If you have only seen one photo of Slovenia, chances are it is of Lake Bled. The turquoise Alpine lake embellished with a church on a tiny island and the medieval castle steeping above the lake is Slovenia’s number one touristic destination. But from a paddler’s point of view there is even more to it, since it makes for a perfect place to balance your water activity with the many attractions every bon-vivant will find hard to resist.
At Lake Bled you’ll get a well-ballanced dose of all the good things. Paddling on the perfectly flat water with spectacular views, numerous opportunities to explore the surrounding natural beauty, local history, culture and traditions and many ways to indulge yourself in fine restaurants offering local Slovenian cuisine and world-renowned wines and relax in cosy hotels at the waterfront.
Imagine starting the day with a morning paddle on the glassy lake, deeply inhaling the fresh mountain air as you enjoy the scenic views of the surrounding mountains. You make a short stop at the island for a coffee or a home-made smoothie and as the tiny town of Bled starts waking up you are already cutting the glass under the Bled Castle back to your vila hotel. As a reward you fancy a lunch 130 metres above the water level at the Bled Castle restaurant where you indulge in Slovenian traditional specialities with a touch of contemporary imagination … and the heavenly views of the lake below. After the visit to the medieval castle’s galleries you take an easy panoramic walk around the lake or visit a nearby Vintgar gorge. Or have a treat at the SPA followed by a delicious traditional Bled cream cake. As you feel like, the choices are many.
All-year-round SUP season
The lake is suitable for paddleboarding all-year long, except in very harsh winters when it freezes over and turns into a fairy-tale ice skating scene. Due to mild thermal springs the lake is swimmable from early summer till autumn which make for the peak touristic season. Winters and springs are “reserved” for the most dedicated paddlers who get to enjoy the serenity of the lake and the snow covered surroundings. The lake is easily accessible throughout all seasons. It will take a 50 min drive from Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia, and even less from the Ljubljana Airport.
The Bled island & the church
The tear-shaped island is definitely the prime attraction of Lake Bled and definitely worth visiting “in person”, not just admiring from the shores.
Park your standup paddleboard on the wooden piers beside the Pletna boats and climb up the 99 stone steps to the small square on the island to be presented with spectacular views. Sit down and relax in the cafe under the trees to indulge in some good coffee and the local desert, potica.
At the island you can also visit the baroque Church of the Assumption dating from the 17th century with fresco fragments from the 15th century and ring a wishing bell to ask a special favour.
From the Bled island you can catch a glimpse of the pompous Tito’s villa. Once a presidential summer residence is today turned into a hotel surrounded by a magnificent park. The place is nowadays popular as a premier location for civil weddings as there you can complement your ceremony with a church wedding on the Bled island and the Pletna-boat ride. Tradition has it that the groom should carry his bride up all of the 99 steps in order to get married in the island church.
The pletna boat
Even though paddling to the island on your own board is the most pristine way to experience the lake there are also other ways to take a trip across the lake or to the island. Your non-paddling companions may take a trip with a Pletna boat – the traditional boat made by locals which is only known at Bled.
The 20-person wooden flat-bottom Pletna boat is operated by the Pletna oarsman who propels the boat with the special »stehrudder« technique where the oarsman is standing and rowing with two oars. This profession is very respected as has been handed down from generation to generation throughout the centuries.
The Bled castle
From the Bled Castle you will get the finest view of the Bled island, the town of Bled and of the wider countryside of the Gorenjska region.
The medieval castle dating back to 1011 is the oldest castle in Slovenia. The fortress, many times rebuilt and restructured, is now arranged as an exhibition area. Display rooms present the ancient history of Bled from the first excavations, and the castle in individual stages of its historical development with furniture, characteristic of those times.
During the warm months, the castle courtyard hosts numerous cultural events, from which the Medieval Days, when knights present the medieval life to visitors, are the most appreciated.
The Vintgar gorge
Just a 3 kilometres from Bled there is another natural attraction you shouldn’t miss. The 1.6 km long Vintgar gorge carves its way through the vertical rocks and is graced by the Radovna river with its waterfalls, pools and rapids. The educational scenic trail will lead you over wooden bridges and galleries, and end with a bridge overlooking the mighty 26 m high Šum waterfall. In hot summer days the narrow gorge is a great place to hide from the sun and cool down in its pools.
After paddling, exploring and indulging in the charms of lake Bled don’t miss the opportunity to taste the traditional Bled cream cake. Enjoy!