Vintgar Gorge: Magic at Dawn
Updated: Mar 27
Words can’t really describe Vintgar Gorge. Pictures provide a much better representation, but I’d even argue they can’t capture the magical atmosphere emanating throughout this splendid natural phenomenon. However, given my job is to write about the places I’ve been to and give you information about how to maximise your visit, this wouldn’t be much of a blog if I didn’t try!
First things first, my number one tip is to get there early. I’ve no doubt in my mind that you’ll find it thoroughly worthwhile arising in the early hours to enjoy this beautiful environment without the hordes of tourists arriving later in the day. Do it.
How to access Vintgar Gorge
Vintgar Gorge is approximately fifteen minutes drive from Lake Bled, and opens at 07:00am in the morning. A natural wonder discovered by Jakob Žumer in 1891, the gorge is approximately 1.6km long and can be navigated by a series of wooden walkways and bridges traversing through the ravine.
Parking Fee: €5.00 per car
Gorge Entrance Fee: €10.00
We parked at the large car park at the Podhom entrance which enables you to walk the entire length of the gorge, exit to view the Šum waterfall and then re-enter to make your way back through the attraction to your car. There is also a small, cosy cafe at the end of the gorge serving hot drinks and food, should you wish to refresh before walking back.
Although we travelled by car, I've done some research and it is also possible to reach Vintgar Gorge via shuttle bus. This is a direct link from the main bus station in Bled, departing every hour from 09:45am. According to the company who run this service, Mamut Slovenija, visitors get two hours to explore before the return journey where you can be dropped off at either the bus station or Bled Castle free of charge. As mentioned, we never used their services, but if you go with them, please let me know if they were good!
The gorge is open to the general public from April to November and has the following opening hours:
*Times vary slightly per month during the season. You can check the official website here.
Travel times from major locations
Lake Bled - 6km (12 minutes)
Lake Bohinj - 33km (42 minutes)
Ljubljana - 58km (45 minutes)
Kranjska Gora - 33km (35 minutes)
Bovec - 101 km (1 hour, 28 minutes)
I had done a lot of reading on Vintgar Gorge prior to the trip as I’d seen numerous articles on Pinterest highlighting it as a recommended destination. What I’d particularly taken note of was that it can get very busy during the summer months, especially later on in the day. With this in mind, we opted for an early start, departing from Kranjska Gora and arriving in Podhom for 07:15am, shortly after opening.
Being the early hours, it was a much cooler climate in comparison to what we’d previously experienced during the week but still comfortable enough to wear just a light fleece and shorts. Our tour had already seen us visit Triglav National Park, so there'd been no shortage of natural beauty on display as we hiked the steep slopes of Mount Prestreljenik and other trails within the Slovenian alps. Even that could not prepare me for the phenomenal Vintgar Gorge. After paying the parking attendant and making our way through the entrance barriers, I was immediately captivated by the flow of the Radovna river and the swirling mists lingering above its surface. Amidst the emerald waters transforming into white rapids as they plunged through channels of rock, a wonderful canvas of colour lined the cliffs with the various green and brown hues of beech forest. Wooden bridges criss-crossed the rushing river linking the boardwalks built into the canyon walls.
The early start had definitely paid off; aside from the odd couple we encountered along the walk, the entire route was relatively clear enabling us to take our time to not only capture some amazing photo’s, but enjoy the beauty of this environment in relative peace and quiet. There’s something infinitely wonderful about returning to nature, and with the only sound being the steady rush of water and birdsong, it felt good to be up and out early. The dawn mist added an extra dimension to the trail, providing an air of mystique about the gorge as we made our way along the boardwalks.
As if there were not enough opportunities to take photos throughout the walk, the latter stages offer a wonderful chance to capture a plunging waterfall below the stone arch Bohinj Railway bridge. It is a beautiful piece of man-made engineering that is still operational today. The hike comes to its conclusion when the trail reaches Slovenia’s highest river waterfall - Slap Šum.
The brilliant thing for me is that you can then re-live the magic of the gorge in it's entirety as you make your way back along the trail to the car park, unveiling different angles of the river that you wouldn't have seen walking down. Even by 08:30am, there was a noticeable increase in the amount of people making their way downriver along the boardwalk, so I can only imagine how busy it gets later in the day. Further justification for getting there early doors if you can!
In a week full of mesmerising sights climbing mountains, rafting down rivers and exploring lakes, it'd be easy to dismiss this as just another hiking trail. I'd genuinely say it isn't. Maybe it was the time of morning that we went. Maybe it was because it was quiet and peaceful, without many people around. Or maybe it was because it was like no place I've ever been before. One thing I do know, is that I was captivated. If Vintgar is enchanted, then I was certainly under its spell.
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