When our bus rushes over green fields, leaving Ljubljana’s lively streets behind, I look out the window towards high peaks of the Kamnik-Savinja Alps, where we’re headed. The warm sun has already coloured the mountains in those vibrant early morning colours, yet the scenery still looks so peaceful and quiet. After 45 minutes, I’m off the bus, catching a 5-minute ride by cable car some 1,000 metres up a mountain, and then out into a completely different world.
Welcome to a unique Alpine pasture near Ljubljana: Velika Planina
Vast plains underneath a playground of jagged peaks, slow paths, unique oval huts for shepherds, friendly people and good food. Velika Planina, arguably the biggest and oldest shepherds’ settlement in Europe that remains active up to date, is a hiking paradise for families, photographers, and those who seek a relaxing day out in unspoilt nature.
The shepherds’ settlement consists of enchanting 64 wooden oval huts, which have kept a unique Alpine architecture following a complete reconstruction after the whole settlement burnt to the ground in WWII.
Dairy products of Velika Planina
At its core, Velika Planina is a vast Alpine pasture with one of Europe’s last remaining high mountain shepherds’ villages still producing milk products by following traditional Alpine ways. Every summer, from June to September, shepherds return to their Velika Planina homes to lead a simple life taking their herds to a pasture every morning and preparing dairy products for the rest of the day. Beside milk, sour milk, cheese, and cream, a few shepherds still make special romantic cheese called Trnič, historically given to the loved one as a token of affection.
Foodies alert: if you’re into organic, high-mountain dairy products, come to Velika Planina hungry! There are plenty of options to try them out, and possibly buy cheese from various shepherds as each is known for their own unique flavour.
If you’re into nature and would love to go hiking with kids, no worries, it’s an easy trail. In fact, the sweating up part can be completely avoided as you can arrive at the highest peak of Velika Planina by a chairlift. From there, it’s merely a walk on the largest Alpine plateau in Slovenia, breathing clean air, eating healthy traditional mountain food, posing with friendly cows, and enjoying an active day out. A tip for the curious: visit the Preskar Museum, located in the shepherds’ settlement, and listen to historic stories about wolves and bears and the shepherds’ smart tricks to protect their herds from the beasts.
Highlights throughout the year
If you’ve got cows, pleasant walks, hiking and mountain biking in summer, with autumn come vibrant changing colours and spectacular sunrises with mists and fog rolling far below sunlit mountains. In winter, Velika Planina is a place for snowshoeing, sledding (night sledding is supposed to be awesome!) and even skiing for families. And spring? Imagine tranquil curvy plains coloured violet slowly disappearing into a playground of snow-capped peaks. That’s the season with blooming crocuses which also happens to be my favourite.
How to arrive at Velika Planina
If you love sunrises and sunsets, then either rent a car or spend a night at the top of Velika Planina in one of the little wooden houses in the tourist settlement. Otherwise, take a bus from Ljubljana to Kamnik (timetable), then from Kamnik to Kamniška Bistrica (timetable) and get off at the lower car-cable station, and finally take the cable car up to Velika Planina (timetable). Enjoy!