Hypnotic, blue-green waters. Breathtaking mountain panoramas. A wide range of outdoor activities. Slovenia’s Lake Bohinj is the ideal summer holiday destination – wilder and more authentic than better-known Lake Bled to the northeast, but no less beautiful and far less crowded.
Several small hamlets surround the lake, which is situated within the Triglav National Park. A string of impossibly rustic, time-stood-still villages branch out to the lake’s northeast, while Ribčev Laz, on the lake’s eastern shore, is home to a handful of hotels and the main tourist information center.
For ecologically conscious travelers, Bohinj is known for sustainability. It was the first region to receive platinum status within the Green Scheme of Slovenian Tourism and its exceptionally diverse animal and plant life is protected by rigorous programs and organizations. The region also promotes green transportation methods, including free public transport with green mobility cards in the summer and winter.
Ride the Vogel cable car up to 5,036ft (1,535m) for a stunning view of the surrounding peaks and the lake below, and catch a glimpse of the dramatic, 256ft (78m)-high Savica Waterfall. But be sure to make time for some more active pursuits as well – Bohinj is at its best when you’re boating, biking, hiking and skiing. Here are some of our favorite experiences:
Watersports, hiking and more
Bohinj’s refreshing waters – which even in mid-summer rarely rise above 80°F (27°C) – are perfect for swimming, kayaking, canoeing and paddleboarding. Outfitters situated near Ribčev Laz have everything you need for a day of self-guided fun on the water, where you can glide across the lake or simply splash around the crystal-clear center.
The region also offers higher-adrenaline activities, such as whitewater rafting in the nearby Sava Bohinjka River, canyoning (a combination of rafting, jumping and swimming) in the Jerečica or Grmečica gorges, and paragliding from peaks at Vogel and near the village of Studor.
Once you’ve dried off, the trails of the surrounding national park are ideal for hiking. The 170-mile (270km) Juliana hiking trail winds alongside rivers and mountain passes, passing by Lake Bohinj at Ribčev Laz and threading through the villages to the northeast. The trail is divided into 16 day-long hikes, each of which affords views of the surrounding peaks from all angles. Much of the terrain is flat and accessible to beginners, although there are some hilly parts. It’s open from March to November.
If cycling is more your style, possibilities abound – from family-friendly rambles along quiet, paved roads to more-demanding, higher-elevation mountain passes into the national park.
For families with kids in tow, the gentle 8-mile (12km) “Bohinj Cycling Route” hugs the Sava Bohinjka River as it passes through the pretty villages of the Upper Bohinj Valley. You can access the route in the villages of Stara Fužina, Studor and Srednja Vas, and finish off by jumping into Lake Bled.
More experienced riders should try some or all of the Juliana Bike Mountain Bike Loop, which starts in Bohinjska Bistrica. You’ll climb the forested Pokljuka Plateau on your way, eventually, across the 5,285ft (1,611m) Vršič Pass and into the breathtakingly beautiful Soča Valley.
Outfitters in Stara Fužina offer guided hiking and biking trips in the region, including memorable, multi-day mountain- and gravel-biking excursions. You can also find places to rent full equipment, including GPS trackers, for self-guided road and mountain biking tours.
Saddles and slopes
For a low-key experience the whole family will enjoy, look for guided horseback-riding tours around the lake region and surrounding hills. Popular rides, suitable for beginners, follow the Juliana hiking trail out of the village into the hills of the national park before circling back to the lake.
The rides are on low-standing Icelandic horses that are so adorable the kids will want to take them home. You can also find longer rides, including overnights, outside the busier summer season.
Bohinj is a year-round destination with excellent snow sports. Taking the Vogel cable car from December through March gives access to 12 miles (20km) of highly photogenic pistes in the shadow of towering Mt Triglav, Slovenia’s tallest mountain at 9,396 ft (2,864m). The Pokljuka Plateau, on the eastern edge of the national park, is the country’s premier spot for cross-country skiing, with around 19 miles (30km) of well-groomed track. Several local outdoor outfitters rent gear in season.
Dining and shopping
Lake Bohinj forms its own culinary micro-region and is well known for the quality of its locally made sausages, buckwheat groats (a popular side dish) and especially its lake trout, which when cooked takes on a texture and pinkish color that many people confuse for salmon.
The lake also lies at the center of a vibrant cheese-making region. The area’s signature “Bohinj cheese” (Bohinjski sir), made from cow’s milk, has a medium-hard texture and nutty taste that resembles Swiss Emmentaler, though with smaller holes. Local cheesemakers also produce a range of milder soft cheeses and a musty (okay, ‘stinky’) spread called “Mohant” that’s ideal for slathering on dark bread. The Alpine Dairy Farming Museum in Stara Fužina shows off the region’s long history of cheese-making.
Be on the lookout for some of the region’s many unique foods and handicrafts, designated with the label “Bohinjsko / From Bohinj.” In addition to the fish and cheeses, authentic food items include locally made honeys, jams, dried meats, garlic and chilis. Crafted items include knitwear, woolen goods, soaps, traditional wooden artwork, and distinctive, long-stemmed pipes. Restaurants that serve From Bohinj food include Triglav Restaurant, Merjasec Alpine Hut, and Zlatovčica Restaurant. You can find samples of the cheeses as well as other locally made goods at the Tourist Information Center in Ribčev Laz.
Lake Bohinj is easily reachable from Ljubljana by bus or train. Trains stop in Bohinjska Bistrica, about 4 miles (7km) from the lake. Buses run all the way to the hamlet of Ribčev Laz, situated on the shore of the lake. The trip takes around two hours each way. Accommodation can be tight in summer, so advance booking is essential. Farm stays are available in the surrounding villages of Stara Fužina, Studor and Srednja Vas. The recently renovated Hotel Bohinj in Ribčev Laz offers luxury rooms steps away from the shore. Sunrose 7 is an adults-only Heritage hotel that prides itself on its exceptional service. The Hotel Jezero, near the bus stop in Ribčev Laz, is cheaper and boasts a pretty indoor pool. The best restaurants to sample local cuisine include Restaurant Triglav, where the cooks are masters of Bohinj trout, and nearby Majer’ca, which offers al fresco dining with stunning mountain views. Both are located in Stara Fužina.