more of a mix.
If you havent been trampled to death by cows crossing the field, the path heads off along a stone track into one of these pine forests, with the thick tree roots going wherever they please. Look outside the path amoungst the foliage for really huge termite mounds made from the needles and neatly stacked like enormous footballs under the trees.
Not far into the walk there is a crossroads which we didnt actually notice until we came back via another path, so we are gonna show this to you below in a photo to make sure you don't miss it and suggest you go on the left fork up on the way to the "lakes".
Some people were picking blueberries in the open fields as the trees thinned out a bit to give wonderful views and then closed in around us again and we were starting to get some deja vue for the many summers we spent in Finland..
You can see in our gallery photos at the bottom of this article how variable and amazing this route is and we did lose a bit of our track of time as it was just so beautiful here.. more and more rocks accompanied the path and together with those massive roots it felt a bit like walking up an empty river bed.
And don't forget you are walking upwards, mostly gradually, but good shoes and water will be required. After an hour or so, we came to a sign that had a final look about it, so we thought we were very close to the end and peered through the trees, not quite believing there could be a lake here?
And there wasn't.. there is a bit more to go up a final steeper hill on a wonderfully constructed wooden step staircase system that will bring you up to the very top.. it is all so natural here and easy to follow and by now you really want to see this "lake"!
Just before the top of these steps you can see a sign to the right that leads back to the mini town and this is your way back later.. but for now continue to the top of the steps and there is a little break in the trees and a triangle roof of a tower and you just know you have arrived. A wooden boardwalk now leads off into a fantasy forest of mini pine trees.. You might still ask though.. "but where's the lake(s)"!
The mystery isn't solved by logically climbing up the wooden tower to see more.. but the view is certainly worth it.. don't forget you are on the top of a mountain here and now as far as the eye can see there is a sea of these mini trees and the outline of this tiny boardwalk that snakes into the middle of it all.. But no lakes!! It is just all so bizarre!
On the horizon of what we will call this field of dwarf pines are some larger pines in a line and then somewhere in the middle of it all to the left, we spotted some people just standing there, looking at something?
We had been given a clue where to go.. when you get here there might be nobody around at all. So it is conceivable that you might think "ok that's it, no lake here" and go back, but the adventurer inside should steer your path onto this boardwalk and that is what we did.. still completely in the dark where the lake was or lakes were, but totally blown away by the beauty of this green spiky desert..
The boardwalk leads you into the centre of this natural maze and finally your reward will be to find the most amazing black pond with lillies floating on top and tufts of grass poking out from the sides like a prime minister's bad haircut. You are probably uttering your first wow, as a dragonfly buzzes past, painted in blue and yellow.
Ladies and gentlemen, boyz and girls.. you have finally arrived at the magical mountain ponds!
Maybe you have a smaller pond like this in your back garden and are thinking, well what's all the fuss about.. it's just a pond and that is partly what all the fuss IS about.. what on earth is this pond doing up here so high on the flat top of a mountain, completely surrounded by all these dwarf trees, with a wooden tree house standing guard in the distance from whence you came. The wind flutters, if you are lucky the sun will shine and reflect off the clear black water.. it is truly a magical place on planet earth.
Continue on the boardwalk and it gets even better.. you will find more of these ponds in different shapes and sizes. It is such a mystery as to how and why they are here, but time is forgotten and the emotion is happiness and greed to find more of these little hunters lakes.. what were they hunting?.. Dragonflies maybe?!.. it just doesnt make sense, but it isnt supposed to.. just enjoy!
The boardwalks split and our strategy was to stay left and see the other path on the way back, so we continued until we got to the biggest pond we had seen so far, a moment of joy and disappointment as the boardwalk stopped and we had almost reached the larger trees at the end of the horizon.
You can see our best feeble attempts to photograph the dragonflies in the gallery below, needless to say they were so large, beautiful and industrious in real life. We sat by the pond and just stared for a bit and then we got another bit of traveller's luck!
Out from the tree line came 3 Slovenian youngsters tip toeing through the bushes and onto the boardwalk, which answered our question.. what was along the scrubby water filled path that lead away from the end of the wooden boards.. something.. so off we went to explore.
We tipped our caps to the locals and edged past them and around the big puddles and followed the natural path made from thick tree roots, but a path nonetheless. We saw the muddiest blackest littlest pond of all and then disappeared into this tree line and you could knock us over with a dragonfly's wing at what we found next..
The large trees were gone and once again all we could see into the distance was another identical massive army of dwarf pines and another line of larger trees at the distant back of another completely flat field about the same size as the first one!
We were totally gobsmacked and the blood pulsed through our veins as we realised that WE were now the "hunters" and we were hunting magic ponds! The only difference with this "field 2" to the first field is there is no boardwalk and the forest feels thicker, but nevertheless there is a narrower natural path to follow and that is what we did!
We felt alone and could see many red berries, but some blue ones lighting up the thick bushes. And this is where the Welshman said to his Finnish wife, "oh my God, this is a little bit of Finland on the top of a mountain in Slovenia" and if you have been blueberry picking in the thick Finnish forests then you will know exactly what I meant and if you haven't then this is just what Finland looks like!
Field 2 is much more of an adventure and we did say "ok 5 more minutes and we go back" a couple of times, but then we found another pond and so we had gold fever and carried on.. and truth be told, "we was always gonna go right to the end of this second field, your honour"!
This must be how the whole mountain top looked before the tower and decking were added and part of you is whispering.. "wouldn't it be so much easier and nice if there was boardwalk here as well", but the other voice inside you is screaming much louder "NOOOOO! leave it like this, it is so beautiful and natural".
We found 3 more magical ponds and made it to the larger trees at the end of the second field with a few scrapes and scratches and a few berries consumed. The ponds here are totally natural, dark, mystical with no man made interventions at all.. this is how they always looked when wizards and witches came here on their holidays.
Like addicted gamblers we seriously considered breaking through this next line of "proper" trees and exploring more to see if there were even more ponds further on, but in a moment of lucidity, we realsed we needed to head back to keep the fading light. The forest did look much thicker here at the end of field 2, but we are excited to return to this spot again with more time and see what is through the other side.
So we turned back and sucked it all in that we were very probably the only people up here in this flat, massive second field on top of a mountain in Finland, oops Slovenia, enjoying this heavenly scene. It was pure magic.
There are several mysteries about this place that might easily be solved if the info board at the tower was also in English, so maybe there is a simple reason in nature for the existence of these ponds, but instead we had to wonder how they filled.. was it rain water cos there were no rivers up here and it was flat.. and how would these ponds look frozen with a glistening of snow or frost on top in winter?
The dwarf forest was so thick in field 2 there could easily have been more ponds than the 3 we found, our path was so narrow and defined, so we had only explored a fraction of this magical space!
We were here in September after a typically dry Slovenian summer, so we have no idea if this place, particularly field 2, becomes unhikeable with lots of rain.
It was like greeting an old friend when we popped out through the trees and saw the tower in the distance.. we rested on the wooden benches by the biggest pond and luckily had some choccy in our backpacks, we recommend you also bring something for energy, you might need it.
We politely scolded some local ladies walking a dog up here in paradise for discarding a lighter on the bench as they left.. the misdemeanor was quickly remedied, but we are not completely sure local people really appreciate what a world treasure they have here in this tiny country full of green jewels.. we have no idea why this place is not Unesco protected on one level and on another level at least protected with a few rubbish bins?
So we walked the other side of the boardwalk back to the tower and were rewarded with some more different shaped ponds until we finally left this place, missing it already.
Please give yourself 3-4 hours from the church on top of Rogla to do justice to this fantastic walk and don't forget.. you are on top of a mountain, so always check the weather before you embark.. magical it may be, but only a duck would be comfortable up here in a thunderstorm!
We hope that some of the magic dust of this place will rub off onto you sometime during your Slovenian adventures.. You have a massive choice of things to mix into your day around here.. maybe the tree top walk with the helter skelter, lunch in the middle of a vineyard and before all this, in the morning, another secret place just down the road that also blows the top off the WOWometer, Zice Monastery Fortress. Wow, what a day!