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August 2018, Bled – Slovenia
We’re boarding to Slovenia on a small airplane, together with no more than 10 travel fellows. If only others knew how many things you can do in Bled and its surroundings…
No problem, more for us.
One hour and a half later we’re already in the tiny Ljubljana airport. There is no chance to miss the shuttle to Bled, that’s how small the airport is. Guess what? We’re the only 2 passengers for the 5 o’clock ride to town. Things look promising.
Half an hour later we get down from the car and face the picturesque villa, that’s gonna be our home for the week in Bled. The fresh air invades my lungs with incredible speed. A couple of hundred meters in the distance, the forest begins.
Down the main road, an incredible glacial lake spreads, surrounded by the green backdrop. Is that an island in the middle? You bet.
That’s not all. On the rock rising 130 meters above the lake, a Romanesque tower, part of a mighty castle, stands the test of time. And if the scenery wasn’t dreamy enough, the Julian Alps rise in the distance.
Our host welcomes us with 2 glasses of champagne. I think we might have just found the fairytale, hidden spot of Europe.
Bled had in the early 20th century the finest health resort in the Austrian empire, founded by the Swiss hydropathist Arnold Rikli. The place started to attract people from the European aristocratic elite. After World War II, the beauties of Bled were enjoyed by the most prominent people from all over the world. In the last decades, the place has been discovered by more and more travelers looking for a relaxing natural setting.
And here we are.
Take a boat ride to the island
We start our day by taking the traditional wooden boat (pletna) to the middle of the lake. We can’t miss the chance to ring the wishing bell, then make our way up to the tower.
The Islet was frequented as early as in prehistory (11th to 8th century BC). Later on, the Slavs worshipped Živa, the goddess of love and fertility on it. Nowadays a small Baroque church rises in the center.
Climb to Bled Castle
Next thing I know, we’re back in town and start climbing to the castle. We walk on the forest path, then take the steps one by one, looking for the shadow in every corner. Getting up there leaves us with the water bottles empty.
We start exploring the courtyard, looking below at the whole Gorenjska region, tucked between the mountain ranges of Karavanke and the Julian Alps. Then we go inside the castle walls, to discover a little bit of history of the area, from the Bronze Age to the present.
The Bled Castle is one of the oldest ones in Slovenia, mentioned for the first time in 1011!
Go summer tobogganing
If you feel more adventurous, jump in the toboggan on the Straža ski slope. You’ll get down the 520 meters track with a max. speed of 40 km/hour, if you don’t use the breaks!
Jump in the train
The touristy and cute version to go round the lake, is a small train packed with people waving at you.
Walk, walk, walk around the lake
But if you’re like us and love walking, put your feet at work. For about 2 hours we’re slowly going round, stopping for every dreamy scenery or some shade. Which means a lot of times.
The water colour changes from green to turquoise, reaching a deep blue as we watch farther. Wild ducks and swans are following us for short distances, floating on the perfectly still lake.
Take a sunbath with a view
Get your flip-flops and swimsuit ready! You’ll surely need them in summer. Swimming and sunbathing are even encouraged around the lake in many spots. So occupy your green square on the grass and just relax.
Go hiking to Savica waterfall at Bohinj lake
The easy walking days are over. It’s time to put those hiking boots to action. So one cool morning we’re taking the modern bus from Bled station to Bohinj Zlatorog stop. As we get down the bus, on one side the Bohinj lake spreads as wide as our eyes can see. Starting next to it, the trail to Savica waterfall is marked with signs representing Slovenian myths and fantastic characters. And so, we enter the magic world of Triglav National Park.
The park was founded in 1906 in the area of the seven Triglav lakes, extended later on to cover the entire Julian Alps within Slovene territory.
For about 1.5 hours we walk along cute wooden houses, cross bridges over emerald rivers, and finish the trek with a cool forest path.
At the end of 500 more stone steps, there it is, the majestic 80 meters tall waterfall!
Walk your way to Vintgar Gorge
Next day, with the warm-up already made, we start walking to Vintgar Gorge. I know, taking a bus would have spared a few hours. But the 4.5 km to the park entrance seem like a stroll through traditional Slovenia.
In 2 hours we enter the wild gorge, where the roar of the Radovna river echoes along the trails, up to Šum waterfall at the end.
Hike up to Mala Osojnica
Did anybody say hike?
It’s our last day in Bled and just heard one of the best views of the lake is from Mala Osojnica (685m). So we walk around the lake again, and right where a sign points to the woods (Osojnica), we start the hike. The trail goes pretty smooth for a few minutes but soon we have to grab tree roots and branches to make our way up. 30 minutes later, we see a steep ladder and know we’re close.
At the end of the last step, a wooden bench is strategically placed, overlooking maybe the best view you’ll ever have in Bled.
Grab a spoon for sweet indulgences
I can surely say that we didn’t end any day in Bled town without a full stomach. Don’t leave without tasting the traditional Bled cream cake (Kremna rezina/“Kremsnita”): golden crispy crust, delicious vanilla cream topped with whipped cream and another crispy layer. Last, a good dusting of icing sugar.
A cold Slovenian beer goes pretty well with it.
See? You must go to Bled.
How to get to Bled
Airplane to Ljubljana Jože Pučnik Airport + 30 min. shuttle ride to Bled
Our host in Bled had previously booked for us 2 seats on the 5 PM ride. The shuttle was empty when we arrived at the airport, so probably booking on the spot is no problem.
Ljublijana Airport – Bled, shuttle, 13 EUR/pers/1 way
Bled – Bohinj, public bus, 4 EUR/pers/1 way
Bled – Ljublijana, public bus, 6.5 EUR/pers/1 way
Boat to the island, 14 EUR/pers/roundtrip
Tower on the island, 6 EUR/pers
Bled Castle, 11 EUR/pers
Savica Waterfall, 3 EUR/pers
Vintgar Gorge, 5 EUR/pers
You will spend around 30 – 50 EUR for 2 persons on a meal at the restaurant, drinks included. A beer is around 3 – 4 EUR.
There are also food trucks and supermarkets where you can buy from, to cut off the expenses.
Price per night can be anywhere between 50 and 90 EUR for a double room at a guesthouse in the city center. Of course, prices can go up to 300 EUR/night at a fancy hotel near the lake.
You’ll find plenty of options to spend the night in Bled. We stayed in the most dreamy guesthouse ever: House Klasika, a family-run, 200-year-old, renovated villa, enjoying a fantastic breakfast every morning.
Tap water is safe everywhere in Slovenia!
Tipping is not expected (but highly appreciated) at the restaurant.
Happy travels and stay safe!