The Isonzo Pass in the Soca Valley—Hemingway wrote of this place in A Farewell to Arms. It is where Italian and Austro-Hungarian forces fought for two years during the Battle of Caporetto that took the lives of 1 million soldiers during WWI. The area is named after the Soca River that runs through the western edge of Triglav National Park at the base of the Julian Alps in Slovenia. The river is impossibly vibrant in color and has a strong current—it is widely known as one of the best whitewater rafting locations on earth.
Triglav National Park is Slovenia’s one and only—a protected area of conservation and of cultural heritage in the EU. “Triglav” means “three headed,” named after the highest peak on the highest mountain in the park (some say that the “three headed” reference is an ode to a Slavic deity whose throne sat upon the mountain, guarding the land.) The area looks much like mountainous western Washington State in the US—especially green, clean and a little dreary when whizzing past evergreen trees for as many miles as the eyes can see beneath a frowning grey sky.
Just northeast of the park is Lake Bled. Far less dreary. Here you can paddle, swim, sunbathe, run, bike or walk around the popular toe path that hugs the perfectly clear alpine water. Legend says the lake uncovers a sunken bell and that one can hear in clear nights its sounds, coming out of the depth.
“There is no doubt that the lake is the heart of Bled. With its medieval castle, prominent islet, picturesque alpine lake, thermal springs, congress hall and golf course it is a true tourist paradise.” – Lake Bled Tourism
For a less touristy approach to lakeside activity, head to Lake Bohinj, just a few miles away, smack in the southern part of the park and much more rugged. Bohinj is located in a glacial hollow lake, Slovenia’s only permanent lake, with water flowing in from numerous sources restoring it three times per year. During the winter, it often freezes, during the summer, you swim.
There are so many awesome adventure activities in the area, your biggest task to do while there will be to choose one. Hiking and mountaineering, cycling, riding horseback, camping, fishing and enjoying water sports are among the most popular. Take it easy and walk around the lake, or go a little deeper among the meadows and wildflowers on your way to the Savica waterfall, the Mostnica River or the peak of Mt Vogel.
Slovenia: one of the world’s best kept traveling secrets. More to come on this amazing country soon. In the meantime, we’ll leave you with a language tip: “j” in Slavic languages sounds like “y”. In the case of “Bohinj” it is silent (“Bo-heen”). In the case of Ljubljana, it sounds like a “y” (“L-yoo-bli-ana”).
Photos by Stefanie Payne
This article first appeared on World on a Fork