Couple of years ago I spent few days in Slovenia as part of my railway trip around Europe. I based myself in Ljubljana, the charming capital of this tiny yet incredible country and did probably the most popular day trip I could – to the Slovenian Alps. The plan was to visit only Bled but I managed to go to Bohinj as well. As soon as I arrived to the lakeside my jaw has dropped. It was one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen and surely one of the best things to do in Slovenia! The crystal clear water, harsh slopes of mountains around, the church like from a fairy tale and hardly any people around – that’s how I remembered Bohinj! Ever since then it was my dream to include these places in my next Slovenia itinerary and return to Slovenian Alps. Finally, 7 years later it happened!
I was really anxious to see those great places in Slovenian Alps again. In my mind they were the synonim of the paradise, so beautiful that it’s hard to believe they really exist! After all since 2009 I was lucky to visit some world famous destinations and my perception might have changed a little bit. For days prior visiting Bohinj and Bled I kept talking about how amazing and unforgettable these places were. Yet I was afraid that my image of Slovenian Alps is too perfect in my mind and the reality might crush it. But as soon as I saw Lake Bohinj again I was relieved. Even if it was getting dark and the day was really gloomy the place looked as breathtaking as I remembered!
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The best places to visit in Slovenian Alps
There are couple of places worth visiting in Slovenian Alps but three of them are real gems that deserves much more attention! Funny enough, names of all of them start with the letter “B”. Coincidence? I don’t think so…
Bled – one of the highlights of Slovenia
As soon as you arrive to Bled you can see it is a popular place, bustling with tourists from all over the world. But it’s easy to understand why so many people visit Bled. The place is just stunning! The town is located at the shore of Lake Bled famous for its island church. The building itself comes from the 15th century but even in the ancient times a pagan temple for the goddess of love was standing at the same spot. The best way to get to the island is by the pletna boat. These can be found only in Bled, their origins dates back to the year 1590 and up to these days the tradition and the profession stays in the family – if the girl is born then her husband becomes a pletnarji. Recently a local priest tried to start his own business with delivering tourists to the island but that resulted in the strike of pletnarji and eventually things got back to how they used to be for centuries.
There’re many legends connected to Bled and the island. There’re 99 steps leading to the church on the islands – it is said that the groom has to carry his newly married wife all the way up to assure them a long and happy life. The step no. 100 is supposed to be at the chapel on the Bled castle but of course no one can go behind the altar to check it. Another legend says that the bell in the island church makes wishes come true – you only need to ring it three times and truly believe in God. The origin of the bell is pretty interesting too. A young widow living in Bled castle, after losing her husband, gathered all her jewelry and recast them into the bell. When it was transformed to the island a huge thunderstorm started and the boat with the bell sank down in the waters of Lake Bled. The devastated widow sold all her property, donated the money for the construction of the new church on the island and moved out to Rome to live a modest life of a nun. After she died the pope was so moved by her story that he had decided to make a new bell, the one that can be found now on the Lake Bled church.
Above the lake, at the outskirts of the town, an impressive castle dominated the landscape. It dates back to the beginning of 11th century and it was never conquered, the place was more used to collect feud and taxes for passers-by. These days there’s the museum inside but that’s not the reason to visit the castle. The view from up there is just breathtaking, one of the best ones in Bled. You can see the lake and the island in all its glory and on the good day the majestic Slovenian Alps in the background, including the highest peak Triglav, will take your breath away! I wasn’t so lucky but still the landscape around made me speechless! But Bled Castle isn’t the only place around the lake with the spectacular view from above. You can’t find a better place for a coffee in Bled than Cafe Belvedere, hidden in the forest on the premises of Vila Bled. The whole complex with a fascinating history used to be a summer house for the famous president of former Yugoslavia – Josip Broz Tito. Until now some memorabilia after him are left in the villa and the incredible fresco on the first floor are the great example of the socialist realism art. Cafe Belvedere itself is located a little bit higher than Vila Bled, you just need to follow signs through the forest to get there. The pavilion was designed by the most famous Slovene architect – Joze Plecnik whose works can be find also in Ljubljana, Belgrade or Prague. In past some of the greatest people of the world could enjoy the view over Lake Bled from the terrace of Cafe Belvedere, now we can share this experience too! This is definitely the best hidden spot in Bled! During my visit Vila Bled was full of Asian tourists while up there in Cafe Belvedere only two people were sipping coffee with the incredible view!
No one can leave Bled without trying the famous cream cake, the symbol of the town. You can find them all over the town but the original and undoubtedly the best ones are sold in the Hotel Park cafe, just at the shore of Lake Bled. The recipe was created by Istvan Lukacevic – his wife got sick and they came to Bled for the treatment (as it’s a sanatorium town as well). He found a job in the patisserie of Hotel Park and was trying to find a perfect recipe until he finally succeeded. Since 1953 over 13 million cakes were sold, each year this number reaches 600.000! The cake is rather simple, consist of vanilla cream, whipped cream and a thick dough, everything is hand made with fresh, local ingredients and is still made in Hotel Park. The cake has around 450 calories but it is said that a 6 kms walk around the lake is enough to burn it. In Poland we also have famous cream cake from Wadowice, the town where the pope John Paul 2 was born, but it is nothing like those in Bled. They definitely live up to all the hype, it was a bliss!
Bohinj – one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen!
The distance from Bled to Bohinj is only some 25 kms but the places couldn’t be any more different. While Bled is the most popular destination in Slovenian Alps, always full of people, Bohinj is such a serene place where you really can be close to the nature. My first visit there was on a gorgeous sunny day at the end of August yet there were hardly any people around. This time it was very gloomy but the dramatic, grey sky and low clouds actually added up to the atmosphere.
There are numerous activities to do around Lake Bohinj and all of them include the unforgettable views of Slovenian Alps! I started the morning with the boat ride through the lake, from Ribcev Laz (the village with the picturesque church and bridge at one end of the lake) to Ukanc on the other side. The journey takes around 30 minutes – at first I thought it’s rather long just for a little bit over 4 kms but the time passed by so quickly I was disappointed it’s over when we reached Ukanc. It was so quiet, so peaceful. The scenery around was incredible, reminding me a lot of the Norwegian fjords. Too bad I couldn’t see the highest peaks of Slovenian Alps – Triglav – due to the weather but still what I could admire was unforgettable. Sun or clouds, Lake Bohinj is still one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen!
From Ukanc you can easily hike up to the Savica waterfall, the journey should take a little bit over an 1 hour. The last part, from the tickets gate (the entrance is 3€) is up on the stairs. Apparently there’re around 550 of them but it’s not too difficult to reach the waterfall. Just don’t do my mistake and don’t think of giving up when you find a welcoming bench on your way in the upper part – you might think you’re only half a way but the waterfall is just around the corner, maybe 50 steps away! The Savica waterfall itself is really amazing, the narrow gorge is trembling with the sound of water falling 78 meters down – that’s higher than famous Niagara Falls! The view from the waterfall to the Lake Bohinj valley is incredible as well! Altogether the high up to the waterfall might be slightly tiring for some not as experienced tourists (like me) but it’s definitely worth the effort!
Another place well worth a visit near the Lake Bohinj is Vogel ski resort. You can get up there by the cable car, one of the steepest I’ve ever taken – the lower station is very close from the boat stop in Ukanc. The view from the top is incredible, even in the cloudy and gloomy day like I had. I can only imagine how it looks like with the sunny weather! In the winter time the place serves as a popular skiing center, outside of the season it’s a good starting point to hike around, with numerous trails and huts. In the upper station of the cable car there’s also a restaurant where you can eat a wholehearted portions of the local food – one bowl of soup kept me going for most of the day!
But for me the best thing to do in Bohinj is simply sitting at the bench at the lakeside and just looking around, enjoying the magnificent nature and trying to remember every single detail of this perfect moment. Because this place is just too beautiful to be true yet it somehow exists!
Bovec – adventure paradise
I was really looking forward to visiting Bovec. I’ve heard so many great things about the place and pictures I could see online just proved me it’s another special destination. Bovec is often referred to as the European capital of adventure and I guess this isn’t far from the truth. There’re numerous sport activities you can do in and around the town: rafting, zip line, kayaking, canyoning and many more. We were supposed to try zip line and even if at first my reaction was a panic attack I got used to the idea of sliding down the line for almost 1km over the deep gorge. I can’t be 100% sure but I was hoping I can do it! Too bad that one the day we were in Bovec the day was yet again gloomy and rainy and zip line was out of question. I was really disappointed! As an alternative we could do rafting but since I’m not very comfortable with any water activities I had to pass.
But even on the bad weather day you won’t be bored in Bovec and the surroundings. Walking around the town and Soca river or hiking up to the nearby waterfall are pure pleasure, no matter in which conditions. Or you can set off for a culinary journey and try local dishes. It’s based on the products people could get only in the Bovec area and harsh mountainous terrain and climate are very demanding. There’re a lot of mushrooms, vegetables and sheep meat and cheese used for simple yet delicious dishes. The lunch in Martinov Hram, a centrally located restaurant, was one of the best I had in Slovenia! If you’re up for some more really good sheep cheese the award winning farm next to Camp Korita is your place to go to!
If you plan to go from Bovec to Bohinj there’s only one right way to do it – by motorail! It was one of the highlights of my visit in Slovenia, a very unexpected one. I’ve seen motorail before, there’s one in the night train from Prague to Kosice where people can put their cars on the platform that is attached to the end of the train and while the car is being transported you go to the regular compartment and collect the car at the end of the journey. But in Slovenia it worked different! The car goes to the platform and you stay inside the car! If you do this trip (and I can only recommend it!) try to be the first car behind the locomotive – it’d feel like you are driving the train! As you probably know I’m a huge railways geek so I felt like a kid on Christmas day, overexcited and bouncing with joy on the front seat! The whole journey from Most na Soci to Bohinjska Bistrica takes a little bit over half an hour, passing through 20 or so tunnels, but it was definitely not enough for me, I wanted more!!!
Other places to visit in Slovenian Alps
These are just three places in Slovenian Alps, best of the best, that you should visit when you’re in Slovenia. But the area offers you so much more! There’s Kranjska Gora, famous for the biggest ski flying hill in the world (I was there in 2002 and it was more than spectacular), Pokljuka – a plateau dotted with cute cottages or Studor with numerous hay barns. No matter what you’re looking for I’m sure you will find it in Slovenian Alps, after all it’s a true paradise on Earth!
- The entrance fee the the castle is 10€. The opening hours and more info about the tickets can be found here.
- There are 5 pletna boats piers around Lake Bled to take you to the island. The ticket is 13€.
- You can find the best cream cakes in the cafe in front of Hotel Park, at the lake shore. The cake is 3,70€
- I slept in Hotel Park and the location couldn’t be better. If you’re lucky you can get a room with the view over the lake (I wasn’t). But there’re many accommodation options in Bled for all tastes and budgets!
- The boat in Ribcev Laz depart from next to the bridge. The ticket is 9€ for one way or 10,50€ for return. More information can be found here.
- The entrance fee to the the Savica Waterfall is 3€, paid at the booth few steps up from the parking lot
- The cable car to Vogel is 10€ one way or 14€ for return ticket. More info here.
- In Bohinj I stayed in Hotel Kristal and I can definitely recommend it! It’s located in the traditional house, the walls are full of art and the restaurant serves delicious food! It was probably the best place I’ve stayed in Slovenia!
- For numerous adventure activities head to Aktivni Planet. My friends who were braved enough for rafting were really satisfied with the whole experience.
- You will eat the best lunch in the city in Martinov Hram. And for the best cheese go to this place.
- Motorail runs between Most na Soci and Bohinjska Bistrica. All the info about timetable and prices can be found here.
If you think of visiting Slovenia or just want to read more about the country take a look what else I wrote about it:
- Charming Ljubljana, Slovenia in pictures
- Alternative Ljubljana
- Ptuj, Slovenia – a charming little gem
- and more!
Disclaimer: my trip to Slovenia was in partnership with Best Press Story however all opinions are 100% mine, as always
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