Mexico mine.. kayak, bike & hike!
There is only one mine in Europe where you can go kayaking along flooded shafts in the morning, then jump on a mountain bike and go exploring even more shafts in the afternoon!
The only slight problem is that this mine's name is unpronounceable to the naked eye, Mezica, so we call it Mexico mine.. and we think you can't afford to miss it!
The mine is absolutely huge and if all its shafts were stretched out they would reach to Berlin! Now closed of course, but when operating, they extracted large amounts of zinc and lead mainly for the local battery industry.
The mine sits in the shadow of the massive Peca mountain, (2,125m) in Slovenia's third Alps, the Karavanka Alps, right on the border with Austria. This mountain is also home to the last Slovenian king Matjaz and you can find out more about him in the excellent kid's maze just outside the museum.. suffice to say that when his beard grows long enough, he will wake from his slumber in a secret chamber on top of the mountain and ride to Slovenia's rescue!
OK, back to the mine and you now have a difficult decision to make as there are THREE amazing ways to explore it.. 1) take an AMAZING Indiana Jones style wooden wagon down to the mine followed by a guided walking tour, 2) join a bike tour and ride along the shafts by headlamp, 3) Kayak around the flooded shafts.. now that's a choice!
This is one of the very few secret places of Slovenia that we recommend our guests do either on the way to the Lodge or maybe on the way from the Lodge, preferably combined with a few days in the uberamazing Logar valley.
You can get to Mexico from the Lodge within 2 and a half hours, but once past Velenje, (home of a very cool castle), the roads turn more Alpine, absolutely stunning, but not built for speed, so yes, possible in a daytrip, but would be a long day.
This northern snippet of Slovenia is apparently next in line for a new motorway connection and then we will be talking more about daytrips here, but don't hold your breath for the motorway.
As said, we really recommend a visit to the mine together with a stay in the nearby, but difficult to get to Logar valley and most certainly climbing up to see the fab Rinka waterfall.
Ok let's help you decide which activity to do:
You can't do all 3 in a day, but you could do two and if you want to kayak, you need to do it in the morning to fit in a biking tour in the afternoon.. ok let's help you decide.
This is the standard mine visit, but there is nothing standard about it! You get dressed in bright orange miners gear with helmet and light and then take the same wooden carts that were used by the miners to go down the mine! It's exciting and terrifying, the guide encourages you to turn off your lights as the wooden cart seems to trundle along much faster and noisier in the dark!
Once down the mine you do a fascinating tour, packed with info and stories and during a couple of hours, you can really get a sense what it was like to be a miner here.
And of course at the end of the walk you get to ride back up to the surface in a magnificent wooden cart and a visit to the miner's museum!
Biking: You meet at the visitor centre and get helmets with lights, then pile into a minibus and drive up to one of the many mine entrances. Then you jump on your bike and follow the guide. Most people have never cycled underground before, we certainly haven't and this is such a fabulous experience.
It's fresh down there and there are some bumps where the cart rails used to be, so the point is, you really feel like you are doing a mountain bike adventure! Our guide was a young energetic local lady, full of facts and fun. It is always worth remembering that the locals in Slovenia are very friendly and doing a tour like this is another great way to get to have a chat with one!
You don't just bike, there are stops to see different places of interest in this part of the mine and get explanation, but its worth saying again, its really great fun biking down a dark mine! When we popped out into the light there was also the option of a knuckle whitening downhill cycle back to the mine visitor centre and then a tour of a miners house, mocked up in the little museum there. Fab.
Kayaking: You need to book this in advance. You need to book this in advance.. did we tell you, you need to book this in advance! We really wanted to do the kayaking, but for the day we went up it was already booked out, so you really, really must book ahead! They only have 8 or 12 kayaks, regardless of the huge areas of flooded mine to explore. Once the mine was closed these areas were flooded to keep it from collapsing.
If you want to go biking and kayaking, then apparently you need to do the kayaking trip first. At the end of the kayak trip you join the hiking tour to go home, so you also get a wooden cart ride. wow.
You probably had never imagined going kayaking or cycling in a mine before, we certainly hadn't.. especially not in little old Slovenia, but you certainly can and we cannot recommend it highly enough. Now that you know this before you visit Green Slovenia, see if you can fit it into your ever growing list to do here!