I wanted to see as much of Slovenia as I could possibly squeeze into five days. 15 months of travel usually means that I tend to take it relatively easy. On a four week holiday I’m up at 9am and going to bed at midnight- trying to fit as much as possible into my trip.
But the more I travel the more I realise this sort of intense travelling doesn’t work when you are on the road full time. If I were out exploring all day everyday I’d burn out pretty quickly.
Slovenia was a bit of an exception for me. I’d just finished up two months of sitting relatively still in Florence and I knew that I was heading to the UK to chill out with family afterwards. It was the perfect opportunity to try out ‘intense travel’.
I did three tours in the five days I was in Slovenia! It’s clear that tours can be hit and miss but I think Slovenia have their travel industry down pat- all of the tours I took were fantastic. My final tour was once again with Roundabout Travel, but this time a tour of Lake Bled, Lake Bohinj and Skofa Loka.
Whilst I had already been staying in Lake Bled, as my base for my five days in Slovenia, I decided to hop on Roundabout’s Fairytales Tour. It was an inventive way to get back to Ljubljana while also seeing more of the area around Bled and the medieval town of Skofa Loka.
The tour officially starts and ends in Ljubljana, but like all of Roundabout’s tours there is flexibility for you to pick the tour up in Lake Bled. I met the minivan and the driver at the main bus station and we headed to our first stop- Vintgar Gorge.
You might remember that I already visited Vintgar Gorge on my second day in Slovenia. But this was a completely different experience given the weather actually behaved for my visit on day four. Whilst before I had seen Vintgar Gorge glistening in rain, this time I got to experience it in the sun.
I definitely wasn’t complaining about visiting this place twice- it’s truly spectacular. I also love how its relatively accessible for those that might want to experience the natural beauty of Slovenia but might not be up to long days hiking in Triglav or rafting down the Soca River.
From the Vintgar Gorge we headed straight to Bled Castle. The highlight of Bled Castle isn’t the castle itself, but rather the view from the top. This is one of the best views of Lake Bled you can get, and I was so happy that the weather was finally behaving. It was the first time I saw the lake without a blanket of fog hiding it.
Taking in the lake, with its tiny little island, surrounding hills and clear blue water- it really isn’t surprising that Lake Bled is the tourist capital of Slovenia. I only wish it had been hot enough when I visited to jump into it!
Lunch isn’t included in the tour but we everyone in the group was happy to follow our guide’s recommendation to eat in a local tavern. One of my favourite things about small minivan tours is that everyone becomes instant friends. As a solo travel, being able to met people and hang out with a great bunch of people all day is something that I strive to do.
I chatted to a lovely couple from the Philippines who were having their first overseas holiday alone since their baby had born, an amazing woman also from the Philippines who had quit her job to travel and a gay couple from Melbourne who shared my affection for Slovenian men.
It’s natural to be dubious when your guide recommends a place to eat, kickbacks are always something to be aware of. But I’ve found from experience that tour guides wouldn’t recommend terrible places- it would reflect badly on them. I ordered some gnocchi with truffle and it was delicious. I clearly hadn’t kicked my gnocchi addiction in the two months I spent in Italy!
Pletna Boat Ride
Have you really experienced Lake Bled if you haven’t actually been on Lake Bled? I don’t think so! I was so excited to be able to get out onto the Lake on a traditional Pletna Boat.
The Pletna Boats are boats rowed by hand that carry passengers to the island in the middle of the lake. This is a very regulated business- only a certain amount of people have permits to drive pletnas on the lake, and those permits tend to stay in the family.
When our Pletna boat arrived at the dock I was feeling slightly bad for the little old man that seemed to be so strong and fit, rowing people across to the island. It seemed like hard work for someone that clearly wasn’t young. But then we discovered his son was coming to take over for him. I was not complaining about the serious eye candy!
Rowing across the lake, without the hum or disturbance of a motor was an incredible experience- it’s an authentic experience even if it’s something that all the tourists do. This is how people have been seeing the lake for decades.
Once we arrived at the island it was a hard slog up lots of stairs to the top where the church was. Unfortunately the church itself was closed for refurbishment during our visit.
But that didn’t distract from the experience of sitting on Slovenia’s only island and gazing upon the lake all around.
Lake Bohinj was another place on this tour that I had already visited. It was the very last stop on my tour of Triglav National Park. My first time at Lake Bohinj the lake was covered in fog and we were surrounded by other tourists. I much preferred my experience seeing Bohinj on this tour.
Our tour guide took us to a secluded spot where there were only a handful of cabins. Renting out one of those cabins for a week and swimming in the lake everyday is a new item for my bucket list! The weather was perfect, the lake was stunning and we just enjoyed sitting by the lake and watching the ducks.
One of the best things about small group tours is that you always have a bit of flexibility. This was clear when, upon our request, our guide stopped in Lake Bled on the way back so that we could all go have the famous Bled Cream Cake.
The best way to describe Bled Cream Cake is kind of like a fancy vanilla slice. One half of it is vanilla type custard, whereas the other is more of a crème anglaise. That’s all between sheets of perfect pastry. It’s basically heaven wrapped up in a dessert.
I couldn’t have thought of a better way to end my time in Lake Bled than sitting by the lake and eating cream cake. And nothing describes my trip to Slovenia more than the downpour that ensued as we ran back to our van.
This was our last stop on the way from Bled back to Ljubljana. Skofja Loka boasts as the most preserved medieval town in Slovenia.
After seeing all of the natural beauty of Slovenia, it was a nice change to finally explore some of its history, architecture and man-made beauty.
Our guide was super informative as we did a walking tour through the streets of the old town. It’s not a very large city, so the hour we spent here didn’t feel rushed at all.
By the time we arrived back in Ljubljana I was well and truly exhausted, but the exhaustion was totally worth it for the amazing day I had!
Please note: I was offered a complimentary spot on this tour by Roundabout Travel, including all entrance fees, in exchange for an honest review. As always, all opinions are my own and I’d never recommend something I wouldn’t pay for with my own money.