Natural sights: a walk to Bistriški Vintgar Gorge
Do not expect only a few meters wide gorge surrounded by steep walls in Bistriški Vintgar. This is actually not a gorge but “only” a picturesque valley created by the Bistrica stream. Its current is very playful in some parts and rather peaceful in others. The natural environment is fantastic, and we can see quite a few interesting sights on our way: a Roman quarry, Bistriški Šum waterfall, ruins of old mills, the thickest fir tree in this part of Europe (which was unfortunately struck by lightning and is slowly decaying). The path is easy, only the part by Šum waterfall is exposed and demands some caution.
Location Slovenska Bistrica, Podravje
Entrance fee: no
Altitude: 600 m
Trip duration: 5 h
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How to get there:
Leave the motorway ‘Ljubljana – Maribor’ on exit Slovenska Bistrica (south). At the first roundabout go in the direction of Poljčane, and at the second one towards the center of Slovenska Bistrica. On a crossroad with a traffic light turn left. Drive straight on past a football field and Impol factory where you will notice the first signposts for Vintgar. Follow the signposts to the end of the road where there is space for a few cars. Bistriški Vintgar is quite popular with locals and there might be problems with parking spots.
A description board, where we can see a drawn path and the main sights of the gorge, greets us at the parking lot. We follow a well marked path and enjoy the intact nature. In half an hour we arrive to the Roman quarry that provided marble for Roman necropolis in the region. If we wish to get really close to the quarry, we have to cross the Bistrica stream over a small wooden beam. Soon after the quarry we come to a signpost for Šum waterfall. A narrow path that crosses a steep slope branches off to the right; there are some steel cables for security just before the waterfall. Caution – the path is exposed! The waterfall does not fall vertically, but it slides across rocks in more phases; its total height is around 20 meters. We carry on by the stream and soon we merge with a wider path which we left before the waterfall. The idyllic path still follows the Bistrica stream and takes us past many pools, small waterfalls and demolished old mills. We continue in the direction of ‘Sv. Trije Kralji’ until we reach the old Marlot’s fir tree; in the past this used to be the thickest fir tree in this part of Europe. It had 43 meters in height and almost 50 cubic meters of wood! Unfortunately it was destroyed by virtue of fires and age, so we can only admire its decaying trunk.
The walk from the parking lot to the Marlot’s fir tree takes good 2 hours. We can return back the same way, whereas fans of circular routes will rise up to the church of St. Urh and return back to the gorge past an ancient site of ‘Ančnikovo Gradišče’. This path is nice too, especially in autumn.
Circular route: From Marlot’s fir tree we ascend on the clear forest path (some kind of a channel – keep on the middle path) to the meadows below the Marlot farm. Along the upper edge of the forest (do not trample the grass!) we walk to the farm where we come on a road. We go left on the asphalt road and shortly we come to an interesting church of St Urh, which stands amidst a forest. Behind the church we go left onto a forest path, which brings us to the road again and there a signpost directs us to the right onto a dirt road. The crossroad at the next houses is well marked (we go right), but we have to be more careful at the next crossroad (behind a nice holiday house), where we have to turn sharply to the left. We go down to a hut next to the ancient site of ‘Ančnikovo Gradišče’. A fortified settlement surrounded by strong walls was here in the ancient times. We ascend to the top of a hill where remains of the walls are visible. We can return to the Bistrica gorge in two ways:
a) By the road in front of the small hut is a signpost for Vintgar, which directs us into the forest. The path is orientation-wise undemanding and leads us to the gorge slightly above the Šum waterfall.
b) Orientation-wise more difficult, unmarked path: We descend from the top of the hill on a well traced path towards south. We cross over to the right and walk by the edge of the forest (do not go down into the forest straight from the top! The terrain there is extremely steep and the path ends suddenly!). We keep to the edge of the forest and the well traced path, which later takes us onto a dirt road. When we finally march into the forest, we walk on some kind of a ‘ridge’. The path becomes less visible and steep, but soon we come on a better and flatter path again. On a crossroad we choose a path, which descends to the left and pretty soon we reach the gorge of Bistirca near the roman quarry. It only takes 20 minutes form here to the starting point.
If you only wish to see the Šum waterfall, you will need an hour and a half for the trip. The whole circular route takes 5 hours!
Basic info: (the longest option):
Duration: 5 h
Length: 16 km
Altitude difference: 530 m
Type of path: marked path goes through the gorge; unmarked path elsewere