A winding unpaved road to the historic Loibl Pass

Loibl Pass is an international mountain pass at an elevation of 1,367m (4,485ft) above sea level, located on the border of Austria and Slovenia. It’s considered one of the oldest mountain passes in Europe.

Loibl Pass

Is the old road through Loibl Pass unpaved?

Set high in the Southern Limestone Alps, the winding road to the summit is unpaved, narrow, and pretty steep, with 16 hairpin turns. The pass, known as Ljubelj Pass, Loiblpass, and Prelaz Ljubelj, is 5 km (3.10 miles) long. It’s a challenging road, with countless turns and twists.

Why is Loibl Pass famous for?

It is the shortest connection between the town of Ferlach (in Carinthia) and Tržič (in Upper Carniola). A memorial on the Slovenian side of the Loibl Pass commemorates the victims of the Loibl Süd forced labor camp, which existed between 1943 and 1945. There is a renovated mountain hostel at the pass; in clear weather, there is a good view of the Ljubljana and Klagenfurt basins. The Romans used this route across Ljubelj to connect the settlements of Emona (the "precursor" of Ljubljana) and Virunum, the capital city of the province of Noricum, located in Zollfeld.

Construction of the Loibl Pass tunnel

During World War II, the pass, strategically vital as a transport route connecting the German Reich and the Balkans, underwent significant changes. To bypass the challenging upper sections of the mountain road, a tunnel, known as the Ljubelj Tunnel or Loibltunnel, was constructed. Situated at 1,068 m (3,504 ft) above sea level, the 1,570 m (5,150 ft) meter-long tunnel was commissioned by the Nazi Gauleiter of Carinthia, Friedrich Rainer. The construction project was assigned to the Viennese Universale Hoch- und Tiefbau company, and the workforce included 660 civilian workers. Additionally, the Service du travail obligatoire of Vichy France contributed several laborers, while 1,652 forced laborers were supplied through a contract with the SS. These forced laborers, considered prisoners, were interned in two minor subcamps of the Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp, one on each side of the pass. The tunnel served as a strategic wartime solution, allowing smoother transportation between the German Reich and the Balkans.

Can I drive my vehicle through Loibl Pass on the border of Austria and Slovenia?

The old road through the summit of the mountain pass is closed for motorized traffic since 1967 and is currently only open for bicycles and wanderers. You may get an exception from the local police of the tiny village of Ferlach (Austrian side), but this exception is only valid for the Austrian side. You’ll have to turn around when you are at the top of the pass because there starts the territory of Slovenia.
Road suggested by: Michael Spannlang
Pic: Markus Ortner