16 Sep Pristine peaks and glittering falls: An active guide to exploring Lake Bohinj, Slovenia
Lake Bohinj is a paradise for anyone who enjoys active outdoor adventures. Between the staggering mountains, crystal-clear water and unexpected surprises – like hidden waterfalls – there’s an awful lot to love here, and an awful lot to do. Discover my favourites from our summer stay here, in my guide to exploring Bohinj.
If Ljubljana is Vienna’s laid-back cousin, then Lake Bohinj is what Bled must have been like before it grew up (and donned the twinset and pearls). Bohinj feels young, wild, exciting – whilst Bled is a little more refined and grown up.
Situated on the edge of the Triglav National Park in the Julian Alps, Lake Bohinj is the largest lake in Slovenia. The Bohinjska valley, scattered with small villages, is a picturesque pairing to the lake. And whilst visitors do flock here during the summer, it somehow doesn’t seem crowded or spoilt. Everyone’s here to enjoy the lake and the mountains – and as they dissipate around the lakeside, in the woods and the pastures, it feels like there’s plenty of room to share.
And if there’s one overriding feeling you get here, it’s that there’s an abundance of things to do.
If, like me, you love active, outdoor holidays – then Bohinj is just perfect.
We spent five days here at the beginning of August, and I could have happily stayed for more.
This guide is a wrap up of everything we squeezed into our time here. We only scratched the surface of what there is to do around Lake Bohinj, so don’t believe anyone who tries to tell you that it’s just a day trip from lovely Ljubjlana. There’s so much more to enjoy!
We spent almost two weeks in Slovenia this summer. If you want to find out more about our adventures, check out my posts about Ljubljana and Lake Bled, or read more about planning your own itinerary for Slovenia.
A quick introduction to Lake Bohinj
Bohinjska Jezero, or Lake Bohinj, is located just over an hour north of the capital, Ljubljana. Nestled in a steep valley on the edge of the Triglav National Park, not far from both the Italian and Austrian borders, it’s well and truly Alpine in look and feel. The lakeside itself is remarkably undeveloped, giving Bohinj a beautifully wild feel.
Beyond the end of the lake, there’s a scattering of communities in the Bohinjska valley. Bohinjska Bistrica is the largest and the municipal centre, the others are much smaller, traditional farming villages. Amongst the discrete apartments and little guesthouses catering to visitors here, there are old-fashioned dairies and sprawling vegetable gardens that haven’t changed in centuries.
Closest to the lake are the villages of Ribčev Laz and Stara Fuzina. Ribčev is more modern and closest to the water. With good transport links it’s a great base if you’re travelling without a car. We stayed here and were really pleased with our choice. Stara Fuzina is larger – but undeniably pretty. The village is brimming with beautiful farmhouses and ancient wooden hayracks, giving it a delightfully different atmosphere to Ribčev.
How to get to, and get around, Lake Bohinj
Getting here by public transport
Lake Bohinj and its surrounding villages are easy to get to by bus. It takes just over half an hour from Lake Bled, or a little under an hour and a half from Ljubljana.
Fares are very reasonable and services stop at most of the villages – although it’s always best to check timetables to be sure of which services stop at which village. Most buses run to Bohinjska Bistrica, Ribčev Laz and Stara Fuzina, but there are several throughout the day to the smaller communities around the lake and valley. Bus services are more frequent during the summer months, but many run year round.
We travelled here by bus from Bled and found it super easy.
Most are operated by Alpetours – check out their timetables here.
Getting here by car or shuttle
Shuttles cost considerably more than the bus, but can be a useful option if you need to travel at quieter times of day or year. If you’re driving, Bohinj is signposted from Bled. Leave the motorway following the signs to Bled, then pick up those to Bohinj once you hit the town centre.
If you’re flying into Ljubljana and considering hiring a car to get to Bohinj, read on. Unless you’re planning to travel much beyond the valley, you might be better off travelling by public transport. I’ll explain why.
Getting around Lake Bohinj
Bohinj is very pedestrian friendly, and in my mind there’s no better way to get around here that on two feet or two wheels. This isn’t that surprising given how many people come here to hike, but it’s nice nonetheless. Part of the joy of staying here is not getting in the car to start your adventures.
Bikes make it even easier and quicker – especially if you’ve got kids with you. But if you’re happy to take things more slowly there is a lot that you can walk to, especially if you are staying in or near Ribčev Laz or Stara Fuzina.
If you’re staying further from the lakeside, try making use of the free hop on-hop off buses that run regularly throughout the summer months to all the villages in the valley. These are the easiest and cheapest way to get around.
If you do choose to drive, you’ll find car parks at most attractions and at the most popular beach areas. However, be aware that parking will cost €10 per day, per car park. This means parking can get really expensive, really quickly – especially if you want to visit more than one place in a day. You’re best off leaving your car parked up at your accommodation and finding an alternative.
I don’t think the local authorities are trying to be difficult about the parking situation. The roads approaching the lake are pretty small, so they’re trying to reduce congestion and help protect the environment. Ultimately this should help everyone enjoy their visit more! It’s fair to say the car parks were still pretty full when we were here in August, but I’d certainly recommend trying the free alternatives.
What to see and do at Lake Bohinj
I’ll get to the point (at last, I hear you say!).
I want to help you plan the perfect way to spend your time at Lake Bohinj. So, I’ve grouped our favourite activities by the length of time they took. This way, you can mix and match to suit your length of stay – or the weather.
Here’s a quick summary – I’ll go into each of them in more detail further on.
If you’ve got an hour or two
- Walk to the viewpoint at Peč
- Take a paddle board or kayak out on the lake
- Relax by the lake
If you’re got half a day
- Visit Savica waterfall
- Explore the Mostnica gorge
- Hike to Vogar for coffee, cake and a spectacular view
- Walk to Rudnica for a view of the valley and villages
If you’re got a whole day
- Follow the lakeside path – with a detour to Savica waterfall
- Head up to Vogel and explore the mountain
- Take a day trip to Lake Bled
What to do with an hour or two at Lake Bohinj
Head to the viewpoint at Peč
Arriving at Ribčev Laz, you’re greeted by the water stretching blue in front of you and peaks beyond. It’s rather beautiful, but there’s an even better view not so far away. Just behind the church, a forested hill rises a short way. This is Peč, and there’s a fabulous (and quiet) little viewpoint hidden amongst the trees.
Follow the road past the church in the direction of Stara Fuzina, and take the first right turn you see (a couple hundred meters away). After a few dozen more meters you’ll see a signpost pointing left onto a leafy footpath. The signs will set you on the right route, and half an hour of gentle walking will bring you to the top of Peč. From here, there’s an unbroken panorama of the water that’s not easy to forget. We came up here relatively early in the morning, but I suspect it’s even more spectacular at dawn or dusk.
Paddle board or kayak on the lake
There are few places I’ve been that seem more perfect for a paddle than Lake Bohinj. It’s also a great way to get an alternative view of the landscape, and frankly, just to enjoy splashing about on the water.
We paid a very reasonably €9 per hour, per person, at AlpinSport right by the river in Ribčev Laz. An hour will give you more than enough time to explore the bay and beach areas at this end of the lake – but if you’re more experienced or feeling adventurous, you could certainly go further afield and have a lot of fun.
Oh, and if you’ve never given it a go before – don’t worry! There are plenty of others on the water, and you’ll just pick it up. I’ve had lessons in the past but Ben hadn’t – he picked it up quickly and was soon happily paddling away.
Explore the lakeside
There might be adventures aplenty to be had around here, but however long your stay make sure you put aside some time to simply enjoy the water. In summer, make like a local and head to the beach near Stara Fuzina or Ukanc. The gravelly waterfront at Ribčev Laz is also popular with families, as there’s shallow water to be found here. Rock up and enjoy a picnic, laze in the sun with a book – or hop right in. In August, the water is warm and unbelievably clean and clear.
New to Alpine beaches? You can read more about these (and why they’re wonderful) in my post about visiting nearby Lake Bled.
If the weather’s cooler it’s still a pleasure to stroll along the waterside paths. Check out the statue of the mythical Zlatarog that protects these mountains, just outside Ribčev Laz (it’s irresistible for fun photos).
What to do with a half day at Lake Bohinj
Chances are, you’re not going have half days to fill here. But consider sandwiching two half day activities together for a full day of fun. Or if it’s hot, enjoy a shorter activity in the morning and head to the lakeside in the afternoon and get in or on the water.
Visit Savica waterfall
Head to the far end of Lake Bohinj and you’ll find four things; Vogel lift station (more about this later), the petite village of Ukanc, an enormous campsite – and Savica. It’s a bit of a hike from the lakeside (although you can drive to a car park near the entrance) but it’s very much worth it.
Savica is a sparkling cascade of water that pours down the mountainside into the most incredible blue-green pool. It might not sound much, especially if you’ve visited bigger falls before. But my gosh it’s beautiful. There’s something very special about the clarity and colour of the water in the Julian Alps that makes this place unexpectedly spectacular.
Bigger isn’t always better.
You’ll need to pay €3 entry to the relatively short, stepped, path up to the waterfall. But as I often say, if it costs less than a fancy cup of coffee it’s always worth a punt – and in this case it absolutely is.
Explore Mostnica Gorge
Water features are a bit of a theme in the Julian Alps. Between Savica (above) and Vintgar Gorge (in my guide to Lake Bled), you might understandably wonder if it’s really worth going to see another river and paying for the privilege of it.
Normally I’d agree. But in this part of the world I had to make an exception. Mostnica is worth half a day of anyone’s time, and the requisite €3.
A stone’s throw from the village of Stara Fuzina, the Mostnica Gorge is completely different in character to both Savica and Vintgar, and deserves more of your time. The entrance fee gives you access to a 4km path stretching from the valley bottom to a waterfall at its head. It’s a decent walk, especially if you follow the path all the way up and back. Even as pretty brisk walkers we happily whiled away more than three hours here.
The lower parts of the path straddle the river closely, where it leaps from pool to pool in cascades of sapphire blue water. The path remains in the shade of the cool woodland, but in places it’s easy to clamber down to the waterside. We found lots of families picnicking and even swimming in the river where it was shallower and slower flowing. About half way along the path, just as it’s starting to steepen and meander into the woods, it emerges out into alpine meadow at a chalet (that’s perfect for a cold drink). From here the route mostly traverses pasture, speckled with fruit trees and little summer chalets, before plunging back into the woods just as you reach the waterfall.
If you’re keen to explore just the river, stick to the lower half of the path. Beyond this point, it’s all about meadows until you reach the craggy rock face at the falls. But do consider heading on up and exploring the beautifully peaceful landscape that’s so different to the valley floor.
Climb to Vogar
For one of the very best views over the lake, it’s worth the steep climb to Vogar from Stara Fuzina. This peak sits on the northern side of the lake, directly above the water.
The path up is easy to follow from the Mostnica Gorge car park just above the village. After weaving through fields for a few minutes, it then peels away from the private road and heads up through the woodland. It’s a 500m ascent up a bouldery path that had us both sweating buckets! But, when you reach the top it’s entirely worth it.
Towards the head of the trail a small path strikes off to the left, and after a few paces you find yourself at the vertiginous paragliding spot above the beach. It’s actually a great place to stop and catch your breath, and watch the paragliders sweep off the mountainside if the conditions are good.
Back on the main path, you’ll reach a chalet shortly, with the catchy name of Kosijev dom na Vogarju. It’s a lovely place with a huge shady terrace and excellent strudel (you’ll have burned a fair few calories on the way up!).
Don’t head back down the mountain without following the small signpost on the terrace railings pointing you towards another viewpoint. This one is pretty magical. There’s a beautiful bench here to sit on and drink it all in.
From the chalet, you can head back down the way you came up. Or, if you’re felling ambitious, there are more tricky trails beyond. We explored most of the route to Přsivec, a good 1,000m up from the valley floor. It’s awe-inspiring stuff, but the paths aren’t all in great condition or particularly well signposted, so you’ll need to be prepared with a good map, GPS and some common sense when it all gets a little off piste.
Valley and villages via Rudnica
If checking out the viewpoint at Peč sounds appealing, but you’ve got a little more time, consider extending the walk to include the higher viewpoint at Rudnica. The route starts in the same place, but after exploring Peč, head back to the main trail and follow the signposted paths to Rudnica, another 45 minutes uphill.
The trail weaves its way pleasantly through beech woodland before reaching a couple of Alpine meadows near the top. The last five minutes of the climb plunge back into the woods once again. You know you’ve reached the top when a view appears through the trees and a small metal box (containing a visitors log) anchored to a rock marks the spot.
The panorama here is completely different, as you’re looking away from the lake. Instead of mountains, a patchwork of fields and small villages – alongside the town of Bohinjska Bistrica – opens up beneath you.
If the landscape below looks enticing, follow our lead and take an alternative path down signposted at first to Stara Furzina and then to Studor. Down in the valley, you’re not much more than a kilometer or so in either direction from the villages of Studor, Srednja Vas and Stara Fuzina. Each are worth more than five minutes of anyone’s time. They’re pretty little alpine communities full of beautiful old houses, blooming flower baskets and vast old wooden barns. Have a stroll, stop for a coffee, enjoy a different side to the Bohinjska valley.
What to do with a day at Lake Bohinj
There are some things best enjoyed with a full day dedicated to them – these were my favourite.
Circumnavigate Lake Bohinj
You could make this an ambitious half day walk. But I’d recommend taking your time and seeking out some mini adventures along the way.
Along the south side of the lake, there’s an easy to follow path along the roadside. It’s pleasant enough, but we found a much nicer footpath that tracks along the hillside a little way off the road. It’s not high enough to be a real climb, but it is high enough to be treated to a panorama of the water below whenever there’s a gap in the trees. The deciduous woodland is leafy, cool and quiet – and positively brimming with wildflowers and insects.
About an hour and half of walking takes you from Ribčev Laz to the Vogel ski station lift. From here, it’s a pleasant stroll along the now very quiet road into the village of Ukanc at the far end of the lake.
At this point, you could continue around the lake for a shorter walk. But I’d really recommend making a detour to the waterfall at Savica like we did. It’s much nicer to arrive here on foot than by car, and whilst it’s a couple of kilometers walk from the village, it’s not a difficult route. There are some great picnic spots on the path up to the falls and two nice looking cafes near to the entrance, so now is the perfect time for a lunch stop.
Returning to Ukanc, there’s a left turn onto the path that tracks the northern shore of the lake. Here you get to go a little off-road again as this trail isn’t tarmacked. The path is narrow at first, but gets progressively wider. It feels pretty wild along here as you scramble and weave in and out of the trees, but you’ll get a completely different view of the lake – and one that can’t be reach by car. You’ll emerge from the woods close to the beach area between Stara Fuzina and Ribčev Laz. If it’s a hot day, a stop for a paddle is fairly irresistible at this point – but if it’s a little cooler you could head into Stara Fuzina for a drink and to explore the village.
Head up to Vogel
Hands down my favourite thing we did during our stay in Bohinj.
Vogel is both a mountain and a small ski resort. It warrants a whole day of your time as it requires a return ride in the cable car up to the ski station, where most of the walking routes begin. This will set you back €20, but it’s relatively reasonable compared to some summer lifts (they can cost almost double in Switzerland). And it was very much worth it.
You can visit the ski station (at the top of the cable car) without tackling the mountain, but we wanted to give some serious climbing a go. I’d recommend a proper walking map for any routes high up or off the beaten path here, and you can also pick up a free trail map at the cable car which highlights some of the signposted routes.
We decided to head to the ski station’s namesake, Mount Vogel. The first part of the route rather counter-intuitively takes you downhill through flower-carpeted woodland to a chalet named Zadnji Vogel. But not far beyond the chalet, the path takes a left turn into the most beautiful bowl-shaped valley, and starts to climb steeply amongst the pasture and rocks. As the path rises, the rock underfoot gives way to scree and the path levels out a little. The peaks above you become closer and closer and the views even more staggering.
At the next obvious junction in the path, the route takes another left turn and becomes narrower with steeper drops to the side and more boulders to climb over. You reach a Col and all of a sudden can see down into sweeping valley below, blue with haze on the day we visited. Vogel comes into view and the path tracks in its direction, the majority of the climbing now done. We headed on a little further, the perfect weather luring us on.
However, the last few hundred meters of climb are very narrow and mostly on scree. As we didn’t have poles with us or our winter hiking boots on we called it a day at this point. Better to be safe. And besides, we still had the most wonderful panorama to enjoy.
We took a meandering route back, traversing the scree and gorse strewn slopes of Voglarski Skakavec. After scrambling across the mountainside we were eventually greeted with the short but steep climb of one of the pistes leading down from Orlova Glava. One last effort took us to its top, where we found a cluster of ski lifts and chalets. There’s also a little rocky outcrop topped with a cross and wishing bell that’s worth heading to for another spectacular view (if you’ve not had a enough of these yet).
It’s a gentle meander down the piste to the main Vogel lift station for the return into the valley. There’s a handful of places to stop for a drink or bite to eat here if you’d like to spend a little longer on the mountain.
Check out the lift timetable and current prices on Vogel’s website.
Take a trip to Lake Bled
If it’s not already part of your travel plans, take a day trip to Bohinj’s upscale and rather charming neighbour. There’s plenty to explore both on and off the beaten path.
There are frequent (and very affordable) buses that run all day between the villages in the Bohinjska valley and Bled. It takes just over half an hour, which gives you plenty of time to make the most of your day.
For more suggestions about what do in this neck of the woods, pop over to my post about our stay in Bled – Getting off the beaten path at Lake Bled.
Finally, a few notable eats
Because you wouldn’t want to do all this walking and not fill up afterwards?
Whilst the villages around Bohinj aren’t packed with cosmopolitan bars and restaurants, there are a few gems well worth a mention. They make a nice change to the admittedly tasty enough snack bars near the water, traditional guesthouses (Gostlinas) and somewhat repetitive pasta dishes we were rustling up in the kitchen of our apartment.
First up is Gostlina Mihovc in Stara Fuzina. It’s open strangely random days and hours, but if you’re passing by and it’s open you must stop and have the sharing platter on their starter menu.
It’s big enough to happily feed two hungry people for lunch, so you’ll need some serious ambition if you want a main course afterwards. The platter was probably the single most delicious plate of food I ate in the whole of our trip to Slovenia (which is saying something). A veritable smorgasbord of local cured meats and light cheeses, served with pickles and crusty bread (wash it down with a nice cold beer for maximum enjoyment) it was an absolute delight.
Second, you’ve got to try Foksner in Ribčev Laz. This isn’t your average burger from a lakeside snack bar, and at first glance isn’t want you think at all – as it’s masquerading as a old-fashioned Gostlina. It’s fancy burgers, but without fancy city prices or fussy service. Grab a seat on the terrace, and devour irresistibly tasty local ingredients cooked on the barbecue a few feet away. Oh, and when the lovely staff tell you the tiramisu is big enough to share – it is. I nearly had to admit defeat.
Bohinj was everything I’d hoped for – and more.
If, like us, you love being in the great outdoors and exploring on foot there is an abundance of things to do here that’ll keep you happy for a week or more. And there’s an embarrassment of natural beauty. Add into the equation that it’s astonishingly good value for money for an Alpine escape in peak season, and you’ll find it hard to resist.
Get here before the crowds do. Bohinj is magic.