Tucked into a valley beneath the rugged Julian Alps, in the middle of a crystal clear lake guarded by a castle on a cliff, there is an island with a little white church that can only be reached by a rowboat.
If this sounds one “Once upon a time” and an evil stepmother short of a Disney movie, that’s because it is. Mountains are wonderful, and mountains that drop into lakes are ideal. Once you add an island and a cliff-top castle to that, it becomes unmissable.
There isn’t too much to say about the area that can’t be said better in pictures. Bled’s town center is charming, but a little built up for my taste. Of course, that’s inevitable with such an incredible place that draws so many people. Fortunately, a walk around the lake can take you away from the crowds and hotels and give you calendar-worthy views of the island. You can also hop on one of the many large rowboats around the lake for a trip out to the island, or rent a boat or kayak to paddle yourself out if you are feeling ambitious.
Besides being unbelievably picturesque, for me, the best thing about Bled was that it makes a perfect jumping off point for other outdoor adventures in the Julian Alps. The town is full of outdoor tour companies offering activities like canyoning, paragliding and guided hiking. It is possible to bike or walk to the spectacular Vintgar Gorge and hourly public busses can take you to the less developed, and possibly even more stunning Lake Bohinj for hiking, boating or rock climbing.
After a day of outdoor adventures, Bled’s larger town becomes less of an annoyance and more of a convenience with its many restaurant and cafe options. Finishing up the day with a hike to the castle after 9 p.m. will allow you to look down onto the lake and island without the usual 8€ admission charge.
Although three and a half days seemed totally sufficient for the Bled region when we were planning our Croatian/Slovenian excursion, it ended up being difficult to squeeze everything we wanted to do into such a short time. (You’ll see why with my Julian Alps hiking and kayaking post soon to come.)
I know I say this about nearly every place I go, but one time at Lake Bled was certainly not enough and I hope to make it back someday soon.