Lovely Lepena Water Gardens
We were told about this secret place by a Slovenian friend. We had never heard of it before and were a bit hazy about directions, but we knew where Lepena was on the map and so we decided to do a daytrip from the Lodge to explore and find out about it for you..
Wow, straight into our top ten for Slovenia is all we can say, (however you must understand that Slovenia is so beautiful and stacked so full of stunning places that any top ten here has to have at least 30 places)!
So the things you can pretty much expect when discovering these new secret places in Slovenia are that a): they will usually exceed even a high expectation with their natural beauty.. b): they will usually be much harder to find than you think and c): they will probably have a completely unpronounceabubble name.
Sunikov Vodni Gaj is no exception to these secret place rules, so we decided to call this wonderful place the Lepena Water Gardens to help you find them better on a map and to better describe what you are going to see at the end of the walk, whilst retaining the mystery element!
There are 2 main ways to get here from the Lodge, although there are many more roads and numerous options to visit as part of your day out as well. We decided to take the stunning river road via Idrija up to Tolmin, so we could visit the uberbeautiful Most na Soci (Bridge over the Soca) lake on the way.. one option for your day out in the summer could be to stop off here and take a ride on the fun paddle steamer around the lake on the way or way back, (so please check out our paddle steamer secret place as well).
Even on google maps you might not find exactly where this secret place is, as there is a village with about 2 houses of the same name, but even here is not the secret place. We had been tipped to drive up the narrow Lepena road until we found the little car park and then you can walk from there, but we wanted to really get under the skin of this little pocket treasure of an area, so instead, we parked up as soon as we could after the stunning Soca gorge by Lepena and hiked up to the water gardens.
(Don't forget the Soca gorge is a stunning secret place to visit on its own and in our opinion best visited as part of yet another secret place tip known as the Secret Soca river walk ).
(Indeed, for fit people you could add the "Soca river walk" secret place to the "Lepena water gardens" secret tip seamlessly and make a long but unbelievably beautiful day out by the 2 rivers)!
Hike to the Lepena Water Gardens
So you need to look carefully for the sign to Lepena once you get inside the long village of Soca and then it gets a bit hairy for a few minutes as you navigate the sharp turn down and tight road, but there is a parking strip by the river where we recommend to park. If you then follow the river away from the gorge you will come shortly to a lovely little restaurant and destination for trout anglers, known as the Klin. This is a lovely spot to stop off for some food and as we were visiting at the end of Sept the owners were kind enough to allow us to park there to start our hike, (don't expect to be able to do this in high season).
The directions we got were to walk up the road and then "cross the wooden bridge", but when you see the lovely photos on this page, you will see how many lovely wooden bridges there are, so suffice to say, you walk up the road and alongside the river for at least 15 minutes, this is now the Lepena river, which joins the Soca and is almost as stunning as the Soca river itself.
Follow the signs for "Sunikov Gaj" as best as you can, but just keep going up the river and cross to the other side as soon as you can after about 1-2km on the road.
The walk by the Lepena river is really, really beautiful and you also get the feeling of walking into the Alps. The path mainly follows the river bank and is a fabulous mix of tree roots, sand, rock and grass, which gets gradually steeper and more slippery as you gently climb up towards the water gardens. There are a few occasions when you think you have lost the signs, but if you follow the river you will be fine.
And then after some careful steps up some slippery rocks you will see the falls for the first time and your day gets even more beautiful! We weren't exactly sure how to see the falls best, so we just kept climbing up on the right hand side of the river and were treated with lots of drop pools and unexpected rickety old bridges over this aqua blueish crystal clear water.
The sound of the water sliding and moving overtakes your senses and this is quite a surprise as the walk along the river Lepena is quite smooth and you don't feel you have climbed up far enough to see such power so soon.
At the top we saw a sign to a Dom, we guess a forest church, but we will hike there next time, Slovenian forest signs very rarely tell you how long the walk takes, (this has to change in the future) and whenever you do see times on a sign they are often wildly out, (this also has to change as Slovenians are generally very fit, very fast walkers and often underestimate times when telling foreign people the way).
We crossed yet another stunning bridge here, (above left) and walked down the other side of the falls giving us even better views of the crashing water. We came to a bridge that we recognised from the start of the falls and crossed it and decided we had loved the falls so much we went round again! (10-30 mins depending on photos and fitness). Wow we really love this place and the end of Summer /start of Autumn is a cracking time to visit as the leaves are changing and there is a crisp magical feel to the place.
We continued down the river on the other side and would you believe it, we popped out at the very car park that had been described to us at the start of this blog and were surprised that it was quite big. This was where we joined the road again, but we crossed over back to the river as soon as we could to walk back right next to the water on that lovely path.
There were many occasions where we thought we might be lost during this walk, but now we know if you just stick to the river you will be fine.. but we both felt that to drive up and park at the top car park would be to lose this amazing walk up the road and along the river, so we would only recommend parking here if you cant walk too far, but even then the short hike is over rocks, roots and slippery stones, so be prepared.
We kinda got lost for time on this walk as the beauty of nature took over our senses, but it probably took about 2-3 hours from the pub there and back.. we stopped off by the car for a coffee at the Klin pub and couldn't resist a few more photos of the anglers fishing for trout and the stunning soca gorge and bridge on the way back to the main road.. what a fantastic day out!
There are dozens of places you can put into the mix to combine with a visit here from the Lodge in a really lovely Lepena Water Gardens day out.