Top Tips for Lovely Lake Bled, Slovenia
Updated: Nov 29, 2022
Lake Bled is one of the most popular destinations in Slovenia - and for good reason. Whether you visit for a day trip or stay a few days, there is plenty to love about this natural beauty.
Situated 55 km (45 minute drive) from the capital Ljubljana, and 200km (typically 2-3 hour drive) from Zagreb in Croatia, Bled is very accessible and offers pretty much as much as as you want to pack in.
We combined our Lake Bled stay with our trip to northern Croatia. We flew into Zagreb and spent two nights in the capital city, then drove to Lake Bled, Slovenia (see my 'Top Car Tip' at the end of this article if you plan on driving) and stayed 4 nights by the lake, then drove to Rovinj, Croatia stopping at the incredible Postojna Caves on the way (more about that later too).
Garden Village Bled Glamping
If you are anything like me and proper camping fills you with dread, but you feel guilty about not showing up for your kids and giving them this special right of passage, then I have the perfect solution.
Garden Village Bled is astounding. We stayed in the most incredible treehouse complete with a working bathroom, comfy beds and a deck overlooking the treetops.
What’s more, the glampsite offers a beautiful natural pool which has a frog pond neatly attached (a huge hit with my 8 year old son). Don’t worry - the frogs and friends tend to keep to their own side!.
The restaurant Vrtnarija is no camping cafeteria either. The food and service are worthy of fine dining status and they source all of their own fresh ingredients from a greenhouse and garden on the property.
Wandering by the stream that runs though the base of the property or enjoying a private hot tub in one of the five different types of accommodation - it’s a great experience and I can’t recommend it more highly. This is luxury camping at its best (and a parent win!).
A Pletna Boat to the Island
The Pletna boats are the traditional mode of transportation, first built in the 12th century, that will get you around the lake.
We took one from Mlino Port (closest to Garden Village) to Lake Bled Island - the only natural island in Slovenia. The Island itself is just under an acre in size, and the stuff of fairytales to look at. The views of it from all around the lake are magical.
The boat ride costs €15 for adults and €7 return for kids. Interestingly there are no motor boats on the lake which is why there is zero pollution and crystal clear water.
The pletna boats are powered by a single oarsman cleverly rowing the boat from a standing position at the back.
They will drop you off at the island for about half an hour before your return trip. The island is most famous for its 15th century gothic church, Pilgrimage Church of the Assumption of Mary. There is a nice cafe at the top of the 99 steps as well with great views.
Any traditional dessert is a definite must to try in any location. Bled has its very own aptly named ‘Bled cake’ and does not disappoint. It’s a light crumbly pastry, cream and custard treat and is served everywhere.
We enjoyed one or two slices at the gorgeous little lakeside cafe at Mlino Port upon our return from the island that serves coffee, cake and cocktails. A perfect spot.
THE Photo Spot
If you have marveled at the iconic photos of Lake Bled in magazines and travel sites, this is the spot to get your very own picture perfect shot. The uphill trail leads from a very nondescript point near the lake edge.
The Mala Osojonica trail meanders up and up to the viewpoint and is totally worth the climb - even when dragging a hot grumpy 8 year old behind. Mala Ojstrica is another viewpoint further around the lake.
Hiking Around the Lake
The trail that leads all the way around the lake is 6km in length. You can hike (is it me, or is hiking just a fancy word for walking?!) or rent bikes, or even kayak or paddle board.
There are about a million different amazing view and photo spots to take in along the way, so it will take a while. The beauty of it will make the kilometers fly by whether you are hiking or (ahem) walking.
Swimming in the Lake
You can jump in the lake to swim in many areas but note that swimming is not allowed along the banks of the town of Bled itself. We swam right near our hotel location near Mlino port.
The water is teeming with fish and you don’t even need goggles to see them as the water is so clear. Swimming with the ducks was a fun experience as well.
Velika Zaka is a good swimming location with a small ‘beach’ or patch of grass. There is a great dock there for taking running jumps as well as a restaurant set back from the beach serving the best fried calamari and pizza among other tasty fare..
The medieval castle can be seen from pretty much everywhere around Lake Bled in all its hilltop glory. Dating from the 11th century, it fits in perfectly with the fairytale theme of the place.
You can visit for a fee or book dinner at the fabulous restaurant and skip the fee. Just be sure to check that there’s no wedding taking place on the evening that you book - or you may be as disappointed as us (epic fail).
The small town of Bled boasts a lovely pristine walkway around the lake edge with a few shops and restaurants. There is no swimming or sunbathing on the grass allowed however, but pick a bench and enjoy the peaceful scenery, with another slice of Bled cake perhaps.
Vila Pleseren is a nice restaurant at the end of the walkway below the castle that has a lovely dining terrace.
Toboggan Ride with a View
Straza Bled offers a super charged fun experience if you enjoy hurtling down a mountain in a toboggan.
The relative tranquility of the ski lift ride up (and down, if you so choose) takes in unforgettable vistas of the surrounding area, lake and distant snow capped mountains. There is also a treetop obstacle / ziplining course at the top.
104km (about 1.5 hrs drive) from Bled is probably one of the most awesome natural wonders we have ever come across. The Postojna Caves are a lesson in magnificent subterranean geology.
You are taken on a short open air train ride into an enormous underground world where you get to walk through football stadium sized caverns full of stalagmites and stalactites.
For reference, in a decade stalagmites and stalactites grow only one millimeter. The largest ones in this cave system reach over 16 meters!
Also, it is one of the few places in the world where you can see Baby Dragons, or olms, one of the weirdest animals ever that can live 100 years and go without food for ten.
Lake Bled is one of those tranquil places on the planet that is still more or less off the beaten tourist track. It's a magical spot with a hint of fairytale that definitely won't disappoint.
The gourmet restaurant that sits poolside at Garden Village Glamping.
Gorgeous setting overlooking the lake. Amazing risotto.
Looks like the perfect spot with a view to die for, at a castle no less. Shame we blew it and didn’t get to experience it due to a stupid wedding taking place that evening.
Part of the stunning old world hotel with a terrace and the view of the island.
A climb up to this hilltop cafe rewards with amazing views.
We were told that this was listed as the top restaurant in Bled. What it lacks in views, it apparently makes up for in taste.
Beach restaurant and bar near the Vela Zaka Beach area.
Lovely terrace restaurant with a lake view near Bled town center
Top Car Tip -Car Charge
Read this if you will be driving in Slovenia!
Slovenia is one of the countries that requires you to purchase a pass (or vignette) in order to drive in their highways. It is basically a vehicle usage charge that can be easily purchased online
It is linked to your car registration number and once purchased allows you to drive freely around the country. As we hired a car, we didn’t know the registration number until we picked it up.
I literally signed up for the vignette as we were in the queue to cross the border from Croatia into Slovenia. You can sign up in advance and pay for 1 week (€16) or 1 month (€32).
It is streamlined and efficient - and replaces the need to stop and pay all those pesky tolls along the way.