Exploring in and around Lake Bohinj

The glacial Lake Bohinj (Bohinjsko Jezerko) has always been a draw to us from the minute we arrived in Ljubljana. It is only a 1.5 hour drive from the capital and yet feels worlds away. I would characterize it as the most easily accessible exotic destination in Slovenia. This lake is nestled in the Julien Alps and is the largest permanent lake in Slovenia.

There are many ways to enjoy your time in Bohinj. If it is summertime, you can find a pebble beach along the shore and camp out for the day. Since the lake is surrounded by forest, you will have no trouble finding natural shade and a nice soft grassy patch to soak in the views. With a hiking trail that encircles the entire lake, you can choose whether you want a more popular beach spot or a more private secluded one for yourself. While Lake Bohinj is deep, the shores provide gradual entry for wading in the water. Be forewarned, however, this is a glacial lake, meaning it is ALWAYS COLD!!!!! No matter how hot it is outside you will blink hard, shake your head, and let out of shocking sigh when you first jump in. I promise you though, there is no feeling so fresh!

On the more populated side of the lake, by the town of Ribčev Laz you can find shops to rent stand up paddle boards (SUPs), kayaks, canoes, or enjoy a serene non-motorized pontoon boat ride around the lake. This side of the lake is also home to several cute cafés on the water where you can enjoy an ice cream or coffee, we well as several restaurants. If you are super duper adventurous you can also go paragliding over the alpine slopes surrounding Bohinj and land on the Ribčev Laz side of the lake.

If you fancy a more remote experience, you can drive another 15-20 minutes to the town of Ukanc on the opposite side of the lake which is home to only a handful of rental apartments and two small (but delicious) restaurants. There is also a nice campground if you prefer to travel by tent or camper van. While Bohinj used to feel quite remote, tourism has increased in the last few years so July and August travel will require reservations in advance. Still, you are in luck because Bohinj does not get anywhere near as touristy feeling as Bled and still has pockets that feel untouched. While the iconic images of Bohinj are usually from the Ribčev Laz side, the Ukanc side also has world class views and actually is my preferred side of the lake due to the great hiking options and lack of manmade structures…and…it is still strikingly beautiful…

Hiking Options

If you are looking to stay for a weekend and enjoy a few good hikes, I recommend the following:

  1. Vogel – Take the 5 minute cable car up 1537 m (5042 ft) to enjoy some incredible aerial views of Bohinj on your way to several great hiking options at the top. If you are traveling in the winter, Vogel is a ski resort. The cable car starting point is only a 10-minute walk from the town of Ukanc and has a dedicated parking lot if you are driving. 
  2. Hike around Bohinj – There is a great and mostly flat path around the entire lake. It takes about 3 hours to hike completely around the lake, or if you prefer, you can hike only half of the lake from Ukanc to Ribčev Laz and take a pontoon boat back to where you started…of course after enjoying a little coffee break by the lake.              
  3. Hike to Slap Savica – This waterfall is one of the main sources of water for Lake Bohinj and can be easily hiked to for great views of the lake and the waterfall itself. If you hike from the Ukanc side of the lake, it is about 4 km and takes about 1.5 hours to get to the waterfall. If you do not have time or energy, you can also drive to Savic Lodge and walk from there. It is only a 15-minute walk from the lodge to the waterfall.

Where you MUST eat!

If you are looking for a spectacular place to eat, I recommend a pit stop at the restaurant Pri Hrvatu in the town of Srednja Vas v Bohinj. It is about a 15-minute detour on the drive from Bled to Bohinj but well worth it. The views are SPECTACULAR, the local traditional dishes even more, it has a great staff, and even a selection of local craft beers. Just look at this view!

Where to stay

While it is only a 1.5 hour drive from Ljubljana to Bohinj, given all there is to do, even just around Bohinj, you would really do yourself a disservice if you did not stay even for just one night. The Ribčev Laz side of the lake provides more of a surrounding little town with restaurants and boat rental options while the Ukanc side of the lake feels more isolated and is a good jumping off point for more hikes. If you are not opting to go the campground route, there are several adorable alpine apartments you can rent. In this area, most property owners post on Booking and Airbnb. We ended up staying at Apartmaji Alpik. The owner has done a great job with the atmosphere and amenities and it is a great spot with good proximity to the main restaurant in town and the lake and hiking.

Kid Considerations

If you are traveling with kids, the easy hikes are doable, whether you are sporting a carriers or those little legs are working on their own. For lodging, I definitely recommend picking a spot near a restaurant and if you have to make a grocery run note that the last spot to pick up groceries is the Mercator (supermarket’s name) in Ribčev Laz. Another route to take is to stay at the Bohinj ECO hotel which includes an indoor waterpark. This hotel is not far from the Ribčev Laz side and easily accessible to all the great activities in the area.

One final thing to keep in mind as you are planning a trip to Bohinj is that the weather can be unpredictable and often includes at least a short storm at some point in the day. However, the weather just adds to the drama of the beauty. Don’t let it deter you, especially if the forecast only calls for scattered storms so pack your bathing suit, your parka, and maybe a hat in case you head up to Vogel (which can be a little colder due to the elevation), and enjoy the beauty of Bohinj!

Redentore Festival in Venice

Everyone knows the allure of Venice. The name alone invites visions of romantic alleys, arches, and waterways. If you are not contrary to crowds, there is never a bad time to visit just to people watch from Piazza San Marco, dance around the Doge’s Palace, browse basilicas, or scamper through shops.

In this post, I want to recommend a particularly magical time to spend a weekend in this waterlogged wonder. Every third weekend in July, Venetians celebrate the Festa del Redentore (Festival of the Redeemer) to give thanks for the end of the plague of 1576 which killed over 50k people. The Doge at the time (Alvise I Mocenigo), promised to build a great church if the plague ended. When the plague finally perished, the Doge commissioned the construction of Il Redentore church on Giudecca. Since its construction, every year a temporary bridge is constructed connecting the Zattere waterfront in Venice to this little island.

For over 400 years (wowza!) this festival is celebrated with a pilgrimage to the church and fireworks on the Saturday night. The entire city gets decked out, from wooden tables set out in the street to lovely ladies lounging on party boats.

We went to experience this festival last year and it was something we will never forget. By sunset on Saturday, the streets were lined with rice paper lanterns and all the waterways were filled with party boats. Every free restaurant table along the water was taken with voyeurs wishing to enjoy long fantastic meals leading up to the fireworks.

We opted to sit and enjoy the event with a leisurely meal at a choice table. It felt very much like a new years celebration. Everyone was decked out and ready to party. Boats were constantly whizzing in and out of the ports with party hoppers and when the fireworks finally began (around 11:00 pm) the city was in full swing.

I honestly have to say these were the best fireworks I have ever seen! They are launched off pontoon boats near the island of San Giorgio Maggiore, but you can literally see them from anywhere in the city. The entire skyline lights up for a good hour. I always knew the Italians had a high standard of artistic excellence but this was beyond anything I could have imagined.

Once the fireworks end, boats start zipping around, with young people heading to the island of Lido to hang out on the sand and party until dawn. The next morning definitely had a very quiet and hung over Sunday feel to it, with many finally making the pilgrimage to the Il Redentore church. To top it all off, we also saw a regatta underway!


Practical Info

Here is some helpful info for anyone interested in checking out the festival for 2017. Venice is only a 2.5 hour drive from Ljubljana, Slovenia. I recommend putting Tronchetto into your GPS, parking there, and taking the Vaporetto to wherever you plan on staying. I also recommend packing light. You will be doing a lot of walking and weaving through a lot of crowds!

Redentore Festival in Venice 2017

Saturday 15th July 2017

7.00 p.m. opening of the bridge connecting the Zattere waterfront with the island of Giudecca; presentation of the Venetian regatta boat crews.

11.30 p.m. Festa del Redentore fireworks 2017.

Sunday 17th July 2017

4.00 p.m. Regatta of the Redeemer – Giudecca canal

7.00 p.m. Votive Mass of the Redeemer Festival in Venice 2017 at the Chiesa del Redentore on the island of Giudecca

Look for hotels, restaurants, and boat owners to offer special viewing experiences of the fireworks.

Exploring Istria, Croatia

With a newborn and toddler in tow, and a four day holiday weekend ahead, we thought what better way to enjoy the lovely fresh spring greens of spring than a road trip through the Istrian peninsula which has often been called the Tuscany of Croatia.

The beauty of traveling throughout Istria is that you can enjoy both the rolling vistas full of medieval hilltop towns peppered with vineyards and the hip yet historic coastal towns, all within a 30-60 minute drive from one great destination to another. This makes for easy traveling, including the ability to decide exactly what you would like to experience on a given day without having to plan ahead. You can also just drive around until you happen upon somewhere you would like to stop and see.

Lodging Considerations

We debated what lodging would make the most sense for us and considered staying at a hotel resort which would give us ample amenities and proximity to a town of interest as well as an apartment in a town of interest which would give us proximity and space.

Ultimately, we decided that a third option made the most sense for us given our goal of seeing the region. For even less than a hotel room or apartment would have cost, we were able to rent a gorgeous and centrally located house on an agrotourism property. We got ample space (crucial for a family of four with a newborn and toddler!), the convenience and charm of delicious locally-sourced breakfasts and dinners, and a great central jumping off point to explore the region. This ended up being the perfect choice given our goals for this trip. The lower price point had nothing to do with the quality of the lodging but due to the fact that we were not staying in a tourist town. This just added to the charm!

During our four day trip, we visited the towns of Rovinj, Motovun, Bale, and Grožnjan. We even spent a day at an amusement park called Dinoland Funtana which is very close to the coastal town Poreč (stay tuned for a separately article on this town!).


Rovinj is one of Istria’s most beautiful fishing towns speckled with cobble stone streets and surrounded by 14 little islands. Originally, a Venetian/Illyrian settlement that was captured by the Romans, like most of this region, Rovinj has fallen under the rule of the Venetian empire, Austrian empire, Italy, Yugoslavia, and ultimately Croatia. Today the city is officially bilingual (Italian and Croatian) and an active fishing port. This means great restaurants and bars with Italian flare and delicious seafood and gelato.

Be sure not to miss the cathedral of Sv. Euphemia and the artists’ street of Grisia which has been described as Rovinj’s “Montmartre.”


Our next stop was the medieval hilltop town of Motovun in central Istria where you can walk the city walls and soak in the rolling vineyards.

Despite a small population of about 500 residents, Motovun is filled with charming artisan shops where you can find hand-made treasures (not cheesy imported knick knacks trying to pass as local souvenirs) and top-notch cuisine featuring fantastic views and amazing regional dishes utilizing Istria’s famous olive oils and tartufo (truffles)…and we happened to be traveling during truffle season (yum!). We even ate at a seemingly undiscovered restaurant (Mondo Tavern) tucked into the city’s stone walls that has been reviewed by the New York Times! Beware of tourist season, however, even though we were there during shoulder season, it was already starting to get overcrowded which of course takes away from the more relaxing aspects of strolling through the streets.


Bale is a tiny town that happened to be near the house we were renting. You could literally walk through it in 5 minutes. What was particularly neat about Bale was that the old stone buildings were mostly left empty and not renovated or kept up as much as other towns. As a result, you get a strong sense of walking through history, almost as if you are in a ghost town. Despite the quiet abandon you feel through the old town, there are a couple of great restaurants just outside the center.


While Motovun is more famous for its vineyard vistas, we found the views from Grožnjan even more spectacular.

This town is smaller than Motovun but larger than Bale. Every street corner feels like you are walking through a gorgeous photograph or painting of medieval buildings strewn with flower baskets and vines draping from doorways. There are a couple of nice restaurants and artisan shops. It also appears to be a pit stop for road bikers which is always fun to see. With the such gorgeous countryside, who can blame them for setting out to venture from town to town throughout the region?

(PS – This is a photograph by a local photographer during wisteria season, I can’t take credit for this one!)

Overall, Istria is incredibly beautiful and easy to explore by car, even without planning out a detailed itinerary. Be sure to take advantage of all the great wine, olive oil, and truffles to be had in the region as well as the medieval towns and crystal coastline with amazing seafood, people watching, and island hopping. We felt very fortunate to experience all of these spectacular treasures without any hassle. I have a feeling that it would have been a much different story in the thick of tourist season. It seems this region is best enjoyed before the crowds come in!

Christmas Market Magic

As the days get darker and ever more frosty, there is nothing more uplifting a city can offer than flooding its central squares with cascades of local food and craft stalls, as music wafts through the air amidst the sounds of cheerful laughter and clinking glasses of gluhwein.

Living in Ljubljana, we have been fortunate enough to be able to access several spectacular Christmas markets within no more than a few minutes’ walk to a few hours’ drive.

Ljubljana, Slovenia Christmas Market

While you may not have read much about Ljubljana’s holiday market in the latest Condé Nast, locals rightfully refer to the last month of the year as “Happy December” where cheerful lights sparkle all the way from the foothills of Ljubljana Grad (city castle) through downtown bus stops and the famous Prešeren Square.

Along the banks of the Ljubljanica river, you will find no shortage of sidewalk cafes outfitted with heat lamps, hot wine, music and charming lights ready to warm up even the coldest nights.

Finally, you will find wooden stalls set up throughout various city squares filled with local artisan crafts including honey liquors (Slovenia is famous for its honey), handmade puppets (another important Slovenian specialty), knitwear, ornaments, as well as more tourist-centric treats.

Klagenfurt, Austria Christmas Market (1 hour 15 minutes from Ljubljana)

You likely have not heard of Klagenfurt, I had not, but it turns out to be a super charming little Austrian town near the border of Slovenia. The town is graced with a gorgeous central square (Neuer Platz) which gets decked out during the holiday season with traditional Austrian food and drink stalls (think sausages, sauerkraut, heaps of hot potato mash, mulled wine, and chestnuts, mmmm), ornament and artisan vendors, pony and train rides for the kids, and live music.

When traveling from Slovenia to Austria (or vice versa), don’t forget to pick up a vignette (the equivalent of a prepaid EZ-Pass valid for a pre-determined number of days) at any local gas station on either side of the border to avoid getting hit with a hefty fine.

Zagreb, Croatia Christmas Market (1 hour 15 minutes from Ljubljana)

If I had to pick one Christmas market to meander, this would be IT. Three things I love about this market: (1) Space. This market spreads throughout the main downtown parks and squares yet is easily walkable so you never feel overwhelmed by crowds (something you do not experience at some of the most famous markets); (2) Variety. The Zagreb Christmas market includes a nice mix of activities and crafts that appeal to all ages (for example: live music and performances from international artists; games, rides, and movies for children; a plethora of hot food and wine; and the most spectacular ice skating rink you can imagine (set up in King Tomislav Square)); and

(3) Atmosphere. I am a sucker for ambiance and I have to say that the lighting at the Zagreb Christmas market is just magical. While all Christmas markets have holiday lights, there is just something extra enchanting about the bluish white icicle lights draped along the garden gazebos and wrapped around the ancient city trees. The mood is electric at night with laughter and dancing abound.

I highly recommend you seek out and experience this Christmas market if you are in the region.

Salzburg, Austria Christmas Market (3 hours from Ljubljana)

As the birthplace of Mozart and considered one of the most charming small cities in Europe, Salzburg has been a well known destination for quite some time. The city boasts one of the largest and most famous Christmas markets in Europe and as a result, there is no shortage of shopping, singing, or strolling to be had.

If you are looking for glitz and glam, this market may be for you, but I must admit that I personally found it to be a little too overrun. As we walked through the main markets, which funnel people through narrow paths, I felt like I was stuck in rush hour traffic full of aggressive drivers.

Perhaps if I had started on mulled wine early in the day I would have felt differently! That being said, there are some great aspects of the Salzburg markets. For example, you will see the characters of Christkindl (Christ-child), St. Nicolas, and Krampusses (evil spirits punishing misbehaving children) throughout the city with no shortage of acting and singing performances. Also, one of the markets has a special area dedicated to children with warm wooden huts outfitted with arts and crafts for a break from the cold. Finally, I must admit that the artisan crafts are undoubtedly among the most beautiful I saw, particularly when it comes to Christmas decor if you are looking for something special to take home with you.

Other Nearby Christmas Markets

Next year I am hoping we will have the opportunity to explore more of the surrounding Christmas markets within an easy weekend’s drive from Ljubljana including: Nuremberg, Germany; Vienna, Austria; Ferrara, Italy (we drove by this town as they were setting up their markets and it was absolutely stunning and off the beaten path); and Trieste, Italy. I will plan on posting about those markets next holiday season.

In the meantime, I hope this article helped peak your interest in considering a trip to Slovenia and the region during the holidays!

A Jaunt Through Jezersko

Located only one hour from Ljubljana (you will be hearing a lot of that from me!), Jezersko (literally meaning “Lake Region”) is a magical place filled with dozens of hiking trails, including a set which conveniently convert to cross-country ski treks in the snowy winter months.


Jezersko offers stunning vistas of majestic mountains nestled in a vast voluptuous valley. I would recommend using the restaurant Gostisce On Plansarskem Jezeru as your home base and treating yourself to a delicious traditional Slovene meal complete with the joyful clatter of locals laughing and clinking glasses either before or after venturing out on your journey.


Heading out from this restaurant, you could do an easy two-hour loop in the Ravenska Kočna Valley past the still lake of Plansarskem Jezeru, along Jezernica stream, and through cow pastures, while enjoying views of both sumptuously green mountainscapes and the stunningly stark north face of the Kamnik-Savinka Alps and their glaciers jutting out into the sky. You will also see the highest peak of Mt. Grintovec.


If you want to venture further, the clearly marked loop around the meadow lands leads to a central hub of harder hiking through forested trails and up the mountains for fantastic views. You can even hike up to the glaciers. These hikes are not for the faint of heart and require some serious physical fitness. If you want to cut straight to the serious stuff there is ample parking right at the trail heads for the harder hikes.

Aside from the spectacular beauty, one of the greatest parts about hiking in this area, in my opinion, is the fact that it does not feel touristy in the least (ironic coming from me, I know). Unlike visits to Bled or Bohinj and the surrounding areas, you do not encounter crowds or tourists. This area is filled with mostly local nature lovers out to enjoy some of Slovenia’s finest.




The Beauty of Lake Bled & Beyond

Lake Bled is probably one of the most visited destinations in Slovenia, and there is not much mystery as to why. With its pristine glacier carved lake surrounded by the Julien Alps, Lake Bled is home to a culturally rich town peppering a portion of the waterfront with charming little restaurants, a 17th century hilltop castle, and a beautiful baroque church situated on its very own island in the middle of the lake. I must say I have never seen such a picturesque lake and I had to blink twice to make sure I wasn’t looking at a painting!


This lake is only a half an hour drive from Ljubljana without traffic and we have already visited it several times. If you are looking to swim without too many bells and whistles you can just find a free spot on the shore and jump in. If you prefer a few more amenities, there are a couple of club houses where you can pay a small entrance fee and get a simple lakeside lunch or refreshments, camp out on lounge chairs or hang up your own hammock under a tree, take a dip in dedicated swimming areas surrounded by docks, go down a slide, or play in a sandbox in the shade (I didn’t see any age restrictions!).


The town of Bled also hosts great events including an annual international music and local food & crafts festival in the summer where visitors stroll along the shores waiting to see 10,000 candles that are released into the water at 10 pm followed by fireworks cascading down from the hilltop castle at 11 pm. Everyone (including little tikes…it is Europe after all!) stay up to make sure not to miss out on the action.


Don’t worry if you are not in town for this specific festival, since Bled hosts many great events throughout the year including many athletic (triathlons, etc.) and cultural events. Here is a good link to help plan a visit if you want to take advantage of the goings on.


Bled is a great destination if you are looking for cultural excitement mixed with natural beauty. You should keep in mind that it does get touristy, particularly in August. If you are looking to avoid the crowds (although Slovenia doesn’t get that crowded compared to other places I have been), you could consider visiting at a different time of year. Each season is beautiful here. Lake Bled is also a great jumping off destination to visit Triglav National Park and experience gorgeous gorges, waterfalls, camping, hiking, and other beautiful lakes in the wilderness.


Stay tuned for future articles to learn more about the region!

Welcome to Slovenia!


So in June 2016 after having obsessively watched years of House Hunters International and dreaming that the right opportunity would come along, coupled with just the right amount of personal bravery, to embolden us to leave our comfortable lives behind and take the leap across the ocean…we made good on a fantastic opportunity to move from Washington, D.C. to Ljubljana!

Having never stepped foot in Slovenia, we had a lot to learn. We got as far as we could before our trip with every book, YouTube video, and travel guide we could get our hands on. We had heard very little about Slovenia before this opportunity came about, and now that we are here we realize that we are only beginning to scratch the surface of this incredible region.

While it is only a population of 2 million people, did you know Slovenia has over 22k vineyards (have you ever had Slovenian wine…why not)? That it is surrounded on all sides by either the Alps or the Adriatic sea? That it is bordered by Italy, Croatia, Austria, and Hungary? That it is considered the greenest country in the EU (which in part means you have to separate all your trash into 5 categories, but it also means you can pretty much bike everywhere)? That most areas in Ljubljana are walking distance to a daily farmers’ market or two? That it is super kid friendly (meaning almost every restaurant has a playground and/or toys, allowing parents to indulge in more than a 20-minute family meal out)? That there is almost always a festival going on somewhere (we are told in particular not to miss carnivale in February)?

It also seems like Slovenians must have the most athletes per capita from anywhere that I have ever seen. Everywhere I look I see road bikers, mountain bikers, hikers, rock climbers, kayakers, and runners. There are outdoor gyms in every major park and there is even a SKI JUMP in the park across the street from my house!

Anyway, I could go on and on. My hope with this blog is to share this journey of discovery with you and maybe even inspire you to travel to and learn about Slovenia.

In the meantime, happy reading and…let the adventures begin!