2 things NOT to miss in Slovenia: Logar Valley and kayaking under Mount Peca

by 14 Feb, 2021Slovenia

😷  COVID-19 NOTICE: You can check out the latest information about travel restrictions and bans in Slovenia due to the coronavirus HERE.

🗺️  ITINERARY: 
This destination is part of a 10-day itinerary in Slovenia, check it out HERE.

The Logar Valley (Logarska dolina) is a picturesque glacial valley in the Kamnik-Savinja Alps within 1h30 drive from Ljubljana, and therefore can be visited as part of a 1-day trip from the capital.

As someone living in Switzerland (I said it!), I have seen many Alpine valleys and I wasn’t particularly keen on visiting this one… we wanted to prioritise other type of places! But we thought (and you will understand why I say “thought”) that it was on our way to Mežica and there we went to the Logar Valley (and I don’t regret it despite having seen many valleys!!). 😅

The reason we wanted to go to Mežica so badly is because this little town next to the Austrian border is home to the most amazing mine we have ever visited. I can tell you this is a one-in-a-lifetime experience!

At Mežica, you will find one of the main entrances to the lead and zinc mine under Mount Peca (hence the name of the mine, Podzemlje Pece, which literally means “Peca Underground”). The mine was exploited for over 300 years and it’s currently open to visitors, but not in any way, they offer touring the mine by kayak or even bike (more below!). ⬇

You can also go to Mežica directly from Ljubljana avoiding the Kamnik-Savinja Alps (it takes 1h45), but we thought why would we do that? We love complicating our lives! Thus the idea to do the Logar Valley and Podzemlje Pece in two days… and TOTALLY WORTH IT.

Logar Valley (Slovenia)

🚘 Getting to the Logar Valley

But first things, first. How do you get to the lovely Logar Valley? As mentioned, by car, this valley is reasonably close from Ljubljana, within 1h30 drive through good roads and along very Slovenian towns (and by “very Slovenian towns” I mean small towns with a lot of charm, green grass, dispersed houses, and always a simple but outstanding church somewhere in the middle).

TIP: On your way to the Logar Valley, you can opt to do a 1h detour and visit the famous Velika Planina in the Kamnik-Savinja Alps, a herdsman settlement with several traditional huts in a karstified mountain plateau at an altitude of about 1’500-1’600 metres. It’s believed that the plateau has been inhabited since prehistoric times and some of the huts date back to the 16th century!

Note that the road to Velika Planina although well-maintained is not fully paved, and if you prefer to avoid it, you can take the cable car from the Kamniška Bistrica Valley (you will find all this in the map of recommendations below).

When reaching the Logar Valley by car, you might notice it’s located between two other valleys: Robanov Kot and Matkov Kot. To enter the Logar Valley itself by car you will have to pay an entrance fee of 7€/vehicule (a sort of toll if you want). This is not the case for those going there by bike or on foot. I have to say this is actually quite nice, because one of the things that makes this valley so unique and photogenic is the lack of cars, little construction and its large green flat area.

If you are going to the Logar Valley’s landmark (as we did, and most people do), the waterfall Rinka (Slap Rinka), you will have to drive until the end of the road; but do stop on the many different spots you will find along the road!

Most of the farms and huts in the Valley serve typical meals and refreshments. For instance, you can go to Planšarija Logarski Kot (map location) right before the Slap Rinka parking. This is the hut that gives the name to the valley! (or at least I believe so, as the valley is called after a “Logar Farm” and this hut was built by a farmer called Franc Logar, or maybe it’s all coincidence…).

Slap Rinka, Logar Valley, Slovenia

💦 Visiting Slap Rinka – Slovenia’s second tallest waterfall

When you arrive at the end of the scenic Logar Valley road, you will find a parking lot (how exciting!). You will need to hike up along an easy (and well marked) trail for about 15 min until you actually reach to see Slap Rinka, an impressive 90-metre high waterfall through which the Savinja River runs from its source. The waterfall elegantly stands out from the red-orangish rock in the background.

I know, I know, in the picture above, it doesn’t look that impressive… I find waterfalls hard to capture in pictures to be honest (not that I am talking as an experienced photographer either 😂). But I have to say that when reading about Slovenia and its marvelous waterfalls, I wasn’t that impressed by the photos, and then I visited a few, and understood why they were listed as a must-do! Seeing them through your own eyes is a completely different thing.

In front of Slap Rinka you will see a cabin (⬇), that’s actually the Orlovo gnezdo, a charming bar in the middle of nowhere that offers snacks and refreshments.

Views from a cabin near Rinka Waterfall

🏔️ Hiking to Okrešelj (1h)

From Slap Rinka, you can also undertake a short hike to Okrešelj (you will need to follow the sign below!).

Sign to Okrešelj from Slap Rinka

I highly recommend this as it will allow you to see a bit of the Kamnik-Savinja Alps landscape; and this is a big reward for little effort (there is only 230 metres of altitude difference from the waterfall viewpoint).

So worth it that I did hike with a dress (🙈), the first time in my life! At least I had mountain shoes (yes, my looks during summer holidays can be described as motley). Now seriously, although I love hiking, I thought our plans for the day would not involve hiking, then in the parking lot I saw there was a short trail to reach Slap Rinka and I decided to put my mountain shoes on without changing clothes (that explains the combination). And then, I was carried away by the beauty of the place and there we went to Okrešelj wearing my dress!

The hike takes you to the hut Frischaufov dom na Okrešlju (map location) at 1380 m and the path is generally well marked with signs indicating Okrešelj, Frischaufov dom na Okrešlju or Koča na Okrešlju.

Crossing in hike to Okrešelj

On the way, you will cross the top of Slap Rinka, which is quite nice to see how the river has eroded the rock until reaching the waterfall cliff.

Stairs in hike to Okrešelj

The trail also takes you to the source of the Savinja River, where you can get some pure fresh water, to finally arrive after a walk in the forest to the hut Frischaufov dom na Okrešlju.

Cabin at Okrešelj (Slovenia)

The hut was closed when we went (I think it was unfortunately burned down a few years ago, but there is a small bar close to it offering drinks) and the main attraction of this place is of course Okrešelj, a breathtaking glacial cirque offering beautiful views of the Kamnik-Savinja Alps:

Okrešelj (glacial cirque in Slovenia)

If you have more time in the Logar Valley, you can do longer hikes from Okrešelj to some of the nearby mountain peaks!

Just to let you know how nice Slovenian people are, we actually started the hike without knowing where it would take us. We first thought it would allow us to see the waterfall from the top (I wrongly guessed that was the meaning of the word “Okrešelj” on the signs 😅). But then, a group of Slovenians saw us stop, asked us where we were from and insisted we needed to continue a bit further (despite my looks), saying that the path would take us somewhere beautiful after a “few” minutes of walking. They were referring to the true Okrešelj obviously, and we were so grateful they urged us to go there!

💪 Getting to Mežica

If after the Logar Valley , you are convinced to go to Mežica to visit the lead and zinc mine under Mount Peca as we were, you need to know something. A large chunk of the mountain road connecting these two places is unpaved! 🙈

We survived it (or rather, our car survived it) and the shortcut was totally worth it, so please don’t be put off by this (believe me, our car is not precisely a full-performing machine). You just need to know ahead and mentalise yourself, and expect a stink eye from the driver if it’s not you! Plus the road will take you to small country settlements and, even if not paved, it’s well maintained with crash barriers and no potholes.

If you like complicating your life more than we do, you can also do the Solčava panoramic road on your way to Mežica. Instead of doing this itinerary, you would do this other one.

🚣 Kayaking (or biking) inside a mine in Podzemlje Pece

Mine shaft in Podzemlje Pece / Peca Underground
Mine kayaking in Podzemlje Pece / Peca Underground (Slovenia)
Mine kayak in Podzemlje Pece / Peca Underground
Mine tunnel in Podzemlje Pece / Peca Underground

If you lost me after the indications above, the reason why we wanted to get to Mežica is to do a tour of Podzemlje Pece (map location), the mine under Mount Peca! This is a lead and zinc mine that was exploited for over 300 years (from 1665 to 1994) and its business model has been revisited by offering now incredible tours by kayak or mountain bike. You can also simply take the miners’ train to the inside of the mine and do a walking tour.

I am not exaggerating if I say this was one of our highlights during our trip in Slovenia! And it wasn’t so much about the fact of kayaking in a mine (we chose that option 😉), but rather of learning about the history of such a rich mine, experiencing it and appreciating its size and endless tunnels. And the cherry on top of the cake… it’s not an expensive experience compared to other things out there!

Just doing the train tour costs 12€/person, the bike tour is minimum 2 people and costs 30€/person (if you rent a bike there, it’s 10€/bicycle on top), and the kayak tour (which includes the train experience and a miner’s meal) is also minimum 2 people and costs 47€/person. In addition, for the kayak tour, groups consist of maximum 10 people, which keeps it nice and very engaging! And I have to say our tour guide was just hilarious which made the whole experience even better!!

👉 IMPORTANT: Both bike and kayak tours need to be booked in advance by prior arrangement via email or phone. You can check contact details and their latest schedule here (at the time we went, the kayak tour was only available at 9 a.m. or 11 a.m. and lasted about 4h including lunch).

The mine’s temperature is about 10°C, so wear warm clothes (best to have a few layers in case you will be very warm when wearing the neoprene if kayaking), and of course go with comfortable shoes.

Any tour starts from the mine’s info centre (see direction on the map of recommendations). For the kayak tour, you will have to take the miners’ train for 3’5 km through the Glančnik tunnel:
Mine entrance in Podzemlje Pece / Peca Underground

The train journey is quite a bumpy ride (to say the least), with no light at all and you will have to bend yourself over in order to fit in this authentic train. But no worries, you will be given a helmet and flashlight before embarking!

Once you get out of the tiny train, you are already inside the mine, and for the kayak tour, you will have to go down a mine shaft for 95 metres until you reach the first level flooded in water (about 700 metres underneath Mount Peca). There, you have a dressing room where you can leave the stuff you don’t want to take with you and you will be provided with the necessary equipment for kayaking: neoprene boots and a suit, a life jacket, and protective gloves.

Now, the question is why the heck there is water inside a mine? Throughout its 300 years of history, the more exploited the mine was, the deeper the tunnels were made (there is about 800 km of tunnels dug in this mine through different levels of depth; and if I recall it right, there are about 13 levels!). The lower levels are naturally flooded by underground water.

Back in time, this water had to be drained for miners to extract the minerals. At some point, the energy needed to drain the water was costlier than the benefits obtained from the lead and zinc after their prices dropped in the market, and thus this was one of the reasons why the mine closed in the 90s. This means water is no longer drained, leaving the lower levels of the mine flooded with pristine water lakes that can be explored in a kayak!

Once you are all equipped, you will go to the water, use your flashlight wisely! It will be the only light you have down there. You will be allocated a kayak for 2-3 people, and you will be left alone to explore the submerged excavation sites. There isn’t much room for you to get lost or explore extensively in the sense that there are certain ways you cannot go! So do not worry, you won’t get lost in the dark. After an hour, the group meets up and goes through the last bit together, as it includes a narrower (and fun) passage. 

Mine level in Podzemlje Pece / Peca Underground

When the kayak experience is over, you will continue the tour walking up to another level and crossing more tunnels and old working sites. Here, the guide explains how the tunnels and levels were made, and what were the different tools, machines and techniques used by the miners. And the last and yummy bit of this adventure is the miner’s lunch (you will be hungry by then, believe me!), where you will be invited to have drinks and local cold meat and cheese together with the famous Slovenian pumpkin seed oil (bucno olje)again, bucno olje is super tasty but smells foul! After eating, you then return to the surface with the train again.

There is one last thing I think it’s important to discuss: this tour might look like it’s not the best thing to do if you are claustrophobic. It’s not my case, but I easily get overwhelmed by closed spaces and the night before the tour I started overthinking it… However, even after the narrow train ride and knowing we were hundreds of metres underground, I didn’t feel claustrophobic at all! Therefore, unless you have a strong claustrophobia, I think this is very feasible. In addition, the guide checked on each of us to see whether we had claustrophobia and said if that was the case, he has some techniques (I wonder what these are now…).

If you are considering the bike tour, my understanding is that you don’t take the train, but rather ride up to another mine entrance. Once there, you would go through the mine for 5 km along a bumpy path (given there used to be railway sleepers) until reaching an exit on the other side of the valley. If you are an experienced biker though, the mine also offers the Black Hole Trail. Access to this special trail costs a bit more (50€/person) and is famous among mountain bikers for being very technical. However, the experience looks amazing (H and I are not at that level yet) and the trail goes across five levels of the mine descending ~150 metres in total. Leaving you a teaser of it… ⬇

[They had better cameras than us 😂 ]

Whatever tour you do, before you leave the mine complex, we highly recommend that you visit the small museum, next to the info centre. The museum exhibits a few maps of the mine confirming its magnitude and you can also appreciate how the tunnels were dug as the mine was exploited. You can see some of the tools used to measure the mine centuries ago and a collection of minerals from the mine, including ores and scarce minerals such as the bright and noteworthy wulfenite.

🛏 Where to stay in Logar Valley and/or Mežica

Now, if you are doing like we did (go to Logar Valley and then Mežica, or vice versa), the question is where to stay for the night.

The Logar Valley and its region has charming tourist farms (turistična kmetija) that you can identify on Google Maps and book directly with them via their website (if available) or email/phone. We checked a few ones and prices usually ranged from 50-100€/night for two people.

You can also check out Hotel Plesnik (map location), this is THE hotel if you want to stay in the Logar Valley itself. Many of the pictures I saw of the Valley before we went, were taken from this hotel showing its outdoor swimming pool and jacuzzi with great views over the Valley. It looks very luxurious, but it’s actually reasonably priced despite its reputation! A double room costs around 150€/night, although amount may vary depending on the season, etc. It was unfortunately fully booked when we were looking for accommodation! 💥

By the time we were booking something (a few days before arriving…), and knowing we would need to get up early for our kayak tour (we are heavy sleepers and not morning people…), we thought it would make more sense to book something in Mežica! There we found this place: BikeSki B&B (map location) – a very simple but cozy and lively guest house also offering mountain bike rental, biking and skiing tours. For a double room in high season, we paid 63€/night.

If you are staying at Mežica, not it’s a very small town and we only found one place to have dinner: Gostilna Krebs (map location) – but what a place! The woman running the gostilna was lovely and we managed to understand each other even if things were in German and not in English (Mežica is right next to the Austrian border) and their pizzas are just A-MA-ZING and prices very, very reasonable.

⏭️ What to visit next? Bled!

Landscape view of the church island in Bled

Our next destination after this adventure was Bled, Slovenia’s famous town and glacial lake with a church island in the middle! I am saying this here in case you would like to follow our suggested itinerary, so that you know how best to go from Mežica to Bled. And that’s through Austria!

You can obviously check Google Maps on your own, ha! But a couple of things you might want to consider: we were recommended to take the road B85 until Ferlach, along which you will appreciate the views of the Austrian-Slovene Karawanks mountain range; and at the beginning of the journey, you can stop and have a quick swim in a small lake in Austria, Sonnegger See – this was totally improvised and a lot of fun!

Sonnegger See (Austria)

📍Map of recommendations for this region

Did you find the above useful or have other suggestions for this region?

If you like what you read, please feel free to share this post, leave a comment and/or find out more about travelling in Slovenia or neighbouring Italy 👇👇👇👇👇

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