Hiking in the Julian Alps: Lake Bohinj versus Lake Bled

by Elizabeth

One of the iconic images advertising travel in Slovenia is the church topped island sitting in the middle of Lake Bled: 

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Beautiful Lake Bled

When we decided to come to Slovenia, we knew that Lake Bled needed to be on our itinerary.  Then we heard about Lake Bohinj.  Located about 30km from Lake Bled, we heard from multiple people in Slovenia that Lake Bohinj was actually more beautiful than Lake Bled and offered better hiking options.  The price and availability of (last-minute) accommodation ended up making the decision for us — we headed to Bohinjska Bistreca (in the Lake Bohinj area) and planned to day-trip to Lake Bled.

Our apartment in Bohinjska Bistreca was located just outside of the small town on the second floor of a large house.  For only 50€ a night, it was a bit more than we’d been hoping to pay but was well worth the money.  The large deck patio was a perfect spot for eating meals and enjoying the sunset.  Our host was nice and cheerful, and even though she only spoke a few words of English and we could only speak a few words of Slovenian, we managed to make all the necessary introductions. 

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View from our private deck.

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We took advantage of the apartment’s kitchen to make burritos!  We’ve been missing Mexican food.  Even though some of the ingredients that we found are a bit off (“Mexican beans” turned out to be kidney beans), it hit the spot.

On our first afternoon, we picked up a bunch of groceries and stopped by the tourist office to purchase the Bohinj Guest Card.  It ended up being quite the deal.  For only 10€ each, we got free local bus transportation (including to Bled on certain buses), free entrance to several sights, free electric bike rental, and free transport on the tourist boat crossing Lake Bohinj (priced at 9 euro per person).  We also picked up a helpful map showing the various hiking and biking routes in the Bohinj area. 

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We enjoyed this great view on our daily short walk from our apartment to the local bus stop.

In the morning, we caught the bus to Stara Fuzina and hiked up to the Mostnica Gorge and Waterfall (free entrance with Bohinj Guest Card).  The gorge was beautiful — deep with curved walls formed by the water’s pressure and various shades of blue water.  On our return from the waterfall, we stopped for beers and blueberry cake at a small restaurant in the hills.  We then managed to take a wrong turn and ended up heading back on a small road, with group after group of a children’s summer camp passing in the other direction.  We rejoined the main path back at the entrance station and actually headed back up again to see the gorge from the other side (our intended path before our wrong turn).  Worth the detour as I think that we actually got a better view of the gorge on our return path.

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View on the way up to the gorge and falls.

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Crossing the Mostnica gorge on a footbridge.

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Looking down at the Mostnica.  The blues in the water were amazing and impossible to capture.

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Selfie at the waterfalls.

Upon returning to Stara Fuzina, we decided to head over to Lake Bled for the afternoon since rain was forecasted for the next few days.  We walked to Lake Bohinj to catch the bus (unfortunately ending up on a bus not covered by our pass — oh well) and enjoyed the short ride to Lake Bled.  We spent the afternoon walking along the path around the Lake.  Lake Bled is rightfully popular.  The lake itself is beautiful and the church on the island in the middle is picturesque — offering a great view/photo op from every angle. 

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Random grand piano flower planter along Lake Bled.

Since we weren’t interested in visiting Bled castle up on the hill or the island in the middle of the lake, other than a swim in the lake and our walk there wasn’t much to do.  We were content with our visit, but ultimately fell in love with the less touristed Bohinj area.

On our second full day, we hiked up Rudnica, a tall hill in the middle of the Bohinj valley.  The hike offered a nice challenge with about 1300 feet in elevation gain over 4.5km (9km roundtrip) in what felt like very humid weather.  We lucked out and, although we heard thunder in the distance, there was no rain.  The view from the top was great!  After our hike, we caught the tourist boat across Lake Bohinj (complete with commentary from the guide) and enjoyed a nice late lunch at a popular trout restaurant in Ukanc.

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View of Lake Bohinj from a viewpoint on the way up Rudnica.

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Crossing one of a few meadows on the Rudnica trail.

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Signing the trail register at the top of Rudnica — funny since it wasn’t even 1000 meters tall.

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View from the tourist boat on Lake Bohinj.

One of the benefits of the Bohinj Guest card that I was excited to try out was the free electric bike rental.  We couldn’t get a reservation until our third day, but it looked like we had lucked out and the threat of rain had fizzled/passed.  We picked up our bikes in the morning from a local camp’s reception office — a bit weird since they had a sporting/adventure office that rented normal bikes.  The lady who gave us the bikes didn’t seem to know much about them and didn’t have any helmets.  We went to the normal bike rental office to borrow a couple helmets and their bike pump, since Michael’s bike basically had a flat tire.  Foreshadowing?  Probably.

As it turned out, we could never figure out how to turn on the electric bike feature on Michael’s bike.  Mine worked, but I found it disconcerting that it would turn on to give me extra power at random times (and not at my direction).  I also found it difficult to turn the feature off.  I decided to only turn on the electric feature on uphills, as the bikes were extra heavy due to the motor.  Of course, after we set out it also started to rain lightly.  On one of the subsequent downhill turns (after the electric motor was off), I lost control of my bike (and its not so awesome brakes) and ate it.  On later inspection, the front bike wheel was at a 90 degree angle and somewhat easily turned back into place, which is somewhat consistent with my memory that the front on the bike was going crazy shortly before my crash.  Luckily, I didn’t hit my head.  Unfortunately, I was bleeding quite a bit from my left elbow and palm.  I got off the path and laid down since I felt faint (normal for me when blood is present).  A passerby walking his dog asked if I was okay and, not believing our response that I’d be fine, offered us a ride back to our apartment.  Michael hid the bikes, locking them to a tree and we accepted the ride (from a woman who lived nearby that the passerby knew).  I was glad that we did, as I was in a lot of pain and felt like crap.

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The culprit.

When we got back, Michael bandaged me up with the assistance of the first aid kit that our host brought up after seeing us return (no English needed!).  On further inspection, it turned out that I was also lucky to have worn leggings instead of shorts, as I likely would have scrapped up both knees had I not.  I also had the beginnings of what would become a large, ugly bruise on my thigh (handlebar? unclear).  While I rested, Michael went to retrieve my bike.  He very much enjoyed the electric motor’s help on the uphills and flat spots, but confirmed that the brakes didn’t seem especially great.

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More dragons.  Michael wanted me to take a picture of the dragon by itself, but since there were kids there I figured it would be less creepy if he was in the picture.

Since I felt better upon his return, we took the bus back out past Lake Bohinj to the Savica waterfalls (another free entrance with the Bohinj Guest Card!).  There is about 500 stair steps to get up to the falls, but the view at the end was nice.  While I took the bus all the way back to Bistreca (where we stayed), lucky Michael had to stop to pick up the second bike to ride it back.  What a good sport 😉

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On our final day in Bohinj, our train ride out to the Soca Valley left us just enough time to fit in another hike — this time a morning hike through the woods and back past farms with cows and goats. 

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We could easily have spent several more days in Bohinj.  There were so many more hikes to do and, even without a car, everything was relatively easy to get to.  We are definitely putting this on our list of places to return to!

[We’re making an attempt to finally get caught up on getting our blog posts up.  This post describes our visit to Lake Bohinj and Lake Bled on July 11-15, 2016.]

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One thought on “Hiking in the Julian Alps: Lake Bohinj versus Lake Bled

  1. Pingback: “Discovering” Temple-Filled Bagan | two backpacks, no plan

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