When you think of going on a summer holiday in Europe, Slovenia probably isn’t the first country you think of, but this blog post will hopefully persuade you otherwise. Slovenia has been on my wanderlist ever since I went to the Adventure Travel Show a few years ago. When the lovely Slovenian man told me all the amazing things you could do, I was sold instantly.
When Matt invited me to join him for a week in Slovenia, I was like ‘errr, hell yeah’! Flights were booked and the countdown began and so did the endless purchasing of camping and hiking related equipment! Yes, that’s right we would be camping as much as we could and you can’t go to the mountains and not do a little hiking.
I was only in Slovenia for a week, so there’s still countless things I still need to see and do, but the week I spent there was one of the best weeks I’ve had in a long time, I guess the company helped too! So I thought I would share with you some of my favourite things that I did and saw.
Exploring the beautiful streets of Ljubljana
I wasn’t in Slovenia for the city life and I didn’t really know what to expect with Ljubljana, but when we stepped out of the taxi it was the heat that hit me first, it was so gloriously hot! We were staying in an AirBnb for the night and it turns out we were in the heart of the city in a really old building right by the restaurant and cafe filled streets, next to the river. After dropping our bags off we swapped our jeans for shorts and headed into the city. Coming from London the city vibes here were much more relaxed, people were enjoying ice cold beers and paddle boarders were cruising along the river, basking in the evening sunshine. We walked up to the castle and watched the sun start to set over the city. There was some fancy looking restaurants, but we went for steak by the river and it was yum, a great way to start the holiday! An evening stroll by the river is great way to walk off dinner and see all the pretty bridges and buildings lit up.
Now Lake Bled, that was why I was in Slovenia! If you’ve ever seen a photo of this picturesque lake you will know that it is the ultimate fairytale destination. A stunning crystal clear lake that is surrounded by mountains with a tiny island in the middle with the prettiest little church on top. One thing you’ll notice is how quiet it is here, there are no motor boats or jet skis charging around, anything with a motor is not allowed on the lake, so you’ll only find paddle boarders, kayakers and lots of swimmers. We were there in August and it was really busy with families on holiday, but you could always find a little secluded part of the lake to swim or paddle to, and just relax in the sunshine. The lake was the perfect temperature and was the best way to cool off when the sun got too much. Wherever you decide to go make sure you make it across to the island someway or another!
We were staying at the campsite which was situated at the other end of the lake and the best way to get around was by the road train that would constantly circle around the lake and you can jump on and off wherever you wanted (€4 each journey) or you could hire bikes and cycle round. Cycling is hugely popular and there are plenty of cycle paths so you will always feel safe. When you’re there you must head up to the castle they charge to go in unless you’re eating in the restaurant, but we rocked up at about 8.45 in the evening and at 9pm they close the office and you don’t have to pay.
As well as hiring a bike to get around the lake, we hired bikes to get to Vintgar Gorge which was also high up on my to-do-list and the ride there, even though the majority of it was on road, was so beautiful! You pass rolling green fields and cute little towns and every now again a whopping great big coach will try and squeeze past you, so make sure you wear a helmet, kids! The walk through the gorge will take you along a picturesque boardwalk where you can see the emerald green waters rushing past. Then you reach the end where there is a big waterfall and deep pool where you can jump in and go for a walk. Although the heat is blasting down on you and the water looks cool and refreshing, don’t let it deceive you, its bloomin’ freezing and takes your breath away, but it’s definitely fun to sit around and watch other people curse and scream as soon as they hit the water.
Lake Bohinj and the mountains
After just one night in Lake Bled (fear not we would return) we jumped on a local bus and headed to the next lake further into the mountains. I had never heard of this lake before our many planning sessions, but this is where everyone headed if they wanted to go hiking. We were also told it was quieter and just as beautiful as Lake Bled and we couldn’t agree more. This was our base for a few nights, but one of those nights we would be sleeping high in the Julian Alps. The campsite here was more laid back, so much so that you couldn’t book, you just rock up and try and find what ever space is left, luckily for us we just had a little two man tent so we squeezed into camp life and made ourselves at home. There are no shops at this campsite which we didn’t realise so we ended up spending most of our time eating in the little cafe, which was nice and had really good pizza, yummy salads, and of course, beer! Again, like Lake Bled there are no motorboats allowed and you can hire kayaks, rowing boats and paddle boards of which we did the latter for our first afternoon.
The next morning we set off bright and early for what was going to be one long ole’ day of hiking through some of the most beautiful scenery I had ever seen. The next two days of hiking were so epic that they definitely deserve their own blog post, so watch this space. There were some things that we wish we had known before setting off, but the campsite were really helpful with any questions we had. We went for two days, spending one night in the mountains, but there are tons of hiking trails around the lake and you can go for as long as you like. If you’re not that interested in going on a huge hike, you take a walk around the lake and find a nice little secluded spot to spend the day away from the crowds.
Paddleboarding on the lakes
I had only ever tried paddle boarding once before arriving in Slovenia and already loved it and couldn’t wait to have a go without my 4mm winter wetsuit on and enjoy the prospect of falling/jumping into a lovely warm lake. As soon as we arrived in Ljubljana we saw people paddle boarding on a river that flows through the city, but after realising they probably had their own, we saved ourselves for Lake Bled. The moment we popped our tent up, we headed straight down to the water and hired a board each. It was the perfect way to head to the island in the middle, we passed locals just out for an afternoon swim, and obvs we had our GoPro to capture all our watery fun. By the time we arrived at the next lake we were dying to get out on the board, this time we just went for one and I happily relaxed on the front of the board whilst Matt paddled around, Bohinj was a lot more peaceful and as the sun began to set the water almost looked black and gave it an eerie feeling. Even if you have never paddled boarded before you will soon get the hang of it and if you fall in, you just get back up and start again, the water is really deep and super clean!
The best ice cream I’ve ever tasted
Since the moment I landed in Slovenia I had been saying “I’m going to get an ice cream” pretty much everyday, I mean you’re not truly on holiday until you’ve nailed your first ice cream, right? I’m ashamed to say that it wasn’t until our fifth or sixth day that I managed to get myself an ice cream and oh boy, what an ice cream it was. We’d spent the morning biking to the gorge and back and we were absolutely baking. We had seen a little ice cream shop back in Bled and when we cycled up we realised it was closed. For some reason, perhaps because it was the only place we knew that sold ‘proper’ ice cream, we waited. Soon the girls turned up and opened up shop and maybe it was because it was a long time coming or maybe it was because we were tired and needed something refreshing, but it was hands down the best ice cream I think I’ve ever had. I had chocolate (obvs) and rasberry and Matt had lemon and raspberry. I can not explain to you how refreshingly delicious the lemon ice cream was, I’m literally drooling over my laptop thinking about it! A mouthful of this ice cream is worth the trip to Bled alone! I’m totally the worst blogger ever, and can’t remember the name of this place, but if you circumnavigate your way around the lake you’ll definitely find it.
Dinner in a castle
To top a perfect holiday we spent our last evening dining like a king and a queen in the castle overlooking the lake. The food was amazing and delicious, from panacotta filled aubergine rolls to exquiste fish dishes and scrumptious desserts. Bled Castle Restaurant offers traditional Slovene dishes with a modern twist, and the views, oh boy will they leave you feeling inspired, surrounded by alpine scenery and the stunning Lake Bled below. Make sure you book in advance as you can’t enter the castle without stating your reservation, a table at the restaurant also means you won’t be charged to enter the castle! Just make sure you don’t wear fancy heels as the walk up and down might prove to be a little interesting. This was seriously one of the best ends to a great holiday.
Like I said before I only had a week there and Matt continued on for two more weeks and had lots more adventures, so I am definitely keen to go back for more. Everyone we met were so lovely and friendly, especially the two ladies who we hitched a ride with when our tired legs could take no more!
Trust me when I say…
Get your ass to Slovenia, pronto!