For four days I was wracking my brain for some sort of brilliant and clever Bled/bled/bleed pun that could accurately describe the fantasy setting of Bled, Lake Bled, Lake Bohinj, and the Julian Alps. But to no avail. I kept getting distracted by the autumn colors, island monastery, river gorges, mystical fog, kind people, and, last but not least, cream cakes. So instead, I leave the challenge to you, dear reader; can you come up with a clever pun while visiting Bled? Or will you too fall mentally mute to the siren song of the stunning scenery in Slovenia?
If you can only afford to go to Bled for a half day, the “must see” for me is the following walk around Lake Bled and small hike up to a gorgeous lookout over the region. If you can spend a full day in Bled, do this hike and then Bled Island and/or Bled Castle.
But if you are lucky like I was and Can spend even more time in this beautiful region in Slovenia, I would suggest doing the Vintgar Gorge Loop hike, paying a visit to the serene Bohinj Jezero (Lake Bohinj), or a visit to one of the many other small towns in the region like Radovljica.
Of course, no matter how long you are in Bled you must try one of the famous cream cakes. Don’t worry, I took one for the team and scoured the town for the best cream cake! More on that later…
Before we start, here’s a little Slovenian 101 that I wish someone had given me before I arrived. The “J” is pronounce like a soft, English “Y”, as in Yankee, or yes. With this knowledge, you will no longer be confused as I was on how to say the country’s capital of Ljubljana. Much easier now, right? Prior to this knowledge I tried to reference the city only as “the capital”. Or mumbling through its pronunciation when I needed to be more specific. I also noticed that many locals dropped the second “L” sound and referred to it as “Lew-bee-yannah”, perhaps in the same way many native Torontans reference their city as simply “Torono”. But as long as you get the J=Y, you should be much less mystified when trying to pronounce place names.
Arriving to Bled from Ljubljana (say it again now, isn’t it much easier?) via the amazing bus system (that isn’t sarcasm folks, I write a borderline love letter to the Slovenian bus system in my post about Bohinj Jezero), you want to get off at either Unior station, or Bled station. Both will drop you off equal distance from the lake itself so it’s up to you. Unior is closer to “downtown”, Bled is closer to Bled Castle.
From wherever you begin your journey, I suggest walking around the lake clockwise. This way you will see the iconic Bled Island views as you are walking, and you will get the noisiest part of the walk over with first and finish on the more tranquil side (below Bled Castle).
As soon as you start your walk around the lake, you will most likely see the swarms of little boats as they make their way to Bled Island and the monastery that is on it. Most of your hike you will also be “serenaded” by the constant clang-clang-clang of the bells coming from Bled Island. If you have the time I highly recommend going there. You can read more about that in my blog post about both the castle and the island. But in either case, sit back (well, not literally, keep walking!) and enjoy the views.
Bled Lookout: Trail Number 6
Just before you get to the boardwalk section of the path, start to look for a trail marker with the number “6” on it. It will have any of the following written on it “Mala Osojnica”, “Velika Osonjica”, or “Ojstrica”. It is on all of the tourist maps, so shouldn’t be too hard to find. These are the three different viewpoints you can hike up to on this trail. And I, on two hours of sleep, decided to hike up to all three!
Of the three, this was the last one I visited and my favorite viewpoint. It is from here where you get the iconic island-with-a-castle-in-the-background shot that everyone wants to have. Some parts of the trail are steep, but it’s worth it! Hike it counter-clockwise, as you will be in the forest on the way up and then suddenly BAM! There’s Lake Bled! Then as you descend you will have continually nice views. Just don’t trip on the roots or fall down the staircase! This trail will spit you back out just prior to the lakeside boardwalk.
The longest hike is up to this lookout, which is the highest elevation of the three. This will give you a lovely view out over the entire lake and town of Bled for an almost birds eye view of the region. I have a feeling that in the crazy summer season, this viewpoint is the least crowded due to the extra effort required to get there.
This is the easiest viewpoint to visit, and gives nice views of the lake. If you are short on time or energy, its definitely worth the extra little trip. You will have a nice view of island and castle here as well. I went in autumn and this viewpoint was the most crowded of the three. Therefore I’d assume in the height of summer it’s swarming with people.
Olympic Rowing Center
Back on the lake trail, the next noteworthy thing you will see is the Olympic Rowing Center. Did you know that Bled is/was home to a half-dozen Olympic medalist rowing teams? Neither did I. There is a large sign by the docks telling you more about these teams. From here you can also see the dotted buoys on the lake that mark out the course, or even see some people rowing on said course.
Continuing along the trail, now on the north side of Lake Bled, you will pass by some of the elaborate and ornate old villas. Also on the north side is the trail that takes you up the hill to Bled Castle.
The hike around Lake Bled and up to Mala Osonjnica is 6.2miles/10km. The lake trail is very flat, and the trail up to the lookouts is, surprise, steep. Most the trail, while possibly crowded in the summer, is away from the hustle and bustle of it all.
Once you’ve reached the town again, why don’t you stop for a bite at one of the several cafes along the lake and treat yourself to a cream cake and a coffee? You deserve it, don’t worry.