The Vintgar Gorge is very close to spectacular Lake Bled, and is something everyone should see when visiting Slovenia. Both are excellent stops on any Balkan holiday. Vintgar has a boardwalk that hugs the side of the narrow gorge as the Radovna River rushes over rocks in mini rapids before changing to calm pools around every corner, continually changing colour as it goes. There is a view from every angle as the boardwalk crisscrosses the gorge and the photo opportunities are endless. Take your time to enjoy each new vista during your visit.
Vintgar Gorge is one of the best places to visit in Slovenia and, along with Lake Bohinj, it is one of the most popular day trips from Lake Bled. We researched it extensively to make sure that we had the best experience and put together this complete guide with everything you need to know before your visit.
What is the Vintgar Gorge?
Vintgar Gorge is also called Zgornje Gorje, Soteska Vingtar or Bled Gorge and is located in Triglav National Park. The canyon walls are 50 to 100 meters high and are quite narrow in some places while widening out periodically along the walk. The Vintgar Gorge walk is 1.6 km long with a combination of boardwalks attached to the canyon walls giving you the feeling that you are hanging over the river and dirt paths on the river bank.
The gorge was “discovered” in 1891 by Jakob Žumer and Benedikt Lergetporer. The boardwalks were installed in 1893 and have been renovated many times since then. The gorge ends at Šum Waterfall (translates as Noisy Waterfall) which, at 13 meters high, is the tallest river waterfall in Slovenia.
How Far is Vintgar Gorge from Lake Bled?
The gorge is located only 5 km from Lake Bled. It is within driving, cycling or walking distance which makes it easy to get to when you are visiting Lake Bled.
How to get to Vintgar Gorge from Lake Bled
Since the gorge is only 5 km from Lake Bled there are a variety of options for visiting the gorge from there.
The easiest is by car and there are two parking lots that cost 5 Euro. However, they fill up fast so it is best to either get there early or late to make sure that you find a spot. When we visited in the late afternoon in the fall there were lots of spaces.
In the summer there is a shuttle bus that leaves from the main bus station in Bled every hour starting at 9:45 am. The shuttle ends in September.
You can rent a bike through Mamut which is right beside the bus stop in Lake Bled. You can book online and the prices for a mountain bike range from 5 Euro for 2 hours (which really isn’t enough time to bike there and back and have enough time for the gorge), to 10 Euro for 6 hours which would give enough time for visiting the gorge and a ride around Lake Bled, and 15 Euro for a 24 hour rental. There is also the choice of an E-bike which is 6 hours for 30 euros and 12 hours for 45 euros.
Walk to Vintgar Gorge
This is the option that we chose. It took about an hour to walk and is part of why we decided to go in the late afternoon rather than try to get there as it opened. We turned the walk into a loop and came back through small villages on the way back to Lake Bled.
How to Get from Ljubljana to Vintgar Gorge
The first step is to get to Lake Bled.
The easiest choice is once again by car. It is 55 km and takes about 45 minutes. The Arriva bus leaves from the train station in Ljubljana, the tickets start at 6 Euros, they leave every hour, take around an hour and 20 minutes and will drop you off at the bus station by the lake. The train doesn’t leave as often but is usually faster and cheaper. Once you make it to Lake Bled you can choose the best option of the choices above to get to the gorge.
The last option is to book a tour of the gorge from Ljubljana. The upside is that the transportation is taken care of for you but the downside is that you will be at the gorge during the busiest times.
When Does Vintgar Gorge Open?
The gorge is open from 8:00am to 7:00pm April to November.
How Much Does it Cost?
The entrance fee is a slightly pricey 10 Euro for adults but a much better value 2 Euro for kids.
How to Avoid the Crowds
During the high season of July and August, thousands of people visit every day. The narrow boardwalks can get very crowded and people are often taking the opportunity to do photo shoots. There can be literal traffic jams as people are stuck in line or dodging selfie sticks. This can really take away from the whole experience. We strongly recommend to travel there early (within an hour of opening time) or late (within an hour or two of closing time) to avoid the crowds. If you have a choice at all, avoid coming between 10:00am to 2:00pm. This is when the tour groups arrive and it will be a steady stream of people. It is also a good idea to come on a weekday if possible. Lake Bled and Vintgar Gorge are great to visit during the shoulder seasons of spring and fall.
The Vintgar Gorge Walk
The first part is the most scenic. It is an easy walk that most people will be able to do. There are a few stairs but it is relatively flat and accessible. The boardwalk and riverbank trail are not slippery but it is still best to wear good walking shoes.
The colours of the water change from turquoise to blue to green and you can watch the trout swim in the crystal clear water when the river slows down.
If you are only going one way make sure to look back as you go as it looks very different from each direction. Don’t rush through. Take the time to stop often and enjoy the sounds and views.
Return on the same path
You can walk the 1.6 km path through the gorge to the end where the waterfall and small café are then turn around and return on the same path. Important tip: if you pass the last gate you must save your ticket to get back in and walk back.
Vintgar Gorge Loop Trail
If you took your time and enjoyed the gorge fully on your walk through you have a choice to turn it into a loop walk that will end at the parking lots. AllTrails has a map of this route that leads through the hills and forest around the gorge. It is a nice change and a lot quieter. This works well if you have transportation at the entrance and don’t want to walk back on the potentially crowded boardwalk.
Loop Walk from Lake Bled
We picked this option as we didn’t have a car and like to walk. We walked from Lake Bled past Bled Castle on the 634 road through the village of Spodnje Gorje, near Zgornje Gorje. Just past that town there was a sign pointing to the right that leads to a path and a shortcut to the gorge. This path is also on the AllTrails app map of the area (although without a specific route description). It took about an hour to walk from Bled. We walked through the gorge then after the gate and café we followed the trail to the right. The first part of this is the same trail that is used for the Vintgar Gorge Loop Walk described above so it goes through the hills and forests. There are a couple trail options in the area so it is handy to have the AllTrails map downloaded so you can make sure you are on the right one. The trail meets a road just above Zasip village. We followed that road down through the picturesque Zasip village and used Blejska Cesta road back to Bled. These roads were narrow, quiet and nice to walk along and give you an idea of local life outside the tourist centre of Lake Bled. We highly recommend this version of the Vingtar Gorge hike.
Tips for Getting the Best Photos
There are opportunities for amazing photos along the whole walk. Don’t bring a tripod, though, as the walkway is narrow and you will delay other people. Once again, it is best to come either early or late so you will have the best opportunities for unhurried photo taking with fewer people in your photos or jostling you. The light will change throughout the walk as the walls narrow and widen as well as throughout the day. A great tip is to look back as you go to make sure that you get the best angles and light. This is important even if you are doing the walk both ways. The most important tip is to slow down and take your time. You don’t have to have an expensive camera to get amazing pictures, the gorge is very photogenic.
Food, Snack and Drink Options
If you want a full meal the closest restaurant is Gostilna Vingar. It takes about 5 minutes to walk there from the main parking lot. There is also a small café at the end of the gorge just past the Šum Waterfall. They serve a variety of snacks, ice cream and beverages. A lot of people stop here before walking out. Make sure you bring some water for the gorge walk as it will probably take longer than you think.
Swimming in Vintgar Gorge
You cannot swim in the gorge itself but there is a option nearby. Most people who do the Vintgar Gorge walk either turn back at the café at the end of the trail or veer off to do the loop walk but another option is to visit a natural pool that you can swim in. Continue past the café, go left across the bridge and follow the path through the woods to the pool. The water will be very cold even in the middle of summer and there are no facilities so bring your own towel etc. There is a bathroom near the café though.
Vintgar Gorge with Children
Children of all ages are able to do the walk along the gorge. We saw everyone from babies up to teenagers and they all were enjoying themselves. The fish, rapids and boardwalks are very entertaining. And the walk is so flat and easy that they will easily be able to do it. But we wouldn’t recommend taking a stroller on the boardwalk as it is too narrow. It will be difficult to navigate and will cause delays for other people.
Vintgar Gorge in the Winter
While it is officially closed during the winter, if the weather is good you can still walk as far as the gates. This means you will see the very beginning of the Radovna River and gorge. But be careful if it is slippery. Make sure to wear good shoes.
Vintgar Gorge Opening 2020
There were new rules put in place for 2020 so that visitors could still see the gorge. You need to book tickets on-line and choose a specific time for you visit that you can’t deviate from. The Vintgar Gorge walk is currently only one way since the boardwalks are so narrow. This means that everyone will need to take one of two choices for turning it into a loop trail. Of course, things could be very different in 2021 so it is important to check the latest updates before you go.
Where to Stay in Lake Bled
Slovenia can be quite economical compared to many parts of Europe but Lake Bled is definitely the most expensive place in Slovenia. That being said, we found a pretty good deal to stay 5 nights, taking our time working through the list of best things to do in Lake Bled and walking many of the surrounding trails. You don’t have to stay that long to see the highlights but we really think that this area deserves more than a day trip. Especially so you can see it once the tour groups leave. Between Lake Bled and the gorge it is one of our favourite stops in Europe. If you decide to stay overnight in Lake Bled we recommend one of the following hotels:
Grand Hotel Toplice is a high-end option right in town with amazing views over the lake and the alps. It has all the amenities including pool, spa and restaurants.
A midrange option that is conveniently located only 100 meters from the lake, Old Parish House offers some rooms with a lake view and an excellent included breakfast.
Adora Luxury Hotel is a beautiful place with a commanding location overlooking Bled Island.
Old Bled House is a wonderful, traditional spot located right in the heart of Bled town.
Meanwhile, Vila Alpina is a terrific budget choice on the western side of the lake.
Another budget option just a 10-minute walk to the lake is Rudi Hiti’s Guest House. The location ensures peace and tranquility, especially in the garden. It also has free bikes to make your visit to Vintgar Gorge very easy.
Regardless of how you plan your visit – long stay or short, walk or drive – the beauty of Vintgar Gorge is something everyone should add to their list of things to do in Lake Bled.
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