With the winter school break in sight and two kids in tow bursting with energy, it was high time to plan a decent family vacation. We had practically tried all ski resorts in Slovenia already and some across the border in Italy and Austria as well, but nothing really appealed. Not with school-break crowds there anyway. Then it dawned on me. The Soča Valley, the long valley of the emerald green Soča River in northwestern Slovenia with a high-mountain ski resort and countless hiking trails, might be a tiny bit too celebrated in summer, but is highly overlooked in winter! No crowds, just lounging in perfection of the high mountains and expansive panoramas, hiking on empty sunny trails and exploring numerous frozen waterfalls in this spectacular and secluded valley. 

Sounds idyllic, right?!

I booked an apartment in Bovec, which would place us strategically for our planned winter fun: 2 minutes away from the cable car to the Kanin Ski Resort, 5 minutes from two beautiful and easy panoramic hikes, 13 minutes from the Great Soča Gorge, and 13 minutes from the Loška Koritnica Valley, a valley of a hundred waterfalls. Sure, Bovec doesn’t offer any spa resorts or any other means for idle pampering to be exact, but, honestly, we weren’t even looking for that. Being surrounded with so much beauty and outdoor options was enough for my family. 

Discover Soča Valley:
Secret gems of the Soča Valley
A glimpse of WWI on a stunning traverse from Bohinj to the Soča
Where to hike around the Soča Valley in amazing western Slovenia
Krn Lakes above Soča Valley

 As the sun sparkles over the emerald green Soča River, which winds from its source at 990 meters above Trenta all the way to the Adriatic Sea at Italy’s Trieste, the surrounding hills and mountains call for an adventure. There are endless options in the Soča Valley and it would be wrong to think that one would only visit it for the river. While the Soča is truly spectacular and deserves our attention, the Soča Valley is just so much more; it is interwoven with various hiking trails that bring us either high up into the Alpine world, or to hidden waterfalls, gorgeous lakes, mysterious remains of WWI, and even the highest-lying ski resort in Slovenia.

Skiing in the high mountain resort Kanin – Sella Nevea

Located at 2,300 meters, this joint Slovenian – Italian ski resort offers 30 km of finely groomed slopes of every difficulty. On the Slovenian side you’ll find three sun-stroked slopes and a small food court which offers hot dogs, pizzas and desserts. All pretty basic but it gives that nice home feeling, especially when you are sipping hot tea and ploughing through little sweet fried balls called miške, while suntanning on a deckchair with stellar views of the snowy mountains. On the Italian side, you’ll find more slopes, which in most part are in the shade, but do take you all the way down to the valley from where you can take a quick gondola ride back up. Since Sella Nevea is at 1,200 m, you can easily get a total of 1,100 m of pure downhill joy. Both sides of Kanin – Sella Nevea work hand in hand, so you will find many suntanned Italians relaxing in the sunny deckchairs on the Slovenian side, and many Slovenians riding the long Italian slopes. I do have to admit that other than the first and last hour we also kept more to the Italian side for the slopes, but always took a nice relaxing break on the sunny deck. Perfect! 

Kanin – Sella Nevea is great for family skiing too!
If you prefer to go ski touring on groomed mountain slopes, Kanin – Sella Nevea does offer a perfect separate piste

Exploring Slovenia’s best guided treks:
Stunning Julian Alps
From Bohinj to Soča Valley Trek
7 Triglav Lakes Trek
Krn Lake above the Soča Valley

Sunset hikes above Bovec

After long hours skiing up in the Kanin mountains, the kids typically launched themselves on a couch once back down in Bovec, but I instead headed again outside for another short solo adventure. Either to just walk up the hillside above Bovec or drive a couple of kilometers for a hike on an empty gravel road, always looking for a beautiful sunset spot above the Bovec Valley. 

The iconic Mt. Svinjak, also called the Matterhorn of Bovec, on the left
The Bovec Valley and the surrounding mountains for sunset

Hiking in Loška Koritnica Valley and to Fratarica Waterfalls

Surrounded by fifteen 2,000-meter peaks, among which the third highest 2,679-m Mt. Mangart and the sixth highest 2,645-m Mt. Jalovec, the picturesque Alpine valley Loška Koritnica is also called a valley of a hundred waterfalls. It got its name after many gorges (Slo. korito means a sink / basin) that the Koritnica River had carved on its way to the Soča River. 

The Loška Koritnica Valley

After an enjoyable family hike in the serene sunlit amphitheater of the high Slovenian mountains in the Loška Koritnica Valley, it was time to step over to the shaded side of the valley and delve into the fascinating world of frozen waterfalls and ice sculptures in the Fratarica Gorge. The gorge had been carved by the bustling Fratarica Stream, plunging down across the spectacular 5-km-wide and one-kilometer-high Loška Stena (Eng. Loška Wall) only to form numerous waterfalls ranging from just a couple of meters high to more than a hundred meters.

Exploring Slovenia’s best lakeview mountain hikes:
Krn Lakes above Soča Valley
7 Triglav Lakes Treks
Dreamy lakeview Jerebica

Trying to find a way across the Koritnica River to start exploring the Fratarica Waterfalls

Comfortably enough, the gorge began just after crossing the Koritnica River in a small town of Log pod Mangartom, and we were eager to explore the frozen world of the Fratarica Gorge. The trail led us from one waterfall to another, revealing mind-blowing ice sculptures created by the combination of the shaded position of this side of the mountains, the trickling water and ongoing freezing temperatures. It turned out, we were extremely lucky to come just at peak time for the icy spectacle. 

The main trail up the forest to the Fratarica Falls was easy to walk on and offered (a bit distant) views of the frozen waterfalls from above, the paths to approach them from up close required a bit of scrambling down icy and steep terrain
Curtains of long icicles hanging from overhanging walls at the Cathedral Waterfall

Check out more waterfalls in Slovenia:
Waterfalls around Kranjska Gora
Exquisite Krško: a land of hidden waterfalls, vineyards, gourmet food and wine
Best of: Bled’s must-go outdoor spots

The kids just loved the Cathedral Fall!
The Parabola Waterfall plummets down a steep wall with the gorgeous view of the Loška Wall

More amazing mountain hikes in Slovenia:
Fairytale loop hike above Srednji Vrh
Seven lush, green and fragrant mountain hikes in Slovenia
Viewpoints of Lake Bled for a perfect postcard
The most scenic tour to Triglav

A sunny trail on the Walk of Peace

The last day of our winter holidays in the Soča Valley called for an easy family hike. The Čelo Outdoor Museum, whose trailhead is located just five minutes outside Bovec and its loop hike is an hour long, promised a bit of history, but mostly warm sunshine and views of the Bovec Valley. The hike is actually located underneath Mt. Svinjak, an iconic pyramid-shaped mountain also called the Matterhorn of Bovec, and is part of the Walk of Peace, which extends 500 km from the Alps to the Adriatic Sea and links over 300 monuments along the historic sites of WWI.  

Overlooking the Bovec Valley the Čelo fort was built by the Austro-Hungarian army in 1914 for the purposes of the Isonzo Front. It’s a 200-m long trench with two positions for artillery, a kitchen, two residences, a watch tower, a shelter and embrasures
We were greeted by this nosy and bossy goat at the Čelo Outdoor Museum and it turned out to be great fun for the kids. After twenty minutes we did end up escaping the goat after she started to demand her share of sandwiches 😅

Great Soča Gorge

Before heading back home to the other side of the Julian Alps, our paths in this gorgeous valley brought us to the divine Soča River and its Great Soča Gorge. The emerald green pools continue into a 750-m-long gorge, which is only a few meters wide and fifteen meters deep. It winds through a pristine forest that in spots reveals breathtaking views of the snow-capped mountains we had skied down just a day ago. The two worlds seem light years apart, yet so unbelievably close – literally just a 13-minute drive and a gondola ride away.

The week in the Soča Valley passed at lightning speed and here I am already planning the next visit. The sheer variety of routes out there waiting for us to lace up our boots, not to mention racing down freshly groomed slopes at Kanin, which, by the way, can stay open until June! All there is to say at this point – until next time!

Our last stop in Kanal ob Soči, a cute little town with a bridge dating back to the Roman times

Mountain hiking ideas in Slovenia in spring:
Three spots to see blooms in early spring
Slovenia in spring: from flowers to snow in six hiking trips
Weekend on blooming Velika Planina
Hiking in a flower paradise: Mt. Golica and its daffodils

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