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Julian Alps drive - is it a must?

We will be visiting Croatia and Slovenia in September. We plan to use public transportation in Croatia which means a lot of time spent on buses (Dubrovnik to Mostar, Mostar to Split, Split to Plitvice Lakes, Plitvice Lakes to Ljubljana). I know RS recommends driving the Julian Alps while in Slovenia, but frankly the idea of driving in a car for hours after all those long bus rides does not sound thrilling to me. Are the Julian Alps truly so spectacular that we shouldn't miss them or are they just mountains like so many others? I'm concerned that we're spending too much time in transit so I'm trying to eliminate unnecessary travel.

Posted by
4882 posts

That's not necessarily an easy question to answer.

I don't think ANYTHING on your list is really a "must" (except for Plitvice; some would say Dubrovnik, too.) The question is, what kinds of experiences do you enjoy when you travel? We all have different preferences and tastes.

I didn't rent a car just to drive the Julian Alps. I rented a car in Ljubljana, stopped in the town of Škofja Loka, enjoyed a beautiful scenic drive to Bled, day tripped to Lake Bohinj and to the Vintgar Gorge, drove over the Vršič Pass through the "Julian Alps Loop" and down into the Soca Valley, stopped in the town of Kobarid, and ended in Piran.

Of those experiences, I enjoyed the drive from Škofja Loka to Bled and the town of Piran probably the most. (I also loved Ljubljana.) In a way I thought Rick has over-hyped the "Julian Alps Drive" a bit too much. I had very high expectations, and I was a tad disappointed. The views aren't unbelievable but are nice. (I live in the Pacific Northwest and am used to beautiful mountain views though.) But it was still a really nice, unique experience, with some great scenery and unique stops (e.g. the little Russian church), and I'm glad I did it. But I already had the car for everything else.

If you're not planning to do any of the other things I mentioned and were considering a quick car rental just to drive the Julian Alps, I wouldn't bother. On the other hand, I think skipping a car in this region limits your experiences considerably. I love train travel especially in Europe and don't mind buses for shorter distances, but there are places where driving makes things a whole lot easier and/or allows you to see/do a lot more than is practical with public transportation.

I know you can do the Croatia part of your trip by bus, but I did it by car also. It made things a lot easier and saved me a lot of time. It did cost me a tad more to rent a car but not excessively - I was alone and with another person the economies of a car doubled, obviously. I also thought driving in both Croatia and Slovenia was a lot of fun, even though I was a bit nervous about it ahead of time, and my trips would have been a lot less fun without the driving segments, for sure. The Julian Alps was just part of that.

If you still have doubts, look at some of the numerous pictures of the Julian Alps region on Google images. Search for "Vršič Pass" and "Triglav" and "Soča valley." There are also numerous videos (including a few of mine) on YouTube showing some of the driving views along the "Julian Alps Loop."

Posted by
15 posts

Well said Andrew. I agree. I found the Julian Alps very beautiful and if you are in Slovenia for some time, I'd take the loop. However, if you live in a mountain state they are not unique, except for the history attached to them. If you are taking public transport I would definitely skip it. If you are looking to add a replacement destination I would suggest Rovinj since it is on the way to Ljubljana.

Posted by
2215 posts

We went from Ljub to Salzburg, and were considering a trip through the Alps. We stopped in a small town for lunch, and enjoyed that. We then began to drive up the mountain, but my wife became a little impatient, and we stopped and turned around after about 20 KM. Interesting, but mountains are mountains. We saw enough to get the flavor. If you love the long vistas at the top, it's good. There is a certain feeling of danger about being so high that some do not enjoy. Plus you need to watch the brakes (DO NOT RIDE THE BRAKES).