Lake Bled is of the top 3 romantic destinations we visited during our Balkans travels. Our weekend in Bled was not a romantic getaway, however, just laughter-filled days with a couple of longtime friends.
Nestled in Slovenia’s Julian Alps, Lake Bled is the number one tourist destination in this eco-friendly country. Rising like a fairy tale from Lake Bled’s placid glacial water, Lake Bled Island and the towering 16th-century church, Assumption of Mary, are the one attraction you cannot miss. The 99 stairs lead to the chapel at Bled Island’s 16th-century church Mary of the Assumption.
The island is popular for weddings planning. According to local legend, grooms who carry their wives up the 99 steps to the chapel will be blessed with future happiness.
One of the interesting side notes about Bled Island is its pre-Christianity connection. The island once served as a temple for the ancient Slavic goddess Ziva. Thus, the connection between Christian weddings and the Slavic fertility goddess is fascinating.
The scenery is fantastic in every direction. Our primary mission was to rent a wooden rowboat and row about the lake and the mystical Lake Bled Island. If you’re not used to rowing, it can be real exercise. Nevertheless, we all were having a blast taking turns with the oars and going crazy with the cameras. Rowboat rentals are 10 Euros per hour. If rowing is not your thing, local water taxis called pletnas will ferry you out and back for 12 Euros. Yes, the whole experience is a little touristy, but really who cares. The area has been a prime European resort destination for over 150 years. So it feels like you wouldn’t be surprised to find the Grand Budapest Hotel here. We visited in early September (2016), and it was super chill.
Activities In and Around Lake Bled
Suppose you ever tire from the staggering views of Lake Bled, the crimson sunsets, and elegant white swans floating by. In that case, you might try your hand exploring the nearby wilderness. Hiking around the lake itself will take only a couple of hours. For something more challenging, several trails lead up to Bled Castle perched on the steep cliff of Lake Bled’s northern shoreline. We opted for the Osojnica lookout trail, a steep path with rewarding views of Bled Island located off the western edge of Lake Bled.
There are three viewpoints on the Osojnica lookout trail; this is lookout number two.
We put aside half a day to walk along the wooden bridges (1.6km one-way) of nearby Vintgar Gorge. One of the country’s most stunning natural features, the narrow wooden bridges snake down the gorge with the thunderous sounds of the Radovna River below. The trail ends above the magnificent Šum waterfall, where most people stop for a coffee before returning to the entry point. Another 10 minutes walking takes you below the falls for outstanding views.
At the end of the Vintgar Gorge trail lies the splendid Šum waterfall.
The gorge is only 4km from Bled if you know the way. Due to time constraints, we used a private shuttle service (3.5 Euros per person one-way). Therefore, there is a 4 Euro per person fee to enter. If you’re following the math, that’s 11 Euros per person to hike what is essentially a 3.2km path. Was it worth it? We definitely thought so.
Getting to Lake Bled
We took the bus from Ljublijana, purchasing tickets a day in advance from the ticket office for 6.40 Euros per person. Unfortunately, people were buying tickets directly from the driver, making things a little confusing as seats quickly filled up and many tickets were left waiting for the next bus (they leave every 30 minutes for Bled).
Where to Stay
We stayed in a well-situated AirBnB about 100 meters from the eastern shore of Lake Bled called Villa Vlata. The apartment sleeps four people and includes a full kitchen. We were 3 minutes from the bus station and restaurants. The management was extremely friendly and assisted us with all our queries. Price was 70 Euros per night (split 4 ways).
Where to Eat
Restaurants here are delicious, and what could be better with this lunchtime view than a frosty Union Lager. Lake Bled’s food scene is fantastic. We became addicted to a nearby bistro called Ostarija-Restaurant Babji Zob located behind the bus station. The portions were generous, and dishes tended to be a bit on the heavy side. Hands down, our favourite was the dumplings filled with potatoes, onion and lard topped with fried pork cracklings (we did say a bit on the heavy side, right?).
Then there is the famous Lake Bled Cream Cake, a whimsical dessert befitting the fairy tale scenery. This delicate confection consists of custard and vanilla cream, topped with a thin puff pastry layer and a powdered sugar sprinkle. Take our advice do not miss this dessert.
Balkans Travel Wrap-up
Lake Bled was the final destination in our two-month Balkan discovery. We were tickled to finish the region on such a high note. Lake Bled turned out to be everything we’d hoped for with the added bonus of having an amazing culinary scene. We indulged in some extremely heavy regional dishes. In addition, we enjoyed many beers and bottles of wine with good friends who travelled a long way to share the adventure with us. What more could we ask for.
Cheers to Lake Bled, a fantastic weekend and final destination in our Balkan adventures.