I think that Lake Bohinj is truly a hidden gem in the Julian Alps.
Only 26km/16 mi away from its more popular neighbour Lake Bled, Lake Bohinj sits at the base of a grand valley right next to the stunning Triglav National Park. Though it doesn’t get the same level of visitors as Bled, it easily matches its natural beauty which makes it an even better choice for a pretty holiday destination without the crowds.
I stopped by during my Slovenia/Croatia road trip in December last year and discovered that Lake Bohinj is a peaceful location to spend a winter’s day near nature. There were only a handful of other tourists exploring the town while I was there (one of the benefits I’ve found from travelling Europe at Christmas).
Tourists who visit Slovenia during the summer usually travel to Lake Bohinj to go kayaking, cycling, and swimming. The winter months offer a different kind of experience. The snow-capped mountains that surround the sparkling lake provide a magical quietness that wouldn’t be present during the busier seasons.
If you’re planning a winter trip around Slovenia, I think you’ll find Lake Bohinj to be a pleasant place to explore, and if you’re up for embracing the cold then you can still take part in some of the nature activities that draw people to the area. Here’s all the best things to do at Lake Bohinj in winter!
How to get to Lake Bohinj:
If you’ll have access to a car in Slovenia, then you can easily drive to Lake Bohinj. The trip takes only 30 minutes from Bled or just over an hour from Ljubljana, and the roads on this route are easy to navigate. Parking lots (some free, some ticketed) are commonly found around the lakefront, and we didn’t have any trouble finding available spaces.
If you won’t have a car, then there are charter buses from that drop passengers at Bohinjsko Jezero–the bus interchange located in Ribčev Laz town centre at the east end of the lake. Arriva have departures approximately every hour throughout the day that travel from Ljubljana to Lake Bohinj via Bled. Tickets cost about 8-9 EUR each way and the journey takes about 2 hours from Ljubljana.
Lake Bohinj tours:
If you’d prefer to visit Lake Bohinj on an organised tour, there are some great day trip options. A winter fairytale half day tour will take you from either Ljubljana or Bled to explore the best parts of Triglav National Park and Lake Bohinj.
Another option is to combine Bled and Bohinj on an alpine lakes day trip from Ljubljana. This will allow you to see both of the beautiful lakes as well as some of the surrounding nature areas, such as the stunning Vintgar Gorge.
Things to do at Lake Bohinj in winter:
See the Goldenhorn statue
Named Zlatorog in Slovene, this mythical mountain goat with golden horns is said to have roamed the mountains around Triglav. The local legend of Goldenhorn involves a hunter, desperately in love with a beautiful young woman, who ends up falling to his death from the mountainside while pursuing the goat, and some magic flowers which give the goat special life powers. Cool story.
The Goldenhorn statue sits on a rock beside the lake next to Ribčev Laz town, creating a great photo op with the lake and mountains behind it.
Take photos of the church
The church of St. John the Baptist sits next to the lake in Ribčev Laz. This historic building is impressively old–over 700 years! If you head down on the lake’s shore, you’ll get a nice photo op of the church with its bell tower behind a pretty stone bridge crossing the Sava Bohinjka river. It all looks gorgeous from this super scenic position.
Unfortunately we couldn’t see the inside of the church as it was closed while we visited (not entirely sure why), but apparently it has some beautiful painted frescoes from the 13th-16th centuries inside. The opening hours of the church should be 10AM-1PM Monday to Thursday and 10AM-3PM Friday to Sunday, with tickets costing 3 EUR to enter or 5 EUR if you also want to head up the bell tower.
Hike around the lake
A lakeside hiking trail leads all the way around the lake from Ribčev Laz on the east side to Ukanc on the west side. The entire loop is quite long at about 12km (7.5 mi), but its a beautiful trail, so if you’re feeling up to it this can be a great day-long activity.
Parts of this trail can be covered with snow and ice during winter, so come prepared with appropriate footwear. If there has been a recent snowfall at lake level, you may even need snowshoes.
If you just want to do a small section of the lake walk, head to the trailhead at either end. We chose to do part of the hike from Ribčev Laz and walked about 10-15 minutes along the north side trail before turning back.
Drink a Laško by the lake
Laško is a basic Slovenian beer (named after its origin town of Laško) which can be purchased all over the country. As it has the Goldenhorn as its emblem, this makes it a great option for drinking at the location of the legend’s tale in Triglav National Park.
I’d suggest heading to Restavracija Kramar–a lakeside restaurant with a balcony that gets lovely afternoon sun. The food at this place is not worth raving about, but it’s a great spot to sip on this beer while admiring the views of Lake Bohinj and the Alps.
Visit the Monument to Four Brave Men
The Monument to Four Brave Men commemorates the first explorers to climb to the top of Mount Triglav in 1778. If you look closely at the monument you’ll discover that one of the men is pointing directly at the Triglav summit.
Beside the monument is the Bohinj hedge sign, which is delicately carved out of leafy bushes. This place makes a fun photo stop!
Take the cable car up to Vogel
Mount Vogel sits on the southern side of Lake Bohinj. From Ukanc, you can hop on a cable car which takes visitors 1000 metres up the mountainside to the ski resort at the top. Even if you’re not into winter sports, it’s worth heading up there just for the views–you’ll be rewarded with a fabulous vista over the lake and the Julian Alps.
I went up to Vogel as part of my ski trip from Bled, and even though there was only a small amount of ski terrain open due to low snowfalls, I still enjoyed the lovely scenery at the top. The ski resort has a ski rental shop to hire gear, or if you’re just heading up for the views you can stop in at the restaurant/bar to drink a Laško and eat some fries on the balcony.