A few weeks ago Jaka surprised me with a little itinerary that he put together (the way to my heart!). It was a day trip from Ljubljana up into the Julian Alps. We explored around Lake Jasna (near Kranjska Gora), drove into Italy to see the Fusine Lakes, and ended the trip back in Slovenia with a hair-raising drive to Mangart’s Saddle on the highest road in Slovenia.
Most visitors come to Slovenia and visit Lake Bled and another handful might see Lake Bohinj but did you know that there are 321 lakes in the whole country. Slovenia is the roughly the size of Wales or New Jersey so that is a lot of bodies of water!
Below you can see the route we took to drive to the sights and then we took the same route home (because it is the fastest). The second map shows how close all of these sights are to one another but because they are in the Alps there is a bit more time to get from one place to another.
Lake Jasna | Jezero Jasna
Lake Jasna is unique for Slovenia because it is an artificial lake. Most lakes are glacial and some intermittent but not Jasna. It is a gravel flood plain that was filled with glacial water from Pišnica River. There are two parts of the lake but while I was visiting one was almost completely drained (photo below). I think this was due to not a lot of rain during this period because streams and rivers nearby were also very low.
When you approach Lake Jasna you are greeted by a statue of a Zlatorog, in English called a Goldhorn. Zlatorog is a fictitious animal based on the chamois, and there is a famous story and legend about him.
It said that his golden horns could unlock a treasure hidden in Triglav. In the story, two hunters attempted to capture Zlatorog to unlock the treasures to impress a girl. They shot him but once he began to bleed magical flowers bloomed. He ate one, healed, and ran off! The hunter blinded by his horns fell from the mountain.
Lake Jasna is perfect for swimming or a picnic. There are plenty of places to lounge around the lake. There is even a large wooden structure with different levels to jump from. Even though I wasn’t swimming while I visited this looked like a lot of fun.
Fusine Lakes | Laghi di Fusine
Fusine Lakes are located very close to where Italy, Slovenia, and Austria meet so there are different names for them. In Slovenia, they have many names but mainly referred to as Belopeška jezera or Mangartska jezera. The lakes previously belonged to Slovenia until 1918 when this area became Italy. In Austria, they refer to them as Weissenfelser Seen and in Italian Laghi di Fusine.
There are two lakes; Lago di Fusine Superiore and Lago di Fusine Inferiore or in English, Upper Fusine (Superiore) and Lower Fusine (Inferiore)
It is a very easy and beautiful drive to the lakes just 20 minutes from Kranjska Gora. When driving there you will approach Lower Fusine first and there is very limited parking here. If you continue down the road (~500m) you will meet Upper Fusine that has a large free parking lot and a restaurant.
There are a handful of trails in this area for the hikers. You can do an easy hike around Upper Fusine, hike between the lakes, and I read that there is a route from the lakes to the peak of Mangart which is quite intense.
Fusine Lakes are Alpine glacial lakes so the water will be very cold. I didn’t see anyone swimming while we were there. Most people were hiking around or like us at the restaurant enjoying the view.
At Lower Fusine there is a restaurant right on the lake called Belvedere. They have a limited menu but I can confirm ordering the salsicca con polenta is a good choice! The rest of the menu leaves something to be desired and it isn’t the fanciest place but the views!
More info about the lakes can be found here.
Hikes around the area can be found here.
Mangart is the 3rd highest mountain in Slovenia (2,679 m or 8,789 ft).
What is special about this mountain is the drive to the Mangrtsko sedlo (Mangart Saddle) at 2055 m. The road to the Mangart is the highest in Slovenia.
The road is an incredible feat of engineering and takes some skill to drive it.
It was built by the Italian military in 1938. It was built in 8 months by 500 people and after driving it you have a new appreciation for the road. It has 5 tunnels that are CARVED out of the rock. Yes, this is something I have never seen in all of my days driving around.
Below is a time lapse I took while driving towards Mangart. This is the road before the toll to show how narrow and curvy it is.
The road is very narrow and can fit one car in most places in spite of it being a two-way road. There are small sections that widen on one side to help the passing of traffic. Most of the traffic on this road are cyclists (just insane) and motorcycles but don’t get nervous if you see a car approach.
We encountered a handful of cars and everyone was very cautious, respectful, and patient. You need to be otherwise someone can get seriously hurt. Some sections of this road have no guardrail of any sort. Allow time to do this drive as it can take up to an hour. Yes, Google Maps claims it takes 22 minutes. No.
Once you start this drive you will encounter a ticket booth. You are required to pay 5€ to use the road. Remember to have cash available!
The road is closed at the Mangart Saddle Lounge. We were told it was because of snow but after some research, I’ve learned it has been closed since 2012 because of a rockfall. Do exercise extreme caution if hiking to the top of the saddle, and especially to the peak of Mangart. It is highly suggested to wear a helmet for this hike and it can be very challenging depending on the route.
Hiking at Mangart
Two routes from here go to the top of Mangart; the Italian and the Slovenian. The Slovenian route is for very advanced hikers and uses a via ferrata. If you don’t know what that is, don’t take that route. The Italian route is said to be easier and takes about 2-2.5 hours each way. Note that there are no huts at the top so bring your food!
For more information about the hike check out this site.
Mangart’s Saddle is also a popular spot for paragliding. Outdoor Galaxy is a company that runs trips there for tandem paragliding. I think it looks incredible but I might be a bit too scared to take the jump!
You cannot do this trip by bus as there are no routes for some sections. Trains will also only get you to Jesenice (Slovenia) or Tarvisio (Italy).
If you want to see these sights and you aren’t opposed to carpooling using Prevoz is the easiest and cheapest way to get around.
The best way to enjoy this trip is by car. It is a beautiful and memorable drive without very far distances. Do note that if you are driving to Italy and you are not from the European Union you will need an International Driver’s License.
Kranjska Gora – An Alpine resort town in Slovenia just a few kilometers from Lake Jasna. Check out the local tourism site to see what to do there!
Vršič Pass – If you plan to visit Lake Jasna but don’t want to go to Italy and Mangart drive the Vršič Pass which runs south from Lake Jasna and is an iconic pass through the Julian Alps and peaks at 1611 meters.
Bovec – Follow the Soča River south of Mangart to reach Bovec. A very popular place to do adventure sports (canyoning, white water rafting, hiking, mountain biking, etc.) Check out the local tourism site to learn more.
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Thank you so much (as always!) for taking the time to check out this article. I’d love to hear about your experiences traveling this route if you try it! -Helene