Slovenia visit number two! After enjoying ourselves immensely the first time around we decided this booming Balkan country – and gorgeous Lake Bohinj in particular – was a worthy place to bridge the gap between the Walker’s Haute Route in Switzerland and our pending Balkan road trip through Albania, North Macedonia and northern Greece.
On our first visit we checked out the beautiful coastal city of Piran, the lovely capital of Ljubljana and, of course, the country’s star attraction – Lake Bled. Insanely photogenic and featuring a good variety of easy hikes, good restaurants and comfortable apartments, there are plenty of reasons Lake Bled sees the bulk of Slovenian tourist traffic.
But all we kept hearing about during our first visit was how there were so many outstanding things to do in Lake Bohinj, the quieter, more natural sister to Lake Bled. Not to mention how many people actually prefer it to Lake Bled. Well, that seemed like just the sort of thing we needed to check out for ourselves.
So, after a leisurely 4-night stay on this manageable little mountain lake, here are our thoughts:
It’s not pronounced “bo-hinge”. As much as us English speakers desperately want to pronounce that “j”, well, you just don’t. In fact, it’s more “bor-hin”. And the name apparently means God’s Land, for what it’s worth. Then, once you have that part down, you can get to work on the Slovenian name, Bohinjska Jezero (pronunciation: no idea).
There are three “towns” on Lake Bohinj, all of which are cute and tiny and easily walkable. Ribcev Laz is the main commercial centre, with the grocery store and tourist office (both of which were literally in the same building as the apartment we rented), a 700-year old church filled with frescoes and one of the most photogenic bridges in Slovenia.
Although maybe not the most practical bridge, being slightly too narrow for two vehicles to pass each other, much too narrow for a bus and a car to pass each other, and generally just impossible to navigate with the ever-present dozen gawking tourists wandering across taking photos.
Stara Fuzina is just a 15-minute walk north along the shore of the lake and is an adorable old village with loads of traditional buildings (mostly now rented to tourists) and a pretty river running through.
Ukanc (oo-konse, I think), on the other hand, is all the way at the far western end of the lake – a whopping 4 km away. Not surprisingly, the name means “end of the world”, or some such hyperbole. In fairness, there isn’t much there except a few apartments, the most famous waterfall in the area (Savica) and the cable car up to the Vogel viewpoint.
When we had to fiddle with our schedule a bit in the days leading up to Lake Bohinj, it meant we didn’t arrive until the day AFTER the big Ukanc Cow Festival. Obviously, this was devastating, as I had been irrationally obsessed with the idea of seeing an entire festival devoted to cows, many of which apparently are done up in fancy dress for the occasion, and which presumably involves some feats of strength or something similar (Competitive cud-chewing? Cow pattie art? Fly-swatting battle royale?). Next time, I guess.
Anyway, initial thoughts from our stay. Lake Bohinj is beautiful, of course, and there are endless water activities on offer and plenty of great hiking. In fact, it is the main base for people venturing up into Mount Triglav National Park.
It was foggy every morning until around 9, when the fog lifted on another gorgeous, clear day. The church bells rang for, like, 5 full minutes every morning at 7 am for some insane reason, then again at 8:30 pm. Some sort of unofficial curfew? A warning to any absent-minded vampires? A toddler in charge of the bell? Whatever it was, it saved me having to check the time on my phone.
Which is better – Lake Bled or Lake Bohinj?
Ah, the big question around these parts. But with any comparison of this type it really depends on the person. Lake Bohinj is a little bit larger (11 km to walk around) than Lake Bled (6 km to walk around).
Lake Bled is more stunningly photogenic with its hilltop castle and island church.
However, Lake Bohinj is surrounded by taller, more impressive hills, making it more naturally scenic.
On Lake Bled you can always see some distant snow-covered mountains. On Lake Bohinj, there are only certain vantage points but from those you can actually see Mount Triglav, the tallest peak in Slovenia.
Lake Bled has Vintgar Gorge – beautiful, dramatic, very commercial. Lake Bohinj has Mostnica Gorge – slightly less dramatic but still beautiful, not nearly as developed and considerably longer.
But the big difference – Lake Bled is MUCH busier. Bled is an actual city, with supermarkets and traffic and big hotels. Lake Bohinj is just very quiet, very laid-back.
So, in the end, if you are looking to avoid the crowds or are interested in getting up into the heart of Mount Triglav National Park, Lake Bohinj is the choice. But if you are all about unique viewpoints and sensational photos, definitely set aside some time for Lake Bled.
And, obviously, the real answer is, you know, visit both.
Lake Bohinj Map
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Mount Triglav National Park
Based around Mount Triglav, the highest peak in the country at 2,864 metres, this park is Slovenia’s natural treasure. Encompassing the Julian Alps all the way to the Austrian and Italian borders, it features very unique, jagged mountain ranges that are at a slightly lower elevation than many in the Western Alps, making the hiking season much longer than usual.
Lake Bohinj: Things to Do
For such a small, quiet place, there is a shocking number of things to do in Lake Bohinj. Obviously we weren’t able to try them all in just 4 days but we did manage to squeeze in quite a few.
Unfortunately, the 4-day trek across Mount Triglav National Park had to be scrapped through a combination of problematic trail conditions, hut reservation issues and erratic late-season public transport. The bright side, that left us with more time to enjoy the sights and star attractions around the lake itself.
Bohinj Most (Bohinj Bridge)
Simple, but old, very old. And with an exceptional location overlooking Lake Bohinj in all its glory, with the river winding away up the hill and the church in the background. Terrific photos both “of” and “from”.
The only downside is a logistical one – the bridge is only wide enough for one lane of traffic, and usually less than that with tourists obliviously wandering around. Of course, there is even an upside to that downside – the look on the face of each driver who loses their game of “chicken” and has to shamefully reverse off the bridge in disgrace.
Church of St. John the Baptist
Never ones to appreciate historic old churches quite as much as we are supposed to, we mostly liked this old gem as a photogenic addition to our bridge and lake photos more than for the impressive ancient frescoes it is most famous for (although, yes, they are impressive).
We were also quite enamoured with the macabre recreation of St. John the Baptist’s head for, obviously, lots of reasons.
The easiest Lake Bohinj viewpoint to reach (without a cable car, anyway), it will only take about 45 minutes to hike up to this great spot (and back) from either Stara Fuzina or Ribcev Laz. The trailhead is about halfway between the two villages, branching off the small road to Pension Cerkovnik.
Mount Vogar Viewpoint
A much more challenging trail leads up to Mount Vogar and its fantastic panoramic views out over Lake Bohinj. Unfortunately, we left this one too late and the weather turned on us before we could get up to it but I’m told it is spectacular. It is also one of the most popular launch spots for paragliders.
From Stara Fuzina the trail is around 6 km (return) with 460m of elevation gain (2-3 hrs).
Lake Bohinj Loop Trail
Beautiful, smooth and with very little in the way of hills, the 11 km circuit of the lake is a standard part of every Lake Bohinj itinerary. It doesn’t always stay as close to the water as you’d like but there are still lots of extra paths that lead down to nice viewpoints.
If you only have time for part of it, the north side trail tends to be closer to the lake and doesn’t have the distraction of cars going past.
Get out on the water
If you want to enjoy Lake Bohinj while floating atop it, you will have no shortage of options. Canoes, kayaks, paddleboards and e-boats can all be rented around the lake. Or if your tastes are simpler and you just want to go for a dip, there are quite a few small beaches scattered along the shore.
Panoramic Boat Ride
Don’t let the rather grand name raise your expectations too high – this is really just a normal boat ride. But it does run all the way from one end to the other, the cost is included in the price of a Julian Alps card and just when you think you’ve seen all the best parts of Lake Bohinj and are starting to think about what you’ll do after disembarking, the ticket guy will put his phone away and launch into an oddly dramatic story of the history of Lake Bohinj. Be ready.
While some of the tourism brochures described Savica waterfall as “the most impressive waterfall in Slovenia”, for Slovenia’s sake I kind of hope it’s not. Because it’s… well… fine. I mean, it’s a perfectly respectable waterfall. And it splits in two partway down which is, I guess, kind of neat. But considering the amount of hiking required to get there (an hour from Ukanc, or just 20 minutes from a closer parking lot), including a pretty steep climb at the end, I wouldn’t exactly call it a must-see.
Part of the reason for that is that there is only one small viewing platform which a) doesn’t have room for many people and b) doesn’t give you the best angle (a metal fence features prominently in photos from here). Considering how much “Savica Slap” (as you may have guessed, “slap” means waterfall) is promoted at Lake Bohinj, not mention how popular it is with tour groups, it just seems like they could have put a little more effort into the presentation.
Anyway, if you are staying in Lake Bohinj for multiple days, definitely check it out. But if you have limited time and something has to be missed, well, this waterfall could probably be that thing.
Vogel Cable Car
Now, the views from Vogel Ski Center, on the other hand, those should definitely NOT be missed. This is the best place to get full lake views all in one frame, which alone makes the cost of the cable car well worth it. Keep in mind, though, the best views are from the platform right where you get off the cable car so be sure to take your time, maybe even wait around until everyone else has moved on.
Because after you head inside you can no longer access this platform (except for a brief moment before you embark on the return trip) and, once again, somehow they have neglected to provide any other good viewing areas. Even the nice restaurant managed to build its beautiful, spacious terrace on the side of building where it is impossible to even see the lake.
On the other hand, they do seem to have put a lot of work into their collection of llamas and goats and there is a huge, inflatable and unappealingly filthy bouncy slide.
More adventurous types can take advantage of the mountain bike park or start a number of hikes from here, including one that makes its way all the way down the hill back to Ribcev Laz (marked “Bellevue”). We followed that one for about 5 minutes to some cabins but weren’t able to find any views as good as the ones from the top.
Rafting on River Sava Bohinjka is a great choice for those looking for a bit of an adrenalin rush, offering a variety of intensity levels. The upper section is ideal for beginners, while the lower section is significantly wilder. You can book your trip either through PAC Sports in Hostel Pod Voglom (between Ribcev Laz and Ukanc) or Sport4Fun in Bohinjska Bistrica.
To get a better feel for the history of Lake Bohinj, stop in at the Alpine Dairy Museum and Oplen House Museum, both in Stara Fuzina.
Oplen House Museum depicts a typical Lake Bohinj farmhouse in all its rustic glory while the dairy museum is small but informative, with some very interesting displays of historical dairy farming in the region and plenty of background.
Lake Bohinj Biking
Whatever type of riding you’re into, there is a spot for you around Lake Bohinj. You can rent regular mountain bikes or e-bikes and tour the relatively quiet roads and trails. Or you can go full street bike and head farther out along the scenic, winding roads. Or you can go up to the Vogel Mountain Bike Park to test your skills on the 1.4-km technical track.
Meanwhile, serious mountain bikers venture into Mount Triglav National Park for a variety of epic trail adventures.
Besides simply gazing at the beauty of the lake itself, the Mostnica Gorge is probably the easiest and most popular thing to do in Lake Bohinj. This fabulous gorge is surprisingly diverse – varying from narrow slot canyon to wide, shallow, colourful pools set in a lovely rocky backdrop. A wide, easy trail runs up one side of the Mostnica River and down the other, offering many different viewpoints, and there is a restaurant with a wonderful location about halfway up.
It takes around an hour to walk from Stara Fuzina past the best parts of the canyon up to the restaurant. From there you can continue another hour to the small Mostnica waterfall on a much different trail – a road, really – farther from the river but with more expansive mountain views.
In the main part of the gorge there is one set of rocks that look a bit like an elephant, but only from a very specific angle on the west side of the river. There are also several interesting bridges, including the Devil Bridge, where legend has it the ultimate bad guy built the bridge specifically to steal the soul of the first person to cross but was thwarted when a dog did the honours. It’s amazing he gets anything accomplished, that guy.
It can get very busy in Mostnica Gorge so we’d recommend an early start. We left Stara Fuzina shortly after 9 am and only saw a handful of other people until we were on our way back down, at which point we saw hundreds.
Mount Triglav Seven Lakes Hike
18 km / 7-9 hrs / 1,050m elevation gain
AllTrails GPS Map: 7-Lake Hike from Planina Blato
Considered the best of the many day hike possibilities around Lake Bohinj, the classic Seven Lakes hike passes through impressive high alpine scenery and, as you may have guessed, not one, not two, but SEVEN different lakes.
There are a couple of mountain huts along the way where you can stop for lunch or simply a beer break. And, while it is technically possible to hike all the way up from (and back down to) Stara Fuzina, it makes much more sense to take one of the free summer shuttles (see the Getting Around section) to Planina Blato to start and end there.
Lake Bohinj Monuments
First off, you have the mythical ibex, Zlatorog, which means “Golden Horn”. Apparently this legendary creature holds the secrets to immense treasures hidden in the vicinity of Mount Triglav. Most people settle for Instagram selfies, however.
Then, up the hill behind the similarly photogenic “Bohinj” shrubbery is a statue honouring the 4 men who first climbed Mount Triglav in 1778. If nothing else, this provides a slightly different vantage point down to the church, bridge and lake.
There are a number of popular rock-climbing areas around Lake Bohinj but the most accessible is just off the main lake path next to Hotel Bellevue. There are a variety of difficulty levels and even some climbing programs for kids.
For a truly bird’s eye view of Lake Bohinj, try your hand at paragliding from either Mount Vogel or Vogar Viewpoint. Kumulus Paragliding is located right along the lake between Ribcev Laz and Stara Fuzina, offering everything from standard tandem jumps to “acrobatic flying” options.
Where to Stay on Lake Bohinj
With beautiful rooms in a convenient location overlooking Lake Bohinj, the lovely Hotel Bohinj makes a fantastic base in Ribcev Laz.
If you prefer the old world feel of Stara Fuzina, there is a good selection of mid-range chalets or you can treat yourself to incredible 4-star luxury and premium views at Hotel Majerca.
And those who want to be as far as possible from the crowds (if you can call them that on Lake Bohinj) should head to the outskirts of tiny Ukanc and the comfortable rooms and lovely natural location of Garni Hotel STARE.
Another option is to stay in the larger centre of Bohinjska Bistrica, which is about 5 km east of Ribcev Laz and has more in the way of restaurants and many different hotel and apartment options.
Camping at Lake Bohinj
Camp Bohinj in Ukanc is a relatively basic campground with an excellent location right on the lake. The beach is literally right there and they rent out everything you might want to get out on the water. They also have spots for vans and will rent tents to those who aren’t fully equipped for the camping lifestyle.
There are also basic camping options in Stara Fuzina (Camping Stellplatz) and Bohinjska Bistrica (Camp Danica).
Where to Eat on Lake Bohinj
There are plenty of good options but we particularly enjoyed Gostilna Rozic (deer schnitzel and beer) and Foksner, which is right next door (burgers and beer).
How to Get to Lake Bohinj
Most people travel around Slovenia by car, either their own or a rental. With so many great towns and villages in the area we highly recommend renting a car for at least a few days to cover more ground and set your own schedule. We find Discover Cars usually have the best deals in the area.
If you prefer to stick to public transportation, comfortable Arriva buses go back and forth to Ljubljana roughly hourly throughout the day. They take around 2 hours and stop off in Lake Bled on the way (40 min from Lake Bohinj). You can buy tickets in advance, online or from the driver.
How to Get Around Lake Bohinj
Lake Bohinj takes sustainability very seriously so, in summer, there is an extensive network of free shuttles to reduce vehicle traffic. You can find all the dates and routes here and check on all the latest changes and updates at the informative Lake Bohinj Tourism site.
There are also regular Arriva buses between the three villages and daily hop-on/hop-off buses, both of which are free if you purchase the Julian Alps card (see below).
Julian Alps Card
Available from the Ribcev Laz tourist office for €15 to anyone who stays at least 2 nights, this card can be a fantastic deal. You need to specify 3, 5 or 10 days (same price) and during that time you get free bus rides, free entry to many attractions and discounts at the rest.
There is slightly more expensive version available for those who park their car (and give up the keys) to further reduce traffic around the lake. Just a few of the entrance fees that are included with the Julian Alps Card are the following:
St. John the Baptist Church
All the museums
Then there are discounts available on these:
Vogel cable car
Aquapark Wellness Center (spa)
Many hotels and shops
Lake Bohinj Summary
Lake Bohinj is just as gorgeous and enjoyable as we’ve come to expect from all the top Slovenian highlights. Clean water, great hiking trails and always a few snowy mountain peaks lurking in the background. And while Lake Bohinj may lack the photogenic star power of its more famous neighbour, Lake Bled, it arguably makes up for that with sublime natural beauty and far fewer people.
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