How to get to the Soča Valley?
There are several possible options due to the geographical position of Slovenia in the middle of Europe.
If you are planning to come by plane directly to Slovenia, you'll land at Ljubljana Airport.
This is the only international airport in the country, a 25 minutes car or shuttle bus ride from the city.
Ljubljana Train Station has very good connections with neighboring countries, as well as the Ljubljana Bus Station.
Most likely you will take a day or two for Ljubljana sightseeing, which is a perfect introduction to the country's vibe.
At Ljubljana Bus Station you can consider the options to Soča Valley more to details.
The link above is useful also in case you are coming from some of the international airports in the neighboring countries.
Slovenia borders with four countries: Austria, Croatia, Hungary, and Italy.
Let's start with Italy as the Soča River flows to the Adriatic Sea there.
The quaint town of Kanal in the lower part of Soča Valley will be our point of reference.
In the following cases, I considered the continuation of your way from the airports by rented car.
There are three major airports we can consider as useful options:
- Venice Airport
- Treviso Airport
- Trieste Airport
The first two are roughly 2 hours' drive away, while Trieste one is just some hour drive away.
From Austria, the neighbor on the North, you can opt for the:
- Klagenfurt Aiport
- Graz Airport
- Salzburg Airport
- Vienna Airport
First is some 3 hours' drive away, the second almost 4 hours.
Salzburg and Vienna one I'd suggest in case of an extended holiday with visits to the places in between. These two are 4 to 6 hours' car drive away.
Not even Germany is too far.
From Munich, you have just some 5 hours' car drive.
In between, you can do a city-break in Salzburg.
The most distant is the Budapest Airport in Hungary.
For this drive, consider some 6 hours.
The drive along Balaton Lake and through Eastern Slovenia, on the other hand, may fulfill your vacation mosaic in a wonderfully diverse way.
You can consider an option to enter Slovenia from Croatia too.
Zagreb Airport is some 3 hours' drive away from Kanal.
In this case, you have to consider some time also for border crossing.
This is the only border with a passport check.
There is no check on the borders with Austria, Hungary, and Italy, even though also there might be occasional border controls.
All the driving times are without refreshing stops.
Consider some time for these needs too.
In case you are not a driver, it's best to get to Ljubljana first as there are no connections to the small towns of Soča Valley from the airports.
With the local busses, you then continue to Kanal or any other place in the Soča Valley.
At this point let me be honest with you. Regional public transport in Slovenia is poor.
We can understand this through the demography of the country. Slovenians live in small towns and villages all around the country. It's still a challenge on how to connect them into an efficient public transportation web.
So in the end, the bus ride Ljubljana to Nova Gorica will take you around 2 hours (1 hour by car), a local bus drive to Kanal some 20 minutes drive.
Trains I would exclude from the options, as there are almost no connections with the Soča Valley.
There is a possibility to get to Kanal or Most na Soči by train from Ljubljana, but it's the most complex and long of all options. I will skip it.
Much better options are to book some of the Loopy Slovenia day trips to Soča Valley or the 3 days tour around it.
The best option is to contact me for a custom-made tour.
What to do in the Soča Valley?
Let's first divide it into three parts, from the source of Soča River to the border of Italy:
- Trenta and Bovec (upper section)
- Kobarid and Tolmin (middle section)
- Most na Soči, Kanal, Solkan (lower section)
I will suggest to you what are the best things to do in each part of the Soča Valley.
Trenta and Bovec
Trenta is a contributory valley to the Soča one.
It is located in the heart of Triglav National Park, the largest protected nature area and the only national park in Slovenia.
At the beginning of the valley, up in the mountain below Vršič Mountain Pass, the turquoise fairy Soča River is coming out to meet the sun.
Bovec is the adrenaline hotspot in Slovenia with a specific energetic vibe.
You can consider it your base for extreme water sports like rafting, kayaking, canyoning, hydrospeed, zip line.
Calmer ones can choose among activities such as hiking, horseriding, mountain biking.
Surrounding rough geographical relief at least doubles the charming effect.
Plenty of restaurants and bars enrich life in this pretty destination, many times parties extend to the night.
The hike to the Soča River spring
An astonishing natural site in the heart of Triglav National Park, where the turquoise fairy comes out to meet the sun.
Around 20 minutes hike to one way is a blessing for your following exploration of Soča Valley. Consider this hike medium-difficult.
Following the Soča River down the stream for some 20 minutes, you get to the turn for this rugged-relief area.
Actually we speak about roughly seven kilometers long village with several hamlets, but only about forty inhabitants.
This specific place extends on various altitudes, which makes it even more peculiar.
Lepena is also a brilliant starting point for about 3 hours hike to Krn Lake, the largest Alpine lake in Slovenia.
Swimming in it is not allowed because of delicate flora and fauna.
From the lake, you can continue your way further to the Julian Alps.
For less active there is also horseriding available down in the village.
Admire Virje Waterfall
In the village of Plužna, some five minutes car drive west of Bovec, you will find another natural phenomenon of the area.
The Glijun creek water even in the summer doesn't reach more than 7 degrees Celsius, which is about 45 Fahrenheit.
Its spring never dries up, this is the purest water from the depths of Alpine-Karst underground.
Swimming is not allowed.
Stop at Boka Waterfall
Even though not known as Rinka, Savica, and Peričnik Waterfalls, it is the most majestic waterfall in Slovenia regarding the water flow.
On rainy days, the stop at it is a must as the waterfall splits to several smaller ones. All together create an unforgettable image.
Following a nice path for about 15 minutes you can get right under it to feel the power of Nature.
Ski heritage event Emaus
April's traditional meeting of old-style skiing enthusiasts on Mount Kanin is an excellent chance to dive deep into the skiing tradition.
Slovenia has over 300 years of skiing tradition.
Written documents of that time are mentioning skiing on Bloke Plateau.
You can ski at around 50 resorts all over the North of the country.
Cross-country skiing and ski jumps are at least the same popular.
Ski jumps in Planica are among the biggest events of this kind in the whole world and considered an unofficial national day.
The devotion to skiing is shown also in the fact Slovenians were the first to give ski lessons to the blind people.
In Soča Valley, the paradise for adrenaline lovers, you can thrill yourself with different extreme outdoor activities.
There are canyons like Sušec for the beginners or Fratarca for the ones with advanced knowledge.
Let the professionals make you stop breathing for a while by doing canyoning, hydrospeed or kayaking there. If you are in a group, rafting may come out as the funniest option.
You can continue to breathe getting to the starting point of a 3 kilometers long zip line up in the slopes of Kanin Mountain Range.
Not for a long time, because on certain parts of the line you will be zipping down on a wire 200 meters above the ground.
If you will still manage to breathe, forget about that when seeing the view to the Bovec area and surrounding peaks of Julian Alps from up there.
You can repeat the zip line in a different, exploring way in Učja Canyon, a wild protected park in the area where you will find the biggest zip line center in Europe.
'Čompe Night' in Bovec
The essence of this joyful event of food is the 'Čompe' dish.
A simple dish, composed of just boiled potatoes and fresh cottage cheese of the area explains the simplicity of the shepherds' diet in the past.
Sure they will take care of your stomach also with other traditional dishes such as various types of dumplings with different fillings.
As always in Slovenia, good food is accompanied by good music and a lot of dance.
Meet the farming tradition of Trenta Valley.
Tasting Bovec Cheese, made from milk by the indigenous Bovec sheep, already mentioned 'Čompe' dish, honey, dried meat products and other specialties of the region is a culinary experience.
Simple, nutrient, healthy and organic dishes made out of organic products symbolize the Slovenian cuisine.
The added value to this festival is the presentation of the local farming chores, traditions, and customs.
Often we know the dish or taste but have no idea what it is nor how they made it.
This is the right event where to discover all details in on the first sight simple but in reality a very pragmatic and wise field-to-table food system in Slovenia.
Kobarid and Tolmin
Kobarid is a cozy town at the beginning of the Soča River middle section.
Except for its flow which gets calmer, all the rest remains the same.
Its mystic power and emerald color which stays the same until kissing the Adriatic Sea in Italy.
The vibe is not as energetic as in the upper section.
Thus other feelings, emotions, and senses start to awake deep in ourselves.
Food and heritage lovers will get to the perfect place to pamper their bellies and enrich historical knowledge.
World War I made Kobarid a place of remembrance of what should not be repeated never again.
This little town took the main role even in Ernest Hemingway's classic A Farewell to Arms. The described Italian retreat mainly based around it.
Tolmin will surprise you with the cultural identity.
It is the biggest settlement along the Soča River with about 3500 inhabitants.
Some of the most known European festivals of various genres are taking place on the confluence of Tolminka and Soča River, a stone throw from the town center.
A number of different cultural groups are originating from here. From local traditional bands to youth brass and jazz big band, from folklore ensembles to singing choirs.
Tolmin regularly hosts also traditional food festivals.
Visit the World War I Museum in Kobarid
Awarded by the European Council.
Any war museum is amusing, don't expect anything like this also in Kobarid Museum.
You can expect a very detailed explanation of the events that took place in Kobarid and surroundings, on the so-called Soča River Front.
The front line was about 90 kilometers long, extending from Mt Rombon to the mouth of the Soča River in Italy, crossing it several times.
It opened up in 1915 when Italy decided to enter the war on the side of Entente forces, the opponents of Central Powers the Austro-Hungarian monarchy was part of.
It lasted until the end of World War I in 1918.
The crazy situation for Slovenians was that they lived partly in both of the opposing countries, which resulted in fighting on both sides.
It was one of the cruelest and unhuman war fronts in war history.
In some of the reports, we can read that more soldiers died because of inhuman conditions, cold, avalanches, diseases than of the fights.
The front was crossing high Alpine peaks many times. This means soldiers had to fight on the peaks over 2000 meters (about 6600 feet) high.
In the winter the battlefields up there were covered by a layer of over 3 meters (about 10 feet) of snow.
In many cases, battles ended up in helping each other to survive.
The insanity of this front, as of any other, is the best explained in one of the sentences you can read in the museum, written by an unknown soldier:
'The warlords were never on the battlefields. No one would let anything like this happen for any reason.'
Path of Peace, around 90 kilometers or 55 miles long walking route following the front and its most significant spots, is a Slovenian answer of peace to the craziness of war.
Swim the Nadiža River
One of the cleanest Alpine rivers will surprise you with the warm temperature.
In the summertime, it easily reaches over 20 degrees Celsius (about 70 Fahrenheit).
It is a natural habitat for several endemic sweetwater fishes.
River beds, pools, pebbled parts are just calling for a jump into this, according to the local beliefs, healing river.
Hence there are plenty of perfectly maintained swimming areas and beaches where you can refresh yourself.
Hike the Tolmin Gorges
Follow the way to Zatolmin, a cozy village close to the town of Tolmin.
After descending down either from the official parking lot or local shuttle bus station, you get to a soothing natural environment, naturally designed in the way the temperatures in the summer are much lower than above.
The gorge system is a confluence of Tolminka and Zadlaščica Rivers.
It is the lowest point of the Triglav National Park.
Swimming is not allowed.
Walk to the Kozjak Waterfall
Hidden in a forest close to Kobarid, there flows the Kozjak Waterfall within the homonymous gorge.
After roughly 25 minutes of walk one way from the official parking lot, you get there.
The gorge impresses with the specifically carved round shape and dark green walls, that might make you think you're in a karstic cave.
Accumulated limestone adds the shades to the stunning color of water, that is inviting for a refreshment.
Because you respect nature, you will refresh yourself somewhere else, as the Kozjak Waterfall area is a very delicate natural environment and you don't want to do any harm to it.
Pamper your taste buds at Hiša Franko in Kobarid
Not many words here.
One of the best restaurants in the world, with the World's best female chef in 2016.
Reservation needed quite in advance.
Discover Drežnica village
A hamlet in an intact environment boasts a rich shepherds' heritage and tradition.
On the slopes below Mount Krn and above the town of Kobarid, this sleeping beauty is keeping the secret recipes of delicious dairy products.
Besides heritage, around Drežnica there are plenty of spots for adrenaline lovers.
Drežnica is one of the European hotspots for paragliding, you can do extreme cycling, in the winter you can do ski touring exploration of Krn Mountain Range, and do even climbing to the frozen waterfalls in the hidden gorges around it.
Attend The Drežniške Ravne Carnival
A loud, buffoonish event at the end of February is followed by The Drežnica Carnival, and the carnival in the village of Vrsno where one of the most respected Slovenian poets, Simon Gregorčič, was born. Both at the beginning of March.
All of the carnivals include traditions like an initiation to manhood, village rituals and sure, great party time until the chicken starts to sing its song.
Rock your soul with music stars in Tolmin
Sajeta Art Camp, Metaldays, Punk Rock Holiday, Overjam International Reggae Festival are taking place in a magical scenery you won't find anywhere else.
On the confluence of Tolminka and Soča Rivers, some of the most known European music festivals of different genres are taking place.
This is why Soča Valley is known as a Festival Valley.
It's actually interesting how it got to that.
In the beginning, some 15 years ago, there was no big support from the local community for such events, that started to be organized by a few local enthusiasts and renegades.
Especially when local grandmas saw either all those guys in black, or the ones with rasta dreads, or the ones with the mohawk haircut, they though it's the end of the world.
Their meetings in the local grocery shop were crucial.
Strange guys offered help with the bags, grandmas accepted, and since then the friendship is undestroyable and eternal.
Taste the traditional dishes at Jestival in Kobarid and Frika Food Festival in Tolmin
The hungry ones will enjoy the local traditional dishes in October.
The main dish on Jestival is Kobarid Dumpling.
In the past, this was a special sweet eaten just for Christmas.
It is different from Bovec one or others around Slovenia in terms of ingredients.
Each micro-region has its own recipe for dumplings, regarding the ingredients you find in the local environment. The peculiarity in the Kobarid dumpling is thin dough, carefully created just of salty steam and flour.
Soft fried high-fat cheese is the main ingredient of the Frika dish.
It derives from the neighboring Italian region of Friuli, reportedly the homeland of fried cheese. There they call it Frico.
After the potato was brought to Europe around the 16th century, it became part of this dish. The same quantity of both potato and cheese is used for this caloric-bomb dish.
Optionally they add other ingredients too.
The ingredients vary also in terms of whether Frika is prepared for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
Most na Soči, Kanal, Solkan
Most na Soči is a small, quiet village living its tranquil life located by the artificial lake of an amazing bright green color.
It's a perfect place for families.
You can amuse the kids with different activities in a splendid natural environment.
Kanal is known as the main town in the lower section of the Soča River.
Four bastions are reminding to the medieval times and once surrounding wall.
It is believed that part of the town named 'Konjevo', which literally means 'of the horse', got its name after Napoleon himself buried his horse with golden horse-shoes there.
Solkan is where our Emerald Queen says bye-bye to her loving people and flows to explore the depths of the Adriatic Sea.
Meet the Most na Soči Lake
You can choose to go for a boat ride with an electric tourist boat.
Fishermen can purchase the fishing license to catch some of the endemic Soča Trout.
Meanwhile, the laid back ones can either relax in the shade, sunbathe or take a refreshing swim.
Follow Soča up to the Canyons of Kanal
The canyons are the southernmost and widest ones on the Soča River, reaching a width of 60 meters (about 200 feet).
Visit famous event 'Jumps from Kanal bridge' in August
The 17 meters (about 55 feet) bridge in Kanal is a venue of Kanal Jumps.
This loud traditional event every year attracts hundreds of spectators and lasts until the early morning.
Swim the warmest part of Soča River
In the area of Kanal there are plenty of beaches with natural pools and basins, either busier or the cozier ones.
Between Kanal and Solkan the river-bed gets wider, the flow is still.
There are several popular spots to catch Soča Trout, Marble Trout, Rainbow Trout, Greyling, Danube Salmon, Carp.
Kanal Imprints street exhibition
Common work of the small Kanal society is exhibited on the windows of the houses around the town.
The young, as well as the elderly, the women as well as the men, contribute a small stone to this wonderful mosaic of creativity, bringing the town to an artistic vibe.
It lasts from April to September.
Cycling the wonderful path between Kanal and Solkan
Next to the railway, along the river, you will pedal in complete quietness away from crowds.
Take a photo of the largest stone arch railway bridge in the world
The bridge is 219,7 meters (721 feet) long, with an arch span of 85 meters (279 feet).
It was officially opened in 1906.
Reinforced concrete replaced the stone soon after its construction.
There were no more projects of this kind built anymore.
Dried food of the region
Due to a specific microclimate, a mix between the Alpine and Mediterranean one, with strong dry winds, you will be able to taste delicious Slovenian dried delicacies.
Where to stay?
Pristava Lepena is a holiday village between Trenta and Bovec.
It offers the comfort of modern living in a traditional ambient with horseriding and plenty of other sports activities in a well-equipped park.
Organic Tourist Farm 'Pri Plajerju' offers rich menus of organic food of their own production.
After the activities, you can release your muscles in a jacuzzi or take relax in an infra-red sauna.
Adrenaline Check Camping is the first European self-sustainable camping site.
It has its own water system and energy plants.
All the facilities are made of recycled materials.
A perfect place to socialize with other adventure seekers.
Holiday Home Natura excels with the hospitality of the hosts and its scenic location below Mt Rombon.
You can even use the garden to prepare a delicious meal.
Tourist Farm 'Kranjc' you will find above the town of Kobarid, a stone throw away from the Drežnica village.
You will enjoy your from-garden-to-table meals on a stunning view, and be able to interact with the hosts in trying some of the farming chores.
Tourist farm 'Jelenov breg pod Matajurjem'
The farm is nestled in a fantastic position in Avsa village near Kobarid.
By visiting the nearby Jevšček village you will be able to see a traditional house with a 'black kitchen'.
Houses back in time didn't have chimneys so the smoke from the fireplace made the walls black.
Kind hosts are always willing to show you the farm.
Organic tourist farm 'Pri Lovrču'
Organic tourist farm 'Pri Seljanu'
Organic tourist farm 'Pri Križarju'
All the above mentioned organic farms are in Čadrg village on about 700 meters (2300 feet) above sea level.
Čadrg village is simply a paradise on earth.
Take your time to dive into the essence of the Slovenian soul.
Most na Soči
Hotel Zlata Ribica will amaze you with a peaceful location by the Bača River in Idrija ob Bači.
A popular place among the fishermen.
Glamping is available.
Apartmaji Nena is a comfortable neat apartment with 3 bedrooms and its own parking lot and a garage in a marvelously quiet village of Močila, above the town of Kobarid.
From 2 balconies there is a splendid view of the surrounding mountains.
In Podsabotin village, at the edge of the Brda wine region, you can put together your impressions of Soča Valley and prepare yourself for the wine adventure next.
Tourist farm Štanfel
Tourist farm 'Pri Bregarju'