A Weekend at Lake Bled, Slovenia
If you looking for a scenic break from the big city, or perhaps a place to base your outdoorsy weekend, then look no further than Lake Bled. Actually, to take part in all the outdoor activities that this Slovenian gem has to offer, you’ll need far more than one weekend. Even if you’re not so keen on hiking or extreme sports there’s still enough cream cake, panoramic views and rowboats to fill a few days.
In fact, the famous island on the lake and the clifftop castle backed by a lush forest and the Julian Alps have become iconic picture points as popular with outdoor lovers as they are with foodies and photographers. Whether you have just a few days or even a few weeks, here are some ideas for how to spend your time in Lake Bled, Slovenia.
The Church on the Lake
This is probably the most obvious thing to do in Lake Bled so we’re going to make it the first on our list. The 17th-century church, floating on a tear-drop island which is, in turn, surrounded by a ring of rugged mountains and green forest, is certainly an eye-catching attraction.
Quite likely you’ve seen it before on the front of any brochure advertising travel in Slovenia but it’s still worth seeing it first-hand. There are two ways of reaching Bled Island, the first is on a gondola-style shuttle boat called a Plenta, which packs around 20 passengers into its hull.
The second, and better option, in my opinion, is gathering a friend or two and hiring a rowboat. This can be a lot more fun, especially if no one in your boat knows how to paddle. You’ll have the option of exploring the edges of the lake and taking a dip in the water.
The View from a Castle
Bled’s second main attraction is its historic castle which sits on a ledge 130 metres above the lake surrounded by thick pines and cedars. The castle is said to be the oldest in Slovenia, dating back to before the year 1004 AD when King Henry II of Germany gifted it to the Bishop Albuin of Brixen. You can learn a fair amount about Slovenia’s history here.
Throughout the centuries the castle has proved to be of great strategical importance, frequently hosting political meetings and military negotiation, but honestly, unless you’re really into history, the main reason to visit is the castle is for the post-card perfect view it provides.
From this vantage point, you have an uninterrupted view of the surrounding landscape and a birds-eye view of the lake and its floating church. It also happens to be the only place in Bled where you can snap a picture with a palm-sized version of Bled Island in the background.
Hike in the Mountains
There are quite a few hikes to choose from depending on whether you’re looking for a full day hike or a short walk. A popular 1-2-hour hike takes you on a 645-metre climb from the edges of the lake to the top of Mala Osojnica. The reward when you get there is a stunning view of the lake and fresh mountain air.
Within walking distance of Lake Bled is Vintgar Gorge, which is not a particularly challenging hike but certainly, the 1.6 km wooden boardwalk, which crosses from one rocky cliffside to the other until reaching the Vintgar Gorge Waterfalls, is more than a little picturesque.
Also, in the area is the Triglav National Park, I didn’t have time to visit this place myself, but is said to be prime hiking and biking territory with a plethora of alpine views and well-marked trails. The park hosts some of Slovenia’s highest peaks as well as opportunities to take part in water sports on the Soca River and zip lining.
As I mentioned before, one weekend will not be enough to cover all the adventure activities available around Lake Bled, but you will be able to choose from canyoning, white water rafting, horse riding, paragliding, mountain biking, and trekking from spring to autumn.
Bled also hosts a kayaking school which offers 1 to 5-star training courses and river kayaking qualifications. During the winter Bled is a hotspot for skiing and snowboarding and mountain lodges stay open all year.
There’s also tobogganing, which may not be technically classed as an extreme sport, but it certainly feels like it should be when you’re hurtling down the hill in a metal cart controlled by what looks like a toy handle at who knows how many miles per hour! Bled’s toboggan track opens in the summer and, aside from the adrenaline junkie appeal, it’s also pretty fun to ride the ski lift to the top of the slope.
Eat, Eat, and Eat
Slovenia boats an interesting and delicious mix of Italian and Eastern European cuisine. Restaurants are dotted along the lakeside but Bled is best known for its sweet pastries and in just about every café you can find a traditional cream cake, made up of a crispy layer of butter dough, whipped cream, a thick dusting of icing sugar, and topped with a fresh strawberry. It might sound a little heavy but after a full day exploring Lake Bled, I certainly didn’t feel any guilt tucking into one of these tasty treats.
Wake Up Early
Waking up early is never a popular suggestion, which is why I’ve left it till last. I know we’d all prefer to hit snooze on our alarm clocks, myself included, but the sunrise over Lake Bled is something worth getting up for. The best viewpoint is from Mala Osjinica, but if you really can’t drag yourself up the mountainside in the early hours then anywhere around the lake will do. Alternatively, book a hot air balloon trip and someone will come to make sure that you get out of bed.
Fortunately, Lake Bled is easy to get to from Slovenia’s capital city, Ljubljana. There are hourly departures from Ljubljana bus station, which is connected by daily buses to cities in Italy, Croatia, and Slovakia. From June to September there are even direct buses from Zagreb to Lake Bled. For inter-rail travellers, there are a few trains per day. Bled train’s station is 4.5 km from the centre, from there you can hop on the shuttle bus service or take a taxi to the lake. Coming by car, Lake Bled is only an hour’s drive from the Ljubljana on the E61 Highway.
Everything in the town of Bled and around the lake is within walking distance so there’s no need for public transport.