Tolmin Gorgeous & secret Cafe
In the same way that most visitors to Green Slovenia will marvel at the beauty of Postojna caves and then maybe find out later about Skocjan cave, Krizna cave or Dimnice cave.. In the same way that you will be amazed at the beauty of Lake Bled and will not believe there is a far more beautiful lake just down the road at Lake Bohinj! Well, in the same way, you will probably visit Vintgar gorge as part of your lake Bled experience.. but, really you also need to know about Tolmin Gorge!
One of the main reasons treasures like Tolmin, Kobarid and Bovec are often missed out by visitors is that they make the mistake to centre themselves in Bled, Ljubljana and the coast. It is no coincidence that from Lipizzaner Lodge, close to Postojna, you can easily reach all of these places in a daytrip, but you can also easily get to the wonderful Tolmin gorge, the lower & upper Soca valleys and the Vipava valley for good measure!
Another reason why few people have heard of this amazing place is that Slovenia is blessed with so many other natural treasures. We know of 6 stunning gorges in Slovenia and are sure there are many more. Each one is very different.. where Vintgar is wooden walkway paradise, Tolmin is full of steep stony steps with thunderous crystal clear water crashing through a spectacularly narrow gorge that just suddenly.. jumps out and surprises you!
The gorge is not too far away from the little town of Tolmin upon the emerald river Soca. You need to know the word "korita" means gorge as the signs don't say "gorge". You follow the brown signs and drive up from the town towards Zatolmin (nice restaurant there, by the way) and head down a really narrow country lane road to the gorge. There is a new overspill car park and then the main car park next to a restaurant.. it is rare in Slovenia that we don't recommend a restaurant.. this is one of them!
Instead, we think you should hold your fire, maybe take some energy snacks and prepare for a fantastic adventure, first seeing the gorge and then climbing the stone steps and up the mountain to find the amazing secret cafe high above the gorge for some lovely local grub!
In the high summer season the small car parks can get quite full, so be prepared to use the Park & Ride, operated from near the Sports centre. You could take the chance to drive up to Zatolmin and then see if there is a space shown on the electronic car park sign, or even just take a chance and drive down to the car park, as someone might just be leaving, but we have heard good reports of the park & ride which goes every 15 mins or so.
At the gorge's wooden cabin ticket office, if you are lucky, you will get your map from the very lovely and bubbly Marina at the start of the trail. She is one of the many wonderful local characters that make Slovenia even more special for visitors, if she is there, please say hi from us! Hug the riverside tracks down to the many viewpoints along the gorge and marvel. Follow the river gushing alongside the path until the gorge finally jumps out at and surprises you at the end of the trail. It will take your breath away with it's beauty. There is also a bubbling thermal spring in the middle of all this ice cold water for you to spot!
While walking along the gorge look up and up and up to see the Devil's bridge high up above you.. this is where you are going next! Don't forget to find and walk across the smaller, very wobbly swing bridge and back as its really bouncy! Follow the steps up into the jungle-like mountain side fauna and if you have time go to the boulder, shaped like a bear's head, then go.
The walk up the stone steps to the road is quite demanding, but it's not a race, you can take your time.. every time you stop for a breath, there will be an even better higher view!
Le Way to the Secret Tolmin Café:
Once you get up to the road you can decide to either walk down, over the wonky bridge and back to the car park, or go up to find the secret café. When you go over the bridge, you will not believe cars go over it, it sounds like a clap of thunder every time one does.. Take a few moments to look over the edge and down to the gorge.
The mountain road is one of those narrow winding, curvy mountain ones that would take you an age to walk up as it's bends are so long and curvy. Instead, there are 2 secret paths to find with steps going directly up into the trees to cut off these huge corners.. your adventure is just about to begin!
The first short cut is next to Dante's cave.. Yes folks, this is where it is believed the cave inspired the famous Italian writer for his Inferno! Climb the stairs up to the cave and almost next to it is a fabulous little stony curvy track that takes you up the mountain. Ignore the first chance you get to rejoin the road as there is more forest track you can use before you have to pop up onto the road.
Here you can see a sign next to a roadside shrine for the "cafe, 10 mins" (Olympic endurance athletes can do it in 10) and you follow another stunning stone stairway up with even more fantastic views. You pop out onto a grassy meadow with donkeys and views to Mt Krn at 2,244m. The deja vue we got here the first time was like a wonderful mix between the beauty we had experienced in Laos, South East Asia and Switzerland.. if you have been to both places, you will know what we mean!
A sharp right turn and your hiking is rewarded when you reach Miriam's cafe, where you might need to ring the cowbell to let her know you are there! The apple strudel is delicious, you can eat a small meal here and we recommend you do. You can also buy amazing natural Tolmin mountain cheese here from the next village up. If not the best, then one of the best cheeses in Slovenia.
This is not a hike for those who cannot walk so well or do stairs, but if you have the stomach for it you can still drive up the scary narrow road over the Devil's bridge and the café. If you have plenty of time and are not keen on stone stairs, then you could also just walk the road all the way up to the café. But if you are reasonably fit and can make the walk directly up the mountain, then please do and you will really feel part of this amazing natural scene.
This amazing secret place in Slovenia is at the very least a half day adventure. From the Lodge, there are so many other options to combine with this natural wonder to make an amazing full day out.. You could combine the Vipava valley, the Soca river, the paddle steamer at Most na Soci, Javorca mountain church, Tolmin castle .. the list goes on and on and on! You could even do a longer round trip via the lower central mountains of Cerkno or Idrija.. but whatever you do, try to visit Miriam in her lovely mountain café and please say hello from us!