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  • Writer's pictureMelissa Stemmer

Bikepacking - Slovenian West Loop

For just over a year, me and my friend has grabbed the bike fever. Starting with simple trips, up to today, where we climb whole mountains with our luggage, everything is there. After we started in Belgium in April our 'test drive' (so I mean bikepacking with tent, stove, food, sleeping bags and and) , it went in June 2022 then for 13 days to Slovenia. A country, what we both had never visited. "Slovenia is a country in central Europe. It is known for its mountains, ski resorts and lakes. In Lake Bled, a glacial lake fed by thermal springs, there is an island with a church that belongs to the town of Bled, and a medieval castle stands on the shore of the lake. In the Slovenian capital of Ljubljana, Baroque facades sit alongside 20th-century architecture by Jože Plecnik, a native of the city whose emblematic Tromostovje (Three Bridges) spans the winding Ljubljanica River."

That was exactly our plan: to discover the alpine north, marvel at the capital Ljubiljana and jump into cold lakes. We wanted to take in all that Slovenia has to offer. Find out what challenges and experiences we were able to take with us in this post.

Have fun!



 

What is bikepacking anyway?


For those of you who might be wondering what 'bikepacking' even is, I'll shed some light on it for you. I feel like the term 'backpacking' is more commonly known, which means nothing more than going on a trip with nothing more than a backpack. Now you just transfer that to the bike. With minimalist luggage you travel only with the bike through the world, in one place, for a few weeks, the imagination is the limit here! On the subject of 'minimalism', however, it must be said that here it depends entirely on the intention. We have already met bikepackers who were anything but minimalist on the road, a miracle that they have progressed thousands of kilometers with the luggage, but that's another topic.

For me it is the easiest and most sustainable way to travel. However, the motivation for bikepacking was actually not to travel as sustainably as possible, but rather the trip itself. Beach vacations, where you lie around for 2 weeks and fight with other guests for a sunbed, has never been my thing. I always need movement and adventure. For me, traveling means that the journey itself is part of the adventure. Every day new impressions, every day a different place, conversations with other bikepackers, perceiving nature and so much more. A little over a year ago, I would never have imagined that to be on the road with the bike for two or more weeks. But starting with the Transalp 2021, I would not want to miss it now.

 

Our setup


You might be wondering now what our setup looked like. As with many other topics, we were inspired by social media. We wanted to look as un 'packed' as possible so we could ride difficult trails without getting stuck somewhere or being even slower in the wind. With your bikes you should pay attention to whether they are on bags, because some have, for example, no provisions for fork bags or too little mounting options for water bottles or the like.


Our Gravelbikes:

Specialized Diverge

Specialized Diverge


Bags:

frontbag 1

frontbag 2

fork pockets left and right

framebag small

framebag big

ass rocket

snackbag


 

What's inside the bags?

The bikepacking trip to Slovenia was the first big trip with tent. Previously, we have tested the setup on our 5-day Belgium bikepacking trip, just to be sure. This is highly recommended, because so you quickly notice what you are missing, what can be optimized and what you actually do not need.

Frontbag: 1: tent, tent poles, air mattresses, pillows 2: sleeping bags

Front bag in front of the front bag: valuables, knives, charging cables, snacks, sunscreen, everything you need quickly and repeatedly

Fork bags: 1: chairs, 2: stove, pots (small and large), lighter, cutlery (mix of fork and spoon), food for dinner, oil, spices, cutting board

3: Snacks, Oatly, breakfast stuff, coffee powder, coffee filter.

Ass rockets: Clothes, normal and bike stuff, rain jackets.

Frame bag big: 3L water bag, camera Frame bag small: hygiene stuff, shampoo, towel

Frame bottom: spirit



 

The route




From Villach to Soca



Tag 1: (89,31km ; 1.423hm ; 6h13m)


We took the train from Düsseldorf to Munich. There we stayed overnight with my cousin, before it went on the next day to Villach. Our original start was actually planned from Ljubiljana, but the DB app warned us beforehand that we would not reach the train when changing in Villach. Since we only arrived in Villach in the evening and there was no train to Ljubljana that day, we were given two hotel rooms free of charge by the railroad. So it was clear: we start from Villach. Arrived in Villach, the train to Ljubljana was still there and waiting, but we already had the tickets for the hotel, so we quickly disappeared from the platform, somehow this action was really stupid ... well. The next morning we started the tour. On the first day we went through 3 countries on the Alpe Adria, a very popular bike tour (especially for the older generation).


When bikepacking it is often the case that you are pretty much alone on the road, but on the first day of our tour we had a feeling of community and we got to talk with some bike travelers. After 50km we were rewarded by a beautiful view of the mountains. We rode via Arnoldstein to Tarvisio (Italy), via Ratece (Slovenia) to Kransjka Gora.


Slowenien Bikepacking Tag 1
Slowenien Bikepacking Tag 1 - Zelenci Nature Reserve

On this day, the well-known Vrsic Pass was also waiting for us. It went first over a very challenging stony path up until we came to the road, where many motorcyclists were on the road. Many motivated us and cheered us on in our fight against the altitude difference, which was a nice feeling, especially because you often experience the opposite from cars, etc. After a few sweaty hours, we then arrived at the top. The view was fantastic and we played with the idea to just set up our tent up there. However, we decided against it. We rested a bit, met another road cyclist and then made our way down the valley to the campsite we had chosen. The descent was gorgeous and with every meter down it got warmer, so we had to take off our windbreakers quickly. At the bottom, we saw another campsite that we liked so much that we spent the first night there.



From Bovec to Kobarid


Tag 2: (42,78km; 724hm; 3h 11 min)


The second day started with announced thunderstorms, which then, as so often, did not come at all. In any case, not too much was planned for this day due to the weather forecast. We started in Bovec and our destination for this day was Kobarid.

A cute little town where the traces of the Giro d'italia could still be seen. Kobarid was part of the stage of the cycling race. This was evident from the pink bicycles that were placed all over the town. In addition, some garlands were still hanging on the roofs and slogans were sprayed on the streets.

The sky looked increasingly worse, but we decided to look at the city a little. In the late afternoon we checked into a wonderful hostel, which is run by a super nice couple. It was really familiar there and we felt very comfortable. In the evening it actually started to thunderstorm, so the hostel was totally worth it!





From Kobarid to Ajdovscina


Tag 3: (96,82km; 1.931hm; 7h 13min)


After we had spent the second day rather leisurely, this time almost 100km were on the plan. Somehow I had totally repressed that such a long day was ahead. We drove from Kobarid via Gorizia to Ajdovscina. The first climb came after only a few meters and was really beautiful. It wasn't too steep and since this road was also part of the Giro, there were again motivational slogans painted on the road everywhere. This somehow gives you a good feeling and it makes it twice as much fun. After about 1 1/2 hours we passed in a small town, which was also still richly decorated, as if the Giro had been yesterday.




The rest of the route was an up and down, with some very steep passages. Gorizia turned out to be very ugly, although I had somehow expected something else. The day dragged on. Sometime kruz before Ajdovscina I noticed that we already had almost 2000hm on the clock. And that's how my legs felt. Shortly before the finish we stood again in the middle of a marshy meadow.... Bikepacker halt :D

Ajdovscina was just as ugly: here we chose again a hostel, because the whole night rain was announced and our tent would probably not have endured... apart from the fact that you can then also not sleep. The hostel was also occupied by construction workers rather than that there were guests, but we could take our bikes to the room and wash clothes. Is also not bad ;)



From Ajdovscina toPostojna


Tag 4: (45,29km; 948hm; 3h33min)


The fourth day started with gray weather. We were in for a rainy day, but fortunately it only lasted for a few hours. Never not cycling!

Somehow the cities didn't really get more beautiful, but the landscape was imposing. In general, we also liked the more southern part of our tour less than the northern part.



It went for a long time slightly uphill through a forest, thereby wurdeman not quite so wet by the heavy rain. We planned a short stop with tea making break at the castle "Predjamski grad". People looked a bit funny when we unpacked our chairs and took out our stove. But who cares. After about 1h we took the main road to Postojna. In between we got lost with two other German motorcyclists on a path that was so muddy that everything was brown afterwards. Actually, the way was closed... but we thought with the bicycles we come already through. The construction worker could even German and let us pass. Postojna had wirklch GAR NOTHING to offer, except this great stalactite cave, in which thousands of tourists bustled. Since I had my days and it should rain again at night, we looked for a hostel and made ourselves comfortable there. The family was very hospitable and we were even allowed to cook in the kitchen!


From Postojna to Ljubljana


Tag 5: (75,60km; 914hm, 4h57min)


Our route went north again. We drove from Postojna on a great gravel road to Lake Zirknica, which was only visible as a real lake once a year, otherwise it was

it was more like a pond. It went beautifully through the forest and we met an old man on his tractor who was totally happy to see us and waved cheerfully. We continued on a very large, great bike path to Cerknica, further across fields until we saw the mountains in the distance again. The last part of the route was unfortunately along the main road towards Ljubljana. From the quiet to the hustle and bustle. We have often had such abrupt changes on our trips, since one is usually in nature on the road and the contrast to the urban areas is quite large. In Ljubljana we wrote to a few warmshower hosts, but unfortunately no one answered. By the way, we are also at warmshowers! If one of you is ever in Düsseldorf, feel free to write us :)


We first explored Ljubljana a bit and then checked into our hostel, because unfortunately there are no campsites or the like in such big cities. So slowly we really wondered why we even have a tent with us... well but that will change from now on :D In the evening we were in a fantastic vegan restaurant with traditional Slovenian cuisine. The portions were a bit small but still super tasty and something different.


In the evening we went to the sunset on the landmark of Ljubljana: the castle. This city is really only to recommend!








From Ljubjana to Velika Planina


Tag 6: (43,19km, 1.144hm, 3h9min)


We started the day comfortably, since the stage was not too long and we wanted to arrive due to our wild camping attempt, only in the evening. So we explored a little Ljubljana and were surprised by all the sporting events that took place there. The weather was great and we chilled a bit in the sun. The night before we had already decided (since we still had super much time) to take the Trans-Karavanke tour to spend more time in the mountains. From Ljubiljana we went by road to Kamnik, we made a supermarket stop at Lidl to have everything for our first wild camping

to have with us. Further we went over a curvy main road to Velika Planina. Once there, we noticed that we were the only ones at the gondola, so we got on immediately after buying the tickets. The gondola didn't have a single pole between the two stations and I was really scared to death in this thing. Eyes closed and through.

Once we reached the top, the next chairlift was already waiting for us. We had already inquired before, whether one can take bicycles there. For us a premiere! Although we had to remove all bags from the bikes, because the man from the chairlift was afraid that otherwise it breaks off :D

Well our bike dangled at the back of the lift: an attraction for all the other people in the chairlift. Arrived at the top are driven to a church and have enjoyed there first of all the view and waited until all the people were gone, who were there still made their hikes, etc.. A group of girls who just had bachelorette farewell came by the church and offered us a homemade schnapps. We bought one (it was part of the bride's challenge) and took a picture with them. After a little search, we found our spot for wild camping: we cooked and retreated into our tent before the wind. Wild camping is also forbidden in Slovenia, so please make sure that you don't camp in a meadow where there are cows etc. and don't leave any garbage behind! That is not possible at all.




From Velika Planina to Zgornje Jezersko


Tag 7: (67,95km, 1.497hm, 5h38min)


We drove on a great road steeply up the switchbacks, where we encountered a beautiful panoramic path after 2h ascent. On the way there, we met a young couple who came from Holland and were on the road with their little kids. As just typical Dutch, they were also only with Holland bikes on the road and struggled up the mountain. When we arrived at the top, there was a small restaurant, where we made a short break and with the Dutch couple afterwards something in the conversation came. The view was really beautiful, you had a unique view of a church and the mountains behind it. After some time we went on our way again. On this day we crossed another part of Austria. Steep climbs and long descents followed, alternating again and again. We were on the lookout for a campsite at our chosen destination. Somehow there wasn't really much else in this place except a lake and two campsites. At the first one, the owners or even a reception could not be found, only two Frenchmen who really did NOT understand a word were sitting in front of it, but could not help us a bit :D So we drove a few meters further to the other campsite: fate decided! This was really one of the BEST and cutest campsites, of the whole route. Family-run, animals everywhere, clean sanitary facilities, super designed also for tents with fireplace etc.. The pictures speak for themselves!






From Zgornje Jezersko toSpodnje Duplje

Tag 8: (64,35km, 1.647hm, 6h58min)


The absolutely most exhausting (mentally and physically) was day 8. From the heights and kilometers you think to yourself: is quite ok, but you consider here that all the most difficult gravel paths (actually mountain bike trails) were. It actually began with the fact that the whole day was thunderstorm danger and I, grade in the mountains, incredible fear of it. The paths were partly VERY steep and quite difficult to ride. We started after 10 minutes already in the rain, but fortunately after a quarter of an hour stopped again. It went steeply up on gravelly paths until we came across a hunter's hut, which was really super idyllic.

I had to push again and again because it was really getting pretty shaky. We knew beforehand that there would be a 'Hike-a-Bike' section on this leg. When we reached it, a sign warned us that you were only allowed to go through it between July and September. Well in a few days it was July, we thought, and passed the trail. It was the most exhausting eveeer. You really had to SEARCH for the path. It went through a swampy steep section of forest where you really had to carry your bike. The difficulty was that you yourself did not fall down the Abhing.I had to push again and again because it was really getting pretty shaky. We knew beforehand that there would be a 'Hike-a-Bike' section on this leg. When we reached it, a sign warned us that you were only allowed to go through it between July and September. Well in a few days it was July, we thought, and passed the trail. It was the most exhausting eveeer. You really had to SEARCH for the path. It went through a swampy steep section of forest where you really had to carry your bike. The difficulty was that you yourself did not fall down the slope.


With bike on the shoulder really a challenge! After all, this section went only 300m... for this we needed felt 2h. Well. At the top, it was again slightly downhill and suddenly the thunderstorm was over us. Or not? In the mountains it is not always so easy to recognize and estimate. So we quickly went downhill again and met only a few truck drivers and construction workers at the bottom. Likewise, there was a large sign taken down where advertising of two cabins could be seen. Jonas looked to see if they were open and still had sleeping places available. Looked good. So it went back up the mountain, still with my fear in the back of my head, whether a thunderstorm surprised us. It drew on and on and with every step uphill, I got more scared and I felt the adrenaline in my body. I wanted to turn around again and again and go back down, but that was no solution either. After 2h we came to a wide area, surrounded by mountains. Above and behind us black clouds.

In the open space, I really believed that I would be struck by lightning at any moment. I shook the fence, panic-stricken I turned around and saw this cheese hut, which we had seen below on the sign. I drove as fast as I could there and we reached just before the rain, the hut. Of course there was no thunderstorm. In the Alm was only an old couple that just ate dinner and said something in Slovenian. In general, we met on this stage really no one, except a few farmers. We waited there for the rain and then drove on to the next hut. Arrived there, we unfortunately found that there was no one there. So we continued to the next hut. The way there was also quite difficult and demanded the last bit of strength from both of us. Arrived at the hut, we met again many animals and a last steep climb up to the hut. I thought to myself 'never mind, come on, the last bit'. At the top, we found nothing more than a sign, which told us that the hut opened only in two days. That can not be really :D Full of frustration and shortly before crying cramp we took a deep breath: we had no choice but to continue for another 20km. Fortunately it went only downhill. The sun came out again and after about 30 minutes we drove through a super cute little village. The roads got better and better until we were on a beautiful road that went right along the creek. We were so happy and relieved that we were really high. All the bad, all the tension was blown away. It was so beautiful. In the sunset we drove on to the campsite, which we reached around 9 pm. Our latest arrival. The wildest day.



From Spodnje Duplje toLake Bohinj


Tag 9: (54,98km, 610hm, 3h10min)


The Trans-Karavanke extension is already finished. On this day we went to the lake 'Blei': quasi the landmark of Slovenia. We reached this already after a short distance over fields and hills. When we did the bikepacking tour to Lake Garda last summer, we were a bit surprised by the whole rush at Lake Garda. We thought it was about the same in Bled, but it turned out to be much quieter and more idyllic.


Lake Bled





We drove after a short coffee stop, along the turquoise blue water towards Lake Bohinj, where we wanted to meet Aaron, our warmshowers guest, in the evening. The way went over a huge, busy and noisy road. After some time, we were finally able to turn onto a bike path and thus rode over fields and quiet roads all the way to Lake Bohinj. Our chosen campsite was at the other end of the lake and offered a lot of forest area for our tent. We found a spot almost right on the water, so we also decided to cook there. It was one of the most beautiful evenings when Aaron joined us. The light was wonderful. The lake. The atmosphere. And all the other Germans on the campsite :D




From Lake Bohinj to Lake Bled


Tag 10: (47,89km, 838hm, 2h59min)


We decided, since we still had so much time, to take a quiet day to go swimming in the lake, among other things. So we drove back to Bled together with Aaron, spent the day there, swam in the lake and enjoyed the weather. There were not sooo many campsites in the region either. One that we had picked out was right on the lake. However, it was already everywhere on the website that they had no more places. Well, we tried anyway and tadaaaa: we still got places. In the evening Jonas and I wanted to have dinner together. Aaron stayed at the campsite and enjoyed the peace and quiet. We found a cutes restaurant with vegan burgers and planned our next days, because our plans had changed again :P






From Lake Bled to Villach


Tag 11: (67,08km, 970hm, 4h7min)


It was now goodbye Slovenia and hello Austria! Actually, we wanted to go home again from Villach. However, we still had so much time, as we were much too fast :D So we decided to drive to Salzburg.






Our way went first over the Wurzenpass (the side from Slovenia is much much more relaxed, the other side from Austria up is really very steep!) to Austria. We drove back to Villach on our old familiar outward route and again made a falafel stop, as we did on the outward journey. Afterwards we went to the campground where we met two other nice backpackers. So unspectacular this day came to an end.

By the way: I always find it funny how people stare at you when you arrive at the campsite with two bikes and bags. I think they are all interested, but stare they do anyway :D


From Villach to Bad Hofgastein


Tag 12: (94,36km, 984hm, 5h33min)

In the morning we chatted a bit with the backpackers, then packed all our stuff (that always takes longer than you think) and left. It was very hot that day. The path went right along the river and we encountered many e-bike riders, as this was a popular route all the way to Venice. First we had tailwind, then it changed and we had worst headwind. That was really no fun anymore.






We still had to get a train that day to take us to Bad Gastein, because there is a mountain in between and you can't get across any other way. So it was 'StemmindiePedale' and up we go the last 400hm! Somehow it was due to the heat and the aching butt, very exhausting. However, the view was outstanding and we managed to get the train. After a 10 minute train ride, we arrived in Bad Gastein. A very imposing and beautiful town, which was so impressive mainly because of the stark differences in altitude.

However, our campsite was in Bad Hofgastein. The departure there started somehow in the parking garage :D Well we came on a road and reached after 20 minutes a wonderful, luxurious campsite, where we had the meadow almost just for us.




From Bad Hofgastein to Salzburg


Tag 13: (104,72km, 578hm, 5h 21min)


Now we were on the Tauern cycle path, which still went along the river. Many e-bikers were on the road. The path was just flat and not really different. River bike paths halt. But we had a great view of the mountains and although it was very hot, it was not as exhausting as the day before. Arrived in Salzburg, we actually wanted to stay at a warmshowers host, but decided to stay at a campsite, because we were again much too early :D

In Salzburg there was just a marathon. Great how many sporting events we got to see! We bought something and drove on to the campsite. Arrived at the campsite (which was of course again 300hm higher), we met an old couple, which asked us very curious and offered us to cook our noodles. Of course we did not say no. So we let the evening end and became a little sad, because this was our last evening.






It was again such a great experience and we can really only recommend anyone and everyone to travel the world by bike. It is simply a completely different feeling and a completely different perception. You have ups and downs and feel above all the life. Grade as a couple welds one so a vacation again much more together. My feeling.


I hope you had fun reading! Have fun biking and feel free to link us on Instagram if you should follow the tour! @just.gocycling

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