The Beauty of Slovenia – Bled and the Vintgar Gorge

Looking to check in on nature, and escape Ljubljana’s busy streets and cafes, we decided to make a day trip to Bled. Ranked alongside words like “moist” and “yolk” that should really be banished from the English language, Bled does little to depict the beauty and charm of this small Slovenian town. Postcard perfect, many people may not immediately recognize Bled by name, however would likely perk up after being shown a photo of its famous lake.

The iconic Island on Lake Bled

The iconic Island on Lake Bled

Our feelings on the name aside, Travis and I boarded the bus with about 75% certainty of where to get off and sat back for the 75 minute ride through rural Slovenia. As the time came for us to depart, we hopped off, 88% sure that this was the right idea, and after looking dazed for a few minutes we spotted the water in the distance and began walking in that direction.

*Only later would we discover that, while our stop worked just fine, had we waited for the next stop we’d have been let out at the main station in the middle of town.

Boats waiting to take eager tourists out to Bled Island

Boats waiting to take eager tourists out to Bled Island


This swan couldn’t help but strike pose after pose for my camera

The lake is stunning – which is really all you need to know – and coming from Canada I consider this the highest complement I can give. Deep blue-green and fairly large, Lake Bled is surrounded by lush green hills, which were beginning to show their fall hues during our visit. However, what mother nature provided, man must have thought he could perfect, as Lake Bled is also famous for TWO historical buildings. Immediately we noticed the aptly named Church on the Island, a quaint church perched on a small island in the middle of the lake. In addition to being visually stunning, archaeologists have found many ruins on the site, with the oldest dating back to the 11th century BC.

...and this duck was even more pleased with himself than the swan!

…and this duck was even more pleased with himself than the swan!

After soaking in the beautiful views of the island and church, and snapping plenty of photos, we peeled our eyes away long enough to catch a glimpse of Bled’s second famous structure, Bled Castle (the names here are so creative!). Perched high atop a steep hill that seems to climb directly from the lake, Bled Castle was initially built in 1011, with an addition and further strengthening of its fortifications during the Middle Ages. Today it serves as an exhibit and site for cultural festivals.

Bled castle perched high above the lake.

Bled castle perched high above the lake.

With so many pretty vistas it was hard to know exactly where to start. After wandering around the lake for a bit, we made our way up the hillside to the castle for some spectacular views of the lake below. Upon reluctantly descending the hill, we continued around the lake for some more photos and a stroll through town. As it turns out the best thing about Bled is that it’s hard not to see everything the moment you reach the lake, and the only real thing to do there is walk and stare in awe.

Realizing that we’d covered everything we wanted to by 12:00, we decided to make a small detour to the Vintgar Gorge before heading home. Again, we weren’t completely certain how to get there, as our pre-trip research hadn’t been overly productive; however with the name of the nearest stop we could find written on a small piece of paper, a bus driver assured us with the nod of his head that he could get us to the general area.

Fifteen minutes later the signal came to depart and we found ourselves on the side of a dirt road surrounded by a few houses but most definitely no gorge. Knowing we needed to hike into the park area that surrounds this natural landmark, we set off in the most plausible direction. Fifteen minutes later, and much sweatier than is socially acceptable, we reached the park – delighted we hadn’t gotten lost – and although we were a bit tired and hungry from our long day of hiking, we were instantly transfixed by the water, so clear it looked like glass.

Approaching the Vintgar Gorge...just look at the water!

Approaching the Vintgar Gorge…just look at the water!

Much like Bled, the only real thing to do at the Vintar Gorge is to walk along a winding path comprised of some impressive bridges and suspended portions clinging to the cliff faces, and stare in awe at the impressive power of Mother Nature. The deep turquoise water is mind-bogglingly clear, making anything we have at home seem dingy in comparison, and was made all the more stunning by the vibrant hues of red, yellow, and orange in the trees around us. As the sunlight trickled through to the bottom of the deep rocky crevice, we tried our best to capture everything on camera.

The Radovna River surrounded by stunning fall colours

The Radovna River surrounded by stunning fall colours

Knowing if we didn’t turn back soon we’d miss our bus back to Bled (and end up waiting two hours for the next one) we finally turned around and made our way out of the gorge, back to the bus station in Bled, and onto a bus bound for Ljubljana where our beds awaited us.vintgar2 vintgar5 vintgar6 vintgar4

Logistics: Bled is a very touristy city during the peak summer months, and as such most of the information we found online pertains to expensive guided tours. Also, many of the attractions are quite pricey (ie. entering the castle etc…). Therefore, in our next post we’ll go over all the details about visiting Bled and the Vintar Gorge independently and provide some budget advice too!

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