the 17 Disappearing Lakes of Pivka
Most visitors to Green Slovenia are surprised to find out we have the biggest disappearing lake in Europe at Cerknica, so hold onto your wig as we tell you there are lots & lots of others and even this 140km sq Green nature park with 17 Disappearing Lakes.. all mysteriously interconnected!
The first of these seventeen lakes is just 20 mins from the Lodge, near a little town called Pivka and it is also possible to bike or E Bike to some of them to have a good old explore around!
And don't worry about crowds.. you will most likely be on your own at any one of these 17 lakes.. your only company will be groups of trees, flowers and all sorts of wildlife..
These 17 lakes are just a stone's throw from the MAIN ROAD from Slovenia to Croatia, driven on by thousands and thousands of tourists every day.. all of them completely oblivious they are driving straight past one of Europe's wonders of nature!
What is a Disappearing Lake?
In brief, it is a magic trick of nature.. "Now you see it, now you don't". These lakes generally appear in the winter and then completely disappear in the summer, filling up and draining again over a matter of days!
It is all to do with the water table and the fact that half of Green Slovenia is covered in Karst rocky Green landscape, with so many caves, underground rivers and natural tunnels EVERYWHERE..
All of this underground rock network is interconnected by water.. Particularly when there is a lot of rain, these amazing lakes can very quickly fill up and just as quickly disappear.. a bit like magic!
So some of these photos will show winter scenes from 2022 with no water in the lakes and this is because we have had very little rain so far this winter!
So Slovenia's very special Karst leaky limestone landscape means these amazing disappearing lakes have been formed over millions of years and are a most peculiar secret of nature and quite a hidden secret from visitors too!
Disappearing Lakes are Magical Places for Nature too..
It is very unlikely you would get a chance to explore such a natural phenomenon in your own country.. So let's just have a think about what you are missing..
These lakes are pretty big and when covered in water in the winter, become magnets for hundreds of different bird species.. Then in the spring when the water recedes, the lake becomes a massive green succulent meadow, packed with flowers, bees and butterflies.
And that is just the start of it.. each lake MUST have at least one secret place where the water pours in from and also exits at a rapid pace too. Sometimes it is sinkholes, sometimes it seeps up through the ground or thunders out of a cave at the side of the lake.. sometimes one lake has all of these entry and exit points!
What this means for YOU, most likely here in the summer.. but that is your choice.. is that if you can find one of these amazing lakes, then you will get to explore a unique, massive green bowl full of flora and fauna with a personal quest to find the spot or spots where the water gets into and out of that particular lake.. with zero other people around.. now how about that for a secret Green mission!!
The 17 Disappearing Lakes of Pivka..
If all this green excitement hasn't blown your mind, then there are SEVENTEEN disappearing lakes of all shapes and sizes in the vicinity of Pivka and these are ALL interconnected to each other in the upper Pivka river basin along the same leaky limestone Karst underground rocky water table!
This means it is possible that if one lake is full today and it's neighbouring lake is empty, then by tomorrow the first lake can be completely empty with the next lake filled up!
And you can go hike & bike around one, two or seventeen of them if you want, depending what time you can devote to exploring these secret treasures..
More sensational facts about the 17 Disappearing Lakes of Pivka..
So these 17 lakes appear and disappear along a huge Green rocky area next to the Pivka river, which itself appears and disappears in places and finally flows into the world famous Postonja cave.
- the 17 lakes are dotted around a huge nature reserve area of 140 sq km!
- there are 687 different species of flora & fauna here..
- with some unique flower and shrimp species ONLY found here..
- the largest lake, PALSKO can reach the size of 200 football pitches..
- PETELINJSKO lake can hold water the longest for up to 9 months in a year..
- the lakes are usually named after the nearby villages so can have very tricky names!
When you finally arrive at one of these lakes for the first time it is usually quite easy to spot where the lake is, even if there is no water.. They are often surrounded by a forest of fir and pine trees with a clear open grassy meadow space in the middle, sometimes a circle, but always in the shape of a lake!
These are very special Green places indeed where huge meadows are transformed in a matter of days into massive lakes, bursting with life all around and we are so excited about all the nature you can find at the 17 Lakes that here are some more mini stats about the species here with 133 types of bird.. 20 different mammals.. 106 different butterflies..17 bigger reptiles.. AND 182 different plants!!
The Museum of the Pivka 17 Disappearing Lakes..
Slovenia actually has some really quite fantastic micro museums all over the place telling lots of different stories about massive battles, secret Partisan Forest hospitals, volcanoes and so many other things about Slovenia that we think you would find really interesting, if you only knew about them!
We call them all Micro Museums cos they are almost always quite small, cute and compact, a bit like Slovenia too, but most will take a maximum of an hour to get around and that is plenty enough time to digest the facts you really need, have a chat & some fun with a local and then get out into Green nature to explore!
We are delighted to tell you there is a FANTASTIC little micro museum close to the second biggest of the 17 Disappearing Lakes Petelinjsko in the village of Petelinja, which is about a 3km drive down a country road directly off the busy main road going through the little town of Pivka.
This ECO Museum of the 17 Seasonal Lakes of Pivka as it is called, is an absolute gold mine of info about the different Karst regions, the Pivka river AND a lot of goodies about the 17 different lakes. It has all the maps you will need and stories and is a really really fantastic place to begin your Disappearing Lake adventures!
It also has lots of photos of EVERY lake at different times of the year, so if you miss seeing water in the lakes this time, you can get some idea of the scale of them in the photos..
By the way, these lakes are also referred to as "seasonal" or "intermittent", but what true magician would hide the 7 of diamonds up his sleeve or make a rabbit appear and call the trick "intermittent"?!.. Of course they are DISAPPEARING lakes!
Downstairs the museeum exhibits are ALL about the 17 lakes & the Pivka basin nature park and upstairs is a treasure trove for nature lovers with tonnes of info about all the animals and flora & fauna you can find around the lakes.
There are lots of interactive games & tests and several little sand pits where kids can see the different animal paw prints that can be found in the park.. including bears and wolves!
It is a really fantastic museum, but just like a disappearing lake, it can be difficult to find.. for some very strange reason the road signs are only in Slovenian!
So if you are heading from the Lodge INTO PIVKA, direction Croatia, look out for a brown sign to turn left quite soon into the town and if you are travelling up through PIVKA direction Postojna, look out for the brown sign to turn right, not long after the main central roundabout.
You can avoid all of this unnecesary stress by just plugging PETELINJE into your navigation and then you should find the little side road to turn down..
When you consider that literally thousands and thousands of central Europeans are driving blindly to Croatia RIGHT PAST this sign, just a few km's to the museum and a wonderful "stretch of the legs", it is almost a crime that visitors are given no clue about what natural Green treasures they are completely missing! It is almost unbelievable!
We should also warn you that the museum is not always open.. usually at weekends and during the days in summer, but worth checking beforehand if you really want to get inside. There is a map of the 17 lakes outside the building and a car park, but this will not help you as much as going inside.
The Church high above the 17 Disappearing Lakes..
You can see Sv Troica or the Church of the Holy Trinity from the balconies at the Lodge!
This special church sits on top of a 1,106m mountain and is a focal point for many of the lakes with the little dot of the church and bell tower easy to spot on the skyline.
You could also hike up this mountain of course for great views down. It is a little rocky and very chilly on top, but the views are sensational.
We went up a few years ago and were admiring the view when we suddemly turned round and a huge glider went whizzing above our ears! It all happened too quick to even be scared, but we found out that this particular hill is a perfect spot in the mountain chain for gliders to aim at and turn!
So How can You go see these Lakes?
FIRSTY you need to know that lake in Slovenian is JEZERO, so look out for that word on the few signs, but there are more little red circles on trees and rocks to show you the way!
We are really lucky here at the Lodge to be so close to one of Europe's most fantastic Green Secret Nature Parks.
It is unbelievable that within just 15 mins, the landscape transforms from the rolling green mountains, pastures and forests around the Lodge into a much more rocky, pine tree covered wilderness paradise, surrounded by towering hills and mountains! All this despite the fact we are located in the same Green Karst mini region where the Mediterranean meets central Europe, just like Pivka..
You can zip on the main road to Pivka in less than 20 mins, but there is a lovely back route across to the lakes that goes through sleepy villages with pretty little churches and this is the way we would E Bike it too!
You will certainly not be able to see all 17 lakes in one day.. they are way too far apart and hidden away and some have no signs at all to help you, so you will need to choose which one/s to visit and we encourage you to spend time exploring a bit around each one to fully comprehend how the lake works. Maybe find where the water comes in or climb up the forest slopes to get a view down to that particular lake.
Having said that, it is perfectly possible to hike or bike, maybe better E bike between several of the lakes in one amazing day.. you will probably need a bit of help to do that efficiently and we are happy to help!
This is probabubbly the best intro lake of all the lakes and one you could find on your own.. Firstly get to the museum and park up, there is always somewhere to park.. have a look around and then it is possible to hike following reasonable signs ALL the way to the nearby Petelinjsko lake!
This is the 2nd largest lake and a very good starter lake to teach you all about disappearing lakes!
Your walk to the lake will take about 30-45 mins and starts from the back of the museum, next to the kid's playground, going uphill, but our estimate is a wildly unpredictable time, depending on your fitness and how much you will be diverting and exploring the amazing nature all around..
There are red circles and some wooden signs to show you where to turn. These stoney tracks are used by famers and people with horses to get to their landholdings, so a lot of the sides of the road are fenced off, but don't worry, you are allowed to walk all the way to the lake.
We already mentioned how wild, rocky, green and open the scenery is around here.. it is totally beautiful and the tracks are wonderful.
When the track starts going down a bit, you might get a sense that something is coming up. There is a marker on this track that shows where the water onced reached in a record year.. so to be clear, when you see this little yellow sign then this is where the shores of the lake once reached!
The marker is also a massive clue that you have reached the lake and the stone road now goes steeply down.
Of course it is not just the lakes that disappear here and so when a lake appears, the road will disappear! Depending on what time of year you are here and recent rainfall will decide whether you can walk out onto the lake or not!
The Petelinjsko lake is the LOWEST lake of the 17, so that means it will usuasually be the last one where the water clears away. So you have a pretty good chance of seeing some water here!
Chances are you will be here in the summer, so you will be able to walk all the way down the road and suddenly your senses will change and it feels a bit like you have popped out into a natural green bowl surrounded by forest and hills, like entering a massive outside auditorium!
You will be hit smack in the face by the absolute and complete silence here all around you.. it is just fantastic.
As you stand there in this disappearing lake micro climate, high above you can see St Trinity Church on the hill and you can be certain that some forest animals have smelled your scent and are watching you through the trees!
Wowtastic.. You have arrived and this is what it is all about..Pinch yourself and briefly imagine how many people are trudging around Lake Bled at this moment when you have one of the 17 Disappearing lakes of Pivka all to yourself..
The road turns into a grass tractor track and disappears into the distance and then behind the far tree line.. so now you can explore as much as you want!
E Bike to Peteljinsko Lake
We now have top of the range E Bikes to rent at the Lodge with enough juice collected from the Slovenian sunshine to get you out to the Lakes Museum and Peteljinsko lake in a wonderful self powered trip.
We have the route programmed in, all you need to do is rent the bikes and off you go for a disappearing lake adventure!
Palsko Disappearing Lake..
This is the biggest of the 17 lakes and easily found.. just off the centre of Palcje village. Park up and hike past the last little line of houses along a stone track to the lake.
There are hidden Italian bunkers to find and if you head up to the forested hills above the lake there is even a little church there with great views back down.
In the summer when these lakes are empty there are often brown reeds and silt left like a rim to giveyou a big clue as to where the shore of that particular lake last reached..
Here at Palcje it is also possible to find the caves and sinkholes where the water gushes into the lake.. just head for the start of the tree line towards the hills.
There is one large cave here and lots of little sinkholes where water seeps oit through the leaky limestone diretly at the forest edge, so you have to scramble a bit over branches and bushes to find them.. watch your footing as it can still be a bit damp here.. but we did say it will be a green adventure!
This meadow is massive and particularly in May is awash with fresh lush colour, pretty meadow flowers and so many butterflies floating around.. so we suggest you plan to spend at least half a day here and really explore!
Big and Little Drskovce Disappearing Lakes..
Firstly do not ask us how to even begin pronouncing this place, we had to check at least three times if we spelt the village name correctly, but the good news is there are 4 of the disappearing lakes on the outskirts of this village and we found a sensational 2-3 hr walk with stunning views that we just had to tell you about!
OK, so the village is called Drskovce and is not far from Pivka, but there is no parking where the path to the lakes begins, so we suggest that just after the little zebra crossing in the village you turn right and park up on a stony area next to a religious shrine and mext to a road that goes off to a camping site.
THERE IS NOT ONE SIGN OR EVEN A RED DOT HERE TO SHOW YOU WHERE THE 4 DISAPPEARING LAKES ARE.. NOT A SAUSAGE!
You will need your hiking boots.. Cross the road, carefully and hike off out of the village past a few farms.
The key to this hike is not to panic and think you need to go off the main tracks.. cos there are animal tracks everywhere and they are absolutely wonderful to explore, but the main tracks will lead you to the lakes, so if you do explore and go off tracka bit, just remember where the main tracks are to get back to!
We will tell you about a circle that leads you to 2 of these lakes, the Malo Drskovsko Jezero (the little one) and the Veliko Drskovsko Jezero (the big one)!
Out of the village the track soon crosses the Pivka river, (don't worry if there is no water, sometimes it goes underground here).. go over the bridge and immediately left and follow the track along the river and out into the trees.
You go up a hill a bit then soon get a left turn which you could immediately follow if you wanted to hike out to see the Golobina cave where prehistoric man lived 40,000 years ago. If so, go see the cave and then track back to this little road.
The path then goes up for a really splended view out over the bulk of the smaller lake.. Look carefully to see a cave in the far left corner of the meadow and this is a very special place where water flows out of and back into when the lake changes!
Maybe there will be cows in the fields, maybe not, but from up here you get a fantastic panorama view back across to the Lodge with Nanos mountain 1,313m, looking like a giant lizard streched across the western skyline.. very special!
We would certainly not be surprised if you did an extra little hike here down to the lake meadow floor to have a look at the cave and this is certainly a gret way to guage the scale of this "smaller" lake..
When you get down there you will see how long the lake goes back towards the trees and you should be able to have a fab view of a huge snow covered mountain peak.. This is Mt Sneznik at 1,796m the highest non Alpine mountain in Slovenia with the look of a white volcano, smouldering above these lakes!
Unless you have a detailed map, it is best to hike back to the safety of the track to follow it along a foresty bit with a little white Karst rock wall on the side to reach the main track again and a hike down to the big lake!
There is a turn off that leads down to the massive meadowand the road will kinda disappear into the lake or the field, but if there is no water, again you will get a strong feeling about the shape and structure of the lake and you can still see the grass track road road heading out into the distant tree line.
The trees mark the shore line of the lake and not far from where you enter the lake from the road on the right there are 2 easy to find sinkholes. The silence here is deafening and the sheer scale, beauty and seclusion of it all can just blow you away!
Even just this little adventure can rack up 3 hours of your time, especially if you explore off the tracks a bit, but the main stone track will lead you back towards the village and that river Pivka bridge crossing, but if you fancied more there are still two more disappearing lakes to find if you head off in the other directon along the river!
These are called Big and Little Zagorsko (after the next village along the Pivka road) and if you can find these then you have chalked off 4 of the 17 disappearing lakes in one day and will have a better idea of the scale of this completely unknown, unmarked and secret nature park!
More importantly, you will have had a fantastic solo walk in green nature.
Just by Car..
Most of the lakes are hidden away from the road, so you will need to hike to them, but some of the smaller ones are near side roads, so if you cannot hike far, then the lakes to aim for are just before the wonderful KALC tower..
You should also get a really good view of the Pivka river as it goes under the road bridge where we suggest you park and look over to the fields on the other side of the bridge..
The two lakes are the Kljunov Ribnik and the Veliki Dol (we will actually translate this one as the "Big Dipper") and from the bridge it is just a short drive further up the road to get to the wonder one of Slovenia's most beautiful towers.
Kalc tower was a castle with a decent Slovenian history and now it remains on the skyline as pretty as a picture and the perfect place to stop for a picnic as you explore the 17 disappearing lakes..
Some more Lake Legends and Stories..
One icy Christmas eve it is told a whole village was lost walking across one of the iced over disappearing lakes on the way to the next village for a church service.. The iced cracked and everyone was lost.
And there is a completely deserted village somewhere around these Disappearing Lakes for you to find and maybe this is the lost village?
We mentioned before that you can find so many different spieces of flora and fauna here in the 17 Lakes Park.. but a few of these species are unique to just here and others are very rare indeed..
Think about it.. the terrain here is pretty unique at the edge of the sunny warm Mediterranean and colder continental climates with masses of water very quickly flooding huge grasslands and then just as quickly leaving for half the year..
So this is great for certain species to thrive, such as frogs, butterflies and all sorts of special flowers!
Slovenia has long been the playground of rich Lords and evil Empires, who came here to play and then leave the mess behind..
In the later years of the Austro Hungarian empire AND then under Italian rule AND after that with the Socialist Yugoslav republic we are incredibly sad to have to tell you that the top part of this area of outstanding natural European beauty was used by their armies for practising and dropping bombs!
Even today, there is still a zone to the north of the 17 Lakes park, which actually includes the top Jeredovce lake in the chain, where UNBELIEVABLY the current Slovenian army still invite their chums to drive tanks around and drop bombs, destroying the environment!
This looks like a case of the little kid in the playground giving sweets to the big boys so they will be his buddies, but seriously.. there must be other more suitable places in the western hemisphere where they can do this?
So if you do hear bangs or low flying aircraft in the distance when exploring the 17 lakes, do not be alarmed or worried at all for your safety, as it is nowhere near you and fortunately the training takes place over a period of days then stops.. We hope it can stop forever here..
No way will we end on a sad note, as we sincerely hope your imagination has been captivated to maybe go and check out this beautiful secret region of 17 disappearing lakes and that the much bigger world army of hikers will win out in the end!
We will continue exploring these lakes individually and post new tips & photos of the lakes with water and without, but it has been a real pleasure to highlight the 17 Disappearing Lakes of Pivka to you..they do exist.. they are in Europe and there is nothing to stop you visiting them..