the magnificent Vrsic Pass
The unpronounceabubble Vršic pass can be tackled on a wonderful circle round trip from the Lodge in a day, or as a fantastic road trip, either on your way to the Lodge from Slovenia's stunning Alpine lakes or another way to them from here. Either way you will be impressed by the sheer size and beauty of the mountains towering over this 1,611m high pass. From the Lodge, you approach the pass from the beautiful Soca valley until you run the river dry at its source and then head up wide curvy roads to the pass and maybe climb up a waterfall on the way home!
The trip up to the pass from the lodge has so any stopping off options, it really depends on what you like to do or see, but the stunning little village of Kanal, with beautiful bridge over the aqua green Soca river is a natural first stop and excellent place to stretch your legs, easily walk down to the shore of Europe's most beautiful river and then have some marvellous ice cream or the local coconut special cake at Rafaello's cafe, with spectacular view from the terrace to the bridge and river.
The choice is yours whether to stop off at Tolmin, there would be time to visit the "must see" gorge, but in our view better done on another day as the gorge is so beautiful you do not want to hurry it. Otherwise, stops are possible at the Italian WW1 cemetary with stunning views over the Soca valley. You can see the whole valley and also this is a meeting point for the Alpine and European Tectonic plates, so the scene of devastating earthquakes and landslides in the last 30 years.
There are 14 "gates" on the steep windy road up to the "Place of Bones", where pilgrims can stop to contemplate the stages on the path of Christ's cruxifiction. At the top is a huge concrete memorial, where thousands of Italian soldiers rest, caught up in the horrific WW1 conflict here in the mountains and never to leave.
So you need to choose where to take a break on the way to the pass, whether it be at Tolmin, Kobarid or Bovec. We chose to head on a little past Bovec and stopped for a sandwich at one of the many little bridges over the Soca river. The river here is quite breath taking and pods of kayak groups float past to entertain you as the turquoise water slides over the rocky riverbed like a picture.
There are 2 more possible distractions before you hit the climb up, being a botanical garden called "Juliana" after one of this region's most famous botanists. (It is only when you arrive in Slovenia and actually see all the flowers and fauna that you would realise to be a top botanist in Slovenia is something of an honour)!
The second detour is a trip to the source of the Soca itself, which could take the form of a 30 min hike up a hill following the signs for "Izvir Soca" (source). Yet again Slovenia is a top destination to see where all these beautiful clear and clean rivers pop up from the ground, from mountains or through the rocks at the start of their journey. The Soca is one to tick off your list for sure!
The surprising and reassuring thing about the way up to the pass is that the roads are pretty wide, being built during the war by Russian POW's. The road is actually called the "Russian Road" (cesta) in memory of the dozens of soldiers killed by an avalanche here. It is a VERY nice touch that many corners of this road have been left with the original cobblestones laid by these men. See the cobblestones below and also do not miss stopping at the pretty little Russian church half way down the other side of the pass. The parking is a bit tight, but it's worth a short stop.
This road is very popular with motorcyclists and road cyclists, you even get the odd nutter cycling up on a folding bike! But there are really no places where people nervous about heights have to fear, which is excellent considering the many spectacular mountain and valley views as you curve your way up.
There are 49 very handy little road signs on the sharp corners to tell you how high up you are and how far you are between the start of the climb at the Soca valley, number 49, all the way to the end of the pass on the other side of the Alps at Kranska Gora, (Slovenia's main ski resort), number 1!
Every corner gives you a different thrill as the mountains peaks get closer, then even more come into view all around you at the top. We were very pleasantly surprised that there was lots of parking at the top, 3 cabins for refreshments, but wow, the views were spectacular in every direction!
Incredibly, our eyes were distracted by some tiny movements on the sheer slopes opposite the main hut and we were shocked to see it was some people actually running down this slope with only those artic stick things for support. It makes you feel giddy just to see this! We saw more and more people doing this, the peak must have been over 2,000m, so those people must have walked up the other side and were now hurtling down this very steep, slippery slope to our 1,611m position. We have run down an ash covered volcano in Guatemala, but the angle of slope these people were coming down was quite scary!
Probably a better walk for most people would be to drive a little further along to the next cafe and there is a sign for a 30 min walk back to the main pass cafe. Here the scenery is spectacular. At the bottom of the pass you soon come into the centre of Kranska Gora, which is Slovenia's main ski resort. From here you begin the journey home and again have a huge selection of places to choose to stop off at on the way!
All of the places we mention now are other "secret places" with their own separate pages in this section and could easily be part of a separate day out or visited on their own. But now you could choose to stop off at maybe Slovenia's main Ski jump centre at nearby Planica, where there is another lovely summer walk along a valley towards Italy, or just for fun, drive into Austria then Italy and back to Slovenia in just 10 minutes in this 3 pointed corner of Slovenia.. just because you can!
Or you could stop off to see the source of another river, Slovenia's longest, the Sava, (this source is really something to see, there is a wooden platform to view the ice cold water bubbling up from the ground! We decided to stop off at the Triglav (three heads) Gateway, which is a small valley with pretty river leading directly to Slovenia's highest mountain, Triglav, 2,864m. (Apparently this is one of the quickest access points and climbing points for this mountain, but only for experienced climbers).
We marched up to the incredible Pericnik waterfall, something that doesn't seem possible when you stand below in the valley and look up, but you can get right up next to it, almost behind the water and feel the power of this water dropping into a most beautiful valley.
So what an amazing day on the road! You will of course stop off at the Vršic pass, as the centre point of this trip, but this daytrip is a true road trip, enjoyed by car drivers, motorcyclists and road cyclists alike, where you are glued to the window as you watch the rivers, mountains and waterfalls flash by. And the wonderful thing is, you could even do it another day, but in the opposite direction, stopping off at some of the places you missed out the first time!