If it’s not already on there, Slovenia should be at the top of every cyclist’s list of must-ride locations. Read our guide to find out more
If it’s not already on there, Slovenia should be at the top of every cyclist’s list of must-ride locations. Also known as the ‘green heart of Europe’, around 50% of its land is covered by lush forests and vegetation, a theme which also extends to its many cities, including the capital, Ljubljana, which was officially named as “Europe’s Greenest Capital” in 2016.
This relatively small country borders Austria, Croatia, Hungary and Italy and offers cyclists of all disciplines a wealth of terrains, routes landscapes and townscapes to discover and explore on two wheels. The rolling hills of the vineyard hills and eastern plains near the Croatian border are an excellent playground for road cyclists, with miles of quiet backroads that snake between vineyards, rivers and traditional Slovenian hamlets. Whilst the Julian Alps in the north-west of the country offer some demanding climbs for keen riders looking for a challenge.
Slovenia: A new Generation of Cycling Pro’s
Slovenia is well represented in the professional cycling ranks, too, with Slovenian riders such as Primož Roglič, Tadej Pogačar and Matej Mohorič cycling for some of the best teams in the world and competing in the Tour de France.
Slovenian Vineyards and quiet country roads
The Alpine foothills and the Vipava Valley are incredibly beautiful areas for road cycling in Slovenia, the latter just a 45-minute drive from Ljubljana. Not far from the Italian border, more undulating routes abound as the terrain gradually starts to steepen and morph into the dramatic mountain landscape of the Julian Alps. In keeping with Slovenia’s green character, the land is blanketed in vineyards, wildflower meadows and yes, even more trees, creating a wonderful aura of calm and respect for flora and fauna alike. It is not uncommon to see cyclists riding these stunning routes, and drivers are happy to share the road.
The Julian Alps: A Climber’s Paradise
Slightly further north of the Vipava Valley, sit the impressive Julian Alps, bordering both Italy and Austria, the highest peak of which is Mount Triglav, brushing the clouds at an altitude of 2,864 m. This region of the country is a climber’s paradise, with ascents such as the Vršič Pass and Mangart’s Saddle, the latter presenting a 10-km climb to the top, gaining almost 1,000 m along the way (at an average of around 8.8%). The Vršič Pass is Slovenia’s giant, its highest mountain road pass, stands at an impressive 1,611 m. It is around 10 km in length and has an average gradient of 6.9%, offering riders incredible views of teetering limestone rock formations (reminiscent of the Dolomites), unexpected cobbled sections, tunnels cut through the mountain, deep, dramatic valleys and classic hairpin bends.
The landscape in the Julian Alps is not unlike its other Alpine neighbours, with dramatic, rocky cliff-faces, expansive meadows covered in lush green vegetation and wildflowers, and of course, stunning lakes such as Lake Bled, nestled within the Triglav National Park. This Lake is probably one of the most photographed scenes in Slovenia, and once you’ve witnessed its beauty, there’s no surprise as to why! In the middle of the Lake there is a tiny island, home to the Pilgrimage Church of the Assumption of Maria surrounded by trees that reflect off the pristine waters below.
Slovenia’s Cycling Season: The Best Time of Year to Ride
As a tourist, Slovenia is a fantastic country to visit at any time of year. But as a cyclist, unless you enjoy the cold, it is probably a good idea to look for dates in spring, summer and autumn. These are the ideal seasons for cycling in Slovenia. The flowering meadows are in coming into full bloom in spring, and the climate offers mild to warm temperatures, meaning a dip in the lakes and rivers is already pleasant after a long ride!
Slovenia heats up in summer, so early morning and evening rides are recommended, thus avoiding the spike in temperatures in the middle of the day. These midday lulls can be spent swimming in the lake, exploring the charming nearby towns and villages or wandering through the shaded woodland of the Triglav National Park.
Autumn, like spring, offers milder temperatures than in summer and the forests take on a glorious golden hue. The days are still relatively long, meaning evening rides are still a possibility. Pack gilets, windbreakers and a neck-warmer for those early-morning rides and the potential cloudy day in the mountains.
Inspired to ride in Slovenia?
The main take-aways: green, calm and varied. Cycling in Slovenia is something of a paradise in terms of road quality, diverse landscapes and breath-taking natural wonders. From the sweeping valleys and undulating roads of the Eastern plains, to the soaring peaks of the Julian Alps, Slovenia offers unbound adventures for riders of every discipline. The government actively encourages cycling as a mode of transport and leisure activity, and is increasingly investing money, time and effort into introducing more cycle lanes and paths in both its towns and endless countryside. There is no better time to book your flights to Slovenia and discover this untapped gem.