Explore the beautiful Julian Alps and Triglav National Park in north-western Slovenia in their full winter glory. This Slovenia road trip takes you to Lake Bled, Lake Bohinj and Kranjska Gora with many stops along the way!
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Welcome to my first road trip abroad! Although I was not on the driver’s seat (I don’t even have a driving license) this is the first time I experience being in a rental car abroad (and on the right-hand side of the road). Read below to see which places Christos and I visited in Slovenia during winter.
Slovenia Road Trip: The Basics
Duration: 5 days
Overnight stops: Bled (1 night), Kranjska Gora (3 nights)
Highlights: Lake Bled, Bled Island, Ojstrica, Mala Osojnica | Lake Bohinj, Vogel Ski Resort, Savica Waterfall | Kranjska Gora Ski Centre, Planica, Rateče, Zelenci Nature Reserve, Lake Jasna, Vršič Pass, Mojstrana, Peričnik Waterfall, Slovenian Alpine Museum
Start/End point: Ljubljana Jože Pučnik Airport
Distance: 300 – 350 km / 185 – 215 miles
Total hours driving: About 7 hours
Car type: Any car type with winter tyres
Slovenia Road Trip: Itinerary Overview
- DAY 1: Ljubljana Airport – Bled
- DAY 2: Bled – Bohinj – Vogel – Savica Waterfall – Kranjska Gora
- DAY 3: Kranjska Gora – Planica – Rateče – Zelenci – Kranjska Gora
- DAY 4: Lake Jasna – Vršič Pass – Mojstrana
- DAY 5: Kranjska Gora – Ljubljana Airport
Planning your winter Slovenia road trip
How to get to Slovenia?
The easiest way to reach Slovenia is by plane. Ljubljana Jože Pučnik Airport is connected to more than 25 European destinations, including the UK throughout the year.
Alternatively, you can reach Slovenia by train or bus from another nearby European city. There are multiple daily connections to Ljubljana from Zagreb in Croatia (~2h30mins by bus), Graz in Austria (~3hours by train with a change in Maribor in Slovenia) and Venice in Italy (~3h30mins by train).
Where to stay in the Julian Alps?
To follow this Slovenia road trip you need to arrange overnight stops in Bled and Kranjska Gora.
In Bled we chose to stay in Čarman Guest House [AD]. The guest house offers nice rooms of different sizes. Its location right across the lake means that some of the rooms have beautiful views of Lake Bled. Since it was only for a night, we booked a small lakeside double room for less than €100. In addition, there was free parking outside the guest house.
In Kranjska Gora, we stayed in Apartments and Rooms Milena [AD]. We booked the studio apartment with balcony and mountain views for three nights. The room was comfortable, although a bit cold at times. There was also a small and well-equipped kitchenette, but we didn’t need to use it. Although the property is not located in the centre of Kranjska Gora, it is only a 20-minute walk or a short car drive away. The main reason for selecting this accommodation option was its price (~ €200 for 3 nights) and the availability of free parking.
Why visit Slovenia and the Julian Alps in winter?
Slovenia is a very popular summer destination with mild weather and beautiful countryside, ideal for long hikes. This means that popular tourists spots, such as Lake Bled, become extremely busy. In contrast, by visiting off-season, you can have a much quieter and enjoyable experience. Another advantage is that accommodation prices are lower, but at the same time some places may be closed during the winter or have reduced opening hours.
On the other side, ski resorts in the Julian Alps, such as in Kranjska Gora and Bovec (not covered in this road trip) experience another high season during the winter months. This means that the rather quiet villages and towns of the area become full of life (at least at the slopes). Of course, this also means that some accommodation places can fill up and ski resorts can become crowded during the winter.
On a different point, due to the fact that the Julian Alps are located on the “sunny side” of the Alps, it means that the snow days are more uncertain than other destinations. This lowers the overall costs of your winter trip and makes Slovenia an affordable winter destination, at least compared to other popular ski resorts in France, Switzerland and Austria.
Can I visit the Julian Alps without a car?
I would say it is possible but only during the summer, when public transport services are more frequent. However, note that many of the places mentioned below (such as Zelenci Nature Reserve) are more difficult to reach without a car. Popular places like Lake Bled and Lake Bohinj have bus/train services from Ljubljana or even the airport.
If you choose to visit Slovenia without a car, then I recommend sticking to the big cities like Ljubljana for better transport links. You can then explore the Julian Alps on an organised tour from there.
- Slovenia Official Tourism Website
- Bled Official Tourism Website
- Kranjska Gora Official Tourism Website
Buy your Lonely Planet Slovenia guidebook here [AD].
Day 1: Ljubljana Airport – Bled
Take a morning flight to Ljubljana Airport, take your rental car and get ready to start your trip. The day today is all about exploring Bled, the highlight of Slovenia. It lies at the eastern boundary of the Julian Alps, only 35-minutes from Ljubljana.
12:00 Arrive in Bled
Check-in to your accommodation (if you can get early check-in), grab something to eat and head towards the lake. The days are small, so you should start with the outdoor activities first (i.e. visiting the Bled Island) and then continue indoors (i.e. going to the Bled Castle).
13:00 Bled Island
Bled Island lies in the middle of Lake Bled and is a must-stop for any visitor to Slovenia. Although the island is tiny, there a few things to do which can easily keep you occupied for a couple of hours.
The main place of interest on the island is the Church of the Mother of God. The ticket to enter the church also allows you to climb the bell tower and see the view. When entering the church, don’t forget to ring the wishing bell.
Other things you can do on the island, include trying Potica, a traditional Slovenian cake, at the Potičnica cafe, visiting the souvenir shop and following the circular walk around Bled Island.
Note: If the lake is frozen then, it is not recommended to go to the island!
How to get there?
There are three ways to reach the island: take a Plenta boat, rent a rowboat or swim. I wouldn’t suggest swimming in winter, so this leaves only two options.
Pletna boats are traditional style boats that fit around 20 people and come with a driver. The only downside is that you don’t have control over the amount of time that you can stay on the island (it is usually 30 minutes). Also, during winter they may not have such a frequent schedule as in the summer.
This leaves rowboat as the more flexible option, which is what we chose. You can rent rowboats from different places around the lake. The price is usually €20 per hour. We rented one from our accommodation for one hour which also gave us an extra hour for free (applies to all residents). Needless to say, we spent all our allocated time there, even though the recommended visit duration is 1 hour.
Find out more about Bled Island here.
15:30 Bled Castle
Spend the rest of your day at the Bled Castle. You should have already seen that the castle is built on a hill from your earlier excursion to the island. This means that there are beautiful views of Lake Bled from its (lower and upper) courtyard. So, before heading into any of the exhibitions spent some time enjoying the view before it gets dark.
At the castle, you can visit a museum about the history of the area, a chapel of Sts. Ingenuin and Albuin, an exhibition about tourism in the area, a wine cellar and the castle printshop. The castle printshop was my favourite room, where you can even buy some beautiful ink prints. The castle also has a restaurant.
How to get there?
The castle is built on a hill by the town centre. Hence, the easiest way to get there is to drive. However, as we wanted to spend as much time by the lake as possible, we chose to walk from our accommodation to the castle.
Google Maps estimated that our walk would be about 30 minutes. Unfortunately, Google underestimated the amount of time that was required to hike to the top of the hill, and because we stopped every few minutes to take photos, it took as much longer to get to the castle. Despite that, we still managed to see all areas of the castle before closing time. In retrospect, I would still have chosen walking instead of driving there, as we had the chance to make frequent stops, without having to look for a parking slot.
Tip: On your way to the castle stop by the Tourist Information Centre to get some information and maps for tomorrow’s hike to Mala Osojnica.
Photo Spot: A beautiful photo spot is the Heart of Bled, an observation platform with a heart shaped structure.
Find out more about Bled Castle here.
The town becomes a bit empty at night during winter, so early dinner is your best bet. This will allow you an early night’s sleep and assuming you had an early morning flight, it will be needed. Also, it will be easier for you to wake up early and see the sun rising over the lake the next morning.
We had dinner at Oštarija Peglez’n, a nice Italian restaurant. It was the only appealing and affordable place at the time, so we decided to try it. We had a nice large pot of pasta with basil pesto (which was enough for three people ?).
For dessert, we headed to the Park Restaurant and Cafe to try the traditional Bled Cream Cake. Note that although Google mentions that it closes at 9 pm when we visited (a few minutes to eight), they were closing and hence, we placed a takeaway order. So, if you want to have a table service experience, visit earlier. They also have some main dishes on their menu, if you prefer to have dinner here instead.
Tip: Once in Bled, park your car at your accommodation and walk everywhere else. This can help you avoid parking fees and enjoy more time by the Lake.
Remember to replace the general Bled stop with your accommodation place.
Day 2: Bled – Bohinj – Vogel – Savica Waterfall – Kranjska Gora
Finish exploring Bled, by hiking to Mala Osojinica, before jumping into the car to head to Bohinj. This day is predicted to have the longest amount of driving and walking!
Have something quick for breakfast and get ready for today’s hikes! If you fancy, have an earlier wake-up call to get a glimpse of sunrise over the Lake Bled. The good news is that, if you book a room at Čarman Guest House [AD] with lake view, you won’t even need to get out of your room!
08:30 Hike to Ojstrica and Mala Osojnica
Spend your morning hiking to one of the most popular viewpoints of Lake Bled, Ojstrica! The hike follows a steep path over the hills by the lake.
The first viewpoint you will encounter along the way is Ojstrica (611 m). I bet you already know what you will find there from the countless photos that there are online form that exact same spot! If you don’t, there is one above for reference. The bench that overlooks the lake is usually the main star.
Once you reach Ojstrica, don’t turn back. Instead, continue for a few more minutes to reach Mala Osojnica (685 m). The views are amazing up there, not only of the lake but also of the mountains and countryside that surround it. The only downside of this viewpoint is that the protective fence may limit the possible angles of photos you can take without it being visible.
Optional: If you have time, continue further up the hill towards Velika Osojinca (756 m). You will need an additional 20 minutes to reach the viewpoint, which unlike the other two viewpoints is usually quieter. Unfortunately, we were already running a bit late and we had to turn around at Mala Osojnica.
How to get there?
You can find the entrance to the trail on Kidričeva Cesta, marked as Mala Osojnica Trailhead on Google Maps. There is no parking available at the start point of the trail, so if your accommodation is within 15-20 minutes on foot, I recommend walking there. The closest car park is about 8 minutes away next to Zaka bus stop.
12:00 Lake Bohinj
Check out from your accommodation in Bled and start driving towards Bohinj. Lake Bohinj is the largest lake in Slovenia. It is much quieter than its neighbour Lake Bled, but with no shortage of activities to do. The area offers plenty of opportunities for hiking and spending time in nature.
Stop for a short walk by St. John the Baptist’s Church and the eastern side of Lake Bohinj before moving to the next stop. There is parking on Ribčev Laz, which is free during winter. There is also a larger car park by the Tourist Information Centre.
Find out more about about Bohinj here.
13:00 Vogel Cable Car
The next stop of the day is the car park at Vogel Cable Car. From there you will take the cable car up the mountain to Vogel Ski Centre (1535 m). Once you reach the top, you can rent some equipment and go skiing for a couple of hours or you can simply walk around.
The cable car platform offers panoramic views over Lake Bohinj and so does the restaurant next to the upper cable car station, where you can take a break to have lunch.
Find out more about Vogel Ski Resort here.
15:30 Savica Waterfall
Probably your last stop of the day in terms of sightseeing is Savica Waterfall (Savica Slap in Slovene). Keep driving on Ukanc road, until you reach a large restaurant hut in the middle of a car park. The entry to Savica Waterfall is a short walk from there and it is clearly signposted.
According to a sign there, the waterfall closes at 4 pm and there is a €3 entry fee person. However, when we arrived there, there was no one to charge for entry (or a machine to buy a ticket) and the door was unlocked. So, we decided that it’s was ok to proceed since more people were already in. (Maybe they have the charge only for the summer to reduce the number of visitors). But keep that in mind when visiting and in the case that you arrive after 4 pm, I suggest leaving and returning on the last day of the trip.
The hike to the waterfall is relatively small (about 20-25 minutes per way), but it has quite a lot of steps. The waterfall at the end of the route is totally worth it though. The turquoise colour of the water is so unique and beautiful.
17:00 Bohinj Museums
If you follow this route on a weekend, then you can check out some of the museums of the area before leaving. The most popular museum in the area is Alpine Diary Farming Museum in Stara Fužina and it’s about the history of cheese making in the area. Conveniently, it is located in a former cheese making facility.
Other museums you can visit are Tomaž Godec Museum in Bohinjska Bistrica, which is about Bohinj during the two world words and Oplen House in Studor, which displays how a traditional home of the area looks like. All museums should be open between 4pm to 6pm (in other seasons, they have broader opening hours).
Personally, I haven’t been to any of the museums as when we visited they were closed.
18:00/19:00 Arrive in Kranjska Gora
Drive to Kranjska Gora and check in to your accommodation there, before looking for a place to have dinner. Of course, your arrival time depends on whether you visit the museums or not.
As we stayed in an apartment outside the town centre we chose to have dinner somewhere within a short walk from there. So, we selected Picerija Maraton which offered some decent food options (and despite the name, the food was not limited to pizza). Note that the staff, didn’t speak English very well.
Remember to replace the general Bled and Kranjska Gora stops with your accommodation places.
Day 3: Kranjska Gora – Planica – Rateče – Zelenci – Kranjska Gora
Grab some breakfast and get ready for lots of activities today. To give you a sneak peek, the day involves skiing and lots of walking.
09:30 Kranjska Gora Ski Resort
It’s time to head to the slopes and practise your winter sports skills. The ski resort in Kranjska Gora has 20 slopes for people of all levels. More specifically, there are 14 blue trails (easy difficulty), 2 red trails (medium difficulty), 3 black trails (high difficulty) and 10 cross-country routes.
The ski resort spans for over 5km and includes the ski slopes in Podkoren, Planica, Mojstrana and Rateče. The slopes accessible from the Kranjska Gora town centre include only easy and medium trails, which make them ideal for beginners. Combined with a ski school, there is no excuse to not practise your ski/snowboarding skills.
Find out more about Kranjska Gora Ski Resort here.
12:30 Planica Nordic Centre
After a morning in the slopes, get in the car and continue your day with another adrenaline-filled activity: Zip Lining in Planica Nordic Centre. The centre is home to several ski jumping hills and one ski flying hill, as well as a wind tunnel, a museum and an underground tunnel for cross-country skiers.
The Zip Line in Planica is one of the steepest in Europe, where you can reach a speed of up to 85km/h. Not to mention the great views of the snow-capped mountains you will enjoy along the 566m route. To reach the starting point of the zip line, you get up the chair lift, before arriving at the ski flying hill and preparing to… fly!
If you have time before leaving, pay a visit to the museum about the history of the place, where you can even try ski jumping at one of their simulators.
Visit the small village of Rateče, next to the border with Italy, to have lunch before going for a short walk around the village. If you want to follow our steps, we had lunch at Gostišče pri Žerjavu, a family restaurant with some local specialities. Then, you can visit Kajžnk’s House, an ethnographic museum about the local culture.
Optional: Drive to the tri-point between Slovenia, Italy and Austria (about an hour round trip from Rateče). However, only proceed if the weather is good and the road clear of snow. We didn’t drive there ourselves because after asking around in Rateče, we were told that it’s best to avoid that road as it is not in good condition and there may be ice at parts.
Note: Although Italy is only a couple of minutes away, you shouldn’t take your rental car outside Slovenia, unless you inform your rental car company and buy additional insurance.
15:30 Zelenci Nature Reserve
Before returning to Kranjska Gora, make a stop at Zelenci Nature Reserve. The primary point of interest of the reserve is Lake Zelenci, a beautiful lake surrounded by mountains and full of life. The water is constant at 6oC year-round. While there, make sure to stay on the wooden path to no distract nature.
16:30 Kranjska Gora
The rest of the day is dedicated to Kranjska Gora. Have a break at your accommodation before heading out for an evening walk in the town. Walk in the pedestrian part of Borovška Cesta, browse the cute items at the shops (my favourite shop was Židana Marel) or get something from the market huts. For dinner, I recommend the Restaurant, Pizzeria of Hotel Kotnik.
Remember to replace the general Kranjska Gora stop with your accommodation place.
Day 4: Lake Jasna – Vršič Pass – Mojstrana
Head for breakfast somewhere different today. Villa Triglav allows non-hotel guests to enjoy their delicious and locally sourced breakfast if they book in advance. It costs €13 per person and the price is totally worth it. You get a cheese and meat platter on your table, a wide selection of bread, jams and pastries alongside different types of choose or your hot drink of choice. The best part is that you can enjoy your breakfast overlooking Lake Jasna.
10:00 Lake Jasna
After you finish your breakfast, go for a walk around Lake Jasna (which can freeze during the winter). Take some photos and enjoy the beauty of the two adjoining lakes. The most surprising part about the area is that Lake Jasna is not natural. Instead, it was created for recreational purposes to revive tourism in the area.
11:30 Russian Chapel and Vršič Pass
Next stop of the day is the Russian Chapel (Ruska Kapelica) on Vršič Pass. The church has an interesting history as it was built in memory of the Russian prisoners who died while creating Vršič Pass during WWI.
Vršič Pass is the highest road passage in Slovenia, reaching a height of 1611m at its highest point. It connects Kranjska Gora with Bovec, which is located on the other side of the mountains. The road has a lot of sharp bends (50 in total if you follow it across its whole length) and offers beautiful views of the mountains, especially from its highest point (about halfway through).
Note: Normally Vršič Pass is closed during the winter due to snow. However, depending on the weather conditions and the type of vehicle you have, you may want to give it a try. Remember to turn back if at any point you feel uncomfortable following this route if the snow becomes too dense.
The rest of the afternoon will be spent in Mojstrana. Mojstrana is a village 15 minutes from Kranjska Gora, most known for the many Winter Olympic Games winners that were born there.
Grab something quick for lunch (although, if you had a full breakfast at Villa Triglav, I doubt you will be hungry) and continue your day.
13:30 Peričnik Waterfall
Peričnik Waterfall is one of the highest waterfalls in Slovenia, with a height of 52m. To reach the waterfall, you need to follow the path from the car park. After you reach the closest point to Peričnik waterfall, there is the option to continue climbing to find a second smaller waterfall. Note that it is common for this part of the route to be closed during winter.
Sometimes, the waterfall freezes during the winter when it becomes ideal for another great winter activity: ice climbing. In this case, you may want to book an ice climbing session and exercise your arm strength.
How to get there?
Follow the road towards the waterfall until you reach a small parking lot a few meters from a sign about Triglav National Park. From there, you can either continue driving or park and continue on foot. The waterfall is about 45 minutes away on foot. Note that the road after that point becomes very narrow. Besides, it may be closed due to the weather conditions and walking may be your only option.
15:30 Slovenian Alpine Museum
Before leaving Mojstrana, make sure to visit the Slovenian Alpine Museum to learn more about Triglav National Park and mountaineering. The museum closes at 5 pm, so you should have enough time browse the exhibitions.
Find out more about the Slovenian Alpine Museum here.
17:00 Kranjska Gora
Return to Kranjska Gora and relax at your accommodation, before going out for the last activity of the day.
19:00 Night Skiing
The Kranjska Gora Ski Resort offers the option to ski at night, which is a great excuse to be in the slopes even longer. The resort is open for night skiing from Thursday to Saturday between 7 pm and 10 pm. One of the ski equipment rental shops is also open, so you shouldn’t worry about the equipment. And if at any point you want to warm up, their restaurant/cafe/bar is open as well.
Note that for night skiing only a couple of slopes are open, and this sometimes doesn’t include the easiest trail. So, you may need to have some experience skiing to try night version of the sport.
For an après-ski experience, you can head to Kasabrin Bar in the town centre to warm in their cosy environment.
Remember to replace the general Kranjska Gora stop with your accommodation place.
Day 5: Kranjska Gora – Ljubljana Airport
The last day is dedicated to Kranjska Gora and depending on your departure time, you may choose to have a late morning start and a slow walk in the town or an earlier wake-up call to hit the slopes one more time before your departure time.
For your last breakfast, I suggest heading to Rajska Ptica Cokoladnica, a chocolate shop and café in the town centre. Remember to check out from your accommodation before starting your day.
10:30 Kranjska Gora
Spend the rest of the day either skiing or walking around Kranjska Gora.
For more information about skiing in Kranjska Gora, see Day 3.
If you choose to walk around, I suggest passing from the Park of Peace (Park Miru), a small park a few minutes from the ski resort that outlines important events from the recent history of the area. Then, you can pass from the Tourist Information Centre for some last-minute souvenirs, before heading towards the river Pišnica. While walking for the river you can have a short stop at Liznjek House, a small house-museum. Note that the museum is not open daily during the winter. The best way to find out its opening hour is by checking the hours on display on the museum door.
Walking route directions:
14:00 Ljubljana Airport
After your morning walk, head to the airport. If you have more time until your departure time, you can make short stops along the way. An example is Kranj, the fourth-largest city in Slovenia, where you can find a place to have lunch and walk around. Vintgar Gorge is another great place to visit while in western Slovenia, close to Bled. Unfortunately, the gorge is closed for the winter and only open between late April/early May and late October/early November.
Remember to replace the general Kranjska Gora stop with your accommodation place.
Extend your Slovenia Road Trip
If you have more days, then why not continue your trip to explore more of Slovenia. Follow this Ljubljana itinerary for spending a few days in the city. It also includes a day trip to Postojna Caves and Predjama Castle and more. As Ljubljana is a very walkable city, this itinerary assumes the absence of a car, so you can return your rental car to the airport and then take the bus to Ljubljana. Of course, you can choose to keep your car and use it for day trips around the city.
P.S. As you probably have noticed, not all my photos look very wintery. The reason is that the winter was very mild when we visited. We only found some snow at the Vogel Ski Resort and around Zelenci. Even the ski slopes in Kranjska Gora were operating with artificial snow!
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