Boating, biking and horseback riding

Slovenia’s Beautiful Lake Bohinj

That's me posing for a selfie with “Fiola” at the Mrcina horse farm in the village of Studor. Photo credit: Mark Baker
Preparing for a ride through the Bohinj valley at the Mrcina horse farm in Studor. Photo credit: Mark Baker
The view from the back dining area at Majer’ca in the nearby village of Stara Fužina. Photo credit: Mark Baker
The view from the back dining area at Majer’ca in Stara Fužina. Photo credit: Mark Baker

Lake Bohinj is sometimes referred to as Slovenia’s “other” lake in deference to better-known Lake Bled, about 30km (18 miles) to the northeast, but it doesn’t play second fiddle. The waters at Slovenia’s largest permanent lake throw off the same hypnotic, blue-green hues as at Bled and the mountain panoramas are just as breathtaking. Lake Bohinj is situated within the Triglav National Park and commercial development is restricted. In practical terms, this means Bohinj feels wilder and far less crowded.

There’s no town on the map called “Bohinj.” Instead, the lake area is spread out along a number of smaller hamlets and villages. Ribčev Laz, on the lake’s eastern shore, is home to a handful of hotels and the main tourist information center. A string of impossibly rustic, time-stood-still villages branch out to the lake’s northeast. Popular attractions include riding the Vogel cable car up to an elevation of 1535m (5,036ft) to take in the peaks and lake below or seeing the dramatic, 78m (256ft) -high Savica waterfall. Bohinj is at its best, though, when paired with more-active pursuits, like boating, biking, hiking and skiing.

A stroll through the pretty Bohinj village of Stara Fužina. Photo credit: Mark Baker
A plate of Bohinj trout as prepared by the skillful chefs at Restaurant Triglav in Stara Fužina. Photo credit: Mark Baker
A leisurely canoe ride across the center of Lake Bohinj. Photo credit: Mark Baker
I couldn't resist another horse shot. These smallish Icelandic horses are perfect for kids and unskilled riders (like me). Photo by Mark Baker.

Fun & Adventure

In addition to swimming Bohinj’s refreshing waters – which even in mid-summer rarely rise above 27°C (80°F) -- several local outfitters rent out kayaks, canoes and SUPs for a day of self-guided fun. Paddle across the lake or simply splash around the center. Recommended companies include Alpinsport and PAC Sports, both situated near Ribčev Laz. Both also offer 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.

The hills and trails of the surrounding national park are ideal for hiking and biking. The 270km (170-mile) long Juliana hiking trail passes by Lake Bohinj at Ribčev Laz and threads through the villages northeast of the lake as it circles the park along rivers and mountain passes. The trail is divided into 16 day-long hikes and affords views of the peaks from all angles. Though the trail has hilly parts, much of the terrain is flat and accessible to beginners. It’s open from March to November.

I tried (and failed) to capture all the colors here. From the brown shoreline, through the various stages of green and blue of the lake to the sky and mountains. Photo by Mark Baker.
Just a rustic barn that captures the rural flavor of the small villages that trail off to the north and east of the lake. Photo by Mark Baker.
That's me dipping the oars into the cool, clear water on hot summer day in June.

Cycling & Horseback Riding

Cycling possibilities run the gamut from family-friendly rambles along quiet, paved roads to more-demanding, higher-elevation mountain treks into the national park. For families with kids in tow, the gentle, 12km (8-mile) long “Bohinj Cycling Route” hugs the Sava Bohinjka River as it passes through the pretty villages of the Upper Bohinj Valley. Find access points in the villages of Stara Fužina, Studor and Srednja Vas.

More-experienced riders may want to try all or part of the Juliana Bike Mountain Bike Loop, which starts out in Bohinjska Bistrica before climbing the forested Pokljuka Plateau while on its way, eventually, across the 1,611m (5,285ft) Vršič Pass and into the breathtakingly beautiful Soča Valley. Hike&Bike, in Stara Fužina, offers all manner of guided and self-guided hiking and biking trips in the region, including memorable, multi-day mountain- and gravel-biking excursions. They also rent high-quality Specialized gear.

For something slightly lower-key, the family-run Mrcina Horse Farm in Studor offers guided horseback-riding tours around the lake region and surrounding hills the whole family will enjoy. The most popular ride, suitable for beginners, follows 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. Mrcina also books longer rides, including overnights, outside the busy summer season. Reserve in advance over the website.

Bohinj is a year-round resort. From December through March, the Vogel cable car ferries skiers up to around 20km (12 miles) of highly photogenic pistes in the shadow of towering Mt Triglav, Slovenia’s tallest mountain at 2,864 meters (9,396 ft). The Pokljuka Plateau, on the eastern edge of the park, is considered the country’s premier spot for cross-country skiing, sporting around 30km (19 miles) of well-groomed track. Outdoor outfitters rent gear in season.

Foods & Items to Take Home

Lake Bohinj forms its own culinary micro-region and is well known for the quality of 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”) spreadable called “Mohant” that’s ideally suited to slathering on dark bread. The Alpine Dairy Farming Museum in Stara Fužina shows off the region’s long history of cheese-making.

The Slovenian Tourist Board, through its “From Bohinj” campaign, has identified many of the region’s unique foods and handicrafts. 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 woodworking and distinctive, long-stemmed pipes. Find samples of the cheeses as well as other locally made goods at the Tourist Information Center in Ribčev Laz.

Practical information: Lake Bohinj is easily reachable from Ljubljana by bus or train. Trains stop in Bohinjska Bistrica, about 7km (4 miles) 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 either 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. 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.

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Photo of Mark Baker
About the author

Mark Baker

I’m an independent journalist, travel writer and author who’s lived in Central Europe for nearly three decades. I love the history, literature, culture and mystery of this often-overlooked corner of Europe, and I make my living writing articles and guidebooks about the region. Much of what I write eventually finds its way into commercial print or digital outlets, but a lot of it does not.

And that’s my aim with this website: to find a space for stories and experiences that fall outside the publishing mainstream.

My Book: ‘Čas Proměn’

In 2021, I published “Čas Proměn” (“Time of Changes”), my first book of historical nonfiction. The book, written in Czech, is a collection of stories about Central and Eastern Europe in the 1980s and early ‘90s, including memories of the thrilling anti-communist revolutions of 1989. The idea for the book and many of the tales I tell there were directly inspired by this blog. Czech readers, find a link to purchase the book here. I hope you enjoy.

Tales of Travel & Adventure in Central Europe
Mark Baker