For such a small country, Slovenia has a widely varying climate that can be neatly divided into three types or zones.
- A Continental climate in eastern Slovenia, characterised by hot summers and very cold winters.
- A Mediterranean climate on the coast and in much of Primorska, characterised by warm, mild winters and sunny weather during the rest of the year.
- An Alpine climate in the north-west, characterised by warm summers, cold winters and plenty of rain or snow.
So that’s the climate, but what does that tell us about the weather and when is the best time to go walking and hiking in Slovenia? Well, it can rain at any time of the year and you should be prepared for it, but early spring (March/April) and late autumn receive the most precipitation. Our favourite times are May, June and September, October and there are several reasons for this, not all weather related.
May and June are wonderful months for the wild flowers and walking in the valleys and lower hills of the Julian Alps, as well as the rest of the country. The countryside is fresh with new spring growth and nowhere is too hot, except perhaps on the coast in June. These are not good months for high-level walking though. Mountain routes can easily be covered with snow well into June and the summits unreachable to all but experienced and well-equipped mountaineers. In early June 2009 we easily made the summit of Vogel (1922m and Walk 24) above Bohinj, encountering little snow, but found the ascent of Stol (2236m and the mountain backdrop to Lake Bled), in the Karavanke, quite tricky approaching from the east due to steep snowfields. The mountain huts open sometime in early to mid-June, but check before setting out at the nearest tourist office or the PZS website (unfortunately only in Slovenian). These months are also reasonably quiet and, falling outside the main tourist season, are a great time to be in Slovenia if you can get away.
September and October are favourites months too, but the weather can be a bit wetter. With fine weather though, the scenery is simply stunning, the beech and larch woods cloaked in the golden hues of autumn. The mountains will be free of snow and all summits will be accessible, however, be warned that snow can fall in the mountains at any time of the year and lie for several days. The mountain huts stay open until near the end of September (booking recommended for Friday/Saturday nights, again check before you set off) and the summer tourists have gone home. One glorious autumn we climbed a snow-free Prisank (2547m, near Vršič) on November 1st and had lunch on the summit, sitting in our shirt sleeves. The very next day, the weather broke and it was time to head home.
Not everyone can travel out of season and July and August are fine months too, but perhaps a little too hot for some. Lying snow should not be a problem, the huts will be open and public transport is better with more regular services in remote areas. It will be busy though and we do recommend booking your accommodation. Mountain huts will be crowded and booking becomes essential there too.
Mountain weather is extremely hard to predict, so be prepared for any eventuality. Lightning strike is real hazard and at the first sight of an approaching thunderstorm try to descend from summits and exposed ridges. Storms can occur at anytime, but more especially in July and August, developing very quickly and leaving little time to reach safer ground. As storms usually build in the afternoon and evening it is perhaps wise to start early and be descending before or soon after lunch.
Heavy rain can occur at any time of the year and often results in floods, rockfall and landslides which can destroy paths and bridges. Paths sometimes need to be re-routed or are closed until repairs can be made (please send us any updates, thanks!).
We all love the sun and hope that it will shine for our holidays but it has its dangers too. In the mountains you will need sunglasses – the glare off the white limestone rock is incredibly strong. And don’t forget your lip-salve, suncream and sunhat!
Weather forecasts are usually available from Tourist Information Offices, campsite and hotel receptions. On the Internet a good site for a detailed, reliable forecast is meteo.arso.gov.si (it has an English translation). If in doubt about the weather, especially if thunderstorms are forecast, exercise caution and choose a low-level walk.