E Biking around Planina Lake
Been wanting to do this special bike ride for a while now and like so many other secret places on our TO DO list, when we finally get to visit, we are totally blown away with how beautiful it all is and how much there is to see and explore on a morning bike ride around one of Green Slovenia's biggest Disappearing Lakes!
the Planina Disappearing Lake..
This is the closest big disappearing lake to the Lodge, just a 12 min drive or 30 mins on an E Bike along much of the very quiet old Roman road that connects the village of Planina with Predjama Castle and the our cute little village of Landol.
This old road is also a really handy and sensationally green & beautiful short cut from the Lodge to bypass the motorway section from Postojna on the way up to Ljubljana..
In the summer the Planina lake has usually disappeared, so you might never know that in the autumn huge amounts of water gush in to fill an area about 8km by 2km and create a lake bigger than lakes Bled and Bohinj put together and visible from that motorway we just mentioned!
No disappearing lake is the same.. they fill and empty very quickly from a variety of different sinkholes, rivers and caves..
One of the biggest bloopers you can make on your Green Slovenian hols is to think it is not worth exploring a disappearing lake in the summer, cos then you will be missing out on one of the best possible Green adventures you could do.. Searching for those caves and sinkholes on the surface of the lake.
You see these disappearing lakes become Green paradises in the summer, covered with lush grasses full of wildlife and flowers and usually completely surrounded by thick forest you might not have at home..
It is difficult to believe these massive meadows and mini valleys are covered in so much water.. Indeed, do not be surprised to find stone tracks and lots of trees on the lake surface too, just like in Planina where the trees and even the telegraph poles become part of the lake too for up to 7 months a year!
The Planina disappearing lake is mainly filled from an utterly fascinating river.. the River of 7 Names.. here it is called the Unica river, which thunders out of the Planina cave and floods this long Planina valley filling up to 150 sink holes or "Ponors" on the surface of the lake..
The crystal clear water then continues its journey and disappears underground for up to 2 to 5 days until it pops up again, 10km away to form another part of the River, known as the Ljublanica, which is EXACTLY the same river that flows through the centre of Ljubljana.. now how about that for some Green magic!
You will very probably be here in the summer, so it is very unlikely the lake will be full, but the Unic river will still be flowing and this will be one of those special Bikes ride into Green Paradise that you would never have found without being told about!
On this particular bike ride you get to see the entire length of the lake, but on the more beautiful "other" side, with some cracking viewpoints lakeside and high up too, where you can visualise the shape and size of the massive green space where the water goes..
But if you can get here on the edge of spring and summer or later, then you might just get to see one of the secret green wonders of European nature appear and full of water!!
DO NOT expect to find a nice simple flat circular path (like at Lake Bled) around the bigger disappearing lakes cos they go in and out of forests, up and down hills..
But unlike Bled, DO expect to see absolutely NOBODY around.. cos when exploring these unknown disappearing lakes you are far more likely to see wildlife than people..
For Planina lake, just like the nearby lake Cerknica, (25 mins from the Lodge and the biggest disappearing lake in Europe), the best option for Lodge guests is to explore these mega lakes by E Bike cos they are just too big to hike around, but do have networks of fantastic stone tracks around them, some zig zagging across the lakes, in and out of the forest and through very cute small villages.. so the perfect prescription for an amazing bike ride!
Of course you can always hike smaller sections of the bigger lakes, but there are plenty of other disappearing lakes around here that we recommend hiking around too.
If you were here for a month, we could give you a different disappearing lake to hike around every day!
And one thing you certainly cannot do is drive completely around either the Cerkinica or the Planina lake perimeters, so you will also get to see so much more by biking.
How to Do It All.. the Logistics..
There is a main road from Planina towards Logatec, going on to Ljubljana or Idrija that runs alongside the LENGTH of the Planina lake until the unpronounceabubble village of Grcarevec, where the the whole lake sinks underground and there are some really excellent lake viewpoints dotted along this main road.
BUT we are NOT gonna take you biking along this road.. it is a busy main road and the cars go very fast, so we are gonna tell you all about an infinetely better hidden track we found on the OTHER side of the lake..
This busy main road runs high above where the lake water can rise to and there are probably 6 or 7 mini car parks along this 7km stretch of road, some with picnic tables where you could stop and maybe see some sinkholes on the lake's surface, the snaking river Unica or even a full lake, depending on the time of year.
We were determined to find a way to explore the length of this lake on a bike safely, so we did a summer recce (reconnaissence) in the car, driving across the centre of the lake to the village of Laze on the other side and this is where we found where the bike path starts, so it was just a matter of time before went and did the full bike ride..
And when we did, we discovered this path leads all the way along the other side of the lake past the village of Jakovica and all the way to Grcaravec!
This would be our route logistics.. Lodge to Planina, across the lake to Laze to Jakovica to Grcaravec and then back.. and we will also tell you about a few other loops and ideas to make this half day into a full bike day out!
So now it is time to get your lycras on, fill your water bottle up and jump into the saddle as we are off on an E Bike ride around the lake..
the E Bike Ride..
OK, so as said, we are assuming you will be doing this bike ride in the summer when the lake is empty..
It was a cloudy, little misty, but pleasant October day when we leapt onto the fully charged E Bikes around 10am to do the half an hour ride from the Lodge to Planina, the strt of the lake..
We headed up the main road from the village towards Predjama castle, freewheeling down the long winding road towards the Postojna cave, but turning off the main road between Postojna cave and Predjama castle at the sign to Planina.
For the vast majority of people this would be a far more comfortable journey with an E Bike.. You see there are almost no extensive flat bits in the whole of Green Slovenia apart from the region close to Hungary and the promenades at the coast!
So E Bikes are absolutely perfect for exploring around here and whilst this particular ride IS possible on a regular mountain bike, most people will be out of puff just doing the first section to Planina cos of all the hills and afterall you are on holiday, not a training camp, so why not get all the pleasure and security out of cycling that an E Bike will give and really enjoy your day out in nature!
You still need to pedal an E Bike as hard as you want on the flat and uphill, but the E Bike motor just gives you that little extra push to help you fly up hills so for your legs will feel like a day out in the Netherlands, but the rest of your body will be enjoying the Green wonders of Slovenia!
The old road to Planina goes through a few quiet little villages across a hidden green valley with a wide green plateau and Planina Hill (Gora) at the end of it all..
Make sure you check out the thick forest to your right side sometime during this stretch to see what we call Dragon's teeth.. as he forest floor is absolutely littered with jagged white Karst rocks between the trees..
There is a fantastic curvy downhill section once you reach the village of Liplje and don't forget, you have to bike up this again on the way home!
It is a very pleasant bike ride to Planina and you might encounter one or two cars, but more likely to see another cyclist or a cow!
We have programmed this suggested Green adventure route into the Komoot ap, which is also loaded onto a phone you can take with you.. then once you get to Planina the route will take up into the old town and then down another little side road to the lakeside, avoiding the main road.
You will see that Planina village is built at the top of the lake shoreline and we will now head out into the middle of the lake onto a very quiet road to the village of Laze.
There is a little bridge on this road about halfway across that goes over the main Unica riverflow as it heads out into the lake and the height of this new concrete bridge will give you an idea of how much water floods under here to create the lake.
Without this bridge it would not be possible to cross the lake this direction to Laze when the water does come..
Even as you cycle on this very quiet road across the lake area, which serves just two villages, you will be hit by the vast green expanse around you, with green fields surrounding you in every direction until they reach the hills and mountains that border the lake.
You are in the middle of the lake..
You may spot little ponds of water dotted in the fields or patches of river that still have water in them. There will be cows and horses grazing on the lush grass and surprisingly many trees in every direction, even small forests.. that do indeed get half submerged by the water for about half a year.
Laze has a strange remote feel to it.. as if cut off from the rest of the world.. If you didn't know about this road and hadn't cycled across this disappearing lake you would never have found it!
From Laze there are two ways to go to the next much smaller village of Jakovica either hugging lakeside or using the power of your E Bike to help you whizz up the steep hill.
We always recommend to people exploring Green Slovenia to take a few little risks when the road splits into two or three and just have a bit of an extra hike or bike along tracks you might not yet know.. You will usually discover something green and amazing..
So armed with our E Bikes, we took the ridiculously steep hill on and were richly rewarded for this extra endeavour by finding a little sign for a tower.. (Stolp in Slovenian).. half way up!
We ditched the bikes behind a tree (you will never be far from a handy tree in Green Slovenia) and followed a short walking track into the forest that looped around the hill and could not believe our eyes when we found a brand new huge wooden tower in the middle of nowhere on top of the hill!
Quite bizarre, but a perfect location, as the views from up here are amazing.. You can see the entire length of the lake all the way back across to the town of Planina and panning right towards the end of the lake at Grcarevec.
We cannot empthasize enough how in the middle of nowhere this tower is, but what a perfect position it actually has.. the view from up here on the hillside is so amazing that we chose to include this route for the phone ap.
You get more info boards in English at the tower about wildlife and features of the lake.. and photos of the lake with water, so you get an idea of how it all looks.. really first class stuff for a visitor!
We recommend you then bike a bit more to the top of the hill and through Jakovica by the little church for even more amazing views from the fields above the lake.. You can get a really good feeling from up here how big the lake really is and beautiful views across to the opposite side and Planina mountain..
Then bike down through to the end of the small village rejoining the lakeside, getting that comforting feeling that you have now finally left civilisation for a wee while and now you can really get close and personal with the lake!
You will notice the grass verge at the side of the lake is built up metre or so to the track, which gives a good appreciation where the water from the full lake reaches..
You are indeed biking along the lake!
The stony lane is now the domain of bikers and local hikers. There are some benches and more info boards and by now you are reaching the end of the lake, so you can look out for some of those giant sinkholes not far from the track.
This part of the lake resembles a Giant's golf course and there is nothing to stop you parking up and walking out onto the massive meadow to inspect a few of these huge sinkholes!
You can stop anywhere along this track and divert out into the beautiful green fields and have a look.. there are also several stone tracks that lead out into the fields for the local farmers.
These are submerged and become part of the lake in the winter, but there is no reason why you could not explore a few and see where they head into the lake.. just remember your way back to the main track as ALL of these other routes will eventually peter out in the fields and meadows.
The lake seems like one giant oblong, but has wide dog legs at the start in Planina and here near the end after Jakovica, where a hidden part of the lake sweeps around the corner deep into the forest.
You will come to a sign post that signifies where this bend occurs and we recommend you follow the main lake left on to the village of Grcarevec..
Just before Grcarevec we found a building in a small field that looked like it was a bunker and we should take time out now to explain the significnce of something like that so you understand the divided history of this lake..
You see after WW1 Slovenia was split between Italy and the Kingdom of Yugoslavia and Planina was on the new border between the two, the village cut in half to accomodate the rich tourists who owned the local Haasberg castle so the line could be drawn keeping their castle in Italy!
Absolutely fascinating when you know and you can still see the big stone markers where the border used to be at the start of Planina and then also quite a distance off over the other side of the lake at the castle.. not a straight line at all!
Italy chose to heavily fortify the new border with a network of trenches and bunkers with many lasting to this day, so this bunker we think we found at the other end of the lake in Grcarevec might well be an old Yugoslavian bunker on the other side of the border!
There is not even a cafe in Grcaverec, but a bit more info on the lake at a little car park.. As we said earlier it is not sensible to cycle back to Planina on the main road, so it makes a lot of sense to bike back along the same track from Grcarevec to that wooden forest sign and then you have a big decision to make..
You could easily continue back to Jakovica and Laze, but we cannot recommend enough here now to follow this sign up into the forest and take the track that loops up high above this "extra" part of the lake!
Be prepared for a shock and a lot of adventure.. To start with the path is so steep with that slippery kinda gravel that means in places it is perfectly sensible to jump off the bike and push up the trickiest parts until you get to the top and some flatter track.
E Bikes are heavier than regular mountain bikes, but this is not a race and if you persevere for about ten mins or so, hopping on and off where required you will beat this hill and arrive in some of the spookiest, deepest, darkest Karst forest around!
The track is pretty much a hunters' track, so is ALWAYS a road that a 4x4 car can go along, which means it is more than possible for you to do this on your E Bike!
And so we did!
Boy, it was just so amazing being up here alone in the dense forest, littered with chunky white Karst rocks, but cycling along a track that looks like it had been built for biking!
The reason we were so determined to bike up here in the first place was we had seen on a map that there were several more caves in this corner of the lake that also acted as taps to fill the lake when the time came.. So we wanted to find some..
Even though we knew where the caves were on the map, being alone in the forest here in Green Slovenia feels a little like being in the jungle, so it is not quite so easy to pinpoint where a cave might be and we decided to bike on and return another time to find a cave or two on another trip.
But maybe finding one of these forest caves will be one of the main motivations for you to do the extra bike ride up here?
This forest detour worked out beautifully anyway.. we determindley followed this forest road on its twists and turns and finally popped out onto another very quiet but proper main road that lead directly to the village of Laze!
We could not believe our luck! Taking this epic forest loop of about 30 mins cycling, means you get to have a bit of deep forest adventure and skip a section of the lake track already seen..
The first tip we give guests going out hiking or biking anywhere here in Green paradise is rather than over focussing on where you are trying to get to, always remember your way back.. it does sound a bit conservative, but just wait till you see how the dense forest here looks like a European jungle..
Then if you do feel a bit lost you can always go back to a route you know rather than push too far and get completely lost.. there is no shame in that!
We completely understand you might be thinking, "ah this forest loop will be easy, just get google maps out and navigate to Laze", but it just does not work that way in the very best secret places here in Green Slovenia as there are always MULTIPLE different tracks in the forest to confuse you and many do not even appear on googlemaps..
Luckily for our guests we now have this route mapped easily for them to follow!
We noticed a liitle cafe in the top part of Laze which should be open in the summer for you and we biked down again to the lake and back along the road from Laze across the lake to Planina.
From here it is homeward bound for the half day adventure.. We will tell you about a few extra loops you could do below, but one certain detour on the way back from Planina to Landol is to turn off the road in the village of Studeno to join the St James pilgrim path!
You need to look out in the middle of the village for some yellow arrows painted onto the side of a lampost marking the track and in two shakes of a dragons tale you leave the village and are suddenly back in the middle of green countryside with a smile on your face, the sun on your back and stunning views of Mt Nanos ahead!
This ancient stone road will bring you all the way through the forest and a few more pretty villages to Predjama castle, with excellent cafes for maybe a final coffee, even some late lunch and maybe a castle visit too!
Wow, what a day! Sometimes you just need to pinch yourself when you realise what Green adventures are possible from here!
Other Combos & Suggestions for this Epic Bike Ride..
There are so many, multiple, multiple possibllities to bolt onto your half day ride here to the Planina lake and back, that it is so worth checking first what you can do and then making a bit of a plan.
Planina is a Green Hotspot of history, nature and quite frankly everything that is magic about Green Slovenia..
We totally get it if you think we are exaggerating when we say there are at least 2 or 3 full days of Green stuff to get up to JUST in and around Planina.. a place you had almost certainly not even heard of before you arrived here.. but there are!
It totally depends on what you might like to do or see as to what you should add into your Bike trip, but here is just a flavour of how your day could turn out after doing the E Bike lake loop..
It would be just bonkers to do this bike ride and then not pop over to see at least see the Planina cave, cos this is the massive green tap where most of the water for the lake comes from and it is kinda on the way back to the Lodge anyway.
You could do a little off road loop to the cave and then get another massive bonus to also see Rapunzel's tower, which is right next to the Planina cave, so with a simple, well constructed route you can see them both!
And there is a wonderful Planina cave short tour every day at 5.30pm, during the spring and summer months until Sep, with a local cave guide..
This is one of the best cave tours in Green Slovenia.. you might be lucky and see a baby dragon in the water and there might only be a handful of people on your tour,, so what a way to end your day!
We mentioned the Haasberg rennaissence castle earlier, where the owners crossed some bureaucrat's palm with silver to get the border of Italy and Yugoslavia conveniently positioned for them.. and although it is now a wreck, there is lots of fab exploring around the castle too..
You can see the marker from 1920 for the border and this is where the river Unica flows all year round, so a summer dip is also not out of the question.
From the castle, there are a couple of springs and the Skratovka cave to find, which are extra water sources for the Planina lake and you could also decide to bike up into the forest to find one of the most impressive of those Italian bunkers we mentioned..
Deep in the forest there is a massive sinkhole, maybe 70 metres deep that forms a crater and this was also incredibly on the border, so the Italian army built a network of tunnels and a huge bunker INSIDE the wall of the crater.
It is all there if you want to go find it and this is just another one of those amazing forest adventures that you can do in Green Slovenia! But make sure we give you a torch, just in case!
As we said there are huge dog legs at both ends of the lake and here at the Planina start of the lake there is another mini loop you could do to yet another forest river source for the lake and find some broken deserted water mills..
We probably have already, but we really don't want to overwhelm you with the choices, just help you realise that there is a lot more to Green Slovenia than even the very best guidebook can describe..
Well, one final twist for the route out to Planina at the very start of the bike ride is to suggest you DO NOT even go via that very quiet old Roman road, instead climb up past Predjama into the Dinaric hills deep into the forest behind Mt Lawrence, (1,019m)..
We found an amazing forest track all the way up here in yet more stunning Green Karst forest that pops out near the summit of Planina mountain, with ridiculously good views over that mini valley and a steep downhill back to that main road getting you to Planina.. WHAT a detour!
Only a week or so after doing this bike ride the autumn heavens opened, the rivers and caves filled and the Planina disappearing lake decided to appear, so if you want to see lots of other photos of what that looked like then, just check out Planina Disappearing Lake Appears..
The final thing to say is a reminder really, that whilst it does sound a bit crazy to go see a lake that isn't there, that is the magic of Green Slovenia..
Just trust us and do this Bike ride whenever you are here and you will see there is a lot more about this lake than simply having water in it.. You will see so much Green nature and flora & fauna at any time of the year and a have day out you will never forget..
There are plenty of photos on the info boards along the lake path and at the viewing tower that will help you to easily envisage how the lake looks full and don't forget, when the lake is full you wouldn't get the chance to find the numerous sink holes on the surface of the lake or see the winding route the river takes..
So it is all swings and roundabouts.. May or September, June or August.. Just rock up, jump on a bike, do it and you will see!