People who haven’t ventured past it will think that I’m crazy for saying this, but when you’re visiting Slovenia, you can skip Lake Bled.
Sure, if the weather is nice, you may want to walk around it and snap some pictures, but the real beauty awaits 26 kilometers (16 miles) to the southwest.
After driving past and/or around Lake Bled, many people are taken aback by the magnificent beauty of Lake Bohinj. Less known than Bled, Bohinj is bigger, quieter and, most importantly, much more authentic than touristy Bled.
This post is not meant to add to the Bled-Bohinj discussion, though, so I’ll stop comparing now. Instead, let’s focus on the highlights of Bohinj.
A Diverse Region
Bohinj is a collection of villages in and around an expansive valley in the Julian Alps, which, incidentally, are named after Julius Caesar. Made up of the Upper and Lower Bohinj Valleys, this glacial valley is approximately 20 kilometers (12.5 miles) long and 5 kilometers (3 miles) wide. Located in the heart of spectacular Triglav National Park, it is enclosed by the Lower Bohinj Mountains on both flanks and the Triglav Mountain Range in the north—Mount Triglav is the highest mountain in Slovenia.
The valley is glacial in origin and, with the use of some imagination, resembles an inland fjord. The valley is deep, the flanking mountains rising steeply toward the sky. The main natural feature in Bohinj is beautiful Lake Bohinj, the largest permanent lake in Slovenia.
Many people make the mistake to assume that Bohinj is just one town in the Julian Alps, while, in fact, it is a collection of 24 villages and towns—some small, some larger, but all of them extremely atmospheric.
Bohinj is more than the village-dotted valley, though. It is much larger, encompassing the Upper and Lower Bohinj Valleys, the valley of Nomenj, Lake Bohinj, the Triglav Mountain Range and the Jelovica and Pokljuka plateaus. This variety in landscapes is what makes it such a great destination—things to do and see are as varied as the natural features. This is a place to go hiking, skiing, cycling, kayaking, rock climbing and horseback riding, among many other outdoor pursuits.
When it comes to culture, Bohinj has its fair share of that too, with its picturesque churches, history of alpine farming and artisanal products.
We spent four days in Bohinj—four rainy days, unfortunately—which was by no means enough time to do everything there is to do in the area. It was, however, long enough to see all main attractions and take part in a couple of outdoor activities. We were shown around by guide Grega Šilc, who runs the adventure tour company, Hike & Bike.
I would definitely recommend staying at least a week, though. Two weeks would be even better to fully enjoy all Bohinj has to offer. Bohinjska Bistrica is the biggest town in Bohinj and makes for an excellent place to use as a base. We stayed at welcoming Hotel Tripič.
Just to get you started, I have listed the main attractions in Bohinj below. All these places can be visited in one week or less, but, again, it would be much better to allow more time.
8 Highlights of Bohinj
The pearl of the Julian Alps, Lake Bohinj is one of the prettiest lakes in Europe. Surrounded by towering mountain ranges, characterized by crystal-clear water and its shore adorned by a gorgeous church (see below), this lake is one of Slovenia’s most spectacular highlights. The lake is the largest permanent lake in the country, measuring 4.2 kilometers (2.6 miles) long, 1 kilometer (0.6 miles) wide and 45 meters (148 feet) deep. Lake Bohinj is a great place for canoeing and kayaking—Hostel Pod Voglom organizes rafting and kayaking adventures on Lake Bohinj and the Sava Bohinjka River.
The Savica Waterfall is Lake Bohinj’s main inflow. From the Seven Triglav Lakes Valley atop the Triglav Mountain Range, the water descends through the rocks of Komarča and bursts out of the sheer rock wall as a waterfall—the most famous waterfall in Slovenia. The total drop is 78 meters (255 feet); a second neighboring smaller waterfall falls 25 meters (82 feet) deep. From the deep pool underneath the waterfall, the Savica Brook flows into Lake Bohinj.
Further reading: Piran – A Pretty Stop on the Adriatic Coast
Bohinj lies in the heart of the Julian Alps and Triglav National Park. The crown jewel of Slovenian mountains is Mount Triglav, the highest peak in the country and the very symbol of the Slovenian nation. The mountain is so culturally important that each Slovene is expected to summit it at least once in his or her lifetime. Besides summiting Mount Triglav, there are countless other hikes in the Julian Alps, from scenic day hikes to strenuous long-distance treks.
Mostnica Gorge is 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) long and is flanked by a hiking trail on both sides. Cut deep into the rock by a powerful mountain stream, the gorge is home to a few interesting features, such as the 18th-century Devil’s Bridge, Elephant Rock and the plunging Mostnica Waterfall.
Church of St. John the Baptist
The Church of St. John the Baptist is probably the most photographed feature in Bohinj. Located on the shore of Lake Bohinj in the town of Ribčev Laz, this church is what every church should be. It’s small and old, topped with a beautiful Baroque bell tower, set on a lake shore, and covered with medieval frescoes. The Gothic presbytery dates from the early 1400s, while the Romanesque nave was built in the early 1500s.
Further reading: Slovenian Food – 7 Dishes to Try
Vogel Ski Center
Mount Vogel is home to a world-class ski center. Located at an altitude of more than 1,500 meters (4,900 feet) high above the southern shore of Lake Bohinj, the Vogel Ski Center is one of the premier ski resorts in Slovenia in winter. In summer, it is a fantastic starting point for hiking in the Julian Alps. The Vogel Ski Center can be reached on foot from the base of the mountain or by cable car. The cable car ride is spectacular and highly recommended. The views from the ski center itself are breathtaking as well.
Hayracks in Studor
Nothing screams Bohinj like the double hayracks that dot the pastures and fields in the Upper Bohinj Valley. While hayracks may be common all over Europe, the double hayracks known as “toplars” or “stogi” are unique to Slovenia. And in the town of Studor, the landscape is absolutely filled with them—it’s a sight that is unique in the world.
The karst plateau of Pokljuka lies 1,200 to 1,500 meters (3,900 to 4,900 feet) above sea level. Home only to cows that graze in summer pastures, farmers and native wildlife, this is a peaceful, calm and authentic corner in Triglav National Park. Covered by spruce forests and alpine meadows and characterized by pure mountain air, Pokljuka is great place to go hiking and spend a few days in a mountain hut in spring, summer and fall, and cross-country skiing in winter.
Our visit to Bohinj was organized and arranged by the Slovenian Tourist Board and the Bohinj Tourist Board. Accommodation was provided by Hotel Tripič, while Hike & Bike‘s Grega Šilc went out of his way to show us the most beautiful places in the area. Matej Kandare took the time to give us a tour of the Vogel Ski Center.
We absolutely loved our visit to Bohinj. The only thing we regret is not having allowed more time. Four days wasn’t nearly enough.
Lastly, I’m required to say it; all opinions in this post are my own, of course.