“Everything in Slovenia is beautiful,” our shuttle driver boasted as he barreled down a dark country road, “you’ll never hear anyone tell you otherwise.”
I’d just landed in Ljubljana after a long layover in England, and I found myself in the backseat of a van with two middle-aged German women, a boisterous Slovenian man at the wheel. As we rounded nausea-inducing turns in the pitch darkness of night, our driver explained to us that Slovenia takes great pride in its country – from its beautiful nature to its world-class wine. I’d been here just half an hour and this man was giving me very high expectations of a place I knew absolutely nothing about just one week ago.
I chose Slovenia because of a photograph I saw on the Internet. The image depicted a tiny, magical castle in the middle of a beautiful blue lake surrounded by mountains. It left me breathless. I actually thought it was photoshopped, but upon further research, I learned that this photo was taken at a real place in Slovenia called Lake Bled. So, when the opportunity came up for me to see this fairytale for myself, I jumped on it. And the rest, it seems, was history.
As I stared out the window into the night, I thought about the next four days, and what surprises Slovenia might hold for me. Although I could barely make out the silhouettes of the trees and hills around us, I had a feeling I’d just landed in a very special place.
After a long night’s rest, the first thing I did (after picking up my rental car) was depart for Lake Bled. This was what I’d come to see, so I figured I’d try and see it as early as possible. What surprised me was that the drive to Lake Bled from Ljubljana was a mere 45 minutes — a much shorter distance that what I was used to driving back in Texas. When I arrived at the lake, it was stormy and cold, so I hopped into a coffeeshop near the banks and tried to kill my jet lag with caffeine and water.
The skies eventually cleared, and I decided to take to the trails around the lake to photograph the stunning church in the middle of the lake. The trail around the lake is fairly flat and is only 3-4 miles. I walked it in just over one hour.
Since I’d be returning to Bled village to spend the night, I decided to jump in my rental car and do some exploring in nearby villages. One such village I’d heard many great things about was Krajnska Gora, located less than an hour away by car.
No big deal, I thought to myself. Little did I know that I’d stop several times on my way, taking over 2.5 hours to arrive at Krajnska Gora. If you’re wondering why I felt the need to stop so many times, see the photos below, which I took en route.
Yeah, this is a real place. Can you believe it? The snowy mountains towered over the villages below, the peak of Slovenia’s tallest mountain smiling down on me as I pulled my car over and stared back in awe. I had to pinch myself several times before I finally realized I wasn’t dreaming.
When I finally made it to Krajnska Gora, my camera battery had long since died. So, instead of wasting time trying to find an outlet, I decided to just live in the moment, enjoy a cup of coffee, and walk around the town’s small streets.
In the evening, I returned to Lake Bled and decided to go for a sunset hike. What I ended up doing was hiking up Ojstrica viewpoint, where many of Lake Bled’s most stunning postcard images are taken. As the lookout point came into view, I knew I’d made the right choice. The sky began to paint itself with streaks of gold, orange, and purple, showing off its splendor for a few fleeting moments before disappearing into the blue of dusk.
After a good night’s sleep in Bled, I woke up early and drove to Lake Bohinj, a large, glassy lake in Triglav National Park. Bohinj is the largest lake in Slovenia, and is surrounded by mountains and forests galore. The whole area was quiet, with just a few visitors sitting peacefully on the shore. I attempted to skip a few rocks, then gave up and listened to the sounds of the birds in the distance.
On a whim, I decided to take a boat tour of the lake, where I got to see panoramic views of the surrounding mountains from inside a really neat boat. The boat was completely covered in windows, and is run completely electrically to avoid noise and chemical pollution. For just 10 Euros, you get a tour to the other side of the lake, and free return if you choose to get off the boat and hike for a while.
Once I’d finished my boat tour, I took a drive to the Savica waterfall trail. There were only a handful of other people there, so I basically had the whole thing to myself. As I stopped to take a few photos of this emerald waterfall, a young man and his son arrived. The little boy stared at the waterfall in awe, pointing and laughing at its ferocious roar.
My last stop in the Triglav area was Vintgar Gorge, a beautiful gorge carved through stone near the town of Bled. The water was the same turqouise-emerald of the Savica waterfall, only this time, there were miles of trails spanning its banks.
On the walk back through the Vintgar Gorge, the trails were lined with these tiny, colorful wildflowers that caught my eye. They were everywhere! Blues, purples, yellows, reds, and greens filled every step. I almost forgot I was in the beautiful gorge because I was distracted by the beauty of the nature around me.
Slovenia surprised me. I thought that Lake Bled would be the the highlight of my trip, but I ended up falling in love with nearly everything I did there. There was so much hidden in the details of this beautiful place, with color and life around every turn. This was the first time I’d visited Slovenia, but it certainly won’t be the last.
When I returned home, friends asked me about my trip. “Everything in Slovenia is beautiful,” I told them, smiling to myself about just how spot-on my shuttle driver had been.