An Adventure on the Emerald River

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Picture-perfect cities with dragon bridges and castles. Fairy-tale-like lakes. And now a body of water known as the “Emerald River.”

If I hadn't spent a week there myself, I would be convinced that Slovenia was no more than an imaginary country. Because, on paper, the place does sort of sound too good to be true. But, luckily for me (and for you), Slovenia is very, very real — and every bit as amazing as you've heard.

As I was doing some research into this little European nation, I kept coming across mentions of a full-day trip into Slovenia's Triglav National Park. The trip — called the “Emerald River Adventure” — had rave reviews written about it online. And so, when the Slovenia Tourist Board said I could swap one of my days in Bled for said adventure, I jumped at the chance.

The Emerald River Adventure is a jam-packed 12-hour tour offered by outdoor adventure specialists 3glav Adventures. Complete with hiking in the mountains, swimming in waterfalls, and optional white water rafting on the Emerald River itself, this adventure really is a must-do in Slovenia. In fact, it was one of my favorite things I did in Europe this summer.

The adventure started bright and early in Bled — around 8 a.m., in fact, when I was picked up from my B&B by our guide. This trip can accommodate up to 16 people, but there were only 8 of us aboard that day — a perfect number. Once we had everybody, we immediately headed for Triglav National Park. This is Slovenia's only national park, and is home to Mount Triglav, the country's highest peak (standing at 9,393 feet).

Triglav National Park, Slovenia

Driving into Triglav

The morning was spent navigating twisty mountain roads and doing a few short hikes in the Julian Alps. I'm not the biggest fan of hiking, but these treks were manageable — no longer than 45 minutes, and with some truly stunning scenery. We weren't blessed with a sunny morning, but the clouds and cooler temperatures were perfect for what we were doing.

Jasna Lake, Slovenia

At Jasna Lake

Julian Alps, Slovenia

Can you spot the face?

Julian Alps, Slovenia

Hiking on the Vrsic Mountain Pass in the Julian Alps

After a few easy hikes and a bit more driving, it was then time to visit the mouth of the Soča River — an 86-mile-long river that flows through western Slovenia. This is the river known as “The Emerald River” because of it's blue-green color, which we would get to know intimately later in the day. For now, though, we were off to visit the izvir Soce, or “spring of the Soča.” Our guide warned us that this hike would be the most “technical” of the day, but we had no idea that “technical” actually meant that we would have to channel our inner mountain goats.

Mouth of Soča, Slovenia

Up we go! (Photo taken by our guide.)

Mouth of Soča, Slovenia

That wire was all we had to hold onto… (Photo taken by our guide.)

It was actually VERY fun skirting cliffs while clinging to wires embedded in the rock faces, though. But I couldn't help thinking about how something like this would NEVER fly in the U.S.

Mouth of Soča, Slovenia

It's a long way to fall…

Mouth of Soča, Slovenia

We made it, though! (Photo taken by our guide.)

After getting our adrenaline pumping, we then stopped for lunch in Bovec to recharge before the next activity — white water rafting. Over the course of lunch, the sun came out and the temperatures rose, offering up perfect conditions for some outdoor adventure.

I've been white water rafting before, so I more or less knew what to expect. Except that rafting the Soča is quite different from rafting other rivers. First of all, the water color is UNREAL. And second of all, the water is FREEZING year-round. We had to wear thick wet suits and deal with numb appendages for the hour or so that we were on the water. But it was SO worth it.

Soča River, Slovenia

(Photo taken by our guide.)

Soča River, Slovenia

And we're off! (Photo taken by our guide.)

Soča River, Slovenia

Look at that setting! (Photo taken by our guide.)

Our rafting guide was laid-back and lots of fun — typical of Slovenians, I was learning. He had us playing games (like standing on the edges of the boat and bouncing until one half of us fell in), tackling rapids backwards and sideways, and jumping in the river to float in the current every now and then. About halfway through our rafting, we stopped to do some cliff jumping and to use our raft as a giant bouncy slide into the river. The rapids weren't very challenging, but the overall experience was so much fun.

Soča River, Slovenia

(Photo taken by our guide.)

Soča River, Slovenia

Understand now why it's called the “Emerald River”? (Photo taken by our guide.)

I don't think any of us were ready for our rafting stint to be over, but it soon was. But we weren't done with the water activities just yet. Our next stop was the Slap Kozjak near Kobarid, a waterfall where we had the chance to swim in yet more frigid water.

This was followed by a stop at a 12-meter-high bridge above the Soča that we could jump off. As much as I love throwing myself off things, this was not one I wanted to try. Only one brave soul in our group took the plunge — and he ended up with a bloody nose for his bravery.


The view from said bridge.

After getting dried off and changed, the next part of the adventure involved a ride on the Car Train. This is exactly what it sounds like — a train made for cars. The car train transports cars through the mountains, reducing the time it takes to get from Point A to Point B. The ride was just under 45 minutes (half the time it would have taken to drive) and we spent it dancing to music in our seats, taking silly photos, and just enjoying the ride.

Car Train, Slovenia

Free beers on the car train. (Photo taken by our guide.)

We got off the train in Bohinjska Bistrica, just in time to catch the sun setting behind the mountains at tranquil Lake Bohinj. It was the perfect way to end our adventure.

I can't stress enough how amazing this day was. I would do it all again if given the chance, and would recommend the Emerald River Adventure to anyone looking for some outdoor fun in Slovenia.

Jasna Lake, Slovenia

Our group. (Photo taken by our guide.)

If You Go…

Want to book this tour yourself? Here's what you need to know:

  • Location: Tours run daily from Bled, Slovenia
  • Length: Tours last roughly 12 hours (8 a.m.-8 p.m., give or take)
  • Price: 65 Euro for the Emerald River Adventure + 35 Euro to add optional rafting on the Soča
  • What's included: Transport (including the car train), a professional guide, celebratory beers on the car train, and a photo CD of pictures your guide takes throughout the day (mine came with 140 photos on it)


What do you think? Is this an adventure YOU would like to have in Slovenia?


*Note: Big thanks to the Slovenia Tourist Board for helping set this up, and to 3glav Adventures for offering me a complimentary Emerald River Adventure. As always, though, all opinions are my own.


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