After a glorious couple of nights in Ljubljana, it was time to hit the road. For the first time in two trips to Europe, we actually rented a car! Normally, we would just take a train, but researching both Triglav National Park and Lake Bled, we quickly determined a Slovenia road trip made more sense.
Triglav National Park is located at the north end of the Soča River Valley in the northwest corner of Slovenia, near the corner of Italy, Austria and Slovenia and encompasses the Julian Alps.
So, we picked up our rental from the Hertz office and off we went. A note about renting a car in Europe: get the smallest car you can. The roads are narrow and being small is useful!
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Updated January 2018
Slovenia Road Trip Through the Soča River Valley
Driving from Ljubljana to Bovec, which lies just south of the park, takes about three hours through some truly amazing scenery.
The Soča River Valley has beautiful mountains on both sides and the Soča River is perfectly turquoise blue water. We saw paragliders galore and folks rafting in the river. This area looks to be a great place for outdoor adventure.
On our drive up the valley, we stopped briefly in the small town of Kobarid at the World War I museum. This area all the way up into the mountains was home to some of the most brutal fighting of the war.
The museum was very informative and had exhibits in English, which made it easy to follow.
Amazingly, Kobarid is home to several world-class
When we go back to Slovenia, we are coming back to Kobarid to eat here and spend more time in the beautiful Soča River Valley.
We stayed in Bovec before heading into the park. Bovec is a charming mountain town with a few restaurants,
While the Apartments Skok was cheap, we didn’t feel we got our money’s worth and can’t recommend it.
Still, Bovec made for a great jumping-off point into Triglav National Park.
Triglav National Park
Triglav National Park, Slovenia’s only national park, reminds me quite a bit of Glacier National Park in the US with plenty of gorgeous mountain views and some butt-kicking hikes.
The drive through the mountains has around 50 switchbacks, some more terrifying than others. I’m more than used to driving mountain roads. Indeed, I pretty much grew up driving the mountains of Western North Carolina. I thought I had seen it all. I was wrong.
The Slovenes are fricking nuts, especially in the mountains. They pass on blind curves, take the whole road on other curves and generally drive too damn fast in the mountains. The rest of the country we drove through was fine, but the mountains were nuts.
Still, it was gorgeous and more than worth it. We got out and hiked several times, including a trail that required steel safety cables to get up.
One of the other cool things along the road is a Russian Orthodox chapel erected by the World War I prisoners of war who built the road in honor of those who died in an avalanche.
Note on Driving in Europe
I had read up on European road signs and they are not that difficult to understand. The only catch is speed limits. The countries themselves set the national speed limits for various kinds of roads and you are expected to know them. It will be marked if it is less, but if not, you just need to slow down when you see city limits signs to the speed limit for towns.
On to Lake Bled
Once through the park, we headed south to Bled, a gorgeous resort town located about two hours from Bovec through the park. Obviously, it will take longer to get there if you are enjoying the park but it is not that long of a drive.
We got in on a Sunday afternoon and the traffic out of the town indicated this town is more of a weekend destination. Thankfully, we saw much smaller crowds in town on Monday and Tuesday.
We spent our that afternoon working on laundry and relaxing. One of the biggest difficulties on this trip compared to Italy was finding places to do laundry. Normally, we would just hunker down at a laundromat and read but there was no laundromat near and the hotel laundry was incredibly cost-prohibitive ($100… yikes!)
So we spent the afternoon doing laundry reading on the balcony. We paid extra for a lake view room and it was worth it! The hotel, the Best Western Premier Hotel Lovec, was great and we enjoyed our stay.
Exploring Lake Bled
Despite threatening skies, we decided to walk around the lake. We started out heading to the castle, which sits on a cliff overlooking the lake. There are some great views of the lake and town from the castle. The castle also has a museum, which we enjoyed. It was well done, with plenty in English.
The loop around the lake is about 3.5 miles long and has a ton of great views along the way. It was peaceful and quite scenic. Lake Bled is also famous for rowing events and you will pass right by the rowing center on your way around the lake.
We got in for lunch just as the rain rolled in, so we sat at the bar and enjoyed the view before heading back to the hotel.
The next morning, we decided to take a Pletna boat out to Bled Island, a small island in the middle of the lake with the gorgeous Assumption of Mary Pilgrimage Church.
The cruise out on the boat was an experience in itself. The Pletna boats are flat-bottom, handmade, hand-powered and hand-steered. There are only 25 boats on the lake, and it is passed from father to son.
The church was an eighth-century Slavic pagan temple before becoming an Orthodox church. The altar was one of the prettiest we’ve seen! Tourists take turns ringing the bell…superstition is that if you can get the bell to ring three times with one pull of the rope your wish will come true.
It was seriously cool.
Vintgar Gorge is located about a 10-minute drive from Bled and is actually part of Triglav National Park.
Parking can be a little crowded, so expect to walk a little way to get to the gorge itself.
Once there, the trail takes you on a boardwalk through a tight gorge over a beautiful river. It is shaded, cool and so pretty. The trail ends with a spectacular waterfall.
Final Thoughts on Our Slovenia Road Trip
WOW! This area is so beautiful. We truly fell in love with Slovenia on this trip.
The people are great. The food is delicious. The beer is tasty.
Add in the proximity to the capital city, Ljubljana, and the proximity to the Slovene Rivera on the Adriatic Sea, this country is just about heaven.
We can’t wait to go back.
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We typically stay at Hilton properties, so we use the Hilton website. We can find good Hilton Honors discounts or AAA discounts for a hotel there. We make great use of our free night certificates from our Hilton Honors American Express.
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If there are no Hilton properties available, we use TripAdvisor to read reviews and book the hotel. We find we can get the best price that way.
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As a general rule, we book with Hertz for rental cars. We have had nothing but good experiences with them. Plus, we really like unlimited mileage and not worrying about crossing state lines. We have even rented from Hertz overseas in both Slovenia and Croatia.
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We have found some amazing prices booking a cruise through Cruise Direct. We have saved a lot of money on our cruises compared to what we found elsewhere, making a last-minute Bahamas cruise even cheaper.
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We highly recommend Outdoorsy for RV rentals. We rented a camper van for a week to visit Rocky Mountain National Park for the elk rut and Custer State Park for the Buffalo Round-Up and had a blast. The program was easy to use and we really enjoyed the freedom of having a camper van for that trip.
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We make extensive use of both Good Sam and AAA on the road. Good Sam is normally regarded as a discount card for RVers at campgrounds and Camping World but anyone can use the 5 cents off a gallon at the pump at both Pilot and Flying J.
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We have had AAA as long as we have been married and it has more than paid for itself in discounts at hotels, aside from the peace of mind of having roadside assistance. Add in paper maps and the ability to get an international driver’s license and it is more than worth it for any traveler out there.