This week’s journey takes me back to the beautiful nation of Slovenia, and one of its most magnificent natural attractions (among many!): Tolmin Gorge.
Located in the breathtaking Soča Valley at the southern entrance of Slovenia’s Triglav National Park, Tolmin Gorge (Slovenian: Tolminska Korita) is actually comprised of two separate, short river canyons: the 200 meter-long Tolminka Gorge (carved by the Tolminka River) and the 100 meter-long Zadlaščica Gorge (carved by the Zadlaščica River). The gorges, renowned for their soaring, moss-covered rock walls, bright turquoise waters, and bubbling thermal springs, are accessible to visitors from April to early November.
I visited Tolmin Gorge with my parents on a roadtrip through Slovenia exactly 5 years ago today, in October of 2016. After parking our rental car in the large, free gravel lot – and paying the reasonable entrance fee – we embarked on a self-guided tour that took us through the gorge in a clockwise direction (at the recommendation of the very friendly woman at the ticket kiosk), beginning on the so-called Devil’s Bridge before descending to the confluence of the Zadlaščica and Tolminka Rivers, and eventually the striking thermal springs of Tolmin. Our photos below follow the same route – please enjoy!
Suspended over the narrowest portion of Tolminka Gorge, the Devil’s Bridge offers a beautiful, if somewhat dizzying, preview of the journey to come: the trail to the thermal springs passes directly under the bridge, and the Tolminka’s distinctive blue waters come into view for the first time from this vantage point.
After leaving the bridge, the trail drops precipitously over steep terrain to the gorges below. Most of this portion of the path – fortunately, rather short – is composed of rough stone stairs, so sturdy shoes and hiking boots were a plus. The trail then comes to a T-junction; to the left, Zadlaščica Gorge (and more steps!), and to the right, the convergence of the Tolminka and Zadlaščica Rivers.
We actually did make it down to the Zadlaščica Gorge and the so-called Medvedova Glava, or Bear’s Head – a moss-covered boulder suspended between the canyon walls – but I spent more time fiddling around with a wonky memory card than I did taking photos there, so the visual journey here picks back up at the river’s edge.
Confluence of the Tolminka and Zadlaščica Rivers
A small footbridge spans the area in which these two rushing rivers meet, offering truly beautiful views in both directions. The rocky beach here is apparently a popular picnic, swimming, and soaking spot in the summer months – and I can certainly see why! – but it was empty during our overcast October visit. For those not continuing on to Tolminka Gorge, the footbridge also offers access back to the car park.
Tolminka Gorge and thermal springs
The trail to the gorge continues in a northerly direction along the banks of the Tolminka River. It passes deep turquoise pools of crystal clear water before briefly descending into the darkness of a tunnel in the canyon wall, emerging moments later into the narrow, moss-covered cliffs of the gorge.
Here, the Tolminka flows through a gully 60 meters (nearly 200 feet) high, and at various points only 5 to 10 meters (16 to 32 feet) wide. The water level in the river was relatively low during our visit, which allowed us to see – in a distant, inaccessible crevasse – the faint bubbling of a small geothermal spring, its 20°C (68°F) waters mingling with the 5°C to 9°C (41°F to 48°F) waters of the river. We all agreed this section of the two gorges was the most awe-inspiring and beautiful!
To return to the car park, we retraced our steps to the footbridge where the rivers converge, crossed it, and completed the loop. Our total hiking time, including lots of stops for photos, was about 1.5 hours.
Our next journey: Castles of Dahn – Germany