If you're planning a camping road trip in Slovenia, you probably already have three big attractions on your travel radar to explore with a campervan - the capital city Ljubljana, the oh-so-famous lake Bled and the unspoilt wild river Soča.
Soča Valley region is an amazing place of scenic, long and winding roads with few cars to pass along the way. In the heart of the valley, surrounded by majestic walls of Julian Alps, lies one of the most beautiful rivers in Europe. Soča river will surprise you with its pristine colours that change from icy blue to deep emerald green.
However, that is not all there is to see around here, this valley is a popular adventure sports destination and it's easy to get your blood pumping here. Hiking, kayaking, rafting, zipline, canyoning, paragliding, skydiving ... Options to have an active holiday are practically endless in this valley.
Soča valley is our favourite road trip destination in Slovenia.
These are the views from a Waterfall Boka trail.
If you haven't heard about any of the big three Slovenia sights mentioned above, you can catch up and do your 'homework' by reading our previous blogs, covering the main highlights of Slovenia in 8 days and/or many other useful information for campervan travel in Slovenia (and beyond).
If you don't feel like planning in advance and you prefer to decide as you go, simply download our road trip map with more than 90 spots to include to your road trip itinerary.
This map is what our costumers love the most while renting or vans!
We've travelled up and down and back and forth to create a selection of more than
90 of the best pit stops to include on your Slovenia (and Croatia) adventure.
Download your road trip map here.
All the places we mention are definitely worth a visit, but river Soča is nothing less than spectacular.
To be honest, Soča valley is our favourite region of Slovenia.
The emerald Soča river is the most beautiful river in Slovenia. It springs up in the heart of Triglav National Park, under the peaks of the Julian Alps.
To justify this statement, we are here to help you uncover the magnificent Soča Valley from behind the wheels, making sure you stop at the best points and fill your camera storage with most beautiful memories. Just make sure you have enough fuel in your campervan and have packed enough towels, bathers, hiking shoes and warm clothes.
Even though the best time for Soča valley adventure is mid to late summer, Soča region is a great road trip option no matter the weather! Every season has special treats, so do not skip this region just because you're exploring Slovenia outside the main season (just skip swimming in the river during winter).
Freezing cold, but spectacular!
River Soča is known for its emerald color and very low temperature year-round. Average summer temperature rarely rises above 10 -12 degrees, hence only the brave or the foolish happily jump in. We highly encourage you to gather the strenghts for a quick dip, as it's an experience worth remembering!
Camper Dylan was not only brave enough to swim in Soča river, he went all in with this crazy jump!
You may wonder why the river is cold? The cold alpine waters of Jalovca, Šit, Travnika in Mojstrovke combine from the glaciers in an underground lake, making their way through a narrow karst gorge and emerge to the surface as Soča river. This emerald masterpiece is a natural landmark which starts at Vršič mountain pass and makes its 138 km way to the Adriatic Sea, curving along plenty of secret gorges, valleys and breathtaking features.
But ... where to start?
The best way to start your Soča adventure is with a good breakfast and an cup of coffee by a lovely Lake Jasna in Kranjska Gora (on the eastern side of the Julian Alps mountain range) - believe us, before driving over Vršič mountain pass, you will need a hearty meal, as you'll be stopping all the time because of the scenic views.
The road from Kranjska Gora to Soča Valley takes travelers past larch forests, idyllic meadows and under scraggly mountain peaks.
Vršič mountain pass road is open on average seven months per year, in winter it is normally closed to all traffic.
Campervan stop Kranjska Gora is a great choice for a sleepover and with a cost of only 15€ a day it's worth having a good nights sleep and an early day start here before heading across the mountains towards Soča valley.
Under the ski slopes of Kranjska Gora there is a great and cheap overnight camper stop for your campervan.
Photo source: https://www.avtokampi.si/
After 30+ turns with your campervan and 806m of road accent, you will start noticing signs saying "Izvir Soče" aka Soča Spring, along the road 206. Take the marked turn to the left, reaching the hut by the Soča spring (Koča pri izviru Soče).
For now, the parking is still free as is the entrance to the pathway, leading to the river spring itself (season 2020). From the hut, there is a clearly marked path, which will take you only 15min walking, but make sure you have some good and sturdy shoes on.
The walk through the difficult terrain, equipped with steel ropes and narrow crossings, is rewarded when you reach the spring. "A window to the underground", we could call it, as the water is so pure, clear and blue, you can see meters below surface.
Start at the source! Soča river spring is breathtakingly beautiful, and shortly after the spring this playful river creates an interesting 10-meter waterfall and countless smaller ones.
And here it is, the first point of the journey through the valley. When you are fully inspired, refreshed and ready to hop behind the wheel again, you will turn right, continuing the road 206, towards Bovec.
After another 20 turns or so you'll approach Trenta valley, lovely hidden valley hidden amongst the mountain peaks.
The Trenta valley, carved deep into the heart of the mountains, will make you forget about the everyday city hustle.
photo source: https://www.foodiebaker.com/
In Trenta Valley you have an option to sleep in a Nest Campers partner campsite, beautiful Camp Triglav, where you'll get a 10% discount of your overnight stay. Just show your Nest campervan car key at the reception and it will do the trick!
Passing the Lepena Information center, take the first turn on the left that will take you over the bridge and find the information sign for an off-road parking. Being lunch time, the beauty of a campervan is having your kitchen with you wherever you go. Cook up a quick lunch and make your way towards the Great Soča river gorge. Here, the emerald green pools are intertwined into a 750-metre-long meticulously smoothed out gorge that is only a few metres wide and 15 metres deep.
On a nice sunny warm summer day you can see people sunbathing on the rocks a bit furhter from the great gorge. Some brave individuals might also be swimming in the pools. As we said before, jump into the river, but beware it's freezing!
Few meters from Great Soča river gorge you'll find nice rocks to relax, read a book and if you're brave enough even jump into the river.
Lepena is a small settlement lying in the valley of Lepenjica Creek, which merges into Soča river. The serene beauty will take you back in time, long before smart phones and drones existed. But if you have one, now is the time to use it.
At the end of Lepena valley, by the mountain hut Dom dr. Klementa Juga, the trail to the Krn lake starts (the largest Slovenian high mountain lake). Please note that it's about 2-3 hours to Lake Krn for adults (one way), which should make a 3-4 hour walk up for young families (one way). From lake Krn you can continue your hike al the way up to Mt. Krn (2244m).
Stork campervan exploring Lepena Valley.
A few meters up the Lepena valley you'll find another surprise of the region. An area where Šunik Creek meets Lepenjica Creek in a playground of vibrant green pools stretching across 100m is called Šunikov vodni gaj (The Šunik water grove). It has been said this is an energy healing point and is a perfect place for meditation or a few minutes of silence and relaxation. Feels like being caught in a fairytale!
Wonderful pools filled with crystal clear water flowing over the numerous rock indentations
through the cool beech forest - this is what Šunik water grove is all about.
After all the sights, continue down the main road until you reach village Bovec aka the adventure capital of Slovenia. Surrounded by Alpine peaks, perfect for hiking and water adventures, our suggestion is to take a day or three and really make the most of it.
The area is full of camps and campervan areas, making it an easy starting point for any adventure you choose, but let as name at least a few:
- Cliff jump into Soča, rappel the Fratarica canyon, fly like a bird ziplining 70kmh between mountains. These are for the brave.
- Rafting and canyoning can be done at different levels and suitable for all, as also mountain biking and hiking.
Rafting - an experience on the emerald green Soča river you absolutely cannot miss!
Hike your way through Soča valley
Hiking is the Soča valley region is a great idea, because you can tailor the hikes to your abilities, skills and time. All of the official hiking routes in Slovenia are clearly marked and easy to find on the internet or information points, along with hiking times and difficulty levels. See also our useful blog post about hiking in Slovenia.
Mt. Kanin and Prestreljenik window
For the more seasoned hikers, a good choice is a fairly difficult hike from Bovec to Mt. Kanin. The Kanin Mountains are a mountain range separating Slovenia from Italy, reaching the peak of Mt. Kanin at 2578m. The route starts at the Kanin gondola just outside the village Bovec and it takes you to the Station D (at an altittude of 2202m) - you can either hike all the way up to the Station D or take a ride with gondola (20€ return ticket, summer 2020).
The panoramic cable car Kanin takes its passengers from Bovec to Station D (2202 m), which is an excellent starting point for hikers, mountain bikers and paragliders.
The 2.5 hour hike from Station D to Mt. Kanin takes you up to the scenic peak, passing a big natural made window in the rock called Prestreljeniško okno (Prestreljenik window), a perfect photo stop. All along the way, you'll find steel ropes to help cross over the most difficult parts. Every drop of sweat and hints of fear are rewarded with amazing views over the highest parts of Slovenia and Italy.
The Prestreljenik window is one of the Julian Alps natural rock windows.
If you fear steep cliffs and ferrates, but you still want a good workout, a better option is a hike to Mt Svinjak. This route starts in village Kal-Koritnica, just outside of Bovec.
It's not hard to spot Mt. Svinjak from village Bovec, which is also known as the adventure capital of Slovenia.
You can easily find the signs pointing to Mt. Svinjak and also plenty of allocated parking for your campervan. After 3.5h of hiking you'll reach the peak of Mt. Svinjak (1653m), which has a fairly low altitude for an Alpine mountain, but nevertheless the views are nothing short of amazing. The name comes from a word 'svitnjak' - the shining one, because it is illuminated by the rising sun when we look at it from Bovec.
Remember to bring plenty of water with you in the summer, as there are no options to refill during the hike and the trail is quite steep and exposed to the sun.
Views from Mt. Svinjak towards Soča valley.
Tired of hiking? ... Drive up to the scenic Mangart saddle!
After all the countless steps, lost breaths and adrenalin rushes, there is one more bullet you need to cross from Soča region to-do list - the Mangart sadle.
Nest Campers road trip map includes all the scenic Soča valley gems,
including Mangart saddle (number 42).
No campervan trip would be complete without a scenic drive onto the highest lying road in Slovenia. Think of passing Vršič mountain pass as a slight warm up to your driving skills, they will be tested. The Mangart pass is a very narrow, winding drive over the mountainous part of Slovenia. Along this 12km long way you will elevate 980m, passing through five rock-carved tunnels which were hand-made by Italian army as a defense against the Yugoslavian in 1938.
The road is ticketed and the fee of 5€ is collected 2km after the start as a point of no return. The adventurous drive takes a good hour and finishes on a huge gravel parking, surrounded by the highest peaks of Italy and Slovenia, with the altitude of 2050m. If that is not a perfect picnic spot we don't know what it is!
How 'bout this for a picnic spot? There is a mountain hut with great food options at Mangart saddle, however we suggest you take a pizza from Hotel Alpine just before driving up the Mangart road and eat it at the top - those pizzas are to die for!
Mangart saddle drive also made it to our list of most scenic roads in Slovenia and it's easy to see why.
Tired of mountains? No worries, there are waterfalls to explore!
Bovec is a dreamland for adrenaline junkies and active lovers of nature, but there is still much more to see in Soča region, so you'll have to leave this beautiful adventure city behind and jump behind your campervan wheel.
From Bovec, drive on the road 203 towards Tolmin and be sure to keep your eyes to the left. After only a few minutes of driving, you will be able to see a big waterfall, located just in the middle of the bush area - waterfall Boka. It is 106m high and 33m wide, which does not make it the biggest one in Slovenia, but because you are able to see it from behind the wheel, it is definitely one of the most known ones and also the most majestic one.
If you decide to stop and take a closer look, there's a fun, well-marked and quick walk to the viewpoint.
Waterfall Boka is especially stunning in the spring, when snowmelt gives it extra oomph.
Passing along little villages of Žaga, Srpenica and Trnovo by Soča, just before Kobarid, there is another waterfall, waterfall Kozjak. Trust us, this one is well worth a stop!
The road for Kozjak Waterfall is clearly signed and turns a sharp right before the bridge leading to Kobarid, where Kozjak stream meets river Soča.
Crossing Napoleon's bridge, park your campervan on the road parking at camp Koren. Being such a lovely walk, suitable for all and especially children, the parking gets full very easily during busy summer months. Broad, marked pathway will lead you all along the Kozjak stream through the lush forest area. Every turn will uncover a gorge or a pool until you reach the main attraction. Kozjak stream made six waterfalls, amongst which The Big Kozjak waterfall is the one on everyone's check list. It has a unique charm as it falls from a whole in a cave ceiling, dropping 15m into a crisp emerald pool. Swimming is not allowed and since year 2019 there is an entry fee of 3€ to be paid.
Waterfall Kozjak. We'll say nothing more.
Back to civilisation ... Well, food.
The village of Kobarid is an attraction itself, mostly for history lovers. The 1917 Battle of Caporetto has inspired Ernest Hemingway to document the Italian retreat in his novel A Farewell to Arms. You can read and see all about it in the local museum.
After nature and history, it is time to combine both on a plate. Just a bit further from Kobarid town center, driving on road 102, Hiša Franko is the place to go if you're a true foodie.
Named by Mr .Franko, who served his first roast-beef during second world war, it took 50 years of tradition and mixing only local ingredients to perfection, to make it onto The World's Best 50 Restaurants List. Bear in mind that there are long waiting lines to get a table here, so make sure you reserve a table well in advance!
In 2017, Ana Roš, the chef at Hiša Franko, was named the world's best female chef. Eating her food is an experience you'll never forget!
Finishing an amazing meal, surrounded by the nature and sounds of the water, you'll be ready to head towards the last stop of this road trip, Tolmin, the largest town in Soča Valley.
When in the area, do not miss out on Tolminska korita (Tolmin gorges). They are the lowest point of entry in Triglav National Park and a round route takes you along five magnificent natural attractions of Medvedova Glava, Devils Bridge, the cave of Dante, thermal spring and the confluence of both rivers. Made by river Tolminka and river Zadlaščica, this nature reserve is a lovely half day adventure suitable for all.
Tickets are available online or on-site, for 5€ to 8€ depending on the season. Parking P2 is suitable for campervans and is free, but the main parking P1 is ticketed from 6th of July to 30th of August.
Just a stone throw away from Tolmin, at the confluence of Tolminka and Zadlaščica, both streams have carved deep gorges into the rocks.
A very special place, perfect for a camper stop is also the confluence of river Soča and Tolminka. It was and hopefully will still be a setting for three of the best festivals in the country - Metaldays, Punk Rock Holidays and Overjam Reggae Festival. Crowds from all over the world are amazed by great music whilst floating the river on their pink flamingos and unicorns.
Be festival or not be sure to take time and float in this pristine wilderness of Soča river yourself.
The beauty of Soča river doesn't end here, there are more sights to explore further south - scenic and colorful village Kanal ob Soči, stone bridge in Nova Gorica and the Natural Reserve of the Mouth of the Soča river (already in Italy), but we'll cover that in a different blog post!
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