This trip started in the worse way possible, thunderstorms, hail, lightning and rain, car rental representative not showing up and traffic along the way! It took us almost 12 hours (with 2 stops along the way) to drive from Treviso to our accommodation in Žirovnica. However apart from all the mishaps of the first day everything was perfect. The natural beauty of this land leaves you speechless as they say. Although I had heard a lot of good things about Slovenia, I was still impressed by several things. Mainly the excellent road conditions, the standard of living, tourism infrastructure and most of all the endless possibilities in such a small land. Slovenia is not a big country but the things to do are countless, especially for the outdoor lovers. Mountain treks, water sports, cycling or simple sightseeing for those who want to relax. Here is some basic information that may help you plan your trip to Slovenia’s Western part; namely the Triglav National Park which is home to the best area to visit if you are into nature and mountains.
Best time to visit
All year long!
Spring and Summer: this is the ideal time to visit if you want to do some outdoor sports like trekking in the mountains, canoeing, rafting, canyoning etc. From May to June it is highly likely that you will see snow on top of the mountains and this makes it the ideal time for photography. July and August are also a good time to visit however there are more tourists around. The weather is good as days are warmer with maximum temperatures ranging around 25⁰C during the day.
Autumn: the Autumn hues of yellows and oranges are a good time to visit as well. However you are risking in terms of weather. From the end of August thunderstorms become more frequent and so do rainy days. If you are willing to risk it you will be awarded with less crowded places and numerous photographic opportunities. You will still be able to do some of the outdoor activities mentioned above however due to the unpredictable weather you might end up soaking wet in the middle of your mountain trek.
Winter: Some of the lakes and waterfalls are frozen but there are loads of snow-related activities you can do. The most popular skiing resort in the area is Kranjska Gora. Here you can ski, snowboard and sledge among other activities. The landscapes are completely different but equally magical! I really would love to return during Winter 🙂
The nearest airport to the Triglav National park is the one in Ljubljana, if you are lucky enough to have direct flights from where you live. Other nearby airports include Treviso, Venezia, Trieste and Klagenfurt.
I highly recommend driving your own vehicle to get around, there are several places you can visit if you plan on using public transport. However getting your own vehicle will be the best option and gives you freedom to reach all the less popular places any time you want.
Where to stay
The most popular touristic areas near the Triglav National park are the skiing resort of Kranjska Gora or else in Bled. However if you have your own means of transport you can stay anywhere in the surroundings.
Places to visit in the Triglav National Park and its surroundings
This is by far the most popular and obvious destination in the area. Most of the tourists stay here and the area around lake Bled can get quite crowded. All this popularity is surely justified as the lake is beautiful! It is surrounded by forests and hills, with ducks and swans all around and the picture-perfect bled island right in the middle of it. Explore both the east and the west of the lake as both are beautiful. Among the things to do here you can: take a pletna boat and go to Bled island, swim in one of the designated swimming spots, hire a boat or canoe and explore the lake, trek towards one of the viewpoints over Lake Bled. The most beautiful hike is the one to Ojstrica to watch sunrise; it is not an easy one as it is very steep. We started this hike but we were not fit enough to complete it and gave up along the way unfortunately. Another fun activitiy in the area is on Straža hill where you can ski in winter or go on a toboggan in summer.
This is another place where everyone goes. The castle in itself is not worth the visit, however the aerial views of the lake are worth the entrance and the walk uphill to the castle. And while you are here you can also taste the popular Kremsnita, a local speciality. This is not the only place where you can taste this custard sweet, however it is a good place to stop for a coffee with an impeccable view.
The clearest of clear waters are here! I have never seen a lake with such clear waters. If you visit during summer you will be surely tempted to dive in. However the water is very cold as it is sourced from the mountains. There are a lot of other things to do in the area such as renting a paddle board, kayak or canoe and explore the lake. Unlike Lake Bled you can only drive along the southern side of the lake, the northern coast can only explored on foot or via water transport.
Mount Vogel is situated next to lake Bohinj and with a gondola you can go up to an altitude of 1,500m and enjoy beautiful aerial views of the lake itself and other peaks in the surroundings. This is the ideal spot if you wish to make a picnic 🙂 There are also a couple of mountain goats and chickens roaming around. Kids are entertained with jumping castles and a small adventure park with ropes to climb. With the same ticket you can take the chairlift to Orlove Glave or else go towards one of the numerous treks. It is also possible to do a small zip line here for the most adventurous!
This waterfall is another popular attraction in Bohinj area. Reaching this waterfall is not as easy, as there is a 30minute walk uphill to get to it. Going up with my 1 year old was not an easy task and surely took more than that. However there are several spots where you can take a rest. The reward was absolutely worth the walk up and I was impressed by the height of this waterfall. From the photos I had seen I thought it was actually smaller, so this was a pleasant surprise.
Through this valley you are accompanied by the river Soča all along the way (hence the name). Apart from admiring the crystal clear waters there are several watersports like rafting, kayaking and canyoning that are practiced here. There are also several camping sites here for those who wish to be in direct contact with nature. Another activity that is popular in this valley is Paragliding. All these activities are all offered at very reasonable prices and there are several operators to choose from.
Kranjska Gora is the most popular ski resort in the valley. The town itself is nothing special, however you can consider this place for your accommodation or a nice stop for lunch (there are some pretty good restaurants here) and enjoy the views of the mountains. Among the things to do here you can go for sledding, cycling, go caving and climb up a via ferrata. For a full list of activities you can check out the official tourism website of Kranjska Gora. In the outskirts of the town there is also Zelenci nature reserve, home to several bird and flora species, and natural springs with emerald waters.
Going up the Mangart Saddle is surely not for everyone. I admit that I was afraid all along the way and I am not the type who gets scared easily. This is the highest road in Slovenia and has an elevation of 2,000m. It is also one of the most dangerous I have been through. Driving to the peak involves countless turns and most of the time the road is so narrow that if you meet with another vehicle you will be forced to reverse to find a wider space where two cars can pass. There is no railing anywhere and we met several motorcycles who speed through corners and are invisible because of the trees. I won’t tell you not to go there as the views from the top are breath taking, however if you are not experienced with these kind of roads I would think twice.
I have been to several gorges before and this is by far the most spectacular I have seen! Why? Once again due to the clear waters. You can choose to enter from the northern or from the southern side and walk for as long as you like. You can go all the way through the gorge and then take a bus back. However if you are not doing this I highly recommend going through the south entrance. The first part of the southern side of the gorge is more spectacular, with waterfalls and rapids. The further north you go the quieter the stream gets. This place can get very crowded so I highly recommend checking the opening hours (usually 7am in summer and 8am in winter) to get there as early as possible. If you arrive early you will be rewarded with an even more magical experience as there is still the morning mist over the water.
Yes more water! Honesty when I was planning this trip I thought there are too many lakes in the itinerary (we visited other lakes in Italy and Austria as well – will be writing about them soon), it’s better to choose the most beautiful and stick to those. Yet I was not able to eliminate any! All of them are beautiful and unique in their own way. There was one characteristic that is common to all lakes in the region; crystal clear waters. Lake Jasna was not an exception! Jasna is actually two lakes and you can enjoy a nice walk around these lakes. Unlike Bled and Bohinj these lakes are smaller. They are surrounded by mountains and the scenery is very dramatic. It is popular with locals who come here to swim as well.
I will be soon writing about other nearby places in Italy and Austria visited during this trip so keep following this space 🙂