This is Slovenia’s Soča River, with its unique emerald hues, one of the country’s most loved natural attractions.
And below is the Veliki Kozjak Waterfall, or Slap Kozjak, widely regarded as one of Slovenia’s most beautiful falls. I have no reason to doubt either characterization.
Located a pleasant 30-minute walk from the Kobarid-Drežnica road that’s just a kilometer from the edge of Kobarid in the Soča River valley, reaching the falls requires an easy hike that’s most pleasant on a hot summer’s day when the Kozjak stream that hugs the path through a lush green forest acts as the most sublime natural air conditioning I’ve ever experienced.
That makes it popular, too, so expect to share the path with others looking to escape the heat. But don’t let that turn you off.
The 15-meter high Veliki (big) Kozjak is at the terminus of a series of six cascades formed by its eponymous stream –sometimes a brook, at others a small river— that springs from the 2142m-high Mt. Krnčica that eventually feeds the Soča river from the east.
It all plunges into this fairly large and almost entirely covered cavern-like space which features this turquoise-blue pool which in turn birthed my only regret of the day: that I didn’t bring or wear swimming shorts. Those who did couldn’t stop raving about how clean, crisp and cold the water was.
As mentioned, it’s an easy walk, and could be done alone if you’re pressed for time, but a better idea is to couple it with the Kobarid Historical Trail, a four-hour loop to and from Kobarid, a picturesque town of about 1500 that is a Mecca of sorts for World War I history buffs. The city gave its name –Caporetto in Italian– to the 1917 Battle of Caporetto which Ernest Hemingway documented in A Farewell to Arms. There’s a very good museum that’s well worth visiting.
If you don’t have four hours for the entire trail, there are several shorter and more immediate options to bundle with the Kozjak Waterfall hike, including trails along the Soča River, paths to World War I gun placements and observation posts high above the river, and taking in a 52-meter long footbridge over the impressive Soča River Gorge.
The Soča (Isonzo in Italian) has long been my favorite river in Slovenia. Known for its emerald green hues, it lent its name to the 12 battles of the Isonzo Front –the Battle of Caporetto was the last– where cumulative casualties were enormous; about 300,000 from the Italian side and 200,000 for Austria-Hungary, making it one of the bloodiest theaters the world has ever seen. It’s cold, about 12C (53F) year round. And yes, I took a dip. I can’t wait to do it again.
A few more images of the river are below.
Getting there: From Kobarid head east, following signs for Slap Kozjak and Napoleon’s Bridge. There’s a parking lot on the right about 100 meters past the bridge; bring change to pay your parking fee. The path begins across the street next to the entrance for Kamp Koren.
Maps: Pick up a free Kobarid Historical Trail brochure from any of the are Tourist Info Offices; available is several languages, it has plenty of useful information and is the only map you’ll need.