Bovec & Soča Valley
Bovec & Soča Valley Introduction
The “Emerald” Soča is a remarkably beautiful river valley with its source in the heart of the Triglav National Park and running down to the Italian Adriatic. The upper stretch of the valley runs through the beautiful Julian Alps and is a magnet for adventure sports lovers – offering a dizzying abundance of river activities (rafting, kayaking, canyoning) and mountain activities (plenty of excellent hiking, mountain-biking and skiing at Bovec Kanin; Slovenia’s highest ski resort, recently connected to the Italian resort of Sella Nevea across the border). Bovec is the main town in the area, a charming little place with lots of good restaurants, bars and places to stay and a growing global reputation for adventure sports. Kobarid is the other main town of interest in the area, half an hour’s drive down the valley from Bovec, a small but beautiful town boasting some of Slovenia’s finest restaurants and a first class museum about the role of the town and the area as a major front in the 1st World War. Further down the valley is the spectacular Tolminska Korita (Tolmin Gorge) and a pretty lake at Most na Soči. Following the Soča River from Tolmin southwards, the rugged peaks of the Julian Alps gradually give way to softer wooded sub-alpine hills, and the influence of the Adriatic and of neighbouring Italy becomes ever more apparent. The river itself remains the focus of the area but in its lower reaches the adrenaline sports of the north are replaced by more leisurely pursuits such as swimming and fly-fishing. East of Tolmin is the wild and remote feeling Baška Grapa Valley and south of Tolmin to Idrija runs the beautiful Idrijca River both popular for fly-fishing and offering the possibility of swimming in the Summer at various beaches. There is a wonderful lake just 20 minutes from Bovec over the Predel pass into Italy – called Raibl Lake; it is a stunningly beautiful and wild lake between the Kanin and Montaz massifs in the "forgotten" valley which runs from Tarvisio to Sella Nevea.
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The Soča Valley and World War I
The Soča Valley was one of the major fronts in the First World War with the Italian and Austro-Hungarian forces dug in on different sides of the valley in a brutal attritional conflict which resulted in the loss of life of over 1 million men. The conflict is still very much in evidence around the valley in the form of numerous forts (amongst the best are Čelo in Kal Koritnica, Hermann on the Predel pass and Kluže just outside Bovec), a number of First World War historical trails and an excellent museum in Kobarid. Hemingway's classic novel A Farewell to Arms was largely based in the region, in particular in Caporetto, the Italian name for the small town of Kobarid in the heart of the Soča Valley and site of the climactic 12th Battle of Izonzo (Soča in italian) which resulted in huge Italian losses and a dramatic advance by the Austro Hungarians. The First World War sites along the Soča Valley can now also be explored by walking 5 fascinating marked "Walks of Peace" trails from Log pod Mangrtom in the north to Most na Soči in the South.
The Soča River
Undoubtedly one of Slovenia's most beautiful sights and perhaps one of Europe's most beautiful rivers, the colour of the Soča is what will first impress - an often shocking turquiose that makes you think there must be a chemical factory up river, but in fact is entirely natural and caused by the limestone in the river. Following the river downstream takes you past most of the region's main points of interest - running from its source high in the Trenta Valley, via Bovec, past Kobarid to Tolmin, Most na Soči, then onto to Kanal and into Italy where it becomes the Isonzo river and empties into the Italian Adriatic. The Soča is a mecca for watersports and is home to Slovenia's best kayaking and rafting - with sections suitable for beginners to very advanced levels alike. Fishermen also flock to the Soča for some of Europe's best trout fishing. The river and surrounding nature is superbly unspoilt especially along its upper course and as such it is one of the Slovenian Government's main focuses for nature preservation and development of responsible tourism.
TOP 10 MUST SEE
The pretty resort town of Bovec - a lovely place to be based to explore the delights of the upper Soča valley with attractive early 20th century architecture, some excellent restaurants, bars and nightlife and an energetic adventure sports atmosphere.
Tolmin Gorge - a beautiful gorge system where the gorges of two rivers (the Tolminka & Zadlaščice) meet. Easy walking tours along a path following the course of the gorge and across various bridges is a great way to see the extraordinary natural rock features of the system including the "Devil's Bridge", "Dante's Cave" and the "Bear's Head".
The delightful village of Drežnica above Kobarid in the foothills below the iconic Krn mountain and start point for a huge range of walking, biking and even paragliding adventures.
Krn Lake - Slovenia's highest lake high in the Triglav National Park above the stunning Lepena Valley and crossroads for a variety of routes through the Julian Alps.
The beautifully unspoilt Trenta Valley to Vršič in the heart of the Triglav National Park, offering wonderful walking, the source of the Soča River, the Julijana Alpine Botanic Gardens, the Velika Korita Gorge in the vilage of Soča and the Zapotok waterfall.
The charming village of Log pod Mangartom and the stunning drive from here up to the Predel border pass past mighty Managrt Mountain and the precipitous cliff edge village of Strmec.
The views from the Kanin Gondola, which encompass the Soča Valley, the Slovenian Julian Alps and sometimes stretch as far as the Adriatic - open in Winter for skiing but also in Summer giving access to an outstanding downhill mountain bike trail and start point for walks up various mighty peaks such as Rombon.
Exploring the small town of Kobarid - in particular eating at one of its many outstanding restaurants and visiting its excellent First World War Museum.
The understated town of Most na Soči, home to a small lake on the Soča River with beautiful views of the Julian Alps and also the start point for a restored locomotive which runs a number of tourist routes during Summer months.
ACTIVITIES & THINGS TO DO IN BOVEC & SOČA VALLEY
SKIING: There is excellent skiing at Bovec Kanin - Sella Nevea, two resorts, one on the Slovenian side of the border and one on the Italian side which recently connected to create one of the regions most interesting ski areas. It is Slovenia's highest resort at 2300m and offers a lot of scope for intermediate and advanced skiers with steeper longer pistes and great off piste potential.
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HIKING: Outstanding hiking for all levels throughout the region, from easy river / valley / gorge walks (Soča Gorge near the vilage of Čezsoča and the Tolmin Gorge near Tolmin), to fascinating historical 1st World War based walks, to any number of harder walks and ascents of the region's peaks. The Kanin gondola is open in the summer giving easy access to a number of stunning high altitude walks.
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MOUNTAIN BIKING: Outstanding biking for all levels throughout the region. A highlight is the high adrenaline trail down from the top of the Kanin gondola which is open in the summer and cycle up to the Mangrtsko Sedlo from the village of Log Pod Mangrtom is also a classic trip in the area. For more leisurely days a cycle along the Soča River from Cezsoča to Log Cezsoški and back to Bovec is fantastic.
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KAYAKING: Slovenia's best kayaking and most breathtaking river scenery is arguably on the Soča River and there are a variety of launch sites stretching from the Trenta Valley in the North right down to Dolje just North of Tolmin. Not the whole river is navigable and there are different stretches suitable for different abilities (levels I- IV).
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RAFTING: Slovenia's best rafting and most breathtaking river scenery is arguably on the Soča River. Rafting is great for people wanting to experience the wild Soča River but who do not want to go it alone in a kayak - and is suitable for complete beginners as well as kids as young as 5. See above under kayaking for general river info.
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ZIP LINING: Operating everyday (depending on the weather and number of participants) at 09:00, 10:00, 14:00, 15:00, 18:00; the zipline adventure takes about 3 hours and covers a total distance of 2.4km at heights between 130 & 200m above the ground with an estimated top speed between 40-60km/h. It all begins with a 10km drive up the mountain side, along a scenic road by four wheel drive.
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CANYONING: There is fantastic canyoning in the Soča region to suit a range of abilities. The Sušec canyon near Srpenica (between Bovec and Kobarid) offers a relatively gentle but great fun beginners option. Or try the longer and more advanced Mlinarca canyon in the Trenta Valley or for more hardened adrenaline junkies the Fratrca in Log Pod Mangrtom is a great option including a 50m waterfall to abseil down!
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FLY FISHING: There is world class flyfishing on the Soča and its minor tributaries (the Koritnica, Učja, Nadiža, Bača & Tolminka) plus the major tributary - the Idrijca River (between Most na Soči and Idrija) which offers 40 miles of narrower easier to fish stretches with the same variety of species as further north. With populations of brown trout, rainbow trout and grayling as well as the famous marbled trout (a local subspecies of the brown trout) and lake trout in Most Na Soči Lake, this is certainly one of the most exciting fishing destinations in Europe.
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SWIMMING: The best place to swim in the area is the Nadiža River towards the town of Breginj above Kobarid. This river has unusally warm water and also contains mineral said to be excellent for treatment of a variety of conditions. There are a variety of beaches and swimming points on the Idrijca River (between Most na Soči and Idrija) and the Soča (but watch out the Soča is always cold!) Various Hotels in the region have pools including Nebesa & Pristava Lepena and Hotel Hvala. The pool at the Hotel Kanin in Bovec is also open to the public.
HORSE RIDING: The region offers some wonderful horse riding country. The beautiful Pristava Lepena Hotel also run an excellent riding centre offering numerous treks into the stunning surroundings of the Lepena Valley and Triglva National Park.
GOLF: Located in the north-eastern region of Slovenia, the Bovec Golf Club rests under the Kanin Mountain in the Soča Valley. The Bovec course is a unique European golf course in symbiosis with nature.
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ADRENALINE PARKS: The Bovec Zip Line is an adventure not to be missed in this part of Slovenia. The 2.4km journey is broken into 4 shorter runs that fly across the landscape below. At heights between 130 & 200 metres above ground and at speeds up to 60km/h. This is a definite for thrill seekers looking for an adrenaline rush.
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FESTIVALS: The town of Tolmin plays host to a very popular annual heavy metal festival called Metaldays. Not for the fainthearted! There are many other festivals in the area during summer months and that is why the Soca Valley is also known as The Valley of Festivals.
FOOD & DRINK: The Soča region is undoubtedly a culinary hotspot within Slovenia with a distincitve Italian influenced alpine cuisine, featuring lots of game, polenta and sweet dumplings. As in most regions of Slovenia it is easy to find excellent and good value eating and many towns and villages have lovely characteristic old style taverns. The outstanding restaurants of Kobarid deserve special mention - with the Kotlar, Topli Val and Hiša Franko all amongst Slovenia's leading restaurants.
MUSEUMS & GALLERIES: The region's premier museum is undoubtedly the award winning "Kobarid Museum" whose focus is about the role of the region in the First World War and in particular the 12th Isonzo battle or Capoetto (Italian for Kobarid) breakthrough.
NATURAL ATTRACTIONS: The Soča Valley region is blessed with some of Slovenia's most stunning natural treasures and due to the ruggedness of the terrain and lack of motorway access, the nature remains particularly well preserved and unspoilt. Key attractions are the Soča River itself, the Trenta Valley, Lepena Valley, Julijana Alpine Botanical Garden, Krn Lake, Most na Soči Lake, Soča and Tolmin Gorges and Zapotok Waterfall, not to mention countless stunning peaks including Kanin, Rombon & Krn.
SPA & WELLNESS: There is a pool and small wellness centre at the Nebesa and Pristava Lepena hotels. The Hotel Kanin in Bovec also offers a pool and the Kaninija wellness centre.
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ARCHITECTURE & HISTORICAL SITES: The key historical sites of the region mainly concern the "Soča Front" - one of the biggest and bloodiest front's in the First World War. The sites of interest include a number of forts - amongst the best are of which are Čelo in Kal Koritnica, Hermann on the Predel pass and Kluže just outside Bovec and various other sites which can now also be explored by walking 5 fascinating marked "Walks of Peace" trails from Log pod Mangrtom in the north to Most na Soči in the South. Of interest also in the region is Javorca Church overlooking the Tolminka Valley near Tolmin - an Austro Hungarian memorial church dating back to 1916.
First World War aside, the towns of Bovec and Kobarid both have charming old centres that are worth visiting and the valleys surrounding Bovec are dotted with lots of beautiful alpine farmhouses with the distincive steep pitched roofs that are typical of the region and of interest from an architectural perspective.
SIGHTS & ATTRACTIONS IN BOVEC & SOČA VALLEY