On stunningly beautiful trails above Bohinj, where wild flowers grow in abundance and marmots peek from behind large rocks peppered on Alpine meadows, one may be also taken back to the bloody years of WWI. Numerous deteriorating buildings of the war, remains of walls, an old border line with bunkers, and bombs are dotted all along the rugged mountainous stretch between Bohinj and the Soča Valley.
There we were, on a warm and bright day in late September, wearing our hiking clothes and a backpack with the basics for two days in the mountains, starting out our three-day adventure in the Julian Alps. In the first two days we would hike over 24 kilometers and make 2,050 meters of ascent to reach Mt. Krn, 2,244 m, then descend 1,253 meters down to the Soča Valley and spend the third day hiking and relaxing along the Soča River before driving back to Bled, where we had met earlier that day.
Slovenia’s Triglav National Park is an area of extraordinary beauty. Most people journey there to visit the iconic Lake Bled and its wilder but equally beautiful neighbor Lake Bohinj, and then drive two hours across the Alps for the plummeting gorges and striking colors of the emerald Soča River. We were there for all that, but were equally if not more intrigued by what’s in between the two places. We wanted to experience the Alps and their fauna, witness the sunrise and sunset reflecting in towering mountains, spend a night in a simple mountain hut, and immerse ourselves in hundred-year-old war stories that give the place even more character.
My guests, a mother and her daughter, were very pleasant persons from Brazil. The mother, the feistier and the more enthusiastic hiker of the two, strapped on a painfully big backpack with one goal in mind – simply to enjoy the time in the mountains. The daughter, on the other hand, made it clear from the very beginning that hiking was not her jam and could’ve easily skipped the first two days only to enjoy the river instead. With kilometers walked and beauty seen, the strong expectations slowly blended with the real adventure, and, regardless of what the reasons for hiking were, we all ended up having great fun.
The trail starts a little above Lake Bohinj, climbs 870 meters relatively fast on 48 switchbacks through the forest to Komna, but then eases its tempo and weaves across an idyllic mountainous world with soul-stirring vistas.
However, this perfect setting belies a dark history; Austro-Hungarian (Slovenes being part of that empire during the time) and Italian troops waged battles along these trails in WWI. During WWI, the mountain plateau of Komna with numerous stone buildings had become a makeshift hospital area to treat the wounded soldiers; the buildings were later turned into two mountain huts – the first one in 1932 (Dom pod Bogatinom) and the second one in 1936 (Dom na Komni). Even the trails themselves, connecting Bohinj with the Soča, had been built mainly by the Russian war prisoners to provide the troops who fought around Mt. Krn and along the Soča River with weapons and food.
Further on, at the scenic 1,803-meter mountain pass Bogatinsko Sedlo we passed the old Rapallo border, a border in use for 27 years between the Kingdom of Italy and the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (renamed to Yugoslavia in 1929). The border at the time was the result of the secret treaty in London from 1915, promising Italy territorial gains all the way to northern coastal parts of Croatia if it switched from the Triple Alliance to the Triple Entente. And while the Italian troops had been defeated in the so-called Miracle at Kobarid, the 12th and the last Soča (Isonzo) battle, the Allied Powers won WWI and thus the London Treaty indeed was actualized through the new Rapallo border in 1920.
The sun had already set when we finally reached Krn Lake, a gorgeous and the largest Alpine lake in Slovenia. Tired from our 14-km-long hike we sat down by the shore and gazed at the beautiful lake underneath the towering mountains slowly changing colors and setting for the night.
On the second day we headed towards Mt. Krn, the highest mountain of the Krn Mountains in the southwestern Julian Alps, and the theater of bloody conflicts over a hundred years ago. Another warm and sunny day passed in spectacular views walking through tall sun-burnt grass and sheer rocks. We made 900 meters more uphill, stopped right below the top in front of a small cave to be protected from the wind, had a quick snack, and afterwards rather continued downhill towards the Soča Valley because the fog at the very top didn’t look too inviting or safe.
After a finger-licking dinner in Kobarid, refueling on local specialties like wild trout and žlikrofi pasta with delicious lamb sauce, we were all set for our last day hike, this time at a river. And, surely, there’s no river as beautiful as the Soča.
If you’re in the Soča Valley and are looking for a place to stay, check Hotel Mangart. Located in Bovec, it’s just minutes away from the Soča River and all the beautiful hikes!
With its mesmerizing hue, due to mineral deposits in the limestone bedrock, crystalline pools and coves between rapids, as well as the vivid greenness of the surrounding hillsides, the Soča River feels surreal.
The marked 2.5-hour trail extended into four hours as we stopped and photographed numerous turquoise pools, wooden bridges, and big boulders scattered along the stream. By the time we finally made it to the big troughs, the much anticipated 750-meter long narrow plummeting gorges, we gladly sat next to the gorge. From our perch, we looked out at the majestic mountains of the Julian Alps, which towered above the turquoise river, and took a moment to appreciate the warm sun on an otherwise cloudy day. The last couple of days had been great, we all agreed on that, but the adventures that await us in the future might be as memorable.
Where to hike around the Soča Valley in amazing western Slovenia
Visoki Mavrinc, a gorgeous and safe peak above Kranjska Gora
5 epic hikes and climbs in Triglav National Park that will blow your mind
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