Dear readers,

You all probably already realized that this travel blog hasn't been updated for a really long time now. Nothing serious, just being busy and lazy actually. However, expect a reborn sometime in the future. Meanwhile, I just started a new personal blog and promised to update it frequently here.

See ya all!
-- Fakhrur

03 March 2009

Slovenia: Soča Valley

Soča Valley is a region on western Slovenia, where river Soča is flowing. It stretches from Triglav National Park until Nova Gorica on the South. The beautiful landscape is a 96km-long valley squeezed between rolling hills and surrounded by mountainous Julian Alps. It's a popular place for adventure tourism and for people who desire nature. Many battles between Italian and German/Astro-Hungarian occurred there during the First World War, thus many monuments were built on the region to remember the battles and soldiers that died fighting them.

View Larger Map

Soča What?
The river is pronounced socha (like in Chuck Norris) in Slovene and recognized as Isonzo in Italy, where it ends and meets the sea. The total awesomeness of the river is the color, which is turquoise. Yes, it can be seemed unreal and radioactive-like for the first time, but one soon be amazed and attracted by its allure. The Slovenians have always glorified it with poems as the river is their national pride.

"emerald beauty" they say

map of Soča on Wikipedia

How to Get There
From West (Northern Italy), one can drive toward Gorizia (Italy) then crossed the border on the city Nova Gorica (Slovenia), where river Soča is also crossing the Italian-Slovenian border. This way, it would take 3.5 hours from Milan or about 2 hours from Venice. And driving North from Nova Gorica along the river Soča, you'll soon be greeted with the charming Solkan bridge, the longest stone arch train bridge in the world.

If you're not coming via Gorizia, another way is driving through a small country road connecting Udine (Italy) and Kobarid (Slovenia), approximately take 1 hour.

click to open an enlarged map
(map from Google Earth)

However, Soča Valley is not easily accessible from the North (Austria, Southern Germany, etc.). From Villach (Austria), one must go through Kranjska Gora (Slovenia) and then proceed toward Vršič, the highest mountain pass in Slovenia (1611 m). The scenery is spectacular and the road is winding. Descending down from Vršič, you will enter Soča Valley region, toward nearby town of Trenta. But due to heavy snow, the pass is usually closed during winter.

near Trenta, where Soča is only a few meters wide

If you happen to come from Ljubljana, you need to drive South West toward town of Idrija, then take a long and winding road along river Idrica until you reach Most na Soči. This can take more than 1.5 hours of driving.

Fortunately, there's a much more fun way if you're coming from North East (Bled, Jesenice, etc.); you can take the train! The train is old, infrequent and somewhat slow, but the scenery is awesome. And what's better, you can hitch your car into the train, then enjoy a different and beautiful perspective. Going through tunnels and enjoying scenery of the valley where river Bača flows while relaxing behind your dashboard and listening to the music, makes this way a really recommended one! The train starts on Jesenice and ends on Nova Gorica, but the auto trains (where you can put your car) only runs between Bohinska Bitrica to Most na Soči. Visit their official site to check the schedule.

click to open an enlarged map
(map from Google Map)

[please come again later for some pictures of the train ride]

There's also bus from Nova Gorica and Ljubljana servicing the area, but they're not that frequent. Another way is to hitchhike, which was a common thing Slovenian youth do in the past time. Some are still doing it today as it's relatively safe and easy.

The Towns

Along the river, charming small towns are scattered with green hills and snow-caped mountains backdrop. Bovec is the main tourist center, where wide range of tourist facilities are available.

Bovec, Kobarid, Tolmin and Kanal: Four main towns along Soča Valley
(map from Google Maps)

Bovec and Kanin
Bovec is a small town but flourished with tourism. There are some hotels and many inns, guesthouses and camping area in the town and the surrounding. It is much easier to station yourself here than other towns if you're planning to stay and explore Soča Valley. Visit their website for maps and more information.

town of Bovec with Kanin ski slopes above it, the yellow line is border to Italy and furthermore Austria
(view from Google Earth)

Bovec is the gateway to Kanin, the highest ski slopes in Slovenia. It is one of few slopes in the world that located higher than 2000 meters from sea, thus providing perfect snow to ski up to May every year. There's a long and comfortable gondola ride starting from Bovec to Kanin. And the view from the top is staggering, one can see Alpine mountain range on every side and Adriatic Sea on a distance! Yes.. Totally awesome! Visit their website for more information.

looking down to Bovec from Kanin (2245 m)

up up and away toward Kanin

For those who like to maintain their adrenaline level high, rafting is really popular sport in Soča. And beside this Bovec's world-class adventure sport, hiking is also widely popular. There are numerous trails around Soča, ranging from easy-walk-on-the-park to mountain climbing. These trails around Trenta is one example.

Fishing is another fantastic thing you can do along river Soča.

Kobarid and Tolmin

Kobarid and Tolmin are two towns you can reach less than an hour driving South from Bovec. They are about 20 minutes away from each other.

is the administrative capital of the area. The town itself is somewhat appealing, but the surrounding nature is something to die for. Tolminka Gorge is only 2 km away, it's an entrance to Triglav National Park. The trails on the area are around Tolminka river, a small river flowing through Tolmin that has the same character of Soča. With its picturesque shallow chute and brilliant color, the river is simply wonderful. Don't forget to cross the Devil's bridge and check the hot spring! Visit this site for more information about attractions around Tolmin.

Hotel Krn, the only hotel in town of Tolmin

a small bridge crossing Tolminka river

Almost every time when the weather is mild, people come from far places to enjoy paragliding above Tolmin. Visit their website for more information.

Tolmin and surrounding: viewed from Kobala, a favorite spot to start paragliding

paragliding above Soča Valley

where Tolminka river ends and meets Soča

village of Volce by river Soča

Kobarid is a smaller town and has road connection to the West (Udine, Italy). And personally, I think this is where the river Soča at its best shape. Suplemented with some cultural sites and natural feature like Kozjak waterfall, Kobarid does has a lot to offer. Some monuments and even a remain of what once a bridge, which was used by Napoleon to crossed his troops. Visit this site for more information about attractions around Kobarid.

small yet charming town of Kobarid

waterfall at Kozjak, near Kobarid

a small stream near Kozjak

Napoleon bridge near Kobarid

The Walk of Peace
Did I mentioned that this region was once belong of Venitian Empire, then Habsburg, then Italian, then Astro-Hungarian Empire, then German Third Reich, then Yugoslavia and finally liberated as part of independent Slovenia? Yes, you bet there was a lot of blood spilled. The last one was when Italian battled against Astro-Hungarian and German on First World War (the twelve battles on Isonzo front). Now people don't want it to happen again (nevermind World War II) and they promote peace on the region by building monuments, museums and made a program called The Walks of Peace.

imagine a line to the other hill: it is now official border between Italy (left) and Slovenia (right). Since implementation of Schengen treary, nothing separates them now, but on old days people died trying to cross this border.

an Italian monument above Kobarid, with spectacular view

one from many German cemeteries and monuments in the area

For further reading, visit a blog dedicated about Soča Valley that has compiled the stories and pictures about the topic.

That's about it. It's been so long since I want to post about Soča Valley, finally I can manage to make it. Needed a lot of preparations for the map illustrations, I hope they're clear enough.

[Please leave a comment if I mistakenly wrote some facts above, thank you]

Soča is worthy to be always have a place in my heart


alexi said...

Nice blog and excelent photos also!;) Keep on...

Simon said...

Very detailed and acurate blog entry about my valley.

I would corect you in one part which is How to get there. For upper part of Soča valley (Bovec) the most direct ant quick way to Villach, Tarvisio and Ljubljana is by Predel pass (1156m)that you didn't mention. This is also the most direct access to the valley from Austria and Germany. Pass is opened during all year.

Otherwise compliments for your writing.