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Is This Slovenian Town Eastern Europe’s Best-Kept Secret?

When you think of planning a trip to Europe all the usual locations probably come to mind – France, Spain and Italy. Don’t get me wrong, they’re all worth a healthy dose of wanderlust.

But what if I was to tell you that there’s a small town a bit further east where you can swim in crystal clear water, visit castles and row tiny wooden boats over a lake through a flock of swans? You’d probably tell me that it sounds like a fairytale. Well, it is, but this fairytale is reality and it’s located in a small country called Slovenia nestled between Italy, Croatia, Hungary and Austria.

Slovenia has been gaining more awareness in recent years thanks to the American First Lady being born and bred there. But it won’t be long until people get to know the country for reasons other than Melania Trump and its best kept-secret, Lake Bled, will be out.

Here’s what you need to know before you check out Slovenia for yourself.

History And Landmarks

Slovenia, Lake Bled

Image: Church of the Mother of God / Bled

At first glance the town looks like it’s been built by a Hollywood set designer thanks to the beautiful little island that sits in the middle of the lake. On this petite-sized island you can find the Church of the Mother of God which was built back in the 17th Century. It’s accessible by one of the most Instagram-worthy staircases made from 99 stone steps leading directly from the water to the tower. Pure bliss.

Slovenia, Lake Bled

Image: Bled Castle via Bled

Another historical site not to be missed is Bled Castle, the medieval castle that clings to the mountains and looks over the lake below and across to the picture-perfect, snow-capped mountains in the distance. The walk up to the castle, is short, steep and totally worth it. You can explore the castle’s hidden rooms and museum, learning its history along the way. Even if you’re not a history buff it’s impossible not to enjoy eating and drinking like a king or queen in the castle’s restaurant with sweeping views down to the water.

Get Active With Hiking And Cycling Trails

Slovenia, lake bled

Image: The hills around Lake Bled offer stunning views over the fairytale town / Bled

Lake Bled is one of those places that has something for everyone. It’s easy to relax by the water in summer or enjoy the views of the icy lake with a hot chocolate in hand during winter. But the best part of Lake Bled is that there are so many activities to do despite being small in size.

One of the best ways to get acquainted with the lake is by cycling around it. You can a bike for the whole day for about $19 (12 Euro) which will be more than enough time to complete the 6.5km track. There are cycling routes around the entire lake, weaving you through the forests, by the beaches and past many of the hotels and restaurants, with plenty of pit stops and photo opportunities along the way.

You’ll see some signposts along the track, like number six where you’ll see the entrance to Ojstrica. The hike up the hill is relatively short and definitely steep enough to get that heart rate pumping. But once you make it to the top you’ll be treated with some of the most photogenic views in the world such as Lake Bled framed by the snow-capped alps in the distance.

Glamping In Nature

Slovenia, Lake Bled

Image: Bled Garden Village / Facebook

A canvas tent might not be able to compete with the Bled Castle, but glamping at Bled Garden Village runs a close second and is located just a short walk from the lake’s edge. The village sits on top of the creek which is full of gushing, clean mountain water providing one of the nicest natural sleep soundtracks. Most tents have direct access to the running stream, perfect for cooling down in after hiking or cycling around the lake or dipping in between visits to their steaming hot sauna.

(Lead image: Joel Sparks / Unsplash)