Lake Bolhinje and Lake Bled
We had heard about Lake Bled long before arriving in Slovenia, as it is considered one of Eastern Europe’s highlights. When we mentioned it to our host Katya and her family they all felt that whilst Lake Bled was good, they preferred to walk around Lake Bolhinje. So we decided to check them both out.
A very cold, misty early morning in Ljubljana meant a brisk walk to the bus station followed by a 2 hour journey north to Bolhinje. As we traveled, the mist cleared and we got our first glimpse of the Julian Alps looming ahead.
Although the bus journey goes through Bled and then onto Bolhinje, we had decided to do the latter first. As we passed through Bled we got a glimpse of the stunning lake, Bled castle and the iconic monastery island. We both hoped that we had not made a mistake and that the good weather would hold until we returned later that day.
The half hour bus ride between Bled and Bolhinje took us through beautiful valleys and small villages but we were anxious to get moving. When we arrived at Bohinje lake it was 11.45am. We knew it would be dark by 4.30pm so we gave ourselves 2 hours there before catching the bus back to Bled.
Lake Bolhinje was truly breathtaking, with its crystal clear lake and magnificent mountain backdrop. It’s about 15km around it, so we figured we wouldn’t have time to cover it all and instead opted to walk as far as we could for an hour before heading back. As it happened, we stopped so many times to take photos and admire the view that we had walked less than a third around by the time we needed to head back but this wasn’t such a bad thing as we were on the sunny side of the lake (it was only 3c degrees and even Jon wasn’t thinking of swimming).
Back on the bus towards Bled we were glad we had been to Bolhinje first but were still relying on the weather staying good and the sun shining at Lake Bled. Thankfully it didn’t disappoint.
Lake Bled is picture postcard stuff, with the iconic castle set high above the lake and the stunning monastery perched on an island in the middle. There have been endless photographs of the area. It is smaller (and more touristic) than Bolhinje and took us an hour and a half to walk around. It’s possible to pay to take a gondola over to the island but we felt this to be unnecessary as the best views are of the island itself. It’s also possible to hike up to Bled castle itself, where all the best photos of the island are taken from (everywhere else it is obscured by trees). Jon ventured up the steep path towards the castle but by now it was almost sunset and the castle was closed.
As the sun set we found a small pub for a warm drink whilst we waited an hour for our bus ride back to Ljubljana. This gave us a chance to look at some of our photos and to reflect on being fortunate enough to be spending some time in such a beautiful part of the world.
Hiking the ‘Julian Alpine region’
After a night of organising routes and equipment we woke up ready and keen to go. First challenge was to find the house keys! Which were found after a few tense moments of despair.
We caught the 9am bus to to ‘Bohinj’ and asked the bus driver to drop us off at the last stop near ‘Savica waterfalls’.
We got off after a 2hr bus ride with one other person. Helten walked with us for the first hour. He was from Brazil but lived in the UK and was planning on moving to Australia. We chatted in Portuguese and English for the duration of the walk to ‘Savice waterfalls’, snapping photos of the snowy mountain ranges and lowland meandering rivers as we walked along. The colours of the river were unbelievable.
Arriving at the waterfall, after a gradual climb on well signposted dirt track, we were surprised to see a hut with someone in it, charging people to go and visit the falls. We weren’t too impressed with this, plus we had just about enough money for our overnight accommodation at the mountain refuge, so we bypassed this attraction. Anyways we’d seen so many waterfalls and were just keen on getting up into the mountains.
We said our goodbyes to our new friend Helten, exchanging numbers and possible talk of Helten setting Jon up in London with free accommodation before flying over to Jersey and headed in different directions.
At first we walked in the wrong direction but luckily checked ‘Mapsme’ before going too far and realised the hike up to ‘Dom na Komni’ hut started adjacent to the waterfall entrance, we about turned and set off on the 1000m vertical ascent.
We made good progress for the first hour, the lowland trail was scattered with some frost and ice but mainly a good path with dirt. It snaked it’s way up the mountainside, revealing breathtaking views of ‘lake Bohinj’ and surrounding mountains.
The further we ascended the more snow started appearing on the ground. After just one hour and thirty minutes, the snow became thick and icy in parts. Around 30cm deep but luckily the path and markings on the trees were still visible most of the time. Vanessa used walking sticks and put on her crampons to steady herself, as things were getting a little slippery in places and it helped to boost confidence in her footing.
Jon forgot his crampons and hoped that his borrowed hiking shoes would have enough grip to keep him from sliding off the mountain side.
We stopped several times to snap photos, as the views got more and more impressive the further we went up. We made steady progress but trudging through snow is like walking on sand but on a mountain side. You take one step, sink a little and slide back. Whats the saying…. ‘Two steps forward and one step back’ describes things well.
After three hours of walking through snow, we turned a corner which revealed the first glimpse of our hut for the night perched on the mountain peak. The snow was deep in this section, so we were very careful to only walk on the path of others.
Reaching the peak we got excellent panoramic views of the mountain ranges and were pleased with our efforts. Luckily for us two other hikers appeared just in time to take a photo or two of us.
Foong and Sabrina joined us for a hot drink. They turned out to be from Tasmania and were both moving to Victoria (Geelong) early 2018. They weren’t staying overnight and had to rush off after only resting for 30 minutes, as the days are very short and the sun sets at 4pm. They had a very steep descent ahead of them with only an hour and thirty minutes to get to the bottom before darkness. We wished them luck and exchanged contact details.
After securing a bunk bed for the night (we needn’t have worried, as we were the only guests), we ate a very late lunch at 3.30pm and then played various board games that were on offer.
At 6pm, we headed down to our dorm to cook our meal (which was delicious!), then read our books.
A great first hike in the snow had by us!
Waking up shortly after sunrise in our deserted lodge, we ate breakfast, put on the layers and then ventured outside. The temperature was still only around freezing but there had been no fresh snow overnight.
Initially our plan had been to hike the trail towards some small lakes, reportedly 2 to 3 hours away but, after speaking to the lodge manager, he doubted this would be possible as the trail was still snowbound. Instead we settled for a shorter hike to another (closed) lodge which was relatively nearby.
The walk there was really enjoyable in the knee deep crisp snow. Although we were the first hikers of the day, there was an obvious path left by footprints from the previous day, so we couldn’t go too far wrong! Although, for reasons unclear, Jon insisted on venturing off the trail to take a closer look at a pyramid shaped monument thingy.
After little more than a half hour or so hiking, we reached the second lodge, where (unsurprisingly) the trail became indistinguishable and we had no choice but to head back the way we came.
We then retraced our path (other than a small detour of a few hundred meters) from the day before. As we descended we passed a few early morning hikers coming in the opposite direction.
We stopped for a short while to build a snowman (our first this year) and pose with him for photos. On a number of occasions Vanessa was pleased to have crampons on, especially when Jon slipped and fell on his butt (no permanent damage).
Reaching the bottom at 1pm we stopped to eat lunch, then started walking on the road back towards Lake Bohinje. Taking a short cut down a dirt track we spotted a temporary sign with pictures of trees and some Slovenian writing on it.
Continuing on we heard some chainsaws and Vanessa suggested turning back. Jon dismissed the idea, arguing that they would have closed the track if they were going to fell trees near it, and continued onwards. Seconds later a tree crashed down across the path ahead of us. Jon ate some humble pie and we about turned back to the road.
Hearing the first car for a long time, we stuck out our thumbs and it stopped. We jumped in and were given a lift all the way back to the beautiful lake Bled by a newlywed Hungarian couple who had just started their honeymoon. We apologised for interrupting their alone time but they seemed happy with our company.
From there we bussed back to Ljubljana, arriving shortly after dark, having thoroughly enjoyed our first (European) Alps hike.
Sight seeing in Slovenia ???????? 23/11/17
We were fortunate enough to have Katja’s company today and her knowledge of the magical hidden treasures of Slovenia. We borrowed her brother-in-law’s vehicle and spent the day exploring the countryside, which included a very brief but interesting visit to Italy
We stopped and gawped in awe at Retece Planice ski jumping centre, watching some incredibly talented youngsters jumping 60m, unbelievably brave! This centre also included the highest ski jump in the world at over 90m, which was gigantic
We headed off towards the mountain ranges on wendy country roads, through valleys and high peaks. We stopped to explore an old war tunnel, giving access to hikers over the mountain ranges, then ate lunch at a perfectly located picnic table.
Once replenished, we ventured off towards Katja’s kayaking centre at Bovec, Soca, where the crystal clear water was almost inviting enough to jump in but the lack of warmth deterred us. We snapped more photos than possibly needed and took a little stroll along the water edge, then carried on our Slovenia tour
Next stop was Boka waterfalls, the highest waterfalls in Slovenia, a 136m drop, the water flows from a peak at 725m, through caves and crevasses.
Very beautiful! We walked a kilometre up to the viewing platform.
Our final stop was at Tolmin, Most na Soca lake, where we took a short stroll and snapped a few more photos.
Excellent day had by all and fantastic company!!