The iconic image of a steepled church on a forested island surrounded by nothing but striking blue water is what lures most people to Lake Bled, Slovenia. Fortunately, the area just so happens to be one of those special places that has much more to offer visitors than just a glimpse of the main attraction. From boat trips to bicycles, castles and mountain climbing, here’s a roundup of the best sights around Lake Bled.
Let’s start with the real reason everyone finds themselves in Slovenia: the island itself. Its crown jewel is the church built in the 17th century, which features a 52-metre bell tower which is open to visitors. Those who do venture into the church should make a point to ring the bell and make a wish for good luck.
Touring the island is only half the fun: getting there is the real adventure! As you can imagine, rowing and swimming are pretty much the only ways to access the island—and if you pick the latter you’d better have solid endurance.
There are numerous places around Lake Bled to rent your own rowboat, which typically cost €15 per hour and €8 for every additional hour. Alternatively, pay about €12 per person to hop on a roof-covered pletna, which holds about a dozen people. That way, someone else does all the hard work for you, and you’re free to relax and enjoy the great views.
Perched on a 130-metre high cliff with an enviable view overlooking the lake, Bled Castle appeals to both history and architecture buffs. Built in the 1000s, Blejski Grad is the oldest castle in all of Slovenia, and remains open to visitors to this day.
The sprawling estate features a number of terraces with unobstructed views of the surrounding lake and mountains, along with an outdoor restaurant and a wine cellar. Many visitors also tour the museum which has artifacts dating back to the 6th century, or simply stop in at the cafe or souvenir shop. Those wanting a fairytale wedding can even book their special day at Blejski Grad, which has a chapel that regularly holds wedding ceremonies and receptions.
To actually get to Blejski Grad, visitors can either drive (recommended) or walk (which I did, and probably would not recommend!). The pathway up through the trees does have steps, but it’s extremely steep and takes about 15 minutes—a rather good workout! Unfortunately the only way to get a good view at the top is to pay the €9 entrance fee into the castle, as there is a thick forest of trees surrounding the castle which obstruct the view.
Where to stay
Slovenia is a compact country, and many sights including Lake Bled can easily be explored as a day trip from the capital, Ljubljana. However, Lake Bled is just so darn beautiful that it’s worth staying at least one night in the area. There are some incredible hotels right along the waterfront that boast epic views of the lake, as well as budget-friendly hostels. Try the grand Vila Bled, which is a former presidential residence boasting huge suites and sweeping views of the lake.
If you’re after a more memorable experience, it doesn’t get much better than glamping at Garden Village, in one of the eco-resort’s luxury tents or tree houses.
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Globe Guide travelled to Lake Bled in partnership with Spirit Slovenia and Garden Village. As always, hosts have no editorial influence over articles.