The Alps aren't just for skiing

by speleo

A breathtaking walking tour across the majestic Italian and Slovenian Alps is sure to leave you in peak condition. Just don't look down...

As you head up the valley from Tolmin your eyes are constantly drawn to the River Soča (pronounced 'Sotcha'), rushing down from the Julian Alps. You won't believe a river can be so clear, so green, so utterly perfect. Meadows with hayricks dot the landscape and above the valley rise limestone mountains Tolminski Migovec, Krn and Kanin...

It wasn't always so peaceful. The Soča Front (known by Italians as the Isonzo Front) was one of the First World War's bloodiest and you can still find trenches and wire high up on the mountain of Krn.

Every house in the area seems to have souvenirs in the basement: grenades, bullets, helmets... Hemingway wrote about the Italian retreat from Kobarid (Caporetto in Italian) in 'A Farewell to Arms' and Kobarid is now home to an award-winning WW1 museum: (entry 5€ for adults)

Heading up the valley, on the left a few kilometres before Bovec an astonishing waterfall cascades out of a sheer rock face: this is Slap Boka and is part of the underground drainage from the Kanin plateau above. The torrent is enormous and when it emerges into daylight it plunges over a 106m drop.

Bovec (pronounced Bovetz) is the area's outdoor sports centre, a mini Chamonix without the traffic, crowds and posers. It has excellent rafting, kayaking, walking, canyoning, caving, paragliding and skiing. Every one of these activities is world-class in Bovec. You can hurtle down the river in a raft, launch yourself off a mountain under a paraglider or partake in gentler activities such as taking the cable car up Kanin for the view.

Of course, once you're up there it would be a shame not to do a decent walk on the mountain which spans the Italian border and is over 2500m high. Beware of open shafts; the mountain, like much of the Julian Alps, hides deep potholes which may be covered by snow bridges, even in summer. One of them, Vertoglavica, has a single drop of 603m!

Kanin is also Slovenia’s highest ski resort. The warning about hidden shafts applies especially in winter. Skiers have fallen down them, so stay on-piste unless you have a guide.

There are plenty of accommodation options in Bovec but you could opt to sleep in a mountain hut, Dom Petra Skalarja, at 2260m above sea level but only a 20 minute walk from the top of the Kanin cable car. Information on this and other accommodation options and much more is available at

In the valley above Bovec you enter the world of a high alpine river. Here the sides of the valley close in steeply, there a side valley leads off invitingly. The Soča is even clearer than lower down, if that's possible, and is sometimes green, sometimes pale blue, and always freezing cold - but you won't be able to resist swimming anyway. There are old farms with shingle roofs which pedestrians reach by rickety suspension bridges. It's the Alps, 200 years ago.

As well as being a destination in its own right, Trenta is a good place to start walks into the centre of the Triglav National Park.

This part of the Soča Valley is called Trenta and at the village of the same name the Triglav National Park (Triglavski Narodni Park) has a very good information centre:

Just after the village of Trenta is one of my favourite places to stay in Slovenia: Camping Trenta. It's tiny and peaceful and the river runs right behind the campsite. In fact the Soča is quite small by now, hardly a proper river any more, as we're now close to the source a bit further up the valley.

Just before the source of the river is a deep, enclosed canyon on the right with a wobbly suspension bridge over the Soča to get to it. This is Mlinarica and experienced canyoners can descend it, abseiling down waterfalls, sliding into pools, finally exiting into daylight at the bottom. Guides also run trips:

The source of the river, the 'Izvir Soče', lies in Zadnja Trenta, 'Last' or 'Far' Trenta. There's a handy 'koča' or hut here where you can have a beer or 'struklje', traditional Slovene dumplings with curds and walnuts. They're delicious and heavy - if they don't finish you off you can walk 10 minutes up a steep path to the rising itself. It's a deep pool welling up from the rock - cave divers have explored it but not yet passed the pool. If they do there could be a great cave here, beneath the mountain of Mojstrovka. Note that this koča is only a bar and doesn't offer accommodation.

You can carry on up the road to Slovenia's highest road pass, Vršič (this one's a real tongue-twister - it's pronounced something like 'Versh-itch') and over to the ski resort of Kranjska Gora.

Or you could just stay and lose yourself in the Alpine paradise that is Trenta.