the most beautiful river in Europe
It takes just 40 minutes to get to the end of the Slovenian Soca river from the Lodge before it heads into Italy and becomes the Isonzo river. But the Soca river makes an absolutely massive impact on Green Slovenia before that as it flows down from the Slovenian Julian Alps into the Upper and Lower Soca valleys.. you could spend hours and hours and days and days exploring this river and our guests often do!
But such beauty is often overlooked or even missed out by many visitors to Green Slovenia as the heavily publicized and visited hotspots of lake Bled, Piran and Ljubljana suck in first time visitors with no clue about the logistics for this tiny country and due to the Soca's stunning location in the very far west it proves a journey either too far or tricky from Ljubljana & the Coast or a zig zaggy trip over a mountain pass from the lakes and so this Emerald treasure is tragically missed off your to do list and inevitably your Slovenian experience will still be amazing, but incomplete!
That is not a problem for Lipizzaner Lodge guests as we deliberately chose the very best logistical position in all Slovenia for our Lodge, so visitors can easily pop up the ultra speedy motorway link through the Vipava Valley to this amazing river and explore whatever they want during the day! And in just a couple of hours you can reach the very start of the Soca river, where it's spring bursts out from the mountain side, high in the Alps..
But first.. a really tricky question.. What colour is this beautiful river?
You tell us! We have seen a similar colour in acidic lakes under volcanoes with pink flamingos grazing in the water in South America.. so maybe it is turquoise, maybe blue, maybe green.. if it were a jewel it would surely be an emerald.
The second Lion Witch Wardrobe film, Prince Caspian was shot here on the river and they didn't need to adjust the colour..
So you decide. Actually the colour can change depending on the speed and volume of the water.. but there are so many places to enjoy along this amazing river..
So many, that we will join you now, if we may, on a journey downriver.. so grab your paddle and zip up your life jacket, cos here we go on an epic paddle from the very start of the Soca river until it waves goodbye to Slovenia at Nova Goricia!
the Source (Izvir) of the Soca river..
It might sound a bit daft, but it wasn't until we came to live in Slovenia that we ever thought about where a river actually starts! But there are so many rivers springing into life here out of mountains, rocks, caves and holes in the ground that we took on a new hobby and became kind of "collectors" of these Izvirs, (river spring or river source in Slovenian) and so when we are out & about, we try to find (and usually end up hiking to) as many river springs as possible!
To see a new river starting it's long journey is a privilege and a piece of nature's magic and you can easily go see the Source of the Soca.. The river actually bursts out of the mounatian rock a little way up the Vrsic Pass, which is a road that heads up over the Slovenian Alps to pop out at Slovenia's main ski resort of Kranska Gora.
The trickiest bit is to find the hairpin bend with the single lane road bridge across from the main road and then it is plain sailing to the little pub where you can park and climb up, sometimes holding onto metal ropes to get to the Source of the Soca!
It depends what time of year it is as to how close you can get to the last magical rock that is like a deep well and from which the turquoise water bursts out from. If you get to look down into this rock it is likely the rock river flow down the mountain will be dry and if the water is gushing out, then you won't be able to look into the hole, but either scenario is incredibly beautiful.
the Soca Gorge..
The river flows down the mountain and alongside the road into the Upper Soca valley. Now this road can be quite a busy route, particularly with annoying motorbikes buzzing around behind you like wasps.. so a great general tip to really get to know this river is to cross by foot to the OTHER SIDE whenever you can.. simple.. but a lot of people don't think to do this.
The village of Soca is a perfect place to do this and once you have crossed the wonky bridge over the river by the church, the sound of the road disappears behind the trees and you are left one on one with the sound of the waterflow!
This is also a fantastic walk to approach the Soca gorge, which is quite breath taking.. the water has carved a crazy pattern through the rock over time to create a zig zag route..
If you walk from the main village of Soca to the gorge, then you can walk along the top of the river along these stone cliffs that drop into the gorge and the stunningly beautiful blue water!
There are places along the narrow gorge where you can jump into the freezing cold water on a hot summer day, but also places to relax along a white beach and other places where anglers fish for the famous Soca trout.
the Lepana Waterfalls..
And here is a little paradise river bonus for you.. technically the Lepana river is also a source for the Soca river.. so if you have time.. and we suggest you make time.. then you can walk UP the Lepana river which flows towards the Soca gorge and discover the magic of the multiple Lepana waterfalls.. we call it the Lepana Water Gardens.
The part of the river between Soca and Bovec is quite spectacular with pretty little bridges, massive white boulders and sandy pebbly little beaches. Kayaks look like they are floating on top of glass as the water slides over rocks.. Parking can be an issue along here though as irresponsible kayaking firms park their mini buses in the road.. this should really be dealt with by the authorities, but we do urge you when booking a kayaking trip to maybe go with a SLOVENIAN company as they are more likely to follow rules.
There are little places to park along the river though and actually the mini buses often give you an advanced clue that a small space might be coming up for you, but you really must try to stop somewhere along here and find your own little bridge, maybe your very own private beach to watch the lucky kayakers and the sliding water.
There are 3 main Alpine towns along the Upper Soca, each different in character, each hiding different secret places for you to enjoy the river from. Bovec is the first and it has the most physical water activities "going on" for a visitor. We love the little high street with a few restaurants, coffee bars and shops.. all this with the mountains towering above.. who needs skyscrapers!
Bovec is probably the go to place for kayaking and other watersports, but also, of course, the busiest.. Also think about it.. when would a river be at it's lowest and weakest.. summer.. but we have never heard our guests having their canoeing cancelled so the guys up here must know what they are doing!
It is almost impossible to believe, but it is sadly true that this most beautiful Soca river was also the scene of the bloodiest mountain battle of all time, accounting for the lives of over a million men in WW1.
This dark history still hangs over the river shores and the mountain sides.. The Soca river was the front line or "Isonzo Front" between the Italians on one side and the Austrians & Germans on the other. You just cannot imagine that humans could be fighting over centimetres in such a beautiful location, but sadly it is not difficult to find the trenches, massive cemetaries, fortifications and bunkers or see the tiny caves dug out by the soldiers to shield from weather and the armageddon.
Ernest Hemminway wrote "A Farewell to Arms" from his war time experiences here.
Around Bovec you can find a lot of these historic sites and they are powerful reminders, even on holiday.
Perhaps the two best ways to remember or discover the terrible conflict are to be found further down the river at Kobarid. There is an absolutely fantastic museum in Kobarid which tells the brutal story of the Isonzo Front in a human and compassionate way and it is one of the best micro museums in Slovenia.. and that is saying something.
Or you could go up the very steep hill in the centre of the town to the Italian war memorial. The views from up here along the valley are nothing short of sensational and spine tingling as you stand on top of the massive stone tomb holding thousands upon thousands of fallen Italian soldiers.
Kobarid is another cute little Alpine Slovenian treasure and either a hike from the centre or a short drive around the edge of the town back to the river will bring you to, in our humble opinion, the best waterfall in Slovenia.. Kozjak Falls. We cannot tell you how much we love this place and as with all the best places to visit, there is a magical walk to the falls along the Soca river with a view to a long wobbly spectacular swing bridge over the green water.
Is there a more photogenic bridge in Green Slovenia? You would need to check our "Bridges" section to be sure, but wow, just walk over this bridge and bounce gently a little in the middle for a view that will stay inside your memories for a long time!
And it gets even better as you hike up a tributary river, with little Hobbit bridges and massive green ferns growing up the slanted rock cliffs that guard the magical Kozjak waterfall, (Slap in Slovene) wow.
And here is a great tip that ties in again with our earlier advice.. we recommend you stay on the Kozjak (other) side of the Soca to drive down from Kobarid to Tolmin as there are some excellent opportunities to get near the river, it is very quiet and you drive through fabulous little villages.
The third of these little Alpine towns is Tolmin and if you approach from the other side of the river, you might want to turn off early and follow the sign to Zatolmin up the one lane road that leads directly to the amazing Tolmin Gorge. This gorge is massive and very different to the other Slovenian gorges.. it jumps up on you and takes your breathe away.. it looks like a Disney set.. but it is real! It is simply amazing.
There is also plenty of walking to be done around this gorge, if you like.. maybe follow our tip to find the best secret cafe in Slovenia.. certainly climb up to Devil's bridge and Dante's cave if you can and you will get an amazing view of the ruin of Tolmin castle high up on a hill that looks like a huge scooped ball of green ice cream!
There is a sensationally located church that can be found if you go up the other fork in the village of Zatolmin and follow the sign to Javorca.. There is NO OTHER church located better in all Green Slovenia and that is also saying something! You drive along a stone forest road to a grass car park and then walk up a steep track to get to a beautiful wooden church dedicated to the fallen Austrian soldiers.. the location is nothing short of breath taking.. and all the time here, you can hear the water flowing down the valley, a long, long way below!
There is another big Soca surprise if you just pop out of Tolmin on the road towards Idrija for a few km and you will find the stunning village of Most na Soci (Bridge over the Soca).. (we did say there were some amazing bridges in Green Slovenia)!.. the Soca has been expanded into a large man made lake here and the colour will blow your cotton socks off!
Wow, yet again.. If you want to see the lake at its best then one of our favourite Slovenian characters is the wonderful Captain Dejan and his paddle steamer, offering you 2 cruises up and down this lake and incredibly.. under that bridge, when you see the bridge you would not think this possible! Our strong advice is to do both the north and south cruise with the Captain's lunch included and give our best regards to Dejan and the crew!
There is even a legend about how the soca lake got it's amazing colour and you can find out more in the middle of our Local Legends page under "the Princess's Tears and the Dragon's Blood"!..
The Soca continues it's journey under the Most na Soci, but you can rejoin it on the road to Kanal. The river is leaving the Alps behind now, but there are some terrific views of the peaks as you wind your away through picturesque villages and rejoin the river.
Kanal is one of our favourite places to stop for a coffee and admire the river.. It is also exactly an hour to the Lodge from here. Guess what.. there is also an amazing bridge here too! The river gets coralled between a narrow channel here, but don't be fooled, the water is very deep and in the summer there is a diving competition for lunatics off that very bridge! And if you don't believe it, walk onto the bridge and you will find the diving platform!
The river widens a lot after Kanal on it's final Slovenian leg and the colour changes to a beautiful darker green. If you have another driver option then just get them to drive now so you can admire the water for the final stretch. High up on the other side of the river you will see the wooden fence of a fantastic new bike track route that goes along the train line up the river.. another fab thing.. on the other side.
The river passes under the longest stone arch railway bridge in the world before winking at Nova Goricia and making its way into Italy for a meeting with the Adriatic sea.
Lodge guests now have the delights of the beautiful Green Vipava Wine Valley to traverse before reaching home.
So this is what you have missed if you didn't visit the Soca river in your Slovenian holiday! And there are actually many more things you can see around here during a day trip from the Lodge that we just didnt want to overwhelm you with in this article..
This river is just so ridiculously beautiful and we hope our little journey with you along it has inspired you to visit it some lucky green, blue, turquoise, emerald day..