Slovenia’s Julian Alps – a paradise for glamping
Adding the notion of ‘glamour’ to the word ‘camping’ results in a dream concept: ‘glamping’ – that is experiencing life outdoors without giving up luxury, with as little impact on the environment as possible. But if you open your eyes in Slovenia, the dream may just come true…
Legend says that, on the banks of the river Tolminka, in Slovenia’s Julian Alps, Dante Alighieri entered one of the countless caves surrounding the Tolmin Gorges. There he is supposed to have been stuck by the inspiration which led him to writing his masterpiece ‘Inferno.’ Either true or not, the story does not do justice to the overwhelming beauty of the area.
It may sometimes happen that the sharply cut ridges overshadowing the horizon everywhere you look and the steep ravines could be pretty scary for the feeble-hearted. Nevertheless, in that northwestern part of the country, known today as the Triglav National Park (TNP – one of the first natural reserves in Europe, 1924), Dante would have found more reasons of inspiration for the last part of his Divine Comedy trilogy, Paradisio.
In a realm with some 400 peaks over 2,000 meters, where the highest (Mount Triglav, the national symbol depicted on the Slovenian flag) rises as high as 2,864 meters, there’s no surprise to find deeply carved valleys and mesmerizing landscapes. But, far from being barren, the rugged terrain is mostly covered with dense beech or pine forests, where either hardened mountaineers or families with preschoolers can chose their most suitable from 7,000 kilometers of mountain paths.
Dotted with glacial lakes and picturesque farms, the national park has plenty of paragliding take-off sites and it is sliced by rapid streams ideal for rafting, kayaking, canoeing or the more peaceful… trout fishing. Or just for taking a refreshing bath after 2-3 days spent in the wilderness.
Anyway, both the adrenaline addict type of tourists and the wary city dwellers daring to step out of their comfort zones could hardly forget the unearthly emerald colour that rivers like Tolminka and Soča reflect. Few other watercourses in the world retain their turquoise colour throughout their entire length. As if they sprang from outside this world, maybe from… paradise.
An irrresistible charm even for the most exigent travellers
All tourists hold ‘paradisiac images’ in their hearts, but any personal top of travel memories could be easily challenged for those who book some nights at Chalets Nebesa (the latter being the word for heaven in Slovenian). The mini-resort is made up of four cottages, each with a front wall of glass, offering a panoramic view of the Julian Alps: the Soča valley below, snow-capped peaks at almost eye level, fluffy clouds just above the head and meadows clad in flower carperts all around.
Visitors can soak up the heavenly scenes while sipping a cup of coffee in the morning or even from some of the three (Finnish, aromatherapy and chromotherapy) saunas. During daytime, there are endless opportunities to explore the area by car, bicycle (provided for free by the owners) or on foot. At dusk, as the last sunrays melt beyond the ridges, deer draw near the chalets.Furnished in an elegant, but minimalistic contemporary style, the little houses allow the complete seclusion of their residents. Most often they are honeymooners. The closest village, Livek, is 2 km away in the valley and it takes a 10-minute drive to get there on a serpentine road.
There is typical Alpine breakfast (cheese, dried salami, butter, jams, yogurt) served and a supply of light food and drinks in each cabin. At no extra charges. Not even for the high quality Slovenian wines that tourists are free to choose from the establishment’s wine cellar. Exquisite meals from Hiša Franko, one of the most famous restaurants in Slovenia (situated some 7 km away in Kobarid), can be delivered to the cottages.
Houses grown in trees or erected on a river bed
Even closer to the ideal of glamping is Garden Village. Built in 2013 and situated on the northeastern tip of the TNP, near Lake Bled (one of the most famous tourist destinations in Slovenia), the ‘green resort’ lures outdoors and luxury devotees with several types of lodging, each with a peculiarity barely seen elsewhere by most visitors.
Classical apartments offer generous jacuzzis (for 2-4 people) in the living room. ‘Eco-conscious’ tents have shower cabins with transparent ceilings that can be retracted, so that people could wash under the starry sky. Plus, they are surrounded by vegetables and fruit trees that tourists can pick at will. From the tents on the river, guests can fish or cool their feet in the water. A great attraction of the complex are the cosy tree houses hanging 4-5 meters above the ground. They were very carefully designed, so that no branches were chopped and leaves can still grow inside the suspended cabins which can accommodate at least a couple.
Everything is made from local larch and other nature-friendly materials. This means that replacement is easy, but there’s a need for constant maintainance provided by some 30 employees who work on minimzing the impact on the environment.
The mini-resort has its own source of electricity (photocells), a well with drinkable water, heat pumps for warmth, charging stations for electric cars and a greenhouse where it produces its ‘bio’ food. Thus, it blends the past (a return to living closer to nature) with the future (the newest sustainable technologies).
One of the greatest attractions is the pool, a third of which is not accessible for swimmers as special plants grow there and naturally clean the water by oxygenation. Last, but by no means less ‘eco’ is the restaurant, where guests can eat on tables where real grass grows and they can pick really fresh herbs from nearby pots to season their food.
What else does it take for a paradise on earth?
In case the above described heavenly places needed a confirmation for unbelievers, their Tripadvisor.com and Booking.com pages are flooded with superlative ratings. Anyway, these two examples from the TNP are but mere glimpses of the abundant glamping offers of Slovenia.
Moreover, excellent tourist services, over half of the 2-million population speaking good English, an extensive network of state-of-the-art highways and impeccably clean landscapes also speak in favour of this country often described as ‘a mini-Europe in the heart of Europe.’
As for another sine-qua-non ingredient in any paradise, Slovenia faces no shortage of nice welcoming people either. It’s no wonder, since it is the only country in the world that bears the word ‘love’ in its name.