White Carniola region covers an area of about 600 sq km (230 sq mi), which is roughly 3% of Slovenia.
It is a destination in Slovenia with no big cities.
The total population is nearly 30.000. Most of them live in quaint little villages, taking you out of time, into the divinity of pure nature.
Not surprisingly, 46% of the region is protected by the NATURA 2000 regulations.
As already mentioned in the introduction, the region's name is related to white color. White is the limestone bedrock, white is the birch trees, white are the folk costumes, made out of flax and hemp, the two traditional fiber crops in Slovenia.
Especially flax was important, which is expressed in the term 'placati' or 'platiti'.
'Platno' is a Slavic word for linen our ancestors had been trading with for centuries.
Linen was the only paying method in those distant times.
Where is White Carniola?
White Carniola is the southeastermost region of Slovenia.
It's nestled between the Kocevski Rog old-growth forest on the east, the Gorjanci Hills on the north, and the Kolpa River forming a border with Croatia on the south and west.
The southeast spot in Slovenia, the Kot pri Damljah village in the municipality of Crnomelj, belongs to this region.
On the other side of the border, the town of Karlovac in Croatia is one of the remarkable sites of the wider area from the times of Ottoman Invasions.
How to get to the White Carniola?
If we consider the town of Crnomelj the capital of White Carniola, we speak about some 100 km (62 mi) distance, or an hour and a half drive from Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia.
One option is to drive mostly highways and pass the city of Novo Mesto, the capital of Lower Carniola.
The other is to drive regional roads.
You can take a break, take a photo of the green surroundings, and ask for the way if you lose the orientation.
Just don't say 'yes' to every invitation of the locals to try their new brandies or homemade foods, because that can extend your visit for some more day.
Because it's that good, and many of them just wanted to stay.
And there are quite some foreigners who did stay.
Anyway, I would consider visiting White Carniola just by car, or by private arrangements, such s contacting Loopy Slovenia.
This is also the only wheelchair friendly option.
The public train or bus takes at least double time and some creativity too.
From the main region's hubs, so from the towns of Crnomelj, Metlika, or Semic, you don't have almost any public transport options to continue to the countryside, its villages, and rolling hills covered by the neverending vineyards.
What to see in White Carniola?
It's all about traditions and nature.
In the past century, the intact natural environment was spoiled by some heavy industry and mining. Somewhere it had to stop.
Today, nature in White Carniola is breathing again, protected by the regulations, laws, and the most important - people's consciousness and awareness about the sensitiveness of the karst underground with its waters and springs.
Bio-diversity in White Carniola is fascinating. Let me mention just more than 50 subspecies of the dragonfly, around 40 varieties of orchids, over 500 sorts of fungus, and an astonishing number of cave-dwelling species.
Kolpa River Regional Park
Kolpa River is one of the symbols of White Carniola.
It sources in the Risnjak Regional Park in Croatia, and it reaches almost 300 km (186 mi) before it flows into the Sava River near the town of Sisak, also Croatia.
Some 113 km (70 mi) of its total length is the southeastern border between the countries, for around 50 km (31 mi) it flows within the Kolpa Regional Park.
It is one of the warmest and cleanest rivers in Slovenia, home to about 40 fish species, some even indigenous.
Kolpa River Regional Park has been protected by the NATURA 200 regulations, in 2010 it was recognized as a European Destination of Excellence (EDEN) due to its high biodiversity and uniqueness in flora and fauna.
In the park, we can wonder about around 70 natural values and over 15 natural monuments, such as fern lands, caves, sinkholes, caverns, water springs, and abysses besides other karst phenomena.
The park is home to some gracious wild animals such as bears, wolves, lynx.
Kolpa River was an important factor in the local economy and production.
Still in the 19th century, there were 48 mills operating along the White Carniola's part of the river, along with several sawmills. Today there are just dams, reminding us of that period. In a few of the still-operating mills and sawmills, we can have a look into this part of the local tradition.
Lahinja River Regional Park
Lahinja is the main central river of White Carniola, reaching a bit over 30 km (20 mi) before joining the Kolpa River in the village of Primostek.
It is a slow-flowing river, meandering through partly impassable marshes such as in Lahinjski Lugi, marshes with arranged paths such as in Nerajski Lugi, rich forests, and meadows bursting a gorgeous variety of flowers and plants, in the middle of intact wildlife.
The first 7 km (4,3 mi) of the Lahinja River upper section is a botanic paradise and NATURA 2000 protected area, known as Lahinja River Regional Park, covering an area of about 200 ha (500 acres). A delicate eco-system with plenty of water springs, including the thermal ones.
A curious spot for professional speleologists is Zjot Cave.
On one of the river bends, we will find the village of Pusti Gradec with a charming Church of All Saints, and an archeological iron age site called Gradinje nearby.
Quite some of the NATURA 2000 area in White Carniola is covered by so-called 'Steljniki', fern lands. Traditional 'steljniki' are the areas of mainly white birch and fern, which together form a peculiar bio-sphere.
They were created and maintained on former forest areas, once covered mostly by oak and white hornbeam. These trees were logged out due to the needs both for wood and for agricultural land.
'Steljniki' areas were maintained by pasture and mowing, the fern was then used mainly as bedding for cattle. Farming methods changed in the last few decades, and many 'steljniki' areas have been abandoned and overgrown.
Recently, thanks to civil initiatives, the situation is changing so there are more and more revitalized patches of this delicate bio-sphere.
Kopa old-growth forest
On the western boundary of White Carniola we find Kocevje old-growth forest.
Part of it is the area of Kopa, which includes the highest peak in the region (1077 m or 3533 ft).
Due to its location in the middle of the old-growth forest, it's recommended to have a professional guide to explore breathtaking nature there.
This peculiar and sensitive type of an olm is endemic to the Dobličica River spring and was found about 300 years after its 'brother' from Postojna Cave.
The covered Jelsevnik spring, next to Zupancic Farmstay, is the only place in the world where you can admire the black proteus in its natural habitat.
Karst path Lebica - Krupa
About 14 km (8,5 mi) long footpath is an open-air classroom. On the way, we can learn about different karst phenomena.
The village of Krupa boasts the fairy spring of the homonymous river, where the lively green water sources under the mighty 30 m (100 ft) rock, while near the village of Moverna Vas we find the Judovska Hisa Cave, an important paleolithic archeological site. The remains are dating back even to the 5th millennium BC.
Hrast pri Vinici village
The nearby pond is home to certain endangered local turtles, fishes, and amphibians.
A massive site of bauxite in the village makes the area interesting for geologists.
Culture in White Carniola
As Slovenia in general, it always has been a crossroad of cultures.
For a few centuries, during medieval times, White Carniola had been part of the so-called 'Vojna Krajina' or Military Frontier. This was a line of fortifications, organized by the Habsburg Monarchy on its southeastern border against the incursions of the Ottoman Empire. Military regiments were formed by the local people, who were granted certain favors for defending the monarchy in return.
The non-inhabited areas were settled by the refugees and soldiers from other Balkan regions, especially the ones ravaged by the Ottomans. A remain of also a religious fusion is still existing Eastern Orthodox communities in prevalently Catholic religious environment.
The Ottoman attacks on White Carniola are very-well described in the book Glory to the Duchy of Carniola, written by a Slovenian historian, polymath, and member of the Royal Society in London, Janez Vajkard Valvasor (1641 - 1693).
Considering the heritage in general, there is a strong influence of paganism, which is shown in local symbolic, such as the Sun Wheel (sun, life, eternity), and local festivities such as Festival of Green George (spring, the rebirth of nature).
Fern is considered healing and has been even integrated into amulets and good luck charms.
There are celebrations related to fern and birch trees, and some pagan superstitions too.
By one of the latter ones, you are able to talk to animals if you find a fern seed in your shoe on the night of summer solstice. People even tried to trick the Universe and put the seed into the shoe by themselves, but it doesn't work. The seed must fall into the shoe by itself when you don't know about it, and then you could talk with your cat or dog until the morning time. Without the use of drugs.
The architectural heritage of White Carniola is farming, but charming. Neat little houses with cultivated surroundings are usually renovations of the family houses, originating centuries back.
A stunnning example of vernacular architecture from the times of Ottoman Invasions is Sokcev Dvor in Zunici, exhibiting the region's unique farming tools and wooden constructions.
There are also castles, among the notable ones a very-well preserved Gradac Castle, situated on one of the bends of Lahinja River at the triple border of three White Carniola municipalities.
I would be probably the closest to the right definition by saying 'a hut for freshly married' or maybe even 'a babymaking hut'. In the past, a bit wealthier farmers were building small huts, enough big for a bed, two chairs, and table for their freshly married kids. Sure, expecting to get heirs who would take the farm over later on. Progressive thinking of the time, isn't it?
Now the huts are part of farms as sheds or storages for farming tools and hay. And especially if there's hay, 'his' can still turn into a temple of love...
What things to do in White Carniola?
Slovenia is a cycling country, we can say after the success of our cycling heroes Tadej Pogacar and Primoz Roglic on Tour de France and Vuelta 2020.
White Carniola is a homeland to Jani Brajkovic, the cycling predecessor of the above-mentioned ones.
White Carniola is a perfect spot for cycling lovers, with its curvy roads, ups and downs the hills, and especially breathtaking panoramas all along your way. Pit stops can be tricky. I know many who ended their route for that day just by having a spritz (wine & soda) there...
Otherwise, awesome cycling environment also for families.
In this case, hiking is not meant to be like the one in the mountain areas such as around Lake Bled, Bohinj, Kranjska Gora, or Triglav National Park.
Hiking White Carniola is not a challenge, it's a pleasure. There are different hiking trails passing the areas of already mentioned parks, in addition, there are wine trails with wine cellars and brilliant homemade foods all around White Carniola.
For good practice, you can choose hikes to Mt Krasnji Vrh, Mt Smuk, or Mt Mirna Gora, the region's second-highest peak with its 1047 m (3435 ft).
A reason you may fall in love with White Carniola is taking a ride with a boat or a canoe on either Lahinja or Kolpa or Krupa rivers.
Sweetwater fishes such as trouts and graylings are a sign of life after a period of industrial activities in the region that caused almost the extinction. Today White Carniola is one of the most sustainable and self-sufficient regions in Slovenia.
Loopy suggestion for keen fishermen is Prilozje Pond, besides already mentioned rivers.
Paragliding and hand-gliding
Mt Smuk is one of Slovenia's most known starting points. The magnificent view from above attracts adrenaline lovers from all over the world.
Skiing resort Gace is among the smaller ones in Slovenia with its 550 m (1800 ft) of height difference and 2800 m (1,25 mi) long ski run. But don't be misled by these parameters. Skiing in White Carniola's only skiing resort is more than just skiing. It is a great party with local cuisine, wine, and merry people with wishes to have a good time besides some recreation.
Towns to visit in White Carniola
The towns of Crnomelj, Metlika, and Semic are also the seats of the three homonymous municipalities of White Carniola.
The biggest among the towns with nearly 6000 inhabitants. The municipality area covers more than 50& of White Carniola, the population of the whole area is about 15000, which is also more than half of the region's population. With these statistics, Crnomelj is among the biggest municipalities of Slovenia. The cozy little town is located on the confluence of Doblicica and Lahinja rivers. Over the Crnomelj's Triple Bridge we get to the town center with the Stonic Castle and Jarc Street, known as the Culture Street. There we can admire the churches of St Spirit and St Peter, the old Primozic House with the exhibition of traditional crafts, and the new Town Museum.
The town by the Kolpa River is hiding quite some interesting spots. The Metlika Castle is turned into a town wine center, managed by the Sturm Family, a well-known wine producer of Bela Krajina's wine-growing district. In the House of Good Food, we can taste the delicious traditional dishes of White Carniola. The history from Ancient Times until today is explained in the Regional Museum of Bela Krajina. By following the Obrh Educational Trail we get a view into the ethnologic and natural characteristics of the region. The first fire brigade in the area of present-day Slovenia was established in Metlika back in 1869. The Firefighting Museum of Metlika is a unique museum in Slovenia where we can be taught about this noble activity, of which in Slovenia 90% are volunteers.
The sleepy town with around 2000 inhabitants is located under Mt Smuk. It surprises with its simplicity, as well as with a professional approach to the subjects, represented in the Semic Museum House. I would point out the wine room with the wooden tools from before the industrial era, and the inter-active room with superb explanations about the geology, flora, and fauna of White Carniola. The town has some well-preserved parts of the wall from the times of Ottoman Invasions. The church of St Stephen, leaning against the wall, is among the biggest in the region.
Food and wine
Besides nature, food and wine are the main reasons why visiting White Carniola. The region is rich with either meat dishes or vegetarian ones.
Belokranjska Pogaca, or White Carniola Flatbread, is the queen of the region's everyday life.
Just salted and with some cumin added, it is offered as a sign of respect and welcome in every home.
The palatable local wines just complement the image of White Carniola as a foodie paradise. As in most of Slovenia, wine has top importance also in White Carniola.
Soseska Zidanica in Drasici village shows how important the tie between the local people wine has been through time. Soseska Zidanica is kind of a cooperative. The members can borrow wine when they finish their supply. The interest rates are 50%. Not in money, but in grape must. After the harvest, the members give the grape must to the common cellar, where it gets mixed with the must of others. In this way, they get the common wine. That wine is then sold on, the income is used for the projects of the local community.
I can't avoid mentioning tasteful spirits, especially the fruit and honey brandies ('sadjevec' and 'medica') with heavenly flavors.
The base for the honey brandy is the top quality, locally produced honey. We can easily say beekeeping is a part of White Carniola's identity. In the Kolpa River Regional Park, in the village of Zunici, there is even a beekeeping thematic hiking path.
Pumpkin seed oil is the base of several local dishes.
Pure, thick, organic, nutritious, it makes an important part of everyday diet.
It is known to have healing effects on kidneys. Prekmurje region (link) is another region in Slovenia, known for the pumpkin seed oil.
Where to eat and drink in White Carniola?
Local ingredients are the main attributes of the restaurants such as Kapusin in Gradac, Pezdirc in Semic, and Muller in Crnomelj.
Locals prefer suckling pig, suckling lamb, grilled fish, all accompanied by delectable local reds or whites. There are dishes like different types of 'povitica' or rolled dough with different. either meat or vegetable fillings.
If you want to do a step further into the farming identity of White Carniola, we can arrange a visit to one of the tourist farms, such as Jakljevic in Grabrovec, Pecel in Maline, or Zagar in Vinica.
Or in some of several other authentic farms around, depends where we'll move and how we'll organize our tour or day trip or multiday tour to this part of Slovenia.
Where to stay in White Carniola?
In case of a multiday tour to this part of Slovenia, you can choose among some 1300 beds around the region.
Besides the already mentioned tourist farms, a great option to keep in touch with nature is apartments next to the rivers such as Lahinja & Kolpa River Appartments in Gersici, or Fortunovi Apartment Ob Kolpi in Krasinec; glamping such as Big Berry in Primostek, or Kolpa Resort in Krasinec; camping such as Camping Bela Krajina in Podzemelj, or Lovsin in Krizevska Vas.
By choosing the wine cottages such as Zajc in Semic, or Brodaric in Drasici, you can extend your wine tasting in White Carniola long into the night.
In Metlika you can indulge yourself in the hotel hospitality in a 3* Bela Krajina Hotel, or go for some more privacy in some of the cute apartments such as Ma&Ja in Grabrovec, or Apartma Marija in Gradac.
Festivities in White Carniola
Every year, until 2020, there were plenty of parties around White Carniola. I remember many of them as I attended them with my band. Unforgettable parties in White Carniola - wish to be there again soon.
Jurjevanje or Festival of Green George, or Georgeisation as I call it in English, is the major folklore show in the region and the exhibition of the local folk costumes, taking place in the town of Crnomelj every year until 2020.
The biggest wine festival in White Carniola, happening in May.
A 'fizzy' culture festival in Crnomelj, including musical concerts, theatre, and gastronomic events.
Vinica Summer Festival
A festival of music, entertainment, and sports activities take place in Vinica, next to the Kolpa River. The 'crown' of the festival is the Miss White Carniola Contest.
Tastes of White Carniola
During the weekends of July, in the chosen places of Bela Krajina, you can attend the foodie events, presenting the local dishes in a modern way.
White Carniola's Open Doors
Every September until the one in 2020, the farms, artisans, and all the people of goodwill open the doors of their homes where you can enter the world of traditional crafts and farming chores.
Feel free to ask.
No rush, regarding the momentary situation.
But sooner or later we'll be ready to go around again, isn't it?
Visiting Bela Krajina region in Slovenia
Get to know why to integrate Bela Krajina Region into your Slovenia itinerary
White Carniola region covers an area of about 600 sq km (230 sq mi), which is roughly 3% of Slovenia.