Many think of Slovenia as a small European country which they need to pass to get on the Croatian coast if they are travelling from north Europe. On the other hand, Croats love to joke about how Slovenia is a small and insignificant country. These jokes are from some other time and they need to stay there because Slovenia is much more than a “small country”. Yes, looking just at the territory of Slovenia, it’s a small country compared to some others. But the people and nature compensate for it and give so much more.
Slovenia is a home of many national parks and attractions and I had the opportunity to visit Slovenia a few times before. Every time I was blown away with people, nature, culture and the way of life. The one attraction that was always on my travel list is Triglav National Park. I was drawn to it every time when I was in Slovenia.
One of the best trips to Slovenia was the one my friend Marko and I arranged. We rented a camper van and drove with it around Triglav National Park for six days. This was an amazing experience and I will write more about it in my second blog about Slovenia.
Bled was the first place that I have visited with my girlfriend and we stayed there for four days. The plan was to find an Airbnb and then every day drive around the Bled and explore surrounding places. It was at the beginning of June and there were not a lot of people there. We arrived in the middle of the week and it was really calm and quiet.
Only during the weekend, people started to arrive, probably locals and tourists from Austria or Italy. I visited Bled once more at the beginning of August and it was a completely different story. The town was literally packed with people and streets were crowded, full of traffic jams. It was so bad the second time that Marko and I decided to walk from our camp, which was 5 kilometres away from the city centre. Just not to struggle with traffic and parking.
The Bled lake is a perfect weekend retreat for a relaxing walk or bicycle ride around the lake. There are boats available for rent to explore the lake and the island in the middle. Bled is also a good place to settle for exploring the surrounding area since Vintgar Gorge, Radovna valley, Bohinj and Peričnik Waterfall are close.
Although there is plenty to do in Bled, I didn’t spend too much time there. I have only visited a few places worth photographing there. I hope I will fix that in the future as I will most certainly visit Bled again.
Bled Island is one of the most obvious things to photograph and there is no bad time for that. It looks amazing at any time of day or season and it has been a motive for many photographers. For me, the best spot for photographing the island is on the west bank of the lake, or from Ojstrica hill. That viewpoint gives a great view over the lake and the island in the middle of it, especially in the sunrise. West bank is also a good place for sunset photos since light is illuminating the island, Bled fortress and Karavankas mountain range in the back.
There are two hills above Bled with an excellent view over the lake and the town. The higher one is Osojnica (755m) and the lower one Ojstrica (684m) which I have chosen for my visit. The hike starts on the west bank of the lake near “Bled Camping”, through the forest up to the rocky top. The place is very popular and highly visited. In June there were only a few of us there (when I met the “guy”), but in August there was almost no place to put my tripod to get a good view even if we arrived before the sunrise.
While speaking with locals about Bled, and how it is highly visited, they have told me that they don’t like too much the visitors and that they go to village houses in Radovna Valley to get away from crowds.
Radovna Valley is an alpine valley located north-west from the Bled and the area is a part of Triglav National Park. Zgornja Radovna is a small settlement in the middle of the valley where you can find a restaurant with delicious homemade dishes. Along the road from the Bled to Zgornja Radovna there are a few cheese production farms, a small lake and a lot of free-roaming cattle. A lot of people choose a trip to the valley by bike from the Bled, and I can understand why it is a very simple yet beautiful place to spend time.
If you are not too attracted to visit the Bled, maybe the better option would If you are not too attracted to visit the Bled, maybe the better option would be to find accommodation in the valley. I have seen a few properties for rent, and they are all a bit remote and surrounded with nature. It sounds to me like a perfect spot for a vacation away from the city.
Vintgar Gorge is a 10 minute ride north-west from the Bled and it is a nice refreshment in hot summer months. The place is popular because of the river that flows through a 1.6 km long gorge and it’s wooden pathways within. The path is full of smaller and bigger rapids, wooden bridges and crystal clear natural pools.
The gorge was made by the Radovna river which flows through picturesque Radovna Valley mentioned above. Walls of the canyon are up to 100 meters high and 53 meters wide. On the halfway of the canyon is a stone arch bridge of Bohinj railway and dam for the small hydropower plant.
The only thing I don’t like about the gorge are crowds. The place is very popular, close to Bled and a lot of people come to visit throughout the day. If you are unlucky, you could easily end up in a jam for the whole walk. Pathways are a bit narrow in some places and it is not possible to stop and take a photo if you are in the crowd.
The best time to avoid crowds in summer months is to come early in the morning before the gorge is even open at 8 am. I was lucky a few times to arrive early and avoid larger crowds. But when I was walking back to the entry, more people arrived and it was not possible to photograph anything from the tripod. So if you are a photographer and you want to visit Vintgar, I advise you to arrive early in the morning and try to avoid photography from tripod while people are walking to reduce camera shake.
Vintgar looks awesome in any season. During summer, everything is green and with blue/cyan water it has a nice contrast. Autumn is even more beautiful because there are not many leaves on the trees and the view is more open than during the summer. Not sure which one I like the most, maybe I need to visit it during winter because I have a feeling it would be even more beautiful.
I like to joke about Vintgar that it is a Kamačnik Canyon bigger brother, or Kamačnik on steroids. If you have visited Kamačnik and you like it, Vintgar will impress you even more.
At the end of the gorge is photogenic Waterfall Sum which is high about 16 meters and it is the largest river waterfall in Slovenia. People like to swim in the pool beneath the waterfall in the summer months. Crystal clear water makes it a perfect spot for relaxation from a short walk, but the water can be really cold if you are not used to it. One part of the waterfall is in the shade, and the other side is illuminated with harsh sunlight so it is much better to come earlier or later in the day if you want to photograph it.
One of the interesting places located near Radovna valley is Peričnik Waterfall. It is located on the road from Mojstrana towards Aljažev dom (mountain hut). The waterfall is easily seen from the road, and it is only a few minutes of walk from the parking place. There is no entrance fee and it is a very popular place.
After a short walk uphill from the parking spot, the waterfall will appear in his full glory. It is 52 meters high and one of the highest waterfalls in Slovenia. The amazing part is you can walk beneath the ridge over which waterfall is falling down. The whole ridge is wet and water is dripping from the ceiling so it is necessary to be careful.
Only later I found out that there is a smaller 16 meters waterfall above the larger one, which I didn’t know at the time of the visit and I didn’t have a chance to see it. So I think that gives me a good excuse to visit it again.
Peričnik waterfall is one of those places that are really worth visiting. The waterfall is from another planet, and it looks amazing. The nature around it is beautiful, peaceful and if there are no other people it is a perfect spot to relax and watch endless water flow.
Slovenia definitely has much to offer and I have only explored a small part of it around the Bled. In the next blog, I will write about the North part of the Triglav National Park and our travel with the camper van.
Here are my other posts from SLOVENIA
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