This summer I have landed a dream job along with my partner Pete. We are looking after a beautiful self-catered chalet for an independent company called Extreme Slovenia in the little village of Žaga. I have compiled a list of the 10 best things about living in the Soča Valley and why it should be on your travel bucket list.
The village of Žaga is situated 9km from the Italian border and sits on the edge of Triglav National Park in the Julian Alps. We are also located smack bang in the middle of the two biggest towns in the Soča Valley, called Kobarid and Bovec (pronounced Bovets).
The Soča Valley is truly breathtaking, the emerald river Soča carves its way through the steep sided basin being an ideal place for the outdoor type, and the colour of the river is also a photographer’s dream. During the summer months, the river stays at around 11-12°C so it is great for a refreshing and cooling dip. We are also situated right by the Učja river too which is gorgeously clear and acts as our own private pool.
The location of the valley, right next to the Julian Alps means it’s a magnificent place to hike, whether it be low level valley walks or high up in the linestone hills. You can also pop over to Italy easily to enjoy Lake Predil, visit the Sanctuary of Mount Lussari and eat some real gelato.
There are some awesome mountain passes that you can drive on including the highest road in Slovenia which goes up to the Mangart Saddle. The Vršič links over from Trenta to Kranjska Gora which is another lovely mountain area in Slovenia.
Although we’ve had a lot of hot, sunny days so far, we are prone to huge storms too. Massive claps of thunder and forks of lightening light up the sky every couple of weeks. The rain is great for our garden as we have planted lots of vegetables such as tomatoes, courgettes, onions, carrots, leeks and broccoli which we grown from seed inside our apartment. At times, it felt like our kitchen was a green house!
The main summer months of June, July and August have been really hot, over 27°C most days which is great for sunbathing but makes doing any land based activities like hiking pretty sweaty!
Although I do winter ski seasons in France and I really love the snow, I think I am more of a summer person and being in a hot country during this time is perfect as I feel so much healthier getting a big dose of vitamin D.
I feel like hiking in the Soča Valley should get its own blog, we both love getting outside and enjoy the fresh air and freedom of getting around using leg power. As the mountains and hills are so high, most of the walks have steep sections which can be tough but there’s always chance for rest stops with amazing viewpoints of the valley.
Not all walks are steep and there are some great family walks starting from various locations around the valley. You can join the Alpe Adira Trail which is a long-distance walk from Italy to Austria but the footpath comes through the Soča Valley and can be enjoyed from Kobarid to Bovec. There is also the Walk of Peace (Pot Miru) which is divided into five sections and takes in important sites from World War One. Similar to that is the 5km historic walking trail around Kobarid. A great way to get up high is the Kanin cable car which goes up to 2200m!
Slightly more difficult walks include hiking up to Svinjak at the head of the Bovec basin, scrambling up Mount Mangart from the Mangart Saddle and walking up the Slovenia’s highest glacial lake, Krnsko jezero. There are so many walks we have done now that it is hard to type about them all so I will include some photos. A great guidebook for the area is the Cicerone guide to the Julian Alps. It covers a lot of varied walks and is well descriptive. We also have the SIDARTA Bovec -Trenta outdoor map.
We are obviously planning a trip to climb the highest mountain in Slovenia which is Mount Triglav, 2864m high.
The area is well known for every outdoor activity going; kayaking, white water rafting, rock climbing, hiking, ziplining, canyoning, trail running, mountain biking, sky diving… the list is endless! There are over 20 well established outdoor companies in Bovec offering activity packages of similar nature and price. It’s just up to you which one takes your fancy. We have used Top Rafting in Žaga, because they are our neighbours and the manager is a great, friendly guy. We have been white water rafting on the Soča river which I recommend as it’s so fun and something totally different from your average holiday activity. I took my Mum and Dad and they loved it too!
We have also bought an inflatable kayak and we shall be taking it on the Soča river soon.
It’s not all extreme, outdoor sports though and there is a time for relaxing and reflecting with a bit of outdoor yoga. Adzentures yoga (or joga in Slovene) provide classes for just €10 at different serene locations around the valley.
Slovenia has been put on the international food map recently as Ana Roš, a chef from the nearby town of Kobarid, has been named the best female chef in the world at her restaurant Hiša Franko. I actually saw her walking her dog near Kobarid and I was a bit star struck! If you are Netflix watcher, then I recommend that you watch her episode of Chef’s Table. She is inspirational! Unfortunately, her restaurant has a huge waiting list and the menu is totally out of my budget range. However, it would be my dream to eat there especially if she served some great vegetarian food! If we do eat out then we head to our local pub, Gostilna Pri Mostu which serves up the biggest and best pizzas for 8 euros. I honestly can never finish it as it is so big, the vegetarian one is excellent.
We don’t tend to eat out very much as the supermarkets round here are amazing for vegetarian/vegan health food and we are cooking our own dishes up at home with our homegrown veggies. In Bovec, the main supermarket is Mercator which supplies us with super cheap firm tofu for around €1 a pack. They also have cheese slices that can be fried (Sir za žar), it reminds me of a cross between halloumi and paneer. Tolmin is a larger town, about a 30 minute drive away, which has bigger supermarkets like Eurospin and Hofer (the Slovenian Aldi). Eurospin is extremely cheap for fruit and vegetables and also a variety of Italian cheeses and yoghurt. Hofer is ultimately my favourite for food shopping and although it sounds boring, I love going there! They have an excellent variety of soya yoghurts, vegan cheese, plant based milks, veggie sausages and bio products like coconut sugar and syrup. The Slovenian version of cottage cheese is called ‘skuta’ and it is made locally in the valley. I sampled some and it is lovely with rye bread. You can also get local Tolmin cheese from a vending machine in the town!
The Soča Valley is not only for adrenaline junkies, I feel like it is quite a spiritual place where you can relax with the comfort of the mountains around you, the sound of the river flowing and all the birds chirping along with the sun shining.
The Bovec basin floor is made up of beautiful wild flower meadows that attract so many insects and lots of wildlife. The number of butterflies fluttering around is incredible, you just don’t seem to get that in the UK anymore, sadly. When we arrived here, we were so surprised at how many snakes we saw! Pete soon realised that he was in fact scared of snakes which was funny. At first, they were everywhere but as the temperature increased they seemed to hide away into the undergrowth. I was sunbathing recently in the garden and quite a big one slithered past me which was slightly unnerving.
Whilst hiking we have also seen ibex, deer, yellow spotted newts, birds of prey, frogs, green lizards and various garden birds. The wild flowers are also beautiful to look at, especially hiking at high altitude seeing how they survive up there in such harsh looking conditions.
The Soča Valley is ideal if you want to do some serious waterfall hunting. When we first arrived here we did a lot of half day hikes around the valley that take you to some stunning waterfalls. Slap (Slovene for waterfall) Boka is in between Žaga and Bovec and can be accessed from a car park just beneath it, or if you want a challenging walk up to a fantastic viewpoint then start your walk from Žaga, next to Gostline Pri Mostu and follow the S1b footpath. I think this is a better route than going from Boka car park as it is less steep and less busy and you can also make the route circular by returning along the S1 footpath. Slap Boka is one of the tallest waterfalls in Slovenia and it is so majestic to look at.
Slap Virje is truly picturesque with it’s bright blue plunge pools and is easily accessible from Bovec. You can drive really close to it but there are also some nice footpaths you can take from either Bovec or Slap Boka car park. If you walk there, you also get to walk past Bovec golf course which doubles as a foot golf course, Plužna lake and spot some wildlife in the dense forest such as snakes and yellow spotted newts.
Slap Kozjak is on the Kobarid historic trail, but that’s not the only route to get there. You can park near Kamp Koren and follow the short trail that leads to this lovely waterfall. I felt like I was in a scene from Jurassic Park when I first visited here as the ravine walls are lined with green, jungle like plants and it was very atmospheric.
Those are my top three waterfalls in the area but there is also Globoški Potok above Žaga and, also Sušec Gorge has some ace waterfalls to admire. You may spot canyoners going down these too which is fun to watch.
The local people of the Soča Valley are great and so friendly. Our neighbours always wish us dober dan (good day) and a few have been giving us produce from their own allotments. Even when there is a lack of English between you, they are willing to help as much as they can. A lot of people in the Soča Valley are workers of the land and most families have a large allotment, gardens preened to perfection and colourful flowers donning their balcony’s. From my experience, I think Slovenian’s are kind, happy and hardworking people.
Do you drink Union or do you drink Laško? That is the question. The two main lagers in Slovenia go head to head in supermarkets, Union in bright red packaging and Laško in green. To be honest, there isn’t much rivalry anymore as the companies have merged but Slovene’s still stick to one. We have chosen Laško, not for any specific reason other than our bosses drank it, so we copied them! I love a cold pint of Laško after we’ve been out hiking.
10. Visiting other parts of Slovenia
I suppose this kind of comes under location, but the Soča Valley is ideally located for reaching well known places like Lake Bled (1 hour 40 minutes), Lake Bohinj (2 hours), the Slovenian coastline (2 hours) and Ljubljana (2 hours 10 minutes). Hiring a car is a really good way to get around and see the country and especially the Soča Valley as it gives you the freedom to move around and see more.
Follow my instagram to check out what I’m up to whilst being out here. There is still so much more to see and do!
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