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1 day



Fitness level


Tour type

Technical difficulty


Length & elevation

30 - 48 km 100 - 290 m

Please note: following is the description of the whole area of Ljubljana Marshes. There are four different tours available, highlights only are included in the separate tour descriptions. All tours are self guided and at the same price, which includes bike rental and navigation pack. Tours: Barje Basic, Barje WestBarje EastBarje Around.

There are but a few capital cities that have such a vast and special green area as the Ljubljana Marshes at their doorstep, which can be reached by bicycle or even on foot. The area is not only special for its beautiful nature, it also boasts a very rich history and archaeological heritage. Each of our one-day Ljubljana Marshes Tours are designed to allow you to experience all aspects of this incredible area protected as a landscape park.

The Ljubljana Marshes, which are located in the Ljubljana Basin, stretch over an area covering 163 km2. On the southern edge of the Marshes, the Ljubljanica River flows out of multiple Karst springs. The river cut a deep bed a few metres into the deposits of the Marshes, but its descent is only about 1 m across its entire 20-km length, so spring and autumn floods, which can cover up to one half of the entire Marshes area, are an annual phenomenon and one of the major characteristics in this part of Slovenia.

The information about the river’s descent indicates that cycling can be enjoyed on mostly flat terrain, unless you wish to make things more interesting by ascending one of the hills surrounding the southern rim of the Marshes. There are countless of trails running amongst the meadows, fields, and forests, but those often lead only to a privately owned meadow or are blocked by one of the many canals that were built over the Marshes so that the land could be utilised and floods could be controlled. Your eye will most certainly be able to rest on the green area once outside of compact settlements concentrated at the foot of the hills, where you may encounter more animals than people.

The tectonic shifts, faults and river deposits occurring in the Marshes area formed swamps and peat bogs, where many, now rare and interesting plant and animal species, particularly birds and wild game, found their home. The wet meadows are inhabited by a large number of colourful butterflies, which count no less than 89 species, which is twice as many as in the entire British Isles. The area also serves as a nesting ground to 100 bird species, which is half of all bird species in Slovenia. Even greater in number are birds that spend the winter in the Marshes or stop here on their way to warmer places. Their diversity and large numbers are mostly the result of humid and wet meadows, which have not yet been transformed into fertile fields by way of drainage and are still kept by the owners using traditional, extensive farming methods, which are applied irregularly, with late mowing and without fertilisers.

Wetlands, such as the Ljubljana Marshes, are priceless ecosystems. Even though the Marshes are a flood area, they can protect the city of Ljubljana from flooding – peat and peat moss are able to accumulate vast amounts of water and they function as a giant sponge that protects the capital from water influx. This way, the Marshes are able to sustain extreme weather conditions. For example, during heavy rain, the ground stores water and releases it during drought, thus cooling the surrounding area. It provides an enormous supply of drinking water and serves as a natural water treatment plant, removing many harmful substances released into the environment by people. Furthermore, the wetland creates large amounts of green forage, which absorbs the carbon dioxide greenhouse gas from the atmosphere and releases oxygen.

In the Ljubljana Marshes, there are many remnants of cultures that settled this area throughout the millennia. In April 2002, archaeologists found the remains of a two-wheeled wooden cart dating 5100 to 5350 years back into the past. It is the oldest wheel found in Europe and elsewhere in the world so far. The wheel is on display at the City Museum of Ljubljana.

The Ljubljanica River was once used as a waterway. This is best illustrated by the famous finding of a Roman freight ship that was excavated in 1890 in the Kozlar Estate near the village of Črna Vas. The freight ship had a flat-bottom hull suitable for navigating shallow waters.

The area was once covered by a shallow lake, which turned into a swamp over the millennia. The first farmers came to this area approximately 6500 years ago. In the flood plains surrounding the lake, they built small settlements on piles – they are now called pile dwellings. In 1875, the first pile dwelling settlement was discovered near the town of Ig. Today, there are about 40 known sites, where pile-dwellers made their dwellings in prehistoric times. The remains of two settlements near Ig were entered into the register of the UNESCO World Heritage in 2011.

Discovered artefacts dating all from different prehistoric periods to the modern age, especially the locations abundant in findings, indicate that the Ljubljanica River used to hold a cult-like importance during the prehistoric times as well as later, during the time of the Slavic settlements.

The landscape was first actively designed by the Romans. In the area of today’s Ljubljana, a significant city called Emona was built, mainly by using stones from under Mt Krim. To facilitate the transport of stone blocks from the Podpeč Quarry, a new canal was dug and the river bed of Ljubljanica was moved.

Humans settled the edge of the Ljubljana Marshes long before they first set foot into the heart of the wetland. Traces of human dwellings, work, and spirituality can actually be found on every safe hill. Numerous little Romanesque and Gothic churches, mainly built on sacred sites used by the prehistoric inhabitants, can be seen on every slightly elevated area.

In periods following the prehistoric times, the area was settled quite late due to flooding, and a construction technology similar to the one used by pile-dwellers was applied in a different way as this time, homes were built on piles! Up to 200 two- to six-metre piles or even longer were used per building; they were manually rammed by six men using a special pile driver weighing a good one hundred kilograms. In 1828, the first road crossing the Ljubljana Marshes was built and named the Ig Road (Slovenian: Ižanska cesta). The floating road built on bundles of brushwood covered by sand, which connects the Marshes with the area around the foot of Mt Krim, a distinctive hill dominating the southern edge of the Marshes, still has the same foundation today.

The sites worth visiting are described separately and are connected within the routes of individual tours, so that you can plan your trip depending on the places you would like to visit and view in greater detail.





The Church of Saint Michael

Plečnik left a lasting mark on the three central European cities, namely Vienna, Prague and Ljubljana. According to Friedrich Achleitner, a renowned art critic from Vienna, Plečnik may come to be considered an architect of the future due to his unique style. Upon returning to Ljubljana in 1921, Plečnik accepted the post of professor at the newly established University of Ljubljana and focused all his creative energies to designing the city. Plečnik’s Ljubljana as a unique example of urban planning is considered one of the 20th century’s most important universal art works. Although the church at the Črna Vas village was designed as a temporary sacral facility, it is considered one of the most comprehensive works of the great master. While its foundation is made of stone, everything else was built by using wood. The building was planned for subsequent enlargement by adding another storey, but that was prevented by World War II. Because the church is located on a boggy terrain, it was built on pylons. A stone staircase leading to the church nave reminds of the staircase in the National and University Library in Ljubljana with its occasional brick elements. The interior of the church is a tribute to folk construction and modesty – or rather a demonstration of the lack of funds. Most of the furnishings are made of wood, while ordinary sewage pipes were used in some of the support pillars as well as for the staircase railing.


Tomaž’s House

In the village of Črna Vas, one can visit Tomaž’s Farm, a unique house preserved in its original form from the period of first settlements at the central part of the Ljubljana Marshes after the area was dried out by reclamation in 1830. The house was built in 1844. On 13 April 2001, it was declared a site of national and cultural importance.


Kozler's Forest (nature reserve)

Kozler’s Forest is the largest (20 hectares) and the oldest (since 1951) protected part of the forested high marsh in the plains of the Ljubljana Marshes. It reflects the final step in the development of the high marsh, in which the European oak, a special oak variety, now grows. The forest was named after its original owners, the noble Kozler family, which is also tied to the first map of Slovenian lands elaborated by Peter Kozler in 1852. Nearby, there is a memorial honouring 63 victims of World War II.


Corn Crake Trail /Iški morost/

The nature reserve of Iški morost is dedicated to conserving the unique natural environment of the wetland area. A 1.3-kilometre nature trail called Koščeva pot (Corn Crake Trail) with a bird watching station runs on the reserve. Named after the corn crake (Crex crex), a rare and endangered bird species, the trail offers a unique insight into the wetland wildlife and animal species. Iški Morost is one of the largest cohesive wet meadow areas in the Ljubljana Marshes. The marked points offer descriptions of different habitats in the Ljubljana Marshes as well as the plant and animal species that live there.


The Windows of the Marshes

The Windows of the Marshes are actually hollows in the ground, which are often hidden in shrubbery. The hollows are mainly karst water sources. One of the largest sources of this kind is found on the educational trail.


Our Lady of the Rosary Church in Tomišelj

Our Lady of the Rosary Church in Tomišelj under Mt Krim can be seen from almost every part of the Ljubljana Marshes. The current Baroque church with two side chapels and two bell towers was built on the site of the former church, which was mentioned as early as 1526. The Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary has been celebrated every October for over 400 years. The festivity was introduced by Pope Pius V after the fleet of the Holy League beat the Ottoman navy during the Battle of Lepanto in 1571. Before the battle, the Pope appealed to believers to pray the Rosary and ask for the help of Mary, Queen of Heaven. For this reason, the victory was ascribed to her protection.


Benko’s Sawmill on the Iška River

The sawmill on the Iška River, which is also known as Benko’s Sawmill, is a typical Venetian sawmill featuring a single saw blade. This type of the water sawmill, which was invented by Leonardo da Vinci in 1480, is known for having a direct connection between the drive and the saw mechanism. Benko’s Sawmill is located next to a millstream, i.e. a man-made canal along the main riverbed of the Iška River. Because of the significantly smaller riverbed slope at the village of Iška than at its upper stream, a special element was built into the saw – a spatulate waterwheel. It was designed for utilising the small water decline, which gives the sawmill special significance. The sawmill operates to meet its own needs and to present the sawmill industry to visitors.


The Ig Gorge (Iški vintgar)

The Ig Gorge is a 300–400-metre deep gorge above the Iška River and the sharpest natural demarcation line separating two Slovenian regions. The Ig Gorge is a popular one-day trip destination for walks, hikes, rock climbs, and in the summer mostly a picnic spot, where visitors can escape the heat of the city.


The Church of Saint Michael in Iška Vas

The church was built in the 12th and 13th centuries atop the ruins of a Roman necropolis. The Roman tombstones are built into the church walls. The church features numerous frescoes made in various styles, and a museum collection of Roman tombstones and stele.


The Old Man near Ig

In the hamlet of Staje pri Igu, which is just a few steps off the main road, visitors can admire a landmark dating back to the Roman times – a grave stele carved in a rock. Locals call it the Old Man. In the Ig area, archaeologists found more than one hundred Roman tombstones, Roman urn graves, and early Christian oil lamps. A Roman fortification wall, which used to stand here, was part of the Roman defence line in the 3rd and 4th centuries, during the Roman Empire, featuring numerous fortresses, walled-in settlements, watchtowers, and toll houses that collected road fees. In the 7th and 8th centuries, the wall illustrated a demarcation line for settlements of the Slavs. From Ig, passing the places of Staje, Kot and Iška Vas, and continuing towards the Ig Gorge, one can follow the footpath leading along the Roman fortification wall.


The Ig Castle

The ruins of the original Ig Castle, the Ig Tower, which was mentioned as early as in 1261, can be found on a hill called Pungart nad Igom. The current Sonnegg castle was first mentioned in 1436. In the 15th century, the castle was owned by Protestant nobility, who ravaged the nearby Gothic Church of Saint George in their religious fervour, decapitating and burning the saint’s statue. Janez Vajkard Valvasor wrote about the incident in the Glory of the Duchy of Carniola, noting that locals later retaliated against the nobleman with the same countermeasure. During the revolutionary year of 1848, the castle was the venue to the last peasant uprising and the burning of land registers. During World War II, it was burnt down and today, the facility houses a prison, so the castle and the surrounding area are closed to the public.


The Draga Ponds

In the hamlet of Draga pri Igu, just over 3 km from Ig, visitors can explore the Draga Ponds nature reserve. The ponds with reeds surrounding the shores provide excellent living conditions for swamp birds, who nest and feed here, spend their winter, or make a stop on their migration routes. The extremely endangered European pond turtle can also be found here – once widespread, the species was unfortunately a popular food ingredient. The Draga forest educational trail ascends into the hills above the ponds. The trail, which is marked by white water-lily symbols, features many information boards.


Pile dwellings on the UNESCO World Heritage List

The area was once covered by a shallow lake, which turned into a swamp over the millennia. The first farmers came to this area approximately 6500 years ago. In the flood plains surrounding the lake, they built small settlements on piles – They are now called pile dwellings. The south-eastern-most prehistoric pile dwellings are located on the edge of the Ljubljana Marshes. In 1875, the first pile dwelling settlement was discovered near the town of Ig. Approximately 40 pile dwellings dating back to about mid-5th to mid-2nd millennium B.C. were uncovered in the humid ground of the Marshes. Two groups of pile dwellings from the area around Ig, where the remains of nine settlements were found, were placed on the UNESCO List. With occasional breaks, pile dwellers remained in the Ljubljana Marshes for approximately 3000 years. Information boards can be found on the location.


The Curnovec Drainage Canal

The reclamation of the marshes started in the late 18th century. The canal is named after the man who started this work. Empress Maria Theresa wanted the Ljubljana Marshes to become a breadbasket for the Land of Carniola, and for this purpose, she ordered extensive meliorations. A the end of the 18th century, Gruber’s Canal was excavated between the Castle Hill and Golovec Hill, the Ljubljanica river bed was deepened and regulated in the city, and a network of large and small canals was built in the Ljubljana Marshes. This created the now typical rectangular land division that separates fields by the use of drainage ditches. As a result, the groundwater level dropped by nearly a metre and a large part of the land in the Ljubljana Marshes became visible.


Ljubljanica River

The Ljubljanica River, which gathers karst and surface waters, is the main waterway of the marshes. Also known as the river of seven names, it is a protected site of natural and cultural importance. The subterranean waters from the Notranjska region see the light of day on the karst edge of the Ljubljana Marshes. There are four karst sources between Vrhnika and Verd, which are also sources of the Ljubljanica River: Močilnik, Retovje, Ljubija, and Bistra. (A visit to all is highly recommended.) The beautiful green river collects water coming from the Polhov Gradec Hills and Mt Krim, directing it towards Ljubljana with a very small bed slope inclination of 1 meter. During heavy rains, the river is usually unable to sustain the water from the Marshes, so it starts to flood. The floods are divided in regular, almost annual floods, and special floods, which cover almost half of the Marshes with water. Due to their high and forceful flood current during heavy storms, Ljubljanica’s torrential tributaries of Iška and Gradaščica are even able to turn the flow of the green river back towards Vrhnika.


The Podpeč Quarry

In the village of Podpeč, there is a quarry that was already used by the Romans. White shells of fossil bivalves in dark grey limestone are the ornamental combination that convinced the Romans to divert the Ljubljanica River bed to pass the Podpeč Quarry. They transported stone blocks by boats to Emona and used them to decorate the most important buildings in the city. This continued for several centuries, making many locals well respected stone-cutting masters. The staircase of the National and University Library in Ljubljana by Jože Plečnik shows the Podpeč marble in its best possible version. Today, the quarry is protected as a natural treasure, with only minor excavations allowed for the restoration of old buildings.


The Church of Saint Anna

The Saint Anna church stands on a steep slope above the old Podpeč Quarry. As the hill protrudes like a huge pier above the Marshes, it offers an amazing and extensive view from the platform around the church, embracing the entire Ljubljana Marshes from Škofljica to Vrhnika. In its present form, the Church of Saint Anna has stood here since the end of the 16th century, when it was built on the foundations of an old Gothic church. The ascent to the Saint Anna is short and quite undemanding. However, we do not recommend for the last part of the trail to be travelled by bicycle, unless you are fit enough to do it (gravel road).


Lake Podpeč

Situated in the valley near the village of Jezero, at the lower end of the karst hollow of Zajezero, this little karst lake has a shape of a circle. Water flows in from seven karst sources on the surface and flows out under the ground, through a deep sinkhole and then through a sump to the source located on the southern edge of the Ljubljana Marshes. The lake is 50 metres deep, which makes it one of the deepest natural lakes in Slovenia, and has been declared a natural monument. When major floods occur, the water level rises up to 3 metres higher than the average water level, flooding the surrounding plains. In summer months, the lake is a popular bathing area, and because the sun hides behind the Church of Saint Anna quite early, it is also a pleasant place to escape the heat of the city. A walking trail leads from the lake to the Church of Saint Anna (30 min, quite steep).


The Saint Lawrence church at the village of Jezero

The Church of Saint Lawrence is situated on a solitary hill, not far from the village of Jezero. The building is accurately oriented, which means that the lightest part (the presbyterium with the altar) is on the east side. The church offers a nice view over the nearby marshes, and the hill with the church can serve as a beautiful photography image.

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