The following is part two of a two-part series featuring day trips from Ljubljana, Slovenia.
It’s hard to imagine a visit to Slovenia without visiting picturesque Lake Bled. Less than three miles from Lake Bled, is a lesser known natural beauty I first discovered on my Instagram feed called Vintgar Gorge. Chris and I hopped on a bus out of Ljubljana to take in both of these sites in one afternoon.
The bus from Ljubljana was 12.50 EUR per person and took about an hour and fifteen minutes. Bled bus station was conveniently adjacent to an adventure outfitter that offered a shuttle to our first destination, Vintgar Gorge. A quick consultation with Google Maps showed us walking to the trail head wasn’t as straight forward or close as we had hoped, so we wisely purchased a one-way transport for 6 EUR each.
We were dropped off at the far point of the one-mile long gorge and spent the next hour leisurely walking the trail which on this Monday was particularly void of tourists. Autumn colors were just starting to overtake the green canopy, casting a golden tone on our late morning walk.
The rushing emerald water of the Radovna River was so pure we could see all the fish swimming around in the river.
After spending the past couple weeks pounding the pavement of Central Europe capital cities it was nice to be spending time surrounded by nature. It felt a lot like taking a hike in the woods back home, a welcome feeling after months on the road.
At the trail end, a sign pointed the way to Bled. We followed a moderately strenuous uphill trail through the forested land for about fifteen to twenty minutes before hitting the road.
We were thankful not to have to wait another hour at the gorge for the next shuttle pick up but if we had to do it again we probably would have opted for a round trip transport as it took us an hour to walk back. I’m quite doubtful we would have found our way to the gorge on foot if we had ventured away from Bled in reverse.
On the way back to the village of Bled, we enjoyed some bucolic views and saw authentic Slovenian life.
As we passed farmland, we saw the hayracks Slovenia is known for and some signs that left us scratching our head.
Village homes were well tended and vibrant flowers filled every window box.
Alas, we found our way to the famous Lake Bled and searched for a lunch spot to rest our feet and try the famous Bled cream cake. After a few strikes, we found a gem in Pizzeria Gallus located on the second level of a plaza overlooking the lake. The pizza and views were exceptional and we ended on a sweet note with a Bled cream cake stacked high with vanilla cream, whipped cream, and puff pastry dough.
The original Bled cream cake can be found at Park Restaurant and Cafe which offers al fresco dining overlooking the lake.
At the rear of the Park Restaurant is a dock where tourists can hop on a pletna boat and let the oarsman take them to Slovenia’s only natural island. The island is home to Church of the Assumption where visitors can ring the wishing bell.
An overcast October day obscured a picture perfect view of the Julian Alps but did not put a damper on the day. A sense of calm and serenity set in as we watched swans zig-zagging along the shores of the lake just feet from us. Similar to the gorge, we did not see a crush of tour bus visitors one would expect at Slovenia’s number one tourist attraction. I suspect they had come and gone earlier in the day.
A great way to take in the lake is to walk the 3.7 miles (6km) of shoreline. A second option is to take the tourist train which makes a 45-minute lap around the lake, making seven stops along the route.
The best scenic views of the lake are high atop a cliff at Bled Castle, the oldest castle in Slovenia.
Before I realized how accessible Lake Bled was from Ljubljana I had looked into staying at the lake a few nights. I was grateful to have had a change of heart once I saw the compact size of the lake and village. A day trip is enough time to take in the beauty of the lake and countryside. I would only suggest staying overnight if you are looking for a quiet, romantic getaway or a base for the many adventure sports the mountainous region offers.
Visitors of all ages can enjoy the natural beauty and serenity of Lake Bled and Vintgar Gorge, two must-see attractions just over an hour from Ljubljana.
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