Lake Bled Reflections

More than a day trip: How to experience Lake Bled without the tourist crowds

Paul Ryken and Sandra Rosenau Last Updated: Monday 11 May 2020 Slovenia Leave a Comment

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Who hasn’t seen that picture: a Baroque church in the middle of a lake, surrounded by mountains that reflect in its stunningly blue water? Lake Bled with its island church is probably THE most Instagrammed place in all of Slovenia.

While it’s easy to visit Lake Bled from Ljubljana on a day trip (and it gets very crowded in summer because many do just that), we recommend spending at least a night in Bled. Because once the day visitors are gone, you have the town and lake (almost) to yourself.

But before we talk about how to experience this tourist destination without the hoards of day visitors, let’s have a look at how to get here from Ljubljana (without a car).

How to get to Lake Bled (from Ljubljana)?

Lake Bled is located 54 kilometres north-west of Ljubljana (in the same direction from Ljubljana as Ljubljana’s airport). The town of Bled is at the lake’s eastern shore, and that is where you’ll find most accommodation options.

Unless you have your own transport, the easiest way to get to this tourist destination from Ljubljana is by bus. Buses leave about every 30 minutes from the main bus terminal outside the train station (Ljubljana AP) and take about an hour to get to Bled. Check with Arriva for the most up-to-date timetable.

Buses to Bled also stop at other bus stops in Ljubljana along the way out of town (Route 8). If your accommodation is somewhere along route 8 it might be easier to flag down the bus when you see it approaching (than having to make your way to the main bus terminal).

Buses to Bled depart from Ljubljana's main bus terminal outside the train station (Ljubljana AP)
Arriva and Nomago buses depart from Ljubljana's main bus terminal outside the train station (Ljubljana AP)

What to do on your way to Lake Bled?

Once you checked out of your accommodation in Ljubljana and picked up your rental car, head out of the city towards the town of Kranj. Stop there for a bit of sightseeing if you like. From Kranj continue towards Bled.

Just after you leave the motorway exit for Bled, you’ll pass through the village of Lesce. If you haven’t had lunch in Kranj stop here at Gostišče Tulipan for a delicious traditional lunch at very reasonable prices.

If you don’t have your own transport:

  • Take the bus straight from Ljubljana to Bled and skip the lunch in Lesce; or
  • Buy a bus ticket or train ticket to Lesce, and after lunch, take the bus from Lesce to Bled.
Kranjska Klobasa
Carnolian Sausage is a definite MUST-TRY when you visit the region of Gorenjska in Slovenia

So, you arrived in Lake Bled. Now what? With day visitors thinning out in the afternoon, we suggest you spend the hours until sunset in Bled town and around the lake.

What to see and do around Lake Bled?

Walk around (and to the best viewpoints over) Lake Bled

Once checked in, head out and explore the town and lake. As an absolute minimum, we suggest you walk around Lake Bled (best anti-clockwise). The 6km walk is reasonably flat, and the path is well maintained. Even those among you who aren’t fit can do it, and it doesn’t cost you a cent.

Very popular for day trippers to this tourist destination are the boat ride to St Mary's Church on the island and a visit to Bled Castle
Very popular for day trippers to this tourist destination are the boat ride to St Mary's Church on the island and a visit to Bled Castle

For those of you who are up for a bit of adventure (and don’t mind a bit of hiking), we recommend to add a little detour of about 2 kilometres (and ~1 1/2 hours including time at the top) to your walk around the lake.

Just after you reached the beach and campground of Velika Zaka (about half-way around the lake from Bled) there is a small path going up the hill to your right (with a small waymarker to Ojstrica/Velika Osojnica). It’s not very obvious. So it is best to have Maps.Me to guide you.

The path is steep and quite muddy at times, so make sure you do the detour with hiking shoes (or at least sneakers). We came across a hiker who did it with white canvas shoes. Not a good idea either, unless you don’t mind spending hours scrubbing the mud off later.

As you’re getting higher and higher, the path separates. You can turn right and head up to the Velika Osoijnica viewpoint. Whilst stunning, the better views in our opinion is from Mala Osoijnica (as is it closer to the lake). Simply turn left at the waymarker (instead of turning right towards Velika Osoijnica). Whichever viewpoint you choose, they are absolutely worth the effort. Promise.

Lake views like this from Mala Osoijnica are definitely worth the hiking effort, don't you think?
Lake views like this from Mala Osoijnica are definitely worth the hiking effort, don't you think?

To return to the lake path from Mala Osoijnica you can either walk back down the same trail you came up on or take the path and staircase that straddles the cliff face.

The latter is not for the faint-hearted but doable even for those who are scared of heights (like me). Just take it slowly and hold on to tree roots etc as needed. We wouldn’t recommend the cliff face trail though if you are doing the hike with small children, as the path is narrow and very steep.

Watch out: The cliff face trail from Mala Osoijnica back to the lake is narrow and very steep
Watch out: The cliff face trail from Mala Osoijnica back to the lake is narrow and very steep

Take a refreshing dip and reward yourself with Kremšnita

If you’re walking around the lake in summer, make sure you bring your swimsuit. The lake’s water is super clear, and a dip would be very refreshing on a hot summer’s day.

As you return to Bled after your walk, we recommend you stop at the Park Café (in front of Hotel Park) for a well-deserved treat: Blejska Kremšnita is the signature dessert originating from this tourist destination. If you did the detour to the viewpoint/s make sure your shoes are cleanish before you enter.

When you visit Lake Bled make sure you stop at the Park Cafe for Bled’s signature dessert: Blejska Kremšnita
When you visit Lake Bled make sure you stop at the Park Cafe for Bled’s signature dessert: Blejska Kremšnita

More touristy options (if that’s what you’re after)

As you walk around the lake, you also have the option to hire a boat (and row yourself) or join a boat ride to the Church of the Assumption of Mary on the island in the middle of the lake. We didn’t go there as it was too pricey (and touristy) for our liking.

Likewise, we didn’t bother hiking up to Bled Castle as the views are better from the other side of the lake towards the castle than from the castle down to the lake. Besides, we happened to be in Bled when the Medieval Festival was on (and the place was positively crawling with people).

Very popular for day trippers to this tourist destination are the boat ride to St Mary's Church on the island and a visit to Bled Castle
Very popular for day trippers to this tourist destination are the boat ride to St Mary's Church on the island and a visit to Bled Castle

Visit the nearby Vintgar Gorge

Unless you’re visiting in the off-season, we recommend you check out early the next morning and head to the nearby Vintgar Gorge to be there when it opens. At that time, you have the gorge almost to yourself and will be able to observe the birds fishing (and feeding their young if you’re there in spring).

Arrive when it opens and you have the Vintgar Gorge (almost) to yourself
Arrive when it opens and you have the Vintgar Gorge (almost) to yourself

From 9:30 onwards, the day-trippers arrive, and the narrow boardwalk/trail through the gorge becomes difficult to navigate with all the people.

A few hours later and you share the Vintgar Gorge with heaps of other people
A few hours later and you share the Vintgar Gorge with heaps of other people

The trail through the gorge is ~1.5km long (one-way). The first few hundred metres will take you along boardwalks that clinch to the walls of the gorge.

Boardwalks like this lead through the narrower parts of the gorge
Boardwalks like this lead through the narrower parts of the gorge

Once you reach the wider part of the gorge don’t think that’s it. Keep going. The gorge becomes narrow again after a few hundred metres. It passes an old hydro-electric plant (with waterfall and railway bridge above). Keep going until you reach the footbridge over the 16-metre high Šum Waterfall (Slap Šum) with a hut and rest area.

Once you reach the wider part of the Vintgar Gorge don’t think that’s it - Keep going.
Once you reach the wider part of the Vintgar Gorge don’t think that’s it - Keep going.

To see the waterfall from below exit through the turnstile (make sure you’ve got your entrance ticket) and take the steps that lead down to the right of the hut. Then follow the road across the river and turn left. Keep going until you see the waterfall in front of you.

How stunning does Šum Waterfall in the Vintgar Gorge look in winter? | Photo on Pixabay
How stunning does Šum Waterfall in the Vintgar Gorge look in winter? | Photo on Pixabay

Have you seen our other articles about Slovenia?

Discovering the local cuisine is part of the fun of travelling. It also makes for a more immersive and authentic experience if you eat in a local restaurant, chat with the wait staff/chef and learn more about the food on your table. So, while in Slovenia, make sure you taste a few traditional dishes. In our food guide for (Western) Slovenia, we talk about dishes to look out for on the menu (and where to have them).

And if you're about to plan your trip and wonder how much to budget check out how affordable it is to visit Slovenia.

If you don’t have your own transport: You can hike or bike to Vintgar Gorge from Bled. It’s 4km (via the village of Podhom) and a slight uphill to the entrance of Vintgar Gorge.

  • If you hike you can walk through the gorge, and once you reach Šum Waterfall, turn either right to hike back to Bled via the village of Zasip (4km) or turn left and walk across the footbridge to the Vintgar train station (just over 1km) and continue your travels by train.
  • If you bike to the gorge you’ll need to leave your bike at the gorge entrance and return the same way you came.

There is also a shuttle bus from/to Bled between mid-June and mid-September. However, the first bus doesn’t arrive at the gorge entrance until 9:30, by which time it’s packed with people.

Rather than return to Ljubljana after your visit to Vintgar Gorge, we recommend to continue your journey over the Julian Alps and along the Soča Valley (link).

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Have you been to Lake Bled? What did you enjoy the most, and how did you beat the crowds? Please leave a comment below.

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More than a day trip: How to experience Lake Bled without the tourist crowds
More than a day trip: How to experience Lake Bled without the tourist crowds
More than a day trip: How to experience Lake Bled without the tourist crowds

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