We were looking for a day trip to explore Slovenia’s beautiful country side. Due to the bad weather, we were a bit reluctant to visit the seaside so we settled on seeing one of the famous caves. This spontaneous decision turned into one of the most exciting parts of our trip. Having seen Harrison Cave in Barbados not too long ago, I didn’t have high expectations. One cave isn’t much different from the next, is it? Well, I couldn’t have been more wrong. The Škojcan Caves are defined by the Reka (yes the river’s name is literally river in Slovene) rather than the sea. As part of the tour you also get to see this mighty river which carved the underground canyon.
Walking to Erebor
Getting there is not as easy as you think. We hopped on a train to Divača. The trip did allow us a nice view of beautiful landscape covered in mist. The moment we arrived in Divača however, it started pouring down again. By sheer luck we managed to catch the last shuttle bus which drove us to the Caves. We were particularly grateful not only because of the pouring rain but by one review we had read online about how impossible it was to find the rather long way from the train station to the caves by foot. The visitor centre includes a little café so we had a milkshake and smoothie, while waiting for the next tour to start.
Into the Misty Mountain
The first part of the tour is the walk to the entrance which is a concrete door into the mountain. After the low ceiling tunnel (requires a bit of ducking from non-Hobbits) you are taken ever further down into the caves. The path is narrow and at times you have to be mindful not to touch any formations. This adds to the experience of a cave explorer or a dwarf walking down to Moria.
Every now and then they stop to give you some geological and historical background. As there is so much to cover you are whisked from one amazing formation to the next. The Paradise, The Silent Hall, the Giant (a particular formation which reminded me of the troll king) – we don’t want to give too much away but these will make you go ‘wow’.
When you walk into the Mines Moria…
After the Silent Hall you reach the next chamber. This one is marked by a downwards path illuminated by lights which look like torches from afar. Sam and I immediately had the same thought in our minds. We have found the real-life Moria. Feeling like dwarves on their way to work to find precious jewleslmetalsstonesöö we followed the path down deeper into the cave. Beneath us was the roaring of the mighty Reka. From up here she may seem like a dainty river. However, the tour guide had showed us in the entrance area the marks of the highest floods which caused her to overflow all these paths we were walking along now.
…and turn up in Rivendell
You end the tour through a natural exit. As your eyes adjust to the brightness, you are amazed by the next beautiful piece of nature. It is a similar form of amazement as the first time you see Rivendell. From the cave entrance winds a path up the gorge, past stunning scenery. Unfortunately, we couldn’t dwell as we had to rush back while there was still daylight. As they were no more shuttles for today, we decided to trust our luck and take the path through the forest back to town. The ladies at the info centre were so lovely as to explain the path and give us a brochure.
Through the forest back to the Shire
The path led us past gorgeous views we only glanced at. The sun was setting and we hadn’t realized how much this was a path through nature. There weren’t any other people around. There was only the narrow path through the forest.
“This is the most I’ve ever felt like a Hobbit,” Sam joked. Although I’m used to taking walks in forests I had to agree. Speed-walking through a forest in a foreign at sunset is the closest we’d ever come to that experience. Luckily there was no signs of Orcs or Nazguls. Soon enough we did reach civilization. We walked through the back streets of the village, past the church and some farms under the curious looks of the locals. Finally, we reached the main street.
We only had to cross over a major highway and we had made it, just in time for our train which just so happened to look a little like the Hogwarts Express. There were even many students with suitcases, back for school after a weekend at home, we assumed.
Back in Ljubljana we got a delicious dinner and Prekmurska gibanica, a traditional layered pastry which is served hot. Its many layers blend the flavours of poppy seeds, walnuts, apples, raisins and quark.
How to get there: Take a train to Divača. From there you can take the free shuttle, get a taxi or take the 3km long walk to the caves.
Why go: Even if you are not a fan of the Lord of the Rings world you will be stunned by the magnificent landscapes.
Best time to visit: Although the rain won’t matter inside the cave if you want to enjoy the beautiful landscape around, it’s best to pick a fair-weathered day when it’s warm enough.
Price: 16 € for the walking tour but there are also other tours available