Owing to its unique position amongst the Julian Alps in north western Slovenia, Bovec has emerged as one of the prime outdoor sports destinations anywhere in Europe. It’s easy to reach at low cost, and staying there is inexpensive too. It’s also within easy reach from Southern Germany, Austria, Hungary, Italy, Croatia and Switzerland, so any UK based adventure sports fanatics will also get a rich mix of fellow guests wherever they decide the stay in the town.
The ultimate travel promotion cliché is to describe a place as having “something for everyone”, but it’s difficult to avoid when talking of Bovec. There are easy walks, extremely difficult walks, somewhere where kayakers can learn, and some of the wildest (and cleanest) water you can find anywhere. Bad skiers like myself should feel completely at home in the ski fields around Bovec, while the flashy types can still show everyone up on the more difficult slopes. When the weather’s bad, a day staying at the hotel needn’t be wasted, many of the hotels have pool, sauna, and massage facilities, because at the end of the day you’re there for a holiday, right?
How to get to Bovec
The direct flight from London Heathrow to Ljubljana has now been discontinued by the Slovenian national airline, Adria, but Easyjet have a direct flight from Stansted. You may find it easier and quicker to fly Ryanair from Birmingham or Stansted to Ronchi Airport (which Ryanair calls Trieste on their website, but as you have gathered is nowhere near Trieste). Ronchi is about 60 minutes’ drive to Bovec while Ljubljana is about 90 minutes away. You can also try flying to Celevec (Klagenfurt) which is closer still. Treviso and Marco Polo airports near Venice are about 100-120 minutes away by car, and a visit to Venice is much a worthwhile possibility if you are able to combine the two in one holiday.
The nearest train station is at Tarvisio, in just over the border Italy, which is 45 minutes away over the mountain. If you are travelling independently, you will almost certainly need a hire car, as bus travel is not viable. Most passengers arrive at Bovec as part of organised groups from Adventure Sports tour operators like The Travel Puzzle, who we travelled with.
Where to stay
The two main hotels in Bovec are the Hotels Kaninand Mangart. The Kanin was built in the communist era but is nonetheless a comfortable and warm hotel with superb balcony views towards the mountains behind the hotel. The Mangart is a more modern building with tight double glazing (you will find out why that’s important) and clean, fashionable, and well sized rooms. The Mangart also wins the prize for the hot tub with the best views in Europe in our book.
Adventure sports enthusiasts anywhere would find both these hotels suit their needs very well at reasonable prices.
Walking Holidays in and Around Bovec
Western Slovenia has a treasure trove of walks for all abilities. You can amble out of your Bovec hotel, to take an easy walk along the Soca River for a couple of miles to admire its crystal clear waters, or you can go above the tree line to experience breath-taking views across the Julian Alps. A popular route is to take the Gondola from Bovec to the Restaurant Prestreljenik at 2200 metres above sea level. From here, you can walk to the top of the Kanin mountain or across Prevala to Mount Rombon, which is generally considered to be a demanding hike. Along the way, stay at the Peter Skalar lodge at 2260 metres above sea level.
If you do your research you can plan some of your own adventures but the easy way is to book a walking holiday with the likes of Inntravel, who will organise all your flights accommodation and the movement of your luggage while you’re out enj
oying your walks. You can hike across the mountains from Italy to Slovenia via the Matajur, to be re-acquainted with your things on the other side.
For those interested in War history, visitors can take tours on “The Walk of Peace”. Many hidden bunkers, fortresses and war artefacts of the Soča or
Isonzo Front can be found in the once strategically important valley of Bovec. The “Walk of Peace” is an open air museum which takes you on a path that connects some of the most interesting sights and monuments of the First World War.
Activni Planet, one of the main sports agencies in Bovec organises these tours to groups. http://www.aktivniplanet.si/
We visited a beautiful lake Lago del Predil, just over the border in Italy, a journey which took about 20 minutes over the mountain pass which allows fantastic views of the Mangart and the rest of the Julian Alps. The lake itself is utterly stunning with flat calm waters, even on the windiest days. If you have no sporting ability whatsoever, and are even afraid of water, you will find kayaking here a pleasure. The guide / instructor will help and assist you throughout. We went with Alpin Action (http://www.sloveniarafting.si/en).
The rafting in Bovec is so good, professional rafters travel from all parts of Europe to train here. Not only that, the water has luminescent blue colour having come straight off the mountains. The water retains a constant temperature throughout the year, so feels somewhat cold in the summer, so make sure you use the wet gear they offer you, unlike me, who tried to be the smartass by bringing my own gear, not designed for such cold waters.
Join a group and go rafting while in Bovec, it’s the one adrenalin sport that mustn’t be missed on a visit here. To book a place visit the guys atBovec Rafting Team who’ll look after you. You can also try Outdoor Freaks, a similar agency www.outdoorfreaks.si or Sport Mixwww.sportmix.si.
Where we ate:
Kamp Lazar. There’s a very good website not far from Kobarid where they also have a surprisingly good restaurant. Even though it’s open air, they have a raging fire going on an old stone oven and has a real “pub” atmosphere. It’s child friendly, with excellent service, good beer and most of all really great, good value food.
Martinov Hram. One of the most established restaurants in Bovec, with unpretentious, well presented and great value fare. It has an outside terrace for the summer, from which we had to evacuate due to an extreme weather event, but the inside is really smart and comfortable. It’s run by a family and the welcome is excellent.
Hisa Franko. If you need to be amongst the local smart set, then look no further. This restaurant has occupied plenty of column inches in both Italy, Slovenia and further afield, but I’m afraid to say it totally failed to impress me. I felt the food was way too pretentious to the point of ridicule, tasteless, and at times incomprehensible. I wouldn’t go back. The best feature was admiring the Salvador Dali, and Egon Schiele prints. Places like this are meant to be seen in, so it’s just as well the food was crap, as there’s hardly any of it, for your 100 Euro plus per person bill. Just to add insult to injury, as a bunch of oily journalists, we were treated more as an inconvenience.