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Hiking the Alpe-Adria Trail

From Glacier to Sea

semi-overcast 20 °C
View Alpe Adria Trail Trek on IvaS's travel map.

I discovered the Alpe-Adria Trail (AAT), which I had never heard of before, from an ad in a magazine which propelled me to send for the guidebook "Alpe Adria Trail: From the Glacier to the Sea – Hiking the Garden of Eden". After reading the booklet, I decided that this was a trail to do as it attracted the long-distance hiker in me.

In October 2023, I completed the solo walk along the 750km trail, an international thru-trail starting in the towering peaks of the Austrian Alps, crossing into Slovenia following the Soča River, meandering through the vineyards of north-western Italy finally ending on the shores of the Adriatic Sea.

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The trail, starting at Kaiser-Franz-Josef-Höhe (Austria) and ending in Muggia (Italy), is divided into 37 waymarked stages averaging 20 km, each section taking a day to complete and ending at a place with accommodation.

If you make no stops, you can complete the walk in 37 days. My preference is to take rest days so I can enjoy the scenery, historical and cultural sites, and the towns and villages that I walk through. My journey takes me 47 days.

The AAT is a challenging walk along different trail types requiring sturdy shoes but no technical skills or special equipment. Walking poles are highly recommended as there is at least one doozy of a steep ascent and descent each day.

Austria: Kaiser-Franz-Josef-Höhe to Baumgartnerhöhe

My trek starts at an altitude of 2,396 m at the AAT information stand in Kaiser-Franz-Josef-Höhe watching the sun rise over an imposing, stark Groβlockner, Austria’s highest mountain.

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The first test of my knees and concentration is the 1,267 m descent into the village of Heiligenblut.

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From Heiligenbrut, I follow the Möll valley passing high alpine meadows laced with dandelions and lowing cows, obsessively tidy villages brimming with red geraniums, pilgrimage churches, and the occasional fort and mountain lake. At times I stop and rest at mountain guesthouse indulging in a thick slice of apple strudel or traditional fried pancakes.

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One highlight of the trail is the view from the Millstatter Alpe massif looking down on Millstatter See, staying in a traditional wood alpine hut.

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This area has the largest stock of garnets in Europe and I am told that I walk along a path ‘paved with garnet pebbles’ to the highest point of 2,010m looking through the Garnet Gate.

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I indulge in the luxuries of Bad Kleinkirchen, a popular ski and spa resort, relaxing my bones and muscles in the thermal spas, eating goulash with dumplings and downing gooey pastries before I move on.

I make my way south to the mountain resort of Baumgartnerhöhe passing the serene Sees of Ossiacher, Wörther and Faaker and notice leaves changing to their Autumn colours. I will cross the Karavanke Mountains into Slovenia where I will encounter the most arduous section of the trail.

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Slovenia

From Baumgartnerhöhe, I make the steep 600m ascent to Jepza Sattel, a notch at the top of the hill. As just like that I am in Slovenia.
I follow a narrow ridge: to my left is a fearful abyss into a heavily forested valley and to my right are the cement stumps marking the border between Austria and Slovenia.

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I continue my ascent scrambling up soft, crumbly, chalky soil to the summit of Schwarzkogel (1,852 m) taking in the views of the surrounding Julian Alps and Faaker See deep in the valley.

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My enthusiasm is recharged after two days of rest in the resort town of Kranjska Gora, a mountain town for outdoor enthusiasts. I am surrounded by the mountain scenery of the Julian Alps, the larch trees showing a faint autumn yellow, and ski slopes.

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I hike over the 1,611m high Vrŝič Pass, the highest road pass in Slovenia, to the settlement of Trenta which sits in the Triglav National Park and the headwaters of the Soča River.

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The water of the Soča River is aquamarine in colour and is so clear that I can see the native marble trout floating lazily in the water.
Kayakers abound in the rapids, squeezing in-between the smooth sides of the gorges, occasionally capsizing into the cold water.

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I very much liked the charming village of Dreznica where I stayed for two days strolling through the laneways of the village while people took their lunch on their patios, listening to the peal of the bells of the Church of the Sacred Heart.

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I make a diversion to the town of Kobarid, visiting the Peace Museum which puts the history of the Soča River valley into perspective. Kolbarid is known for the 1917 Battle of Caporetto which resulted in the retreat of the Italian army. This battle was documented by Ernest Hemingway in his novel 'A Farewell to Arms'.

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My next major stop is the medieval city of Cividale del Friuli a city founded by Julius Caesar in 53 BC where I explore the museums and medieval architecture. And drink the best latte macchiato in Europe.

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Italy

I zigzag between Slovenia and Italy as I walk from Cividale del Friuli to Muggia my phone pinging every time I cross the border.

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The scenery is picturesque with its rolling hills, hamlets scattered over the hills, the occasional walled village and a lot of vineyards.

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I first see and smell the Adriatic Sea in the town of Duino. I follow the Rilke Path along the rugged coastline and karst hills, eventually arriving in the quaint village of Bagnoli Della Rosandra, the last stop before Muggia.

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Walking into the central plaza of the coastal town of Muggia marks the end of my hike along the AAT.

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Posted by IvaS 05:18 Archived in Austria Tagged hike long distance Comments (2)

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