A small island dots Lake Bled in the Upper Carniolan region of northwestern Slovenia . The spire you see rising from Bled Island belongs to the 17th-century Church of the Assumption, a popular spot for weddings as it’s considered good luck to be married there. (It’s likely not just the promise of favorable fortune – the setting is also undeniably spectacular.) The lake lies amid some of the highest peaks of the Julian Alps , and has attracted visitors to its superbly picturesque shores for centuries. Traditional gondola-like boats known as pletnas ply the water and most of them make stops at Bled Island. Fun fact: a good number of the oarsmen are descended from the original 22 men given royal decree to pilot the boats in 1740 by Empress Maria Theresa .
In 2016, Slovenia became the first ‘green’ country in the world – having achieved 96% compliance with the required sustainability criteria of the international organization, Green Destinations.
Nowhere is this more apparent than at Lake Bled. Despite being Slovenia’s star tourist attraction, the lake remains clean. The Slovenians have banned motorboats on the lake, so visitors need to get across to the island under their own steam (there are rowboats for hire). Or in the capable hands of a pletnarstvo – one of Lake Bled’s traditional oarsman.
As a result, the water is clean, and the atmosphere still, quiet and delightfully peaceful.
Slovenia is also blessed with a number of Alpine waterfalls, the most famous of which, Savica Waterfall, is just 40 minutes from Lake Bled. Fit walkers (it is quite a climb) keen to tackle it will enjoy perfect views of the fall’s 78-metre descent and jade-green pools
One of the most interesting Lake Bled facts is that Lake Bled’s clear, turquoise water is surprisingly warm. Although Lake Bled can trace its origins back to the Ice Age, and the site of the Bohinj Glacier, the lake is actually fed by mild, thermal springs. In summer, the water temperature gets up to 26°C (or 78.8°F), making it the perfect place for a swim.
Need a little more magic and mystery? Lake Bled’s rich folklore will have you believe:
- On a clear night, you can hear the original bell chiming from the bottom of the lake.
- A Slovenian groom has to carry his new bride up the church’s beautiful Baroque staircase – all 99 stone steps – to ensure a long and happy life.
- Forget wishing wells, visitors to the church need to ring the ancient ‘wishing bell’. The bell will grant a wish to whoever manages to ring it three times with just one pull of the rope. The only catch? You have to truly believe in God.