Kranjska Gora: A family vacation in the Julian Alps

Kranjska Gora is small resort town in the Julian’s Alps (Julijske Alpe in Slovenian) in north west Slovenia, mere 20 minutes driving from beautiful lake Bled. It is surrounded by the mountains and the glacial lakes of the Triglav National Park are within easy reach. It is a rather touristic place that caters to winter sport enthusiast in the winter months and the slops are taken over by hikers and mountain bikers in the summer. Furthermore it is within easy reach of Austria (Villach – 23km, through the Karawanks Tunnel) and Italy (Tarvisio -22km). The Karawanks Tunnel is notorious for its LONG traffic jams during peak season.We were warned about this by our AirBnB hosts in Ljubljana before we headed to Kranjska Gora. We left the highway after Bled and before Jesenice, thank God we did, as we ended up bypassing a 15 km traffic jam.

Kranjska Gora is not a big place by any means, and you should not need more than an hour to explore the village itself. The village is best explored by strolling through its little streets.

river gorge slovenia

Lonely Planet has added the Julian Alps, as one of their Top 10 regions to visit in 2018 , I fully agree with their description of the region:[…] With the natural appeal of Chamonix or Zermatt – but with fewer crowds – the Julian Alps offer mountain bliss in an overlooked corner of Europe. Over two-thirds of the region is protected by the Triglav National Park mandate, a mechanism that not only curbs development along the summits but ensures that improvements to local infrastructure are effected in a slow and studied manner. Once suitable only for the intrepid, the Julian Alps are gently opening the door to every stripe of traveller. […]

our 4 highlights of Kranjska Gora

#1 Driving the Vršič Pass and visiting the wooden Russian Chapel

The Vršič Pass is the highest road pass in the Julian Alps (1,611m /5285ft) and it is has 50 serpentines. It is a fun (especially when you are living in the Netherlands and are used to pancake flat terrains), beautiful and slow drive starting in Kranjska Gora. Altitude wise it made ourears pop, but luckily our little one slept the whole way and seemed to have no issues. There are several mountain cabins along the road where you can stop for a drink and grab a bite to eat. On the Kranjska Gora side of the pass, you will pass by the Russian Chapel. It was built in 1917 as a memorial for all the POWs who died while working on the Vršič Pass road.  The church itself is rarely open for visitors. From what you can see through the windows it has a rather simple interior with a typical orthodox style altar. Legally it belongs to the Russian Orthodox parish in Belgrade.

russian chapel sloveniajulian alps panorama

#2 Nordic Centre Planica

Unlike most tourists we did not visit Planica for the Winter sport Museum. We went there, as my adrenaline junkie had heard about the Planica zipline. In Planica you can zipline down the largest ski flying hill in the world on the steepest zipline in the world in the mecca for the world ski jumping elite. Obviously, he needed to do it…BUT you also need to reserve in advance…and we did not…so we watched other people zip lining instead and shall return one day to go ziplining ourselves.  (Check out the video of the zipline on their website)

#3 Jasna Lake & hiking

Jasna Lake is an easy 15 min uphill walk from the village centre. It is actially 2 interconnected manmade lakes, which are popular with the locals for swimming and recreational purposes. There are 2 little huts serving snacks and drinks and it is great place to just sit back and enjoy the views of the surrounding mountains or to go for a walk. There are 2 streams connected with the lake, which are swarming with fly fishers. We enjoyed a nice afternoon hiking in the vicinity of the lakes with our little one. The road that passed by the lakes is the beginning of the Vršič Pass road.

# 4 Mountain biking in Kranjska Gora

The Bike Park is host to the IXS Downhill cup and hosted the EDC in 2015, as a last-minute substitute for Maribor. It is a park that has become more popular with the downhill mountain bike crowd in the last years. The park has 5 basic trails and of course our downhill mountain bike crazy member of the family needed to check it out. He spent a day riding, while the little one and I explored the town and lakes. Sadly, he was not too impressed with the bike park trails. It seems that at the end of the season (we visited in late August) their bike park maintenance crew had already checked out. But still a day in the saddle is always a good day for him.

 

BONUS : #5 Tromeja

Several other travellers and locals told us about a relatively easy hike starting in a small town very close to Kranjska Gora.  We really wanted to go, but the weather and our little explorers’ mood that day stopped us from going, hence we can only share our Top #4 and not Top #5. We promised ourselves that next time we visit Slovenia we shall be climbing up to Tromeja (aka Peč/Monte Forno/Dreiländereck/Ofen), the European equivalency of the American 4 corners. It is a triple border peak (1508m /4948ft) between Slovenia, Austria and Italy, which is easily accessible from Rateče by bike, foot and car. The views from Tromeja offer a panorama of the Julian Alps, the Gailtal Alps, the Gurktal Alps, the High and Low Tauern and Karavanke mountains.

Recommended by locals

Bad weather activity We were unlucky with the weather on one afternoon of our stay and ended up going for a swim at the Ramada hotels indoor pool. The pool area was very clean,has views of the surrounding mountain range and is kid friendly (separate pool with slide).We had a lovelyy relaxing time there, while waiting for the rain to stop.

Restaurant recommendation We stayed at a Farm stay apartment, which came with a kitchen and we did cook ourselves on the first night. One the second night of our stay the farmer’s wife recommended that we should have dinner at her favourite local restaurant: Gostilna Pri Martinu – we had a meat dish and the trout and it was delicious.

On the evening when  we went for dinner the town hosted a Harley Davidson meeting, which meant that the place was full of bikers and the windows were vibrating from the large groups of Harley’s driving past ever now and then. It put our little one to sleep and allowed us to have a quiet dinner.

The website of Kranjska Gora’s Tourism office: https://www.kranjska-gora.si/en

Read about our holiday in  Slovenia –12 Reasons why Slovenia is the ultimate European family travel destination . 

Want to read more of our travel stories, visit our ‘where we have been’ page to see all of the travel adventures we blogged about.

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12 Reasons why Slovenia is the ultimate European family travel destination

We went on a road trip to Slovenia with our then 5 months old and we had a blast. Funnily enough I did not really have Slovenia on my travel radar before we went. I had been to ALL is neighbouring countries (Austria, Italy, Croatia and Hungary), but somehow missed the hidden gem that Slovenia is. Slovenia’s tourism slogan is I FEEL sLOVEenia and we truly did fall in love with this country, it is landscapes and food. Let me share with you the 12 reasons why we consider Slovenia the ultimate European family travel destination that you and your family must visit.

# 1 IT IS VERY ROADTRIP FRIENDLY

The country is small (the size of Wales) and therefore you are never on the road for long. We crossed the entire country from  the coastal town of Izola to Maribor  within less than 4 hours! (incl stops). Not only are the distances short, the roads are very well maintained and signage is clear.

http://www.maps-of-europe.net/maps-of-slovenia/

# 2 IT HAS THE WORLD’S YUMMIEST ICECREAM

It is a destination for ice cream lovers!  There is something called a World Ice Cream Index (I kid you not) and after collecting  over 25000 votes to find the best ice cream in the world, Lolita a Ljubljana  based ice cream store  won World’s Best Icecream in 2015.  In 2017 Sava Hotels & Resorts at Lake Bled won the title, while Lolita got 10th place and another Slovenia based ice cream parlour  got the 6th spot. I have to say there  REALLY IS something about the ice cream in Slovenia…it was on our menu each day on our 15 day roadtrip.

#3 IT INVENTED BLED CREAM CAKE

Another local treat that made me forget about my mantra ” a moment on the lips is a lifetime on the lips” is Bled cream cake. Bled cream cake is sold all over Slovenia and there are loads of variations of it. The one that you get at the restaurant where it was invented at Lake Bled was the best one we came across. It is the right level of sweet, without being overbearing and a dessert my hubs and I can agree on. Also the city of Bled with it’s castle and famous lake are a MUST see. We had a nice relaxing walk around the lake ( very stroller friendly!) which took us about 2,5 hours.

In general Slovenian food ( a mix between Hungarian, Italian and Austrian cuisine) is very good and also their local craft beer scene and wines don’t get enough international recognition.

http://www.rearviewmirror.tv/bled-cream-cake/

# 4 NATURE IS VARIED AND ACCESSIBLE ALSO wITH KIDS

On our trip we saw the salt planes at the coast, the beautiful peninsular of Piran, the vineyards bordering Hungary, the Triglav mountain pass road, the Julian Alps, Vintgar Gorge and so much more. Everywhere we went, we found well marked trails for all levels, unspoilt nature, lakes with crystal clear water and often enough we were in some of the most beautiful , serene spots all by ourselves. We visited at the end of August; the weather was gorgeous and  it was low-sesaon, so  we never had to queue up for any attractions.  Most places were accesible with our all-terrain City Jogger Elite stroller and if not we got out our beloved Ergobaby.

 

# 5 IT IS NOT OVERRUN BY TOURISTS (YET!)

All it is neighbouring countries are tourist hot spots! Americans dream of visiting Austria to dance through the mountains in Salzburg a la  Sound of Music , Game of Thrones fans are flocking to King’s Landing aka Dubrovnik in Croatia . The Italian town of Trieste is home to the magnificent Miramare Castle which featured in James Bond movies. Venice is only a short drive away too, yet most tourists pass through Slovenia on their way to other places…huge mistake, they are missing out big time.

# 6  THE JULIAN ALPS MOUNTAIN RANGE IS PICTURE PERFECT

We spent time in the beautiful village of Kranjska Gora , which gave us easy access to the Julian Alps. My hubs is born and raised in Colorado and seeing mountains and breathing crisp mountain air ( we currently live in The Netherlands where the highest peak is a whooping 322 metres/1,058 ft) put an extra spring in his step. We drove the Vršič Pass road with an elevation of 1,611 metres (5,285 ft) and stopped at the Russian Chapel, which was a nice daytrip with beautiful panorama views.

⇒ We have a post on our  Top 4 things to do in Kranjska Gora

 

#7 IT HAS A WELL ORGANIZED FARM STAY PROGRAM

There are more than 850 tourist farms in Slovenia, most can be booked vis booking.com. We stayed at two ( see itinerary below for details) it is a beautiful way to have a kid friendly low key holiday.  As the Association of Tourist Farms of Slovenia state on their site: “Slovenia`s tourist farms will fulfill the expectations of old and young alike. Adults will find the corners of peace and relaxation. Children will find a limitless playground; adults will get to know the local people and sit chatting with them in the evenings, while the farm children will introduce their peers from the city to the mysteries of farm life and delight them with the farm animals.”

# 8 SLOVENIA IS AFFORDABLE AND KID FRIENDLY

The capital city of Ljubiljana is very green, walkable, bike friendly, kid friendly and a perfect weekend getaway location! We also found the prices for food and accommodation very reasonable compared to European top locations like Paris, Amsterdam, Rome, Copenhagen & co. We never encountered a restaurant where our little one was not welcomed with open arms and high chairs and changing facilties were easily found.

# 9 EVERYONE SPEAKS ANOTHER LANGUAGE

Due to its history and location everyone we met spoke several languages. The main foreign languages spoken are Italian, German and English. This made it very easy to get around and there is even an English language radio station (Radio Slovenia International) with hourly news and traffic updates in German and English.

#10 IT IS EASY TO INTEGRATE IT INTO ALMOST ANY EUROPEAN ROADTRIP ITINERARY

The central European location makes it easy to integrate it into almost any European itinerary. You can reach many beautiful European cities from Ljubljana within less than 4 hours driving. There is also an extensive bus and train network.

Hungary (Budapest 460km) /  Italy (Venice 240 km and Trieste 100km) / Croatia (Zagreb 140km or Pula 200km. Dubrovnik is a bit further with 656km) / Austria (Salzburg 260km ,Graz 190km and Vienna 380km).

#11 SLOVENIA HAS WORLDCUP MOUNTAINBIKE TRAILS AND ADRENALINE EVOKING ADVENTUREs AWAITING IT’s VISITORS

On this trip my hus treated himself to some downhill fun at two bike parks Pohorje and Kranjska Gora. Both places had a good infrastructure , were easy to get to with plenty of parking , several food outlets and areas to play with the little one. In general even if you are not into downhill mountainbiking, there are plenty of other things to do. Wildwater rafting, hiking, climbing or get the adrenaline pumping at the world’s steepest zip line descent in the world ( book online, we missed out as it was fully booked!)

# 12 SLOVENIA IS LIKE SEVERAL COUNTRIES IN ONE

To sum it all up we concluded at the end of our trip that the best way to describe Slovenia is to say that  it is several countries in one.It has a beautiful albeit short Mediterranean coastline, lush green picturesque valley’s and snow-capped Alps, serene wine regions, alpine lakes with crystal clear water, walkable bike-friendly cities and it is a short flight from most European top destinations. It has a small international airport that is easy to navigate and a cuisine that has options for diverse taste buds . And don’t forget Slovenia has the best ice cream on this planet!

Our 15 DAY Itinerary

Travelling with a wee one, we always choose a homebase  from which we explore the area.  We try to avoid having to move daily. Below is an overview of what we did and where we stayed:

IZOLA HOTEL MARINA
Day 1:  Arrived in Ljubljana – Picked up Sixt rental car at the airport and drove down to the coastal town of Izola ( 2-3 hours)

Day 2:Beach day/explored the beautiful sleepy harbour town of Izola and

Day 3: Daytrip to Piran & Salt plains of Secovlje (within 1 hour from Izola)

Day 4: Trieste Italy for a daytrip ( 30 min from Izola)

MARIBOR FARM STAY FIRBAS
Day 5: Drove from  Izola to our farm stay close to Maribor ( 4 hours) stopover in Celje and at Predjama Castle. We had to skip the Skocjan caves, but would recommend visiting them on the way to Maribor, as we heard that they are very unique.

Day 6:  Explored Maribor and Pohorje

Day 7: Daytrip to Ptuj and wine region ( all within 1- 2 hours range of Maribor)

LJUBLJANA AirBnB ( in the city centre with garage, very child friendly)
Day 8: Left Maribor for Ljubljana  ( 2 hours)

Day 9:  Exploring the Slovenian capital

Day 10: Went to the zoo and Tivoli park and local art museum

Day 11: Sightseeing and shopping

KRANJSKA GORA FARM STAY KOSIR
Day 12: Ljubljana to Kranjska Gora ( 2 hours) stopped at the beautiful Vintgar Gorge

Day 13: Explored Kranjska Gora and drove through the Triglav Mountains Park

BLED HOTEL PARK ( SAVA RESORTS)
Day 14: Left Kranjska Gora to enjoy a full day in amazing Bled ( 30 min)

Day 15: Enjoyed Bled and in the evening flew home ( Bled to Airport of Ljubljana  was a 40 min drive)

If you haven’t yet visited Slovenia make sure you visit it soon. If you have been what was your favourite place?

Want to read more of our travel stories, visit our ‘where we have been’ page to see all of the travel adventures we blogged about.

This post was linkedup with:

Feature Image Credit: https://www.slovenia.info/en/business/slovenian-tourist-board/i-feel-slovenia

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Connecting mountain bike loving families

Connecting mountain bike loving families around the world. When I met  my boyfriend and realized how obsessed he is about downhill mountain biking (  Read our post on :10 day how dating a mountain biker will impact your life ) I also realized that I would be spending a lot of time at bike parks or at the trail ends waiting for him.I have been to bike parks in Belgium, Germany, Ireland and Slovenia and they all have one thing in common. There are plenty of other spouses/parents/kids who are trying to find something to do, while  their mountain biker has hit the trails. Mountain biking is a lifestyle, and I knew from day one that I had to embrace it or we would not last in the long run.

Bike Park Kransjka Gora /Slovenia

Bike Park Kransjka Gora /Slovenia

Anyone who has ever dated a mountain biker and does not mountain bike him/herself knows that holidays together are one big compromise.

A Global Community – MTB Families

When you dig deeper you will find loads of  mountain bike loving families around the globe; Trading resources, tips and (mis)adventures to ease and enrich their family travel experiences.

I have not yet really found a community where mountain bike loving families can get in contact with each other and share their enjoyment of the mountain biking lifestyle, but we found some MTB focused blogs and social media accounts we follow. Following them seems to be a glimps into our families future -if my mountain biker gets his way and our little one(s) will be as obsessed with mountain biking as he is.

OUR FAVOURITE Mountain bike LOVING families and resources

  The Bike Dads Two Dads, Bike Obsessed. The blog/site is a discussion place and resource for all things related to kids’ bikes incl. equipment reviews.
   MTBwithKids offer resources and stories for families who enjoy mountain biking. Our two womp rats are 14 years old and 10 years old. Mom and dad ride, too.
   Rascal Rides  Encouraging parents and kids to get outdoors on bikes . Family of 3 RVing through the US.
 Little Bellas is a mountain bike organization for girls ages 7 to 16 whose goal is to help young women realize their potential through cycling.

 

Know of any other blogs or pages we should follow? Would love to hear from you.

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