Unesco protected Idrija.. a jolly good day out
We often send our guests off for a day out in & around Idrija and if you knew how many things there were to do here, then you would probably want to go there too!
The whole town is Unesco protected and when you arrive it feels a bit like being inside a mountain bowl, as Idrija is a bit like an island, surrounded by rock from the outside.
There are several very pretty green, curvy routes from the Lodge to Idrija taking between 50-60 mins depending which way you go and Idrija is another one of those special places here where you have to pinch yourself to know you are in Slovenia.
For centuries, Idrija paid its way by mining in the second biggest mercury mine in the world. While the men were down the mine, the women developed a fantastic lace industry and you can still find their ornate products all over Slovenia.
The mine is now long closed of course, but we thoroughly recommend a tour down this huge constructed hole, particularly on a hot summer's day! Do not make the mistake to think that cos you have been down one or two or three of Slovenia's amazing caves then it is not worth going down a mine, as it is you who will miss out! The experience is completely different.. you get dressed up as a miner and your guide brings the mine to life so you see that this is not a story about dripstones and underground rivers, this is a human story and the very history of this pretty town itself.
There is a pretty good restaurant directly above the mine where you can get some lovely local food and here in this mini region you should absolutely try the unique pasta speciality that begins with Z, but we really cant spell or pronounce, but just ask and the locals will know what you mean!
Later you could go and visit a miner's house down in the town that is now a mini museum and see how the miner's families lived. As we said, the town of Idrija spread out as far as it could outside the mine and along the Idrija river, but the town is restricted to the space available in this bowl, so the houses were built thin and tall.. it reminds you a bit of Amsterdam and there is nowhere else like it in Slovenia!
The stunning, crystal clear Idrija river:
When visiting the mine you get a feeling of how important the river was here in Idrija for delivering the timbers from the forest to make the pit shafts and thus expand the mine. Anyone from Britain will feel an affinity with the guy who most helped the town control the river's power by building an IK Brunel-like dam at the top of the river high up in the forest, which could switch off the water flow and be turned on when the foresters wanted to transport trees to the mine.
Pretty much nobody goes up to see this masterpiece, but we recommend you do. Just go back out of the town and turn at the sign for "Bela Idrija", (the white Idrija river) then follow the narrow road up. You should stop by the first bridge to see Slovenia's "shortest river", which flows just 50 metres into the Idrija river.. but do walk up this little one.. at the end is a perfect bowl shape lake with steep cliff walls. The river might be short, but there is a 500 metre deep cavern running under the lake, which sadly accounted for one of Slovenia's leading divers.
Rejoin the road and go up through a little village until you reach a parking and camp area where there is a really great place to swim. This is one of the absolute best places in Slovenia to swim in a river.. it's so quiet, green and beautiful here and on a hot summers day the cold water is a tonic.
From here just continue up the stony forest track alongside the river for about 10 mins and you will find the antique dam spread across the river.. amazing. Maybe you could leave the car and just hike up & back?
So what else is there to do?
Actually, there are too many things to see in Idrija for just one day, so you will need to make choices. When you also consider that most of our guests will combine a day trip to Idrija with nearby Cerkno to find the secret hidden wartime hospital, (it's amazing and completely unmissable), then you might have even less time!
The river flows into the town and there is a canal bringing water to the mine. There is a really great forest path hike following this canal out of the town, (close to the sports centre and big green field) and you can walk along it ALL the way to a swing bridge that crosses the river by bridge and the little lake we mentioned above.
Close to the sports centre is a large square building that houses the biggest wooden water wheel in Europe.. you need to ask the local TIC, (Tourist info centre) to visit.
The mine has also opened other attractions associated with mining to visit and of course the town centre of Idrija is a pretty place to make a break.
Up on a golfball like hill, towering above the town is a vertigo inspiring church and you can see a little pilgrim's path that leads up to it with stone structures depicting Jesus's last journey to the cross.
On another hill we recommend you visit the castle, (yes of course Idrija has a castle.. this is Slovenia!), with a great museum downstairs full of every rock under the sun and upstairs is a large lace museum.
It doesn't stop there.. last but not least, just outside Idrija , deep in the forest is a very special hidden wartime printing press. During WW2 Slovenia was one of the only countries where a free newspaper was printed out of reach of the Nazis and this is a place even we haven't visited yet, but is high on the top of list of places to see!
So, now you know, Idrija, a jolly good day out!