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Planning your Lake Getaway in Slovenia: Bled or Bohinj?

I think this may ultimately be the best and most important question that is asked when planning travels in Slovenia. Well, for me it was at least and I am sure I am not alone, which is why this post is going to come alive with cobalt blue and vibrant green images and plenty of text explaining just what’s so special about both Bled and Bohinj and how each caters for different expectations.

First of all, Slovenia seems like the forgotten country of the Mediterranean. There is a part of me that loves that, but also makes me question how well people research countries and whether they do really like to stick to the standard tourist path. I am sure that through the up and coming blog posts that I am doing on Slovenia, you will see just how it became my favourite country out of the 26 I have travelled to in my short 21 years of life.

Lake Bled is the picture perfect postcard at every turn you take. I think most people will recognise Bled through photographs if it doesn’t ring a bell. It is one of the most photographed Lakes in Europe and wouldn’t surprise me, if it breached the worlds. Surrounded by dense woodlands, lined with cafes, paddle and row boat hires and centred by a church perched on the Lakes Island, it’s quite easy to believe that it can’t get any better. As it is the better known and more connected with public transport and tour companies, Bled becomes a haven for tourists as soon as summer hits, with people flocking left, right and centre, filling up all accommodation within days. There are plenty of things to do around Lake Bled, including hiking through the Triglav National Park, walking along the rugged pathways of the Vintgar gorge and even watching the sun rise from a hot air balloon. It is easy to spend a few days here taking in the awe of the place, but given the popularity in summer, prices tend to rise and can make it a lot more expensive in comparison to the rest of destinations in Slovenia. If you are looking for an easy, stress free, and very picturesque getaway and don’t mind the crowds of tourists than look no further than Lake Bled.

Bled

Lake Bohinj is connecting back to peace, serenity and the wonders of nature. Unlike Bled, Lake Bohinj seems to attract more locals and people whom are seeking a bit more of an outdoor adventure rather than a hassle free holiday. In saying this, there is still plenty of room to relax, if not more due to the significant lower amount of people and the larger lake. This is particularly due to the effort that must go into getting to and from Bled and transport options getting around to see the very best of the surrounding areas. It’s almost given that you will be able to find a spot along the lake side that seems to have been untouched for decades and make you really feel at peace with nature. Camping seems to be the preferred accommodation here and is generally a lot cheaper when compared to Lake Bled, giving you the ability to sleep on the lakeside and fully immerse yourself in the serenity. From the powerful, yet exquisite Slap Savica to the off the beaten track explorations, Lake Bohinj is best suited to those who don’t mind an extra bit of hiking, biking or even climbing to experience nature at its finest.

Lake Bohinj

They both have their pro’s and con’s like most places, but they are definitely two of the most beautiful lakes I have ever been to. I came to the conclusion that due to my lack of interest in crowds, that Lake Bohinj was a better fit for my interests and way of travelling. I could imagine that before the summer season starts, Lake Bled would ideally be the more picturesque one out of the two, but be sure to make it before the summer rush if you want to avoid huge crowds. No matter which destination you choose, whether it be Bled of Bohinj (or hell be it, both), I can assure you that you won’t regret your decisions and you will have the most incredible time reconnecting back to nature. Make sure you clear up that memory card as well and charge your camera to the fullest. You won’t want to stop clicking that shutter button. Just prepare yourself for hours of editing through photographs, it’s all worth it in the end and you will have all your Facebook friends uber jealous.

VintgarThe very beautiful Vintgar Gorge in the Triglav National Park. You can easily get here via foot, bike or even a shuttle bus from the tourist information centre next to the Lake Bled bus station.  Slap SavicaThis photo was taken at the risk of either getting in trouble by rangers or getting myself into trouble due to the drop (in other words, I am in a ‘prohibited area’ but so worth it, right?) The glorious waterfall in this picture is Slap Savica which is about a 4 hour return walk from the furtherest end of Lake Bohinj. 

 

 

Slovenia is a picture-perfect postcard

Slovenia captured all of my senses and definitely filled a gap in my heart. From the exquisite scenery to the friendly faces, there wasn’t a time spent in Slovenia where I was looking for more or was unsatisfied with my decisions. Most travellers flock to Lake Bled, for all of the right reasons, but there is so much to be seen outside of this tourist hotspot. Continue scrolling to fulfil your wanderlust, and maybe even get that Skyscanner tab open ready to book your next holiday destination!

Vintgar   Vintgar Gorge, Triglav National Park

LjubljanaLjubljanica River, Ljubljana

Ljubljana Central Market, Ljubljana

Lake Bled Sunrise at Lake Bled

Hot air balloon Lake Bled Castle

Slap VirjeVirje Waterfall, Pluzna

SavicaSlap Savica waterfall, Lake Bohinj

Sunrise at Lake Bled

Alarms set for 4:30am, taxi booked for 5am and just 15 minutes past the hour, the sun was set to rise over the rugged Julian Alps. After doing a circuit of the lake the day before, I had already pictured the perfect spot to where I could perch myself on the edge of a tree and get snap happy whilst watching the pale blue sky change to vibrant yellows and washed out shades of pink and purple. What came as a shock to me was that I was completely alone in the moment. There was not a soul in sight which is a rarity for such a touristy destination like Lake Bled. Moments after arriving, the sun began to transform the lake into the most magical setting, it was almost if I had stepped into my own little fairytale. The lake was gleaming with wildlife, which created a peaceful backing soundtrack for the morning. To make it even more special, a flock of ducklings came out to add to the picture perfect post card scenery, floating and creating an idyllic reflection in front of the church and castle. After moving from my first spot which was located roughly in between Camp Bled and Vila Bled, I finally saw a few other people alongside the banks taking it all in. Two people even camped out in swags to capture the moment! From here, I walked back along the waterfront, taking the occasional stop to snap the sunrise from every different angle possible and eventually arrived back in Bled town by 7am to jump on a bus back to Lesce. Unfortunately, I leave Bled today and although I am very upset that this part of my trip has come to an end, I am so very pleased that I finished on such a good note.

Lake Bled Sunrise Lake Bled Lake bled Lake Bled Hot air balloon Lake Bled Bottoms up Lake Bled Lake Bled Hot air balloon Lake Bled Hot air balloon

Rafting in the Soca River with Aktivni Planet

Going at 9am, 1pm and 4pm on retrospective days of the week, rafting was the first activity that I began my trip to the adventure capital of Slovenia with. Depending on where you are staying in Bovec you can get picked up by the company van which will then take you to the adventure base. Luckily enough this was possible for me as I was staying at their partner accommodation, Hostel Soca Rocks. I took the 4pm rafting session and after stopping by the base to pick up a wetsuit, life jacket, rafting shoes, waterproof jacket and most importantly, a safety helmet we were driven to the start point of the white water rafting which is by the ANA Hotel.

From here we were given the basic safety instructions, signals and what to do in an emergent situation (i.e. somebody falling over board) but all in a very fun and entertaining way. There was only 5 of us in the group but our guide told us that you just need two people to make a trip – but boy would that be hard work. The first half of the 10km rafting experience was quite tame, which allows you to get used to balancing on the edge of the raft and getting into rhythm with the paddling. The last half was where it got really fun but I will admit, if you are looking for something a lot more adrenaline fuelling then I would recommend that you join the kayak school or try out the Hydrospeed. Putting this aside, it was a great afternoon out and was an enjoyable way to experience the power and pure beauty of the emerald Soca River.

Prices start at 36 Euro’s and you can book online, in person at the store in Bovec town square or at Hostel Soca Rocks. If you want to get some photographs of the rafting, then be sure to ask the guide before you head out as they are more than likely to have a go pro to take out or a waterproof iPhone. I made this error, thinking that they would have it regardless, so I came away with no photographs.

Rafting

 

 

Hostel Review: Hostel Soca Rocks, Bovec

Out of all of the hostels that I have stayed in worldwide, I am proud to say that Hostel Soca Rocks comes out on top for multiple reasons. From the minute I walked in the front door, the lovely staff made me feel more than welcome. After checking in, they showed me to my dormitory room which was to be my temporary home for the next four nights and explained how everything worked: lockers, bedding, the communal kitchen, how to go about booking adventure activities..THE LOT. I made my self comfortable, unpacked my backpack into my large, but secure locker that was underneath my bunk and dived backwards onto my bed, finally kicking off my shoes after the long day of travel that I had just endured. For the first night, I had the 6 bed dorm to myself, which was a nice change from the usually very crowded room but despite this, the communal area was always buzzing with atmosphere and plenty of friendly faces. Even come peak time, the dorms are spacious enough to cater for a full room of people without the feeling of being claustrophobic which is a massive plus. I think it’s important to give you a little bit of a low down on all of the aspects of this brilliant, adventure hostel so you know what to expect for you stay, whether it’s for a short getaway or longer stay.

Communal areaThe communal area early morning before getting filled up with adventure seekers

Hallway

Rooms: The hostel has 14 rooms, with the option of a private double room to 6 bed dormitories. Depending on the time of travel, the prices vary from 12.90-13.50 Euro’s a night (dormitory) and 34-36.50 Euro’s a night (double room) between the 16th of September and 15th of June and 14.99-15.60 Euro’s a night (dormitory) and 40-41.60 Euro’s a night (double room) from the 16th of June to the 15th of September. For the quality of the accommodation, this is an absolute bargain for your buck! There are enough toilets and showers located on each floor to accommodate for the guests, all which remain very clean and in brilliant working condition. Tip of advice: there are 3 dormitory rooms that have balconies- Zipline, Canyoning and Kayak which are located on the second floor and a private double room- Snowshoe which is on the third floor, so depending on the website you book through be sure to request one of these rooms as it just comes down to pure luck when you arrive. I was in Raft, which is the only dormitory on the second floor that doesn’t have a balcony, but putting this aside, the room always bathed in natural lighting, which was complimented by the light wooden bed frames and clean white walls.

BedroomsInside Raft, one of the second floor 6 bed dormitory rooms. Just look at that natural light! 

Kitchen/Communal area: One of the biggest plus’ to Hostel Soca Rocks is the massive kitchen available for all guests to use. There are two large fridges, two cook tops and plenty of crockery and cookware all neatly organised. To ensure that nobody steals your food, or as they say ‘The Soca Rocks food trolls’, there is a tagging system in place. There is always name tags next to the fridge that are used to mark your food, where you need to list what room you are staying in and the date that you are leaving. It works really well and nobody managed to steal my very delicious pesto pasta that I made *cheers in joy*.

The communal area includes a bar with stools where hot and cold, alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages are served, a very cosy inside area with the walls covered in posters that show all the adventure activities on offer as well as an outside deck area with an undercover barbecue, seating and four very comfortable and colourful hammocks on the grass (this is where I could be found almost every time the sun was out). Whether you are here to socialise and meet alike travellers or to just have some personal down time, the communal area is where it’s at. There is also a variety of boardgames and multiple decks of cards, so be sure to break the barriers with a game of Cards Against Humanity and meet some new friends from all different walks of life.

Bar

Hammocks

Adventure activities: Hostel Soca Rocks has teamed up with the very well-known adventure company Aktivni Planet to offer guests activities at a discounted price. The options are almost endless and are very reasonably priced starting from 36 Euro’s. Ranging from rafting down the Soca River, to Zip-lining and Canyoning, they have activities running everyday so no matter how limited you might be to time in Bovec, there is almost always time to squeeze in an adventure. In the next few days I will post a ‘3 days in Bovec’ article which will give you an overview on the two activities that I did through Aktivni Planet, so keep your eyes peeled.

Location: I mean, Bovec is not a huge town, but even so, Hostel Soca Rocks is very conveniently located. With a grocery store 100 metres down the road and plenty of bars and restaurants within a 2 minute walking distance, there is a never a hassle to head down to the shops to grab a bite to eat, even when you are so exhausted from all of the adventurous activities that you have partaken in.

Hostel Soca Rocks

Last but not least, the Staff: I think that this is the most important aspect of any hostel experience as they can really change your perspective on the destination, highlighting just how friendly or unfriendly locals may be and give off an overall vibe of the place. Well, I can very happily say it… Hostel Soca Rocks staff are absolute gems! From getting involved in their hostel promotional video, sharing stories with each other over Moroccan olives that one of the guys had bought back from his recent trip to getting a personal drop off to their adventure base to make sure I wasn’t about to miss out on a canyoning trip…there wasn’t a moment where the staff didn’t go the extra mile to make my experience just that little bit more special. The team of them are always happy to help, share and translate information as well as give off some brilliant advice in regards to eating out in Bovec and hotspots in the surrounding areas that are an absolute must see. Massive shout out to both Ana and Lindseigh, whom made my stay very warm and welcomed, and always greeted me with a massive grin no matter what time of the morning or evening.

So if you do plan on making a visit to this gorgeous Slovenian adventure destination, be sure to check out Hostel Soca Rocks, and if you so happy to get lucky with an availability, jump at the opportunity! I am certain you won’t regret it.

 

 

 

 

 

Day trip in Bovec: A ride to the magnificent Slap Virje waterfall

I decided that it would be a brilliant idea to bring my journal with me today so I could spend a lot of time relaxing beside one of Slovenia’s most beautiful waterfalls and catching up on some blogging before I hit some more adventurous activities like canyoning. I hired a bike from the hostel that I was staying at, got a map and asked the lovely lady at reception to mark out some hotspots, one being the Slap Virje waterfall which I had already done some ‘wanderlust searching’ prior to arriving in Bovec. The first marked stop on the map was Slap Virje. Located in Pluzna, the ride only takes 25 minutes, that is if you don’t get lost like I did. What I didn’t do was trust my instincts so I ended up going up the same hill (mind you, very steep hill) twice (walking my bike, that is, twice).

Most of the ride is through dense forest, how gorgeous?

Most of the ride is through dense forest, how gorgeous!

Once you are in Bovec’s town square, you simply turn right at the Tourist Information Centre, there is a sign to turn off for Pluzna, so you just follow the hill all the way up and continue to do so for about 15 minutes until you reach a cross-road where you turn left (follow the sign for Slap Virje) and continue for another 10 minutes, until you reach a pebbly downhill path. This will take you to the top of the waterfall, which you then need to take the path to your left for a 5 minute walk down to the basin. If you aren’t a big cyclist, then it is possible to walk here but be prepared for a 45 minute to an hour walk, depending on how many stops you take along the way. Obviously if you are gifted with access to a car/motorbike then this is also a choice, but I am telling you now that taking the bike option is very rewarding once you get to the end destination and gives you more of a desire to hop into the natural ice bath to cool down/freeze. I arrived at the bottom of Slap Virje by 9:30am and was beyond belief that I had the spot to myself when it was such a hot, summers morning. It did start to get a lot busier around 10am as I would imagine it to be a very popular spot once the holidays begin for families, tourists and locals alike.

Slap Virje

As I was very toasty from my ride, I decided to jump straight in the water which deemed to be an issue considering the water is like ice. If you do decide to take the plunge, make it short but sweet and as silly as it sounds, really concentrate hard on your breathing as it can really affect your body temperatures especially when it’s so hot outside. Depending on your motives behind the visit, your stay could range from 30 minutes to a few hours. I stayed for three hours, taking the occasional ‘jump in and hurry to shore swim’ and then with the rest of the time with my head in the book ‘Gone Girl’ (it is an absolute must read if you haven’t already, it is incredible and so very addictive). Make sure you bring lots of water and some snacks as the journey can be quite exhausting especially on a summers day.

If you fancy continuing on, follow the path back to the road and once you get to Pluzna turn right and continue along the main road for about 15 minutes (main road= the widest looking road). You will bypass the Bovec golf course and eventually get to the highway. At the stop sign, take a right and continue along the road until you reach ANA Hotel. I had a tactical pit stop here where I grabbed an ice-cream, or two, connected to the wi-fi and got my bearings on which direction I had to go and how far, as my bum was in absolute agony from the very uncomfortable seat. Turns out it was the half way mark (yay). If you need a quick refresh, duck down to the river and go for a quick dip. After you have your very well deserved ‘cool down, can I just hitch a ride back’ stop, cross the bridge over the river and take a left turn. This road will take you along the Soca River, through open fields and into a quaint village where you can get hydrated and fill up your water bottles at a tap. The water is ice cold as it comes straight from the many streams in the valley, with the limestone acting as a filter, making it extremely clean.

This water was ice cold!

This water was ice cold!

Once you have cruised through the flat village, be sure to watch out for signs back to Bovec as you need to take a left turn. From here on it’s quite simple. Just keeping following the road, cross over yet another bridge, cruise/walk your bike up the veeery steep hill and once at the intersection you need to take a right at the stop sign, then a left at the round-a-bout and voilà, you are back in Bovec! Grab yourself a beer and celebrate your efforts.

Map of Soca Valley

How gorgeous is the emerald basin?

How gorgeous is the emerald basin?

_MG_2798

How gorgeous are these colours?

Slap Virje _MG_2867

My very trusty bike at the top of the entrance to Slap Virje

My very trusty bike at the top of the entrance to Slap Virje

The Journey to Bovec from Venice

3 busses and one train may seem like a bit of a hassle but I am here to assure you that it’s an absolute breeze. Time consuming, but a breeze. The journey time is around 5 hours, which considering the distance travelled is fairly reasonable. The busses seem to work in favour for travellers too as there is around 10-20 minutes between each bus/train connection along the way, so there is no time given for running to catch busses or waiting around aimlessly trying to fill time by playing Solitaire.

  1. First of all you need to make your way to Venezia-Mestre, you can do this via bus/train or if you are nearby, on foot. It is a good idea to grab some snacks from the cafe as there are no food options when you arrive in Gorizia.
  2. Catch the train to Gorizia Centrale. The train departs every 30 minutes. I caught the 10:16am train from platform 4. Give yourself some time to relax as you’ll be on here for just over 2 hours.
  3. Gorizia Centrale to Nova Gorica – there is a shuttle bus that departs from the bus stop directly across from the train station exit. Simply wait under the shelter until you see a small shuttle bus arrive – it will say ‘Nova Gorizia to Nova Gorica’ on the front. Don’t bother going to the bus ticket service at the station as you have to buy the ticket on board. It will only cost you 1.30 Euro’s. This is a short leg, taking only 25 minutes to get to the Slovenian border town, where you can either get dropped off at the bus station or train station. They are both reasonably close to each other, but I would advise that you get off at the bus station as this is where you will need to be to take the next leg.
  4. Take bus 7 to Tolmin. This was the longest I had to wait as I had just missed the connecting bus as I needed to make a dash to the toilet. If alike me, you miss it, never fear, there is a bar with wifi that you can hang out in and catch up on some social media *posts photo to Instagram*. You will need to buy tickets from the information desk before you get on the bus. The lovely lady that served me sold me a two part ticket (Nova Gorica – Tolmin – Bovec) so I didn’t have to buy another ticket when I got to Tolmin. The ticket for both legs was 7.50 Euro’s. The bus took 50 minutes, but boy is it a scenic 50 minutes.
  5. Last but not least, take the bus from Tolmin to Bovec. All of the busses are linked up here with arrivals and departures so there are no waiting times fortunately, unless you miraculously can’t find the bus (but trust me, that won’t happen, it is a very small bus station with about 4 ‘platforms’). I jumped straight on the bus to Bovec- there was a sign on the window with all of the stops, so it’s not difficult to get it mixed up. Yet another scenic hour drive, and I had arrived in the Slovenian land of adventure!

The bus will drop you off down a side street in Bovec. It is the final destination on the bus route so don’t worry about keeping your eyes peeled and constantly checking with the bus driver to find out when you need to hop off. To find your accommodation it is best to walk straight back uphill to the main street, take a left hand turn and head to the tourist information centre. It is about a 2 minute walk from where the bus will drop you off and is located on the right hand side of the road. You won’t miss it, it has a big at the front!

I hope this will help you all get to this magnificent spot of beauty, it is surely worth it! If you have any questions, make sure you comment below! I am always more than happy to help.