Bled in Slovenia really is the stuff of fairy tales. Snow-capped mountains surround a miraculous, mirror-like, emerald green glacial lake. In the middle of the lake floats a small tree-covered island cradling a pretty, white church. High above, stationed on a dramatic rockface, a medieval castle presides over the whole scene.
Dreamlike in its picture-perfect appearance and inviting atmosphere, you can understand why those who live in, look after and visit Bled want to preserve its beauty.
For many years now, Bled has been at the forefront of sustainable travel and a leading example of green tourism. A proud recipient of the Gold Label of the Green Scheme of Slovenian Tourism, Bled is leading the way to the future of environmentally friendly travel, showing how tourism can benefit, rather than inconvenience, local communities and help to protect the environment, not harm it.
They think of everything here, from green transportation to zero waste initiatives. And each innovative idea has been dreamt up to keep locals wanting to stay and tourists wishing they never had to leave – all while unburdening nature and letting the natural jewels of Bled sparkle and shine. European destinations don’t get greener than this.
Where is Bled and what is it known for?
Located in the northwest of Slovenia near the border with Austria. Bled is situated at the foot of the Julian Alps and just a skim of a stone away from Ljubljana – an hour on the train, 40 minutes by car. Despite its close proximity, Bled is lightyears away from the hustle and bustle of Slovenia’s capital.
The serenity of the resort town and the unmarked, limitless beauty of the scenery make Bled a fresh breath of alpine air, of calm relaxation, of honeymooning romance, peaceful bike rides and gentle walks.
But plunge a little deeper, climb a little higher, and Bled’s attractions get a little more exhilarating, a little less breath-giving, a little more breath-taking. Ice climbing, canyoning, ziplining and a host of other thrilling adventures await those looking for a more active itinerary.
What makes Bled in Slovenia one of Europe’s greenest destinations?
Well, let’s take you through a typical holiday in Bled:
You arrive, preferably by public transport, but if not, you are encouraged to park your car at your accommodation or one of the designated parking areas. You wave goodbye to your car… and then you don’t see it again until you leave Bled.
This concept is called ‘soft mobility’ – favouring man-powered travel or public transport over cars to explore the area. All of Bled’s main attractions are within a comfortable walking or cycling (there are many places to rent regular and electric bikes in town) distance for most visitors. Those who need a little more assistance are encouraged to use public transportation during their stay.
You change into your walking boots and step outside, eager to get out into the stunning, inviting scenery that frames the lake. As you explore, you are encouraged to stick to the comfortable, convenient walking trails. This helps to preserve the soil and the abundant flora and fauna that make Bled such a special place.
Soon, you will want to take a dip in the lake. Who wouldn’t? Just look at it! Pack your bathers because you can absolutely go for a swim in Bled. But before you dive in, just make sure you are in one of the specially designated swimming areas, designed to allow visitors and locals access to the refreshing waters of the lake whilst protecting its delicate ecosystem. Find out more about swimming and bathing in Bled.
After all that splashing about, you will be in need of refreshment. Bled has plenty of water fountains and bottle refilling stations, so you don’t need to buy plastic water bottles. It’s all part of Bled’s zero waste commitment, which includes a sincere focus on recycling and an encouragement to move away from single-use plastics.
And what do the locals think of Bled’s focus on green issues and preserving its natural heritage? Well, ask one! Tourism Bled and the Bled Tourist Association have brought in the Ask Me, I’m Local project which sees members of the local community becoming tour guides for eight hours a day.
You will see participants wearing their Ask Me, I’m Local t-shirts along the lakeside promenade during the summer months. They have the inside scoop on the best places to eat and visit – and they know more about Bled’s green credentials and initiatives than anyone!
What is zero waste and why does it matter?
Bled’s commitment to zero waste is exactly as it sounds: it is about creating as little waste as possible and making sure any waste that is created either gets recycled or sorted and disposed of properly.
Waste has long been an issue of concern in travel and tourism – without the right facilities, it can spiral wildly out of control. But Bled in Slovenia is leading the way when it comes to zero waste.
The strategy here is simple but effective. And it includes everybody – locals, business owners (Bled has Slovenia’s first zero waste hotel), city officials and tourists – all coming together to halt the creation of unnecessary waste.
You are encouraged to rethink the ways in which you might produce waste. That means refusing unnecessary plastic packaging and bags in shops, reusing where you can, buying eco-conscious products and not buying more than you need. And lastly, when you can’t reuse something, make sure you sort and dispose of your waste properly.
What is there to see and do in Bled?
Take a stroll around the lake, breathing in the alpine air, admiring the calm shimmer of the water. In summer, head to one of the swimming areas for a dip; in winter, stay on dry land, taking in the snow-capped peaks of the region reflected on the surface of the lake.
Sitting pretty in the middle of the lake is Bled Island, with its charming Church of the Mother of God on the Lake. Take a traditional pletna boat out to the island, then climb the 99-step staircase to reach the church itself. Make sure you give the bell a ring – it is traditionally said to bring good luck to all who ring it.
Head up to Mala Osojnica and Ojstrica, the peaks that overlook Bled, on a hike that takes you through magical woodland and offers stunning views at the top. Or go down into the region’s many picturesque, rocky gorges – Vintgar is a particular favourite.
If you need more than a view to get your heart racing, go rafting or tubing on the Sava river or take the toboggan down from Straža hill. In winter, Bled offers a whole range of seasonal sporting activities, such as cross-country skiing, sledding and ice climbing.
However you spend your day, finish it off in one of Bled’s many traditional eateries, enjoying some local cheese and traditional Bled cream cake, washed down with a glass of Slovenian wine and – of course – a glass of fresh Bled tap water.
Find out more about Bled: the unspoilt pearl in the Slovenia Alps.
If this run-down of Bled's glorious green offerings has you hankering for more inspiration, discover more in The Rough Guide to Slovenia and check out our customisable tailor-made travel itineraries to the Slovenia.