Heaven on Earth (Velika Planina)
If you came to Green Slovenia with some hazy ideas about a nice lake with a church on it and a big cave somewhere or a pretty castle built into the side of a mountain, then when you arrive at Lipizzaner Lodge you are in for a very big shock.. cos we are gonna tell you about 100's and 100's of amazing places that you can get excited about.. and this one is possibly the best of them all.. and that is saying something indeed!
We can think of no better place in Green Slovenia to spend a warm, sunny day than on top of this flat, meadow-like 1,666m mountain with views all over Slovenia and across to the neighbouring Alps, with cowbells jingling in the distance and scattered wooden "Hobbit" huts housing the local inhabitants, who just come up here in the summer to make a bit of cheese.
Most visitors will actually be able to say "Velika Planina", some will know it means "Big mountain meadow", but for us the most honest and best way to describe it to you is "Heaven on Earth". And the perfect day up here would actually not be all sunny.. To enjoy the majesty of this place you need to wish for a cloud or two to float past and you will feel like in heaven.
How to get up Velika Planina:
Part of the magic of this place is that you can get up here by one of the few cable cars operating in Slovenia and this hair raising experience just adds to your day. For anyone scared of heights, (like me for example), the sheer length and steepness of the cable car is terrifying, but it is the only scary thing about your day. For those a bit worried about being high up, this mountain is absolutely perfect as once you step, (gingerly) off the cable car you feel like you are on a huge island in the sky. Sure, you still have to go up some steep slopes to get to the café and the summit, but there are no scary drops to encourage your vertigo anywhere.
Do not just put Velika Planina into your SATNAV, as you will be guided for about 5 hours up the side of a mountain. Instead, just drive to the beautiful Alpine town of Kamnik , visit the castle, stroll around the old town, maybe have a coffee or a bite to eat and then jump back in the car and follow the brown road signs to Velika Planina. After about 15 mins of curvy roads and pretty villages, keep your eyes peeled for a sig pointing left to a camp site and with a picture of a cable car on it.. You have found the cable car.
There is a basic café here and a car park, but we much prefer the ambiance of Kamnik old town more, so would tip you to have your coffee in Kamnik and leave there on the hour or half hour to arrive in the car park, buy your ticket and step onto the cable car which leaves every our or half hour.
You are then propelled up a sheer green face and as the giant trees turn into matchsticks, the surrounding Kamnik Alps, (one of Slovenia's 3 Alpine regions) grab you in their embrace and surround you.
What to do at Velika Planina:
We didn't have a clue what to expect here when we arrived for the first time on a sunny September morning. When you step off the cable car platform your senses fly off in every direction, surrounded by a panorama of mountains.
Despite the incredible views, there is much more to come and you need to go up towards the 1,666m summit. You can either walk up, directly with a few scrambles or following the curvy stone track that winds it way up to the café on top. You do need to have a basic level of fitness to walk around up here. There is a ski lift that will also whisk you up to the summit to save the main climb, but once up top you will absolutely want to explore.
As you stroll up goggling the views from all sides, you pass just some amazing little wooden hobbit like houses that are dotted around on the slopes and wonder enviously who could be so lucky enough to live here? (We will tell you that later)! All paths up lead to the café and we suggest making this your first point of call. We certainly did and thought this would be the top. They do a great local soup up here and you might bump into the wizard-like shepherd character who patrols the mountain looking for good photo opportunities and entertaing kids!
We thought we might as well walk up to the summit and we are very glad we did. There is a lovely circle stone map that shows you all the far off locations you can see, including mount Nanos, 1,313m, which is the last mountain in Slovenia and pretty much sits in the Lodge's back garden! It's only a 70 min drive if you go direct from the Lodge to the cable car station and a whole lot of view from the summit.
The views up here are amazing, we spun around and looked and looked.. and then we spotted something off in the distance, as if tucked away at the back of this large flattish summit.. There was a little village, packed full of those amazing little wooden hobbit houses. The village is perched on the top of this mountain meadow and we were drawn there as you will be as if captured by a tractor beam!
We just had to walk to the village, aking photo after photo of this incredibly beautiful scene. There were no hobbits around, just cows munching around and jingling their bells. We found out these picture perfect wooden shacks are mainly owned by Slovenian families, who use them like a summer cottage, to stay up here on the mountain, in the heavens, principally relaxing and making cheese.
We strolled around the village and realised how infinitely more this place was than any photo that could be taken of it. There is even a little Scandinavian style wooden church up here and when a cloud roars past in complete silence, it just felt as close as you could get to heaven in nature.
We have found so many amazing places in Slovenia that we feel as if we have innocently struck gold and this is the biggest nugget of them all. You don't want to go up any mountain when there is a chance of fog, rain or windy clouds, so that is why we say choose a mainly sunny day for your trip up. From he village we walked in a huge circle back to the café and realised this is what you are suppose to do up here!
The hidden village and the vistas from the back of this massive plateau offer amazing views and if we ever do a top 10 for Slovenia, (there are so many amazing places here that any Slovenian top ten has to have at least 30 places in it), then Big Mountain Meadow will be right up there at the top and you need to know, that whatever you have planned for your Slovenian adventures, Velika Planina is totally unmissabubble….. Heaven on Earth.
And what a choice you have for things to combine this amazing day out with.. we already mentioned Kamnik, one of our favourite medieval-Alpine towns to hang out in, but you could also go to visit Slovenia's Arboretum, (huge garden full of fab different trees and dinosaurs), or even drop in at Ljubljana on the way home for a spot of tea! Wow, what a day out!