Lake Bled, Slovenia Is A Waterfront Paradise Hidden In The Alps
To the north of uber-trendy Croatia’s Dalmatian beaches, Slovenia is hiding one of the best swimming spots in the world: Lake Bled.
To be fair, hiding might be a bit of an exaggeration. Most of Europe knows all about this Slovene gem, but Americans are slow to adopt Lake Bled as their new summer dream. And let us tell you — if you haven’t dipped your toe into these waters, you are missing out.
The lake is home to a 12th-century castle, a 16th-century church on an island in the center and a small resort town of the same name (Bled). The lake has been a favorite wellness retreat for centuries, beloved for the fresh water and mountain air.
Lake Bled’s water tastes sweet. Salty Croatian sea water is great and all, but Lake Bled is the most delightful fresh water you can imagine. It’s fed by small alpine springs. Even nearby hotel pools are supplied with the same thermal water.
According to local legend, if you ring the bell in the Assumption of Mary Church on the small island in the middle of the lake, your wishes will come true. It’s actually a replacement of the original bell, said to be a gift from the pope. The O.G. is at the bottom of the lake, sunk by a storm.
You can pay to take a boat to the island, swim the entire way or rent a paddleboard. However, swimmers, remember that this is fresh water. There’s no ocean buoyancy here to help keep you afloat.
There are certain areas only accessible to hotel guests, but luckily, there are plenty of public swimming spots as well. Follow the paths past the private swimming areas and you’ll find free beaches, docks and rocks perfect for jumping into the bright blue water.
When you’re done swimming, the surrounding mountains have hiking trails and a thrilling gorge where adrenaline junkies can get their canyoning fix. The Vintgar Gorge has waterfalls, cascades and pools. Canyoneers can explore it all up close and personal, sliding through the waterfalls. However, you can also enjoy the views from wooden bridges and walkways if you want a more sedate mountain experience.
Outside of swimming months, Lake Bled is a magical winter destination that looks like a village coated in fairy dust. You can snowshoe around the mountain trails and, if it’s a very cold year, you might even be abe to ice skate on the lake.
Lake Bled is located in the Julian Alps in the northwestern part of Slovenia. For the non-geographically inclined, that’s right below the Austrian border to the north and not too far from the Italian border to the west. That means you have the sweeping Alps and influence of Italian, Austrian and Balkan cultures. (You know, the dream.)
You can get to Lake Bled from Slovenia’s capital city Ljubljana via bus or take a direct train from Vienna, Austria. If you don’t want to pay resort prices for a hotel, you can easily make Bled a day trip from Ljubljana. But we suspect you might not get enough of these views in just a few hours near the water.