Julie Slovenia 10 Comments

On this one day road trip through northwestern Slovenia, drive the Vršič Pass, visit the Soca Valley and the town of Bovec, explore the Tolmin Gorge, and even go on white-knuckle drive to Mangart, the highest road in Slovenia. If you like scenic drives and want to see a beautiful part of the country, this Slovenia road trip is a wonderful day trip idea.

About this Slovenia Scenic Drive

This road trip will take a full day. You will start in the morning with a drive over the Vršič Pass and then you will head south along the Soca River, make a quick visit to Bovec, and continue on to the Tolmin Gorge. From the Tolmin Gorge, you have the option to end the day or continue to the Mangart Saddle.

Road Trip Stats

Total Distance: 193 km (120 miles)
Total Driving Time: 4.5 hours
Total Time: One full day

These totals are round trip from Kranjska Gora, including Tolmin Gorge and the Mangart Saddle.

How to Use This Map: Click the tab in the top left hand corner of the map to view the layers (places to visit and the driving route). You can click the check marks to hide or show layers. If you click the icons on the map, you can get more information about each point of interest. If you click the star, this map will be added to your Google Maps account. To view it on your phone or computer, open Google Maps, click the menu button, go to “Your Places,” click Maps, and you will see this map on your list.

The Soča River Valley is a popular spot for paragliding and white water rafting. These activities can be added to the road trip but you will not have time for the Mangart Saddle and/or the Tolmin Gorge. We tell you how to do this later in this post.

We did this same Slovenia road trip at the beginning of August 2018. Water levels in the Soca River were low so white water rafting was not an option for us. On the drive back to Kranjska Gora, we saw signs for the Mangart Saddle. We never heard of this before and driving up to the saddle was totally unplanned, but for us, it was the highlight of the day.

Kranjska Gora is a great place to base yourself for this drive and if you plan to hike in Triglav National Park from the Vršič Pass. Another popular place to stay is Lake Bled. You can do this road trip from Lake Bled but you will have to do some extra driving to get to Kranjska Gora.

Slovenia Scenic Drive: Driving Route

Lake Jasna

Whether you are starting your day in Kranjska Gora, Lake Bled, or someplace else, you will first drive past Lake Jasna to get to the Vršič Pass. This artificial lake is a very busy spot during the hot summer months. People come here to swim and escape the summer heat. In the morning, it is much more peaceful. Don’t miss the statue of Zlatorog, the golden-horned Ibex.

Lake Jasna

Vršič Pass

The Vršič Pass is a paved road that was constructed by Russian POW’s during World War I. At 1611 meters, this is the highest mountain pass in the eastern Julian Alps. There are 50 hairpin turns along the road, 24 on the Kranjska Gora side and 26 on the Trenta side.

Vrsic Pass Road

From Kranjska Gora, it takes 30 minutes to drive to the top of the Vršič Pass. From Lake Bled, it takes one hour to get here.

Expect to share the road with cyclists. Cycling to the top of the Vršič Pass is a popular bucket list activity for cyclists and we saw quite a few people cycling to the top of the pass.

Places to Visit along the Vršič Pass

There is more to do than simply drive up and over the pass. Here are some of the best things to see and do along the drive.

The Russian Chapel

The Russian Chapel was built in 1917 by Russian prisoners of war as a memorial to those who died while constructing the Vršič Pass. It is located on the Kranjska Gora side of the pass just past hairpin turn #8 (each hairpin turn is labeled with a bright blue sign). There is a small parking lot near the chapel.

Russian Chapel

Vršič Pass

The highest point of the road (before you descend down the other side to the Soca Valley) is marked by several signs and one very large parking lot. Even in the morning, it can be difficult to find parking. People arrive very early in the day because this makes a great starting point for many hikes in Triglav National Park.

Vrsic Pass Sign

Triglav National Park

We did a wonderful 5-mile hike from the Vršič Pass the day before this scenic drive. You won’t have time for the hike today, but it makes another great addition to your Slovenia itinerary.

Ajdovska Deklica

Ajdovska Deklica is also called The Face in the Stone. With a little bit of imagination, you can see a woman’s face on the side of Prisank Mountain.

Ajdovska Deklica

Face in the Stone Sign

To get here, park in the large parking lot on top of the Vršič Pass and then walk up the access road. Go past Ticarjev dom and continue until you see the sign marking Ajdovska Deklica. From here, you can see the face in the stone.

The Soča River

From the top of the Vršič Pass, drive down the Trenta side towards the town of Bovec. It doesn’t take long until the road runs alongside the Soca River. Before you get to Bovec, there are two fantastic places to stop and enjoy a view of this dazzling river.

Kamp Korita and Kamp Jelinc

At this spot, there are two campgrounds along the Soca River. But what makes this place so special is that you can walk along a section of the river. It’s a beautiful place and during our visit, there was hardly anyone else here. This was our favorite place to visit along the Soca River.

Soca Valley Road Trip

Slovenia Soca River

How to Visit Soca River Slovenia road trip

Soca River in August

There is a small lay-by on the main road. Park here, cross the bridge over the river (and enjoy the view!) and then you can explore the riverbank in both directions.

How to Get Here: From the Vršič Pass, it is a 20 km (12.5 miles) drive and takes 33 minutes. Here are the GPS Coordinates to help you pinpoint this spot on a map: 46.341797, 13.684140

Pedestrian Bridge over the Soca River

This pedestrian bridge gives you bird’s eye view of the Soca River.

Soca River

Velika Korita Soce

How to Get Here: There is a small turn-off on 206 that is big enough for just a few cars. Park here and walk right out onto the bridge. When we did this, there was not an available parking space, so Tim dropped me off, I took a few photos, and then he picked me up.

From the campgrounds it is just a 3 km drive and takes 3 minutes to get here. GPS coordinates: 46°20’26” N 13°39’4″ E


Continue the drive down 206 until you get to Kal-Koritnica. Turn left onto 203 and follow signs for Bovec. It takes 15 minutes to get here from the pedestrian bridge (10 km).

This great little town makes a nice place to get lunch if it is getting to be about that time.

Bovec Slovenia road trip

White Water Rafting in Soca Valley

Soca Rafting is a company that offers white water rafting trips and they run a zipline that people rave about. Since we did not go white water rafting or ziplining, we have no experience with them, but they do get great reviews on Trip Advisor. Learn more (and make your reservations) on the official Soca Rafting website.

PRO TRAVEL TIP: Make your reservations in advance because they do sell out frequently.

Napoleon’s Bridge

From Bovec, continue your drive south on route 203 until you get to Kobarid.

In Kobarid it’s worth a quick detour to see Napoleon’s Bridge. From the bridge you have an awesome view of the Soca River. And yes, the river really is that brilliantly blue.

Napoleans Bridge

Soca River Slovenia

From Bovec to Napolean’s Bridge, it is 22 km and takes a half an hour.

Optional Detour: Slap Kozjak

If you are doing well on time and want to see a cool waterfall, make the short detour to Slap Kozjak. It is a short hike to get to the waterfall and it will take about an hour of your time. The parking lot for the trailhead is located just beyond Napolean’s Bridge. Learn more here.

Tolmin Gorge

Tolmin Gorge, also called Tolminska Korita, is a 1 km long gorge located on the southern end of Triglav National Park. This is a similar experience to Vintgar Gorge. However, it’s located off the main tourist trail, so crowds are generally lower at Tolmin Gorge than Vintgar Gorge.

To walk the entire gorge and visit all of the viewpoints, it takes about an hour and a half.

How to Get Here: From Kobarid, it is a 20-minute drive on route 102 (18 km).

Tolmin Gorge Slovenia road trip

Tolmin Gorge Slovenia road trip

End Your Day or Continue to Mangart Saddle

You have the option to end your day after the Tolmin Gorge. If you added in white water rafting or Slap Kozjak, most likely it is getting late in the day. And if you need to return to Lake Bled, it’s a lot quicker to drive directly there from Tolmin rather than driving to the Mangart Saddle and back through Kranjska Gora.

From Tolmin Gorge to Lake Bled it is 77 km (48 miles) and 1.75 hours of driving.

Mangart Saddle

Topping out at 2,072 meters, you can drive to the Mangartsko Sedlo, where you have panoramic views over Slovenia and Italy.

Road to Mangart Saddle Slovenia road trip

Mangart Saddle Slovenia road trip

This truly is a white-knuckle drive. We have driven on a lot of crazy, winding roads around the world but this just may be one of the craziest. It is a narrow, winding road with numerous hairpin turns that do not have guardrails. In order to do this drive, you need excellent driving skills, nerves of steel, and a good head for heights.

For us, it was the highlight of our day. And to think we didn’t know a thing about the Mangart Saddle this very same morning!

When we did this, we drove through a massive thunderstorm in Bovec. More storms were moving is as we drove up to the saddle. Unfortunately, we could not spend much time here because of the weather conditions, but those rumbles of thunder made the visit even more thrilling.

How to do this: From Tolmin, drive back to Bovec. Rather than taking 206 and the road to the Vrsic Pass, turn right onto 203 and head north to Log pod Mangartom.

This road starts near Log pod Mangartom and ends at the Mangartsko Sedlo. It is a dead-end road, so you will drive it in both directions. This is also a toll road. Before the real climbing starts, you will pay a small fee (€5) at a ticket booth in order to continue on your way. It takes roughly one hour round trip to do this drive, longer if you spend time on the saddle enjoying the view.

Distance from Tolmin Gorge: 65 km
Driving Time: 1.5 hours

A Border Crossing, Italy, and Dinner near Kranjska Gora

From the Mangart Saddle, the quickest way to drive back to Kranjska Gora and Lake Bled is via Italy, believe it or not. On route 203, cross the border into Italy. There is an abandoned border crossing station here, remains from a much different era in European history.

Slovenia Italy Border

Drive SS54 through Italy until you cross back over into Slovenia. In the town of Ratece is an awesome Slovenian restaurant called Gostilna Mojmir. This was our favorite restaurant in the Kranjska Gora area and we recommend it if you want to try to authentic Slovenia food.

From Ratece, continue towards Kranjska Gora. The drive from Mangart Saddle to Kranjska Gora takes just over an hour with 42 km (26 miles) of driving.

How to Modify This Slovenia Scenic Drive

If you are staying in Lake Bled, consider doing this in the opposite direction. Drive directly to Tolmin Gorge, visit Bovec, and consider making the detour to the Mangart Saddle. From the Saddle, drive back to Bovec, visit the viewpoints along the Soca River, and then drive the Vršič Pass.

It is impossible to squeeze in everything we mention in this article into one day. We did not go hiking, white water rafting, or visit Slap Kozjak and it was still a very long day. We started at 9 am and got back to our hotel around 7 pm.

If you want to add hiking, white water rafting, or Slap Kozjak, what would we skip? If you don’t like the idea of a crazy, white-knuckle drive, skip the Mangart Saddle. If you have plans to visit Vintgar Gorge, skip Tolmin Gorge. We liked Tolmin Gorge but in our opinion, Vintgar Gorge was a better experience. Seeing Ajdovska Deklica, the Face in the Stone at Vršič Pass, is nice but it’s low on our list of thrilling things to do on this road trip (eliminate this if you would rather have time for something else).

Our Top 5 Favorite Experiences of this Slovenia Road Trip:
  • Driving to the Mangart Saddle
  • Soca River Viewpoints
  • Driving the Vrsic Pass
  • Tolmin Gorge
  • Dinner at Gostilna Mojmir

Where We Stayed

We stayed at the Apartment House Berghi in Kranjska Gora. We picked Kranjska Gora over Lake Bled because it was slightly cheaper, much easier to find accommodations, and located very close to the Vršič Pass.

Kranjska Gora is a great place to make your home base for exploring Slovenia. This small town is filled with wonderful restaurants and is set with the backdrop of the jagged, rocky Julian Alps. Plus, it’s much less crowded than Lake Bled so we did not have to deal with daily traffic jams getting to and from our accommodation.

If you are planning a Slovenia road trip and have any questions, comment below. And if you have done this road trip and want to share your experience, we would love to hear about it! Cheers!

More Information for Your Trip to Slovenia

PLACES TO GO IN SLOVENIA: Visit lovely Ljubljana, spend the day in Lake Bled and Lake Bohinj, explore Vintgar Gorge and Tolmin Gorge, go hiking in the Julian Alps, and visit Predjama Castle and Skocjan Caves.

LAKES BLED & BOHINJ: Learn about the best things to do in Lake Bled. We also have a guide to the best things to do in Lake Bohinj in summer and a Lake Bohinj Travel Guide.

ISTRIAN PENINSULA: Learn about the best things to do in Piran, how to spend one day in Piran and Koper, and how to spend 3 days on the Istrian Peninsula.

TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHY: For more information about the camera gear we carry, check out our Travel Photography Gear Guide. And tips and tricks for taking great photos in our article How to Take Better Photos while Traveling.

Planning a trip to Slovenia? Read all of our articles in our Slovenia Travel Guide.


Slovenia Road Trip Soca River


Note: This post contains affiliate links. When you make a purchase using one of these affiliate links, we get paid a small commission at no extra cost to you.

All rights reserved © Earth Trekkers. Republishing this article and/or any of its contents (text, photography, etc.), in whole or in part, is strictly prohibited.

Comments 10

  1. Avatar for Neelam

    Hi Julie,

    Lovely article & very informative. Thanks for that, it’s of great help.
    We will be traveling around Slovania next week with our 18 months bub. Ur family pic is very encouraging for us.
    We are planning on renting a car for road trip, do you have any recommendations & tips to pick a rental company?
    Another other tips would be appreciated. Thanks & looking forward to ur many more articles.

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      If you haven’t seen it yet, here is the link to our Guide to Renting a Car in Europe. It discusses how we pick a rental car company, but basically, for each trip that we do, Tim prices out the major companies and then chooses the cheapest one. By now, we have used all of the major companies and they are all about the same. One important thing to be aware of is the drop fee, if you are picking up and dropping off the car in 2 different locations. This can be avoided by planning your road trip as a loop, but this takes more time and is not a good option for everyone. If you have any other questions after reading the article let us know. Cheers, Julie

  2. Avatar for Kevin C
    Kevin C

    Thanks for the great articles, but especially this one! We’ll be doing a Slovenia/Croatia trip this Fall (COVID factors permitting) so I hope to put your advice in action.

    Mangart Pass looks beautiful but the more I research about it, the more I think it might be more than my driving ability can muster. We’ll see once I get there, though.

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      Glad we can help! You can always turn around, if it seems like more than you can handle. It’s still a great day with doing the Mangart Pass…I hope you have a good time! Cheers, Julie

  3. Avatar for World Wild Hearts
    World Wild Hearts

    Wow what a cool family you guys have! We really envy what you’ve been able to do with your blog and enjoy reading your trip blogs from around the world. They are so informative and the pictures are awesome. The face in the wall really is crazy! We saw similar rock formations on our trip to Peru. Thanks for motivating us to go to Slovenia soon! Anywhere else in the area you recommend us to go to?

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      Sounds like you like mountain landscapes and being outdoors. Norway and New Zealand are our two favorite countries, for these very same reasons, followed by Nepal. Bhutan is spectacular too… a great combination of mountains and culture. Have fun in Slovenia! Cheers, Julie

  4. Avatar for John

    Hi Julie

    Your Slovenia blog is true inspiration for me to visit that region. I’m planning a road trip for 6 days in first week of October 2019. But I have few questions. Please update when you have time

    1. Should i rent an expensive GPS for that trip or proceed with our google map enabled phone?
    2. Is it necessary to rent the snow tyres in October?

    PS: All of your blogs are super awesome. My personal favorite Itineraries are Slovenia, Italy & Bavaria. Such a clarity writings and great contents and no junks.

    Thanks & Keep inspiring


    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      Hello John. I’m so glad you like our blog! As for getting around, we used Google Maps on our iPhone and it worked fine. I recommend getting a Slovenia SIM Card, just so you have cellular service, in case you need data while driving around. I also cached the maps each morning just to be certain I had them on my phone. But some rental cars will come with GPS and that could be useful. I’m not sure about the snow tires. That early in October, I think you would be fine in most places. The only places where snow could be an issue, at least on our itinerary, is this day trip up and over the Vrsic Pass and the Mangart Saddle. But from what I know, the road to the Mangart Saddle closes once the snow starts to fall. Your rental car company in Slovenia should be able to give your more information about this. Cheers, Julie

  5. Avatar for Charles

    Thanks for all the helpful Slovenia articles! I am hoping to make my way there this summer and will definitely take into account much of the content you have written up.

    I did have a quick question about your time near the Soca Valley – did you consider doing the Soca Trail / have any pros and cons for taking part of it? I saw you hiked the Slemenova Špica trail, which looked great but just was wondering if you had any insight into the Soca Trail as well.

    Thanks again for all the great content!


    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      You’re welcome. Today I am writing about Piran and Koper so there will be more info soon. 🙂 No, I don’t know much about the Soca trail. But we used a great book called Walking the Julian Alps of Slovenia to help us plan our hikes. I just looked it up and it is mentioned in the book. The book lists it as a 11 km hike, one way, from the Vrsic Pass to Trenta so it’s downhill. You can use the public bus to get back to the Vrsic Pass. If you plan to do more hikes, or are just curious about your options, consider buying this book before you go. It lists 58 walks so it’s a lot to choose from! Cheers, Julie

Leave A Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *