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Watersports In SloveniaLargely undiscovered by tourist hordes, Slovenia boasts one of the best, if not the best, water-activity weekends in Europe. Alison Ledger plays hard, parties harder and puts the rapids of the River Soca to the test.



We raise our glasses and shout the traditional Slovenian toast of ‘Na zdravje!’. As we clink our welcoming drinks together we suspiciously eye-up the dried apricot nestling in what our instructor Horey tells us is a traditional liqueur. Seven of us have signed up for an action-crammed weekend of water activities in the gorgeous Upper Soca Valley, north-west Slovenia, ranging from a gentle night canoe trip to hydrospeeding – one of the most extreme action sports. We all pull faces and laugh, wondering what we’ve let ourselves in for.

Our safety briefing is followed by a three-course meal at our hotel, the family-run three-star Hotel Krn in the centre of tiny Tolmin, a quiet town almost entirely encircled by mountains, not far from the Italian border.

Before long we’re regretting dessert as we squeeze into 3mm-thick neoprene wetsuits and slip on life jackets and helmets at Maya Outdoor Centre, less than a minute’s walk from the hotel. A short drive in Maya’s bus and we arrive in pitch-black woodland, with only a few headlamps to light the way as we drag inflatable three-person canoes to the water’s edge. Paddling the calm, velvety-black waters, solely to the shrieks of our own laughter, we race each other for 4km, almost forgetting to spot the shooting stars above – ten is the record number seen on this descent.

Our sleepy selves congregate at the centre for 9am-ish, wishing we’d left the packed-out Paradiso bar a little earlier the night before. A 20-minute drive later and fuzzy heads are instantly un-fuzzed once we immerse ourselves in the startlingly fresh, chalky-green waters of the River So?ca to prepare for the thorough soaking we’re going to get white-water rafting.

In our eight-person rubber dinghy, we’re sandwiched between stunning scenery: to our left, you can see the vast, snow-dusted Julian Alps, and on our right are rolling hills and meadows where you almost expect Julie Andrews and the Von Trapps to pop up singing songs from The Sound of Music. On the river, we paddle fast and furiously along the mild Grade Two rapids, successfully beating an all-girl rafting group and flicking water at them with our oars, the ride made bumpier and more exciting with games led by our instructor until the Grade Three to Four rapids kick in.

Around the bend, we step out of our raft and assemble like penguins on a rock, watching Horey as he flips over the raft, tilting it on the stone so we can slide and somersault down it into the river like hyperactive children.

Our playtime soon has to come to an end and, after a three-course lunch back at our hotel, we climb on board the bus for an afternoon of kayaking. Some spend the first few minutes going round in circles as they get to grips with the basic technique, but once we’ve all got the knack, we’re heading towards bubbling rapids. Several of us tip over within seconds, laughing our heads off and loving every minute. Why is it though, when you feel you’re mastering it and feeling a little smug, that your paddle gets stuck in a tree? (Yes, I don’t know how I did it either). I tip sideways into the bubbling rapids. Underwater, I calmly push myself out of my kayak, as I learned in practice, and let the rapids whip me along. Horey comes to the rescue.

We reach the end too soon, and a few of the more daring ones opt to be pushed in their kayaks into the river from a ten-foot-high rock. As the sun sets, we spend the evening drinking ridiculously cheap and good red wine and making friends with the locals in nearby M Bar.



A steep, 20-minute hike through the secluded Trebusa canyon has us eager to cool off in the stream, and soon we’re sliding head-first down a waterfall, something I never thought I would or could do, and something I’d never have thought I’d love, either.

Canyoning is a little like being on a natural, water-based version of The Krypton Factor as you climb and scramble over rocks, dive and jump into pools and abseil and slither down waterfalls. At the end of the course, it’s only those of us with nerve who look over the edge of the 27-metre waterfall we’re about to abseil down with a 20-metre rope. Over and down we go, one at a time, waiting for a short pause to warn that the rope has run out, leaving us to shoot down the remaining seven metres into a large, turquoise pool.

Walking back to the bus, we’re all feeling rather proud and confident – a handy attitude to have when hydrospeeding in Grade Four rapids is next on the list…

Armed with a river board (see below), fins and a tightly-fastened helmet, I grip the handles at the top of the board and lie my upper body on it, ready to literally tackle the white-water rapids head on. The idea is to use the handles to steer as the speed and power of the rapids thrusts you along, between rocks, over them and into them. As I head for my first huge, dome-shaped rock, I use the board as protection, which flips me over, and over, washing-machine style. I finally appear above the surface, further down the river, pleased to be alive, adrenaline firing through me, eyes-wide, laughing hysterically from fear and excitement, watching as the rest of the group pop up all over the river, all wide-eyed too, gasping for breath, shouting and laughing, ‘D-d-did you see that?!’

Zapped of energy, we catch our breath at the side of the river, before a slight chill and the promise of more adventure pushes us on. Once I accepted that I had no control of where I was going, I went along with it. Quite liberating, not having any control and being in nature’s hands. Quite terrifying too.

That evening, after a dinner of fresh rainbow trout from the River So?ca, our mission is to uncover some good Slovenian wine – and it’s mission accomplished at Pension Rutar, just opposite our hotel.

Exhausted, and sad to be leaving, we arrive back at Trieste airport, say goodbye, to a couple of our group who are heading for Venice for a few days (an hour away on the train), and board the flight back to Stansted. Best active weekend in Europe? Without a doubt!

Go to the next page for all the details and contacts!

All the info


From April to September the weather is at its most reliable, sometimes reaching 25ºC in the height of summer. However, when the heavens open, the options include:

Cheese farms
Try Tolminc, Albumin and cottage cheese made in the traditional way from fresh cow’s milk at Sirarstvo Kramar, just 1km from Tolmin in the village of Zatolmin.
Tel: +38 6 41 49 09 31

Tolmin Musuem
Learn about Tolminsko region’s history and, by prior arrangement, the curators of the museum can organise guided tours for groups to nearby cultural monuments, such as to the Holy Spirit in Javorca, a church constructed by soldiers during WW1.
Tel: +38 6 53 81 13 60

Skocjan caves
Visit the world’s largest underground canyon, with its weird and wonderfully-formed ancient passages, chambers and collapsed valleys. The nearest train station is Divaca, followed by a 3km walk.

Wine tasting
There are dozens of cellars in the scattered villages of the Goriska Brda region – 45km from Tolmin. Call the tourist office in Dobrovo.
Tel: +38 6 53 95 95 94

The family factor
Slovenia offers a wide range of child-friendly activities including horseriding, mountain biking, quad biking and climbing. Perhaps opt for a short trek into the stunning Polog Valley near Tolmin, a perfect place for a picnic. In Kranjska Gora, a 40-minute drive from Trieste airport, there is a summer toboggan run offering daring and smooth options, where you can go down the 1,500-metre-long run with your child. For the watersports featured, the following age restrictions apply: Night canoeing: Age 7+.
Canyoning: Age 8+.
Kayaking: Age 10+.
Rafting: Age 5+ for family routes, otherwise age 15+.
Hydrospeeding: Age 18+


1 Lake Bled
Step into a fairytale story by taking a rowing boat across this lake to the island in the middle, topped with an atmospheric church. Admire the mountainous backdrop while taking a dip in summer, or try ice diving in winter if you’ve got a basic scuba diving qualification.

2 Soca Reggae Riversplash Festival, Tolmin
This four-day music festival features international artistes including Misty In Roots and Omar Perry and takes place from 15–19 July on the banks of the So?ca, 3km south of town.

3 Skiing
Take your pick from more than 15 major ski resorts and, although Slovenian skiing doesn’t really match up to the offerings from neighbouring Austria and Italy, a well-equipped, popular family resort is Kranjska Gora. Nearby, you can watch daredevil feats at the world-renowned Planica ski jumps, site of the world’s largest ski jump.

4 Ljubljana
The capital’s old town is a must-see, with its Baroque architecture, hilltop castle and riverside cafés, restaurants and bars, that’ll keep you entertained and charmed for a few days.

5 Caving
The Govic cave, which lies on the north side of Lake Bohinj, can be explored with a caving instructor. On this seven-hour trip, you will descend with a rope into the abyss to discover a beautiful small lake at the bottom.
Tel: +38 6 41 69 85 23

6 Lake Bohinj
Less visited than Lake Bled and far more serene, the area offers an array of watersports including kayaking, canoeing and sailing, as well as great hiking and mountain-biking trails.

7 Paragliding
Surrounded by mountains and lakes, the Tolminska region is ideal for tandem paragliding, proven by the fact that Tolmin has hosted the Paragliding World Championships.
Tel: +38 6 41 53 58 73

8 Diving
When you think of scuba diving, Slovenia may not spring to mind, but the freshwater diving in the rivers and lakes can be excellent – clear water and lots of fish. With a professional guide you can also dive in the Karst caves.
Tel: +38 6 41 68 31 84

9 Cycling & Hiking
In Tolmin there are 27 marked pathways through forests to waterfalls and gorges, along mountainous terrain and gentle roads interconnecting villages in the valley, perfect for mountain bikers. For hikers, one of the most attractive routes is the 950km Slovenian section of the European Long-Distance Footpath – E6 and E7 – of which, the latter passes near Tolmin.
Tel: +38 6 53 80 05 03

10 Sport-climbing
Climbing in the mountains of Tolminski Migovec offers warm south-facing rock walls. Pac Sports offers ice climbing.

Alison went with Activities Abroad ‘Wet Wet Wet…Wet Wet!!!’

Getting around:
Take the two-hour flight from London Stansted to Trieste in Italy, close to the Slovenian border, with Ryanair. Transfer to Tolmin takes 2 hours.

Three-star: Hotel Krn
Comfortable, family-run hotel in the centre of Tolmin, near the tourist information centre.
Tel: +38 6 53 88 19 11

Pension Rutar
Air-conditioned rooms and the best restaurant in town, with a large selection of wines.
Tel: +38 6 53 80 05 00

Two-star: Sobe Rutar
This three-bed apartment is situated on the peaceful outskirts of Tolmin, at the beginning of the path to Kozlov Rob hill.
Tel: +38 6 53 88 31 63
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Kamp Vili
Camp on the bank of the So?ca river at Volarje, 6 km from Tolmin. Facilities include a children’s playground and barbecue.
Tel: +38 6 31 71 12 88
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

More information:

Images: Alison Ledger

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