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BOHINJ: A breathtaking alpine lake

The alpine valley of Bohinj is a truly idyllic landscape, steep mountains rise above quaint villages and lush pastures, and at the end of the valley, in the Triglav National Park, is the spectacular Lake Bohinj – the largest permanent lake in Slovenia.

The glacial lake’s fresh crystal clear waters are popular with swimmers in summer, whilst it’s just one of the many natural attractions to see and then there are also countless outdoor activities on offer. As well as the rich nature heritage, there are also plenty of opportunities to get in touch with local history and culture – perhaps drop by a traditional cheese maker, visit some of the museums and cute churches dotted throughout the valley, or go to a gostilna to try some local specialties.  Despite being just 30 minutes’ drive west of the tourist Mecca Bled, Bohinj feels more isolated and rural, delightfully less developed – it is quiet (nightlife is basically non-existent), restaurants and accommodation tend to be more down to earth and people here are attentive and helpful. Bohinj is a great place for a day trip from Bled and an excellent year round destination in its own right, ski at one of several resorts in the vicinity, enjoy an active holiday with the family or have a romantic getaway in this beautiful setting.

LAKE BOHINJ (BOHINJSKO JEZERO): Lake Bohinj, the jewel at the centre of this scattering of villages in eastern Gorenjska, is absolutely breathtaking. Come early in the morning out of season, just before the sun has risen over the adjacent peaks to experience its awe. Mist shrouds the banks of this still and flat alpine wonder. The pure quiet of this location really brings nature to life once more. Only birdsong emanates from the surrounding Eden, the splash of one of Bohinj’s ‘yellow-bellied’ fish, or the crash of Savica waterfall in the middle distance. Perhaps the only other detectable sound is the flap of the wings of large birds in flight over this crystal clear lake. By Bohinj you can be at one with yourself, and peace is unavoidable.

VOGEL, AMAZING VIEW POINT: The Vogel Ski Centre is one of our favourite places to hit the slopes, mainly because of the incredible panoramic views of the Julian Alps and Lake Bohinj, but you don’t need to wait for the snow to check out the views. In fact, during the warmer months the views are possibly even more spectacular, with the mountainsides painted with colourful wild flowers, and there’s also no need to worry about snowboarders cutting you off. The summit is easily reached by chairlift, and in addition to the countless opportunities for hiking and mountain biking, there’s also a restaurant serving up some excellent cuisine, all of which makes Vogel a great year round destination. Info: Ukanc 6, tel. +386 (0)4 5729 712, info@vogel.si, www.vogel.si.

SAVICA WATERFALL (SLAP SAVICA): Your time spent in Bohinj would not be complete without a day trip to one of Slovenia’s greatest waterfalls. To reach the waterfall it’s a roughly one hour walk up a thickly forested slope. The waterfall itself drops a towering 78m into a large water sink, which is located at an altitude of 500m. An inspirational sight, it has often been written about by well-known Slovenian poets and writers. A small entrance fee is required at the entrance to the site. Info: Bohinjsko jezero, tel. +386 (0)4 574 60 10, info@bohinj-info.com, www.bohinj-info.com.

POKLJUKA: Untouched, unspoiled and undiscovered: Pokljuka, the glacier formed, limestone plateau in the Julian Alps is all of these things. Being shrouded in spruce forest and sitting at 1000-1400m, it is mysterious when the weather is cloudy, but on sunny days it’s crystal clear and pristine in every way. Launched as an alpine resort destination several years ago, with a few brand new or renovated hotels opened since, Pokljuka’s main attractions are the huge cross-country skiing/running track and world cup hosting biathlon center. There are moderate difficulty hiking trails nearby, offering fantastic views, and rare alpine plant species to be found in and around the numerous bogs. Great for those wanting a peaceful and/or active mountain escape, at high altitude.

BOHINJ BY THE NUMBERS:

 Population (municipality):  5,277 / Number of villages: 24 / Size:  333.7 km2 / Municipal holiday:  26 august / Postcode:  4264 / Mayor: Franc Kramar / Known for:  Bohinj Cheese

ALPINE FLOWER FESTIVAL: The breathtaking beauty of Bohinj’s alpine scenery is well-known, with images of rocky peaks, rural farms, abundant wildlife and of course the majestic lake itself gracing the covers of various books, brochures and family photo albums. However, the region also boasts an incredible botanical richness, which has fascinated visitors long before the railway brought a spike in tourist arrivals more than a century ago. In fact, as far back as the mid-18th century foreigners were penning odes to Bohinj’s diverse floral beauty, such as the scientist, traveller and explorer Balthazar Hacquet, who was so in love with the region that he not only wrote a three-volume tome about the flora here, but also yearned to return and spend the rest of his life as a shepherd.

In celebration of Bohinj’s unique floral environment, there is a two-week long International Flower Festival at the end of May and beginning of June each year, with a veritable bouquet of events and activities taking place across the entire region, including exhibitions, guided excursions, workshops, lectures, concerts, open-air markets and much more. Info: www.bohinj.si.

CHEESE & WINE FESTIVAL: Bohinj is famed for both its cheese and the alpine cows that make it all possible, so it’s only natural that the main town of Bohinjska Bistrica would play host to an annual cheese and wine festival. Actually the latter is a bit strange, since virtually no wine is produced in the Gorenjska region, but they are an undeniably fine combination and some of Slovenia’s best wine producers are found just over the mountains to the south. The one-day event is held in Danica Hall and in addition to tasting countless varieties of local cheese and other dairy products, visitors can watch cooking demonstrations, participate in children’s workshops and enjoy a full programme of entertainment with live music, folklore performances, games and much more. Info: +386 4 574 60 10, info@bohinj-info.com, kravjibal.bohinj-info.com.

COW BALL (KRAVJI BAL): The summer season in Slovenia’s alpine region officially ends in mid-September with one of the country’s most unique, if lesser known, festivals: the annual Kravji Bal, or traditional Cow Ball. Held in Bohinj since 1954, the event celebrates the return of local shepherds and their cattle to the valley after a summer of grazing high up in the pastures of the Julian Alps. The festivities kick off on Friday evening with tours of Bohinj’s local dairies and regional museum, followed by a night of folklore performances, village skits and traditional music in the village of Stara Fužine in Triglav National Park. Of course plenty of cheese will be on hand for tasting. On Sunday the main event takes place in the village of Ukanc when the shepherds and cows make their triumphant return, much to the delight of the thousands of onlookers. The all-day party begins in the morning with folk music, brass bands, an accordion orchestra, folklore performances and all manner of other costumed revellers competing for the eyes and ears of the crowd. Info: tel. +386 (0)4 574 60 10, info@bohinj-info.com, kravjibal.bohinj-info.com.

 FROM BOHINJ

The From Bohinj (or Bohinjsko) label is a local initiative that guarantees both the geographic origin and high quality of various handicrafts, culinary and agricultural products and food and drinks at restaurants in Bohinj. Influenced by the natural alpine surroundings and developed over centuries by the inhabitants of the area, numerous traditional dishes have originated from the kitchens of local homes and restaurants, and in recent years many have many have also been modernized for more contemporary palates. Local culinary specialties from Bohinj include mohant cheese, zaseka (a pork fat spread) with sausage and žganci (a polenta-like dish) made from local corn. Among the more notable typical products from the region are smoking pipes from Gorjuše called a fajfa, hand-knitted sheep’s wool socks and wooden products inlayed with Mother of Pearl as well as other creations from local artisans. Bohinjsko labeled products can be purchased at numerous places, including the main info center in the village of Ribčev Laz, the Triglav National Park Centre in Stara Fužina, at the Ethno Gallery and at butchers and other local shops in the town of Bohinjska Bistrica, while more info can be on the official tourist office site at www.bohinj.si. www.bohinj.si.

TOURIST INFORMATION CENTRE

As well as offering helpful advice to visitors the Bohinj Tourism Information Centre in Ribčev Laz also offers a wide range of local and Slovene souvenirs and gifts – perhaps a wooden heart inlayed with Mother of Pearl or a chunk of delicious Bohinj cheese.  Info: Ribčev Laz 48, tel. +386 (0)4574 60 10, fax +386 (0)4572 33 30, info@bohinj-info.com, www.bohinj-info.com.

To discover other unique places in Slovenia, check out THE SLOVENIA BOOK – AN INSIDER’S GUIDE TO THE BEST OF SLOVENIA

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