We’ve spent quite a bit of time in Slovenia over the last four years that we’ve been living in Italy. A mere month after we moved to Italy, we were off on a road trip to Pula, Croatia, and stopped for the first time to let our feet hit the ground in the mysterious former Yugoslavian republic. That quickly followed with trips to the fairy-tale like Bled, the gorgeous rocky beaches of Piran, and even our visit stay in an igloo. Even though Slovenia is small, just about 7800 square miles or the size of New Jersey’s, we have yet to see it all. So when we found ourselves with a rare free weekend, we hit the road for a road trip to some of the lesser known gems along Slovenia’s Emerald River that haven’t quite hit the tourist radar yet.
Lake Bled is Slovenia’s most famous lake and it is indeed beautiful. But Lake Bohinj is Slovenia’s largest lake and it’s quite, stillness is a real gem. It was our first stop on our road trip along Slovenia’s emerald river and we arrived at the largest town, Ribcev Laz, which is a great jumping off point for visits to Lake Bohinj. A 12 kilometer walking path circumnavigates the lake and can be completed in about 4 – 5 hours. We only walked a small portion, but it was beautiful and peaceful. There are little stone beaches along the lake and the grassy slopes are perfect for enjoying a lakeside picnic.
Another option is to rent a row boat from one of the little lakeside snack bars and maybe even try your hand a catching a fish. If the row boat seems like a bit too much work under the hot summer sun, there is also the option to take a 2-hour lake cruise on the tourist paddle wheeler boat called the Lucija. It leaves Ribcev Laz at 11am and then about every 2 hours 15 minutes on Saturdays and Sundays from July – August and includes lunch with the round trip ticket.
There are also 15 marked bike trails and bike rentals are available in Ribcev Laz.
Next we headed on to Kobarid, famous for the WWI Battle of Caporetto; Ernest Hemingway documented the Italian retreat in his novel A Farewell to Arms. Though Kobarid will forever be remembered for the horrors of WWI that took place there, today it is picturesque with the church of St. Anton and the Italian Charnel House, built in memory of the 7000 Italian soldiers that perished here, standing high over Slovenia’s emerald river, the Soča River.
Kobarid is also an adventure center with opportunities for kayaking, river rafting, and paragliding.
The Boka Waterfall is Slovenia’s largest and most powerful waterfall. It free-falls 106 meters from the surrounding Kanin Mountains and then has another 30 meters of incline down to Slovenia’s emerald river below. It is easily accessible, though make sure you wear trail runners or hiking boots, from a path along the road from Žaga to Bovec.
There is a small car park and the path starts from the left side of the bridge. The path gradually curves upward through the forest and ends right at the source of the waterfall. It takes approximately 1 hour 30 minutes one way.
Mangart is Slovenia’s fourth highest mountain and an old military road, constructed in just a few short months in 1938 for the Italian military, is Slovenia’s highest road. It climbs up for 11 kilometers to the Mangart Saddle at a staggering 22% grade in places and is barely wide enough to be considered a one-lane road, let alone two. The five tunnels provide the only breathers as I sit with my hands clenched to my seat and brave a few looks out the window to the sheer drop off just a few meters from our tires.
The mountain hut, Kocha na Mangartskem sedlu at 1906 meters, is as far as we can go on our visit because of a recent rock slide. The hut is also where many climbers begin their Mangart ascent from. It offers us refuge as an afternoon storm with pea sized hail and all rolls in and we enjoy steaming cups of fruit tea and apple strudel while we wait out the storm for a bit.
The Mangart Pass lies just a few kilometers from the Italian border at Tarvisio and we completed our loop happily exhausted from a day exploring some of Slovenia’s most beautiful hidden gems.
Know Before You Go
- Bring Euro as the paddle boat, Mangart Pass toll, and snack bars we stopped at only accept cash.
- There is a €5 per call toll for traveling on the Mangart Pass road. The road is open from mid-June until the first snowfall, generally around November.
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