Postcards from Slovenia #27: Potočka Zijalka Cave

Potočka Zijalka cave is located high above the Alpine valley of Logarska Dolina, on the slopes of Mount Olševa at an altitude of 1,675 m (5,495 ft). It was first inhabited by humans around 35,000 years ago, and has provided shelter to humans and animals alike for millennia. As such, it makes a fascinating place to visit, and the perfect objective for a half-day’s hike setting off from the Rogar Tourist Farm at 1250m above sea level.

Reaching the Rogar Tourist Farm

Logar valley from above
Logarska Dolina from the Klemenči domačiji viewpoint

From the village of Solčava close to Logarska Dolina, there are two routes up the mountainside to the Rogar Tourist Farm. The shortest is that by Podolševa, taking the road which leads directly up the mountains from Solčava. The other side of the route, though longer, is worth taking for the stunning views it affords over Logarska Dolina. To reach Rogar by this route, head out of Solčava towards Logarska Dolina but don’t turn into the valley. Instead, pass below the dragon cave then follow the road as it winds steeply up towards the Klemenči domačiji viewpoint.

Don’t miss the views of Logarska Dolina from this vantage point. It is also worth taking a slight detour to the spring which is the source of natually sparkling, mineral-rich drinking water (signposted kisla voda). Just before you reach Rogar, you will past the scenically situated Church of the Holy Spirit (Cerkev Sveti Duh). I recommend driving this route in ascent and the direct route in descent. If you’re really tough (or have an electric bike) you could try cycling instead. Full route details are available on the website of the Solčava Panoramic Road.

Hiking to Potočka Zijalka

The Kamnik-Savinja Alps en route to Potočka Zijalka

You can stop for refreshments at Rogar before you start your walk and appreciate the stunning panorama. The route to the cave is signposted directly up the hillside from the farm, and the hiking time given as 1 hr 15 minutes. You can do it in less, or more, depending on your general level of fitness. It’s a steep hike, with a couple of exposed and slightly scrambly sections, but it is not technically difficult in good weather. In winter, you will need to be properly equipped. In summer, all you need is a sturdy pair of hiking shoes or boots.

The route is marked ‘The Bear Trail’ but don’t be alarmed: there are no bears living in this area in the present day. The bears referred to are the now-extinct cave bears whose ancient remains were discovered in the cave.

Visiting the Cave

Inside the cave looking out

Once you reach the cave, you can take in the stunning views of the Kamnik-Savinja Alps to the south before exploring the cave itself. It is 115 m (377 ft) long and of varying width, and easy to walk around inside. The floor is covered with a sticky kind of clay-mud, as water constantly seeps through to the cave floor from the ceiling.

Excavations in Potočka Zijalka from 1928-35 uncovered bones of many animals including cave bears, wolves, red foxes, lynx, and even the teeth of a musk-ox. Human artefacts discovered include many arrowheads, a fine bone needle, and a possible flute made out of a piece of bone (no-one knows for sure if the holes were made by a human or an animal). I found the experience of walking in the footsteps of our ancestors a humbling one.

Where to stay

Sunset from Rogar

Once you have completed your walk, you can rest your feet and enjoy the views from the Rogar Tourist Farm. It’s an enchanting place to stay overnight and watch the sunset over the mountains before the stars come out. There is not much light pollution here and you should be able to see the Milky Way stretching accross the sky. To avoid disappointment, book in advance, or you can stay at one of the other tourist farms dotted along the high Solčava road.

Check out my Instagram Page for more images from this walk, and stay tuned for more Postcards from Slovenia!

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