“Small and special”
These are the words that I find most suitable when people ask me what is it like to explore Slovenia from a SUP perspective. “Small and special” covers it all – a tiny, but picturesque country with a great variety of SUP terrains, from Alpine lakes, emerald-green rivers, intermittent lakes, the sea, to night paddling through the Old Town of the capital, Ljubljana.
Also, it refers to the small, select groups of (two to six) paddlers we take on our tours, which makes for a very personal experience for all, the visitors and the guides.
And after all it represents the story of Sup Slovenia Discovery – starting as a side project of two SUP enthusiasts with a crazy idea of high-end SUP holidays and eventually growing into a dream job.
From the Alps to the Coast
Our Alps to Coast Tour took place in early June as the opening tour of the season. It was an 8-day tour with 6 SUP days, its route taking us from Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia, to the Alpine lakes Bled and Bohinj, followed by The Soča River canyon, the Adriatic Coast, through the Karst with The Postojna Cave and concluding in Ljubljana.
A trip for all senses
Another thing to mention is that this (as all of our other) SUP tours are meant as more than just paddling day after day. On our route through five different regions of Slovenia we were also discovering natural and cultural sights, and indulging ourselves in local cuisine – from simple traditional foods to fancy urban delicacies and world-renowned Slovenian wines. At nights we relaxed in the comfort of 4*hotels.
Day 1: Arrival in Ljubljana
Our guests – a couple from the UK – flew in to the Ljubljana Airport in the afternoon. After being picked up and taken to their hotel in Old Town Ljubljana they had time to relax and explore the lively streets of Old Town. We met later at the welcome dinner at a cosy restaurant around the corner, accompanied by another guide and co-founder Samo Laharnar, to introduce ourselves and review the itinerary of the tour ahead of us.
Day 2: Lake Bled
After breakfast we made a less-than-an-hour drive to the Alps, to Lake Bled. After checking in at the nice villa on the lake view we took an easy paddle to the small island on the lake. Scenic views, fresh juices and cappuccino in the shade … pure soul-food – I think at that time our guests started realizing what this tour was going to be all about 😉
Feeling relaxed and disconnected from our daily tempos it wasn’t easy to leave the island. But we had another big thing waiting for us – lunch at the Bled Castle, a traditional Slovenian cuisine with a contemporary touch.
Day 3: Lake Bohinj
Lake Bohinj lies deeper in the Alps and offers perfectly untouched scenery that makes it my preference over the more touristic Lake Bled. A tranquil Alpine lake, surrounded by steep slopes on three sides, gets its water from the 78 m (255 ft) Savica Waterfall that can be seen from the lake. Its water comes into the lake as the freezing-cold Savica River that offers some amazing paddling spots.
On this day a one-day-tour visitor – an Australian stewardess on her way across the Balkans joined our small company. We had to pace down our paddling tempo a bit to adapt to her supping skills, which was fine with everyone … the place was so peaceful that slowing down only felt natural. Besides, we had all day …
Day 4: The Soča River
This was the most intense day of the tour, including a train ride, paddling, hiking and driving. All I hoped for was that our guests were well warmed-up from the previous days and full of energy. Well, they looked just the opposite when we met in the morning 😉
We head to get up much earlier than the days before to catch the car-train taking us from the Alps to The Soča River valley. A one-of-a-kind ride through an 11-minute tunnel in total darkness was quite a contrast to what awaited us on the other side – a green, narrow and scenic valley of The Bača River, leading the way to Most na Soči which was our paddling starting point.
We took our time for exploring the canyons of the emerald-green Soča River and The Idrijca River.
Then we headed to the Tolmin Gorges. We were behind schedule due to train delay and chilling on the water longer than planned (but why not), so we agreed to trade our reservation at a fancy restaurant half an hour drive away for a local place with traditional basic cuisine that according to directions of some local lady was just a bit up-hill from where we were. Well, after 45 minutes of steep, sunny path we finally arrived. The views were rewarding, the food was simple but delicious: potatoes, polenta, cottage cheese and prosciutto – all homemade in many forms and shapes.
Later in the afternoon we visited the Tolmin Gorges, then headed to the Coast.
Day 5: The Piran Coast & The Sečovlje Salt Pans
Nothing better than waking up early at the coast, taking a deep breath of fresh, salty air … and knowing that a laid-back day is awaiting you. We needed some rest after an intense day behind us, so we went for an easy supping and swimming around the coast of Piran, followed by paddling and lunch at the neighbouring Sečovlje Salt Pans. The day was hot and the light wind was whispering: siesta …
Day 6: The Postojna Cave & night sup in Old Town Ljubljana
Time to head back to Ljubljana for the last two days of our SUP tour. But not straight forward – there was another attraction to see right on our way. The world-famous Postojna Cave. A very cool place to hide from the sun on such a hot day as it was.
We arrived to Ljubljana in the early afternoon, checked-in our guests and took some rest while the private tourist guide took our guests for a guided tour through the Old Town Ljubljana. We met again later that night for dinner, followed by an urban night SUP under the numerous bridges of Old Town Ljubljana. As always, the night paddle was magical – hearing the loud, lively night streets all around us, yet we were paddling alone and peacefully, on our private alley, straight through it.
Day 7: The Ljubljanica River
The last day of the tour, and probably the hottest one, too. The weather has been very generous to us throughout the tour, not a drop of rain during the days, with daily high temperatures around 30°C (86°F). Luckily we picked quite a windy day for exploring the Ljubljanica River, which turned out to work out just fine. The final stop of our morning paddle was the restaurant at the waterfront, just around the corner from the Old Town. We took our time for slow lunch, coffee, desserts … after all we deserved it – standup paddling for six days in a row is not many of us do very often.
In the evening we got together for a farewell dinner at a famous Slovenian tapas restaurant – which had a kind of a symbolic meaning for me. Tasting a variety of Slovenian foods, many of them, a bit of each, reminded me of what we were doing in the past week – discovering and “tasting” a variety of places around Slovenia, taking a bite or two of each: the Alps, the Coast, the lakes, the rivers, the history, the views, the food, the wine … slowly and with pleasure – real soul-food.
Day 8: Departure home
We arranged the transport to the airport, our guests arrived home safely, Samo and I had a beer to celebrate a job well done.
To sum it up
I dare say our Alps to Coast SUP Tour was quite a memorable experience for our guests. And also for the guides – meeting wonderful people, sharing with them our passion for SUP and nature, and discovering new opportunities along the way that would make our future tours even better. Thank you all – Julia, Alex, Melanie and Samo – for a wonderful week!
– Marko, Sup Slovenia Discovery
Photos: Samo Laharnar, Marko Senegačnik, Vander Urbani Resort, Pension Vila Prešeren Bled, Hotel Piran