How to Spend a Day in the Fairytale Land that is Lake Bled, Slovenia
As far as tourist destinations go, Slovenia seems to have flown under the radar but is slowly gaining traction with its natural beauty and particularly iconic landmark, Lake Bled. This stunning body of water looks like it's been plucked straight out of a fairytale and placed into real life, and any lover of the outdoors should put it at the top of their travel list. Having visited at the end of June, the weather was perfection, everything popped with the brightest shades of blue and green, and I effortlessly spent NINE hours meandering around. Here's how I spent my time, as well as some other activities to consider, especially if you have more than just one day!
1. Bled Castle
The first thing I did when I arrived was head straight up to Bled Castle. Set high up on a rocky hillside, it overlooks the entire lake as well as the gorgeous rolling hills and villages in the other direction. There are restaurants, exhibits, a wine cellar, a printing works shop, souvenir shops and an excessive number of WC’s (toilets).
To enter the castle costs 11€ for adults and it is accessible by car or walking. If you feel like getting the blood flowing, the ten-minute hike starts from a trail beside the lake (near the swimming area, you’ll see signs!) Clearly the views from the top were terrible.
2. Walk the Path Around the Lake
To actually walk the entire six-kilometer path around the lake took me the majority of the day due to the area’s many lovely distractions. I found myself constantly stopping for photo opportunities, great droning spots, a drink, a moment of rest, a hike, or a boat ride. There were many things to stop and take in along the way, but definitely complete the circle because trust me, this is a place you want to see from every possible angle.
3. Take ALLLL the Photos/Videos
Considering my obsession with photography, taking pictures occupied a great deal of my time. As you wander, you can’t help but stop and snap a pic (or fifty) of Bled Island naturally framed by the trees lining its edge. I also sent my DJI Spark drone out on two occasions, once from a secluded area right on the edge where people presumably hop in for a swim, and again from the boardwalk (where I’m seated in the picture above) on the western side of the lake. While the water looks gorgeous from ground level, just wait until you see it from an aerial perspective.
4. Get Your Sweat on For the Best Views Ever
My next task was to find the famed viewpoints and get one of the shots of Lake Bled that I’d been dreaming of. I was forewarned that they were steep and challenging, and I went for the “worst” one – Mala Osojnica. The other, Ostrica, is less strenuous. If you have time, it appears that both are worthwhile and offer their own unique view of the lake. It has also come to my attention that there are signs directing you to both. I followed my Google maps like an idiot and ended up stumbling through someone’s backyard until I came across a path that ultimately led to Mala Osojnica. Not a single sign was seen. I’ve only confirmed that I made it to the right place by Googling other people’s photos and finding that we all climbed the same ridiculous staircase at the end. But the good news is you'll get up there one way or the other.
5. Hop on a Pletna Boat
Pletnas are traditional boats operated by oarsmen who I happen to pity very much. These guys fill up the boats and single-handedly take you out to Bled Island, a task that quite honestly looks exhausting AF. But in any event, the scenery is of course stunning, and it's 14€ for a roundtrip ride. The boat docks at the island where you're allotted 40 minutes to explore before heading back. You can find these pletna boats leaving from multiple spots around the lake.
6. Explore Bled Island
The pletnas, SUPs, rowboats, and swimming are all options for reaching the focal point of Lake Bled's beauty. There's not a whole lot to see on Bled Island, but there is a church with a legendary wishing bell, as well as a small museum. Admission to the island's sites will set you back 6€, and I was surprised to find them a little underwhelming. Not to mention I was a bit bummed to find the tower covered in scaffolding.
7. Indulge in Some Famous Bled Cream Cake
After a day of vigorous exercise (but really, that hike was a quad burner) I thought it only appropriate to treat myself to the area's famous cream cake. The Park Hotel is usually the recommendation you'll get, but my Airbnb host suggested Vila Preseren so I gave the underdog a shot instead. Sadly I can't compare, but I was quite pleased with my choice. Think puff pastry, vanilla cream and custard. It was fluffy, delicious, and it dates back to the 18th century so it's gotta still be around for a reason.
8. BONUS: Vintgar Gorge
Most people aren't going to spend nine hours at Lake Bled like I did, in which case, you'll have plenty of time to make it out to Vintgar Gorge. This nearby attraction is about 6 km from the lake, and can be visited by car or, if like me you can't drive stick and don't want to pay 3x a normal rental car price, you can just take the shuttle! Mamut is a tourism agent with an office right next to Bled's bus stop, and they run the shuttle for 10€ roundtrip. It runs hourly starting at 9:45 AM and returning at 12:00 PM, with the last shuttle leaving at 3:45 PM and returning at 6:00 PM. (If you are visiting anytime other than summer, shuttle availability and times may be different or entirely nonexistent, I have no idea.) Once you get to the gorge, you'll pay a 4€ entrance fee, and have 1.6 kilometers of beautiful scenery to explore. If there's one consistency in Slovenia, it's that all the water is flawless. Take a break alongside the gorge's banks and relax once in a while. This is the best way to enjoy the scenery, as the narrow pathways and boardwalks get crowded and you're kept constantly moving. Visitors often have to take turns forming single-file lines just to get past.
Other Ways to Entertain Yourself...
Those are the ways I passed my time at Lake Bled, but that does not mean there aren't a ton of other awesome things to do. Bicycle rentals are very popular for getting around the lake, as are stand up paddle boards and rowboats. I would have LOVED a rowboat, but to be honest, I was afraid I'd get too tired and end up stranded out in the middle of the lake. It's moments like these when solo traveling isn't the greatest. Another amazing opportunity that I missed is a hot air balloon ride. They typically leave very early in the morning and are weather dependent, so it's best to have a few days available just in case Mother Nature decides not to cooperate. Packing a picnic is also an ideal way to enjoy Lake Bled, and is something I would have been all over had I visited with anyone other than myself.
Hope that's helpful! Enjoy one of the most beautiful places on earth!