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Looking for day trips from Ljubljana? Here’s how to hike the Velika Planina settlement and Šmarna Gora Peak, bike to Podpeč Lake and Iški Morost Nature Reserve, and more.
Ljubljana is described as “a small capital with a green soul”, meaning there’s plenty more to visually feast on than the gorgeous old town architecture and the bustle of city life. So Ljubljana day trips should factor into your city itinerary.
Central Slovenia is a blanket of nature filled with lakes, hills, caves, gorges and mountains, and since 70% of Slovenians live in the countryside, the cities simply slot into this nature haven.
Like most city trips, I combine my time with exploration outside of it, taking in the best of urban sightseeing and active rural exploration for alternative feels and views of this region. With plenty of tempting outdoor adventure activities in Ljubljana right on its doorstep, it wasn’t hard to get a taste of the wider Slovenian landscape and culture.
Here’s my top pick of attractions near Ljubljana.
- Cultural Day Trips from Ljubljana
- Hiking Day Trips From Ljubljana
- Bike Tour Day Trips From Ljubljana
- Planning Day Trips from Ljubljana
Cultural Day Trips from Ljubljana
Velika Planina Shepherd Settlement
Velika Planina is the oldest and largest shepherd settlement in Europe, located in the Slovenian Alps. It’s said that some of the structures date back to the 16th century, and today it is still home to the shepherds that return here in the summer and keep old traditions alive.
One of the most notable things here is the unique architecture of the huts, which you can wander around freely in the seasons when the shepherds have departed.
Hiking in the Kamnik Alps
It’s a real taste of rural life not far from Ljubljana. It takes around one hour to get to the town of Kamnik from the city, and from here to take a cable car, or hike, up into the Kamnik Alps.
Pristine, picture-perfect scenes await as you walk towards the settlement. Look out for the golden roof amongst the architecturally vivid silvery grey structures.
See a Traditional Trnič Cheese Demonstration
Stopping for tea and cake (the Slovenian way), we learned about the tradition of Trnič hard cheese made only on Velika Planina.
The herdsmen would make the cheese while working on the high plains, made from a mixture of cottage cheese, cream and salt and kneaded together. This long-standing tradition is a symbol of love, and there’s a story about why the cheese is shaped to represent a woman’s breasts.
The pair of cheeses would be engraved with symbols and patterns and left to dry and harden, and upon their return in the autumn at the end of the grazing season, where they would have worked for months, the shepherd would give one to their beloved as a proof of their love and fidelity. The other they would keep for themselves. If the woman accepted the cheese, it meant they were officially together.
Seeing that the tradition of this unique place was dying out, the Taste Kamnik project decided to revive it and preserve it, training new generations on how to make (and decorate) the cheese, which is still used in traditional restaurants today, even where a modern cuisine twist is served.
How to Get to Velika Planina
If driving to the area, the bottom cable car station is located in the Kamniška Bistrica Valley, next to the Kamp Alpe campsite.
If you want to take longer hiking routes and stay overnight, the Zeleni Rob guesthouse is next to the upper cable car station.
Local guides can also accompany you to the region as part of Ljubljana day trip itineraries.
Hiking Day Trips From Ljubljana
Šmarna Gora Peak
What a glorious feeling to know there is a small mountain near Ljubljana to climb, a stand-alone giant mound in the region known as Gorenjska.
Šmarna Gora sits 664m above sea level in the northeasternmost part of Ljubljana and was less than half an hour’s drive to its base to start the ascent.
Šmarna Gora Hiking Trail
It takes around one hour to climb Šmarna Gora at a moderate pace. Clambering on tree roots and through a forest of high-topped trees means lots of temptation to stop and take in the untouched nature, from floor to ceiling.
Legend has it that it is nothing more than a pile of rocks made by a giant called Hrust, and when the local people didn’t like it, he got mad and stamped on it, making the two ‘humps’ we see today.
Visit Šmarna Gora Church at the Summit
While not just a religious pilgrimage, the climb leads to the ‘summit’ where you’ll find one of Slovenia’s most important churches. Šmarna Gora is named after the Virgin Mary (Šmaren meaning ‘Feast of the Assumption’). She is said to have chosen the hill as the place of worship, and this hilltop Christian Church – said to date back to the 13th or 14th century – was built in her memory.
Even if you are not a frequent church visitor for the cultural aspect, it’s worth a visit just for the frescos – a colourful palate and impressive display of artistry depicting the life of Mary and her Assumption.
It has been decorated and restored over and over since the 1800s after a new church was built in the early 1700s due to the number of pilgrims over the years.
In the 15th century, a defence wall was built around the church to defend it from Turkish raids, where locals sought shelter. See the old bells in the church tower, converted from a watchtower.
Have Lunch at Gostilna Ledinek
Atop Šmarna Gora, enjoy a traditional lunch at Gostilna Ledinek set to a panoramic view of the patchwork green Slovenian countryside.
It is the ultimate reward for the climb, joining other avid hikers who come here for the Slovenian tea and dishes like ‘žganci’ (boiled lumps of buckwheat flour served with little cubes of fat and a bowl of sour milk). It tasted much better than it looks, and it’s a rite of passage to dig into this carb load when you arrive. Leave room for the melt-in-the-mouth blueberry strudel.
Getting to Šmarna Gora Peak
Šmarna Gora is not a complex hike and is easy to tackle solo. Get a taxi from Ljubljana city to its base.
However, local guides can accompany you on hikes to Šmarna Gora. All can be booked from the Tourism Office in the heart of Ljubljana Old Town at Adamič-Lundrovo nabrežje.
Bike Tour Day Trips From Ljubljana
Sees the Marshes and Lake Podpeč
I met cycle guide master Tine who runs various half and full-day biking tours from cultural, culinary and high adventure. He’s sparky, fun and full of facts to accompany the natural sights.
I chose the Iški Vintgar Gorge tour, extending it to a full day in a 20km+ round-trip, through Slovenian countryside, typical villages, and stopping off at gorges, lakes, national parks and waterfalls.
See the Plečnik Designed Church of St. Michael
Continuing things in true Ljubljana design style, the first stop was to the Church of St. Michael in the marshes, designed by none other than the father of all remarkable design here – Jože Plečnik.
The stairs on its façade look like a puzzle but lead up to the belfry. The interior, made entirely of wood, has elements of Japanese temple design. Out in the marshes, it certainly makes a stand and remains one of Plečnik’s early and original architectural creations.
Visiting Iški Morost Nature Reserve
From marshes to woodland, we cycled to the Iški Morost Nature Reserve, through the traditional village of Brest, towards the Iški Vintgar gorge on the River Iška.
Both a good reprieve from the sun and a short break from biking, this stop was an introduction to the conservation practices in Slovenia and the preserved environments surrounding the rural habitation.
If you have time, there is a 1.3-kilometre nature trail where you can learn more about its biodiversity.
See the Lesser-Known Podpeč Lake
The third part of the trip was the highlight – arriving at Podpeč Lake. Slovenia is known for its lakes, and while Bled dominates, the smaller ones are still stunning.
Podpeč Lake is one of the deepest natural lakes in all of Slovenia, and against the green and underneath a piercing blue sky, it sparkles and calls for you to take some precious moments to sit, relax, contemplate, or jump onto its inviting waters (just as you’ll see the locals do in rejuvenation).
View Ljubljana from St. Ana Hill
Alas, after relaxation and lunch at the lake, refuelling called for more adventure, and it was time to hike up the 25km path of St. Ana Hill for panoramic views over the wetlands and looking out towards Ljubljana. On a clear day, you can even spot the Alps!
Book a bike tour from Ljubljana
Guide: Tine Zupančič from LB&T Vegov hram (www.vegovhram)
Hiking tours run from 15 April to 30 October. Hiking tours take place throughout the year, weather permitting. All tours require a minimum of two persons to operate and work to all difficulty levels.
Prices, which start from €36, include bike and equipment, lunch and return transfer from Ljubljana. I took the Iški Vintgar gorge tour and extended it to an all day trip (which is possible).
Planning Day Trips from Ljubljana
Ljubljana, surrounded by nature, is the perfect base to springboard into wider, countryside-laden Slovenia. Slovenia is so small it is said you can visit any point of the country in a day, so why not get a taste of the different landscapes using the capital as a base?
How to Get to Ljubljana and Around
- Well connected by rail, European buses like Flix and by plane, the Slovenian company GoOpti also operates car transfers between neighbouring cities and neighbouring country airports in Germany, Austria, Croatia and Italy. For example, I took the GoOpti transfer from Graz to Ljubljana, and I also took it back to Vienna from Ljubljana. You share a car with other travellers booked on the same journey or route. You are reminded about your journey via text 24 hours before and when your vehicle arrives.
Book a Hotel in Ljubljana
- I stayed in Hotel Galleria on the fringes of the Old Town. It sits on the corner of some restaurants and coffee shops (open until late!) and is a five-minute walk to the centre of the old town where the action is.
- Celica Art Hostel is the former prison turned design hostel in the art district of Metlekova. There are 20 unique cell rooms to choose from. It’s five minutes from the main train station and 10 to the heart of town.
- The 4-star Grand Hotel Union is for those looking for luxury, just metres from Prešeren Square and the Triple Bridge. From the early 20th century, it is the oldest in the city, built during the Austro-Hungarian monarchy. It is considered one of central Europe’s most significant Art Nouveau architectural structures.
What Time of the Year is Best to Visit Ljubljana?
- Ljubljana is considered to have a continental climate, making it both a winter haven with easy access to the nearby mountains and a beautiful Mediterranean climate in the summer months.
For further information on adventure day trips from Ljubljana:
- To plan your day trips and excursions from Ljubljana, visit the Ljubljana tourism website for further information and temptation.
Sponsored Editorial Content: My trip to Ljubljana was a combination of a Euro City Trip project to highlight the city as a ‘cool neighbour’ to Austria’s second-largest city of Graz in partnership with both city tourism offices.