Travel surprises bring immense joy. By “surprises” we refer to those wildcard destinations that truly and utterly blow your expectations clean out of their perfectly blue, sparkling water.
After nine days camping amongst Slovenia’s Alps and rivers, it will prove itself to be nothing short of a marvel. Perhaps Europe’s most underrated summer setting, Slovenia has been hiding mountains as beautiful as The Rockies and waters as blue as the Caribbean.
Most think of Lake Bled as the fairytale imagine of the ex-Yugoslavian state. But travel a mere 30 minutes further and trust us, Slovenia really shines.
The Triglav National Park, Slovenia’s only national park, protects the Julian Alps in the country’s north-west. It’s only an hour or two from the capital of Ljubljana by bus, car or train (or even car-train). To get there, you’ll pass through small villages, each with a charming church (or two) perched up on their highest hills.
Between the ski-village of Kranjska Gora and the adventure sport town of Borvec, stop at Vršič Pass. Here there’s a one and a half hour hike (three hours return) that is unmissable. The path leads to a green mountain-top meadow that is alive with so many butterflies, bumble bees and wildflowers that it rivals a Disney movie, with rocky snow-capped peaks as its backdrop.
For accommodation, the National Park is scattered with family-run mountain huts, each serving up traditional home-cooked meals and a cheap comfortable bed for the night. Most of the main villages have at least one hostel, and there are more camping and glamping options than you can poke a stick at.
For an easier walk (just one hour each way), a path from the village of Rateče zig-zags through a towering pine forest to a summit where the borders of Slovenia, Austria and Italy all meet. From the viewpoint, you look down across the lakes, mountains and ski fields of all three countries.
When you think Slovenia can’t get any more picturesque, the icing on the cake is the unrealistic, unimaginable, bluest-of-blue Soča River. To see the best of it, base yourself in either the town of Tolmin or the small village of Trenta (just one shop, one campsite, one hostel, a tourist information centre and a delicious and affordable spaghetti house).
The river’s water is fresh and drinkable, and cold enough to chill a beer in just a few minutes. Weave your way along the river, but be sure to stop at its three most exquisite points.
The first is the Grand Gorge. 750 meters long and 15 meters deep, it’s here where locals and travellers spend their days in the sun cliff-jumping, kayaking and tubing.
The second is the Soča’s source, where you can climb up a mossy waterfall to peer inside a cave. The cave has a natural spring inside which fills it to the brim with clear emerald-blue water.
And the third is Slap Kozjak, a hidden gem. It’s a pin drop waterfall encased by a dark cave, with only a single beam of sunlight to make it glow.
See, we told you so. Heavenly.