One of the most beautiful places I have ever travelled to happened upon my itinerary by accident.
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I’ve told you before that I am a planner. In fact, I actually love planning trips so much that it becomes part of the fun of the holiday overall for me and happens WAY before I even think of heading to the airport. So when it came time to planning my Postgrad graduation celebration trip in the (Northern Hempisphere) summer of 2018, I was absolutely R.E.A.D.Y.
My friend Marissa, who was to travel for a month with me, is as much of a planner as I am. Adding to the fun, we live on other ends of the world to one another and so this was a great opportunity to facetime at all hours of the day and night to tell each other the coolest additions that we had found. Months before departure, we were totally booked with the so-called ‘big things’ (flights, accommodation, etc).
We hadn’t picked the easiest route in the latter half of the trip, opting for destinations like Croatia, Sardinia and Malta, all in a row and neither wanting long travel days, nor heinously expensive flights. We had found our perfect solution until just a week or so before departure our flight from Munich (Germany) to Split (Croatia) was cancelled and our new alternative involved a VERY long travel day consisting of 3 connecting flights to get us to Croatia. No thanks!
So what were our options?
To cut out about 8 facetime calls of decision making (planners...I told you!), we opted for a train and road trip - an opportunity to go places we wouldn’t have thought to go before as we worked our way down towards Split.
Due to an injury we never actually made it to Germany and all our plans ended up having to be rerouted in-country anyway...an expression about a certain someone laughing as we make plans comes to mind…
As we could no longer easily jump in and out of cities, airport to airport, we decided to really investigate the map and see what lay between our take off point (originally Munich and then Salzburg but they’re close enough that the story didn’t change much) and our end point, Split in Croatia.
This is where I have to tell you that all the expensive tools, or clever apps on the market can not offer you the same quality service as good old Google Maps - legit, a traveller’s best friend!
As we zoomed in closer and closer we started to map out a bit of a trip for ourselves. Yes, we could have technically driven it in a day as it is a 9-10 hour drive from Munich to Split but where is the fun in that? Instead, this detour encouraged us to zoom in on a country I have to be very honest with you in saying, I really hadn’t put too much thought into in the past...Slovenia.
Enter - Bled and the most magnificent lake. Truly Lake Bled is one of the most gorgeous and underexposed gems of Europe and we ended up there thanks to a flight cancellation...we got so lucky!
Transport to Bled
We chose to train from Salzburg (would have done the same from Munich) to Bled. This was extremely easy - especially as both Salzburg and Bled are relatively small cities by comparison to their larger counterparts in their respective countries (Vienna and Ljubljana) and so the train stations are very manageable.
The train was a direct journey (ie. didn’t involve changing trains) and took approximately 4 hours.
Tickets were approximately 20 euro each for first class on the day we travelled. Tickets do tend to go up in price if you are buying last minute tickets online so the easiest is to book at least a few days beforehand or pop into the train station whilst you’re in your departure city if you have time. A friend of mine does it that when they pull into the station they go to the ticket counter and buy their next ticket prior to heading into the city just so that it is done and they don’t have to think about it again...something to consider.
Though we could have hired a car from our start to end point, the fees for crossing borders with the car and for it being a one way journey made that option extremely expensive (nearly 4x the amount we had paid for our flight).
Tip: If you do want to drive yourself, returning the car to the original destination will save you A LOT of money (if it’s a possibility for you to do so). Also note, there is a hire fee for border crossing.
We stayed at Hotel Kompas. To be honest, in the height of summer/tourist season, by the time we decided to go to Bled, we weren’t left with too many choices as most things were booked out or quite expensive.
Accommodation in Bled is, by and large, quite old. Many are traditional thermal hotels where you can tell that people have been coming on holidays for the same week each year for the same rehabilitating vacation. It’s actually quite soothing and really sweet when you see the visitors for whom this must be like a home away from home. Growing up my family had a place that was like that to us in Australia so I related immediately and looked at these holiday makers with total nostalgia.
Hotel Kompas was absolutely fine - it was definitely older than many of the more modern jaunts that featured on our trip but the room was large, the facilities were good with an indoor pool, spa, outdoor deck and restaurants on site and the location great. I believe that the hotel was walking distance to everything that you would want to visit in the Lake Bled area (I was on crutches so the lovely hotel staff kindly called cabs for me to get around) except for the castle which is a little further.
Where to Eat
Though there are plenty of places to eat around Bled, Ostarija Peglez’n was recommended to us by locals and was absolutely fantastic! The restaurant was so cute, the food was exceptional value (huge portions at seriously affordable prices and tasty) and we had a great night there! I would say that it is worth booking a table there - even if you just do it when you get to your hotel in Bled because it can get really busy and people were definitely being turned away when we were there. This was a great tip from locals that we were very grateful to have gotten!
Doesn’t matter too much where you eat this but you do need to eat Kremna Rezina or ‘Kremsnita’ which is the famous Bled cream cake. Essentially it is shaped like a vanilla slice just the pastry is flakier and then there is a thick filling of cream. I tried the cake at the Panorama restaurant - any of the restaurants or cafes by the Sava Hotel group in Bled will be your best bet as they are original cream cake makers. It’s like ‘the’ famous food from that area so really, you just have to try it.
What to Do
Lake Bled is sublime and my advice would be to spend as much time as possible enjoying its beauty.
Take a Ride on a Pletna Boat to Bled Island in the Centre of the Lake
Though there isn’t a heap to do on the island, it is absolutely worth heading over and checking it out and on a sunny day, the boat ride over is just beautiful. Though many bloggers will tell you that at 15 euro per person (round trip) it is too touristy, my opinion is that once you’ve gotten all the way there, enjoy it! I thought that the boat ride was a unique Bled experience and was happy to have gone over to the island.
Note: there are a lot of stairs when you hit the island so please only plan to go with this in mind (I was on crutches and very aware of the lack of accessibility for many people). At the top of the stairs is a great ice cream shop. I don’t know if it counts as Bled famous but I am willing to put it down on my list of things to do because I unashamedly love ice cream and encourage all readers of my blog to get one at all stops =).
In all seriousness, the famous thing to do on the island is ring the church bell - I was unfortunately not in a position to partake in this activity as the stairs took all the energy I had with that silly foot injury BUT I will 100% ring that bell next time and tell you all about it. Bled will definitely be a return destination for me!
For the best views of the lake, this is absolutely where you want to be! This medieval castle is said to be the oldest in Slovenia and it no doubt has the most spectacular outlook!
Again, it is worth noting that the castle is not accessible for the whole community and requires entry via a very steep pathway.
At the top of the castle you can also find a restaurant, a cafe, a honey shop (Slovenia is famous for honey) and some information about Bled in times past. It’s a really stunning spot that you should allow time for as you could really enjoy yourself up the top.
Swim in Lake Bled
I absolutely wish this is something that I could have done whilst in Bled and I will 100% be going back to Bled just for a swim - I cannot imagine a more picture perfect place to dive in!
Grajsko Kopališče is the best place to go to swim and also if you want to rent beach chairs or umbrellas to enjoy your day with.
Walk/Cycle the Lake or Take the Small Train Around
However you choose to get around the circumference of the lake, it is well worth the journey. The walking path is only 6km right around so it is a perfectly manageable walk for many tourists and it is said to be absolutely gorgeous. I would imagine you’d want to leave a few hours although the walk wouldn’t necessarily take that long as you will no doubt be stopping for many photos along the way. The little train looked gorgeous and would be another lovely way to enjoy this majestic setting.
Though I didn’t personally get to visit the Gorge, Marissa went and said it was absolutely beautiful. You’ll want to go early or late in the day to avoid as many people being there as you can so that it doesn’t get too crowded on the single walking path but otherwise it is said to be a beautiful area.
Book a Massage
Bled has a lot of spas - nearly every hotel has one and they all have a range of services available, especially massages. Massage therapists seem to come from around the world, but certainly from around Europe, for the summer tourist season knowing that this spa and therapy lifestyle is a big drawcard of Bled, and as such, really know their stuff! I thoroughly enjoyed my massage! Just what the travel doctor ordered =).
A list of other activities I’d love to do on my next trip:
Dining at Bled Castle
Wine Tasting famous Slovenian wines
Straža Hill toboggan (summer months)
Ringing the Bled Bell
SWIMMING in the lake
Summer in Bled
The weather in Bled in the summer is usually pretty consistent and sits between 25 and 27 degrees celsius. That said, definitely pack a jacket and jeans! When we went there was a random drop and it was substantially colder in Bled than we anticipated it being so we were absolutely glad to still have clothes with us from Norway! Definitely don’t go without a jacket no matter what time of year you are going.
Things do book out in Bled in summer - though not gushing with tourists, it’s definitely busy enough that if there is anything that you really want to do, book ahead.
Leaving Bled - Transport
Leaving Bled, we needed to get to Zagreb, Croatia that night and wanted to drive but again, facing the additional fees on car rentals it was getting VERY expensive. We found this fantastic service called My DayTrip - essentially a driver service that picks you up and takes you door to door to your final destination with stops along the way that you pre-nominate.
We decided that this would allow us an opportunity to stick our noses into Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia as we wanted to have a quick look around. In the end, we met friends in Salzburg a couple of days before and they were going to be in Ljubljana that day so it was absolutely meant to be! Rather than looking around as we had planned though, we ended up taking a boat tour down the lake with our friends and having a wonderful couple of hours on the water.
I’ll have to go back to Ljubljana to see it properly but this little stop over was such an awesome way to break up the drive and having a driver keep our suitcases in the car whilst we explored and then pick us up and drop us to our hotel in Zagreb was a total luxury with an affordable price tag.
My DayTrip is all over Europe and the pricing depends entirely on your route - I have found it to be cheaper than public transport in some instances (because you pay per car and not per person) and in others, it has been far too expensive to consider. You have to investigate to find out but I have used them a lot and they have always been absolutely wonderful.
Bled was superb. It may not have been on my original itinerary last time but I can assure you, it will be 100% intentional the next time it is on there...and I couldn’t recommend it highly enough to you either!