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alps,  europe,  travel

a weekend in bled | slovenia

kayaking . canyoneering . hiking

When you have a weekend to travel to Bled via France, you gotta do it! It took us over 12 hours in transit by train to get there, so we knew we had to make every day count, not that it was hard. Bled is easily one of the most scenic towns that’s also fairly easy to get to in Slovenia, but doesn’t mean it’s as easy as flying in! Other towns within or near Triglav National Park can be visited by seasonal busses that operate a few times a day. Outside of the summer season, you have to time the local busses with the train ride. If you have a larger budget, however, it is definitely easier to drive by car from the capital, Ljubljana. Our ride had several train connections and was both long and delayed, but boy, were we excited!

Lake Bled

Day 1

With a small group, staying at a hostel is ideal, especially when you can rent out an entire room for you and your friends to share. It’ll feel like a private hotel room with bunk beds. I love staying in hostels because I have both the freedom to either cook for cheap or eat local cuisines and understand the culture. This trip, we decided to enjoy the eastern European cuisine.

Since we had such a delay with our train situation (ahem, sleeping in the Munich train station), we got to Bled in the middle of the day. Thankfully, we only planned for a chill first day full of exploring the town and walking around the lake. Seriously, this place is incredible and will take a full day to completely explore the town. It’s quaint and beautiful. There are some tourists, but everything is very Slovenian. The food is delicious and hearty, the people are some of the friendliest! 

Well, anyway, one of the first things we did was take a walk and admire the famous Bled church in the middle of the lake. You must paddle out to it to attend services. What a workout for church-goers if that was the only church! The trail around the lake is well paved and there are also little off-shoot paths where you can get closer to the lake and really see how clean and clear the water is. I’ve seen many lakes, but this was surprisingly aqua and clear for being a non-alpine lake. I hope that we can continue to keep these pristine lakes unpolluted.

Glimpses of the island-church

There are several points around the lake to rent out row boats, or you can take a guided ride via the traditional pletna boats. It’s honestly a very short paddle if you start from the south side, where it’s closer to the little island already. On the cute island, you can visit the church, but the highlight for me was the ice cream shop! Such quality ice cream – you have to go early before the flavors run out!

Paddling out to the church

And to top off the day, we took a night walk up to the Bled Castle. The castle sits on an ideal cliff edge, overlooking the lake and town. Pretty strategic, I’d say. After the sun sets, it’s free to wander around, although you might have some ghost stories to tell on the way back down!

day 2

We had an adventure-packed middle day. Slovenia is known for its crystal clear waters running through the gorges, so what better than to adventure in these amazing waters? Given more time, I would have loved to explore more of Triglav National Park and Soča River that runs through it. But even Bled has its own share of beauty!

Sunrise on the Julien Alps

To begin, we all decided to get up early for a sunrise hike. We went to a nearby hill, about 2 miles from our hostel on the other end of the lake. This seemed to be a fairly popular spot, one of the famed vantage points that promote Bled. We met a couple other photographers and even a YouTube blogger! Everyone was trying to fight for a spot on the precipice, especially those with tripods. Slowly, we saw the sunlight break through the clouds, although it wasn’t the perfect sunrise we may have been looking for, it was still magnificent to see the golden glow on the clouds against the colorful fall leaves as the town of Bled woke up. Soon enough, the clouds parted and sunrise was over. We bade our viewpoint goodbye and headed back to town.

Sunlight shining through
Autumn leaves

My friends had generally not white water kayaked or canyoneered (I was way too fortunate to have these adventures in college). So, I took it upon myself to expose them to these fun sports. Through OUTdoor Slovenia, we did a custom 2-adventure pack. The first stop was paddling down the Sava Dolinka River on open kayaks. They were so stable, we even got to stand on them like stand-up paddle boards. The other groups rafted down, but I think we got the better deal!

I love having the freedom to paddle where I wanted, to go faster or slower. The river was nothing short of amazing. The water was gleaming blue and when we weren’t paddling, floating down the river was relaxing. And, before we knew it, the short 6 miles on the river was over. (I didn’t take my camera on the river, but believe me, this was awesome!)

Put-in for Sava Dolinka

Though there really should have been no reason to strip off our wet suits and dry off, we had a short lunch break before the next trip. And we actually had different style of wetsuits for both activities (being the canyoneering suit had a butt pad haha). After the shortest scramble to find quick food, we met up with a new guide to go canyoneering in Gremčica. We had the option of another canyon, but this one sounded more difficult (aka fun)! The two other girls who joined us had no idea what they got themselves into, but they were also super down for something interesting. 

Rappelling down Grmečica
In and out of canyon pools

We hiked a short ways up to the start of the canyon and even saw parts of it as we climbed uphill. To me, the water here was even more incredible than the Sava Dolinka River. The water was mountain fresh, and extremely cold. We would go between jumps and rappels down the beautiful canyon, with the beautiful waterfall at the exit of the canyon. This was probably one of the most luscious canyons I’ve gone down. Take me back already!

Last waterfall of the canyon

day 3

For our last day, we opted for a drier adventure, walking to the famous Vintgar Gorge. It’s about 3 miles away, so we passed many little towns, and you could only tell where one ends and one begins by reading the signs. This part of Slovenia is so calm, we had no worries about walking on the road side when sidewalks disappeared. As we approached the gorge, we could tell we got nearer because more and more cars were parked together – like any typical trailhead in the US. 

Rapids of Vintgar Gorge

Vintgar Gorge is actually part of the Triglav National Park. So, you have to pay a small fee to go into the main part of the gorge, but it is 100% worth it. The river goes back and forth from roaring rapids to gentle rolling waves. And if you were standing in the right angle, you’d see little rainbows form in the mist. As much as I enjoy extreme adventures, this was by far my favorite spot during the trip in Bled. The water was such deep blue and the flora so green and abundant. Everything seemed so rich there!

Deep colors run through the gorge
Platforms for visitors to pass through

We continued wandering around more towns, making a larger loop around the area. And before we knew it, we were back in Bled, just to pick up our things and say goodbye. ’til later – I’m coming back for you Mt Triglav!

Bled castle and town

Photos shot on Canon Rebel T6 and iPhone SE

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