A Day at Lake Bled, Slovenia
The sun rises over a mirror-like lake, casting a glowing sheen over the gently rippling waters. It’s said that a short swim in this lake, a clamber up 99 stone steps and 3 rings of a bell are all that’s needed for your dreams to come true; or so goes the legend of the Pilgrimage Church of the Assumption of Mary, which is located on an island in the middle of Lake Bled.
There seems to be a little magic hovering in and above the waters of Lake Bled, which is seen as one of Slovenia’s most enchanting destinations. Located just a 40-minute drive from the capital of Ljubljana, Lake Bled makes for a great day-trip destination. Here’s what you can do:
Hike the Ojstrica Trail
For those looking to capture a gorgeous aerial view of the lake, Ojstrica Hill offers one of the best viewpoints.
It’d take you about 20 to 25 minutes to reach the top; however, do be warned that some parts can be rather steep and slippery. The route consists of multiple uphill switchbacks, with a steep staircase at the end. The route is clearly demarcated so you won’t have to worry about losing your way.
As you get higher and higher, you’ll be able to catch glimpses of the lake. This extra motivation will definitely help to spur you on!
A bench at the top offers some much-needed respite after the uphill climb; kick back, relax and enjoy the magnificent view. If you have the time, continue further uphill to the Mala Osojnica for an even better vantage point.
Located just past the campsite of ‘Camping Bled’, the trailhead (next to the red and blue sign) isn’t hard to spot from the road. You can also navigate your way up via Google Maps.
Paddle a boat to Bled Island
And of course, how can anyone miss out on visiting the mystical island in the middle of Lake Bled?
You can get there aboard a Pletna boat, a large traditional wooden boat that can hold up to 20 passengers. A return ride will cost approximately EUR12 (~SGD19) per person.
Alternatively, I recommend renting your own paddle boat – which is half the price (depending on the number of people) and twice the fun. This will cost approximately EUR20 (~SGD38) per hour.
It does admittedly take quite a bit of effort to paddle to the island but the experience is completely worth it! Plus, you can take turns paddling with the other person or people in your boat too.
Enjoy the tranquillity of the waters and before you know it, you’d be docking at the island.
Don’t be surprised to hear the church bell at the Pilgrimage Church of the Assumption of Mary ringing again and again – it’s said that whoever rings this bell will have their wildest dreams and wishes come true.
As the legend goes, a devastated widow sent a bell to the island’s chapel as a tribute to her late husband who was killed by ruthless bandits. However, a vicious storm struck during this journey, sinking the boat and bell. In the aftermath, the widow sold all her belongings and made a generous donation to construct a new church on the island. The pope sent a new bell to the island’s church, personally blessing the bell and granting it the power of granting one wish to those who ring it 3 times.
The church is also an immensely popular wedding location; however, tradition states that before the wedding, the groom has to carry the bride up the 99 stone steps leading up to the church!
Explore Bled Castle
Dating back to 1011, Bled Castle is the oldest castle in Slovenia. The medieval castle can be easily spotted from the lake, standing sentinel on a 130-metre high hilltop against a mountain backdrop.
An entrance fee – EUR9.50 (~SGD15) and EUR4.50 (~SGD7) for adults and children respectively – is required to enter the castle grounds, where you can visit the chapel, go on a wine-tasting tour, discover a blacksmith shop and more.
If you wish, you can even pamper yourself with a meal at the castle’s fine dining restaurant, famous for sweeping views of the lake. A dinner reservation will also waive the entrance fee needed to enter the castle!
Feast your eyes on panoramic views of the lake, the town of Bled and its surroundings.
The castle is also famous for a Gothic arch and drawbridge across a moat, which are located at its entrance.
Take a stroll around the lake
One of the best things you can do at Lake Bled is to simply take a leisurely stroll around the 6-kilometre perimeter, where you’ll be treated to stunning views of the lake and island at every turn.
You’ll spot many locals fishing in the waters and in summer, certain spots of the lake transform into popular swimming spots.
Feel free to toss some bread to the swans and ducks swimming languidly in the water.
Try the famous Lake Bled cream cake
The Lake Bled cream cake (“Kremna Rezina”) can be found all over Slovenia but locals will tell you to reserve your tastebuds for the one true original version found at Lake Bled’s Park Hotel Restaurant. Istvan Lukecevic, a renowned pastry chef, created the cake at the hotel in 1953, whipping up a delectable blend of a buttery puff pastry perched on layers of vanilla cream and whipped cream. The square of cake is then dusted with a light coating of icing sugar, making for the perfect indulgence.
The Park Hotel version is so popular that in the 1970s, the hotel once made 6, 000 of these cake squares in a single day. Today, around 3, 000 squares are sold every day at the Park Hotel.
You can choose to visit Lake Bled on a day tour but if you wish to make the trip on your own time, it’s an easy 40-minute drive to Lake Bled from Ljubljana. The area does see high footfall from the late morning to late afternoon due to the arrival of tour groups; to avoid this, you can spend a night at one of the many hotels to have the lake all to yourself in the morning or evening.