Soča Valley and the most amazing river in Slovenia (and Europe?)

by 7 Mar, 2021Slovenia

😷  COVID-19 NOTICE: You can check out the latest information about travel restrictions and bans in Slovenia due to the coronavirus HERE.

🗺️  ITINERARY: 
This destination is part of a 10-day itinerary in Slovenia, check it out HERE.

As mentioned on our itinerary for Slovenia, you need to spend at least three days in the Soča Valley, why? 👇

Grand Canyon of Soca River in Slovenia

A picture is worth a thousand words!

But now seriously, this Valley is famous for its emerald-coloured river (the Soča River), and it keeps this colour throughout its 138-kilometre watercourse. Moreover, the Soča Valley is surrounded by beautiful mountains as it’s the middle of the Julian Alps dividing this mountain range together with Koritnica River into the Western Julian Alps (with the peak Kanin of 2’582 metres) and the Eastern Julian Alps (with the peak Triglav of 2,864 metres).

Socal Valley, views from Boka waterfall hike (Slovenia)

So there is a lot you can do in the Soča Valley; from outdoor water activities such as canyoning and rafting, to just swimming (although the water is really cold, you will need neoprene!), hiking and visiting natural wonders such as the different waterfalls and gorges that characterise this region.

In our case, we did the following in three days:

Day 1: We arrived in the region, visited the Tolmin Gorge, the Kozjak Waterfall and camped in Bovec; once settled, we also visited the Boka (and Virje) waterfalls before sunset 🌅

Day 2: We dedicated this day to a couple of activities: canyoning in the Sušec Gorge in the morning and then, rafting on the Soča River – 💯 % recommended!

Day 3: We started heading out of the Soča Valley (and Slovenia) by spending the morning doing the trail between the Grand Soča Gorge and the Small Soča Gorge, and then we went through the Vršič Pass until reaching Austria 🇦🇹

But this is just how we did it, and we will be providing more details below and recommend some alternatives; but first, let’s start with the basics!

🚞 How to get to the Soča Valley in motorail

If you have read our post about the Bohinj region, you will already know about the motorail (and can skip this section!). If you didn’t, you should know that you can arrive in the Soča Valley from either Nova Gorica (near the Italian border) or Bohinjska Bistrica (in the Bohinj region) via motorail. This is a mountain train on which you can board your own car with you inside it.

Motorail journey in Slovenia (between Soca Valley and Bohinj)

The train station to look for in the Soča Valley is Most na Soči (map location). This might seem like a silly mode of transport, but it’s fun, cheap and takes you through tunnels and areas that you wouldn’t be able to cross by car otherwise, or at least that was the case for the journey we did which was Bohinjska Bistrica-Most na Soči. This journey cost us 14€ for the car and driver, and 2.58€ for each extra passenger.

❗ NOTE: As mentioned on the Bohinj post, the motorail doesn’t stop in all stations on each journey, so you should check the best travel time for you here. Once you know your journey, you can head to the corresponding train station directly. There is no prior booking and the car onboarding ends 10-15 min before departure time, but we went there 30 min before the departure time and the line of cars was already quite long, so maybe head there with even more  advance!

⛺ Where to stay (camp) in the Soča Valley

When looking for accommodation in the region, we realised there were several campsites (or guest houses, if you prefer) to choose from. We decided therefore to go for a camp in the middle of the Soča Valley, in an area that was between everything to be visited and where we could hire a few outdoor activities, and that was the town of Bovec for us!

You can of course stay in other places such as Tolmin, Kobarid or deeper in the Valley, but we found Bovec to have a lot to offer in terms of activities, restaurants and I would even dare say nightlife! (there was a small pub just right outside town with a great atmosphere in the evenings).

But talking about accommodation options more specifically, we decided to go with Kamp Polovnik (map location), which is within walking distance from Bovec. It’s a very simple campsite with everything you need, quite cheap (27€/night in high season for two adults, tent and car) and to be honest, we chose it because we wanted to sleep as much as possible in the mornings before having to head to Bovec for activities. 😅

However, this camp isn’t next to the Soča River, and at 2.5 km from Bovec, you have an area with several campsites just where the Koritnica River joins the Soča River, a beautiful spot indeed! You can check out those options too: Camp Liza, Kamp Toni, Kamp Kovač or Camp Vodenca.

If you are not so interested in staying around Bovec, you can also go to Kamp Klin, which is in the Lepana Valley (Dolina Lepene), very close to the Grand Soča Gorge and Šunik Water Grove (literally walking distance).

And now the juicy part of the trip!👇

Rafting on the Soca River, Bovec, Slovenia

[The picture was taken by Sport Mix, you can see we were already struggling to get into the boat 😂 ]

🚣 Where to go for canyoning, rafting and more

The Soča Valley is perfect for canyoning and rafting, but you can also do kayak, hydrospeed, zip line, bike tours, caving and even skydiving. 😵

In Bovec, there are many companies you can choose from. We decided to go with Sport MIX (map location), given they had high ratings on Google Maps and they make special discounts if you do 2 activities or more (10%). We booked via email beforehand, but if you are going there for several days, you might not need to book so much in advance and can improvise a bit more.

We loved doing canyoning and rafting with them honestly! They offered the best price we could find in the area, they were super organised and took pictures of us that they later shared (that explains these pictures), and all of this without additional cost. Moreover, our guide for both activities was very cool, explaining everything well while being fun.

We promise we aren’t paid for saying this, it took us a bit of time to figure out who to do these activities with and, if we can be helpful based on our experience, why not share it!

Also note they have a locker in their offices, where you can leave the things you don’t want to take with you during the activities.

Canyoning near Bovec, Slovenia

[Same, picture taken by Sport Mix, here we were doing a ninja jump 💥 as we didn’t know how deep the water was]

Canyoning (55€/adult): They have different options for canyoning, but for beginners like us, they suggest the Sušec Gorge, which as our guide said, it looks like a natural waterpark with toboggans.

We did it early in the morning (8:30) and only needed to bring a swimming suit and dry clothes/towel to be left in the van. You meet them in their offices where you get your gear, then travel on their van and once there, dress up with a full-body neoprene (water is COLD 🥶).

There is a short hike that will be later rewarding when you start descending the canyons of the Sušec Gorge with your own body by jumping (small) cliffs, sliding yourself through waterfalls and enjoying some natural emerald swimming pools.

Definitely a must for first timers! And they have other options for more experienced canyoners.

Rafting on the Soca River, Bovec, Slovenia

[Same, picture taken by Sport Mix, here we were mastering the art of rafting a bit more]

Rafting (51€/adult): We did the afternoon shift (16:00) so we had some time for lunch and resting after the canyoning. The combination was perfect for a day full of adventure and first-time experiences! We were also beginners in what concerns rafting and because the rafting boats fit up to 8 people, we were also put together with another nice group.

The process is very similar as for canyoning, you meet in their offices, you get all your gear and are transported to Srpenica to start the Boka-Trnovo journey through rafts. In summer, because the water level is lower than in spring/autumn, you will most likely do only 6-km, but enough to experience calmer and not so calm rafts. You will see it’s a lot of fun! And you will be taken to some beautiful spots for swimming in the cold water too, hooray!

In spring/autumn, you can normally do a longer itinerary starting from Zmuklica, see options here.

But there is much more to do in the region!👇

📷 What to visit in the Soča Valley

Tolmin Gorge passage, Socal Valley, Slovenia

1️⃣ Tolmin Gorge

Tolmin Gorge (map location) is the name used for both the Tolminka Gorge and the Zadlascica Gorge, two beautiful and wild ravines, which you can visit through a circular path. As many other gorges in Slovenia, there is an entrance fee of 5-8€/adult (price will depend on the season), you can check out opening hours and the best parking option here.

If you ask us whether it’s nicer to visit the Tolmin Gorge or the Vintgar Gorge near Bled (I had the same question), we wouldn’t know what to answer… They are both very different and mysterious, but I would say the Tolmin Gorge is more unique, allowing you to walk through more narrow alleys and closer to the cliffs of the gorge, and it has the peculiarity of having a wedged rock (known as the Bear’s Head).

Walk towards Kozjak Waterfall (Slap Kozjak), Slovenia
Soca River in walk towards Kozjak Waterfall (Slap Kozjak), Slovenia
Soca River in walk towards Kozjak Waterfall (Slap Kozjak), Slovenia
Kozjak Waterfall (Slap Kozjak), Slovenia

2️⃣ Kozjak Waterfall

The Kozjak Waterfall (Slap Kozjak) (map location) is between Tolmin and Bovec, and it’s worth a detour given its beauty, being hidden within a natural stone chamber. The waterfall also has an access fee of 4€/adult, you can find more information here.

✅ TIP: In order to reach the waterfall, you need to leave the car somewhere (duh!). We left in the official parking, but there was a parking metre, which is a bit annoying given that we would have liked to stay longer and visit other spots around (such as the nearby old fortress, Tonocov Grad), but we didn’t have enough coins… And we later saw that on the other side of the lake (after crossing this footbridge), there is free parking space, which is actually closer than the official parking… (check out our map of recommendations to see where exactly).

Boka Waterfall (Slap Boka), Slovenia

3️⃣ Boka Waterfall and Bovec

Very close to Bovec (you will even see it from the road), you have this impressive waterfall that’s worth seeing even if it’s from far away (main viewpoints don’t get too close to it and are well indicated). The Boka Waterfall (Slap Boka) (map locationhas a fall of over 105 metres and then 30 metres more, with a strong and wide (18 metre) stream. It doesn’t go unnoticed!

In spring (and autumn), when the winter snow melts (and it’s the rainy season), the watercourse increases considerably, the fall gets louder and more majestic. Another peculiarity is that the water from this waterfall does come from an underground cave that is still unexplored due to the difficulties presented by the water current, etc.

And if you aren’t staying in Bovec, it’s worth stopping by the town to get a refreshment or bite. Moreover, if you would like to explore the area a bit, there is another beautiful (smaller) waterfall within walking distance from the town (45 min), Virje Waterfall (Slap Virje) (map location).

Virje Waterfall (Slap Virje), Soca Valley, Slovenia

Guided by Google Maps and the paths we would see in front of us, we managed to visit this small but still powerful waterfall located in the woods. It was a nice excursion to do before sunset after arriving in Bovec late in the day.

4️⃣ Kanin, for the views or a hike

Another cool thing to do and that was recommended to us by one of our activity mates (but that we didn’t find time to do, but maybe you do!) is going up close to the Kanin mountain peak (2,202 metres) in the Western Julian Alps, offering panoramic views of the mountain range but also of the Adriatic Sea.

This is easily reachable via the Kanin Cable Car (map location, which takes off from Bovec and the return ticket costs 20€/adult.

Once up there, you have different options for hikes. During winter, it’s one of Slovenia’s most popular ski resorts! (see here).

Grand Canyon of the Soca River (Soca Valley, Slovenia)

5️⃣ Grand Soča Gorge

This was one of our favourite things to do in the Soča Valley, visiting the beautiful “Grand Canyon” of the Soča River (🔝) (map locationand swimming there (very cold, but worth it!).

Soca River in walk towards its Grand Canyon (Slovenia)
Emerald water in Grand Canyon of the Soca River (Slovenia)
Soca River gorge, emerald water

We spent the morning in the Grand Gorge and doing the Soča trail from there to the Small Soča Gorge (map location).

This was nice but there isn’t much you can do in the Small Gorge and the Grand Gorge is far more beautiful; and we later saw we could have gone instead to the Šunik Water Grove (Šunikov vodni gaj) (map location). They are both at similar distances from the Grand Gorge but in opposite directions.

The Šunik Water Grove is a gorgeous place with several natural emerald water pools (although I think you cannot swim in there…) that you can reach after a short walk from the Grand Gorge or Kamp Klin. You can find more information here.

🥗 Where to eat in Bovec

One of the good things about Bovec too, is that they have a nice offer of restaurants and good atmosphere in the afternoons and evenings, starting with a great food stand in the town’s main square Kuhnjca Lokalnih Dobrot (map location.

This stand doesn’t have a huge diversity of dishes, but what they prepare, just tastes like heaven! Especially their frika, a specialty from the Soča Valley that consists of an “omelette” purely made of Tolminc cheese and potato! 😋

It has limited opening hours, and when open, there is always a long queue, but good things are worth waiting for!

For a sit-down lunch or dinner in the town of Bovec, you have Gostišče Sovdat (map location, a family-run restaurant with a nice lively terrace on its courtyard. They serve many Slovenian specialties, including dishes with calamari, and also yummy burgers!

Close to our camping (Kamp Polovnik) and the main road, we tried Gostilna pod Lipco (map location) as it was a very convenient place to go for us between the canyoning and rafting, and what a nice surprise! The place was full of people serving amazing pizzas with original and tasty combinations of ingredients.

Last but not least, between Kamp Polovnik and Bovec, there is a not-so-easy-to-find pub, Bar Črna Ovca (map location), open until 2 a.m. during the weekends (otherwise until midnight).

When we went to Bar Črna Ovca, they also had a food truck outside with BBQ specialties.

Views from Vrsic Pass in Slovenia

🏔️ Exiting (or entering) the Soča Valley through Vršič Pass

At the end of the Soča Valley (or rather at the beginning as the source of the Soča River is close by) you have the Vršič Pass (map location), which connects the Soča Valley with the Sava Valley (the Sava River is the one that later passes near Bled, and goes across Zagreb in Croatia to join the Danube River in Belgrade, Serbia).

If you are travelling by car, we highly recommend that you exit (or enter) the Soča Valley via this mountain pass (~1’600 metres) as the views over the Julian Alps are breathtaking (🔝).

Moreover, it will make you go through Kranjska Gora, a town known as a ski destination in winter and a paradise for hikers. From Vršič Pass to Kranjska Gora there is only one road, so you will inevitably drive past this stunning wooden Russian Chapel (map locationfrom 1916:

Russian Church in the Vrsic Pass (Slovenia)

It’s really worth stopping by (there is a parking space for it), and visit the Chapel, which has a rather tragic story. During World War I, Kranjska Gora was a strategic location to supply the Isonzo Front (the Soča River is known as the Isonzo River in Italy) where the Austria-Hungarian Empire would fight the Italian army on several occasions.

Therefore, the Vršič Pass road was built during WWI by Russian prisoners of war. During the road construction, hundreds of these prisoners died due to the harsh conditions, especially following an avalanche. The Chapel was built by survivors in 1916 as a memorial.

Right before the town of Kranjska Gora, you will also pass by the peaceful Jasna Lake (Jerezo Jasna) (map location), a beautiful artificial lake (well, it’s actually two lakes) witnessing the confluence of Mala and Velika Pišnica rivers in an incredible location surrounded by mountains.

🇸🇮 Not ready to leave Slovenia?

If you want to spend more days in Slovenia, you can go (back) from Kranjska Gora to Bled (30 min) or Ljubljana (1h) and visit the Peričnik Waterfall (Slap Peričnik) on your way. This is another gorgeous waterfall, with a height of about 50 metres and the peculiarity that you can go behind it…

We didn’t go there because we had limited time and we needed to head towards Austria after reaching the Vršič Pass, but this is in our bucket list for a next trip to Slovenia! We hope these recommendations will be useful to you too! 

📍Map of recommendations in the Soča Valley

Did you find the above useful or have other suggestions for this region?

If you like what you read, please feel free to share this post, leave a comment and/or find out more about travelling in Slovenia or neighbouring Italy 👇👇👇👇👇

Visiting Lake Bohinj in Slovenia! Even when it’s rainy…

Visiting Lake Bohinj in Slovenia! Even when it’s rainy…

In the rain or not, the Bohinj region is beautiful with its Lake and many other natural attractions! It’s definitely a hikers’ destination, and despite it rained for us, we have a list of suggestions that can be helpful to you when planning a trip to Lake Bohinj: there are 4️⃣ things you might want to do, and there is a very nice way to arrive in Bohinj! 😉

read more

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