We could hardly wished for better weather and relaxed atmosphere for our recent September short road trip in the Upper Savinja valley or Zgornja Savinjska dolina as it is called in Slovenia. I believe we used our luxury of being able to explore my tiny home country during the week while everybody is in school or at work very good and really got to know this parts of Slovenia in just 5 days time. From Ljubljana, the capital city, we first drove to Velika Planina which is simply lovely at any time of the year and continued towards Luče and Solčava, drove up to the mountains at the border with Austria, took the beautiful Solčava Panoramic Road, hiked on the top of Golte ski place and continued along Savinja river pass Mozirje, Nazarje, Ljubno pri Savinji and other smaller towns all the way down to Celje. We also made a little detour to Velenje to visit friends and see Sloveniá youngest city. Based on our experiences I made this post, presenting 20+ ideas, activities places to visit and things to do in the Upper Savinja Valley. If you are looking for (still) less internationally known places in Slovenia this is a good place to come to.
ROBANOV KOT | easy hiking trail up to Robanov pasture cottage
We started our first morning in Upper Savinja valley with a very early cup of coffee, followed by a wonderful EASIER HIKE UP TO ROBANOVA PLANŠARIJA pasture cottage, in a peaceful GLACIAL VALLEY called ROBANOV KOT. The path lead us through forests and over a few white gravel sections, alongside meadows and pastures. Altogether we did only about 250m of height difference, which makes it a good hiking choice if you have smaller kids. We were the first ones up at the pasture cottage (which btw is one of the last ones in operation around here) and if I don´t count a few cows and horses we were pretty much alone as well.
Along the way and close by you can also stop at one of the (TOURIST) FARMS (for example at Govc-Vršnik, Knez or Bevšek-Ošep) and try some of the local delicacies. From Robanova planšarija cottage you can also continue hiking to some of the mountain peaks surrounding this valley, like OJSTRICA, RADUHA or KROFIČKA.
SUSPENSION BRIDGE | awesome bridge in Savinja gorge
Very close to Igla rock and the intermittent fountain (more about these later on) there is a wonderful section of SAVINJA RIVER GORGE, where you can also cross the river on a great wooden SUSPENSION BRIDGE.
IGLA | interesting rock formation listed as a natural monument
While driving on the main road between Solčava and Luče, just next to Savinja river you cannot miss this unique 40m HIGH ROCK FORMATION, which is listed as a natural monument of Slovenia. This lonely rock which clearly sticks out is called “IGLA” on Slovenian which in translation means “THE NEEDLE” – it was named after a 2m crack, through which the only walking path was leading back more than 100 years ago, and because of which the rock resembles the shape of a needle. There is also a LEGEND about the rock, saying there used to be a gigantic girl living around here and she broke a needle while sewing a shirt one day – she got mad and threw the needle down to the valley and it has been there ever since.
You can WALK AROUND THE LONELY ROCK IN 15min and see another interesting sight on the way – INTERMITTENT FOUNTAIN, which is one of the most known in Slovenia. You can see this one from the main road while driving as well, if you don´t have time to walk around.
SOLČAVA AND LUČE | smaller touristic towns in the upper part of Savinja Valley
Just around 10km apart, LUČE AND SOLČAVA towns are the largest settlements in this upper parts of Upper Savinja Valley. If you are coming from Austria, Koroška or like us, from Velika Planina, this is where you will first pass by. For more information about this area you can stop by at the nice tourist center in Solčava, TIC SOLČAVA, which also goes by the name CENTER RINKA. For tasty diner check out HIŠA RADUHA IN LUČE (they also offer accommodation), otherwise there is of course lots of natural and other sights to see and visit around here, so these two towns are a good base for exploring.
LOGAR VALLEY | one of the most known valleys in Slovenia
ONE OF THE MOST KNOWN VALLEYS IN SLOVENIA is of course the main attraction of Upper Savinja Valley and a place one should definitely visit while visiting these parts of the country. Even though this might not have been our favourite spot around here (we really prefer less known places with less people and more peace), Logar valley is still a fascinating place offering many attractions and things to do to keep you busy for a couple of days.
If you wish to enter with your motorised vehicle you will need to pay 7€ ENTRY FEE, but you can of course leave your car at the entrance and continue ON FOOT OR EVEN BETTER WITH A BICYCLE. The number one thing to see here is RINKA WATERFALL, but also LOGAR LINDEN TREE (which is also one of the most photographed trees in Slovenia), the FAIRYTALE FOREST, PALENK WATERFALL, ETHNOLOGICAL PATH and much more. One last tip for accommodation – HOTEL PLESNIK offers magnificent views, nice rooms and a natural swimming pool.
RINKA WATERFALL | one of the most beautiful Slovenian waterfalls
At the very end of LOGAR VALLEY you reach the last PARKING SPOT and after about 10min OF WALKING ON A STEEP PATH you find yourselves under one of the most famous Slovenian waterfalls, Rinka. RINKA WATERFALL IS 90m HIGH and is also considered to be the FIRST SPRING OF SAVINJA RIVER. The best time to visit is of course in Spring when there is more water, but it can be very interesting also in the Winter when it freezes. It´s a great location for those who are into ICE CLIMBING.
On the right side of the waterfall you can see a wooden construction called ORLOVO GNEZDO (eagle´s nest) – a place where you can refresh yourselves with cold drinks and snacks while enjoying the best view on the waterfall. From Rinka you can continue hiking to some of the peaks around. For example to OKREŠELJ, KAMNIŠKO SEDLO, BRANA and others.
MATKOV KOT AND MATKOV ŠKAF | lesser known valley close to Austrian border
This 6km LONG GLACIAL VALLEY just a few km west from Logar valley towards the border with Austria is surely one of the LESSER-KNOWN PARTS of Upper Savinja valley, but this doesn´t make it less attractive. Quite the contrary actually, it is a nice place with much less crowds.
Here, we can find one really special spot called MATKOV ŠKAF, which is an around 30m deep (depending on the season) and 15m wide SNOW MOUND under the walls of Mrzla gora mountain. This amazing structure occurs in the snow mass caused by the avalances and is best seen in the Spring.
SOLČAVA PANORAMIC ROAD | one of the most scenic roads in Slovenia
We were very pleasantly surprised by this panoramic road (I ashamedly confess now I have never heard about it up until just a few days before our departure) which took us from Solčava pass Logar valley, Matkov kot, towards Austria ( Pavličevo sedlo border crossing) and onwards to Podolševe and back down to Solčava town. We were accompanied by STUNNIG VIEWS all the way around and we could read more about the valley, mountains and other interesting sights on nicely presented INFO BOARDS at each viewpoint.
The 21km LONG ROAD is partially asphalt and partially gravel road, but despite being quite curvy and steep you can manage with any car. You can of course also WALK OR DO A BICYCLE TOUR. If you have enough time I suggest you sleep over at one of the many TOURIST FARMS and if not, you should at least stop by to buy and / or taste some of the LOCAL PRODUCTS (cold meats especially). Besides 20 POINTS OF INTEREST along this route (they are marked in the maps and info boards) there are also 15 ADDITIONAL HIKING ROUTES which you can take from this panoramic road.
TOURIST FRAMS & CULINARY DELIGHTS | culinary journey in Upper Savinja Valley
Everywhere in Upper Savinja valley and especially along SOLČAVA PANORAMIC ROAD tehre are a bunch of really good TURIST FARMS, where you can (actually, you have to!) stop by for lunch, snack or just to buy something to try at home later. Before we left home we were a bit prepared in terms of what to see and do around here but we honestly had no clue about this amazing CULINARY DELICACIES. It is hard to point out just a few farms, because I don´t want to do injustice to the other ones (I´m sure they are all good and special in their own ways). You can easily spend 3-5 days around here just hiking and eating on these farms – people are friendly, food is delicious and the views are just stunning.
So, what should you try while visiting these parts of Slovenia? Well, for starters you absolutely have to order a plate of cold meats which includes the most famous SAVINJSKI ŽELODEC (“Savinja stomach”, but believe me it tastes better than it sounds) – this one is also geographically protected and it has to be done in this places by the traditional recipe which exists already over 100 years. Cold meats in general are a thing here, but there is also lots of great CHEESE varieties. Let me count a few other things to try – SOLČAVA SIRNEK (a sort of spicy cottage cheese), AJDNEK (a dessert from buckwheat dough, honey and walnuts), ZDRKANKA (milk with wheat grains, plums and cinnamon), UBRNENIK (old shepher´s dish – wheat balls with sour milk) and many other variations of SOUR MILK (called “kislo mleko” in Slovenian), COTTAGE CHEESE, ŽGANCI and also UPPER SAVINJA ŽLINKROFI (this name is protected, but these are some sorts of dumplings let´s say). All in all, we ate very good around here!
THE SPRING OF SOUR WATER | mineral spring with healing qualities
This MINERAL SPRING UNDER OLŠEVA MOUNTAIN is said to be one of the biggest natural attractions in Solčava valley – not because it would look extremely impressive but more because of its HEALING WATER, rich with iron and carbon dioxide. You reach this spring after just 5min walking from the parking along the panoramic road I mentioned above, or in 15min walking from a well known farm KMETIJA KLEMENŠEK just below.
POTOČKA ZIJALKA | interesting cave site on Olševa mountain
After about 1hr WALKING on the southern SLOPES OF OLŠEVA MOUNTAIN we reach a very famous CAVE SITE where traces of HUMAN LIFE (fireplaces, stone tools & other), CAVE BEAR BONES and 8 FLUTES made out of bear bones were found approximately 100 years ago. To start the hike search for a farm called KMETIJE ŠTIFTAR which is located on the Solčava panoramic road, not too far from a lovely Sv. Duh chapel.
SAVINJA RIVER | great natural attraction
One of the main attractions of this valley is the 100km LONG RIVER SAVINJA itself. Its first spring is at Rinka waterfall, on the foot of Okrešelj mountain, but the river runs underground soon after and re-emerges as Črna spring, joins with a small stream Jezero and then gets its name Savinja just after. Savinja flows in the valley through some beautiful GORGES, in parts its size is smaller in parts wider and eventually, at Zidani Most it flows to Slovenia´s largest river, Sava.
Savinja, which is perfect for all sorts of water sports and it used to play an important role in setting up a series of WATER MILLS (some of them can still be seen today) is also known for WOOD RAFTING activities and is listed as a NATURAL MONUMENT.
WATER SPORTS | activities on Savinja river
As I mentioned above, SAVINJA RIVER is perfect for many different water sports. The most popular activities are probably RAFTING and KAYAKING – you can book a tour at one of the local tourist agencies, TIC or at you camp site / hotel where you are staying. A popular section (about 10km long) for these two sports is between Struge and Ljubno ob Savinji. Where the river is calmer you can also try out SUP and in other parts the BELLYAK, which is a sort of kayak where you lay on your belly. For an even stronger dose of adrenalin try the CANYONING in CANYON CUC or GLOBOŠAK. Savinja is also great for FISHING. The most known event around here is the so-called “FLOSARSKI BAL” – a traditional WOOD RAFTING FESTIVAL.
MOUNTAINS AND HIKING | best hiking trips in Zgornja Savinja Valley and around
You simply have to do at least a few of the easier hikes while you are exploring the Upper Zgornja Savinjska valley, but you can also of course do some more serious hiking if you are up for it. I´ve already mentioned a few of the hikes in the previous titles, but let me point them out here as well. The most known and generally the most beautiful ones are: the hiking / walking paths in LOGAR VALLEY, easy hike to ROBANOV KOT, hiking in MATKOV KOT and visiting Matkov škaf, OLŠEVA mountain and POTOČKA ZIJALKA CAVE, longer tours and mountain hikes to OKREŠELJ, KAMNIŠKO SEDLO, RADUHA, OJSTRICA, SKUTA, KROFIČKA, BRANA, KOČNA and a few others, hiking trails on GOLTE, trails on and around SOLČAVA PANORAMIC ROAD, hiking on PLANINA MENINA and last but not least hiking path „ŠALEŠKA TRANSVERZALA“, which is around 130km long all together.
SNEŽNA JAMA CAVE | an exceptional cave with a nice moonmilk “ice hall”
Unfortunatelly we were not able to visit Snežna jama cave this time, because we should have made a special reservation over the telephone a bit in advance, but still, I must include it into this post. SNEŽNA JAMA CAVE ON RADUHA MOUNTAIN was only truly discovered about 40 years ago and it is one of the few caves in Europe which were found so high up in the mountain. As the name already implifies („Snežna jama“ in Slovenian means „snow cave“ on English), its main attraction is a beautiful entry room called LEDENA DVORANA (meaning “ice hall”) where you notice a greater amount of the so-called moonmilk or cave milk. Further on inside the cave you can see lots of other formations such as stalagmites, stalactites, pillars and other. This cave is very well preserved and there is electricity only in the first part, afterwards you need your own lights and of course, you can only visit it with a CAVE GUIDE.
LJUBNO OB SAVINJI | European timber-rafting town
Ljubno ob Savinji is actually a very lovely town, as we quite surprisingly found out while driving through and stopping just shortly. There is also lots to see, but the most known event is definitely „FLOSARSKI BAL“ – a TRADITIONAL WOOD RAFTING FESTIVAL. Then there is also a FIS WORLD CUP SKI JUMPING event for women (you can see the ski jump in any time of the year).
You can also visit a few MUSEUMS, walk through a very interesting park called “PARK BORCEV ZA SEVERNO MEJO” and sleep over at a TOURIST FARM, in LOKA CAMP SITE or splurge on a cosy cabin in the wonderful HERBAL GLAMPING RESORT.
NATURE PARK GOLTE | ski center and many hiking trails center
We spent one night at the CAMPER STOP just under the LOWER GONDOLA STATION at the foot of mount Golte (which was btw a great place to stop, with free water and electricity, plus very quiet in the night) and chose to drive up to the top of Golte on smaller forest roads the next day which was awesome with our Defender. At the UPPER GONDOLA STATION there is also a HOTEL, some APARTMENTS and a smaller PARKING. There is another parking lot a few hundred metres below, just next to a very nice ALPINE GARDEN, which we also visited. I highly recommend taking the Panoramic path around the garden, the views down towards the valley are simply stunning.
In the winter time you can of course ski here, in fact this ski place was chosen to be the BEST SKI PLACE IN SLOVENIA a few times. I can´t really say much about this as I have never skied here, but it looked like a nice place. In the other months of the year this is a great place for HIKING, as you can choose from many different routes ( (Zajčkova, Medvedova, Gamsova, Pot Divji petelin, Pot Boskovec or Pot Žekovec route).
GORNJI GRAD | picturesque smaller town under Menina planina
While driving from Mozirje to Ljubno ob Savinji we can take turn and visit another interesting smaller town called GORNJI GRAD (in Slovenian the name would mean „upper castle“). If you are looking to see lesser-known places this is definitely one of them – this place is not only known for its CATHEDRAL, which is one of the largest in Slovenia, but also for its HEALTHY CLIMATE and extraordinary fresh air. Another thing not to miss around here is the BEE FESTIVAL.
NAZARJE | smaller town at confluence of Savinja and Reta river
Between Gornji Grad and Mozirje towns, at the confluence of SAVINJA AND DRETA RIVERS we find another smaller town called NAZARJE. Its most known attractions are VRBOVEC CASTLE & MUSEUM and FRANCISCAN MONASTERY with a CHURCH. We found a very cosy cafe close to Vrbovec castle and watched the locals FISHING at the spot where the rivers come together. It is a nice place easily accessible from the main road so it´s a good choice for a quick spot.
MOZIRJE | Mozirski gaj flower park and open air museum
MOZIRSKI GAJ is one of the MOST KNOWN FLOWER PARKS IN SLOVENIA and it´s a nice, peaceful green venue to visit while you are in the area. There are various THEME AREAS in the park, such as a rock garden, a herbal harden and a Japanese garden and also a viewing tower, a descendant of the oldest vine in the world, huge wind bells and other interesting constructions. It is also possible to organise weddings & other events in the park and there are also some occasional public festivals.
ENTRY FEE is 6€ for adults and besides many wonderful trees, flowers (depending on the season), you also get to see the OPEN AIR MUSEUM part of the park with a BEEHOUSE, WATER MILL, OLD FARM HOUSE WITH TOOLS, A CHAPEL and THE OLDEST HOUSE IN MOZIRJE.
VELENJE | the youngest Slovenian city
I was not aware of this but Velenje is Slovenia´s FIFTH LARGEST CITY. And it is actually quite easy to believe it once you´re standing up at VELENJE CASTLE (which is btw well worth visiting). It used to be called TITOVO VELENJE, after the former Yugoslav leader Tito – we can still feel the vibes from those times but Velenje has meanwhile developed into a much more modern, also green city with lots of parks, PEDESTRIAN AREAS, a PROMENADE along PAKA RIVER and interesting ARCHITECTURE SOLUTIONS. Also, one of the best spots in the city is VELENJE LAKE with a very nice BEACH AREA. Here you can also stay the night or two in the near by CAMP SITE JEZERO.
Velenje is also SLOVENIA´S YOUNGEST CITY, built in the 50´s when workers from all over the country (and other countries) were needed for working in the rich COAL MINES located in the area. So while in Velenje, you shouldn´t miss visiting its number 1 attraction, the COAL MINING MUSEUM – during the visit you also get to go underground and experience how it felt like back in the days. Besides, Velenje offers some great MUSIC and CULTURAL FESTIVALS, especially in the summer so do check the city´s event calendar before you arrive.