The mountain landscape of the Soča River Valley rewards visitors with breathtaking views at every turn. This region of Slovenia is packed with so much history and farm-to-table food. But where do you begin?
That’s where Meeting Mountains comes in. Local expert Johannes Bergfors plans custom trips for travelers of all ages, abilities and interests. By following his recommendations, I experienced two unforgettable days in the Julian Alps along the Soča River.
Watch the VIDEO and then read on to find out:
- How to get to the Soča Valley. (Pronounced so-cha.)
- Where to stay in harmony with the local culture and surroundings.
- How to connect with exciting mountain and river adventures.
- What to eat in a region that is famous for artisan local food.
- Planning your trip to the Soča Valley with Meeting Mountains.
Road Trip From Ljubljana to Soča Valley
Do you need a car to reach the Soča Valley? Short answer: YES.
Sadly, the options via bus or train are limited and time-consuming. Johannes assured me that renting a car would be best.
The Soča Valley is only a little more than 100 kilometers from the the Slovenian capital city of Ljubljana. The two-hour drive through the Vršič Pass (Ver-sheech) is definitely part of the adventure. You’ll pass by Bled and the ski resort town of Kranjska Gora before embarking on the mountain road that ascends more than 5,000 feet (1,611 meters) with 50 marked hairpin turns.
History Stop at Russian Chapel
Pull over to enjoy the spectacular views. Ten thousand Russian prisoners of war built this strategic road during World War I. They built a wooden chapel in memory of the hundreds who died from exposure and avalanches. Stop and say a prayer for safe travels because you’re going to need it.
If you’re not up for this thrilling drive, there are alternate routes that pass through the pretty towns of Škofja Loka and Most na Soči, or the mercury mining and lacemaking center of Idrija. Or take the drive that passes through the Italian border wine-tasting region of Goriška Brda.
Perfect Stay in Soča Valley: Abyss Apartments
Finding a place to stay in Soča Valley may be your next challenge. Even the campgrounds and hostels fill up during the peak months of July and August. B&B rooms and hotels should be reserved in advance. Tourism development in the area has been limited by a shortage of luxury hotel choices.
Meeting Mountains recommended the Abyss Apartments in a brilliant location near the iconic Velika Korita Soče. This deep gorge was my favorite instagram-worthy photo location of the trip. It is also on the edge of the popular Soča Trail and Triglav National Park.
The hosts, Petra and Tjaž, call it their “magic house” because It survived two world wars. But it was among the many buildings in the area damaged by an earthquake. It is now renovated with the perfect mix of rustic charm and modern conveniences.
I loved waking up to the mountain scenery with my morning coffee. The larger of the two apartments has a sleeping loft that both kids and active adults will enjoy. If they’re booked, check other camping and hotel options in Soča. If you’re staying nearby, Petra and Tjaž will pick you up for a canyoning or river rafting adventure.
Soča River Rafting with Abyss Adventures
Abyss Adventures has made a serious investment in top quality equipment. They outfitted us with wetsuits, lifejackets, helmets and booties to make the short drive to the starting point of our rafting trip.
Yes, you’re going to get wet. Even with a full body wetsuit, the icy water is a shock!
Tjaž wears a GoPro camera on his helmet to capture all the action while Petra shoots photos from the riverbank. You can download the pictures as a souvenir of your epic Soča River adventure. I put my favorite shots in this video trailer:
Kobarid: War History and Hiša Franko
After our rafting adventure, we were hungry! Johannes met us for a short drive to Kobarid. This historic town was a hotspot during the World War I battle on the Soča Front between Italy and Austria-Hungary. Visit the Kobarid War Museum to learn more about the 30 months of fighting that killed more than one million people.
Just outside Kobarid, you’ll find Hiša Franko. This charming inn and restaurant is on the gastronomy map because its founder, Ana Roš, is internationally recognized as one of the best chefs in the world — one of the few women to achieve that honor. Reservations to stay or eat here recommended months in advance. Find more ways to dine with Slovenia’s TV chefs in this post.
Farm to Table Food in Soča Valley
To taste the local recipes that inspired this world-class cooking, Johannes took us to the Jelenov Breg Pod Matajurjem farm. They offer simple accommodations but If they’re fully booked, check out other hotel options near Kobarid.
This family-run restaurant takes the farm-to-table experience to a whole new level by having the tables IN the farm. And there’s also a charming indoor dining room for the colder months.
We visited the pigs, horses and chickens while waiting for dinner to be served. A roving horse who tried to make a buffet out of the lettuce garden was politely escorted back to the pasture. No printed menu; Aljoša explains what’s fresh today while his wife and mom do the cooking, with choices for both vegetarians and meat-eaters. Then, of course, more local schnapps.
And don’t miss the chance to try fresh-caught Soča River trout! Johannes recommended a restaurant at a campground that was a short walk from our apartment. If fish isn’t your thing, try the locally made sausage.
E-Bike Tour with Sport Mix and Meeting Mountains
The friendly town of Bovec is a great starting point for all kinds of Soča Valley adventures. Originally from Sweden, Johannes decided to start Meeting Mountans in this outdoor paradise, after training as a chef and working as a skydiving instructor. He’s eager for guests to try epic adventures like canyoning and paragliding.
I’m an avid indoor spinning enthusiast and I’ve done other cycling tours in Slovenia. Johannes recommended renting e-bikes from Sport Mix in Bovec and joined me for a guided tour of the spectacular local scenery. The electric motors provide a welcome boost on the steepest hills and make the bike tour an option for travelers of different ages and abilities.
After two action-packed days, filled with memorable vistas and unforgettable food, I was exhausted. But determined to come back for a deeper dive into the history that inspired Hemingway to write “A Farewell to Arms” about his war experiences on the Soča Front.
Terry’s Travel Tips
Getting to Slovenia: Read my trip-planning post for more details on flying to Slovenia. Don’t forget to check out the airfare deals on CheapOAir. You could also decide to drive to Slovenia from the neighboring countries of Italy, Austria, Croatia or Hungary. Buses and trains connect major cities but you’ll need a vehicle to get to what Slovenians call “the nature.”
When to Visit the Soča Valley: Some roads, including the Vršič Pass, are generally open in May through October but closed in the winter. Accommodations including campgrounds fill up in the peak July-August travel months. Winter sports enthusiasts will enjoy the snowy months. I prefer the shoulder seasons of May-June and September-October.
Do People in Soča Valley Speak English? Visitors to the Soča Valley come from all over Europe and the world. Most people working in the tourist trade speak English and at least one other language such as Italian, French or German.
Getting Around in the Soča Valley
Renting a Car in Slovenia: Even if your trip starts in the car-free center of Ljubljana, you definitely need a vehicle to reach the Soča Valley. Save money by reserving your car through Auto Europe before you leave the USA.
Most rental cars in Europe are manual shift. Automatic transmission vehicles can be hard to come by at the last minute in the peak travel seasons, so you’ll need to reserve well in advance. Make sure the car has the required “vinjeta” registration for the toll roads in Slovenia, or risk a hefty fine.
Pro Tip: Shopping options in the Soča Valley are little more than convenience stores. Plan to stop at a major town like Jesenice or shop on the outskirts of Ljubljana for food supplies if you are staying at self-catering accommodations. Gas stations in the area are few and far between.
Stranger Danger: One of the more nail-biting experiences was driving on the narrow, twisty roads at night. The lack of streetlights makes for some great stargazing, but you won’t notice a deer jumping in front of your car until it’s almost too late. We missed the turn to Abyss Apartments in the dark and had to stop at a local bar to ask for directions. Try to do most of the driving during the day.
Meeting Mountains Trip Planner
Johannes offers different levels of trip planning service on the Meeting Mountains website, depending on your level of mountaineering experience and budget: full vacation planning, hiking tours and or an online consultation for referrals you can follow on your own.
He operates on the theory that most foreign visitors will come to Slovenia only once. They want to make the most of their limited time and not miss the highlights. My trip mostly followed his referrals, but he we benefited from his expertise as a guide for our bike tour. Hiking packages may include overnights at scenic mountain huts.
What to Pack for Your Outdoor Adventure: Meeting Mountains sends customers a detailed packing list. Be prepared to dress in layers, with a lightweight jacket and a rain parka. Sturdy hiking shoes are a must-have. Most providers of outdoor activities provide specialized equipment including wetsuits and helmets. Don’t forget a plug-in adapter to charge your devices on the 220V current.
Disclosure: This post was partially sponsored by Meeting Mountains, Abyss Adventures and Sport Mix. Opinions are my own. Thank you for clicking on the ads and some links in this post to browse reviews on Trip Advisor, or check airfare and rental car options. It supports this blog at no cost to you.
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