Today I bring you another of Slovenia’s natural wonders: the Vintgar Gorge. Located just 4km from the town of Bled, it is a deservedly popular tourist destination. The dazzlingly clear turquoise waters of this natural masterpiece make Vintgar Gorge well worth the visit, if you don’t mind some easy hiking (2-3 hours in total).
Introduction to Vintgar Gorge
The 1.6km (1 mile) gorge was carved out by the Radovna river at the end of the last Ice Age. The steep walls of the gorge vary in height from 50-100m (160-330ft), making for dramatic scenery. The crystal clear waters of the gorge foam into rapids in several spots, and the gorge terminates in the Šum (‘Hissing’) Falls, which at 13m (43ft) is the highest river waterfall in Slovenia.
The bridge over the Šum falls was built in 1878, with the gorge itself being inaccessible to walkers until it was equipped with wooden walkways and bridges in what must have been a difficult and perilous feat of engineering. These access walkways were opened to the public in 1893, and the gorge has been attracting tourists ever since. (Don’t worry, the walkways are regularly renovated and reinforced, so it’s perfectly safe to visit!)
Visiting the Gorge
Information on parking, entrance fees and circular walking routes can be found at the official website of Vintgar Gorge. At present, it is not possible to take the return path through the gorge; the walk has been restricted to a one-way route in an effort to minimise the risk of spreading Covid-19.
On the walk through the gorge you will enjoy breathtaking views of the aquamarine waters, which plunge in rapids into iridescent pools which seem to invite you to jump in (I don’t think this allowed!) Notable man-made features (in addition to the walkways themselves) include the Bohinj railway bridge, which spans the gorge at a width of 53m, and the dam of the hydroelectric plant directly below.
For the return route, there are two options: the lower route via St Catherine’s Church (90m) or the high path above the gorge (45m). I took the latter route and it was a delightful contrast to the gorge walk, returning through deciduous woodlands with the occasional glimpse of the gorge down below. You can also take a taxi back, just ask in the bar at end of the route.