Ljubljana, Slovenia is a fantastic little town. I could sit for days at any one of the riverside cafes or parks and just watch life go by. But I also took some mini-adventures -- 3 hikes in 3 days -- that I thought I would write about, in case the details help others plan their trip to Ljubljana.
I took two trips to nearby lakes in the Julian Alps for some (semi-) serious hiking, and I spent one full day on an "urban hike" around the city. Here are the details:
The first trip was a day trip to Lake Bled, only about an hour away by bus. I caught a bus from the main station at 9:30am, and was on the trail at Lake Bled by 11:00am.
Starting from the town of Bled on the east end of the lake, I circumnavigated the lake clockwise.
The south side of the lake offered great views of both the castle sitting majestically on the cliff across the lake, and of the church sitting quietly on a small island in the lake.
At the west end of the lake, I took a detour and headed up a dirt trail to Mala Osojnica, which offers some classic views overlooking the lake, castle, and church. It's a steep but short trail, and not exactly well-marked, so be careful.
After having lunch at the viewpoint, I descended and continued my trek around the lake. Along the north side, I took another detour and made the ascent to the Bled Castle. While the castle itself was not that interesting (it's been pretty "commercialized"), the views are outstanding. I didn't eat at the restaurant there, but I can imagine it would be a nice place to relax with a glass of wine or a meal.
By the late afternoon, I was back in the town of Bled. I considered staying for a rewarding cold beer and snack at one of the lakeside cafes, but I was a bit worried about a rush of tourists all trying to catch the later buses back to Ljubljana. So I opted to catch one of the earlier buses, one leaving at 4:00pm.
The next day, I stayed in Ljubljana and took a long walk around town, visiting sites that people had recommended or that I had read about.
From my hotel, I headed northwest to Tivoli Park and wandered around the many paths there. It was a weekday, so most of the people in the park were bustling along by bike or foot on their daily commute, perhaps using the park as a shortcut across town.
Next, I headed back down to the river and followed it southeast, to a neat canal which veered off to the west. I walked up the canal a few hundred yards, but then continued back along the river, along a section that locals call "the beach." The river bank here has a series of stone steps, like stadium seating, shaded by drooping willow trees. I could just imagine the scene on a warm summer weekend day: the steps lined with sun bathers and picnickers, locals and tourists. Today, though, again because it was mid-week, the steps were pretty vacant.
I crossed over the river on a footbridge, and headed up a hill at the southeast part of town. I was hoping for a good view, but didn't find one. Just a lot of good hiking trails weaving through the woods.
I then headed back toward the center, walking through what once was the vineyard of the Ljubljana Castle. I passed alongside the castle, and down into the city center again.
Crossing another bridge, I headed up to Metelkova, which is a small district known to be very artsy, free-spirited, and alternative. Buildings are heavily decorated with graffiti and ornaments of all sorts. One building is supposedly an old jail that has been turned into a hostel (so you actually sleep in a jail cell). At night, the district is supposed to come to life. But once again, today at 3:00pm, it was pretty desolate other than a few people sitting around on the balconies or porches, who looked like they were recovering from the previous evening. I took a few pictures, even though I'd read about tourists being told, "No pictures, we are not a zoo." I got a little of that vibe, so I walked up and down the street, and then moved on.
I headed back to the main square and enjoyed the late afternoon sun with a coffee at a sidewalk (and riverside) cafe.
The third day, I packed my bag, said farewell to Ljubljana, and took an early morning 2-hour bus ride to Lake Bohinj in Triglav National Park. My plan was to circumnavigate this lake (about 11km), and also make the ascent to the famous Slap Savica waterfall.
I checked into Hotel Jezero in the lakeside village of Ribcev Laz located at the east end of the lake. I hit the trail at 10:30am. At the advice of the hotel clerk, I started counter-clockwise around the lake.
The path along the north side of the lake was a relatively flat dirt trail about 20 feet up from the waterline, so it was easy enough to sneak down to the water for a photo, rest, or even refreshing dip.
When I reached the west end of the lake, near the village of Ukanc, I followed the signs to Slap Savica waterfall, eventually (an hour?) reaching the ticket office. Yes, you have to buy a 3 euro ticket to enter the waterfall area. Ticket in hand, I began the climb, which is up 500 steps to the viewing hut.
When I got to the top, I checked my watch. It was 1:00pm. So it took me 2.5 hours from the hotel in Ribcev Laz to the waterfall. (In case anyone is planning a trip.)
To be completely honest, I was a bit disappointed by the waterfall. The waterfall itself is not that tall. (This is coming from someone who has been to Yosemite many times, and who has seen Niagara Falls as well. This is not that.) Also, the viewing area is pretty far away and pretty small, so people have to take turns getting into the best selfie position. That said, the pool of water at the bottom is a very pretty greenish blue color, making for good pictures. And the simple location of the waterfall - tucked way back in this crease in the mountain - is pretty interesting.
After having lunch at the viewing area, I made my descent back down to the lake. I continued with my circumnavigation, following the path around now to the south side of the lake. This section was less interesting because the walking path is actually further away from the shoreline. In fact, in some places, the road is actually between the shoreline and the walking path - so your view is ruined by cars and buses zipping by.
There are some sections where you can leave the walking path and just meander along the water line on a sort of unofficial trail. But in other places, you have to go back up to the walking path because of rocks or trees blocking the shoreline.
I completed the entire circumnavigation plus the waterfall in about 6 hours, including stops for eating lunch, taking photos, and wading in the lake. So, while it would be possible to do this as a day trip from Ljubljana, I was glad my hotel was at the end of the trail. In fact, I had a very nice sparkling water, beer, and mixed grill dinner at Pod Skarco next door.
It was a great three days of hiking in different areas. My time in Slovenia was coming to an end though. The next morning I packed up, and took the bus back to Ljubljana, transferred buses, and headed back into Croatia - to the capital, Zagreb.