Autumn is our favourite time of year to visit Lake Bled in Slovenia. It’s only just over a couple of hours from our home in Istria, and if coupled with a break in Ljubljana, it makes the perfect out of season get away. The little town of Bled, on the shores of the lake, started to become famous in the nineteenth century, when visitors started coming to benefit from the good climate and thermal springs, discovered by Arnold Rikli, a Swiss hydrologist, who founded the Institute of Natural Healing. However, people had been coming to Bled since the Middle Ages, as the church on the island in the middle of the Lake – The Church of Mary the Queen (also known as the Pilgrimage Church of the Assumption of Mary, or Our Lady of the Lake) – was an important pilgrimage place.
It’s a picture perfect town nestled at the entrance to the Julian Alps and very close Slovenia’s beautiful Triglav Park. It’s small, so is easy to get around on foot – although apart from enjoying the many restaurants along the lake shores, most people do seem to head off around the lake and the surrounding sights, of which there are many. As well as the iconic lake in the middle of the island, Bled Castle stands high up on a towering cliff – an impressive sight in its own right. There are plenty of hotels if staying over is on your agenda, and many are situated lakeside, so the views are amazing.
Obviously, autumn is when things are a lot quieter and the weather isn’t anywhere as warm as in the heady summer months – but the lack of tourists, for us, is a good thing. No crowds, no queues in restaurants, much less expensive accommodation, a quieter experience on the lake and around the trails and walking paths. And, of course, the autumnal colours and atmospheric mists…
A highlight of any trip to Lake Bled, is a ride on a traditional pletna boat to the church on Slovenia’s only island. After disembarking from the gondola, you are free to roam the small island for 30 minutes.Climbing the 99 steps to the church is really the only thing to do on this tiny island – as well as taking in the sights of the church and its surroundings – so half an hour is really about all you’d need to spend on it. Make sure your phone is well charged as there are plenty of instagramable spots on the island and when crossing on the pletna.
We’ve been to Bled a few times now, but have only stayed over on once occasion, at the very grand looking Villa Preseren, dating back to the nineteenth century, right on the shores of the lake. There’s no doubt this hotel has the most amazing views – and a pretty fabulous restaurant – but when we stayed, our room (albeit with a big balcony and lake view) seemed a little bit tired. This didn’t spoil our stay in any way, as I doubt much could dampen a trip to this beautiful part of Slovenia. And, one of the the best things about the location of Bled is that it’s less than an hour away from the capital, Ljubljana, so it’s very easy to combine a trip and see both places, even in one day. The advantages of doing a roadtrip in a very small country, with excellent roads and not too much traffic.