This is why Triglav National Park makes the perfect Slovenia day trip!
Planning a trip to Slovenia? If you will be spending a few days on Lake Bled (which I strongly recommend), make sure to include a trip to the Triglav National Park! What better way to escape the crowds and explore the green and idyllic countryside with its clear streams running through wooded valleys and dotted with small villages and the distinct roofed hay-racks.
How to get there?
Located in the northwestern corner of the country and close to the borders with Italy and Austria, the Triglav National park encompasses most of the Eastern Julian Alps and is a hidden gem for outdoor enthusiasts, military history lovers, and foodies. Named after the country’s highest peak – Triglav (meaning “three heads”), it is best explored by car. You can rent one locally or, even better, hire a local guide with a car to take you around, show you some shortcuts, and give you the kind of insider information no guidebook can offer.re
From Bled, head for the Vrsic Pass – the highest mountain pass across the Julian Alps in Slovenia. The drive is anything but boring and the turns to some of the smaller roads easy to miss (so hire that local driver!). The winding road through the pass includes 50 hairpin bends – 24 going up on the Kranjska Gora side and 26 going down on the Trenta side of the pass, but the breathtaking scenery is so worth it.
Once you reach bend 24 you are at the highest point of the pass (5,285 feet) which offers stunning panoramic views of Mt. Triglav. There are some small chalets here where you can stop for snacks, drinks, and bathrooms. As you begin your descent, enter the Soca River valley with its WW1 sites and cemeteries, small villages, churches, waterfalls, and suspension bridges.
Go for the history!
Did you know that the Julian Alps are named after Julius Caesar who founded a Roman town at the foot of the mountains in 50 BC? Or that they were immortalized in Hemingway’s famous novel A Farewell to Arms?
The road across the Vrsic pass was built by Russian POWs during the First World War to bring supplies to the front line. Hundreds of them perished because of the harsh climate, hard living and working conditions, and avalanches, and were buried in mass graves alongside the road. In 1917, the survivors built a small Russian Orthodox chapel to commemorate their fallen countrymen.
Further west, the small and quaint town of Kobard is surrounded by mountains and, under its Italian name Caporetto, was described in Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms. Here, do not miss the somber but informative and thought-provoking Kobarid Museum. Spread over 3 floors, its exhibits include period weaponry and military equipment, maps, charts, and photographs. These document the historic events in the region during the First World War and particularly the Soca Front and the Caporetto Battle of 1917 – one of the major clashes in human history having taken place in winter conditions and on mountainous terrain and immortalized by Hemingway who served here as a volunteer ambulance driver. Eventually, the Austro-Hungarian forces, reinforced by German units (including a young officer called Erwin Rommel), won the battle over the Italians with the use of blitzkrieg and poison gas.
If you want to explore some of the historical battle sites (and to get some fresh air and exercise), several hiking trails lead from Kobarid along the former defense lines and through trenches, forts, and gun positions, many offering panoramic views over the valley and the surrounding mountains. The tours vary in difficulty level and length (some requiring up to 8 hours and proper mountaineering equipment) and are best done with a museum guide.
Go for the breathtaking views and the outdoor adventure!
The Soca River Valley was the scene of fierce battles in the First World War, but nowadays its wild beauty attracts nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts. Hiking is the most popular activity in the Triglav National Park and the best season for this is between late spring and early autumn. The Soca Trail, the Mostnica Gorge, the Triglavska Bistrica Trail, the Pokljuka Trail, and the Radovna Cycling Route are some of the main trails and you can tackle them on your own or hire a guide to take you round.
An annual hiking festival is also held here which offers more than 20 hikes of various duration and difficulty levels led by local mountain guides. These include walks in the national park, along the Soca river, to former WW1 battle sites, and an overnight hike to Mt. Triglav. In 2017, the Hiking festival will be held from September 15th to October 1st and the schedule of events can be found here.
Want water sports? The rivers and lakes of the Triglav National Park and especially the turquoise Soca River will give you plenty to do. One of the most visited sights in the park is the Savica Waterfall – the source of the Sava River. Gorgeous glacial lakes like the Bohinj and the Triglav Lakes are also worth exploring. The park’s rivers and lakes offer numerous opportunities for swimming, fishing, stand-up paddling, rafting, and canyoning.
Go for the authentic local food!
This alpine region, and especially the towns of Bovec and Tolmin, has been known for its centuries-old cheese-making traditions. In the past, local farmers took up cheese making as a way of preserving milk thus ensuring a continuous supply of important nutrients for their families. Nowadays, more and more Slovenian restaurants include traditional cheeses on their menus. The Tolmin cheese (called Tomlinc) and Bovec cheese (called Bovski sir) are protected as Products with a Designated Origin.
Another reason to visit Kobarid is to have lunch or dinner at Hisa Franko. Haven’t heard of Ana Roš yet!? She was recently named 2017 World’s Best Female Chef and starred in Netflix’s Chef’s Table series. A self-taught chef, the uniqueness and sophistication of Ana’s cuisine have drawn attention to this remote corner of Slovenia and its food- and wine-making traditions. The menu of Hisa Franko features original interpretations of traditional Slovenian dishes with emphasis on local and seasonal ingredients. As you can imagine, advance table reservations are essential!
One of the most beautiful and least-explored parts of Slovenia, Triglav National Park is the perfect destination for outdoor enthusiasts, history buffs, and foodies, where you can hike, bike, swim, raft, fish, or just relax in the pristine nature and enjoy the stunning views.
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