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.
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