The most iconic Slovenian landmark and a holidaymaker’s paradise
If you google Slovenia, one of the first images that pops up is that of a gorgeous lake surrounded by forests with a striking mountainous landscape in the background. The lake has an island with a cute church in the middle and overlooking it all is an enchanting castle perched atop of a cliff. What you’re seeing is none other than Lake Bled.
If you’re looking for a place steeped in history and packed with natural beauty, look no further. Lake Bled is a family holiday necessity. But why should just just admire the picture? Why not come and visit it for yourself? Well if you’re not sure, here is 8 reasons why!
Both. This picturesque alpine lake is millions of years old and was formed by a humongous glacier scraping down the valley. A giant rocky obstacle in the glacier’s way refused to budge and a small piece of it is still poking its head out of the water in triumph as the only natural island in Slovenia.
Another origins story of Lake Bled is that it used to be a lush meadow with a big rock in its centre. Mountain fairies would gather at this rock to dance. Grazing sheep made the grass hard, and despite the fairies’ request to have the area fenced off, the shepherds refused, and a fairy got hurt. The angry fairies called upon the mountain springs to flood the valley. And voilà – a magical lake with a fairy island!
Whether it was a gang of vengeful fairies or a sloppy glacier, Lake Bled is here and it’s spectacular. It symbolises a perfect balance of natural and cultural heritage that’s just begging to be explored.
Here’s a list of reasons why this iconic landmark doubles as a perfect family holiday in Slovenia.
As one of the main Slovenian wanderlust treasures, Lake Bled has active family holidays written all over its magnificent face. The first thing you absolutely must do when visiting the town of Bled (ah, yes, the lake is named after the nearby town) is take a stroll. A simple yet most effective way of getting a feel for the place and its breath-taking surroundings.
The 6 km walk will take you roughly an hour and a half, depending on the number of scenic breaks. You’ll pass a string of old-school hotels and villas, including Tito’s famous summer residence. By the way, walking isn’t the only means of transport that’ll get you around the lake. You can hop on a little tourist train, cycle, or do as your tourist predecessors did and take a horse and carriage ride.
There are two ways of getting to Lake Bled’s island. The traditional way is by pletna. It’s a wider Bled equivalent of the Venetian gondola that’s been taking people to the island for over 400 years. Or you can get there on your own steam. Rent a rowboat or paddleboat at one of the several local vendors and off you go.
Once on the island, you’ll ascend 99 steps to reach the 17th century church. It stands on the original foundations built eight centuries before that. Yup, very old. Sorry to say, there are no mountain fairies dancing about, but there is a wish-granting bell inside the church with a legend of its own behind it. Give it a ring!
This ancient castle has been sitting on the cliff above the lake for more than 1000 years? Considered to be the oldest castle in Slovenia, Bled Castle offers a spectacular view, a museum, and exquisite wine tasting in its cellar. Dining with a view is definitely part of its perks, so grab lunch or dinner and make sure to top it off with the traditional Bled Cream Cake. It’s the regional dessert called Kremšnita. You might not be able to pronounce it, but you won’t be able to forget it either. De-li-cious!
For a higher vantage point overlooking Lake Bled, a hike up to Mala and Velika Osojnica is most warmly recommended. The ascend rewards you with a surreal postcard view of the lake and its surrounding mountains. Another amazing hike is up to Ojstrica. This short but steep climb ends with a romantic panoramic view. Not far from Bled is the lovely ecologically protected Jelovica. A wonderful hike through the forest and, as always, stunning scenery.
If it’s a lake, you should be able to go for a swim, right? Absolutely. There’s no better way to cool down on a hot summer’s day than to have a dip in Lake Bled. There’s an enclosed swimming area called Lido on the lake’s shore. It features waterslides, diving platforms, inflatables and trampolines for the kiddos to go wild on.
While on the topic of water sports, hiring a boat is great, but paddling on Lake Bled can also be done standing up. SUPs are an amazing way to explore the lake from a different perspective. Guided SUP tours are available, so why be landbound?
Located near Bled’s lakeside is a hill called Straža. In summer, Straža offers a superb family outing with a touch of adrenaline. You can dart down the hill in a toboggan and marvel at the rapidly approaching lake. During the snowy season, Straža transforms into an excellent beginner-intermediate ski slope for skiers and snowboarders.
Another wintertime activity is ice-skating. Yes, you can skate on the lake. But do be careful, skating on the lake depends on the weather, so be sure to ask the locals first. However, when the lake itself is not safe enough, the lakeside ice rink sure is. You can even try a bit of curling while you’re at it.
Now that you’ve taken a walk around the lake, visited its island and castle, went for a paddle or swim, hiked to the nearby viewpoints, did some skating or skiing at the lakeside, it’s time to introduce you to some more fun stuff your family can get up to while visiting. Lake Bled’s surrounding areas are simply bursting with activities.
One of the local must-see pitstops is Vintgar Gorge. Its 1.6-kilometre long path is carved amidst splendid vertical walls and takes you alongside pools and rapids straight to a fantastic waterfall.
Nothing builds character like teamwork. In a boat. Take your family for a bit of adrenaline and even more pristine countryside – go rafting! Near Lake Bled runs Slovenia’s majestic Sava River. Rafting down Sava is not too demanding and definitely worth trying when on holiday in such a unique alpine environment.
Descending down mountain rivers and splashing in rocky pools is an exceptional way of spending time on your active holiday. Lake Bled happens to have an amazing neighbour – Lake Bohinj – where canyoning is another adventure all by itself. Lake Bohinj also provides perfect opportunities for more hiking, biking, paddling and family picnics – check it out!
Staying at or near Lake Bled is anything but a problem, with numerous accommodations available on every step. Literally. Many hotels are right on the waterfront, others are located in town, and many private accommodations are sprinkled around the nearby countryside.
For a more natural yet still very comfortable experience of staying near Lake Bled go glamping. Seriously, it’s the cosiest kind of camping. There’s a number of glamping options at Lake Bled, from treehouses to dreamy cottages, all suitably equipped to meet your family’s needs. And it really does feel very natural indeed.
Speaking of natural, there are also plenty of spas, like the Živa Wellness Centre, to help you relax and boost your health. Especially soothing in winter after a long day in the snow.
Taking a family holiday to Slovenia is undeniably an unforgettable experience. Visiting the country’s symbol of beauty and all-year-round centre of outdoor activities is therefore nothing short of obligatory.
Lake Bled has a heap of events lined up throughout the year and the surrounding countryside possesses exceptional sites and adventures your family will surely enjoy.
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