Slovenia: Top Experiences in Lake Bled During the Summer
The secret lakeside jewel of Europe is a gorgeous summer retreat.
Few people have even heard of Slovenia, let alone Lake Bled, but allow me to let you in on a secret - - it's the perfect getaway!
Formerly part of Yugoslavia, Slovenia is caught between Italy, Austria, Croatia, and Hungary. The land is primarily mountainous, with Bled in the northern part of the country, in the Julien Alps.
A snowy haven in the winter, and a lakeside utopia during the summer, Bled is a fairytale no matter what time of year.
Walk around the lake
The lake is gorgeous, why not see it from every angle?
It took me a little over an hour to fully complete my walk, with a few photo opps thrown in. At a leisurely pace, I'm guessing it would take an hour and a half, maybe longer. Either way, it's well worth the walk!
Visit Bled Castle
Believed to be the oldest castle in Slovenia, Bled Castle is perched precariously on the edge of a cliff overlooking the lake. Does that make it scary? Yup. Does it also allow for amazing views? You bet!
A Note - Most parts of the castle are not wheelchair accessible.
To get to such a great height, you must climb, and climb, and climb. Many stairs. Up and up. At night the path is not well lit, but during the day you should have no problem.
The castle historically is but a shell of what it used to be. The walls are sound, but filled with restaurants and gift shops instead of medieval rooms (I can only recall a chapel and blacksmiths room). There is a museum, but it is more about general Slovenian knowledge than of the castle itself. To be frank, you aren't paying for what's inside, you're paying for the view the castle from the inside gives you access to. And it's fantastic.
Times: 8 - 6 or 9 pm (depending on time of year).
Cost: 11 euros for adult, 7 for student, 5 for children.
Get to Bled Island... without a boat!
Ok, so this one is only for those physically able to either swim or use an oar. For those who cannot, there are many boats that will take you to the island for a fee. But if you ask anyone, the fee isn't worth it, because the church is nice, but nothing different from any other church in Slovenia.
Instead, get some exercise and rent a paddle board or a canoe and paddle around the island, you'll get the same view! My original plan was to do exactly this, to rent a paddle board and make my way to the island that way. However, the group I was with was all swimming and we didn't see a place to rent paddle boards on the path we took. So, I swam.
Can I swim? Yes, but also no. While this is one of the most memorable parts of my trip, it is also the most embarrassing. Everyone in the group I was with could swim well, very well. I on the other hand, took swimming lessons as a child and promptly forgot everything but how to doggie paddle and float, and I still struggle with floating. People in our group had to constantly check on me to make sure I wasn't drowning because my breathing was so ragged and by the time I reached the island, I had to be dragged onto the dock like a beached whale.
Tip! - PLEASE, for those who can't swim well, rent a paddle board!
Eat a Kremsnita
Ironically, I am recommending this without ever have tasting the treat, but that's food intolerances for you... it doesn't mean others should miss out!
The treat has similar variations in other countries, each with a different name (Cremeschnitte, Krempita, etc). But a Kremsnita is unique to Lake Bled, having been created there in the Hotel Park. Basically, the cake is famous among locals and tourists. Although the name simply means "cream slice", the cake is decadent as all get out. Your trip won't be the same without it!
Hike to the Savica Waterfall
Slovenia is rife with hiking trails, it's just about finding the right one for you.
I only chose one hike when I was in Slovenia and it was to the Savica Waterfall. We wanted something that could be quick and at a medium level of difficulty. Luckily for us, we had a car and the hike that usually takes 45 minutes to an hour took 25 minutes.
A Note - Parking was free, but I heard sometimes it can cost a few euros on a busy day.
The Savica Waterfall is the most visited waterfall in Slovenia and costs 3 euros or less to hike to. There are a LOT of steps, but the land is green and beautiful. Reaching the waterfall, you may be disappointed to learn that it's blocked off and the little viewing platform can get crowded. That being said, it is still a spectacular sight.
A Note - You cannot swim in the waterfall, please do not try.
Watch the sun rise/set
You thought Bled looked like a fairytale before, just wait until you see the sun rise or set! The best views are from above, obviously, but getting close to the lake to see the early or late rays brush against the water can be quite dazzling as well.
Take a trip out to Lake Bohinj
Just a short trip away (less than 30 minutes) from Bled is the equally beautiful Lake Bohinj!
Like Bled, Bohinj has water sports to play and churches to see, but Bohinj is special in that it is less touristy and more dedicated to nature. Near the banks of the lake is Mount Vogel, the Savica Waterfall, and other outdoor marvels just waiting to be found.
Go to Triglav National Park and do an extreme activity
Slovenia is for the adventurous, and Lake Bled is smack dab in the middle of some of the best extreme sports you can find. There's kayaking, white water rafting, skydiving, zip-lining, caving, and more. I myself tried canyoning.
Canyoning is simply finding passage through canyons, be it from swimming, climbing, rappelling through waterfalls, and the most famous (and scary) passageway - jumping. Yes, jumping from the top of a waterfall or cliff down into a pool below. So as you can see, this is not for those who are scared of heights (looking at you Dad). Don't worry though, you have a guide taking you through the jumps and showing you the ropes.
A Note - For those who have ear infections easily or have had an issue with their ears before, canyoning may not be for you. In the very first long jump my ears popped painfully and bothered me for the rest of the trip.
Drive up Vrsic Pass
The Vrsic Pass is highest mountain pass in Slovenia, and in all the Julien Alps (Alps stretching from Italy to Slovenia, named after Julius Caesar). It is 5,285 feet high and was originally used for military purposes. Now, it is a spot for photography and a jumping off point for hikes.
Take the cable car up Mount Vogel
Whereas Vogel is best known for being a ski resort and therefore a winter hotspot, it's still worth visiting during the summer. Why? Because of the views of course!
The mountain borders Lake Bohinj, only a short drive (or bus ride) away from Lake Bled. It's 6,306 feet tall and offers truly spectacular views of the valley. The best part is the cable car, which gives you a sweeping view as it slowly lumbers up the side of the mountain. The cable car comes every 30 minutes and is open from 7:30 am - 7 pm during summer months.
The car can be a bit pricy, but it's worth it for two reasons. One, the view of course. Two, the hike can easily take a couple hours for even experienced hikers and is, in the opinion of people in my hostel, a rather boring hike because everything is hidden by trees.
Summer Cost: 24 euros for a regular round-trip ticket, with discounts offered for children, students, and seniors.
At the top they have a cute lodge with good food and drink options. There's also additional hiking trails and picture spots for the wandering tourist.
Tip! - Get the mixed meat! It's really good and comes in this cute arrangement.