The ultimate Alpine Experience
Angela Warm, Health Editor and Travel Enthusiast
Slovenia was not originally on our radar for this past summer, but an unexpected life event had us scrambling for something different to squeeze in between school letting out and traveling back to the US yet again. Many years ago a friend had mentioned their family trip to Lake Bled, Slovenia, and ever since I’ve been itching to find out what all the fuss was about. So without much of a plan (what I like to call a pla), we loaded up our camper van and headed east to explore the unchartered Alpine country.
But First… Tyrol
We broke the trip up a little by spending a few days hiking in Austria with some friends in the Tyrol region. We were familiar with the area as we ski close by there each year. We often say we should come back in the summer. But you know how it is living in Europe, there are so many places to visit why would you go back to the same place?
This year we experienced Tyrol in a different season… Summer
We packed in some amazing hikes and really fun activities for the kids (gigantic alpine playground, toboggan run) in the few days we were there. It would have been easy to spend more there but Slovenia, our next Alpine experience was calling.
After a few days in Austria, we headed toward Lake Bled, Slovenia where we’d reserved a camping spot close to Lake Bled for six nights. Although long, the drive through Austria and Slovenia was absolutely stunning.
Slovenia does have many of the same features as Switzerland…
gorgeous clear lakes,
quaint alpine villages
and friendly people.
First a few facts about Slovenia:
Slovenia is about half the size of Switzerland, but with only about 2 million people.
Over half of Slovenia is forested, making it feel amazingly lush and green
Slovenia gained it’s independence from Yugoslavia in 1991 and is considered a Parliamentary Republic. It is part of Nato and the EU. The Euro is freely used there and most people speak English since they are surrounded by so many countries.
The capital is Ljubljana (say that three times fast) and while we didn’t make it there on this trip, our friends we hiked with in Austria spent a few days there on their way to Croatia. They said Ljubljana was the highlight of their summer holidays. They raved about how much there was to do there, how great the food was and how clean and vibrant the city was.
Lake Bled, Slovenia
Slovenia appealed to us because of its endless kilometers of bike trails, snow capped mountains (Hello it’s the Alps) and jaw dropping countrysides. What’s not to love.
We spent the bulk of our week in Lake Bled where we enjoyed endless days hiking, biking, swimming and paddle boarding on the lake. The weather was amazing, warm during the day but not too hot, and a bit cool in the evening. Perfect for swimming and camping.
There is a roughy 6km trail around Lake Bled that passes through little towns, Bled Castle, some touristy areas and gorgeous views of the castle the island. We did both – walked and biked around it, both during the day and at night. If you can go at night, the castle and island are quite spectacular.
Bled Island is a must stop if you are in Lake Bled. Most people either rent wooden paddle boats, swim or paddle board there. We paddle boarded. When we dried off we walked up to the church and rang the wishing bell.
We did a day trip to Postojna Caves, on the other side of Ljubljana. A bit touristy but totally worth the price of admission. The intricate network of subterranean caves allow one to get up close and personal with stalactites and stalagmites. My kids really enjoyed several of the exhibits that showed ocelots and other underground creatures. Our day ticket included a tour of the Predjama castle, a few miles away and a cool castle experience.
Vintgar Gorge is one of the most spectacular hikes in the area of Lake Bled and a great way to spend a half day. It is a short distance from Bled (we biked there) and thank goodness we did as the line to get in the park was quite long. This is a 1.6km walk along raised boardwalk through carved gorges with the waterfalls and blue water pools. The hike back from the end was a bit longer than expected but luckily we found a strategically placed restaurant and more gorgeous views to keep us motivated.
Slovenia – Switzerland’s younger half sister?
I am not sure how to best describe Slovenia… it feels a lot like Switzerland but different. Was it cheaper? Hard to say as we didn’t eat out very much.
It was funny, we spoke with a handful of native Slovenians who repeated the same lines, Slovenia looks up to Switzerland as a model for what it hopes Slovenia could be in the future. It has a ways to go, but it is getting there.
On our long drive back (I don’t recommend doing it all in one day like we did), we agreed we would like to come back and explore other areas, maybe stay a bit longer and take advantage of the hiking and biking trails in Slovenia.
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To read posts from August, click here