I expect my earliest memory of the Alps is a pretty common one. Some minutes after popping in the second VHS of the two-tape set, you see the von Trapp family hiking a pass between Austria and Switzerland. Gretl is clinging to her father’s neck with the rest of the von Trapp children tramping a few steps behind. They’re wearing knee socks and felt hats as they make their escape from the Nazis. There are wildflowers blooming beneath their feet and jagged mountains capped in snow. It’s an iconic scene in the film, and for me, it was unforgettable. I imagine that no matter how many times I go hiking in the Alps myself, the mountain range will always be inseparably linked to The Sound of Music.
Of course, the Alps are impressive in their own right. Spanning some 800km, the Alps are Europe’s largest mountain range. You can hike the Alps in eight different countries with each part of the range offering a distinct culture and landscape. You’ll find some of the best-known hikes in Europe in the Graian Alps – think Tour du Mont Blanc and the Mont Blanc summit – but if you want a slightly more rugged experience, the Julian Alps could just be a solid alternative to the Tour du Mont Blanc.
Thinking about planning your own trek in the Alps? Here’s why you should consider hiking in the Julian Alps, plus information on how to book huts, the best time to visit, whether you need a guide, and how to get there.
The Graian Alps vs the Julian Alps
Why hike in the Graian Alps?
Pros: The Graian Alps are where you’ll find the most notable hikes in the Alps. The 170km Tour du Mont Blanc is one of the world’s classic long-distance trails. Over the course of 12 days, you’ll circle the base of Mont Blanc, and pass through three countries. You can also summit Mont Blanc – the highest peak in Europe – and you’ll only need two days to do it on the Gouter Hut Route.
Cons: The Graian Alps are kind of the pinnacle of Alps hikes, but everyone knows it. More than 30,000 trekkers summit Mont Blanc each year. During high season, you can expect to pass other hikers every 15 minutes. The popularity also means prices are also higher. You’ll spend at least 70€+ per day on huts, board, etc.
Why hike in the Julian Alps?
Pros: The Julian Alps are shared by Slovenia and Italy. You can hike through the Julian Alps on a section of the Red Trail on the Via Alpina – a long-distance trail that starts Trieste and finishes in Monaco – but most hikes in the Julian Alps start in Triglav National Park. Triglav is gorgeous with glacial lakes, meadows, and Slovenia’s highest peak. Instead of fighting the crowds at Mont Blanc make the somewhat terrifying two-day ascent to Mount Triglav supported by via ferrata gear or navigate the Seven Lakes Valley.
Slovenians and their Balkan neighbors love Triglav, but there are still far fewer hikers in the Julian Alps than the Graian Alps. Triglav National Park has limited capacity for multi-day hikers, with no camping and just over 40 huts, which ensures a quieter experience than hikes in France or Italy. You can also hike Mount Triglav later in the season than Mont Blanc because of it’s lower altitude. Hiking in Slovenia costs roughly 40€ per day.
Cons: The drawbacks of trekking in the Julian Alps are that the high point of Mount Triglav is 2,864m, which pales in comparison to some of the other summits in the Alps (Mont Blanc is 4,810m). Another limitation of this hike is that Slovenia might be more expensive to reach on international flights.
How to Trek the Julian Alps
How to get to Triglav National Park: Slovenia is tiny! Bled is the nearest city to Triglav National Park, but you can get to Triglav National Park in a few hours from anywhere in Slovenia. There are frequent buses to Bled from Ljubljana’s airport, Ljubljana Jože Pučnik Airport (30 minutes), and Ljubljana (1.5 hours). Continue on to Bohinj as it’s the most common starting point for treks. From Bled, onward buses to Bohinj and respective towns depart hourly (30 minutes). All bus tickets cost between 3€-7€ per trip (Prices from 2018).
From Bohinj, you need to take a car or a shuttle to the trailhead on the morning of your trek. If you’re going without a car, Občina Bohinj offers a free shuttle during the summer (late June – late September) that runs 3 routes, including one from Senožeta Lot to Blato Meadow. You can also catch a free bus from Bohinj to Rudno Polije. Once you’ve figured out your route, ask in town about the best way to get to the trailhead. Worst case scenario, you can hitchhike or grab a taxi to start your hike.
How to Book Hut-to-Hut Hiking in Slovenia: Unless you have a working knowledge of Slovenian, making arrangements to trek in Triglav National Park can be tough. There are lots of routes through the park, some extra gear you’ll need to consider, and restrictions on camping that you’ll need to keep in mind. If you want some help figuring this part of your trip out, we wrote a whole post on booking hut-to-hut hiking in Slovenia.
Summiting Triglav: With a Guide or without a Guide? Most routes to the Triglav summit take 2-3 days. As always, going without a guide is cheaper. You’ll pay about €50 per day (including food, accommodation, and gear rental) if you do the trek on your own. Going with a guide costs closer to €100 per day. You won’t need to carry much since hikes in Triglav are hut-to-hut. You can purchase food and water along the way. Additionally, the trails are extraordinarily well marked with the red trail markers everywhere and regular signposts indicating travel times.
The climb to the summit can be a bit tricky and storms are quick to roll in. Hiring a guide is useful if you want guidance on the trail or help with logistics. That being said, if you’ve got some hiking experience, a park map, and the willingness to book your own trip, you can definitely manage this hike without a guide.
Best Time to Visit Triglav National Park: The best time to visit Triglav National park is between June – September when the snow has melted away, the flowers are in bloom, and most of the huts are open for booking. The drawback of visiting Triglav in the summer is that it seems all of Slovenia takes their summer vacation there. For slightly fewer crowds, you might consider going in the shoulder season. The park is open in winter, but snowstorms and ice are common. You ought to be experienced and well-prepared if you hike in winter.
Where to Stay in Bohinj & Bled
Need a place to stay before your trek? There are loads of hotels in Bohinj and Bled, so you’ll want to pick a spot that gets you close to the trailhead or near a free shuttle to ensure an early start. Here are a couple of good options
Guest House Alenka | Bohinj Bistrica makes an ideal base for hikers starting their trek from Rudno Polije as the free shuttle passes right through it. Guest House Alenka gets solid reviews for being cute and clean and is conveniently located. Double rooms start from €74.
Rooms Pekovec Bohinj | Stara Fuzina is another nice place to stay if you’re starting your hike from one of the park’s south entrances. Rooms Pekovec Bohinj has local character and is best enjoyed for its views across Lake Bohinj. Double rooms from $47.
Hostel Lukna | Mojstrana is your best place to stay the night if you’re starting your trek through the Vrata Valley. Hostel Lukna is one of the most charming accommodations in town with wooden furnishings and a little bit of cabin kitsch. Dorms from $14.
Traveling in Slovenia? You might also like:
- Where to Rent Gear for Triglav National Park
- How to Book Huts in Triglav National Park: A Step-by-Step Guide