The Pokljuka Gorge

The Pokljuka plateau is a treasure trove of natural wonders, the most striking of which is the Pokljuka Gorge. This nearly 2 km-long ravine is a remnant of the former stream which, at the end of the last Ice Age, during the melting of the glaciers, cut up to 50 metres deep into the limestone slopes above Radovna. The waters gradually retreated and the stream withdrew into the underground, leaving behind the largest dry-fossil gorge in Slovenia.

The Pokljuka Gorge features a variety of formidable Karst formations such as natural bridges, overhanging rock walls, and caves. Along the precipitous slopes of the gorge, in some places only several metres apart, overhanging rocks alternate with openings which the locals refer to as  “vrtci” (garden-plots). A unique man-made attraction are the wooden bridges that lead across the narrowest part of the gorge. They were built by inhabitants of Gorje in 1930, and named “The Galleries of Prince Andrew”.

The best known attraction of the area is the Pokljuka Hole: a short shaft-like traversable cave which boasts three natural windows and two entrances. It has long been used as an easy passage to the Pokljuka tunnels and the more level terrain of the mountain pastures of the Pokljuka plateau above.

The Pokljuka Gorge is not visited by crowds of tourists but it undoubtedly deserves utmost attention and admiration. It is protected as a natural monument within the Triglav National Park.

Starting point:
Arriving from the motorway Ljubljana-Jesenice via the Bled exit: at the only traffic lights in Bled turn right towards Pokljuka. Follow the main road and in the village of Zgornje Gorje look for the signpost for Zgornja Radovna/Mojstrana. At the signpost turn right, and then immediately left. You will see signs for Pokljuška soteska (“Pokljuka Gorge”). Drive on, through the quiet village of Krnica and across the meadow, to where the road ends. Park at the small parking lot there.

Description:
The path through the Pokljuka Gorge has been renovated recently. It is clearly marked and equipped with information panels. The round-trip route is shaped as the figure eight: one hikes up the base of the gorge, and on the return takes the path above its walls and through the Pokljuka Hole back to the starting point. Or if you prefer, you can return through the Gorge the same way you ascended.

From the parking lot, head uphill by the dry torrent-bed and soon you will find yourself surrounded by steep walls. At the first junction you can peek left into the ‘hidden valley’, where during the periods of heavy rain you might be surprised to see a hidden waterfall. Proceeding straight up the main path, you will reach a marked crossroad. To its right is the fascinating Pokljuka Hole (a big cave with hollow ceiling), through which you will return if you have decided to take the circular path. Continuing to the left, you will soon find yourself surrounded by steep high walls, able to admire the power of nature and feel the fragility of being human. The ravine becomes extremely narrow at times and then gets wider again.

Walk past the high natural bridge and you will come to the section which would otherwise be impassable, but was arranged as a tourist path with a gallery of wooden bridges (‘The Galleries of Prince Andrew’) back in 1930. Climb along the wooden steps and through a narrow passageway and you will come to the upper part of the Pokjuka Gorge.

From here on there are no more ‘significant’ sights, but it is nevertheless a very pleasant circular route to hike. Continue for another kilometre, until you reach the signpost directing you left towards Zatrnik. Ascend along the narrow path and stick to the left. You will come to a forest road where you turn left and descend towards the gorge. There you will reach the only natural passage across the Pokljuka Gorge (just above the wooden galleries). On the other side the trail ascends a little. Follow the signs that will guide you to Pokljuška luknja (The Pokljuka Hole), through which you will descend back into the gorge and continue to the starting point.

Warning: There is a danger of falling rocks, particularly after heavy rainfalls and in early spring. A helmet is highly advisable.

Basic information:
Duration: 1.5 h (the circular route outlined)
Distance: 4 km
Altitude: 200 m
Difficulty: easy; marked route