Lake Bled in northern Slovenia is a fairy-tale destination becoming increasingly popular with visitors worldwide. Even if you haven’t heard of it, you’ve probably seen photos of this small lake with its tiny island, topped by a centuries old church. And the delights of this area don’t stop there: there’s also many incredible day trips available to enjoy the surrounding nature in the Julian Alps. The region is also home to Slovenia’s only national park, Triglav National Park. Best of all? This is one of the most dog-friendly regions I’ve visited in Europe, with every activity we did allowing dogs. Pack your own and your dog’s bags for Slovenia and enjoy these dog-friendly things to do in Lake Bled! (And even if you’re not travelling with a dog? They’re also a lot of fun for humans!)
1. Walk Around Lake Bled
The walk around Lake Bled is the quintessential activity at Lake Bled, plus an awesome dog walk. There’s a virtually flat footpath all the way around the lake, usually right next to the shoreline. With a total length of 6km, it usually takes about 1.5 hours to walk, or 2 hours if you’re stopping for lots of photos (like we did). Feeling peckish along the way? There’s plenty of cafes and restaurants not far from its shoreline, with the local Bled cream cake a must-try during your visit (but definitely not dog-friendly!)
2. Take a Boat Trip to Bled Island
One of the other must-do activities at Lake Bled is taking a traditional pletna boat out to Bled Island. These boats have been rowed on Lake Bled for centuries, with the job passed down through families. And while I wasn’t expecting that dogs would be allowed, they’re actually welcome on the boats, free of charge!
The pletna boats leave from about six wharves around the island, so there’s one close to you no matter where you’re staying. The standard charge is currently €14 per adult, with your visit to the island lasting about 40-45 minutes. On the island, while visiting the church is not dog-friendly, there’s the perfect amount of time to just stroll around then enjoy a drink at the cafe.
Alternatively, row boats are available for hire if you’re happy to row yourself (and your dog), or are interested in a longer trip on the lake.
3. Walk Through Vintgar Gorge
Vintgar Gorge is one of the most beautiful sights near Lake Bled. The gorge cuts between the nearby hills, narrowing to only a few metres at some points, thanks to the aquamarine water of the river, so crystal clear that feeding fish are easily spotted. The walking track is 1.4km one way, with a thundering waterfall at the far end. Return upon the same track, which is sometimes literally a boardwalk above the river.
It’s just a short drive from Lake Bled (with free parking) or alternatively a 4km walk from the township of Bled, making it accessible even if you don’t have a car. Entry is €5 per adult and dogs are allowed on a leash. The best time to visit just after it opens at 9am, for the best photo opportunities with hardly anyone around.
4. Visit Lake Borinj
If Lake Bled is a little too bustling for you, make a beeline for Lake Borinj. It’s just a 30 minute drive away, or accessible by local bus. But despite being so close to Lake Bled, it’s far quieter. As the lake is larger, there’s a shuttle boat that loops around the lake regularly. Alternatively, the road continues along one side of the lake, or there’s plenty of walking tracks right around it, all dog-friendly. Just keep them on a leash near some of the very noisy and hungry ducks!
5. Hike Up to Savica Waterfall
While you’re visiting Lake Borinj, don’t miss out on seeing Savica Waterfall. Located just a short drive past the end of the lake, this is the most popular waterfall in Slovenia, as well as the most powerful I visited. It’s a 20 minute walk up-hill through the forest, with some lovely views also back down into the lake valley, and dogs on a leash are welcome. Car parking is €3, plus there’s a €3 entry fee per adult (with dogs free, of course).
6. Cross Vrsic Pass
Wanting a full day trip adventure near Lake Bled? Then head for Vrsic Pass, at least during the 7 months of the year (outside of winter) that it’s open. It’s the highest pass in Slovenia and makes for a fun and scenic drive, with your dog in their car seat. There’s 24 bends (all numbered!) on the road up to the top of a pass, with a handy restaurant at the top, then a further 24 bends down the other side. Along the way stop at the beautiful green-hued Lake Jasna, perfect for a 30 minute stroll with your dog. Don’t also miss the Russian Chapel just after bend 8, a touching monument built by the Russian prisoners-of-war who constructed much of the road.
When we visited Lake Bled the pass was unfortunately closed during working hours just after bend 9, due to road works. I’m guessing these will wrap up before it closes for winter, and the road will be fully re-open in spring 2018. Just check for road closure signs at either end. If you’re wanting a break from bends, there’s a longer but slightly quicker alternative route back to Lake Bled by crossing the border into Italy near Bovec.
7. Explore the Soca River
Just over the other side of Vrsic Pass (or alternatively accessed through Italy), is the Soca region of the Julian Alps. This is the adventure capital in Slovenia, with white-water rafting on the beautiful but thundering Soca River being the highlight. If you’re visiting with your dog (or aren’t the adventurous type like me), there’s also plenty of hiking or just viewpoints to park your car. The most impressive sight is the section of the Soca River just south of the township of Soca. Here the emerald green river passes through a 750m canyon, tens of metres deep but at times less than 2m wide!
8. Visit Virje Waterfall
Not far past Soca and the larger regional town of Bovec is Virje Waterfall. It wins the award for the prettiest waterfall that I saw in Slovenia, thanks to the surrounding forest and the stunning pool at its base. It’s probably a popular swimming hole in summertime, however it felt rather chilly in Autumn and the information sign stated its average temperature is a numbing 14C! In a quiet location, it’s completely free to visit with no restrictions on dogs, and is just a short 10 minute walk from a tiny carpark.
9. Visit Historic Bled Castle
Just one final adventure for your Lake Bled trip, closer back to Bled and at a more sedate pace. Towering above Lake Bled on a rocky outcrop is Bled Castle. The castle on was first mentioned in 11th century documents, although the current buildings date from the 16th century. It’s accessible through either a hike up above the lake (be prepared for a lot of stairs!) or by driving to the carpark (€3 for 2 hours parking). I was surprised to find that dogs are allowed inside, albeit not in the museum section or up on the castle wall. The view back down to the lake is superb, and there’s both an outdoor restaurant and cafe from which to enjoy it.
Best Time of Year to Visit Lake Bled
The peak time of year at Lake Bled is summer, with the waters of the lake a popular swimming spot. However, considering that dogs aren’t allowed in the bathing areas, the best time to visit with a dog is probably during the shoulder spring or autumn periods, when it’s also less busy and accommodation is cheaper. We visited in late September and loved the changing colours of the trees.
Dog-Friendly Dining at Lake Bled
While travelling in Slovenia, we found about half of restaurants allowed dogs inside. Check at the entry whether there’s a sticker stating no dogs are allowed, or ask a member of staff. We dined multiple times with our dog at Restaurant Pension Mlino. Located on the souther side of the lake, near Villa Bled, they have an extensive menu of Slovenian specialities and traditional favourites, with reasonable prices (most dishes are €10-15 including sides). Alternatively, if the weather is pleasant, there’s many outdoor dining terraces.
Dog-Friendly Accommodation at Lake Bled
There’s numerous Airbnb options available at Lake Bled that allow dogs, although there are usually minimum stays over at least the summer period. We stayed at the Airbnb apartment pictured above, on the western side of the lake near the Rowing Club. The studio apartment was bright and modern, and it even had a bath that made it easy to wash our dog after he got muddy on a few of the walks. (Bring your own dog towel!) It’s quite close to one of the train stations, although it’s a 20-30 minute walk to town. We had a car (ideal for day trips), that we easily parked directly across the road in the guest parking.
Alternatively, here are three hotel suggestions in Lake Bled at different price points.
Note: These are affiliate links, so I may earn a small commission if you make a purchase using the links.
Budget: Central Hostel Bled
Located in the centre of Bled, close to transport connections, this hostel tickets all the essential boxes. It offers free wi-fi, a great kitchen, friendly staff and it’s clean. There’s a mix of 6-bed and 4-bed dormitories. Pets are allowed, although charges may apply.
Mid-range: Penzion Berc
Located just outside of Bled, this hotel is highly rated by past guests. Its located in a rustic farmhouse from 1843 surrounded by lovely gardens, but has been recently renovated with quality inclusions including air-con, flat-screen TVs and free wi-fi. The breakfast and on-site restaurant are of excellent quality, with a focus on local produce. E-bikes are also available for guests for free. Pets are allowed on request with no extra charges.
Splurge: Vila Bled
The former summer palace of President Tito, Vila Bled is a touch of old-world luxury at Lake Bled. Situated on the quiet southern shore of the lake, within its own parklands, it features beautiful views of Bled Island. Extensive facilities include a luxury spa, its own private swimming deck and an on-site restaurant and bar. Pets are allowed at no charge.
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