Treasures of Triglav National Park | Part 1: Lake Bohinj
From the peak of Mount Triglav to the cascades of Savica Waterfall, the wilderness that surrounds Lake Bohinj is a vibrant medley of wetlands, wildlife, flora, fauna & folklore. This isolated oasis in Triglav National Park is truly unlike any other in Europe’s Julian Alps.
Our unplanned adventure along the Slovenian road less traveled came to a picturesque ending on the shores of Lake Bohinj. We soaked in our serene new surroundings beside the iconic lakeside statue of Goldhorn, sipping beers & skipping stones. As the sun set, time seemed to stand still, or at the very least, move at its own pace.
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The legend of Goldhorn
This corner of the world is rich with folklore, and the undisputed symbol of Lake Bohinj is the statue of Goldhorn (Zlatorog, in Slovene), an ancient protector of the Triglav Valley. His golden horns are said to hold the key to a treasure hidden in the surrounding mountains, and his blood is said to bloom magical flowers with healing powers…!
The legend goes back hundreds of years and involves a hunter, a rich Venetian merchant, and a local beauty: the object of both men’s affection. Goldhorn gets caught in the middle of this love triangle and is shot by the hunter. Fortunately, he survives, after eating flowers birthed of his own blood. But sadly, the hunter dies, the girl cries, and Goldhorn goes on a rampage through the valley.
Today, Goldhorn’s legacy lives on through the telling of this story and the lakefront statue that commemorates him.
further reading: though some versions of this story depict Goldhorn as a chamois buck (or goat-antelope), the oldest, most traditional tale depicts him as an Alpine ibex, now extinct in the area. Click here for an awesome interpretation of this story and what it means from a variety of perspectives: human, animal, environmental & astrological.
Know before you go: Triglav National Park
Triglav National Park is Slovenia’s only national park. Located in the northwestern part of the country, it borders Italy to the west, Austria to the north, and makes up 4% of Slovenia’s total area. Mount Triglav—the highest peak of the Julian Alps—marks the center of Triglav National Park.
The Triglav Glacier crowns the peak of Mount Triglav and supplies water for many waterways including the Sava and Soča Rivers. Its impact is felt as far as the Adriatic Sea to the southwest and the Black Sea to the east.
The most important local recipient of Mount Triglav’s glacial runoff is Lake Bohinj: the largest natural lake in Slovenia. Lake Bohinj boasts twice the surface area and 4 times the water volume of its more well-known neighbor to the east: Lake Bled.
Complemented by mountains, forests, valleys, gorges, waterfalls, rivers & creeks, Lake Bohinj plays a unique role as both a source of life and center of activity.
Activities around Lake Bohinj
Lake Bohinj is a true lake for all seasons, offering a plethora of outdoor activities all year round. In summer, the water temperature reaches 72°F (22°C), inviting swimmers, divers, kayakers, windsurfers & fishermen. In winter, ice skaters carve paths across the frozen lake while skiers & snowboarders shred the Slovenian slopes.
The global stand up paddleboard (SUP) craze of the last decade has certainly found its way to Lake Bohinj. The glass-like surface of the lake had us convinced that these were the most unbelievably still waters we’d ever seen. Ideal for amateur or even first-time SUP’ers!
Hike Savica Waterfall
Known for its multiple cascades and distinct, elegant A-shape, Savica Waterfall is impressive, powerful & beautiful all at once. It’s also relatively easy to tackle. A hike up to the viewpoint and back down can take less than an hour.
Check out our complete guide to Savica Waterfall here!
Visit Vintgar Gorge
Trails, wooden walkways and bridges guide you back and forth through this picturesque ravine. Below you, mild rapids of the Radovna River flow freely, complemented by pristine pools of turquoise water.
Your journey through Vintgar Gorge should take 1-2 hours, max. Depending on where you’re staying around Bohinj, the drive will take 30-45 minutes each way. Arrive early to beat the crowds, and you can make it back to Bohinj before noon.
Plan the perfect excursion to Vintgar Gorge here!
Adopt a bench
Our visit to beautiful Lake Bohinj lasted only 24 hours. But the local adopt-a-bench program makes it possible to make your presence felt for 3 full years. All proceeds benefit the Slovenian architects who design & build the benches and support the preservation of local trails.
Eat some cheese
Around Bohinj, they take their cheese very seriously. And the village of Srednja vas has 145 years’ worth of serious, traditional Bohinj cheesemaking experience. Visit the Bohinj Cheese Dairy to buy some of this delicious cows’ milk candy, or check out the Alpine Dairy Farming Museum in nearby Stara Fužina.
Ride the cable car up to Mount Vogel
Vogel Ski Resort on nearby Mount Vogel is a top skiing & snowboarding destination in winter. During summer, visitors can still reach the top via cable car and simply appreciate the views. The ride up from Lake Bohinj takes less than 5 minutes, and is supposed to be well worth the trip.
Getting there & getting around
Lake Bohinj is accessible by car, bus or train. By car, it’s about 30 minutes from Bled, 1 hour from Ljubljana, 4 hours from Venice and 5 hours from Vienna. We arrived via rental car, using the road less traveled through the Alpine region north of Postojna.
If you plan on staying awhile, purchase a mobility card to get around the area cheaply and efficiently using public transit. Both summer & winter versions are available. If you book at certain partner accommodations, you can even get the mobility card for free!
Where to stay
During our exploration of the lake’s southern edge, we strolled through gorgeous pine forests and came across multiple campgrounds. If you want to experience Bohinj amongst the trees, grab yourself a campsite at Camp Zlatorog.
If you prefer sleeping in something other than a tent, consider staying in one of these 3 areas:
Most travelers to Lake Bohinj will at least pass through the town of Bohinjska Bistrica, located about 4 miles east of the lake. The Bohinj Railway passes through here, all bus routes make stops here, and it’s the largest settlement in the greater Bohinj area.
We stayed at the Bohinj Eco Hotel which served us well after our 12-hour day in the car. Dinner at the in-house Restaurant 2864 was delicious, the staff were extremely friendly and the bartender poured us drinks, even after closing time. That’s the type of service that’ll keep us coming back!
The Bohinj Eco Hotel also has a bowling alley and connects to Aquapark Bohinj via underground walkway. Visit the Aquapark to enjoy pools, saunas, 2 waterslides & an indoor climbing wall. What more could you ask for?!
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Ribčev Laz is the town closest to Lake Bohinj. We stopped here briefly to visit the Tourist Information Center and to grab a couple beers before sunset. During our short stroll through the streets and down to the shore, we got the feeling that this area was the true heart of the action.
On our way to Savica Waterfall on the west side of the lake, we passed through the tiny village of Ukanc. With its charming chalets nestled amongst the forests at the foot of the surrounding Alps, Ukanc definitely felt like something out of a fairytale.
Ukanc is home to Chalet Apartments ALPIK. After exploring these homes up close, we asked ourselves: where can we find a Slovenian real estate agent?! When we return to Bohinj, there’s a strong possibility we’ll stay here.
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Some locals say that Bohinj has always been 2 days behind the rest of the world. Others say that the people of Bohinj were forgotten entirely when the world was created, and then given this precious corner of Earth as a gesture of goodwill.
Whether or not you choose to believe these stories—or the legend of Goldhorn—one truth is undeniable: Lake Bohinj is an isolated treasure that’s as peaceful as it is beautiful.
Beautifully written and photographed article!
Thank you! Beautiful corner of the world. Great to revisit through writing & photography 🙂
What a beautiful natural landscape!
It was gorgeous Roselinde! Time truly stood still here. We hope you get a chance to visit 🙂