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Just when I thought I knew how special Slovenia was, along came the Soca Valley. Travelling through Slovenia’s Alps had given me the mistaken impression I knew what this country had to offer. Well, spending a couple of days in Soča certainly set me straight.
Even though I’d heard of this little pocket of the country before, I had no idea what lay in store. No way did I expect this mix of beautiful natural scenery and impressive historical landmarks.
Many people choose to visit Soca Valley because of all the outdoor activities it offers. Having just come off days of vigorous hiking, my body couldn’t handle that. Instead Mateja Travel arranged a fantastic itinerary of sightseeing that showed off the valley’s many incredible attractions. From waterfalls, to mountains, forts and the Soca River, our day was packed with one wonderful sight after the next.
Considering so much focus goes on outdoor activities, it seems helpful to also highlight all the Soca Valley sightseeing opportunities. That way, you’ll know what to do in the Soca Valley if you’re not in the mood for white water rafting or the countless other outdoor adventure sports.
Visiting Soca Valley
If you’ve never heard of the Soča Valley before, then you’re probably missing some context. The Soca River valley is a narrow strip of Slovenia squeezed between Triglav National Park and the border with Italy.
Thanks to the mountains that surround it, the region has a remote feel to it. It’s as if you’ve found a hidden corner of the country. But what makes it truly special is the Soca River due to the river’s unreal water colour.
Whether you call it emerald or aquamarine, the incredible colour is both magical and all natural! The river owes its colour to minerals suspended in the water that reflect that colour of light.
Wherever you go in the valley you’ll find the water slightly different shades depending on the light. The one consistency is that it will be icy cold, which makes sense since it’s flowing out of the Alps.
Where to Stay in Soca Valley
A big part of making the most of a Soca Valley trip is finding somewhere appropriate to stay. In that regard, our Soca Valley tour hit things out of the park. For two nights following our time in Triglav National Park, we stayed at Camp Korita.
It could have not been a better base to explore the region and rest. This huge campground sits right along the Soca River and was an absolute treat. While there are camping sites and room for campervans, I had the pleasure of trying the camp’s fixed accommodation.
My first night I was in a Shepherd’s Hut, a cosy hut with a canvas screen as a door. Not only do you get a nice breeze that way, but you’re also serenaded to sleep by the sounds of the river. The other night it was to over one of the camp’s Glamping Villas. This larger hut comes with a door and electricity and with the forest behind it, sleeping there was incredibly peaceful.
What really stood out to me though was the quality of the camp facilities. The bathrooms and cooking facilities were far nicer and cleaner than I’ve experienced at a campground in quite some time.
The care and thought that has gone into Camp Korita makes sense if you meet Peter, its owner. Pictured above with Mateja my guide, he shared the work that he’s put into Korita since taking over from his grandfather.
It’s not just the quality of the huts, but even smaller details like the ornate lamps and tables that he’s had made. All of this made it no surprise that the camp is often completely booked come summertime.
Soca Valley Activities
Many people who spend time visiting Soca Valley, come to the region for its outdoor activities. The Soca Valley is basically seen as Slovenia’s adventure playground, with activities that range from gentle to extreme.
Rafting and kayaking down the beautiful Soca River valley is particularly popular, as are pursuits like canyoning and paragliding. The valley’s combination of rivers and mountains make it perfect for outdoor activities like these.
So sporty is the region that it’s also home to the Bovec Marathon, a September event that takes runners right through the valley. Parts of the marathon course even cross suspension bridges, which is sure to be a unique experience.
The aim of this Soca Valley travel blog post is to show you the other things this destination has to offer. There are so many Soca Valley sightseeing spots that you really don’t need to be the adventuress type to love it there. Let’s get to them shall we?
Great Soča Gorge
Since the Soca River is the main attraction here, it only makes sense to start with it. Camp Korita is already right by the Soca River, so even before we started sightseeing for the day we’d spent time down by the river. Having confirmed that it was both ice cold and beautiful, we were off to our first stop – the Great Soca Gorge.
What makes this stretch of the river special is the 15 metre deep gorge that it caves through. While the end of the gorge opens out, the upper part of the gorge is quite narrow.
The sides of the Great Soca Gorge have been worn smooth, its rippled form ground down by the river over a long time. Not only can you see straight down from a small bridge to admire the stunning water colour, you can also get quite close to the gorge’s edge for some great views.
The Soča Valley boasts several impressive waterfalls among its natural treasures, the largest of which is Boka Waterfall. Plummeting down 144 metres across its two steps, Slap Boka as it’s known is a major attraction.
While it’s possible to catch a glimpse of the waterfall from the road, a better viewpoint is found a short walk into the forest. From there you see right up a small valley to see the waterfall emerging from the mountains.
What I liked was that because of the angle of the mountains, the waterfall appears to almost magically spring from the stone. Since we were only making a brief stop, we chose not to walk further up the valley to get a closer look. Still, this view of the waterfall and surroundings mountains was well worth it.
With my fondness for historical landmarks, my tour guide Mateja made sure to show me ones scattered among all the beautiful natural landmarks. A big part of the region’s history relates to the First World War, as the Soča Valley rests right on the border between Slovenia and Italy. During WWI this was a front between Austrian and Italian forces, a conflict I knew little about.
That’s what made visiting the Kolovrat Open Air Museum so great. Resting up on Mount Kolovrat you’ll find trenches that once formed part of Italy’s defenses during the conflict. In terms of history, this one of best places to visit in Soca Valley in my opinion.
This open air museum is part of the Walk of Peace and is fully open to the public. It’s possible to actually walk down into the trenches and get a sense of how confined they are.
You can also see for miles about, making it clear just how strategic a spot Kolovrat was. After exploring the trenches for quite a bit, we walked up to the summit of Kolovrat.
Not only is it a great viewpoint, but it actually treads the modern border between Italy and Slovenia. Even just for people that like to have one foot in each country, there’s a clear appeal to climbing up.
Although the main town in the Soca Valley is Bovec, there are plenty of other small towns and villages throughout the valley. One that we visited briefly for lunch was the scenic little village of Dreznica. The village is easy to spot as you approach, with the white San Fermin Church clearly standing out against the greens of the countryside.
Driving past tractors, we soon reached the village and then had to navigate its old, single-lane streets. Even though we were very much out in the country, we still enjoyed a tasty lunch at Jelkin Hram guesthouse, with views out over the rolling pastures.
There’s little doubt in my mind that visiting the Kozjak Waterfalls is one of best things to do in Soca Valley. Certainly, waterfalls in general don’t need a big sell, but this one is kind of special. Part of what I like about Kozjak Waterfalls though is the build-up, as you see quite a bit before you reach the main waterfall itself.
A visit here starts with a walk up along the Soča River to one of it’s most classically enchanting parts. There’s lush forest on each bank, mountains in the distance, a classic suspension bridge and of course the impossible colour of the water.
From the riverfront, you veer into the forest and thanks to its thick canopy and moss-covered boulders it has quite an ancient feel to it. Before long you reach the first of the Kozjak Waterfalls, although these are the small ones. Kids were splashing around near there, with the small falls squeezing through narrow gaps in the rock.
Moving deeper in you start to follow the Kozjak river through a lush little gorge that is littered with huge boulders. Near the end you reach a short boardwalk and the sound of a waterfall grows louder and louder.
What makes Veliki Kozjak, the main Kozjak Waterfall, so special is its setting. Following the boardwalk, you curve round to the left only to find yourself in a large cave.
Breaking through one end of the cave is the waterfall, with some small gaps above it letting in light through the forest canopy. The waterfall may only be 15 metres high, but its setting more than makes up for that.
One of the other impressive historical Soca Valley WWI spots is the Kluze Fort. Driving up into Koritnica Gorge, this big stone fort immediately gives off the impression of an impenetrable mountain bastion.
With its strategic location up near the Predel mountain pass, if effectively blocked the way for advancing armies. For centuries Kluze Fort defended the region in conflicts with Turkish forces and Napoleon, as well as World War I. Despite how it may look, the fort was actually destroyed twice over the years, once by Napoleon’s artillery and again during World War I.
And yet, it wasn’t damaged during World War II, apparently because it’s remote location made it nearly impossible for bombers to have a clear shot. While the fort was closed during out visit, you can still explore around the historic fortress and look down into the deep gorge below.
Perhaps my favourite part of this stop was hearing local tales from Mateja and Skof about conflicts fought here. For instance, they told me a story about Napoleon’s invasion and his troops arriving at Kluze Fort.
A bridge spanning Koritnica Gorge sits right outside the fort, that locals had destroyed in advance of Napoleon’s forces. The soldiers approached the fort through a thick fog, barely able to see the person in front of them. Among the soldiers were drummers to provide the marching rhythm, although they had to compete with the roar from the gorge.
Because of the thick fog, the soldiers were none the wiser about the bridge and one by one, they plummeted into the ravine below, unaware of the fate of the men in front of them. Apparently, it was only when they could no longer hear the drummers that they realised something was wrong.
While there are plenty of spots to get great views of the Soca River, one of the most popular is Napoleon’s Bridge. The bridge is so named because Napoleon’s troops marched across the old stone bridge there, before it was destroyed in WWI.
The bridge itself isn’t overly special, but its views of the aquamarine water in the Soca River definitely are. From up there you can look quite a way up this rocky river canyon and there are paths either side that really let you see the area from every angle.
Our final stop during the day only made me realise just how much more of the Soca Valley we’d left unexplored. Actually not that far from the Great Soca Gorge where we’d been at the start of the day is the start of the Lepena Valley.
Driving up into this side valley, the scenery was all forest, fields and looming mountains in front of us. It was like we’d found a hidden valley off a hidden valley and it became clear there’s no end to Slovenia’s natural wonders.
We drove all the way to the end of the made road and had a drink at the Klementa Juga v Lepeni Guesthouse, admiring what we could see of the view back down the valley. It was our last chance to appreciate the incredible scenery before the sun went down and it definitely delivered. There are hiking trails up to mountain lakes here and even though I was exhausted after Triglav, I immediately wanted to include the hike on my next visit to Slovenia.
Have you heard of this awesome corner of Slovenia before? Where else would you add to this Soca Valley travel blog post on sightseeing in the region? Please share them in the comments below.
*Disclosure: My tour of Soca Valley with Mateja Travel was as a complimentary guest. As always, opinions are completely and genuinely my own. I wouldn’t recommend them otherwise!