Greece was never really in our detailed plan as we were just passing through on our way to Turkey. With this in mind, we only had a couple of places marked on the map but they certainly didn’t disappoint.
Like a lot of Brits, our vision of Greece is beaches, blue and white houses and Mamma Mia, not the snow capped mountains that greeted us!
We explored some of the Vikos-Aoos Geopark in the Northern Pindos mountains, walking a small part of the “Hunters of the Ice Age” path through the Voidomatis Valley and then a drive up to view the Vikos Gorge from the viewpoint at Beloi.
After a laundry day in Ioannina we moved on to Meteora, a spectacular landscape where Byzantine monasteries sit on top of large pillar like rock structures. There are three main roads which take you past all the monasteries (you need to check opening days as they all differ) and we drove them all in both directions and in very different weather conditions.
Our plan had been to then head straight to Alexandroupli, close to the Turkish border but after a couple of hours of motorway driving we noticed a large mountain ahead which turned out to be Mount Olympus, in Greek mythology, the home of the gods. A quick search on Park4night gave us an overnight parking spot next to an old monastery, so up the mountain we headed!
Greece does have a network of toll roads linking the main cities and for travelling across country they were worth using. No vignette was needed and we spent a total of £41 on tolls at manned booths using a no fee credit card.
No issues with the border crossings in and out of the country.
In our short time here, we had no issues getting around in the van although a lot of supermarket carparks are covered so we had to look for the larger shops, and overnight spots were easy to find (albeit we’re pout of season). We’re looking forward to returning one day and exploring more of the country!
Vía Natura Voidomatis Rafting Centre: Currently free but donation requested. The campsite here is under construction but there is access to the showers and toilets in the rafting centre, clean water and WC emptying. Grass pitches. Easy access to hiking in the Vikos-Aoos Geopark.
Camping Vrachos Kastraki, near Meteora: EUR25 p/n (cheaper for cash). EHU available. Tightly packed, mixed pitches. Typical holiday park with swimming pool (not open when we visited).
Other overnight spots:
Beloi viewpoint car park, Vikos Gorge: No facilities. Small uneven parking area – mud and grass. Short walk to the viewpoint.
Pamvotida Lake, Ioannina: Free lakeside parking on grass. No services. Opposite side of lake to the town which has a good choice of launderettes.
Meteora: Free parking spot just off of the main road close to the monasteries. Small grassy area with a view over the valley. Quiet despite being next to the road.
Old Dionysos Monastery car park, Mount Olympus national park: Free, flat and quiet! The old monastery is currently under renovation but there are walking routes from the car park.
Alexandroupoli: free beach side parking, handy for the Turkish border and the last Lidl shop. As usual, lots of rubbish around.
If you have already seen our Facebook posts you will know how much we loved Albania, even to the extent that we had to extend our Albanian motor insurance!
We really enjoyed the challenge of, for the first time in a long time, travelling through somewhere new and very different to what we are used to. The language was completely beyond us; we do usually try to have a few words for wherever we go, and we didn’t really get beyond hello – përshëndetje for those interested, but English was widely spoken and the people we met were generous, welcoming and friendly.
Albania is a country of so many contrasts; on the road there is every type of vehicle from horse drawn carts to high end Mercedes and Porsches, houses range from small shacks to modern square concrete blocks, and you can buy from roadside family run stalls selling their own produce, or in large supermarkets. The mountain scenery is beautiful, if you can ignore the rubbish and stray animals, and there is history everywhere dating from the Illyrians to the Ancient Greeks to the recent Communist era.
Driving needs to be experienced to be believed and the rule of the road seems to be just find a gap and go for it! Our advice for driving through Tirana, especially on a Sunday, is avoid it if you can . Our UK insurance didn’t cover Albania so we had to buy a third party policy at the border which cost €49 for 15 days (the only period seemingly available) and we were able to buy another at a Western Union office once it became apparent we’d be staying longer than 15 days.
We didn’t struggle to find campsites and whilst they were often basic, they were clean and had everything we needed. Wifi is usually available but flakey at times. We bought a local Vodafone SIM which could be topped up as needed – 100GB of data in total (yes we use a lot!) cost about £40. We were also able to use some of our Montenegro bundle under a West Balkans arrangement.
In a lot of places both Euro and LEK are accepted and with the exceptions of petrol stations and large supermarkets, payments are in cash. It’s still worth asking, especially before they start pumping fuel, as we did pull into a couple of petrol stations where they didn’t take a card. We found that Credins Bank didn’t charge for cash withdrawals at their ATMs and as we have Monzo Bank accounts plus Revolut cards, our transactions were fee free and good rates were used.
Travelling out of season often means we don’t see places at their best due to ongoing renovations and repairs. There was lots of work going on and maybe this was an indication of an increasing tourist trade – places that were hard to get to a couple of years ago are now accessible via newly tarmacked roads or walkways.
We loved our time here and if a visit is on your radar, we’d certainly recommend it.
Windmill Campsite Shkodra: LEK1,200 p/n (approx £9) inc EHU. Usual site amenities available including washing machines, wifi plus a restaurant and bar. Mostly grass and muddy after rain. It’s a small campsite which also has small lodges available. Access to the site is through small residential streets and past a few scrap car yards. There is a tight turn off the small street on to the site which also has overhead signage. Like many sites, the dogs wander around and there are chickens in a cage. Within walking distance of the city centre.
Camping Kruje: €13p/n including EHU. Usual facilities available including wifi and washing machine at €3.50 a wash. All grass amongst fruit and olive trees. Family run and very friendly staff owners. A 20 minute or so uphill walk to Kruje centre.
Camping Dajti, Tirana: €14p/n plus €2 for EHU. Usual facilities available including wifi. Another grass site, family run and surrounded by olive and fruit trees. Chickens and ducks run free and occasionally the owner walked a couple of cows through! The access road is steep with a couple of short hairpin bends but we made it in our 6.7m van without a problem. They can arrange a taxi into Tirana for €15 return. A very relaxed few days.
Riverside Camping, Berat: €15 p/n including EHU and 1 use of the washing machine (extra washes are charged). Great campsite within walking distance of the centre. Hard standing pitches which are probably quite tight in the summer but there is still a shaded garden area with tables and chairs. Usual facilities including wifi plus access to a small kitchen if needed. Really friendly owners who can’t do enough for you and who bought us mandarins every day straight from their trees. The site is on a main road but noise wasn’t an issue.
Family Camping, Gjirokastra: €20 p/n including EHU. Clean modern toilet/shower block, washing machine available and wifi included. Site has a nice looking restaurant and bar which is probably quite busy in summer. Parking area is almost aire like with not a lot of space between vans but not an issue in November. The owner will arrange a car to the castle and old town for €5 each way – worth it at least to go into town as the castle is at the top of a steep hill!
Other overnight spots:
Buni i Bajraktarit Restaurant: €5 p/n. Restaurant car park on the SH21 road to Theth with stunning views over the Accursed Mountains. In addition to the restaurant they are building lodges and you can use the toilet block.
Bënje Thermal Pools, near Përmet: Free overnight parking in car park near the pools. Last couple of hundred metres is off-road and very bumpy.
Syri i kaltë (Blue Eye Spring) car park: Free overnight parking when we visited in November but possibly not in the summer. Large flat open car park which is quiet at night. Resident stray dogs but they are not a problem and twice a day a farmer walks by with his cows, sheep, goats and even a couple of boars!
Butrint Car Park: Free overnight car park at the entrance to Butrint Archeological site and a small chain ferry across a small stretch of water. The ferry operates day and night as needed (cars just turn up and beep their horn if the ferry is on the other bank) so is noisy but other than that the car park is flat and has great views out to Corfu.
We entered Montenegro with no expectations and very little knowledge of the country other than we’d been told that it was quite beautiful in places. Well, we can definitely confirm this!
The border crossing at Karacsovići was smooth and we were duly stamped out of the EU again. We were directed to the insurance office where we paid €28 for one month for the van.
Montenegro is not covered under any of our SIM packages but data is readily available and we paid €15 for a tourist SIM which gives us 500gb of data for 30 days. The coverage is excellent and we were only without signal for one night but considering we were over 6,000ft up in the mountains, that’s not surprising. The UK could learn a lesson or two here!
Much of Montenegro can be seen via the Panoramic Road network:
We drove a lot of Road 1, bits of 2 and 3, and the complete circuit of 4. We have had no issues with getting places in the van including winding mountain roads where opinions on whether motorhomes were capable of being driven along them, were split. The main problem with driving is the locals who are “adventurous” with their manoeuvres to say the least!
The northern coast area is very much like typical European resorts with lots of hotels, beach bars and long esplanades. The small town of Kotor is on the cruise ship route and we can imagine that the tiny streets of the Old Town would be a tad busy when a ship was in port. We picked the right day to visit as when we woke up the following morning there were three ships anchored in the bay!
To see the real beauty of Montenegro head away from the coast and up into the Durmitor National Park and Tara Canyon areas. The scenery is simply stunning but there is a lot of construction of hotels and holiday villages going on – the tourist trade is really opening up. Much of it, at least on the surface, appears to be in keeping with the surroundings but only time will tell if there’s too much development.
We finished our time in Montenegro at the largest vineyard in Europe, the Sipcanik Wine Cellar where we booked a tour with wine tasting. Nothing unusual in that we hear you say but what makes it different is that the cellar is in the hangars built into the hillside on an old Yugoslav airbase.
We absolutely loved our time in Montenegro and if you’re looking for somewhere a little different, still developing but not completely untouched then we’d highly recommend a visit. If we could, we would have just parked up out of the way and stayed longer but we knew we had to move on. Albania next which is going to be something very different.
Autocamp Mlinski Potok, Žabljak: €19 p/n including EHU. All grass pitches. Toilet and shower block plus communal kitchen and inside space. An easy walk into town, to the Black Lake and other hikes. Don’t be put off by the reviews saying the site is inaccessible due the steep approach road – it’s not difficult at all.
The site is undergoing renovation at the moment before the winter sets in so wasn’t at its best, however we received the warmest of welcomes from the owner, Jelena, who kept apologising for all the mess.
Camp Eko Oaza, Tear of Europe: €14 p/n without EHU (is available). Spotless shower and toilet block (brilliant showers!) and the owner’s washing machine is available on request for €2.50 a wash. The site is all grass and situated on the hillside above the Tara River. You can walk down to a small beach area by the river – it’s about 500m each way and the path is steep in places.
Again, a bit of building work going on but the family were friendly and welcoming and spoke good English. As we left the mother gave us some cake for the trip.
Campsite Medjurecje Rajo Radovic, Medjurecje: €15 p/n without EHU. Showers and toilets available and we were offered electric but didn’t see any plug in points. Grass pitches on a small farm.
We didn’t originally plan to stay in but when we couldn’t get onto the site we were originally heading for and after a hairy drive along a very single track road we came here and had a wonderful couple of days. Very hospitable owners and we were invited over for rakija and coffee once we had parked – a few shots later and we headed back to the van, both with a headache! We politely declined the rakija the following day but were still given coffee, biscuits and half a large freshly baked loaf of bread. The owners spoke no English, just the odd word of German but we managed to all make ourselves understood. From the site we walked down to the Mrtvica River and followed the footpath to Kapija Želja, a beautiful little place alongside the river.
Other overnight parking:
Bex d.o.o. Campground, Kotor: €20 p/n. This is a former campground which is now nothing more than a car park and you are paying for the location – it’s a 400m walk to Kotor Old Town and you parked beachside.
Ostrog Monastery: Free. We parked in the large gravel car park just below the entrance monastery for two nights. It was very quiet, the toilets were open and there was a water tap we could use to top up the tank. Probably not possible in the summer. We were joined for one night by a Swiss/American couple and spent a couple of hours talking travel and drinking schnapps with an amazing view.
Mratinje, Lake Piva: Free. We parked on the flattened ruins of something (maybe an old power plant or harbour area for moving stuff along the lake?) at the northern end of Lake Piva. No facilities but surrounded by mountains and overlooking the blue/green waters of the lake.
Durmitor National Park: We paid the €3 each park entry fee the following morning but were not asked for a camping fee which we believe is another $3. Parked just off Road 1 on a gravelled area from where a few hikes were available. Just about flat enough to sleep! There was a group of wild horses nearby who came down to a small pond to drink and splash around.
Kapayna Army Base, Korita: Free. A ruined army base just off Road 4 giving views of Korita and the Albanian Alps. We were that close to the border our phones switched between Albanian and Montenegrin providers.
Sipcanik Wine Cellar, near Tuzi: having paid for the wine tour and tasting, they kindly allowed us to stay near the gatehouse. They are toying with offering accommodation in the future and we did ask if they wanted to add them to any motorhome parking apps but again, they are just looking into it at the moment.
Following our visit last year we were really looking forward to returning to Bosnia and spending more time visiting the countryside, away from the major cities of Sarajevo and Mostar.
We crossed from Croatia near Granični without any problem and our first stop was to buy van insurance. It’s a pain that UK insurance companies are inconsistent with their country coverage so this year we only had third party local insurance. The insurance building is on the right just after the border crossing and we paid KM79 (approx £35) for a month. We had a data SIM left from our last visit but also bought two more 10GB cards at a cost of KM10 (about £4.50) each.
The weather was glorious for the whole time we were in Bosnia and the autumn colours were stunning.
Una National Park runs close to the Croatian border and along the River Una there are fortresses and waterfalls.
From there we headed towards Sarajevo to take the track out to Lukomir, the most remote village in the country. It’s a long 16km gravel road to get to the village but it’s a beautiful drive and the views over the Rakitnica Canyon at the end are breathtaking. The village itself is a small collection of ramshackle buildings, some of which are being refurbished to accommodate the growing tourist trade.
We took an interesting route back which in some places was no more than a quad bike track – thankfully the crockery survived in tact!
By accident we also found the ski jump centre from the 1984 Sarajevo Winter Olympics.
We spent three nights back at Autocamp Blagaj near Mostar, one of the friendliest and most hospitable sites we have ever visited. It was great to actually use the site this time (it rained incessantly last year) so had coffee by the river watching the kingfishers and eat in the very reasonably priced restaurant. Allen and his family are incredibly generous with homemade cake, fresh fruit and drinks.
After a few days of being spoiled, we moved towards the Montenegro border and the Dinaric Alps. Another adventurous drive along a gravel road, brought us to the base of Mt Maglić, the highest peak in Bosnia Herzegovina at 2,388m (we camped at about 1,700m) and where we spent a couple of nights in the car park.
It was great to also be able to do our first decent hike of the trip to Lake Trnovačko, a stunning heart shaped lake which is actually in Montenegro – passports were needed!
After another straightforward border crossing we spent a couple of days in Croatia to have a bit of a sort out before continuing south and into new countries.
One of the joys of travel is embracing local cultures and we hate to impose our standards on foreign countries but there were two things that drove us mad in Bosnia:
Litter – rubbish and fly tipping everywhere but lots of bins too.
Smoking – we were chatting to a young couple and she said that Bosnians consider smoking is just a part of life and everyone smokes, everywhere. As we were filling with petrol and LPG a couple of days ago, a woman walked right past the van with a lit cigarette 若. I guess we’ve just got used to no smoking in the UK.
These aside, we love the country and tomorrow, after a couple of nights back in Croatia, we move on to Montenegro.
Camp Buk, Una National Park: €18 p/n including EHU. Grass pitches, some riverside, toilet and shower block (a little “rustic”). Restaurant open during high season.
Autocamp Blagaj, Blagaj: Prices vary – we paid €12.50, possibly a special rate as returning visitors! Gravel/grass pitches with EHU. Plenty of water points, two toilet/shower blocks and washing machine. Bar and restaurant on site.
Camping Kate, Mlini, Croatia: kn139 p/n including EHU. Shower and toilet blocks, multiple water points, washing machines. Pitches are numbered but not marked and parking is a little haphazard!
Other overnight stops:
Grabovača Cave Park: free overnight parking in the visitor centre car park having paid the park/cave tour fee. Toilets and fresh water available.
Visoko: car park on the edge of the town. No facilities and lots of rubbish but quiet enough for a night.
Lukomir: free parking behind the “On Top of the World” (“Na krovu svijeta”) restaurant having had a meal there. Grass/mud parking after 16km of gravel road to get to the village.
Lake Bileća: overnight parking in a closed roadside bar overlooking the lake. Quiet and fine for one night.
Prijevor: free camping in the car park at the base of Mt Maglic. Uneven area at the end of a long gravel road. No facilities.
The journey from the UK to Croatia was uneventful taking us through France, Switzerland, Italy and Slovenia. The most exciting part was spending a night at the top of the Stelvio Pass with stunning views down the pass into northern Italy.
Our original plan was to spend a couple of days just over the Croatian border, south of Trieste before moving straight on to Bosnia but having seen that the CRO Race (a pro-cycling event formerly known as The Tour of Croatia) would be in the region in a few days, we decided to hang around and explore a little more.
The Slovenia/Croatia border crossing was quick and easy (no questions, no searches) and we got the necessary stamp showing we’d exited the Schengen zone – oh, the continued joy of Brexit!
We had stayed close to Savidrija previously, albeit a different campsite, and didn’t really do much although we swam and the paddle board did come out briefly before the wind got up.
When we visited Croatia last year we bypassed Rovinj, so this time we made the effort to find a nearby campsite and spent a day wandering around the old town. You can really see the Italian influence here and could quite easily be exploring the backstreets of Venice.
We left Rovinj and moved inland. Istria is a region of vineyards, olive groves and hilltop villages reached by steep winding roads. Our first stop was Grožnjan, also known as the “Town of Artists” as a number of the old buildings have been turned into studios and galleries.
From Grožnjan we moved to Hum, which by the 2011 census was the smallest city in the world! The “city” is really just two main streets surrounded by walls built on top of a hill and the first mention of it in any documents was in 1102.
The few shops very much cater for tourists selling local products including olive oil, wine, brandy and gin, a bottle of which may just have found its way into the van – we do like to do our bit for the local economy!
Possert Fort was a little hidden gem and very much off the regular tourist trail. We were able to park right by the ruins and with no distractions (we saw no-one else all day) we were able to catch up on admin in beautiful surroundings.
Our last stop in Istria was just outside the old town Labin which was hosting the finish to a stage of the CRO Race. We walked from the campsite to find ourselves a good spot from which to watch the cyclists as they completed a couple of circuits and then crossed the hilltop finish line.
We decided to break up the drive to Bosnia Herzegovina with a night on the coast at the harbour town of Senj but we ended up staying 3 nights for a couple of reasons. Firstly, Gregg and Dawn who we had been talking to via Instagram (@gregg.butler.121) and who had visited the countries we are heading for, mentioned they were on their way to Senj so we decided to wait for them and ended up having a great couple of days relaxing and talking all things travel related. Whilst parked up, Bob had noticed a chip and small crack in the windscreen so after a couple of calls to our insurance company, arrangements were in place for the Croatian equivalent of Autoglass to come to us to replace the glass.
As often happens when we meet other travellers, plans change so we stopped again on our way to Bosnia – this time at the recommendation of Gregg and Dawn. Grabovača Cave Park is near the town of Perušić and is a small area of protected limestone landscape. We don’t know if it’s a year round arrangement but when paying for our park entrance we were advised that we’d be welcome to stay two or three nights in the car park with water and electric available if we wanted! With a cave to visit, some walks in the park and a total cost of less than £13, it would be rude not to!
If you can drag yourself away from the stunning coastline, there is plenty to see inland and these sites are often quieter. But now we really are moving on to Bosnia.
Autocamp Tramontana, Savudrija: €20 p/n. Small campsite on the edge of the sea. Lots of seasonal pitches but we parked on the lower grass tier giving easy access to the sea. Didn’t use EHU but it’s available. Easy walk into town where there are a couple of bars.
Camping Porton Biondi, Rovinj: kn257.29 (approx £30.50) p/n including EHU. Tiered gravel pitches stretching up the hillside. Large car campsite with all facilities including onsite bakery open in the mornings.
Camping Romantik, Labin: kn165 p/n (approx £20) without EHU. A really well kept little campsite with grass pitches surrounded by fruit trees and vines. Immaculately clean showers and toilets. Washing machine available on request (kn 37.50, £4.40) and site has a small swimming pool. The old town is within walking distance although mostly uphill from the campsite!
Other overnight parking:
Hum car park: kn25 (£3) to visit the village and we were allowed to stay overnight. Large tarmac car park.
Possert Castle: free. Grass area in front of ruined castle. Approach is via a steep, narrow road.
Senj harbour: kn70 (£8) for a day ticket which enables an overnight stay. Large car park with some longer spaces out by the harbour wall where there is a water tap but we’re not sure if it’s always available. Easy walk into town for restaurants and shops.
Grabovača Cave Park: we paid kn55 (£6.50) each for a guided tour of one of the caves and for that they allowed us to park for a couple of nights (could have stayed another night if we’d wanted). The car park had toilets and access to water and electric, although we used neither.
We left the campsite near Trondheim and hit the E6 north towards the Arctic Circle. We’d bought forward all our plans by a couple of days and changed our mind on using the coastal road, as a bridge further north on the E6 had been damaged essentially cutting off the north unless you took a 600km+ diversion via Sweden and Finland. We’d been told it would be a quick fix given the importance of the road (it runs all the way through the country from the Swedish border in the south to the Russian border in the far north east) but we had still had lots to do and see before meeting friends at the end of the month so didn’t want to risk any delay.
Most of this part of the trip was staying on free spots found on Park4night but we did use a couple of paid parking areas on the Lofotens (more on those later!). As we mentioned before motorhoming here is so easy with plenty of places to stop overnight and accessible, free service points.
We slowly moved from the rivers and mountains of central Norway to the flat snow covered plateau at the Arctic Circle, encountering our first roadside reindeer of the trip!
The Arctic Circle visitors centre is mostly a souvenir shop and cafe but there are a couple of war memorials on the edge of the car park. You can stay there overnight and we were close enough to be able to use the Wi-Fi so took the opportunity to update apps and back up the phones 狼.
Our next stop was Bodo to take the ferry to the Lofotens. On the way we visited the Saltstraumen, one of the world’s strongest tidal-current maelstroms. The area has huge tidal variations and four times a day large amounts of water are pushed through a narrow gap to produce the eddy. This was not something to go out of your way too see but we were in the area and had timed it right for a high tide so thought why not.
We took the 3 hour 15 min ferry from Bodo to Moskenes. We were slightly delayed in leaving due to weather but as there had been a gale warning earlier in the day, we were thankful for a calmer crossing. If you have a ferry pass you can get the crossing for almost half price (full price was approx £175) but the toll/ferry tag we had didn’t cover this ferry and you can’t get the pass once in country as it’s sent to your home address.
The Lofoten Islands are quite simply stunning! Sharp, high peaks against fjords and the sea, hidden beaches and an abundance of the typical Norwegian fishing villages as seen in guidebooks.
On arrival we drove the short distance to the village of A, the starting point of the E10 which runs the length of the islands back to the mainland just north of Narvik. The Gammelgarden Bakery is well worth a visit for its cinnamon buns which are baked in a vintage oven.
We followed the E10 through the two islands of Moskenesoya and Flakstadoya, spending two nights near Fredang, from where we hiked up the headland to see the beach at Ryten. The “campsite” is nothing more than a grass field but has toilets and a shower, is close to the beach and the hiking path. The cost was NOK100 per night (about £8) which was the same price for day parking.
We took a detour off the E10 to the village of Laukvik where we stayed in the village aire. It’s a large quayside concrete car park but EHU is available and it has a building with showers, toilets and free, yes free, laundry facilities. It was NOK200 per night or NOK250 with EHU and one of the locals comes round to collect the money (cash or card). There’s a great little cafe in the village and a coffee roasting business, although the latter was closed when we visited and it was here that we got our first glimpse of the midnight sun. The lack of darkness is playing a little havoc with our internal clocks and we find ourselves going to bed later than usual but the blinds do a pretty good job at keeping the van dark.
Our last night on the Lofotens was in a remote park up near Fauskevag, south of Harstad, where we really got to see the midnight sun.
From here it was back on to the E6 on our way to Nordkapp. We found another amazing park up near Talvik where June got to dip in the sea, and yes we are still above the Arctic Circle.
The next stop was the most northerly point of Norway that you can drive to at Nordkapp. The E69 is a long windy road that takes from Olderfjord to Nordkapp, via coastal cliffs, open plateaus, deep tunnels (the Nordkapptunnel reaches a depth of 212m below sea level) and sees a never ending flow of motorhomes, motorcycles and a surprising number of people on good old fashioned pushbikes!
At the end of the road is the visitor centre where parking is free but you are supposed to pay NOK310 (£25) each to enter, even just to go to the cafe and souvenir shop. We had the misfortune to arrive at the same time as coach loads of visitors from a cruise ship that we had passed moored in the nearby town of Honningsvag. On the upside this meant we could sneak into the centre with the masses unnoticed, grab our sticker and use the Wi-Fi unnoticed! The coaches just kept coming with the last one leaving around midnight but the place was empty in the morning meaning we could take our photos uninterrupted.
We took a slight detour on the way back via Hammerfest just because June liked the name! We found it difficult to park in the centre due to roadworks and the fact that the cruise ship was now here, so no visit to the Isbjornklubben, aka the Royal and Ancient Polar Bear Society where you can become a lifetime member for a small fee. For an additional fee you can enjoy the dubious experience of being “knighted” with the penis bone of a walrus! Apparently it’s all very tongue in cheek. We did manage to park briefly by the Struve Geodetic Arc, one of a series of points stretching from here to the Black Sea in Hungary built as part of an experiment in the early 19th century to measure the shape and size of the Earth and determine the flattening of the planet at the poles.
These few days were mostly driving and from Hammerfest we headed across the north eastern region of Norway, as far as we could go to the Russian border. We spent a couple of nights at Grense Jakobselv on the Barents Sea, well worth the 50km of bumping down a road which in some places was tarmac but other places gravel and potholes. This was just another site we found on Park4night and there were a few other vans there, plus on both nights two different cyclists with tents. The site has toilets, a hut and fire pit with a ready supply of chopped wood and we spent the evenings chatting and drinking round the fire. We didn’t always understand each other – we were a mix of German, French and us Brits, but we understood enough. The Norwegian army patrol the area regularly but despite the guns, were very friendly and chatty. Sadly we didn’t get to see whales which are often seen in the area but we had seen some dolphins on our way here.
That’s the end of this part of the trip as we are now in Finland for a few days. We are making our way back to Norway to meet friends for a week’s holiday in a house on a fjord near Tromso and from there we start making our way back to the UK via a few weeks in Sweden.
Both of us had been to Slovenia previously when part of Yugoslavia, so some years and what seems several lifetimes ago, and we crossed the border with Italy with no issue.
Our initial plan had been to stop at Kranjska Gora, a ski resort close to the Italian and Austrian borders but we changed our mind on arrival as the motorhome parking was along a service road and we were reluctant to potentially pay €20 for parking along a road with no services. We therefore headed into the Julian Alps and before we realised it, we were climbing up the Vrsic Pass, the highest mountain pass in the eastern Julian Alps which tops out at 1,611m or 5,285 ft and consists of 50 of the tightest, shortest hairpin bends we have ever driven!
Many of the campsites we tried were already closed for the season but we found Kamp Korita, close to the village of Soca open. With just one other van there it was bliss! Having read a recent travel article on the area, the Soca Valley and the wider Triglav National Park, was on our list to explore and the campsite has direct access on the walking path that starts where the Soca River rises and passes through stunning valleys and gorges.
We walked the section from the campsite to where the river passes out of the Great Soca Gorge which just a couple of metres wide at this point. The water is the most amazing colour, crystal clear and has carved hollows in the rocks where it swirls around. The river is also renowned for trout and the fish can easily be seen with the naked eye.
We drove out of Soca and followed the river along through the towns of Bovec and Tolmin before turning back in to the southern side of the National Park heading towards Lake Bohinj. On our way we stopped at the Boka Waterfall, one of Slovenia’s highest waterfalls but on the day of our visit, quite dry – maybe best visited once the winter snow melts!
Lake Bohinj was still quite busy when we arrived so we drove to the western edge of the lake and walking along the southern shoreline for a short distance. Camping directly by the lake or in the town was expensive (can’t imagine what the summer prices are!) so we actually overnighted at a small village a few minutes away. Another very quiet pitch even if we were joined by a large overlanding vehicle and with views over the surrounding countryside.
With our days in Schengen starting to clock up we decided on just one more stop in Slovenia at Lake Bled but we’d take a roundabout route to get there. The road took us over an unnamed pass where we drove more small, tight hairpins right in amongst the autumnal forests to reach the Vintgar Gorge on the way to Bled. Whilst most places we have visited are free, there is a fee to visit Vintgar (€10 each plus another €10 for parking the motorhome) but in our opinion it was worth it. It’s a circular walk through the gorge along a wooden boardwalk and you exit via one of two routes along the top of the gorge, so whilst the walk through the gorge is flat, it’s quite an uphill climb out of it! Again the water is crystal clear, in various shades of blue and green with bridges taking you over the river at the base of the high, tree covered sides of the gorge.
Our final stop was in Bled where we spent a couple of nights at the city centre stellplatz. It’s at the back of a building site (no noise issues though when we were there), close to a couple of supermarkets and an easy walk to the edge of the lake where you can pick up the path that encircles the lake. We were blessed with great weather and were able to see the lake at its finest but without the crowds 😊
There is still so much of Slovenia that we didn’t see so we will be back!
Sites used: Kamp Korita Peter Della Blanca, near Soca: €24 p/n including EHU. Hard standing. Showers and toilets on site plus a small restaurant during season PZA Srednja Vas motorhome park, near Bohinj: €10 but price varies. One EHU post but water and WC disposal available. Bled Stellplatz, Bled: €20 per 24 hours. Hard standing and depending on ticket bought, limited EHU and water available. WC disposal.
Can we just state that at the moment we are still working! It might not look like it with all this time away and we are definitely in wind down mode to the end of the year when we both stop in anticipation of going full time, but for the time being we are fitting the travelling around work.
The van was a year old in August and as part of the warranty, it needed a check and the underneath to be sealed. As we hadn’t bought the van locally to home, we knew this would entail a trip to Norfolk and after having sorted the youngest’s move date to university (coincidentally also to Norfolk for the Norwich University of the Arts) we decided to make the trip a week and split it over two locations.
First stop was a CL at Eastwood Whelpton boat yard located in the Norfolk Broads in the village of Upton. A quiet little spot with minimal facilities but with the solar panels and extra leisure batteries we can easily do a few days without hook up. If you’re into boating and sailing it’s a good base but we’re not so we stuck to walking through the multiple paths across the Broads. A large area of the wetlands here was purchased by the Norfolk Wildlife Trust and managed back to its previous marsh state. There is now lots of arable farming (the marshes had previously been drained) and the area is home to some of Norfolk’s rarest wildlife.
We ventured into the village a couple of times and along the way bought plums and apples from outside a house – a large bag of each for a grand total of £1! There is a community run pub, the White Horse, and adjoining community shop, both of which we used and would recommend.
After the bank holiday it was a quick trip to Becks to get the van work done and get a couple of spares which we might need for future travels (not sure of the availability of Hymer spares in the depths of Alaska!). Sadly, we couldn’t get the carpets sorted (three lots from Germany and none of them fitted!) but no problem with the refund so we can go and get some made to measure. One of the reasons we went to Becks was their reputation for aftercare and customer service and although we’ve not had any major issues with the van, they have been helpful when needed.
Van all sorted, we headed off the following day to Rutland Water where we’re staying at The Paddock campsite, although only the CL field and without any hook up. It’s a very tidy, adults only site with easy access to the reservoir and our plan was for a bit more walking and, for the first time in almost two years, getting on our bikes! The nearby village has a well stocked shop (the Edith Weston Village Store) although you have to watch the opening hours as we missed it one day – not sure if it’s because it is run by volunteers or due to COVID that the hours are limited.
Having explored on foot a little of the path which runs around the reservoir, the bikes were prepped for the following day.
The cycleway/footpath is a mix of paved road and some rougher off-road patches and on the whole was gently undulating although there were a couple of short steep sections where we have to admit to getting off and walking! The total distance was about 37km and considering how long it had been since our last ride, we felt remarkably good at the end.
Certainly a site that we would go back to and even more so given the short time it took us to drive home – we hadn’t realised how easy a drive it was!