There are two places on this planet that immediately spring to mind when someone talks about real-life fairytale locations. One is Neuschwanstein Castle (of course), and the other is Slovenia’s Lake Bled.

Located just a few hours drive from the capital of Ljubljana, Lake Bled is bordered by the town of Bled, home of Bled Castle. The lake also happens to be the nesting place of a cosy little island which is, of course, named Bled Island.

They’re just one big, happy family of Bleds.

lake-bled

There’s also the apparently world-famous Bled cream cake for you to try if you get a little peckish. I say apparently not because I doubt it’s level of fame but because I’d personally never heard of it before visiting Slovenia and, you know, I’m somewhat of a cake connoisseur. Meaning I may have been known to eat a whole share size box of Morrison’s profiteroles to myself… in one sitting.

Anyway, I didn’t get around to tasting the Bled cream because remortgaging my Nutri-bullet for the sake of a slice of cake is sadly not something I can get onboard with, no matter how delicious said cake is reported to be.

Swiftly moving on from the subject of baked goods and back onto pretty lakes and scenery…

Lake Bled is not a very big lake, as far as lakes go. Its length is just over 2.1km and width just shy of 1.4km.

To put that into perspective: I, one of the most unathletic people this side of the Severn Bridge, once ran a 10km race in one hour and ten minutes, meaning that if it were possible to run Jesus-style across the surface of the lake, I’d be able to do it in less than a quarter of an hour. Mo Farah would need less than 5 minutes.

So not very big. At all.

But what it lacks in size (in the world of lakes), it certainly makes up for in sheer beauty and “make you stare in awe until you accidentally walk into a bin” factor.

When I was growing up I had this Fantastic Fairy Tale Pop-up Book. It was undoubtedly the most magical book in the world. The houses popped out and you could make the princess wave out of the window and the prince ride through the forest to rescue her. You could even make the Evil Witch lady poke Hansel and Gretel with a bone. For years I was scared to touch it, it was that precious of a book.

My first thought on seeing Lake Bled with my own two eyes was that it was more deserving of a page in that book than any other place I’ve ever seen in my life so far — and I’ve seen a lot of places.

There’s a castle. The perfect place for Cinderella to live with her Prince Charming, or Dragon (from Shrek, the world’s greatest fairytale) to make her lair.

There’s an island. The perfect place for a hermit to live out a lonely existence, or evil Mother Gothel to hide Rapunzel away.

There are densely forested areas. Where else would Snow White live with all her men? Or that Evil Witch lady hide out waiting for those poor, unsuspecting children to come along and nibble on her house?

There are snow-capped peaks. For Kristoff to hack away at his ice cubes, maybe? (Not a fairy tale, I know, but I struggled with that one).

There’s a cute little lakeside town. Perfect for the townsfolk to live before they have a spell cast on them, making them forget they were once ruled by a prince who is now a Beast and lives with a talking teapot.

In short, Lake Bled and the surrounding area has everything it needs to exist as a real life fairytale destination.

Having seen pretty much every other travel blogger and their dog visit Bled recently, I was expecting to be underwhelmed. You see, when so many people harp on and on about how magical somewhere is, how it’s a ‘must-see‘, often times by the time you get around to seeing it with your own two eyes, your expectations have been raised to such magnitude that there’s no way left to go but down.

Example numero uno: Buenos Aires. I’d constantly been informed by people I met on the road and friends of friends how it’s such a great city, how the steak and wine are second to none in the world and how the party scene is “off the chain“, so my hopes and expectations were raised to such a point that I’m genuinely surprised Nasa didn’t send out a UFO warning.

And I have no doubt Buenos Aires is a great city. But I’m a teetotal vegetarian who doesn’t really party sooo I probably should have known from the start it was a dud.

Scared of another Buenos Aires-type situation, I walked off that bus at Bled with my eyes very much open and a super blasé attitude to the place.

Then, as I rounded the corner and caught my first sight of the lake… wait for it…

I was 138.6% overwhelmed.

It was gorgeous. Completely and utterly ethereal yet at the same time definitely deserving of a place on this planet (which, incidentally, is a pretty darn nice place to be sometimes).

And this was before I even caught a glimpse of the island.

 

I’m talking about the island here. The one which makes an all too frequent appearance on all those big inspire-y travel Instagram accounts and has consequently played an active role in adding Slovenia to so many people’s bucket lists. It’s the island which takes Lake Bled from a respectable 8/10 on the internationally recognised “Pretty Lake Scale©” to a whopping 10/10 and beyond

Keen to find that view of the lake (we all know which one I’m talking about, riiiight?) I did what needed to be done and found myself a higher vantage point. In this scenario, Bled Castle.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I am a castle snob.

You can’t grow up in Wales and not be critical when it comes to castles. I mean, some countries call a castle a castle when it’s actually just a big house with a spiral staircase and a balcony on top.

But Bled Castle? It’s pretty alright like. But what else would you expect, really, with it being Slovenia’s oldest castle, dating back to medieval times?

Bonus points for having men dressed in brown robes walking around the place, making you feel like you were actually in medieval times and they were monks. Whether intentional or not, it worked.

Double bonus points for the epic views.

If I were a painter in need of inspiration, I would pack up my easel and watercolours into a little red neckerchief and plant myself firmly in the courtyard of Bled Castle, because in each direction you look, there’s even more beauty to take in. Alas, I am not a painter. So I did what any modern day artiste would do… and put it on my Instagram story. My first (and so far only) ever dabble at it too. So thanks for the inspiration Bled!

Side note: Bled Castle has WiFi. True fact.

As inspiring as the views from the castle are, though, they just weren’t the ones I was looking for. And so I took my by this point slightly regretful butt back down the never-ending steps leading to the lakeside and set off walking, in search of the entrance to the not very well sign-posted little hill overlooking the lake in its entirety, known as the Ojstrica viewpoint. And, of course, took about a million identical photos of the lake along the way.

There is not a single bad angle of the lake. 

After almost walking past the “entrance” to the climb about 16,000 times, trespassing on somebody’s property and losing a shoe, I did eventually find it, hidden away just past a camping site, barely even noticeable among the trees.

You know that Shakespeare quote “And though she be but little, she is fierce“?

Truer words may never be spoken about the climb to the Ostrjica viewpoint. I almost died. At least nineteen times.

First you walk through the forest. Simple enough, you might think, it’s just forest floor. Yeah, okay, fair enough. Except the floor is covered in pebbles. And the pebbles are so tiny they get in your shoe, and if you walk too vigorously they kick up and go in your eye. And then the pebbles turn into rocks. And the floor is made of rocks and suddenly you’re playing The Floor is Lava except you’re not in your cousins’ childhood bedroom and the floor isn’t a nice plushy carpet, it’s a bunch of rocks. Hard rocks. Rock hard rocks, in fact. And if you fall, it will hurt. Probably not quite as much as if the floor really was lava, but enough to make you cry to yourself and curse everyone you’ve ever met in your life.

Then the rocks aren’t rocks on the floor anymore, there’s this big huge rock formation instead, and you have to somehow make your way to the top of it. There’s a path. Oh yes, there’s a path, formed by the feet of the many people who’ve been there before you. But there isn’t always a path. So you have to pull yourself up from rock to rock, and the rocks have sharp edges and skin is not made to withstand sharp rock edges. If it was we wouldn’t have nice polished wood staircases or even nicer escalators.

All moaning about rocks and lava aside, though, the journey was more than worth the destination. This might be stating the obvious a little, but viewpoints are called viewpoints for a reason, and they’re almost always worth the climb. And I know what I’m talking about here, because I once climbed a hill the size of Everest (not really) on 15 minutes sleep to watch the sun rise behind a wall and it was worth it.  But that’s a story for another day…

For now, I found the Lake Bled view I was after. And it was super sweet.

 

Author

Hi, I'm Rhiannon and my name is Welsh, not Irish as many have been known to believe. You'll more often than not find me on some mode of public transportation, earphones in, book about serial killers in one hand and can of full-fat coke in the other. I have the heart and soul of a traveller but the bank account of Oliver Twist, which causes me deep pain if I'm completely honest.

21 Comments

  1. I’ve fallen in love with your photos of Lake Bled– they’re so clear and blue! It’s high on my bucket list of places to visit when I’m back in Europe, and your post makes me all the more eager to go soon!

  2. So how many bins did you walk into? Just asking for a friend who maybe does the same thing when surrounded by such immense natural beauty! Our photos are mesmerising and do make me want to pack my bags and go explore Bled myself.

  3. I’m visiting Lake Bled soon, I was thinking whether or not to take the trip from Ljubljana but your reflection photo and the castle have persuaded me. I think a cake from Morrison’s will be better tasting than the Bled Cake too (you can probably get about 6 in Morrison’s for the same price too). I will definitely use the free WiFi in Castle Bled and visit Ostrjica viewpoint. Your photos are stunning, you are right, there isn’t a bad viewpoint of the lake! I hope I get a clear day like you did.

  4. Abigail Sinsona Reply

    Oh yes, this lake definitely reminds one of the fairy tale stories we’ve read growing up. It is so calm and serene; I could watch it all day! The way the mountains and the buildings along the banks of the lake reflect on the water is such a picturesque scene too. I wish I could visit this beautiful place someday!

  5. This is so gorgeous! I’d never heard of Slovenia until my cousin traveled there a few years ago and she had photos of Lake Bled! It’s stunning! Your post is making me want to add to my travel bucket list. PS: Your writing style is FABULOUS! So funny!

  6. I’ve only read about Lake Bled and never had the chance to actually visit it. Even though my experience is only through photos and words, I can already feel a sense of fairy tale that this place offers. Didn’t expect the climb to Ostrjica viewpoint would be that hard, but everything was worth it in the end for you, right? 🙂

  7. I remember a friend going here about eight years ago, before it became an Instagram star. I’m glad that Lake Bled lived up to the expectations for you 🙂 These days, I can’t help but think that sometimes these beautiful spots become too hyped up for their own good, and run the risk of disappointing people (like me!) who then end up with very high expectations for them! Nice to hear that that isn’t the case for Bled, though. Definitely looks like a fairy tale lake (and I love that you didn’t resort to Frozen for the “snow-capped peaks” – it’s up there on my least-favourite films list).

  8. Abhinav Singh Reply

    I love your writing style. Especially the quirky analogies which you give. I had been intrigued by Lake Bled ever since I saw it on Indian television. However I didn’t know that it’s this small. I think good shoes are required here as it’s quite a rocky place.

  9. I love it! A whole family of Bleds! Haha. I’ve been to Neuschwanstein and would love to visit Lake Bled to complete my fairytale comparison! Your pictures are stunning!

  10. Wow what gorgeous pictures. I am surely a castle buff and literally planning to visit Germany mainly because of castles. But this one idd beauty beyond words. Whenever I plan to visit Slovenia (I’m sure pretty soon), I’ll make time for Lake Bed in my itinerary. May I ask one thing – in the last picture what’s that on the small island in the between of the lake, you know ot actually looks like a castle😀

    Thanks so much for sharing!

  11. I’ve heard of Lake Bled and how its almost like a paradise! Thanks for the visual treat early in the morning for me! Bled looks stunning!
    OMG! I love how you’ve compared your favourite, precious fairy tale book to this location. Its indeed a fairytale dream come alive!
    I know what having high expectation and being underwhelmed feels like! Happened in Paris for me!!! I’m just glad Bled lived up to your expectations!

  12. I would love to visit Lake Bled, it’s still on my list of many, many places I want to see! I’m so surprised that it’s so small, I honestly thought it would be huge from all the photos. I love the fact that there’s a castle, island and forest. All we need now is a distressed princess and a dashing prince!

  13. I’d visit Lake Bled and hopefully act out the Cindrella tale with my man. The scenery is so beautiful and alluring. If I had heard of Lake Bled long ago, prolly I’d have ditched Paris for honeymoon and have it at Bled. The forest looks enchanting also.

  14. Lake Bled looks heavenly and perfect destination for nature lovers. Walking through lovely forest for the Ostrjica viewpoint to view this heavenly place is worth. Thanks for introducing Lake Bled, as I was never known to this place and this is really a my kind of place.

  15. Sadly I hadn’t heard of Lake Bled until your post! The views of the lake along with the castle and island are quite stunning, and even though it may be “small”, it offers so many contrasting views. The last picture brings captures it all, simply beautiful!

  16. We keep talking about coming here… we always end up in really tropical places but fancy a change. What a perfect fairytale scene. I love it.

  17. I can see why you think Lake Bled is a fairytale destination! It has all the factors to be a gorgeous one! Having wifi access is a big plus – not many places that I know of in nature has that kind of connectivity.

  18. Wow wow wow the blues and everything! We love nature so this is perfect for us. We think that you love nature or not, how can you NOT like this place? This makes us more excited to go soon iiiii! Amazing photos, very inspiring.

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