If you looked at a map of the top European cycling destinations just a few years ago, you would be hard-pressed to spot Slovenia amongst them. You would certainly find the famous Dolomite passes and see pictures of the French Alps or rolling Tuscan hills, but now the cycling scene is changing fast and Green Slovenia appears at the top of the bike radar… if you were wondering why, please read on!
Slovenia can offer everything the “big boys of cycling holidays” can offer, but in a tiny, incredibly accessible space, stuffed full with turquoise rivers, caves, castles, mountains, waterfalls and the best unspoilt green nature you can find anywhere in Europe!
Being in the very centre of Europe, Slovenia also has a rich cultural history to experience and mix with the incredible greenness. For example, one minute you might cycle over a Napoleon bridge and the next past some Roman treasures.
Slovenia is a small country nestled between the Alps, the Adriatic sea and Pannonian plain. No other country in Europe has all these natural wonders on offer so close together.. big mountains, flat meadows and Mediterranean seaside towns!
Every cyclist will find their own favorite mini region, but each region has it all… amazing bike paths, road ascents with fab valley views or forest trails. Did you know that Slovenia is the third most forested country in Europe, with over 60% covered in trees! It`s been named the greenest country in the World. One thing is absolutely for sure… you will breathe plenty of fresh air while cycling in Slovenia!
Mountainbiking in Slovenia
If you are looking for the best green MTB or road ride through Pine scented forests, then the Pokljuka plateau above lake Bled in the Alps is an excellent choice. Away from the bustle of the lake, the only noise you`ll hear here, just a few KM away will be cowbells and the whistle of the cool wind through the trees. The plateau and forests will energize you for your descent to either Lake Bled or Bohinj for a refreshing dip in the crystal clear alpine water.
The ultimate challenge for road cycling!
Moving further towards the Italian border, we stumble upon a road to the Mangart saddle. Actually the highest paved road in Slovenia will take you up to the 2,072 meters (6,798 ft) high. It was built by the military in superfast time for one of the most brutal battles of WWI. As you ascend, you will be wondering why they laid a dead-end road all the way up there?! The answer is simple: to get the amazing views from this strategic high point. It’s seriously breathtaking and your cycle up could easily become the highlight of your road cycling trip to Slovenia.
Cycling in the best Slovenian Wine Country
The Vipava valley is Slovenia’s largest unpolished diamond! This stunning green paradise is so often missed on the way from Italy or the Soca river to the Postojna cave or further to the capital city of Ljubljana.
Here in the Vipava Valley the cycling season pretty much never stops as we have a very pleasant mild Mediterranean climate and sunny hilly slopes, perfect for wine growing and of course.. cycling!
In the valley, you can find and enjoy world-class wines, and world-class cycling routes. You should definitely try the completely unique Zelen and Pinela wine varieties which you won’t find anywhere else in the world. While wine grows on the sunny southern slopes, sheer plateaus in the north dominate this 40km long valley.
Of course, this difference of terrain provides the perfect enclosed space for numerous cycling options. For example, you could E-bike ride with the family through vineyards, along the beautiful river that runs along the middle of the valley, (also called the “Vipava”) There are so many picturesque road cycling ascents to choose with tunnels carved from the mountain rock. There are singletrack descents – so now you know about the Vipava valley?!
Underground cycling in Slovenia!
Although we prefer riding outside, you really shouldn’t miss this unique opportunity to ride inside a massive mine, totally underground! You will find the town of Mežica in the north of Slovenia and under the towering Peca mountain, Slovenians were mining cobalt and lead ore for over 300 years. They out dug out over 800 kilometers of tunnels. Now the mine is closed of course, but there are endless shafts of Mežica open to explore on bike.
You get a headlamp and enter the mountain through the same narrow gates the miners used, cycling for more than five kilometers of underground tunnels, exiting on the other side of the mountain.
And get this! Many of the shafts were flooded with water to keep the mine intact and so in a completely different part of the mountain, you can also go kayaking! This is the only mine in Europe where you can go kayaking in the morning and mountain biking in the afternoon!
The Cycling culture in Slovenia
Slovenia isn’t only rich and diverse in attractive geography. Many cycling events during the year reflect Slovenia’s love affair with two wheels. Bicycles appeared in this part of the world pretty much at the same time as in the rest of Western Europe. Bicycles became widely available to the broader public and gained strong popularization. Slovenians love cycling. You can see this at the big recreational events like “ Maraton Franja ”, which brings together amateur road racers and recreational cyclists. This event often gets more than 8,000 participants every year!
And there are many other recreational events to choose from, within all cycling disciplines — also gravel ones. As said, Slovenia is in step with other big cycling countries. Besides amateur events, Slovenia also hosts top range events for professionals. The slopes of the Pohorje mountains host a World cup Downhill race, which usually ranks among the top three such events in the World! And Slovenian locals make the atmosphere even better with their full on cheering for their favorites.
And for all road racing fans, there’s even a Tour of Slovenia. This professional road cycling race is of the highest UCI category and takes riders on five stages during early June. The Tour of Slovenia race gets Pros from all big World Tour teams to compete on the perfect Slovenian roads. Over the past few years, the event has risen up the UCI ranking and now sits just below the biggest ones. And with TV streaming showing the stunning Slovenian vistas, the event is really gaining popularity worldwide and sharing what Slovenia has to offer to any cyclist! Now you can ride the Tour of Slovenia too!
Why you should seriously consider cycling in Slovenia
Over the past few years, I’ve cycled in many places around the world, but when I got back, I was always amazed by what Slovenia has to offer. Don’t get me wrong; many places around the world are well worth riding. But if you want to do a lot of scenic riding in a short period without driving around much… then your destination should be Green Slovenia. And cycling in Slovenia is just a part of the overall experience. You will be spoiled by amazing food, excellent wines & top-rated craft beers. But in the end, everything is about people. Slovenians are known for their warm hospitality. They will always try to help you and many of us speak good English!
Why not join us for your next cycling adventure? It’s our passion for this tiny piece of the world that binds all our tours together. Welcome to cycling in Slovenia with RockVelo!