If someone asked, "Hey Jenna, if I wanted to escape to a country with little tourists and a lot of outdoor activity, where would I go?" I would say..."Slovenia."
This Eastern European country is inexpensive and a beaut. When we told people we were going to Lake Bled for Thanksgiving/my 25th birthday the responses ranged from "Wait, where?" to "Hm, interesting."
That's because this tiny country east of Italy is only recently on the come-up, as it became independent from Yugoslavia just 26 years ago.
We spent our time in Lake Bled and explored around Triglov National Park, which is the main attraction of the country for good reason. If you're looking for a quiet nature-oriented getaway with lots of hiking and views, Slovenia is your place.
With that being said, it's not a place to visit if you're looking for a bustling city with endless bars and a party atmosphere, at least in the Lake Bled area.
Our AirBnb was one of my favorites. At a cool $60 a night, it was a trendy minimalist style with views of both the lake and mountains, and our host was the sweetest. Any host that leaves you with a local bottle of vino gets 5 stars from me. Slovenian wine, by the way, it only distributed throughout their own country, so you can't get it anywhere else! It's delicious.
It's definitely recommended that you rent a car when exploring the area, as the public transportation is few and far between. There is no train between the airport and Lake Bled, so getting a car is in your best interest. It's only about a 45 minute commute. Not to mention our car was literally $12 total. Not $12 per day...Twelve. Dollars. Total. Did I mention Eastern Europe is ridiculously cheap?!
Our first day we took a hike up Ojstrica for best views of Lake Bled. There was an insanely steep staircase to get to the top, but it was worth it. Hit this trail at sunrise or sunset.
One of the more popular hikes, Vintgar Gorge, was unfortunately closed for the season, so we didn't get to complete it. We got a little teaser though, and from what we saw it was a beaut. Definitely check this out if you're in Slovenia anywhere between April and September. Bluest river water ever!
We then took our car and drove around Triglav National Park. Due to weather, we didn't get to explore the Julian Alps as much as we wanted to, but if you have the time and are not held back by snow flurries, I've heard the hiking is insane. It's a gorgeous national park that is not crowded and accessible by car throughout. We made multiple pitstops throughout the park and was not disappointed. Views for days!
Our last day we explored the main castle in Bled that is built into a mountain. Lots of cool history and a preferable thing to do on a rainy day.
I can't speak much on food/restaurant suggestions as we just picked where to go based on what was open. I will say, the Slovenian locals like to have a beer any time of day. We would head to a bakery/cafe around 9AM and locals were have a Heineken along side their macchiatos. Hilarious. ...Also, you don't have much to lose trying all sorts of places with the low prices.
Side note, you can take one of these boats to the center island of Lake Bled to tour the castle. We didn't, but it was so peaceful watching them paddle out on a crisp, rainy morning.
My 25th birthday was so peaceful and exploring this underrated country was so awesome. We can't wait to go back in the summer!
Behind the Lens
1. Our only critique of Bled and the area is that - at least in the timeframe we went (November) - there is not much to do outside of outdoor activities. The town was quite dead, so plan to really chill when you get here!