My 5 Day Love Affair with Slovenia- Day 1: The Emerald River Adventure in Triglav National Park
Slovenia was on my list from the minute I stumbled upon photos of Lake Bled. That image of a small tiny island in the middle of a pristine lake put Slovenia right at the top of my European destinations list.
And to think I almost didn’t make it there. I wasn’t so sure I was going to squeeze it in with all of my take home exams and assignments due around the same time I had planned to visit.
Luckily I was going to visit family in the UK immediately afterwards so I could spend five guilt free days exploring Slovenia before heading there to do some serious studying.
I had a feeling I was going to love Slovenia- I just didn’t realise how much. Within a couple of hours of being in this country I’d already fallen head-over-heels in love and Slovenia shot straight onto my favourites list. Why?
Well that’s a hard question to answer- a lot of my favourite countries I can’t even point to a huge reason why they made the list. Rather its just a feeling of happiness and contentment I get when I’m there, a sense of belonging and just being genuinely happy to be in a country.
But if I was going to point to more tangible things than I’d say it’s the friendly people- within an hour of being there I’d already been asked by three people if I needed help getting somewhere (and not in a ‘I want to scam you’ sort of you) and two others had started conversations with me about what I was doing in Slovenia (and not in a creepy way).
And of course, I can’t deny just how beautiful Slovenia is. I spent five days exploring this country and even though that was quite a short amount of time, I’ve got so much to say that I’ve divided those five days into five whole posts! I just saw so much and had so much fun that I really couldn’t cram everything into the one post.
I based myself in Bled for exploring Slovenia, but it is such a small country that you could easily base yourself in Ljubljana (or a bit of both) and do exactly the same things I did. I loved both cities so much I’m not sure I can rightfully recommend either one. But the hostel I stayed at in Bled (Castle Hostel) was brilliant!
I started my Slovenian adventure in a big way- with a massive 12 hour tour of Triglav National Park.
Whilst I would have preferred to not be jumping on a tour the day after a nine hour bus ride from Florence, the minibus tour with 3glav Adventures needs a minimum of four people, and they assured me that it would run on my first day in Slovenia. But it was unlikely to run on my second.
The 3glav tour is called the ‘Emerald River Adventure’ and while there are a few companies attempting to rip off their idea, this company has been operating the same tour for ten years. They are the best and definitely know what they are doing!
I was picked up from my hostel at 8am and the eight of us on the tour immediately became fast friends. In the half an hour it took us to get to our first stop from Bled we were already bonding over shared adventures.
The tour is set out so brilliantly- you make many stops throughout the day where your guide (who is also the driver) takes you for hikes or for swimming stops. It’s a brilliant way to really experience Slovenia’s only national park.
The first stop of the day is your first indication of the amazing scenery you are bound to stumble upon during the 12 hour tour. This man-made lake sits at the bottom of the Triglav peaks and was one of the most picturesque places we visited all day. I just loved the combination of the beautiful lake with the reflection of the mountain range in the background.
The number one thing to do at this stop is to climb on top of the golden goat for a picture. This golden goat is ‘Goldhorn’ who is the protagonist in a local legend. The myth goes that a local hunter, wanting to win over his future wife, tried to kill Goldhorn for the gold in his horns. He almost succeeded but Goldhorn was able to heal himself with a magical flower from the park.
Thus given the magic of Goldhorn it is meant to be good luck to climb on top of his statute at Jasna Lake. I’m not usually the kind of person that participates in such cliché activities, but I got convinced by the group and it was pretty hilarious!
Vrsic Mountain Pass
After leaving Jasna Lake, we had a long spiralling climb up the mountain in the minivan before we arrived at our next stop- the Vrsic Mountain Pass. This area was actually the scene of the third biggest fighting front of World War I, and the road was built by hundreds of Russian prisoners of war, many of whom died building it.
As we hiked around the area, we stumbled upon remanets of this history including the remains of what used to be a cable car station for a cable car that brought supplies up the mountain for the troops, and an old bunker.
The hike was a nice break from being in the van, and gave us lots of opportunities to gaze at the mountains surrounding us. It’s not too difficult either- so if you aren’t much of a hiker you’ll still enjoy it. We were at the highest point reachable by road of the national park and the view was pretty spectacular!
Mouth of the Soca River
Our next stop was probably the biggest hike of the day and was a little bit trickier than the other one. I was feeling extremely unfit as I huffed and puffed up the trail along the Soca River.
We then needed to climb along some quite sheer cliffs. More than one person turned back because of the vertigo. As long as you watch your feet and hold on tight to the rail you’ll be fine- it wasn’t something that bothered me as I’ve never really been afraid of heights.
After a slow walk along the very small edge we ended up at our destination- the mouth of the Soca River, where the river begins.
After stumbling back, we even got to drink the truly freezing cold water from the river itself. It’s perfectly safe and delicious to drink- just like the bottled mountain spring water you can buy $3 a pop for in Australia.
Soca River- the Emerald River
This tour isn’t labelled the ‘Emerald River Adventure’ for no reason. The Emerald River refers to the famous Soca river that runs through the park. Due to the limestone deposits in the water the river is a green/turquoise colour. The further down from the mountain that you get, the stronger the colour becomes.
Hence why the green wasn’t so obvious back at the mouth of the river, our next stop truly showed the emerald colour! This is still my favourite photo of the whole trip.
White Water Rafting
This was the absolute highlight of my day, and possibly even my whole trip. The White Water Rafting is an optional activity and it will cost you an extra €30. I was told by my guide that when he has people not rafting that they go on another hike somewhere else. But all eight of us had chosen to do the white water rafting which made it even more awesome.
After getting geared up in a long wetsuit, jacket, water shoes and a helmet we were ready to go. After some quick instructions from our rafting guide we were already on the river and facing our first rapids. Don’t expect to stay dry that is for sure, within minutes we were soaking wet.
Late May was the perfect time to be rafting because it wasn’t so incredibly freezing outside, but there had been so much rain that the river level was awesome, and thus the rapids were great. The Soca River has up to level 3 rapids and these were awesome fun. I basically started laughing when we began and didn’t stop for the whole two hours we were on the river.
When we got to a calm section of the water and our guide told us we could jump out and float along the boat for a bit, I was the first person to be brave enough to plunge into the freezing cold water. After the intial shock it wasn’t too cold with all my gear on, although I’d recommend trying to keep your hands out of the water. They got cold! Afterwards I actually felt warmer on the raft because I had got my wetsuit wet and it was working properly.
But the best part was when we stopped at this big rock and our guide turned our raft into a slide! This part of the tour had me going home to google other opportunities for white water rafting that might come up on my trip!
Halfway through our white water rafting it started raining and it didn’t really stop after that. The weather in Triglav National Park is infamously unrealiable and can change at anytime. But the rain didn’t stop us from donning our huge ponchos (provided by 3glav) and hiking to the Kozjack Waterfall.
You can swim here, but after testing the water in our wet suits there was no way any of us were game enough to get in those freezing waters in just a bikini. The water is cold all year round but if you visit in July its so hot out that you’ll enjoy the cold water a lot more than we did!
Most na Soci and the Car Train
This little town is located right on the Soca River. Usually they stop at the bridge here for bridge jumping, but none of us were game to face the icy water again. I almost wished I’d done it!
Instead we warmed up with some hot chocolate before getting on the car train. The van just drove straight onto the car train and we saved time by going through a lot of mountains rather than around them. For train fanatics it’s a great experience because the railway is very old. We had to wait to turn around on the tracks with old fashioned levers and a guy manning the controls came cycling past to get to the next control box.
Our guide promptly provided us with local Slovenia beer and we sat back on the train with our music pumping on the radio. We were plunged into darkness periodically as we passed through the rail tunnels which just added to the whole experience.
Our last stop of the day was Lake Bohinj. Unfortunately the rain had set in and the lake wasn’t as visually appealing as usual because it was covered in a blanket of fog. But the sun had begun to set, and that combined with the mist on the lake gave it a rather spooky atmosphere!
By the time I got dropped off at my hostel I was absolutely wrecked. I got a pizza, finally got warm with the best shower of my life, and had plans for an early night. Instead I ended up out drinking with people from the hostel until 1am. What can I say? You are only in Slovenia once.
Where Should I Stay in Lake Bled?
If you are a budget traveller or are just looking to make some friends, I always recommend staying at hostels. I stayed at Castle Hostel 1004 and it was one of my favourites in Europe.
AirBnB is also a great option if you are on a budget or looking for a bit of space.
For all of your bookings, whether hostel or hotel I always recommend Booking.com, specifically because most of the time you can make a reservation without a deposit and many bookings are fully cancellable and refundable. I love being able to lock in my accomodation early, but then shift things around if my plans change!
Stay tuned for the next post on Day 2 of my trip to Slovenia.
Please note: I was offered a small discount of 10% by 3glav because I was a blogger. As always all opinions are my own and I’d never participate in an activity I wouldn’t have paid for myself.