Go beyond Slovenia’s famous pearl and head towards the Julian Alps to find the perfect alternative to Lake Bled, the adventurers’ paradise, Lake Bohinj.
It had been a recent goal of mine to retreat to somewhere beyond the big smoke and in a dreamy-like setting, in particular, Lake Bled. For me, it fitted the bill of being the ultimate magical setting – after all, its a lake that is surrounded by an alpine landscape, with a medieval castle sitting on a clifftop, and features an island that has a small yet enchanting church on it. You couldn’t really make that stuff up now, could you?
It is hard to compare any other destination in Slovenia to that incredible line-up but when I decided to look into Slovenia that extra bit further, I got more than I bargained for when I took a trip to Lake Bohinj.
You see, escaping to Lake Bled wasn’t enough for me. I wanted to get myself away from any type of hive of activity and get that much needed Zen time with nature. Lake Bohinj proved to fit my criteria. No, it doesn’t have the same splendour of its famous cousin, but that is exactly what gives Lake Bohinj that extra bit authentic edge – untouched natural surrounds.
How is it only now that Slovenia’s largest permanent lake, glacial Lake Bohinj is grabbing the world’s attention? And for the right reasons too. Lake Bohinj sits within the Julian Alps, an area that was voted one of Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel regions for 2018 and forms part of Slovenia’s only national park, Triglav National Park.
What is so special about Lake Bohinj is that, for a large part, remains relatively untapped with hardly any settlement build around the 3.3 km² lake, making it that every bit of a natural mountain setting that you longed for. Your love for nature will be peaking – literally – as mountains encircle the lake, including Slovenia’s highest mountain, Mount Triglav at 2,864 metres above sea level. Located 26 km southwest of Bled, Lake Bohinj is known to be the lake for adventurers for its rivers, gorges, streams and valleys that surround it.
Lake Bohinj and surrounds
Despite the name, there is no town that is called Bohinj. The largest town of the region is Bohinjska Bistrica, which is located 6 km east of the lake.
The hub of the Lake Bohinj is Ribčev Laz which has the usual suspects – a supermarket, restaurants, shops and holiday accommodation. Head northeast, there are three small villages: Stara Fužina, Studor and Srednja Vas. Towards the southwest shore is the small settlement of Ukanc.
Things to do in Lake Bohinj
Although it is absolutely stunning to look at, Lake Bohinj isn’t the place where you come to relax and do absolutely nothing – oh no. Although it would be nice to do, it would be a wasted time opportunity not to take advantage of the great outdoors because there is something to do for all seasons – so time to dirty those shoes!
Walk around the lake
Lake Bohinj is one beast of a lake! Going on a casual 12 km stroll around the lake will take you up to 3 hours plus. I did it in snow so it was that extra bit challenging but nonetheless, a fantastic walk!
Take a hike to Mostnica Gorge
Prepare to familiarise yourself with different hues of blue and green as the waters of Mostnica Gorge are something else. After all, it was formed due to water erosion of the surface, making it one pothole paradise. The 2 km long gorge is simply gorge-ous (yep, I went there with the pun) to discover either for a half day or full day adventure.
There are two hike trails that you can follow either side of the gorge with two narrow footbridges joining them. Better yet, the hike would suit beginners who are after a pleasant stroll in nature. Make sure you spot the elephant, a natural window with a rocky arch that looks very similar to an elephant’s trunk! This hike can be accessed from the foothills of Ribcev Laz.
Please note: Between March to October, a fee must be paid upon entrance to enter the gorge. See area flyer here
Chase the Mostnica Waterfall
If you make it all the way up to the top of the gorge – I applaud you! Good effort as you will be rewarded with a 21-metre waterfall above the Voje Valley. Certainly a sight worth gushing over. (Pun intended!) The waterfall can also be accessed by car so if you are one for wanting to get deep into a full workout, then welcome to cheat street!
…And Slovenia’s A-lister Savica Slap Waterfall
Another gem of this region is the Savica Slap Waterfall. This is Slovenia’s most famous waterfall, due to its A-shape-like cut into the mountain and its glistening emerald pool. To access the waterfall, there are over 500 steps to combat following a zigzag path. Located a few kilometres from the west side of Lake Bohinj, you can reach it by car or foot.
Reach for the top (and check out the view ) from Mount Vogel
When there are some neat views to capture, a viewing platform will follow. Luckily, there is cable car that will take you to the top of Mount Vogel so you can really breathe in that fresh air and take in all of Lake Bohinj’s beauty. If you are feeling thrifty or wanting to really be adventurous, you can also hike up the mountain.
I visited while the snow was falling so I, unfortunately, wasn’t able to dive deep into the clear glacial waters of Lake Bohinj for some fun in the water but if you come during summer, you, my friend are in luck!
You can hire a canoe, paddle board, hop on a boat along the lake – the choice is yours!
Move off the paddleboard and graduate to the skis as come winter time, Mount Vogel is a popular ski resort. Find out how you can enjoy yourself 1922 metres above sea level at Mount Vogel during the winter months.
Hire a mountain bike
Discover Lake Bohinj and surrounds by being a badass on a mountain bike! Hoping on a bike is how I chose to navigate my way around the lake and travel to Mostnica Gorge for the day.
Have a picture with Zlatorog
Get the camera out as there is an icon waiting for your flashing activity by the lake. Nearby Ribčev Laz is its most famous resident, Zlatorog, a legendary Slovenian chamois buck or an Alpine ibex (depending which legend you read) who resides on a rock in Triglav National Park.
Hostel Pod Voglom – This absolute gem was located right opposite the middle of the lake. It isn’t anything fancy (however the location does make up for it). I stayed in one of their private rooms with a bathroom. It was a cosy yet basic, offering views of the lake.
This accommodation should appeal to the budget conscious that are seeking the ultimate escape on a shoestring budget. Better yet, there is a small kitchen to use so you can save on eating out. It also offers mountain bike hire and canoe hire.
Domestic Bus – Going to and from Bohinj is super easy via domestic and public transport. During peak season, bus departures are frequent from Ljubljana bus station to Lake Bohinj via Bled. Buses depart early, from roughly 6 am until late. In winter, bus departures from the capital are less frequent, with the last service of the day roughly departing at 4 pm from the capital. Make sure that your bus from Ljubljana continues to Lake Bohinj as not all buses from Bled go to Lake Bohinj. Travel time from Ljubljana to Lake Bohinj takes approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes. The same trip can also be done in reverse.
From Lake Bled, you can also travel from the main station and stops around Lake Bled to Lake Bohinj (less than an hour) from €3.60 one-way. At Lake Bohinj, you can get off at Ribčev Laz or continue to loop the main road until Bohinj Zlatorog/Ukanc (7 minutes away).
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