Do you want to enjoy some of the most incredible scenery of the Julian Alps in Slovenia? Then you must go on the Vrsic Pass drive. This winding mountain road will take you to some of the highest points in the country and provide you with some of the most awe-inspiring views of the spectacular nature that Slovenia has to offer.
A country that has so much more to offer than compact Ljubljana or picturesque Lake Bled, driving the Vrsic Pass is something that should be on every Slovenia itinerary. While many visitors equate alpine scenery with countries like Austria, Switzerland or Northern Italy, Slovenia’s Julian Alps are a strong contender for some of the most dramatic mountain views in all of Europe.
So if you want to see the best of the Julian Alps and Triglav National Park, then you must embark on the incredible Vrsic Pass drive. There are a number of things to take into consideration when planning this drive so read on to find out everything you need to know about this amazing mountain drive in Slovenia.
What is the Vrsic Pass?
The Vrsic Pass is a mountain pass in the Julian Alps of Slovenia. It was originally constructed by Russian POWs during First World War, however, it has been kept up and modernised since. At its peak, the elevation rises to 1,611 metres (5,285 feet) and is the highest road in Slovenia and the Julian Alps as a whole.
The Vrsic Pass drive is one of the top things to do in this area of Slovenia and can also make for an incredible jumping-off point for a number of hikes and other outdoor activities in the Julian Alps.
If you want to get some of the best views of Slovenia’s most spectacular mountain scenery, then you cannot miss driving the Vrsic Pass.
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Where is the Vrsic Pass?
The Vrsic Pass is a road that spans from the town of Kranjska Gora to the Soca Valley in northwestern Slovenia. It is notable for the 50 hairpin turns that wind up either side of the mountain pass.
There are numbers and signposts on each hairpin turn that mark the altitude. On the Kranjska Gora side, you will traverse 24 hairpins and on the other side, there are 26. You can keep track of these while driving.
It’s worth noting that the Vrsic Pass isn’t open year-round and drivers will likely only be able to access it for about seven months out of the year due to snowfall.
There are no specific dates where the road is opened and closed, so if you happen to be visiting in late autumn or early spring and are keen to do this drive, make sure to check road closures to ensure that you are able to enjoy this unforgettable road.
How Long Does it Take to Drive the Vrsic Pass?
The Vrsic Pass itself is not very long and, if you don’t pull over at all (there are countless viewpoints where you can park along the way!) or plan to go hiking at all, it will take roughly an hour to drive the Vrsic Pass. However, it is unlikely that you won’t want to get out of the car at all and take some photos or enjoy the scenery.
All in all, if you’re not planning a hike on this mountain path, plan to spend about one and a half to two hours driving the Vrsic Pass.
It’s also worth noting that the road can get quite busy, especially in the summer months and on weekends. It’s recommended that you get as early a start as possible to avoid traffic and ensure you can find a place to park at some of the most popular viewpoints (especially near the top of the Vrsic Pass!).
Which Direction to Drive the Vrsic Pass?
As a two-way road, you may be wondering which direction is best in order to drive the Vrsic Pass? The answer to this question really depends on where you are coming from. You will still get a great experience on the Vrsic Pass no matter the direction you choose to drive.
The most common way to drive the Vrsic Pass is from north to south, beginning in the village of Kranjska Gora and ending near the town of Trenta or further onto Bovec. This is the most logical way to go if you’re based in Kranjska Gora or if you’re staying further afield — somewhere close to Lake Bled or Lake Bohinj even.
Another reason you may want to drive the north to south route is simply because that is how the hairpin turns are numbered. So if you want to begin at hairpin number 1 rather than 50, then make sure to start from the north end of the road.
The north to south route is also the most popular so it can be a good idea to go this way if you want to avoid any oncoming traffic.
The road is well-maintained and definitely wide enough for two vehicles to pass each other, however, it can be a bit harrowing when there is another car going around a hairpin. You’re likely going to meet fewer cars going the opposite way (you will definitely encounter some, though!) if you go from north to south.
One last thing to consider in planning your route is how you want to get back to where you’re staying. If you are going to the common north to south route, you can opt to turn around and drive south to north to get back. This can actually work out to be the shortest overall travel time if you’re keen to drive through the pass one more time.
If you want to make it a circular route, however, then the quickest way to get back to Kranjska Gora or further afield would actually be to detour slightly through Italy once you’re past the Soca Valley.
Because both Italy and Slovenia are part of the Schengen Zone, there are no border stops between the two countries and travelling between them is quick and seamless. This is what we did when we drove the Vrsic Pass and we even had a fantastic lunch in the town of Tarvisio!
Vrsic Pass Itinerary
Now that we’ve discussed everything you need to know before driving on the Vrsic Pass, let’s talk about all of the things to see on this amazing drive!
The first stop on Vrsic Pass is not actually on the road itself quite yet, but it is worth stopping at nonetheless. Jezero Jasna, or Lake Jasna, is an artificial lake located just in the foothills of the Julian Alps. Situated just a bit outside of Kranjska Gora, this lake is the byproduct of a hydroelectric power plant.
Once you’ve got onto the Vrsic Pass road proper, you’ll start going up the hairpin turns and noticing how they are all numbered. Just after hairpin turn number 8 is the lovely Russian Chapel, a place where you definitely must stop on the Vrsic Pass drive.
The original mountain pass was constructed by Russian POWs during World War One and this chapel was constructed by the prisoners to help them commemorate their fallen comrades in arms. The chapel itself has the look of a traditional Orthodox church, except that it is completely wooden.
It’s very much worth stopping at the church, looking around and learning a bit about the history of the road.
After taking in the beauty of the Russian, carefully drive through the remainder of the 16 ascending hairpin turns before you make it to the highest point of the Vrsic Pass. At 1,611 metres (5,285 feet), this is the highest road in Slovenia and the view is really something spectacular.
There are a number of viewpoints and places where you can, hypothetically, pull over but be warned that it can get very busy.
We drove on a Sunday and believe that, though we got an early start, many people had camped or stayed in a lodge the night before and we couldn’t find a place to park near the top. Therefore, I would recommend looking for a place to pull over as soon as you pass hairpin 24.
At the top, there are a number of hiking trails that lead to different parts of the mountains and if you’re feeling like getting active, you can go for any length of trek you desire. Or, you can simply take a few steps out of your car, take in the view a minute, before continuing on this amazing drive.
Once you’ve braved the 24 initial hairpins on the way up the Vrsic Pass and made a stop at the highest point, make sure to make a stop at the beautiful Viewpoint Supca before driving down the descending 26 hairpins.
This viewpoint is tucked away from the main road just a bit (there is a small car park) but provides incredible views of the alps and the Soca Valley below.
There are placards on the viewing platform with maps and even some explaining the local flora and fauna that you may see around here, as well. Very much worth the stop.
If you’ve decided not to turn around and reverse the Vrsic Pass drive, then your next stop will be the incredible Soca Valley.
This is one of the most beautiful areas of Slovenia and Triglav National Park and there are lots of places and areas that are worth exploring here. In fact, you could easily spend a few days here, rather than simply a short stop on this little drive.
If you do make one stop in the valley, however, do make it at the Great Soca Gorge. If you haven’t caught on just yet, this area of Slovenia is filled with amazing river gorges (like the Vintgar Gorge and the Mostnica Gorge!), however, this one is likely the least well-known.
There is a small car park where and a short trail to get you right to the edge of the gorge and it is absolutely worth the stop.
And finally, if you’ve decided that you should take the route through Italy to make a circular route through the Vrsic Pass, then make sure to stop in the mountain town of Tarvisio. This Alpine town acts as a ski resort in the winter months but it is just as bustling with outdoor lovers in the summer, as well.
We chose to stop for lunch in this lovely town at a great restaurant called Pizzeria Al Mangart. There is something that is definitely novel about going to Italy for lunch before driving back into Slovenia on the way home.
Where to Stay for the Vrsic Pass Drive
If you want to find a great place to base yourself for the Vrsic Pass drive, then the town of Kranjska Gora is probably your best bet.
Here you will be able to hit the road as early as possible and beat the crowds. There are also a lot of restaurants and shops in the town. If you’re wondering where to stay, have a look at these options:
Vila Triglav – Situated next to Lake Jasna (the first stop on your Vrsic Pass drive), this hotel is an excellent retreat. They have a range of clean and comfortable rooms available, a swimming pool, an on-site lounge bar and even a shuttle to the ski slopes if you are visiting in the winter months! Click here to see their availability
Hotel Vandot – Located in the centre of Kranjska Gora, this hotel is an excellent jumping-off point to explore the Vrsic Pass. The rooms are furnished in an Alpine style and are clean and very comfortable, there is a bar on site and there is an option to include breakfast each morning. Click here to see their availability
Apartmaji štAla – If you’d rather have your own place than stay in a hotel, then these apartments are an excellent option. Located in central Kranjska Gora, they’re perfectly situated to drive the Vrsic Pass. There are fully furnished kitchens, comfortable living areas and they all include a double bed and a sofa bed. Click here to see their availability
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Kranjska Gora accommodation!
Driving the Vrsic Pass is one of the best things to do in Slovenia. The incredible mountain scenery around every hairpin turn make this drive one of the most unforgettable in the entire world.
Are you planning a Vrsic Pass drive? Have any questions? Let us know in the comments!