This is the continues on from Bikepacking Slovenia Part 1…
Day 4: Kranjska Gora to Bovec
I’d argue there’s nothing better than waking up to see the sun rising over the mountains – this was one of the most scenic spots we’d stayed so far. However, knowing we had a big day ahead of us, and limited options for breakfast, we packed up and got ready for another day on the bikes.
Cruising down the mountain, we arrived in the picturesque town of Kranjska Gora ready to sample all the local bakery had to offer! We also spotted an excellent cafe that not only served good coffee but also had the perfect set up to air all our damp kit and tinker with the bikes.
Refuelled, we were now ready to take on our daily dose of climbing. I was slightly sad to leave Kranjska Gora (I definitely want to go back here), however, excited for the day ahead. Soon we were off the road and following a wide gravel track next to the river. This gently wound its way to the start of the Vršič Pass – the highest pass in Slovenia.
Made up of 50 hairpin bends, I was a little apprehensive about how my legs would feel giving the amount of up they had done yesterday! However slowly, slowly, we made our way up the pass round the cobblestone corners even managing to overtake a few other cyclists.
About half we up we broke away from the road to switch tarmac for trail. It was steep, hot and hard work but having a slightly more technical climb was definitely a good distraction. There was also plenty of opportunities to stop to admire the view and explore various WWI bunkers.
A fair few switchbacks later we made it to the top. Looking out I could see what was next… DOWN, and lots of it! Although mainly on the road, I’d recommend this descent to both roadies and mountain bikers alike – it was just so much fun. Swooping hairpin bend after hairpin bend, you can really pick up some speed. Just make sure your brakes are working!
At the bottom of the pass, we stopped to assess our options. Originally I’d planned to stay near Izvir Soče (the source of the Soča River). However, we’d been a lot quicker than I was expecting, and it didn’t seem to make sense to stop now. As we were ahead of schedule, we decided to detour to a nearby mountain cabin for a drink, then walk up to the source itself. A fun and easy hike worth making the time for if you’re passing by.
After a few snaps, we scrambled down to the bikes and jumped back on to make our way along the Soča Valley. It was breathtaking – crystal clear blue water twisted though gleaming white rock gorges surrounded by lush green meadows.
The river looked so inviting – I just had to get in. Peeling off sweaty bike kit (mmm), I skipped towards the water keen to swim, only to find it was FREEZING! I’m generally not one to shy away from cold water, but this was baltic, it took me ages to build up the courage to get in!
Fully refreshed, it was time to work out where we were staying for the night. We’d passed several stunning spots on the route, however, didn’t fancy going back uphill so did a quick google to see what lay ahead. This showed a cheap campsite in Bovec that also had a woodfired pizza oven – ideal!
Distance: 67 kilometres Ascent: 2,625 metres
Day 5: Bovec to Cividale del Friuli
Day 5 started with the best breakfast – an entire apple strudel and chocolate croissant from the local bakery! I was so happy. High on pastry and sugar, we trundled along the river regularly stopping to scramble up to viewpoints and waterfalls. It was nice to have a flat-ish start to the day to warm up the legs.
Just as we were starting to relax into a rhythm, we branched away from the river taking a steep road towards the mountain Stol. Road soon became forest track, and the gradient kicked up again. Winding slowly up through the forest we kept climbing – it seemed to go on forever!
Luckily the descent did not disappoint. Heading off the south side of the mountain, we were treated to 12km of rocky switchbacks, mountain views and colourful wildflower meadows teeming with butterflies.
Dropping into Sedlo, I was tired but happy – my face hurt from grinning so much! We looked around the town, keen to find somewhere we could stock up on snacks and water – there was a fountain in the main square, however other than this everywhere seemed to be shut. Unfazed we continued, planning to stop at the next village or town.
The next section of the route was… interesting…! I’d planned to follow the track I’d found on bikepacking.com; however, it was massively overgrown. Fighting our way through nettles and spiky bushes, I realised a little too late, it might have been better to bail, retreat and hit the road. This feeling was further confirmed when our path ran out entirely, and we began bushwhacking and hike-a-biking through thorns.
For anyone repeating this route, the sections I would avoid are the northern track from Seldo to Stanovišče, and the westerly track from Podbela to Logie – take the road.
Hungry, scratched, out of food and nearly out of water, I was now very ready to find somewhere to stop. However, the climbs kept on coming, and every village we passed seemed to be deserted! Finally, we cycled into another small village to see they were building a cafe. Although still in the process of being constructed, it served two things – coffee and apple strudel. Win – double strudel day!
Feeling revitalized and a lot better about life, we continued out of Slovenia into Italy, pedalling over our final pass for the day and into a lush valley filled with vineyards. Naively, I had thought we would be able to camp somewhere around here. However, all the flat ground was covered in vines, and it didn’t seem diplomatic (or very subtle) to pitch up between them!
Instead, we opted for following a sign reading ‘Casa – Hotel’ and hoped for the best. By the time we had followed these signs for a few kilometres… uphill, I felt committed to seeing where they ended up (and staying there). After all, we hadn’t passed any other viable options! Eventually, we rolled up to a castle-like building, covered in vines, behind some very posh looking white gates. Inside, I could see smartly dressed men in linen suits and ladies floating around in summer dresses… In contrast, we were muddy, dusty and hadn’t changed our clothes since starting! It all looked a bit expensive.
Still, I was intrigued! It was now 8pm, and if I’m totally honest, I fancied the idea of a bed. Dusting myself down and stashing the bikes out of view I sidled up to the reception desk to see if staying here required remortgaging my house. The lady behind the desk was a little taken aback by our appearance, but lovely, and to my utter amazement offered us a room for €40 – including all you could eat breakfast. It was pricey, but felt justifiable as a one-off – this was a holiday after all!
Distance: 78 kilometres Ascent: 3,403 metres
The morning began well – everywhere felt very Italian! Winding our way through sunny vineyards, it was another nice flat start to the day with regular coffee stops. Over dinner the night before we’d looked at the maps and decided to reassess the route. Back at home, I’d plotted two options – a longer loop going into Croatia and a shorter loop heading east back towards the mountains. The idea was to pick one of the two around this point. However, now we were here I was torn – the mountains were beautiful, however I fancied exploring the coast.
In the end, we’d opted for something in the middle – heading down the coast for a few days before looping back east. It meant taking a bit of a gamble on the next section of the route as I’d not researched this bit. However, it didn’t look too complicated and was mainly just following a cycleway…
So, about that cycleway… It is probably best described as ‘intermittent’ (at best). One thing was for sure, it certainly wasn’t the scenic route! Weaving in and out of factories, residential areas and an industrial port, signs for the cycle path would regularly disappear only to reappear in impossible places (e.g. behind a 6ft fence). At one point, it even spat us out on a busy dual carriageway. I was not amused.
Anyhow – such is the reality of bikepacking, it can’t all be stunning single track! We made to Trieste in one piece but were pretty fed up with busy roads so decided to call it a day and continue down south tomorrow.
Distance: 78 kilometres Ascent: 1,138 metres