Baby dragons and gorge hiking: exploring outside of Lake Bled

During our stay in Slovenia at Garden Village Bled, we had time to explore the region surrounding Lake Bled. After breakfast one morning, we headed off to hike Vintgar Gorge, which is about a ten minute drive from Lake Bled and part of Triglav National Park. After we found the parking lot (and avoiding backing the rental into the gushing river), we paid for entrance and headed off on the one-way trek through the gorge. Now, a few words of caution here. This is a fairly easy trail as the gorge trail is flat and the walkways are sturdy, but this is a trek that requires real shoes and a rain jacket on hand (well, we had rain, not much, but we need rain jackets). The path through the gorge is well maintained and awesome, we were glad it was a one-way trek, otherwise the trail would have been too crowded. The landscape reminded me a lot of the Fingers Lake region in upstate New York, but the river was the same gorgeous turquoise color as Lake Bled. The trail was well incorporated into nature, crossing over the river at points and appearing rugged (but sturdy). We were there early and it was crowded, so I’d suggest a plan to go early. 

At the end of the trail when you reach Sum Waterfall you have a choice: left for some elevation, but quicker walk back to the parking lot via some forest, villages, and then back into forest and along the gorge ridge. You could go to the right, easy path (aka no elevation) but longer and a lot of time on roads. We went left and did the Strma stran route, of course. This trek took a while, but I think we made the right choice. The woods were peaceful and a lot less crowded than the gorge, and walking along the ridge was fun! When we got back to the parking lot, the line to get into the gorge was insane, hence, go early!

After our morning hike, we drove through Triglav National Park a bit and got back on the highway towards Postoina and the famous Postojnska Cave! Slovenia is well known for an extensive limestone cave system, and Postojnska seems to be the most popular location. We booked the cave tour, which included a train ride through the cave and then a hike along before another train ride. There are other options as there are actually two other caves and you can visit all three, a vivarium with cool cave species, Predjama Castle which is built into the side of the cave, and some other exhibitions. And a hotel so you can sleep in the cave and tons of spots to eat. This is a huge tourist attraction, so we booked our tickets from my phone to secure the tour time we wanted. Before our tour, we ate at the Modrijan Homestead on the cave property, which has a mill and an outdoor grill by the river Pivka. We had a delicious lunch of grilled meats and some Slovenian wine. The cave tour took about 90 minutes and was awesome. The cave is HUGE! The train, which opened in 1872, was super fun and the cave was so gorgeous I felt like I was on a Disney ride. Our tour guide was great, and walked us through a bunch of different parts and told us the history and science of the cave. The cave has been delighting tourists for over 200 years, there are mountains, rivers and tons of subterranean halls with narrow passageways. I really like the cave formations that looked like bacon (mmmm….bacon). We ended our tour visiting with the “baby dragons”, or “olm” (Proteus Anguinus). The baby dragons have almost translucent skin, no eyes, little red tufts, and look like strange little newts. I liked them. You can read up on a female olm and her 21 babies here.

After our cave adventure, we decided to check out Lake Bohinj on advice of the manager at Swanky Mint Hostel when we stayed in Zagreb. Lake Bohinj is very close to Lake Bled and a lot less touristy. The lake is incredibly deep and located in a glacial valley, super popular for water activities. Lake Bohinj was gorgeous and seemed popular for camping. We walked around near St John the Baptist Church, got some gelato and took in the views. This lake is great for hiking and biking as well, there is  a waterfall (Savica Waterfall) and cable car (Vogel cable car) that we did not have time to check out as we wanted to get back to Bled before dark. We loved Slovenia, what a gorgeous country! Next, drive back to Croatia and fly off to Split!

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