This is the Koča pri Triglavskih jezerih, a mountain lodge nestled quietly in the Triglav Lakes Valley in Slovenia’s Julian Alps. Even framed by the gray skies and daunting clouds –elements I generally find inviting– this was one of the most beautiful mountain scenes I’ve ever witnessed. And it took less than four hours to reach on foot – by any measure, a just reward for breaking a sweat.
Most who visit Slovenia and are eager for a taste of its mountain scenery set aside a day to visit the well-known alpine lake at Bled or its slightly more remote cousin Lake Bohinj, just another 25km up the road in Triglav National Park. When the weather allows, both offer up some very memorable vistas of this eastern Alpine range.
But if you really want a feel for the rugged mountains the country has on offer you need to head for and into the hills. Hiking is the national pastime in Slovenia for good reason. And while its peaks don’t quite reach as high as those of the ranges in neighboring Italy and Austria and nearby Switzerland and Germany, experienced and well-traveled alpinists will tell you that Slovenia is anything but Alps-lite.
The hike to the Triglav Lakes Valley, named for the country’s highest peak (2,864m/ 9,396ft) and the national park in which it sits, is among the most popular. The valley is named for a system of (at least) seven lakes that sit in this high mountain valley. The lodge (1,685m /5,528ft) that serves as the destination for this hike rests at the valley’s southern edge at the Dvojno Jezero, or Double Lake in the heart of the Julian Alps and Triglav National Park.
There are several trails to the hut; to kick off this occasional Slovenia Day Trips series I picked the one which begins in the Blato Valley near Bohinj; it’s considered the easiest — and my knees have reached a point where they cry out, sometimes loudly, for easy. It’s also extremely picturesque, and a well-rounded representation of the geography and geology of the area, passing through high alpine meadows, valleys and pastures and lush deciduous and evergreen forests.
The hike is about seven hours round trip, making it an easy and fairly relaxed day trip if you’re spending the night in Bohinj or Bled. It’s possible from the capital Ljubljana (1hr 15min drive one way) in a day, too, if you’re an early riser, have your own transportation and set out when the days are still somewhat long. (Pulling it off in a day from Ljubljana using only public transport is probably next to impossible.)