Driving the Vrsic Pass? Here’s a complete guide, including what to see, when to visit and tips for driving it safely.
Located in the northwest region of Slovenia, the Vršič Pass is a winding mountain road that twists and turns as it climbs its way through the Julian Alps.
Be prepared for stunning scenery, from lush mountain meadows to awe-inspiring towering peaks. With its 50 hairpin turns, driving the Vrsic Pass promises an adventure that you won’t forget.
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Where is the Vrsic Pass
Located in the northwest region of Slovenia, and passing through the Julian Alps, the Vrsic Pass is the highest mountain pass in the country. It connects Kranjska Gora, near the Austrian and Italian border, to the Soča Valley in the northwest of Slovenia.
About the Vrsic Pass
The Vršič Pass is a spectacular road, and similar to the Transfagarasan Road in Romania, it’s only open 7 months of the year. The road is closed in the winter months for snow and safety – understandably, as there’s no way I would want to be taking those hairpin turns when it’s snowy and icy!
Originally built by Russian prisoners of war during WWI, the Vršič Pass is often called the Russian Road. Along the route is the Russian Chapel, which is dedicated to the POWs who died in the 1916 avalanche while helping to build the road.
This area was where the Isonzo Front took place, and you can still see remnants of the battle while driving the Vrsic Pass.
Today, it’s a scenic and memorable drive through the highest mountain pass in Slovenia.
The drive begins in Kranjska Gora, where the road ascends over a series of 24 hairpin turns before reaching the highest point of the pass at 1,600 metres above sea level. The road then continues its descent over another 26 switchbacks until it reaches the descent to the Trenta Valley.
The Vršič Pass route passes through Triglav National Park, Slovenia’s only national park, where you’ll have a close up view of Mount Triglav, Slovenia’s highest peak.
How to Drive the Vršič Pass
The Vršič Pass is only 24km but takes about an hour to drive if you’re not making any stops. But believe me, you will want to stop along the way!
You can easily drive the Vršič Pass as a day trip from Ljubljana. After completing the 50 hairpin turns, you can continue on and stay overnight in Bovec or return back to Ljubljana.
You can drive the Vršič Pass either from north to south (from Kranjska Gora to Trenta), which is the most popular route, and how the turns are numbered, or in the reverse direction from the Soča Valley to Kranjska Gora.
If you prefer not to drive the pass yourself, there are a few options.
it’s possible to take public buses from Ljubljana to Kranjska Gora and then another from Kranjska Gora to Vršič, then on to Soča or Bovec. It costs just under €3 from Kranjska Gora to Bovec and takes just under 2 hours. You can find the schedule and current rates here.
Guided Tours are available from both Ljubljana and Bled, or if you are already in Kranjska Gora, you can arrange a tour of the Vršič Pass from there as well.
This guided tour takes you from Ljubljana over the Vršič Pass, and then on to the Soca Valley, where you’ll stop at Boka Waterfalls, the highest waterfall in Slovenia, before returning to Ljubljana with a stop in Kranjska Gora.
If you’re staying in Lake Bled, this full-day tour takes you over the Vršič Pass through the Soča River Valley, where you’ll make several short stops and enjoy a lunch break in Bovec before returning to Bled in the evening.
Parking at Vrsic Pass
There are several spots to park along the route, but in the summer, these spots can get full, and you’ll see cars parked along the side of the road.
The roads are very narrow, so this is not the best option. Be sure to pull over so that you are safely off the road.
Parking is available for RVs and campervans at several spots, including a large area at the Vršič Pass viewpoint.
Where to Stop on the Vrsic Pass
The first stop when driving the Vršič Pass is Lake Jasna, which is just past Kranjska Gora. It’s actually two man-made lakes, but they blend in so well that you wouldn’t know they’re not natural.
In the warmer months, it’s a perfect spot to swim, rent a canoe or paddle board, or just walk the shores of the lake any time of the year.
Along the shores is a statue of Zlatorog, the chamois with golden horns who is a popular figure in Slovenian folklore. He’s said to live high on the slopes of Mount Triglav, and a similar statue can be found at Lake Bohinj, on the opposite side of Mount Triglav.
Lake Jasna is a popular spot, especially during the summer months. There’s a large parking lot next to the lake, but it does fill up quickly and parking fees do apply.
Lake Jasna Viewpoint
A short 20-minute hike takes you to a viewpoint offering views of the valley and part of Jasna Lake.
The hike begins with a suspension bridge over the river and waterfalls and then turns into the forest. It’s an easy hike, and the trees provide shade in the summer.
Unfortunately, I only saw the trail as we were driving past, but I’m adding it to the list for next time!
This beautiful wooden Russian Orthodox Chapel was built in 1917 by Russian POWs to commemorate the lives of fellow Russian soldiers who died in an avalanche at this spot while building the road.
It’s not possible to enter the chapel, but it is lovely to view from the outside. It’s a nice spot to stop, and there is a small parking area, with a few benches beside the chapel.
From here the road begins to climb and there are amazing views around every turn.
Just before reaching the summit, this lodge is another great spot to stop.
There’s a parking area and several small trails that lead through a meadow where there’s often sheep grazing.
If you’re driving the Vršič Pass with kids, this is a great spot to let them stretch their legs, while taking in the awesome views.
While the entire route is known as the Vršič Pass, this spot is the highest point of the drive, at 1611m, and is considered the actual pass.
Parking is available and you’ll definitely want to get out and take in the views. This is where you might want a sweater and jacket, as it’s a bit chillier due to the elevation.
There’s a small souvenir shop and some benches with fantastic views, perfect to enjoy lunch or a snack.
Sit and enjoy the view or you can walk down from the viewpoint and explore the area around.
There are plenty of larger rocks, which make great photos, or you can just walk around and follow some of the trails through the rocks.
It’s possible that you’ll see snow here – we found snow here in the middle of June!
If you’re up for a short hike, there’s a short path here that takes you to a viewpoint where you can get a good look at the “Heathen Maiden’, a natural formation of rocks on Mount Prisank that looks like a woman’s face.
From the parking lot at the Vrsic pass, head south and follow signs for Tičarjev Dom, continue past the hut and follow the signs for Ajdovska deklica, or the Heathen Maiden.
Viewpoint Slemenova Spica
If you’re up for a longer hike, the Slemonova Spica hike is said to be a gorgeous one and one worth taking. The hike starts from the parking lot at the top of the Vršič Pass and takes about an hour to reach the viewpoint.
We didn’t do this hike, as we weren’t properly prepared, but it’s said to be a fantastic hike!
Continue driving down to the Trenta side. After the summit, there are 26 more hairpin turns, all of which are paved, not cobblestone. There’s also some interesting tunnels that were built in 1916.
After a bit of a straight stretch, you’ll reach the Supca viewpoint. Here, in addition to the fantastic views, you’ll also see the remains of a cable car line that was used during WWI.
Just before the last hairpin turn on the Vrsic Pass is the Kugy Monument.
Julius Kugy, originally from nearby Trieste, was a writer who explored the Julian Alps extensively and then wrote several books about them.
This statue shows Kugy turned towards one of his favourite mountains, Jalovec.
Source of the Soca
While this is slightly off the Vrsic Pass, and a bit of a hike to get to, it’s worth it!
Just after the Kugy monument, there’s a sign pointing to the Koča pro izviru Soče Restaurant.
Follow this road to the restaurant, which was closed for renovations when we went, but it’s possible to park there and then hike to the Soča.
It’s not a long hike, about 15 minutes one way, but it does climb steeply at points. The last few metres are quite tricky, and should only be done with proper footwear.
There’s a steel cable in the side of the rock to help you walk along the very thin ledge.
I was a bit nervous for myself, never mind my kids (who didn’t seem to have any fear), but it was still a great hike and awesome to see this amount of water flowing down.
Things to Know Before Driving the Vrsic Pass
- The Vršič Pass route is only open for several months throughout the year, usually from April to late October, but depends on the weather. It’s closed in the winter months, as the chances of avalanches and heavy snow make it too dangerous to drive.
- Each hairpin turn is marked with a bright blue sign. While the road is paved, the turns are cobblestone for the first half of the journey and paved on the descent from the Vršič pass summit to Trenta.
- Other than the sharp turns, it’s an easy drive.
- Go slow and use caution – there isn’t always a dividing line down the middle of the road, and none on the turns, so go slowly, watch for oncoming traffic
- Watch out for cyclists – yes, it’s a popular route to cycle and there are quite a few attempting this journey!
- Also motorcycles – and they will overtake and pass you whenever possible (even if you’re not sure it’s possible)
- Go early. While it only takes an hour to drive if you don’t stop, you will definitely want to make a few stops, whether to take in the views or do a few hikes. Plan for a few hours, and if you’re returning the same route, you’ll need to factor that in as well.
- It’s a popular route, and in the summer months, the road can get busy during the day. We were driving the Vršič Pass on a weekday in June, and there was still plenty of traffic – and it only gets busier in July and August.
What to Wear When Driving the Vrsic Pass
The Vršič Pass is the highest mountain pass in Slovenia, so you will want to dress appropriately. Wear layers, as the weather can change quickly in the mountains, and will also vary depending on the elevation.
You’ll want to bring a sweater or light jacket, as it can be chilly at higher elevations, and especially at the Vršič Pass viewpoint.
Wear good footwear, especially if you are planning to do any walks or hikes. Close-toed hiking shoes or boots are best, as the ground and trails are dirt or loose gravel.
And be sure to pack sunscreen, as the sun will be stronger at higher elevations.
Where to Stay While Driving the Vrsic Pass
There are several spots to stay along the Vršič Pass, although they are basic mountain lodging, not fancy hotels. Koča na Gozdu and Erjavčeva Koča are located between Kranjska Gora and the top of the Vrsic Pass.
At the top of the pass, there are two lodges.
Tičar Lodge is the first mountain hut and has a restaurant and both dorm rooms and private double rooms for two people. It’s open from June to September and is very popular in the summer months so best to book ahead
Postman’s Lodge is located just off the Vrsic Pass and offers stunning views, as well as a restaurant and rooms.
Where to Stay in Kranjska Gora
Kranjska Gora is a popular tourist town and has plenty of accommodation options, including hotels and apartments.
The Ramada Resort Kranjska Gora is a great choice, with comfortable rooms offering mountain views. It’s conveniently located right in the center of Kranjska Gora and free parking is available. While there is no pool, guests have access to the pools and spa at the neighbouring hotel.
Vitranc Apartments are a perfect choice for those who prefer more space and kitchen facilities. Each of the apartments in the building features a separate bedroom, as well as a seating area and a fully-equipped kitchenette. Guests have free access to the swimming pools at the Ramada Resort and at Hotel Kompas.
Where to Stay in Bovec
After driving the Vršič Pass, if you are staying overnight in the area, Bovec is your best option. There are a few accommodations near Trenta, including a campground, but a little further in Bovec, and the surrounding area, there are more accommodation options.
Hotel Boka is just outside of Bovec, close to the Soča River and Boka Waterfalls. Rooms are modern and offer mountain views, and some have a balcony. There’s an onsite restaurant and free parking is available.
Tips for Driving in Slovenia
Renting a Car in Slovenia
If you’re in need of a car to drive the Vršič pass, cars can be rented in Ljubljana. We use Discover Cars to book our rental cars, which allows you to compare the availability and prices of all the major car rental companies. It’s easy to use and we’ve always found the best deals with them.
While you will need a vignette for some highways in Slovenia, it isn’t needed for driving the Vršič Pass and other smaller highways.
If you are starting from or returning to Ljubljana after the Vrsic Pass, you will need a vignette for the highway between Kranjska Gora and Ljubljana. If you are staying in Bovec or the Soča Valley, or continuing further south, you will not need a vignette until you reach the major highways.
Vignettes can be purchased online, and are valid for either one week or one month.
Instead of a physical sticker in your window, such as the ones needed when driving in Austria, the e-vignettes are linked to the vehicle registration plate number and no physical sticker is needed.
I purchased the 1-week vignette for €16. For more information, we have an entire post on driving in Slovenia.!
Travel Insurance is always a good idea, wherever you are travelling. And while Slovenia is a safe country, it’s still a good idea to have insurance, as accidents can happen. We recommend Safety Wing.
The best times to drive the Vršič Pass are late spring or early fall. Wildflowers will bloom in the spring in the meadows and valleys, and snow is still seen at higher elevations.
In the early fall, the changing colours of the leaves would make the scenery even more stunning.
In the summer months, the weather is great and it would still be a beautiful drive, however, it does get busy and both the roads ad viewpoints will be busy.
While the Vršič Pass itself only takes about an hour to drive, you will need to factor in more time for any hikes or short walks, or simply to take in the scenery from the viewpoints. Plan for a half day at minimum, but a full day would be best, especially if you are planning on driving back to Ljubljana or Kranjska Gora.
Final Thoughts: Driving the Vrsic Pass, Slovenia
Driving the Vršič Pass is an amazing journey that offers breathtaking views and unforgettable experiences – like having to stop for sheep crossing the road.
It’s honestly one of my top driving experiences, and we’ve driven in places like the Atacama Desert in Chile and the Transfagarasan Road in Romania that I thought would be hard to beat.
From the moment you start driving this mountain pass, you’re surrounded by stunning views, towering peaks and mountain meadows, creating an experience you won’t forget.
If you’re planning a road trip to Slovenia, make sure to add the Vršič Pass to your itinerary.
And if you’re not planning a road trip, still consider driving the Vršič Pass as a day trip from Ljubljana. The stunning views and sheer beauty of this road make for an amazing journey and it’s a highlight for any trip to Slovenia.
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