BLED | Tranquil. Pristine. Idyllic. These are three words that come to mind when reflecting on a recent early September jaunt to Lake Bled, Slovenia. We had high expectations for this alpine destination but nothing prepared us for that first glance at Lake Bled. Slovenia is a small but proud country. From our short time there, we now understand why the Slovenes have many reasons to be proud of their majestic country.
One of the many charms of Lake Bled is that so much of it is undeveloped. One can make a full loop around the lake on a foot path. Locals say it takes about an hour to walk around but to be honest we stopped so much to admire the splendour of the lake it took us about two hours to make the loop. You can also take a gondola to the island in the middle of the lake. The island has been a pilgrimage site for centuries. Certain families were bestowed the rights to control the gondolas back in the time of the Austro-Hungarian empire and the tradition has remained to this day.
Another must do is a trek up the top of the hill to Bled Castle (entrance fee €9.00) for a stunning view of the lake. The Castle, built in 1004, has a perfect vantage point of the lake and surrounding valley. The Castle features a museum that takes visitors on a journey of Bled settlements through the ages. You can redeem a portion of your ticket cost for a purchase in the café or restaurant in the castle which both offer amazing views of the lake.
A short drive from Bled is the Vintgar Gorge (entrance fee €4.00). When it was first discovered, the gorge was impassable but now has a 1.6 km wooden path leading through the ravine. The name of the gorge apparently takes its names from the German word “weingarten”, an homage to the neighbouring vineyards. During the visit, one witnesses nature’s beauty at its finest. The trek is so refreshing passing by rapids and waterfalls of the most stunning emerald green water. We definitely suggest going early in the day to beat the rush.
About an hour’s drive from Bled is another stunning lake, Lake Bohinj. Bohinj is home to Slovenia’s national park, Triglav. Triglav (meaning three heads) takes its name from the nation’s highest peak with its distinctive tri-headed formation. Triglav is the national symbol of Slovenia appearing in its flag and embodying how seriously the nation takes its tradition of alpinism. One could spend days enjoying the park and Bohinj itself. If you are pressed for time you can take a trip up the gondola (adult return €13.50) to the Vogel ski resort for stunning views of the lake, and Triglav itself.
We could not have been more pleased with our choice of accommodation at Pr Jozef Bled resort. The resort is just off the lake in the oldest part of Bled. The guesthouse has been in the family for generations. The building was originally part of the family’s farm but they’ve converted it into a B&B. Staying in a place like Pr Jozef you get a real feel of a Slovenian homestead. The rooms are comfortable and authentically Solvenian (double rooms from €89.00) which you wouldn’t get with one of the large hotels on the lake itself. For €7.00, they prepare a massive Slovenian breakfast that sets one up perfectly for a long day of outdoor activities. The breakfast features salami, cheese, pastries, boiled egg, and delicious crusty bread.
One of the most delightful traditions of the region is the renowned cream cake. We had our first, but definitely not our last, on the top of Bled Castle. This dessert is not to be missed. These cakes have become one of the symbols of Bled. The cream cake was developed 60 years ago in a Bled hotel. It’s said that over 12 million cream cakes have been sold. If that’s not an award winning recipe I don’t know what is.
We also enjoyed the local beer Lasko. We did anticipate being wowed by Solvenia’s beer, but what we didn’t realise is that Slovenia’s beautiful landscape is well suited to growing hops that are exported to more well-known beer loving countries like Germany. At €1.50 per pint, it is great value. At Pizzeria Rustika (Riklijeva cesta 13, 4260 Bled, Slovenia), we enjoyed an absolutely delicious wood fired pizza and “mixed” version of Lasko beer with the pale and dark varieties that washed down the pizza perfectly.
All in all Lake Bled has all the charm of other alpine destinations without the hefty price tag. Lake Bled is accessible by train or plane. Lesce Bled station connects to Venice, Austria, Croatia, and Budapest. Lake Bled is a 30 minute taxi (€45.00) or 1 hour bus ride (€12.00) from Ljubljana airport. Several airlines including Easy Jet and Wizz Air service Ljubljana from London. Flights start at £29.99 so there is no reason why this destination should not be on your travel to-do list.