If there ever was the most fairy-tale like country I have ever visited, it is Slovenia. I have absolutely fallen in love with Slovenia, it has left me mind-blown and wanting to visit again. Slovenia is a very underestimated country due to it being located in Eastern Europe, small and unexplored. However it is a beautiful country with magnificent castles, amazing nature, great food, picturesque towns and history. If you are wanting to explore a nation of lakes, mountains, gorgeous architecture merging with lush landscapes, Slovenia is exactly that and so much more. In this guide I will share with you why you should visit Slovenia.
LAKE BLED, BLED ISLAND
Lake Bled is the most iconic and jaw-dropping lake in Slovenia. The lake is the definition of the perfect post card scenery with its clear waters and surrounding mountains. This picturesque lake with its small island is the reason why most people visit Slovenia. The lake is a stunning bright blue and green colour, surrounding the Bled Island (Bijelski Otok) where you can find the Church of Assumption of Mary. We visited in October during Autumn when all of its beautiful colours are on display. Most people tend to only make a day trip from Ljubljana to Bled, I would suggest you spend a night in Bled in order to capture the whole experience.
Bled Island is the only naturally occurring island in Slovenia. It has a few buildings, one of them being the Pilgrimage Church of Assumption of Mary. You can reach this charming island by hiring a row boat. There are a few boat rentals around the Island which allow you to rent a boat by the hour for 20 Euros. Alternatively you can hire a plenta which are larger boats that can take up to twenty people at a time.
We chose to hire our own row boat and I found this the best way to soak in the beauty of the lake and its surroundings. Rowing is roughly a 20 minute journey after which you would have earned yourself a rest and some Slovenian cake. Dock your row boat on the right side of the island and make your way to a set of stairs which lead you to the Church, Museum, Tower and a café.
CHURCH OF ASSUMPTION OF MARY & CLOCK TOWER
At the café you can enjoy a refreshment overlooking the amazing scenic surroundings. Carry on to visit the Church of the Assumption where inside you can ring a bell. You will notice you hear this bell often from the Island, this is because most visitors ring the bell to make their wishes come true. You need to purchase tickets for the Church and this will also give you access to the clock tower.
The clock tower is an easy climb. Usually I am horrified of heights but the inside of the tower has been beautifully re-modeled, you never see the bottom of the stair case so it is a pleasant climb. Up the top you will see the mechanics of the clock and views of the lake, mountains and houses. Don’t forget to also follow the footpaths near the boats, they will lead you to both sides of the Island. Overall you could spend up to an hour exploring this place fully.
LAKE BLED CASTLE
The Bled Castle is the oldest medieval Castle in Slovenia dating back to 1004. It is located at the top of a steep cliff overlooking the entire lake, city and landscape of Bled. Naturally this a widely visited place and the castle itself has so much to offer.
To reach the Castle make your way via the path around the lake where you will reach a clear sign for the castle. The walk to the castle takes you up some stairs and leveled pathways. It will take roughly ten to fifteen minutes of walking. Don’t worry there are plenty of opportunities to rest and catch your breath. You can also reach the castle by car. There are plenty of car parks at the top if you prefer this option. We chose to climb the stairs. I preferred this as on the way up you can find lots of scenic spots of the lake. Once you reach the castle, it is a 10 Euro entry fee, which in my opinion is money well spent.
BLED CASTLE ACTIVITIES
At the castle you will find a printer, bee shop, chapel, castle forge, wine cellar, souvenir shop and museum. There is also a cafe and restaurant at the terrace where you can enjoy refreshments and unlimited photo opportunities. I would recommend trying the popular Cream Cake at the castle because you can enjoy it while overlooking the most stunning views. You can have your name printed on hand made paper at the printing shop. You will find this right next to the cafe and bee shop upon entering the castle. We had both of our names printed on the hand made paper. This was such an exciting experience to watch because the process is done on an old printing press.
The museum inside the Castle showcases the lake’s history from the earliest times (dating back 400 million years ago) to the development of Bled as a resort and town. It was absolutely mind blowing to see and read about the formation of this place. Visit the wine cellar where you can hear about the history of wine making in Bled, and maybe purchase a bottle to take home. There is also a viewing gallery to the side of the wine cellar, take the stairs up the top to see more views and seize more photo opportunities. At the bottom of the castle you will find another look out, it is a really neat spot and I loved the remains of the draw bridge.
Only when you visit Slovenia do you get to explore fairy-tale scenery and underground caves at the same time. Postojna Caves are the second longest cave system in the country and are one of the biggest tourist attractions in Slovenia. This underground world was carved from the Pivka River millions of years ago and makes up a 24, 340 m cave system. The Caves are located in the southwestern town called Postojna and have been opened to tourists since 1818.
Unfortunately due to lack of time we were not able to access the caves. We managed to only explore the Vivarium, which is a type of exhibition of creatures that are found living in these caves. This part of the exhibition is located in part of the cave so we got a taste of what the underground cave tour is like. To enter the cave system I would suggest you book your tickets online and allow half a day here. There will be a train that takes you 3.4 km down to the caves.
Be sure to dress warm as the constant temperature in the caves sits at 10°C. Once you get off the train you will be guided through tunnels, halls and galleries via foot. The whole tour in the cave alone will take up to 90 minutes.
Near by the Caves and Vivarium there is also a beautiful park which you can explore. If you are traveling to Postojna Caves with a car there is a car park which costs 5 euros for the whole day. There are also hotels in this location which we did not expect to see, but you can stay at this location as well.
Not far from the Postojna Caves, is the most magnificent Cave Castle I have ever seen, the Predjama Castle. For us, this was an unforgettable experience in the fairy-tale world of knights and castles. The castle is located in the village of Predjama. This medieval castle was built in the middle of a 123 metre high cliff, 800 years ago. The castle is partly inside the cave and partly attached to the cliff. Behind this castle cave is a network of secret tunnels from where the Knight Erasmus would set out on his expeditions.
Upon entering the castle you will get given a guide which tells you the history of the castle. You will learn that the castle was the seat of a Knight called Erasmus who was the lord of the castle in the 15th Century. Erasmus was also commonly known as a robber baron. There is a complete exhibition of how life in this castle was once like. Some interiors are furnished to give a feel of that past life. The armory is also displayed with weapons, swords, battle hammers, longbows and armor which were used to help defend the castle.
Towards the end of the tour you will get to enter the cave behind the castles front structure. The cave is truly spectacular, I was blown away with the grand size of this space. You will be amazed to see how Erasmus and his servants lived in such a cold environment. Safety was a top priority to people of this time which is why structures like this were strategically built. I found it incredible to see how so many years ago people incorporated a structure into the force of nature. I have never seen such an amazing structure or a castle like this before.
For me Slovenia was almost as if though I have just visited wonderland. Slovenia is a stunning and delightful place to visit, packed with so many surprises. It is truly a hidden germ and I hope this guide has given you many reasons to visit Slovenia. You can check out many more pictures of our visit to Slovenia over on my Instagram Highlights.