Why Kamnik is the Perfect Base to Explore Ljubljana and Velika Planina

Why Kamnik is the Perfect Base to Explore Ljubljana and Velika Planina

Press trip - my hotel stay and tickets to Velika planina were provided by Visit Ljubljana. This post also contains affiliate links, meaning that if you purchase a product through one of my links I'll get a small commission at no cost to you. 

Those of you who have read some of my recent blog posts or follow me on Instagram will know that I spent 16 days of September travelling across the Balkans, starting in Istanbul and ending in Venice. One of the places that I was most excited to visit was Slovenia – not only did Ljubljana look beautiful, but the rest of the country offered an array of lakes, mountains and, arguably most importantly, vineyards. Unlike the other countries on my trip where I hopped straight from one city to another, I made the time to explore more of the country and spent time in Maribor, Kamnik and Velika planina before moving on to Ljubljana.

Nell posing in a feel slovenia love heart with views of Kamnik and the alps in the background

I’d not actually heard of Kamnik before, but when Visit Ljubljana offered me an overnight stay in Kamnik and cable car tickets to visit Velika planina, I discovered that these were places that I didn’t know I was desperate to visit! Furthermore, I found that Kamnik was the perfect base to explore not only Velika planina but also Ljubljana, offering a much quieter spot just 30-40 minutes away from the city. In this blog post I’ll tell you a bit about Kamnik as a destination and then why Velika planina was quite likely the highlight of my whole trip.

Kamnik

What’s it Like and What is There to Do?

Kamnik is the ultimate pretty city! Well, town. It’s a medieval town set amongst the Kamnik-Savinja Alps and is part of the Ljubljana region (which you can find out more about here). It’s a fairly quiet town full of cobbled streets, beautiful buildings and rich history. You can wander around the beautiful street of Šutna at leisure, stopping for coffee or lunch, before visiting one (or both) of two castles: Mali grad and Stari grad.

The town of Kamnik in the Ljubljana region, showing an empty but very pretty street

Mali Grad in particular shouldn’t be missed, as it sits on Mali grad hill giving you stunning views over Kamnik, with the Kamnik-Savinja Alps in the background. Although there’s no impressive castle complex that would have been present back in the 11th Century, there’s a two-storey Romanesque chapel with a preserved crypt, which is one of the main symbols of Kamnik.

A view over Kamnik in the Ljubljana region from Mali grad hill

You could also visit the Kamnik Regional Museum or get lost in the Franciscan library, which sits within Kamnik’s Franciscan Monastery and keeps a number of early books printed before 1550, a copy of the first Slovenian translation of the Bible and over 10,000 other books printed before 1799. Pretty impressive! There’s also the Budnar Museum Farmhouse, which is over 100 years old and has an open-fire smoke kitchen which is still used today, and you can visit to taste some local delicacies.

Nell sitting on a white bench in Kamnik in the Ljubljana region, with a bright yellow wall behind her.

Kamnik is also perfect if you’re into hiking. I didn’t have the chance to explore the various trails due to time restrictions, but I’d love to return to the area and hike through the Tuhinj Valley (stopping off at the highest spa in Slovenia of course!), explore the Kamniska Bistrica Valley or use Kamnik as a base to climb the peaks of the Kamnik-Savinja Alps.

Where To Stay in Kamnik

As Kamnik isn’t a huge town, I wasn’t sure if there would be much accommodation and how good it would be. However, I stayed at Malograjski Dvor (Hotel MD) right in the town centre and it was gorgeous! We were given a very warm welcome before heading up the beautiful wooden staircase towards our room, which was light and spacious. The first thing that put this hotel VERY high in my hotel rankings were the chocolates on the pillows. And I don’t just mean one little chocolate on each pillow, I mean a good couple of handfuls of chocolates on each pillow!

The town of Kamnik in the Ljubljana region

The second thing that put this hotel up there was the bed. It was genuinely one of the most comfortable mattresses that I’ve ever slept on, and my boyfriend, Billy, and I are still talking about it weeks later. The third thing that I loved about this hotel was that there was parking! We’d been travelling around by train and bus, but had decided to hire a car for a few days and I was concerned about parking spaces especially knowing it’s location in the town centre. Luckily there is a car park directly outside the hotel – practicality is always a winner in my eyes. I haven’t even mentioned how clean the room was, how beautiful the bathroom was or how tasty the breakfast was!!

Where to Eat in Kamnik

There’s a project in Kamnik called Taste Kamnik which collects traditional, local dishes which represent the area and also show the social diversity of the area. The primary aim of Taste Kamnik is to encourage local restaurants to include traditional dishes on their menus, and they also host foodie events and recommend restaurants, making it easy to taste authentic dishes. If you’re visiting Kamnik it’s definitely worth having a look at the web page and seeing which restaurants suit your taste!

We ate at two very different restaurants during our time in Kamnik. The first, La Pinata, we stumbled across when we saw a blackboard outside advertising a delicious sounding special and a sunny courtyard. Upon sitting down we realised that we were actually in a Mexican restaurant, albeit a Mexican restaurant that also served traditional local dishes. Although the Mexican dishes looked excellent, we were determined to eat traditional food and both ordered ram steak with egg and chips. I loved that this restaurant brought together traditional dishes, local ingredients and something a little different, and the food was great too – like a twist on the British staple of ham, egg and chips!

The second restaurant was much more traditional and one that I would without a doubt return to if I was in Kamnik again. A short walk (about 15 minutes there and 30 minutes back due to very full stomachs) from the town centre was Gostilna Repnik. Family owned and oh-so cosy, this places perfectly combines traditional cuisine with modern cooking techniques.

A selection of local meats and cheeses at Gostilna Repnik restaurant in Kamnik, near to Ljubljana

To start I had the taster board, which was supposed to be for two people but I was on holiday so who cares? This offered a selection of local meats, cheeses and accompaniments and I absolutely devoured it. For the my main course I had a deliciously rich veal dish, which you can see below. If you’re visiting Kamnik and only have time to visit one restaurant, make sure its Gostilna Repnik.

Meal at Gostilna Repnik in Kamnik near Ljubljana

Velika Planina

If you have the opportunity to visit Velika planina then please, please do. Even if you have to travel from further away in Slovenia I can assure you that it’s totally worth it! It’s about a 20 minute drive from Kamnik, so if you’re elsewhere in Slovenia you could always treat yourself to a night in Kamnik before spending the day at Velika planina.

What is Velika Planina?

Velika planina is one of the most beautiful places I’ve been, and somewhere that I didn’t want to leave! It’s a stunning alpine pasture, which can be reached by cable car and chair lift, home to a herdsmen settlement where traditional pastoral methods are preserved. The settlement comprises 63 huts, a chapel (Mary of the Snows Chapel), a dance floor and a museum (the Preskar Museum Hut) and is protected as a cultural landscape.

Valika Planina near Kamnik in the Ljubljana region. Image shows herdsman huts on green pasture with mountains in the background.

Every year in early June, the herdsmen come to Velika planina with their cattle and make it their home for the summer, living in the huts. There’s no electrical wiring so solar energy is used for lighting, and there’s one spring so water is kept in three concrete containers which are connected with taps located between the huts, and special water reservoirs are arranged for cattle.

Summer is said to be the best time to visit Velika planina because you can see the herdsmen and their cattle, but we visited just after the season had ended in September. This was perfect because there were still a few herdsmen and their cattle around, but the large groups of tourists and the guided tours had stopped so it was lovely and quiet. There was certainly still an atmosphere up there, and I loved walking past one of the huts where a group of friends were cooking outside, having a few beers and singing loudly together. I’ve also seen some stunning pictures of Velika planina in the snow and I believe you can ski there in the winter.

Valika Planina near Kamnik in the Ljubljana region. Nell is facing away from the camera with her head turned back to smile, and a fantastic view behind.

What Do You Do Up There?

There are a couple of different walking trails depending on how active you’re feeling: there’s one that just goes around Velika planina or there’s a longer one that includes the areas of Mala planina and Gojška planina. We took an even longer route because we weren’t paying attention and got a bit lost! Whichever trail you follow, you’ll come across various signs which tell you a little bit about the history of the settlement and the lives of the herdsmen.

Cows looking out over Valika planina

For example, you’ll learn that a herdsman’s day starts with a 5am milking session (milking of the cows, not the herdsmen), a morning of chores such as removing poisonous plants or repairing fences, an afternoon of butter and cheese making, an evening of socialising with other herdsmen and the constant tasks of checking on cattle, keeping the fire burning in the stove and gazing at the sky. You’ll also learn about the development of the huts over time and how they were destroyed by German troops during the winter of 1945, and stories involving wolves and bears.

Valika Planina near Kamnik in the Ljubljana region.

Is There Food Up There?

Yes there is! In the summer you can knock on the door of any hut and ask for sour milk, buckwheat mush or cheese and you’ll get a warm welcome and some stories of mountain life. As the season had ended when we visited a lot of the huts were empty, but we did find one that had turned itself into a mini restaurant. My favourite part of the day was sitting outside this hut on one of two tables whilst eating buckwheat mush and sour milk.

Washing hanging up where we enjoyed our buckwheat mush on Valika Planina near Kamnik in the Ljubljana region.

Now I know that buckwheat mush sounds disgusting – to be honest we just ordered if for the novelty factor – but it was actually really tasty! It’s kind of stodgy, crumbly… mush? Served with sticky pork crackling on the top and a side of sour milk, which is similar to the sour cream we might have with our nachos at home but thinner. It was was very enjoyable!

Nell enjoying some buckwheat mush and sour milk

Still wanting more, we stopped off at Zelini Rob before heading back down in the chair lift and cable car. This small restaurant serves traditional food and has spectacular views – there’s also plenty of outdoor seating so that you can fully enjoy it whilst you eat. It was a bit cold for us to sit outside, but we did sit by a window so that we could still admire the view. The food was equally spectacular: we shared some ičet (a stew made from pearl barley with vegetables and sausage) and some traditional dumplings called štruklji, which were sweet and filled with cottage cheese. Both dishes were hearty, delicious and set us up for our journey on to Ljubljana.

Barley and sausage stew at Zelini Rob Mountain Lodge in Valika Planina
štruklji enjoyed at Zelini Rob Mountain Lodge in Valika Planina

The final, but probably most important, thing to mention whilst we’re on the subject of food is Trnič cheese. This is a hard cheese produced by the herdsmen on Velika planina, made from cottage cheese, cream and salt. Patterns are stamped onto the cheese using carved wooden sticks to make them unique.

Trnič is referred to as being the most romantic cheese in the world because it would be made in pairs, with two cheeses having the same decoration. One would be kept by the herdsman and the other given to his wife or girlfriend when he returned from pasture as a sign of love and faithfulness. It could also be a promise of marriage, and I can tell you for a fact that if I was given cheese as a proposal I would most definitely say yes!

During the summer season you can take part in cheese making workshops, but all year round you’ll have the chance to taste the cheese, which is often used in many of the restaurants in Kamnik and the surrounding area.

Useful Information

I’m going to finish this blog post with a few bits of useful information to help you plan your trip to Kamnik and Velika planina. As I’ve already mentioned, if you’re visiting Slovenia you should absolutely make time to visit this area of the Ljubljana region – I promise you won’t regret it!

  • There are trains between Ljubljana and Kamnik which take around 45 minutes, and also buses which take around 50 minutes
  • Cable car and chair lift times for Velika Planina differ between summer season and off-season so make sure you double check. The cable car runs from 8am-6pm Mon-Thurs and 8am-8pm Fri-Sun during the summer season and 8am-4pm Mon-Thurs and 8am-8pm Fri-Sun during the off-season.
  • When visiting Velika planina, you’ll take the cable car first, and then you can either walk the final stretch (about 30 minutes) or take the chair lift. On the way back down, the last chair lift runs at 5.15pm Mon-Thurs and 6.15pm Fri-Sun during the summer season and 4.30pm during the off-season.
  • Tickets for the cable car and chair lift are 17€ per person for a return ticket
  • There are guided tours in the summer every Saturday which cost 6€ per person 

I hope this post has been useful and inspired you to explore further afield than Ljubljana. If you’ve enjoyed reading it please feel free to share on social media by clicking the icons at the bottom of the post, or pin by hovering over the below graphic. Thanks!

Nell xx

Pinterest graphic for Kamnik and Valika planina blog post

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