The Julian Alps: Part 2 Bohinjska Bistrica to Bovec

Published on:  | Last updated: 25 March 2017

On the way to Tolmin near Zgornja Sorica

On the way to Tolmin near Zgornja Sorica

At a glance

Distance

94 kilometres

Difficulty/​terrain

Mostly easy but with one long climb but with a longish climb from Bohinjska Bistrica (510m) to the Bohinjsko Sedlo (literally Bohinj saddle) altitude1275m. The climb is our nearly 13 kilometres so the average gradient is 6 per cent. While it's not partic­u­larly steep, it never lets up: the climb is uphill all the way, with no flat or downhill bits.

Traffic

Quiet roads.

Surfaces

Surfaced roads in good condition.

Cyclists on the road to Kobarid near Kamno

Cyclists on the road to Kobarid near Kamno

Overview

A definite change of pace as the route climbs from the valley of the river Sava and then makes a glorious descent into the valley of the Baca river which in turn flows into the Soča river.

From Most Na Soči the route follows the beautiful, emerald-coloured, Soča river north along the Soča to Bovec on the fringes of the Triglavski Narodni national park.

The Soča river at Most Na Soči

The Soča river at Most Na Soči

Options

You could avoid the climb to Bohinjsko Sedlo by taking the train - there's a long rail tunnel between Bohinjska Bistrica and Podbrno, but the descent from the pass defin­itely makes the climb worth­while. Honest. If you're still not convinced see the 'transport and services' tab below.

Here are three options, if you want to do something different:

  • after the Bohinjsko Sedlo you could take the road to Skofja Loka and then to Ljubljana;
  • at Most Na Soči you could continue south following the AdriaBike/​BiMoBis route along the Soča route to Nova Gorica. From here the AdriaBike route goes to Portorož on the coast while the BiMoBis route crosses into Italy and turns north to Cividale del Friuli (see: Crossing borders: cycle routes between Italy, Slovenija and Austria)
  • at Kobarid you could turn west and head for Cividale del Friuli.
On the road to Tolmin near Kneža

On the road to Tolmin near Kneža

Map and altitude profile

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Distances
Bohinjska Bistrica - Tolmin 56 kms
Tolmin - Kobarid 16 kms
Kobarid - Bovec 23 kms
The 403 road beside the Bača river near Korotnica

The 403 road beside The Bača river near Korotnica

Route description

Bohinjska Bistrica to Most Na Soči

The road from Bohinjska Bistrica to the Bohinjsko Sedlo runs through woodland for pretty much the whole way, which means that you don't get to see much — apart from trees.

The descent from the pass is glorious and defin­itely made the climb worth­while. The initial section is relat­ively steep but then the gradient gets gentler with beautiful views as you pass the village of Zgornja Sorica. From here the road follows the Bača river downstream to Most Na Soči.

Gabrje on the road to Kobarid

Gabrje on the road to Kobarid

The Soča valley

At Most Na Soči the Baca river flows into the wide, emerald-coloured, Soča. From here we follow the river through the Soča valley. The route joins the 102 road for three and a half kilometres as it heads towards Tolmin. Just before Tolmin you can cross over the river and take a quiet road into the town. The turning is unsigned and easy to miss and involves a very short gravelly descent to a pedes­trian-cyclist bridge and then a very short gravelly climb, or push, on the other side. You can of course opt to stay on the 102 into the town.

After Tolmin the route follows a very quiet country road on the left (eastern) bank of the river, with the 102 is on the other side. On its way out of Tolmin it skirts round of Kozlov Rob (which Wikipedia trans­lates as ‘Billy-Goat's Edge’) - a conical hill with the ruins of the Grad Tolmin. The road goes through the villages of Dolje and Gabrje before crossing the Napoleon Bridge over the Soča into the town of Kobarid.

If you're visiting the Soča valley then you should defin­itely allow some time to visit the valley's natural wonders, including the Tolminska korita (Tolmin Gorge) and the Kozjak Slap (Kozjak water­falls) near Kobarid.

The Slap Kozjak near Kobarid

The Slap Kozjak waterfall near Kobarid. Photo Stefano Merli. Source: Wikimedia Commons

There are lots of possib­il­ities for hiking so a pair of shoes you can walk/​hike in is defin­itely a good idea. It's easy to under­stand why the area is a mecca for kayaking and rafting enthu­siasts. It's also a big destin­ation for paragliding.

Kayaker on the Soča river near Čezsoča

Kayaker on the Soča river near Čezsoča

The Soča valley in the First World War

It's difficult to imagine, that this peaceful valley was once part of the frontline in the First World War, as Italy fought the Austro-Hungarian empire. Kobarid (Caporetto) was the scene of one of the most important battles of that war when, in 1917, the forces of the Empire and Germany made a dramatic break­through. Abandoning the conven­tional tactics they concen­trated their forces on a narrow area, and taking the Italians by surprise, overwhelmed their defences, and advanced deep behind the Italian lines (see also en.wikipedia.org: Battle of Caporetto.

There's a vivid account of the battle in Ernest Hemingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls. Hemingway wasn't actually present, but it feels like an eyewitness account. Hemingway describes the chaos and confusion as soldiers found themselves isolated and cut off.

Hundreds of thousands of Italian soldiers were captured, and the Italian army forced to make a long retreat to the river Piave. Over the winter of 1917-1918 an exhausted Austro-Hungarian Empire desper­ately sought to deliver a knock out blow, while Italy called up its 18 year-olds and sent them into the front line in an equally desperate effort to avert defeat.

In Britain the image of the First World War is of the fields of Flanders turned into a sea of mud and barbed wire. On the Soča front the trenches were dug into the mountain­sides: in the museum in Kobarid there's a picture showing the two lines - on line along the ridge and the other further down the mountain side.

It's hard to imagine how it was even physically possible to fight in these mountains when being ordered to attack meant having to advance up a mountainside, when the wounded had to be brought down on stretchers suspended from what today we'd probably call a zip wire.

There are a number of memorials and open-air museums along the valley. For more inform­ation see the Dolina Soče website dolina-soce.com: cultural and historical sights or the website for the Walk of Peace (potmiru.si). The Walk of Peace is a long-distance hiking (and cycling) route that follows the frontline from Log Pod Mangartom north of Bovec to Trieste. There's a Walk of Peace inform­ation centre in Kobarid.

Inevitably the towns along the valley were very badly damaged by artillery fire during the war. Sadly they were also hit by the 1976 Friuli earth­quake en.wikipedia.org: 1976 Friuli earth­quake.

The Soča river near Kobarid - seen from the Napoleon bridge

The Soča river near Kobarid - seen from the Napoleon bridge

From Kobarid to Bovec

The best option for getting to Bovec is to take the 102 road out of Kobarid. The official BiMoBis route follows the left bank of the river from the Napoleon Bridge — which initially looks very promising, but unfor­tu­nately once you get to the campsite Kamp Lazar the road turns into a loose gravelly track. If the road surface were firmer then this might be a good option, but it is soft and has been cut up by tractor tyres.

The road between Kobarid and Bovec is generally quiet, but, on summer mornings there's a busy period with vans ferrying kayaks, as well as kayakers and paragliders around. The road is busy with vans from Kobarid going up to Bovec and vans from Bovec going down to Kobarid. When I was there the spike seemed to last for about half an hour from about 10:00.

The official route turns off the main road at the village of Srpenica and then crosses the river and continues along the left bank. I gave this the thumbs down - continuing on to the next bridge. There's then a really nice stretch of quiet road by the river to the village of Čezsoča. After Čezsoča it's time to cross back over the Soča and make the climb into Bovec.

Cyclists on the road to Bovec

Cyclists on the road to Bovec

More information

Places to stay

Hotels

The main tourist centres are Kobarid and Bovec both offer a wide range of accom­mod­ation.

Find and book places to stay with Booking.com

Booking.com pages for places on this section of the route:
Bohinj | Most na Soči | Gabrje | Kobarid | Čezsoča | Bovec | Log pod Mangartom

Hostels

There are four hostels in the Soča valley

  Hostels map:  JA-FT-hostels-mapshow map in overlay    |  JA-FT-hostels-map  show map in new window   

Campsites

There are lots of campsites along the Soča valley. I stayed at the Camp Siber just outside Tolmin, the Kamp Koren at Kobarid. There are another couple of sites that are within easy reach of Kobarid.

The Kamp Polovnik is the most convenient for Bovec. There several sites around Bovec these are by the river and not very handy for the town itself.

  Campsites map:  JA-FT-campsites-mapshow map in overlay    |  JA-FT-campsites-map  show map in new window   

Transport and services

Transport connections

There is a train line from Jesenice via Bled and Bohinjska Bistrica to Most Na Soci at the southern end of the Soča valley. There is no railway line on the northern section.

The rail line from Jesenice also goes through Bohinjska Bistrica and to Most na Soči, with stations along the valley of the Baca.

Slovenian Railways operate a motorail service, which also takes bikes, between Bohinjska Bistrica and Most Na Soči. For more inform­ation (in English) see: slo-zeleznice.si: motorail. The website doesn't say whether these trains also take bikes. There are also normal passenger trains on the line, although they aren't very frequent. You can check times on bahn.com or slo-zeleznice.si: timetables you can download the pdf for a timetable leaflet from here: slo-zeleznice.si: timetable downloads

Bike shops on this section of the route

Services

There are very few services along this section of the route. There's a bar-restaurant at the Bohinjsko Sedlo, and a couple of places in the villages on the other side of the pass. There are also also a couple of water taps along the way as you get closer to Most na Soči.

Resources

Tourist information websites

Rafting and kayaking etc

Trains

The Soča river near Čezsoča

The Soča river near Čezsoča

Articles in this series


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