The Slow Traveler’s Guide to Hiking Vintgar Gorge, Slovenia
Slovenia has some of the world’s most scenic natural beauty, and Vintgar Gorge, Slovenia is without a doubt one of the most gorge-ous spots of all! But all that Instagrammable beauty comes at a price and it can be frustrating to compete for a glimpse let alone some decent photographs of the real star of the show — Mother Nature herself — without jostling and bumping into hordes of tourists along the narrow paths and walkways.
It’s understandable why Slovenia has landed on so many travelers’ European Bucket List these days. We visited the country for the first time last year and spent several weeks exploring from south to north. It’s a very small country after all — only 2 million people call it home, and a quarter of them live in the capital of Ljubljana.
In the south, we went glamping in Bela Krajina, the lush area that borders Croatia, and then took a train to the capital of Ljubljana before heading north to hike the upland pastures of Velika Planina and the crystal turquoise lakes around Lake Bohinj and Lake Bled. Hiking there is so much fun that we got caught up in the scenery and never quite made it to Vintgar Gorge, choosing instead to explore in the other direction toward Lake Bohinj.
So this year, we were excited to visit Vintgar Gorge, and we weren’t disappointed. If you’re heading to Slovenia and Triglav National Park, here’s how to slow travel Vintgar Gorge like a pro, experience the magic of this place, and enjoy the solitude as nature intended.
About Vintgar Gorge, Slovenia
Vintgar Gorge is located in the eastern part of Triglav National Park, an area in northwest Slovenia nearly 350 square miles wide. The gorge is just a few kilometers from scenic Lake Bled, and hiking Vintgar Gorge is one of the most popular Lake Bled activities. Tourists come here to hike, swim, paddle to the tiny island church in the middle of the lake, and swoon over the sublime Creme Cake, a delicious Slovenian food and scrumptious dessert that Bled is famous for. Over millions of years, the crystal clear waters of the Radovna River carved out the deep Vintgar Gorge, also known as Soteska Vintgar or the Radovna River Gorge.
There’s a sturdy wooden walkway originally built in 1893 (and updated many times since) which runs all the way through the gorge, crisscrossing from one side to the other. The walkway is suspended just meters above the icy cold river affording you a fabulous view as you walk along, and occasionally gives way to trails made from stone and cement. The river meanders through the gorge narrowing and widening here and there forming rapids, small waterfalls, and tranquil pools so tempting you want to dive right in. But sadly — and understandably — there’s no swimming allowed in the gorge, which can get pretty deep — 250 meters at its deepest.
There are so many photo ops and scenic views around every corner of the hike. As you near the end of the trail, you’ll see a single-arch bridge made from stone which dams the river. Constructed in 1906, the bridge was part of the Bohinj Railway. Eventually after 1.6 kilometers, the gorge culminates at the 16-meter high Šum Waterfall, the highest fluvial waterfall in Slovenia, where there’s a small hydroelectric power plant nearby.
Getting to the Šum Waterfall, however, isn’t quite as easy to navigate. You can see it from above, or you can slog the final steps and narrow trail down to the base of the waterfall. There’s also a small cafe and restrooms at the end so you can have a seat, get something to eat or drink, or buy some wooden souvenirs!
Getting to Vintgar Gorge
It’s just 4 kilometers from Lake Bled to Vintgar Gorge so getting there is very easy.
Walk from Lake Bled: If you’re visiting Lake Bled and don’t mind the workout you could actually walk to Vintgar Gorge. If you’re there during the busy summer months, you may even get there before someone who chooses to drive!
Take a Shuttle: For a fee, the Mamut shuttle goes to Vintgar Gorge from the main bus station in Bled for around €10.
Drive: Driving to Vintgar Gorge is easy — the main road from the A2 highway leads you directly to the entrance of the Gorge if you just follow the signs. I know it sounds vague, and like you might get lost with directions like these, but this is Slovenia. The Gorge is still relatively rural. If you’re driving from Ljubljana, you’ll drive into Lake Bled, then either walk, drive, or take the shuttle from there.
Lubljana to Lake Bled Bus: Another option on getting here is to take the bus from the bus station in Ljubljana to Lake Bled. The trip takes under an hour. Then you have to walk, or take the shuttle from Lake Bled to Vintgar Gorge.
How to Visit Vintgar Gorge Without the Crowds
Did we mention Vintgar Gorge can get crowded? After the civil unrest in the former Yugoslavia and the region’s break up into the smaller countries of Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia in the 1990s, this Balkan region has blossomed into one of the most touristed destinations in the world. Slovenia works hard at being a green destination and they’re succeeding. Today it’s a hiker’s and nature lover’s paradise. And like all places that are truly stunning, this level of popularity comes at a price. Some areas of the country have become so popular so quickly that they can be downright frustrating to visit.
This year, on our road trip from southern Austria to Italy, we decided to detour and spend a few days exploring Vintgar Gorge and Triglav National Park. But like our visit to Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia last year, we knew that Vintgar Gorge was also one of those places that gets a ton of tourists (it’s the second most popular tourist attraction in Bled), so we were hoping to get an early start from Austria and make it to the Gorge by 9am. When that didn’t happen and we found ourselves still having lunch with friends in South Styria at noon, we almost bagged visiting Vintgar Gorge altogether. There was no way I was going to go through the same unpleasant experience we had at Plitvice last year where we literally almost got knocked into the lake by an aggressive tour group trying to follow their leader with the flag! We were beyond aggravated.
So the last thing we wanted was to experience Vintgar Gorge the same way. I mean, just take a look at those narrow walkways! We knew that a good way to avoid the crowds was to visit early in the morning, but there was no way we were going to make it.
Our solution? We decided to take our time and enjoy the scenic drive from south Styria to Slovenia, and arrive at Vintgar Gorge late in the day — very late in the day. We didn’t arrive until 5:00pm, figuring we’d have a good two hours to explore before the park closed.
But we were wrong.
Vintgar Gorge closed at 9:00pm — SCORE — we’d be alone in the Gorge for 4 hours!
If you’re planning on hiking Vintgar Gorge, do yourself a big favor. Enjoy the day in Triglav National Park, hiking Lake Bled, Lake Bohinj, or even the South Styrian Wine Road in Austria for the day — all of these are perfect day trips from Ljubljana yet close enough to Vintgar Gorge that you can make this the last stop of your day. Depending on the month you visit, the afternoon light filters through the gorge and rewards you with a stunning — almost dreamy — atmosphere that can only be described as magical. So much so, that several famous movies have even been filmed here — parts of The Chronicles of Narnia and Star Wars were filmed in Triglav National Park and the Soca Valley. We virtually had the entire place to ourselves except for 5 or 6 other hikers. It was the perfect time of day to visit, and for once we were glad to be running late.
What to Know Before You Visit Vintgar Gorge
Vintgar Gorge Opening Times
Vintgar Gorge is open from April through November.
Hours of Operation: April, May 8:00am-6:00pm. June 7:00am-7:00pm. July, August 7:00am-8:00pm. September 8:00am-6:00pm. October, November 9:00am-4:00pm.
Confused? So were we. We’re not sure what’s behind so many different closing times throughout the season. We were there in late August and were told the Park was open until 9:00pm, though their website says it’s only open til 8:00pm in August. Go figure! But don’t stress about it. If you’re late getting out of the Gorge or parking lot, there is no gate that will keep you locked in. The ticket office will just be closed and the parking lot unmanned.
Vintgar Gorge Price of Admission
How Much is Parking at Vintgar Gorge? 5 Euros for car, 10 Euros for Campers.
How much are tickets to Vintgar Gorge? Adults: 10 Euros per person, Kids 15 and under: 3 Euros. 6 and under: 1 Euro
When to Go to Vintgar Gorge
Since Vintgar Gorge is CLOSED during the off-season, plan your visit around the shoulder season (April/May and October/November) if possible.
Early in the morning or very late in the day (even better)! At 5:00pm there were only 8 cars in the entire parking lot when we arrived. We parked, packed light with camera gear and a few bottles of water in our backpacks. There was no line at the Ticket Office, and we breezed right through.
Once you buy your tickets, head through the turnstile and make sure that you hang on to your ticket. You’ll need it if you leave and want to get back in.
Vintgar Gorge is a nice little hike/walk for just about anyone. The relatively level path makes it a perfect hike for families with kids. Though we saw some people wearing flip flops and even nice shoes, we wouldn’t recommend wearing these. It may be a level walk, but it’s still a hike on uneven stone walkways, timber bridges, and dirt paths. It’s definitely a great place to visit as part of your trip through Triglav National Park. If you’re thinking of visiting Slovenia, Vintgar Gorge should be high on your list!