the biggest disappearing lake in Europe, Lake Cerknica
Lake Ceknica is the largest disappearing lake in Europe and only 25 minutes from the Lodge to be reached as part of a day out biking or hiking or as a picturesque drive. This lake is very special because it can cover an area of up to 39km² when full in the winter, but completely empties in the summer to leave a Martian like landscape with numerous craters and empty sink holes to explore.
The water is present for about 9 months of the year and during this time the lake is full of birds and wildlife. Sometimes it freezes over to make a massive ice skating rink. But when the water disappears the lake is transformed into a lush green paradise, covered with an abundance of plant life. It's a wonderful place for a picnic in the long grass with butterflies whizzing around you and you can also explore where the sink holes and crusty, dusty craters are to witness the only evidence of how the water has been violently and ruthlessly sucked back underground for the summer into Slovenia's labyrinth of underground caves and rivers.
The lake is home to a unique species of pike which gets washed under the ground with the water when the lake drains and can live underground in the cavernous Karst underbelly of the lake for up to a year! When the lake drains it often happens so fast in places that local fishermen are on alert to rescue the other fish near the sink holes and transport them to a much smaller lake that never disappears called Receto. You can get a permit to fish here. See below left, at the start of April, the water has started to drain away in this corner of the lake, but below right the lake is still full.
Lake Cernika is also home to one of Slovenia's only islands, called Otok, "island" and you can walk, cycle or drive here and then around the whole lake along a fantastic stone track road, going up and down and in and out of the forest to glimpse new vistas of the lake. You can easily spend the whole day in nature here.
Close to the edge of the lake there is a new cafe and small visitor centre with a car park and there is usually some water left nearby which makes a peaceful and spectacular beach for swimming. There is also a fantastic museum in the nearby village of Dolenje Vas with an absolutely amazing and unique working model of the lake, so you can get an idea how the water comes and goes. Places can be tricky to find in Slovenia.. it took us 3 attempts to find this museum, so we jokingly nicknamed it the Disappearing Museum of Slovenia!
Please note cars have been banned from the lakes main road on Sundays to give nature some peace and quiet, so be prepared to leave the car at the car park. We had a pretty tough husband and wife marathon couple as guests who looked at a map and decided to run around the dried out lake.. but take note, it was so huge when they got there they changed their plan and just ran around a corner section.. but they told us they loved it when they came back!
Another spectacular way to see the lake in all seasons is to hike up the nearby Witches (Slivnica, 1,114m) mountain. From up here you get to see the entire contours of the lake and appreciate the sheer scale of it. You will see how the villages hug the rim of where the water fills the lake to and if you are lucky you might bump into Ursula the witch, who lives in the cave at the top of the mountain!
When you consider the world is still slowly waking up to the secrets of Slovenia for summer holidays, the most beautiful country in Europe is pretty much deserted by tourism in winter and COMPLETELY undiscovered.. ALL the caves are open and at exactly the same temperature all year round and imagine having the biggest disappearing lake all to yourself and full of water to explore in the winter.. it's gonna happen!