April has been a crazy travel month for me, both business trips and personal trips.I have traveled to 5 countries in 6 trips, driven 1500+kms and traveled a total of 4200 air miles! 🙂
The ultimate road trip was Slovenia, where I drove around 1200 km. This was one of the best driving experience I have had so far! We had 5 days of Easter break and I could not wait to travel to this tiny country which is not as commercial as Switzerland but equally beautiful!
Day 1 – Drive to Ljubljana, City walk
After coming back from Aachen (Business Trip) on Tuesday night, I had to pack again to go on our next trip! I had dreamed about a trip to Slovenia for a long time but I was waiting for good weather and some vacation time. Easter seemed to suit both conditions. The capital, Ljubljana is just around 500kms from Szekesfehervar. The weather was partly cloudy, little rain and sun at the same time. The drive was pleasant and the moment we entered Slovenia it was so green and hilly. It took only 4.5 hours for us to reach Ljubljana with one break to buy the Slovenian toll pass for 7 days which costs around 20 EUR. We reached the Airbnb apartment which we had booked for one night.
It was way past lunch time and we were really hungry! We walked to the city center and had pizzas in a restaurant called Foculus. Due to it’s proximity to Italy, the pizzas in Slovenia are delicious! The dough is thin and well made, the tomato sauce is yum and the cheese is just the right amount! The vegetables are fresh and of good quality. Definitely eat pizzas when in Slovenia.
After having a nice lunch, we strolled around the old town of the capital of Slovenia along the river. The old town is so charming and pretty. Typical European old town city with old, historical buildings, pretty cafes, plus there is also a river along one side. Lots of shopping centers as well. We decided to hike a bit to the castle which turned out to be a nice walk up the hill and the castle was also good.
Overall, we had a good day and went early to bed as we had a long day tomorrow.
We deliberately did not spend a lot of time in the city as we have seen so many European cities now that we really want to start exploring natural landscapes. I love the outdoors and love being in nature. So from now on, I have decided to do nature trips and not only city trips.
Day 2 – Skocjan caves, stay in Most na Soci
We left Ljubljana in the morning and drove to Skocjan which is just a half hour drive. The Skocjan caves are Limestone caves which is a UNESCO site and it also has Europe’s largest underground canyon. There are two guided tours: one is the underground canyon tour which is a must and the other is following Reka river tour which was also good.
There are plenty of other hiking trails around the caves. We spent an entire day here exploring everything. The first section of the cave was the silent cave as one cannot hear the flow of water. The scale of these caves is enormous!! The stalactites, stalagmites and some of the columns are huge! In 100 years, the stalactites or stalagmites grow only a few centimeters. This made me realize that at one instant I am looking at nature’s creation which took millions of years to form! It felt amazing! The path in the caves are nicely defined and well lit. Unfortunately no photography is allowed inside the caves! 😦 But this is done in order to preserve the caves, so I don’t want to complain too much about it. The second section of the cave is the water murmuring cave where the river Reka flows on one side. This section has a bridge which gives an amazing view of the canyon. The tour takes 1.5-2 hours.
So often, when I have been to so many caves, the entrance to the cave has always been disappointing. It is like a water sump or some man made structure. It is the same with Skocjan but the exit of the caves is just like how I imagined a cave opening to be! A huge arc in the hills and dense forests all around! I really loved the exit to the caves.
After this tour, we hiked around the caves where there is a well defined Education Trail. There are good view points of the cave. We also went to the second guided tour where we walked along the Reka river and went to the spot where the river enters the cave. A lot of the tour is outside the cave. It was a good tour but not great. So if you are short on time, then do the underground canyon tour.
A note about caves in Slovenia: There are plenty of caves to explore and another famous cave system is in Postojna, which is really close to Skocjan. But we did not have enough time to do both. We picked Skocjan as this involves more hiking and it is also a UNESCO site.
We headed to our next destination near Tolmin, which is just on the edges of the Triglav National Park. We caught glimpses of the Soca river while driving towards Most na Soci. The colour of the water of the Soca is so mesmerizing! It almost feels that the river is artificially coloured. We stayed in an Airbnb accommodation in a village called Most na Soci (Most is bridge in Slovenian). It was a quiet little town which is located right beside the lake formed by the Soca river.
Day 3 – Tolmin Gorges, Waterfall
Slovenia is a haven for adventure lovers! It has so many activities to offer. In summer, there is hiking, mountaineering, white-water rafting, kayaking, canyoning, zip-lining! We were hoping we could do zip-lining and white-water rafting but unfortunately the adventure companies were not operating because of bad weather conditions (turned out the weather was just fine but highly unpredictable). The season to do these activities is from May-September. We were a month early.
We decided to visit the Tolmin Gorges and a waterfall which was closeby. The Tolmin
Gorges was a short drive (8-9 km) from Most na Soci. The Tolmin Gorges are easily accessible by car and there is an entrance ticket to the Gorges which doesn’t cost much. At the entrance they give a map with all the points of interest. The Gorges are so beautiful and the path was so green and there were flowers blooming showing signs of early spring. I especially liked the path towards the thermal stream. It was really beautiful. There are plenty of wooden bridges which was so nice to cross.
Throughout the hiking path you can hear the water gushing and changing everything in it’s path. I thought “The stones were being carved by the forces of water at this very moment when I was looking at them”. Ah. I felt so peaceful. I could hear the birds chirping, the water gurgling, the slight pitter patter of the rain drops and I felt I was part of a Ruskin Bond book. Nature has this magic with which it transports me to another world altogether. I feel that I am an observer looking and appreciating nature’s artwork, with the awareness that I am very much a part of it’s creation.
After the hike, we had lunch in a Slovenian restaurant and they had a traditional Slovenian dish made out of lots and lots of cheese and fried potatoes called Frika (best recipe for acidity!). It was yum for the first few bites but later I just couldn’t manage to finish the dish! (Even though I shared it with my husband)
After gaining a lot of calories we decided to burn them by hiking towards the waterfall in Kobarid. It was drizzling but was a lovely hike with the turquoise blue water of the Soca
river one one side of the path. The waterfall itself is lovely but nothing spectacular (Nothing to beat waterfalls in the tropical countries like in the Western Ghats of India).
After a lovely day of hiking and spending time in natural surroundings, we decided to go back to Most na Soci and rest.
Day 4 – Drive from Most na Soci to Bled (Vrsic Pass), Boka Waterfall, Soca Gorge, Bled island
Yes! We were eagerly waiting for this day. I was a little anxious as well. When I was leaving the hotel, the owner asked me what my plans for the day were. The moment I mentioned I planned to drive through the Vrsic pass, she asked “Really? there are plenty of other routes (safer) to get to Lake Bled.” Oops.. I just had one year driving experience and was thinking now if a local says that Vrsic pass is risky maybe I have to reconsider my plans and take the safer route. Hmm…
I thought let me drive till Soca Gorge and then decide whether to go ahead driving towards the Vrsic pass or not. So we set out towards Soca Gorge. The weather was as unpredictable as the other days. When I started driving it was drizzling and the hills were covered in clouds, but after 20 minutes or so, it became so clear and the sun was out! Suddenly the clouds unveiled the beautiful snow capped peaks which were so majestic. It was such a beautiful drive. We made a short stop at the Boka waterfall which is visible from the road. After this, the next stop was the Soca Gorge. There is a wooden bridge which is so charming! I loved this bridge. The contrast between the wet and dark brown wood and the turquoise and nearly transparent Soca was so beautiful to look at!
The Soca Gorge is extremely narrow and there is no well defined hiking path to follow like the Tolmin Gorges. So, after a short stroll along the Gorges, we decided to head back to the car. Now the decision had to be made. Go on the challenging, adventurous and beautiful path through Vrsic or take the safer path. If you know me, you would have guessed which one I would have chosen!
I thought, let’s see what the hype is all about. 50 hairpin bends in a span of 24 km. Let’s do this! This drive was one of the best I have ever experienced. It was so much fun to negotiate all the hairpin bends and was not scary at all! I wondered what all the hype was about. I had a hatchback Peugeot 208 (automatic transmission) and had no difficulty climbing uphill or downhill with it. I had read blogs that it is one of the most difficult
paths and the road is narrow and in a bad condition, it is so challenging to drive etc. that I was a little nervous in the beginning. But seriously, it is so safe and fun to drive. Needless to say, the views of the mountains from here are beautiful. The max. altitude we reached was around 1700m. There are nice viewpoints through out the route and we stopped at as many as possible. There was one view point with a trekker’s hut where we had delicious and nutritious barley and veg. soup. Overall, it was an amazing day with beautiful views of the mountains of the Triglav National Park. There were beautiful villages of which Trenta and Kranjska Gora are really worth mentioning. The next time I want to stay in Kranjska Gora. It is so beautiful! I highly recommend driving this route when in Slovenia.
We drove from Bovec to Bled on the Vrsic pass. This road was built by Russian War prisoners and there is a memorial and Russian church on the way as well. The memorial is for the Russian soldiers who lost their lives while building the pass due to avalanche.
Probably one of the reasons why I felt the drive was not so scary was because I have been in the Himalayas many times. (I have never driven there, always hired a local driver). But the scale of Himalayas is something else. Of course the Julian Alps are the shortest range of the Alps. But to give you an idea of the Himalayas, I went on the highest motorable road in the world (Khardung La Pass) which is 5359m high and is so dangerous to drive! Whereas the Vrsic Pass is around 1700m high.
But nevertheless, it was an amazing experience. We reached Bled in the evening and took a boat to the island. It was a nice experience. But to me Bled and the surrounding area seemed so commercial and touristy! I would choose to stay in tiny mountain villages like Most na Soci or Trenta than in some touristy hub. Even though Bled is a nice place and the lake is beautiful, it seemed very commercial esp. coming from wilderness of the Triglav National Park.
Day 5 – Vintgar Gorge, Drive back to Szekesfehervar
It was already the last day of the trip! Before driving back home we decided to visit one more Gorge which is very close to Lake Bled. It was a very beautiful Gorge with well defined hiking path, there are couple of tiny waterfalls on the way. After this stop, we headed straight back home.