Upland Escapes to Slovenia & Austria

Upland EscapesAward-winning Upland Escapes offers over 40 years of combined experience in seeking out the very best and most rewarding walking in a range of landscapes. Whichever Upland Escape you choose, you can rely on finding wild, untouched uplands, wild flowers and animals and rural, rustic landscapes, allowing you and your family to really get away from it all. All Upland Escapes walking holidays are single-centre based in delightful B&B’s, local village houses, and even cave houses, allowing you to become fully immersed into local life.

You are free to walk as much or as little as you wish and there are no set itineraries, which means that our holidays are truly unique and flexible, making them ideal for families. What’s more, each Upland destination receives full support from an English-speaking Upland Manager, available 24 hours a day, on hand to provide guided walks or advice and tips to allow you to discover the area for yourself. Combining fresh mountain air with an array of activities to seek and discover, presents the perfect holiday option to revitalise the body and mind.

Upland Escapes offer walking holidays in a number of stunning European upland destinations that include the Julian Alps in Slovenia, and the Carinthian Alps in Austria.

The Julian Alps, Slovenia
In the little known corner of the European Alps of Slovenia, sits the astonishingly picturesque Julian Alps. These alps are a stunning limestone mountain range, home to Slovenia’s only National Park. This area provides spectacular scenery with evocative evidence of the fierce struggles between Austrian and Italian troops in World War One. The Julian Alps is a protected region that is home to deer, boar, wolves, and even brown bears. Wooded slopes lead down to deep gorges and ravines, where turquoise rivers, such as the pristine Soca, have carved out beautiful waterfalls and caves.

Culture
For culture, the small market town of Kobarid is home to an award-winning museum focusing on the battles of the Isonzo/Soca front between the Italians and the Austro-Hungarian Empire during World War I. The Soca river is superb for organised activities such as white-water rafting, canoeing and canyoning. It is also possible to fish for marbled trout or spend a day exploring the area by mountain bike. With a hire car, take the car-train from Most na Soci to Bohinjska Bistrica, to visit the beautiful lakes of Bled and Bohinj for the day. A drive to the Soca valley takes your breath away. Venture over the border and you could spend the day in the lovely Italian town of Cividales, with its medieval centre, Celtic hypogeum and 15th Century cathedral.

Food
In the pretty town of Kobarid, next to the Soca River sits the town-based escape which takes the form of an attractive apartment in the centre of the town. The town itself has a quiet charm and several shops to buy locally-made produce such as honey, cheeses and excellent ice-cream. Some of the restaurants in and around Kobarid are rated among the best in Slovenia. For more rustic cuisine, there is great gnocchi to sample at Dreznica’s Inn, and in Kosec, your host can offer delicious home-grown dishes including lamb, local cheeses and seasonal vegetables – fresh from her garden. Regional cuisine includes Soca trout, venison, mountain curd cheese and cured hams. The beer is excellent and there are good red wines from the nearby Brda Hills.

When to go: July/August summer holiday
Average high: 26 degrees
Prices: Start from £290.00 pp for 3 nights including accommodation, hire car, self-guided walks and local Manager support. From £425 pp for 3 nights with additional organised walks and lavish packed lunches.
Discounts: Under 2s go free / Groups of 6 or more – one person in the party gets a free holiday (conditions apply).
No price hikes during school holiday time

The Carinthian Alps, Austria
This region is Austria’s most southernmost and sunniest spot as the river Gail carves its way down the Lesachtal, before joining the Danube. The valley is bounded by limestone summits which form the Italian borders and to the north sit the Lienz Dolomites where traditional ways of life, particularly farming, still survive to this day. In this area, the hay surrounding hillside villages are still cut by hand in August. You can explore the area by taking a walk through your village of St Jakob, with its traditional wooden barns and tall gothic church, before setting out to see working water-mills and the pilgrim church at Maria Luggau. The locals cherish their village and at it’s heart, you stay with the Ainetter family who have been looking after wearing travellers for generations. Less than 15 minutes from St Jakob, there are shops, restaurants and two swimming pools at the nearby town of Kotschach-Mauthen. Cycle-hire is available from here too, as are water sports including kayaking and rafting for the more adventurous.

Culture
Kotschach-Mauthen has two fine gothic churches and a museum dedicated to World War I fighting that took place nearby. Bicycles can be hired, which is an excellent way to explore the area and with a hire car, you can visit charming Lienz, with its town museum and 15th Century fresco cycle. Excavations are still taking place in Roman Lienz, presenting opportunity to explore and ‘step back in time’.

Food & Drink
At the Gasthof, Monika serves venison and boar as well as Carinthian kasnudeln; pasta parcels enclosing a variety of fillings. The Austrian approach to food tends to the hearty, but there are always varied salads available alongside mixed grills and sausages. Carinthia’s fruit trees provide fillings for all kinds of tarts and strudels. Pleasant wines are produced in the east of the region.

When to go: July/August summer holiday
Average high: 27 degrees
Prices: Start from £290.00 pp for 3 nights including B&B accommodation, hire car, self-guided walks and local Manager support. From £425 pp for 3 nights with additional organised walks and lavish packed lunches.
Discounts: Under 2s go free / Groups of 6 or more – one person in the party gets a free holiday (conditions apply).
No price hikes during school holiday time

For more information visit www.uplandescapes.com

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UTracks: Explore Eastern Europe

I recently came across the company UTracks who offer active walking, trekking and cycling tours throughout Europe, including Austria, Hungary, Croatia, Slovenia, Czech Republic and Romania and Transylvania.  There are tours suitable for all capabilities from those seeking something of an introductory level, all through to those seeking something a little more challenging; yet all offer unique opportunities to discover the untrodden Europe, spanning postcard landscapes, centuries-old culture, rural lifestyles and tempting culinary delights. In short, they’re flexible, unique adventures of undiscovered corners, offering you a great deal of independence yet providing support when you need it. Best of all, they start on virtually any day of the week, so you can combine any tour to create exactly the holiday you want.

The six-day Transylvania Castles and Mountains tour includes a trip to Bran Castle to learn about the legends of Dracula, time for discovering unique villages, a walk along limestone ridges to take in the stunning landscapes of Piatra Craiului and plenty of cultural exchanges with local people.

The tour itinerary:
Day 1 – Arrive Bucharest, train to Brasov and transfer to Zărneşti
Day 2 – Walk in Piatra Craiului (Royal Stone) through the Zărneşti Gorge (5hrs, 15km +800m, -600m)
Day 3 – Continue on foot through Piatra Craiului mountains and rural villages (4hrs, 13km +450m, -450m)
Day 4 – Walk to Bran Castle home to the origin of the character known as “Dracula” (4hrs, 12km, +350m, -600m)
Day 5 – Ascend the Bucegi Mountains with stunning views (6 hrs, 18km, +650m, – 900m)
Day 6 – Transfer from Bran to Brasov where you take the train to Bucharest. Trip concludes on arrival in Bucharest.

During the trip you will be accommodated in rural pensions which are rated as 3 stars in Romania. These are traditional guesthouses which while simple, provide a unique dimension to the cultural experience of travelling in the region.

This May UTRACKS are launching a new trip through Slovenia lasting 10 days.  Slovenia encompasses a wealth of stunning natural features: this self guided cycle journey takes in all of the highlights while allowing for time to appreciate the unique culture and culinary delights. From Lake Bohinj and the delightful lakeside town of Bled, the cycle continues around the Julian Alps, with a white water rafting experience on the vivid blue waters of the Soca River! In the wine growing region of Brda enjoy a special dinner and wine tasting before heading to the massive Skocjan Caves with its underground gorge. Ending in the capital city of Ljubljana, there is time to explore the old town and sample the local cuisine.   Departs: Every Monday from May to September 2010.  Price: £1,190 per person

To book a UTRACKS trip, complete the booking form which can be downloaded from their website www.utracks.com

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Slovenia – Be In It To Win It: Holiday Offer for British Tourists

Slovenia Ambassador to London Launches Slovenia...
Iztok Jarc, Slovenia Ambassador to Great Britiain Launches Slovenia… Bet You’ll Love It Campaign, The Colonies Pub, London

I would normally shy away from discussing all things sport related (certainly football related) but last week I was invited to The Colonies pub in Victoria, London to celebrate the launch of Slovenia’s goals for hols promotion.  Slovenia’s World Cup footballers have set a goal of attracting thousands of British fans with the kick-off of a holiday giveaway campaign.

Drawn in the same tournament group as England, the plucky Slovenian squad wants to encourage British holidaymakers to head for their home country in this unique promotion. Travellers will be given back part of the cost of their planned trip as Slovenia progress in South Africa – culminating in a full refund if the side carries off the trophy.

Under the Slovenia… Bet You’ll Love It campaign, travellers booking Slovenia holidays between 10 March and 10 June with participating holiday companies and travelling before June 2011 qualify for the cash-back offer.  Should Slovenia reach the quarter finals, those with qualifying bookings get back 25 per cent of the cost of their holiday. If the team gets to the semi-finals, a 50 per cent refund is paid.  Should the Slovenia team win the World Cup final the full cost of the holiday is paid back!

Captained by West Bromwich Albion midfielder Robert Koren, Slovenia have been drawn in the tournament’s Group C, together with England, USA and Algeria. Slovenia’s opening match is against Algeria on 13 June and they play England on 23 June.

Read more…

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Bohinj Park Hotel 5 Star Rating

Bohinj Park Hotel
Bohinj Park Hotel

Being a champion of all things eco, I was pleased to previously write about the new eco hotel located in one of Slovenia’s most beautiful regions.  However, I am even more excited to announce that Slovenia’s eco-friendly Bohinj Park Hotel has now been awarded five stars according to the official hotel classification scheme, making it the highest quality hotel in northwest Slovenia.

The hotel, which opened for business in the summer of 2009, is situated in the beautiful Julian Alps region on the edge of the Triglav National Park. Built mainly from natural materials including timber and stone, the hotel has a range of special energy saving solutions, including being heated and cooled by water from its own well.

Read more…

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Landscapes, Luxury & Facelifts

Kras Hotel
Kras Hotel

This summer has seen the opening of three new hotels in some of Slovenia’s tourist hot spots. The four-star Hotel Kras opened in Postojna, in the immediate vicinity of the world-famous Postojna Caves, the largest known cave system in Slovenia.

The hotel has 24 double rooms and three superior suites, as well as a conference room which can hold up to 50 people. The hotel’s terrace offers stunning views of Nanos Plateau, an area of limestone landscape features popular with cyclists and hikers.

Room prices start from €62 per night and more information can be found at www.hotel-kras.si.

Park Hotel
Park Hotel

The four star Bohinj Park Resort and Spa, situated on the edge of the Triglav National Park, one of Slovenia’s most popular tourist areas, also opened this summer. The Bohinj Park Hotel has been ecologically designed to be energy efficient and have a low impact on the surrounding environment. Every element of the hotel has been designed with the environment in mind, for example, the lights are actually LED lamps which use up to 40 times less electricity than normal light bulbs. Windows in bedrooms are also fitted with sensors that shut down the air conditioning when they are open. A low-temperature regime has also been employed throughout the hotel, with under-floor heating and climate beams helping reduce the energy consumption.

The hotel has 102 standard rooms, seven luxury suites, a honeymoon suite and a presidential suite with its own terrace and outdoor pool. A wellness centre is located at the top of the hotel with a swimming pool offering panoramic views of Bohinj.

Room rates start at €69 per night and more information can be found at www.park-hotel-bohinj.si/eng.

Hotel pik
Hotel Špik

Finally, the Hotel Špik in Gozd Martuljek, northwest Slovenia, has undergone a full refurbishment with a new building containing 56 rooms and two suites added to the original 60 rooms, which have been fully renovated. The rooms in the new wing all have balconies offering views of the Julian Alps.

The hotel is managed by the Hit Holidays group, which also offers accommodation in nearby Kranjska Gora.

For more information visit www.hitholidays-kg.si/accommodation/Hotel-Spik.

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