Slovenia – Lake Bled, Vintgar Gorge, and Triglav National Park

So you know how you plan everything carefully and then the traveling really throws you for a loop? Yeah, this is what happened with Slovenia both in a good and in a bad way. I was flying to Ljubljana from Stockholm and my friend was flying in from Brussels. Our flights landed within 10 min of each other, so that was well-timed, but I had a little bit of a scare with my layover time in Copenhagen, which was just 40 min and the connecting gate was across the airport. Also it seems to me that these short flights within Nordics are often late. My friend, who had a generous layover time of 1 h 45 min in Vienna ended up sitting in a plane for an hour due to a storm in Vienna, so she also had just 30 min to find the connecting flight.

Anyway, the plan was that because we arrive around 10 p.m. and the car rental desks at the airport close also at 10 p.m. that we got a cheap hotel less than 5 km from the airport, stay the night there and come back in the morning to get our car. We did try that, but the lovely taxi drivers, which were at the airport were trying to charge us 25€ for that distance, which was absolutely ridiculous. There is no public transportation between even Ljubljana and the airport at that hour, not even mentioning our small hotel in the middle of the countryside, so we needed to figure out another way. We noticed that the car rental desks were in fact still open, so we decided to check whether we could actually get our car already now instead of the next morning. There is a big sign saying RENTAL CARS on the opposite side of the arrivals hall. We went there, but our car rental agency, Alamo, wasn’t there. It turned out that its desk was next to arrivals hall and marked as Enterprise. But of course… The guy at the desk said that he needed to process the paperwork first before he could help us, so we waited until he was done with that. Not the best customer service. 😀

Finally he was ready and told us that our car is available and then we did all the paperwork and clarified the additional price and the fee for additional driver. So we got the car and could finally reach our destination without paying the greedy taxi drivers 25€ for driving us 5 km and then the same in the morning back. (It actually turned out that Hotel Silvester & Wellness where we were staying had its own taxi service and the cost would’ve been something like 18€, which I still think is pretty high.)

The hotel was okay. Nothing like it is shown on their web page as it was much shabbier, but it was pretty cheap (I think 68€) and we just needed a place to sleep and take a shower. The breakfast was included, but it was not great.

The next morning we had a quick breakfast an started driving towards lake Bled, which is one of the main sights in Slovenia. I have heard that it is very touristy, but we were there in the beginning of May and it was actually really nice and calm with very few tourists. The downside was that there wasn’t any good parking and in hindsight it might’ve been a good idea to stay in a hotel near lake Bled, so we would get a bit more time there.

4_Lake Bled
Lake Bled

There is an island in the middle of lake Bled and a Bled Castle on the shore of the lake. You can access the island on a traditional rowing boat called pletna, but we actually had quite a lot of plans for our first day and the island is tiny and apparently only has a church and a cafe, so we decided to enjoy the view from the shore instead of spending the time to get there and back.

8_Lake Bled
The Bled Island

Instead we decided to go and see the Bled Castle. You can drive all the way to the castle, but the castle looks best from the shore of lake Bled and it is located right on the cliff. But you can get the full view of lake Bled from the castle, which was awesome.

12_Lake Bled
View of Lake Bled from Bled Castle

The castle itself was under reparation and what we saw wasn’t very impressive especially considering an entrance fee of 11€ per person + 3€ cost for parking, but I would come here just for the view.

13_Bled Castle
Bled Castle
14_Bled Castle
Bled Castle

We continued to Vintgar Gorge, which was supposed to be absolutely amazing, but also a relatively easy to walk. It has a wooden 1.6 km long walkway, which crosses Radovna River several times and you can see rapids, waterfalls, pools, and finally reaching Šum waterfall, so we were planning to spend a couple of hours here. Unfortunately it was closed. I mean according to Lonely Planet guidebook it opens late April and the weather was amazing, so it didn’t even cross my mind to cross-check, but this is the step I will definitely add to my pre-trip routine to check whether everything I planned for is in fact open. So we managed to walk about 10 min until the wooden pathway was closed and you couldn’t pass any further. I was very disappointed to say the least as I was really looking forward to this and this is why we skipped the visit to Bled island. But the small part we saw looked superb! The color of the water in Slovenian rivers is this unreal turquoise, which I have rarely seen before.

17_Vintgar Gorge
Vintgar Gorge
20_Vintgar Gorge
Vintgar Gorge
21_Vintgar Gorge
Vintgar Gorge

We were disappointed, but these things happen, so we moved onto our next destination, which was to drive through Triglav National Park via the Vršič Pass, which is a road built by Russian prisoners of war through the Slovenian mountains. But first we were getting hungry, so we kind of googled places on the go. There was one in the middle of a small village, but when we manage to find it by driving through the very small street (which in all likelihood was one way road which we drove in an opposite direction :)), we found it to be closed. 😦 So our next stop was to find something right next to the road and we found a place called Gostilna pri Rudiju, which had actually pretty decent food for being a roadside joint in the middle of nowhere.

23_Gostilna pri Rudiju
Gostilna pri Rudiju

Vršič Pass is a winding road, which has a lot of bikers and some of the best views in the country. We stopped in several places just to enjoy the breathtaking views and the mountain air. I understand there are quite many hiking possibilities in the national park as well, but we just enjoyed the drive. In the beginning of May there was still snow here and there on the mountains, but overall the road was clean and the temperature around +15°C. This road is actually closed during winter months, so at least it was open unlike the Vintgar Gorge.

Driving here as actually anywhere in Slovenia was a pleasure. Road conditions ranged from good to decent, very few people were speeding or behaving badly in traffic, and there were not a lot of people on the roads. The downside was that we stumbled upon many road works and needed to take a detour, so we spent a bit more time driving than I thought.

26_Triglav National Park
Triglav National Park – Vršič Pass
33_Triglav National Park
Triglav National Park – Vršič Pass
36_Triglav National Park
Triglav National Park – Vršič Pass
37_Triglav National Park
Triglav National Park – Vršič Pass
40_Triglav National Park
Triglav National Park – Vršič Pass
42_Triglav National Park
Triglav National Park – Vršič Pass
46_Triglav National Park
Triglav National Park – Vršič Pass
48_Triglav National Park
Triglav National Park – Vršič Pass
50_Triglav National Park
Triglav National Park – Vršič Pass
51_Triglav National Park
Triglav National Park – Vršič Pass
54_Triglav National Park
Triglav National Park – Vršič Pass

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