Octave shares some thoughts on a self-organised adventure
The Soča river in Slovenia is breathtakingly beautiful and an amazingly fun place to kayak. As we discovered, however, there’s a lot to organising your own trip abroad – this blog is therefore a practical guide to your very own Soča trip.
What’s the river like?
The Soča is pretty magical – the water is absolutely clear and has a unique colour, and you’re in deep valleys with 1,800m+ mountains all around you as you go down.
There’s a nice range of paddling opportunities, from grade 2 to grade 5 (we mostly did 3 and 4). So heading there after just one year of white water kayaking would be perfectly fine. As the river is very long, it’s quite easy to go to different sections each day, keeping it fresh.
Apart from the colour and mountains, the type of river features is already very different from the UK – we mostly alternated between boulder gardens (we’re talking several meter tall boulders) and deep and narrow gorges (which look very impressive but are insanely fun to paddle).
The section between Srpenica 1 and Trnovo 1 (part of it called “the Rafting section” due to commercial rafts) is a good warm-up. Our coach made us practice several strokes we hadn’t really seen before, e.g C and D strokes, which made it much easier to take tighter eddies and navigate between obstacles – we realised why once we started going between boulders and down narrow gorges!
The North-Eastern part of the Soča (all the way down Čezsoča) was probably our favourite section. It includes several named features, in-between loads of shorter rapids. The Bunker, a pushier boulder garden; the 3rd Soča gorge, a long and narrow passage with 2 technical features (at the entrance and mid-way), and a long tunnel to go all the way back and run it again; and the Landslide, which is probably technical with different water levels but was straightforward for us.
The North-Western section starting with the Koritnica before joining the Soča was also good fun, with the Koritnica gorge and the Black Gorge (presumably named so to frighten the tourists, because it wasn’t that bad). Quite a bit of water is required to run it, so we got lucky. The most dangerous part probably came from a section where we saw a car crossing a rope bridge above us, and never paddled harder and faster to not be underneath it.
Finally the two harder sections, which we skipped: the Slalom section between Trnovo 1 and Trnovo 2 – we started down it and decided to call it a day after reconnaissance showed several siphons and undercut rocks in all the wrong places, and none of us liked the consequences; and Otona to Kobarid, way beyond our skill / confidence level (especially the Cataract section) but supposedly a lot of fun.
How did we organise the trip?
We decided to head to Slovenia relatively late (around March), so the week were picked was early July – we got very lucky with a lot of rain falling in on our first day, which allowed us to paddle everything, but we’d definitely recommend April to June which is when the glaciers are melting.
We were 4 of similar level, having all paddled for 2 years, so wanted a coach who could help us learn more as well as providing safety on the river. After asking for advice around the club, everyone gave us names of British coaches – but ultimately we decided to hire a local Slovenian coach on the strength of his website, as we thought he’d know the area a lot more. It was also much cheaper than flying and lodging someone, at €375 for 5 days (we paid a bit more as we did more than 3h a day, averaging 4h), including kayak rental. We didn’t regret it, as Matic was great all week long, teaching us loads and keeping spirits high with his non-stop energy.
We stayed in Bovec, which is near the middle of the river. There are plenty of camping options around but we much preferred a proper bed and booked a house via Airbnb – total cost £1,000.
As we didn’t have to carry kayaks from the UK, we flew to Trieste and drove from there (flights to Llubjana were more expensive but car rental cheaper, so overall it’s very similar) – £880 total for the flights (incl. 40kg luggage each) and £360 total for the car rental. We could have been picked up from their airport but not having a car would have been a pain every day for the shuttles, and prevented us from visiting the area.
We got the white water insurance up to grade 5 (in case we ended up in Otona after a long swim) from Dogtag – about £60.
Altogether, about £700 per head for the week (which could reduced by camping + driving there) plus food & drinks (your mileage may vary).
We’re definitely looking to go back – in the meantime, if you’re planning your own trip and want tips let me know, and if you have a good line to recommend we’re all ears!
How we got on!
Beyond kayaking, there’s so much outdoors sport you can do: hiking, cycling, rafting, canyoning, ziplining… The area is a paradise for that.
We particularly recommend heading to Mangart Saddle unless you dislike driving narrow Alpine roads bordering a cliff for an hour – the landscape is really worth it!