Rakov Škocjan Nature Reserve

Useful Information

Veliki naravni most, a natural bridge in the Rakov National Park near Postojna in Slovenia.
Location: Near Rakek, Cerknica. 20 km from Postojna.
Open: No restrictions. [2015]
Fee: No restrictions. [2015]
Classification: KarstPolje KarstKarst Lake KarstDoline KarstKarst Spring KarstLosing Stream GeologyNatural Bridge KarstPonor
Light: none, bring torch
Guided tours: No
Guided tours:  
Photography: Allowed
Accessibility: No, steep trails with many stairs to all sites
Address: Hotel rakov Škocjan, Rakov Škocjan 1, 1380 Cerknica, Tel: +386-170-71464, Tel: +386-41-693124. E-mail: contact Tel: +386-1709-3636 E-mail: contact
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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The Rakov Škocjan Nature Reserve is probably the most famous karst area in Slovenia, showing most of the typical karst features. Most of the park is a limestone plateau with trees and without water. In this plateau, a steep valley with flat floor and a river at the bottom can be found. This is called Polje (field) in Slovenian, a word adopted by the geologists for this kind of karst feature. Slovenia is the type locale for Poljes.

Polje means field, and we see why it is so: the plateau is not used for agriculture, because the limestone is covered only by a thin layer of soil, and thousands of dolines make it almost inaccessible. Only forest, which is more like dense bush, grows on this extreme conditions. The floor of the valleys is a flat and fertile plain composed of river and lake sediments, used for fields and meadows. The river, which flows through this plain is the Rak, after which the area is named. The second part of the name is Škocjan after Sv. Kancijan or St. Cantianus, the patron saint of a monastery which once existed in the forest. It was destroyed many years ago during World War I and never rebuilt. St. Canzianus was a monk in Aquileia, a Roman city near modern Triese, and when the Huns invaded he faced them and asked them to spare the monastery in their raid. They killed him and threw him into the water, so he became a martyr and later a saint related to water. Thats the reason why many karst features in Slovenia, which are frequently flooded, are somehow related to him.

The main sights of the park are Veliki naravni most (Big Natural Bridge) and Mali naravni most (Small Natural Bridge). They are located at both ends of the valley, where the water also flows out of cave or vanishes inside a cave. So this are the two most interesting spots of the parke. The road follows the polje a little elevated, probably 20 m uphill from the valley floor. This is importantant as the valley is flooded almost every year, in some years it is flooded more than once, and sometimes even the road is flooded and the park cannot be visited. Along the road there are several small springs, and right in the middle between the two bridges is a single building, a hotel which was renovated some years ago and offers high grade accomodation for an acceptable price.

Veliki naravni most is located at the western end of the valley. The road through the park, a single lane gravel road, crosses the bridge, but from the road this is almost invincible. The rather small opening is covered by a massive layer of limestone, and the bridge makes a really stable impression. Once through the bridge, the river Rak crosses a huge collapse doline and then enters a cave where it vanishes.

The Mali naravni most is on the eastern end of the polje. This two natural bridges are obviously the last remains of a now destroyed cave. There are also several caves like Zelške jame. Public footpaths allow interesting walks through the park.

The accessibility of many sights at Rakov Škocjan Nature Reserve depends on the water level, so it is a bad idea to visit this park after heavy rains or in spring. During really dry periods (so actually not every year) the river looses completely and the riverbed becomes almost dry. During this periods it is possible to follow the river bed through all natural bridges, cave ruins and dolines to the entrance of the caves at both ends.

Rakov Škocjan Gallery