Bovec has always endured a raw deal from the mainstream UK Lakes and Mountains tour operators and as a consequence, suffers from a lack of exposure to potentially receptive markets through widespread ignorance of its very existence, not to mention what it and its surrounding areas have to offer.
Much in the same way as the Plitvice Lakes of Croatia, Bovec for a while flirted with the likes of Bled, Bohinj and Kranjska Gora in vying for the attention of lakes and mountains enthusiasts looking for somewhere different that ticked all the relevant boxes. Whether it was a lack of interest or poor standards of or lack of accommodation, the likes of Inghams weren’t seduced for long by Bovec fluttering its eyelashes and subsequently, it quietly slipped away from Summer programmes in much the manner it had arrived. My personal theory though revolves around what Bovec stands for: extreme sports. The Soca river is the playground of those who like their holidays to involve rafting, canyoning and the like. The average peruser of lakes and mountains brochures is perhaps not the demographic that this area of Slovenia targets. Bovec is not though just about watersports; perhaps if tour operators were more expansive when extolling an area’s virtues custom may have reached sufficient numbers to justify a continued presence within the brochures of the likes of Inghams and Crystal Thomson.
Being close to the Italian border, Bovec perhaps suffers from a lack of Slovenian identity having existed until relatively recently in Italy. Frontier towns can often have an identity crisis, being neither one thing or the other, ably demonstrated by Kranjska Gora, which can at times be described as being more Teutonic and all the traits that go with it, thanks to its close proximity to Austria. This though being Slovenia you are never far away from anywhere in the country, meaning a trip to the coast, alps and Ljubljana is, in theory at least, possible in one day. In other words, quintessential Slovenia is always within easy reach.
As a consequence of the terrible ice storms that mercilessly battered Slovenia in February, many of the areas where rafting, canyoning and kayaking predominate are for the time being at least out of bounds to these pursuits, due to the dangerous build-up of damaged trees that have found their way into rivers such as the Soca. How long this suspension of the aforementioned watersports will hold for remains to be seen but considering a large percentage of tourism revenue in the far north-west of Slovenia emanates from thrill-seekers, I predict the authorities will seek to remedy the situation as soon as is possible. In Slovenia, like nowhere else I have encountered, the environment and tourist industry seem to pleasantly rub along together, perhaps realising that neither can exist without the other. The tourists come because of the extraordinary natural gifts bestowed upon Slovenia, which in turns places a great onus upon the likes of the Environmental Ministry and the Triglav National Park authority to act as responsible custodians. Only the exception of what is currently occurring in Bohinjska Bistrica under the 2864 Bohinj aegis, could this be argued otherwise.
Thanks again to a lack of exposure many people will be unaware that Bovec is an all year round resort, offering the highest skiing in Slovenia on Mount Kanin and a cableway link to the Italian resort of Sella Nevea. Whilst ski conditions in Slovenia are notoriously fickle, either benefiting from too much snow or what equates to a “green winter”, the skiing on Kanin is about as snow-sure as the country gets. Alas, and perhaps an example of another gaffe from the powers that be, the cableway remained motionless for the 2013/14 ski season but oddly remained open on the Italian side of the mountain. As the mountain-lift is usually only open for a few days a week during the Summer months, surely this would’ve been a more apposite time to attend to, as quoted from the Bovec-Kanin website, issues of “preparation and renovation”.
Bovec and its surrounding area can though adequately entertain and keep occupied the most demanding of travellers, not in the least scholars of World War I, who will be well versed in the vicious fighting that took place in the Battle of Isonzo. The local areas of Tolmin and Kobarid, famously chronicled in Ernest Hemingway’s novel A Fairwell to Arms, bore savage witness to the vicissitudes and ultimate futility of war. This area respectfully remembers its past and the many who were sacrificed.
Overnight accommodation has never been Slovenia’s strong-point, somewhat lagging behind the ultra-professional approach and depth of choice found in Switzerland and Austria. In mitigation though it should be remembered that Slovenia has been an independent country for less than 25 years and still suffers from a hangover from the Communist era of Yugoslavia that so endorsed Brutalist architecture in high-volume tourist areas, Bled being such an example. Juxtaposing concrete carbuncles such as the Hotel Krim with the natural beauty of Bled certainly lends credence to the idea that the Tito era was more concerned with socialist functionality than creating accommodation that reflected well upon the country,and, betrayed sympathy for the area it was fortunate to find itself in.
In my experience of Bovec the accommodation of choice were the Kanin, Mangart and Alp hotels. Top of the pops though on TripAdvisor is the Dobra Vila, with no ratings below the ‘very good’ classification. It should though be stated that at the time of writing the four aforementioned hotels have less than 140 reviews between them, which lends an even greater than ever air of subjectivity about this admittedly non-scientific way of rating a hotel. All four hotels will meet your needs but as ever, it is beholden upon travellers to thoroughly research accommodation providers, especially regarding personal requests such as vegetarian/vegan food, rooms with a view/balcony, etc. If you do book through a specialist tour-operator it is still wise to directly contact the hotel with your requirements, who, with adequate notice will usually do all they can to accommodate your demands.
Some useful links: