Imagine an emerald green lake, a small island with a mysterious church nestled amongst the trees, a medieval castle clinging to a rocky cliff, and the soaring peaks of the Julian Alps as a backdrop. Lake Bled looks like something out of a fairytale picture book and has consistently been ranked as one of the top ten most beautiful lakes in the world.
Aesthetics aside, Lake Bled is a hub for outdoor activities with summer hiking trails, cable cars, toboggan runs, public lidos and rowboats for the adventurous at heart. If you’re here to enjoy a slower pace then the small town of Bled is full of cafes where you can try the famous local cake, lakeside paths are perfect for a slow stroll and someone else can row you around the lake while you lay back and bask in the sunshine.
With scenery that defies reality it’s fitting that there is a local legend to do with the Lakes origins. The area was once a fertile valley full of lush green pastures. In the middle was a hill where fairies used to dance and play. But naughty Shepherds kept sneaking up to spy on them and the fairies became increasingly upset until one day they decided they’d had enough! They called water from the mountains, flooding the valley. Their little hill became an island and, finally able to dance in privacy, they lived happily ever after.
What actually happened was about 15,000 years ago, during the last ice age, Lake Bled was naturally formed by the melting Bohinj glacier. The tectonic origins are still evident in the thermal springs on the eastern side of the lake where the water is always around 20 degrees. But I never let the facts get in the way of a good story.
As soon as you arrive with the Busabout coach you will be drawn to the Lake’s edge. The lakeside will be bustling with people enjoying the afternoon sun and soaking up the atmosphere in the little lakeside town of Bled, home to about 6000 people.
Across the rippling waters of the lake sits Bled Island. Letna boats (traditional boats made and steered by locals) will be ferrying people back and forwards. Jump on board for 12 euro return and use the cruising time to admire the surroundings - the forested hills, the dramatic mountain ranges, and the castle clinging to the sheer cliff 130m above the lake. The alternative is to hire boats and row over yourselves. Prices start from 15 euro for one hour.
Bled island is free to wander around, you just have to pay admission to the church if you want to go in and see the beautifully decorated interior. There are many legends about the mysterious church and bell tower. The most famous story tells of a local widow who gathered all her gold, melted it down, and had it made into a bell to be hung in the church in honour of her late husband. On the way across to the island a storm blew up and the boat and the bell sunk into the depths of the lake. Broken hearted the widow made a pilgrimage to Rome where the Pope heard her sad story and donated another bell. Tradition dictates that you carry your lover 99 steps to the top and ring the bell three times for enduring love.
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Lake Bled is a quiet oasis snuggled up against the Austrian border but don't let its tranquil reputation fool you, there's plenty to do in this lakeside town. Hire a traditional boat and row out to the Church of Assumption and enjoy some of the best views of the region. You’ll soon see why Slovenia is Bledder than the rest. Add Lake Bled to your travel list #theworldiswaiting Link to trips in bio. #lakebled #bled #slovenia #busabout </div>
Speaking of enduring love by the time you get back it will be time for afternoon tea Bled style, and that means Bled cake! With thick vanilla custard and whipped cream sandwiched between sheets of crisp pastry the Krema Rezina is a local treat you have to try. Park Restaurant and Cafe, on the banks of the lake, boasts the original recipe but Zima is consistently recommended by locals for the best place to get a slice.
Burn off the calories by climbing up to Bled Castle - allegedly the oldest castle in Slovenia and one of the most visited tourist attractions. Following the signs for ‘Grad’ through the leafy trees makes for a nice walk and offers great views out over the lake as you climb. The castle is everything a good castle should be with towers, turrets, courtyards and fortified walls. Pay the €13 entry if you fancy checking out the interior or follow some of the paths around the castle for more views over the lake and island.
For dinner head to Spica (another recommendation from locals) where you can sit on a veranda overlooking the lake while the sun sets. With an extensive drinks menu (over 50 different beer brands and 90 different wines), and local Slovenian dishes as well as international cuisine this is a great place to spend your first evening.
Go to bed early. Now, hang on, hear me out. It will be worth it. When you go to bed what can you hear? Listen carefully. No sirens, no traffic noise, no thumping music from a nearby nightclub? If you’ve been backpacking in Europe for a while, going to sleep in the quiet of a small village is a luxury that you’ll want to fully embrace. Also….
Set the alarm for around an hour and a half before sunrise. Your mission, should you choose to accept, is to make it to Mala Osojnica - the most popular place to catch the sun rising over the mountain tops. You need to walk to the far end of the lake first and then start the uphill climb from Zaka - a bay on the west side of the lake. It’s about an hour steep uphill climb through the forest on a mostly unmarked path. At the summit you’ll get that perfect shot of Lake Bled, the island, the castle and the mountains at golden hour.
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The beauty of being up early is that you now have the whole day to explore! Head out to Vintgar Gorge for the morning. Shuttle buses will get you out there from Bled Centre, or alternatively you could rent a bike and cycle, or walk (it’s just over an hour to walk it).
Vintgar Gorge is the largest in Slovenia and runs for 1.6km through vertical cliffs and forest. Boardwalks and bridges allow you to walk the length of the gorge under the dappled shade of leafy trees with the calming sound of the river burbling over the rocks alongside you. At the end of the gorge the river tumbles over the waterfall and as the spray hits the sunshine shimmering rainbows appear in the mist. It is so beautiful you wonder if the fairies had their hand in creating this too.
Back in Bled head up to Straza which offers a great viewpoint of the castle from above the South Eastern shores. You can walk or take a chairlift to the top and then for some good old-fashioned fun a summer toboggan track, where you can reach speeds of 40km/h, whizzes you back down to the lakes edge.
If you prefer to stay up the top for a while the Rikli path runs through meadows and wooded areas and Pustolovski Park has a high ropes course with 65 different climbing challenges and flying foxes set high in the trees.
If you fancy an afternoon dip you’ll find a public Lido below the Castle with a grassy beach and areas that have been roped off for swimming. The water here is clean, the area is protected, and you have the fun factor with waterslides, trampolines, and diving boards. You can also rent a sunbed, umbrella or mat for a small fee.
Finish the day at Kult Klub. Situated on the ground floor of a shopping mall its quirky interior makes up for a lacklustre frontage. With pizzas and burgers, and a wide range of international beers this makes a great place to sit with an afternoon bevvie while the sun sets. More often than not they will have a band playing which creates a buzzing atmosphere. Alternatively, free darts, table soccer, board games and cards will set you up for a chilled evening.