The aquamarine, clear water sparkles in the morning sun, setting off tiny glints of gold in the ripples of Lake Bled’s water against the looming Julian Alps and Karavanke ranges. From where I stand, high above the lake itself, it is truly one of the most beautiful, most spectacular places I have ever had the fortune to visit. This is Slovenia tourism at its best.
I stand above Lake Bled, a dream realized.
I’ve wanted to visit Lake Bled for years — since I was in Bosnia and heard of this gorgeous slice of nature deep in Slovenia. The talk I heard is what those enchanting fairy tales spun in our youth are made of. In the summer, Bled glistens and comes alive with cheer and color with a castle and a whimsical island, and in the cooler months, the fog and gray dip down from the Alps, cloaking the area in mystery and wonder.
Today, that dream is crisp, clear. When I close my eyes, I still see the lake under my eyelids, burned into my memory.
The first stop on my Roundabout tour of Lake Bled isn’t to the lake itself, but to Bled Castle, perched more than 100 m above the healing mountain waters.
Bled Castle, which is said to be the oldest in the country, dates back more than 1,000 years. Sometimes referred to by its German name, Veldes, today serves as a tourist attraction offering up a restaurant with one killer view, a museum, wine cellar and more.
Today, I opt to skip the history though, and just live in the present, allowing myself to be swept entirely into the romantic vista spreading before me. One of emerald-green mountains, a lake which rivals the magnificent coloring of Croatia’s Plitvice Lakes and dotted with little boats coming and going from one of the lake’s main attractions, the Church of Assumption, sitting on one tiny little island.
The iconic island of trees and one gorgeous, old church, is filled with history and tradition. Seemingly plunked down in the middle of the lake, the church creates this idyllic and magnificent image that is beyond post card worthy. It is the stuff you can’t believe exists, but does.
Accessible via plenta (the boats which transport tourists to the island and the church), visitors can explore the church after climbing its 98 stairs to the entrance. Popular for weddings, legend has it that if the groom carries his bride up those stairs on the day of their wedding and then rings the bell, it is good luck.
Only 55 km from Ljubljana, being in Bled feels like an entire different world: a world where time could stand still, where those childhood fantasies of being a princess could possibly come true.
The only thing which detracts from the enchantment of Lake Bled are the people who make it popular. The lake, which attracts those seeking the healing thermal waters and infinite nature activities around the town and hovering mountains, is one of the big draws of Slovenia. On this day, the city town with only around 5,500 residents, is overrun with tourists from all over the world. Stalls selling food, crafts and more take over the lush green lawns around the lake and it is easy to get smacked with a stroller as families idly walk by.
I’m not one for crowds, and Lake Bled is one of those places where I just want to get lost in the view and my own thoughts, to kick off my shoes and soak my feet in the inviting clear water.
To marvel at how the pletna seem to elevate above the water. So, instead of participating in the carnival-like atmosphere, I opt to sit at a cafe and grab one of the town’s famous Bled Cream Cakes at Vila Preseren (which, according to my guide, is the place to experience the cake), a divine creation which involves a flaky buttery crust, a hunk of vanilla cream and topped with whipped cream and sugar.
Heavenly? You. Bet. And, that isn’t the intoxication of Lake Bled talking, either. After consuming my calories for the day in one swoop (I also tried a white hot chocolate because it’s White. Hot. Chocolate.), I actually go and kick off my shoes and dip them in the water.
The sister of Lake Bled, but equally as beautiful, is the nearby Lake Bohinj, the country’s largest lake. I fall in love with this spot because, compared to Bled, it feels uninhabited. Sure, there are plenty of people there taking advantage of the perfect weather and puffy-white-cloud-filled sky, but it lacks the crowds of Bled which are packed with tourists.
This spot is far more popular with locals than tourists, so the sheer number of those talking a leisurely stroll is significantly less.
At Bohinj, I can feel the local, relaxed vibe takeover right away. Here, people rent bikes and follow paths along the glacial lake. They lounge on benches enjoying ice cream and the view of some of the still snow-capped mountains in the distance. It’s an outdoor lovers wonderland, and I love it, too. I leave wishing I had more time to hang at this gorgeous spot and appreciate the adventures it offers, regardless of the seasons.
Of course, these two lakes and my hike through Vintgar Gorge are just fuel to the fire for my eventual return to Slovenia. I think they’re pretty decent reasons, don’t you?
I was on a Roundabout tour, but it is easy to get to Lake Bled from Ljulbjana. There is a train which runs via Jesenice many times a day and takes around 2 hours. To get to Lake Bohinj, take the same train and then hop on the Bohinj Zlatorog line to the lake, or hire a taxi. Bus routes also include stops at both locations.
For more on Slovenia tourism, check out these books:
Lonely Planet Slovenia (Travel Guide)
DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Slovenia
World’s Best Travel Experiences: 400 Extraordinary Places
This post is part of the D Travels Europe (and Israel) series. Stay up-to-date on all of my adventures by following along on Twitter (#dtravelseurope), Instagram,Trover, G+ and Facebook. And, for a look at the health and wellness side of European travel, be sure to follow along at The Comfort Zone Project and on TCZP’s Facebook.
24 thoughts on “Slovenia Tourism: Discover Lake Bled and Lake Bohinj”
Ahhh, take me back there! Bohinj is one of the places I’d like to have a little cabin for total peace and quiet when running around Europe gets to be too much. Selfishly glad it still isn’t getting as much attention as Bled. Amazing photos, too – looks like you lucked out with great weather!
Thank you! Yeah, I was really lucky with the weather in Slovenia. Only one day was it kind of crappy, but that was when we left Ljubljana when it was chilly and rainy and headed to the coast for the afternoon, where it was perfect minus a tiny drizzle. Bohinj would be an ideal spot to just chill out and maybe get some writing done!!
Those cream cakes we’re really nice, though we shared one between the two of us and our Slovenian friend who spent the entire day driving us around the country like an mad lady.
The lake itself is just like you described, truly a must see location, and somewhere you really need to spend some time at just to sit by the water and feel the calmness wash over you.
Haha, I devoured that cream cake all on my own! Both lakes really are must-sees. Enchanting!!
Oh my, I loved Bohinj! Bled was beautiful, true, but for the reasons you described – way too many people – I liked it but not loved it. Then I ended up in Bohinj, accidentally went all the way to the other side of the lake, and it was just amazing! There was not a single person around, the scenery was breathtaking and the water in the lake so clean! I want to come back, so badly, and you just made me dream of it more and more! 🙂
I really wish I would have had more time in both places. Bohinj looked like an outdoor-lover’s paradise! I was dreaming about it when I wrote about it, too! Made me want to go back SO badly!
Wow, those views are absolutely breathtaking! We can almost feel the fresh air in our lungs.
Going to have to find (or make) a vegan version of those bled cream cakes. WOW.
Please send me the recipe when you figure out the vegan version!!! So. Good. And yes, so breathtaking. The entire country is breathtaking. Like it was plucked from a storybook!
Your posts make me so excited for Slovenia. 😀
YAY! I LOVE to read that! Slovenia is amazing! I hope you love it as much as I do!
Such an astoundingly beautiful place! Please photoshop the clouds out and I’ll be sold 😀
Haha!!! It is beautiful. No photoshopping the clouds though!!
Let me pick my jaw up off the floor. Those are some absolutely stunning photos!
Slovenia is STUNNING!! I have more!!
Unbelievable photos, I think the second lake is just as gorgeous as the first with those mountains in the background! What a combination (and fewer tourists is always a good thing in my opinion). Lovely stuff 🙂
Thank you so much, Leah! They are both beautiful lakes! Bled is charming with the island, but Bohinj and the snowcapped Alps makes it spectacular, too!
Stunning!! I wouldn’t dig the crowds too much either, I don’t like heavily touristic spots but I would still probably go to Lake Bled at least for a bit because that is some seriously gorgeous scenery!
I am SO not a fan of crowds, but if you can find a little spot while visiting Lake Bled, the nature and beauty facilitate tuning out everyone else and just sitting and being in the moment. 🙂
Your whole series of posts on Slovenia has really made me want to visit. The scenery (and your photos) is really spectacular.
Thank you, Laura! There is more to come, too! Slovenia truly is remarkable!
This is really one of the most stunning lakes that I’ve ever seen. Peaceful, enjoyable and breathtaking. You can either just walk around the lake (it is very easy to access its many small beaches) or you can decide to rent a boat. You will definitely NOT regret it. It costs 15 euros to rent a boat for an hour. I strongly recommend doing that.
Also, if you don’t feel like walking around, just have a coffee or a cake in one of the cafés and enjoy the view.
I wish I could rent or even buy one of those houses by the lake and spend more time there. Bohinj definitely is one of the best places to see in Slovenia!
Stunning … peaceful … enjoyable … breathtaking. All great words to describe it!
Great post! I also prefer lake Bohinj to Bled.
There is quite a lot this little gem of a country has to offer, isn’t there?
If you ever run out of travel ideas you are welcome to check out my blog. There are even some other cool places under the label ‘Slovenia’, that you might want to put onto your list for your next visit. 😉
Have fun, keep travelling and don’t stop blogging about it!
There is so much Slovenia has to offer. I cannot wait to go back and see more. It is truly a gorgeous country! And, thanks for the offer. I will check out your stuff!