The ethereal beauty of the Vintgar Gorge in Slovenia’s Triglav National Park, in the village of Podhom, can only truly be experienced in person. A pretty 1600m wooden walkway clings to the towering cliff faces of the Hom and Boršt hills, alongside the swirling Radovna River that carves its way through them. Five bridges criss-cross the water, pools and rapids before visitors reach the exit gate and the staggeringly beautiful Šum Falls just beyond it.
First discovered in 1891 by two men, the mayor of nearby Gorje and a professional cartographer, the gorge was initially impassable. But as tourist development took off around nearby Lake Bled, bridges and galleries were added to the gorge, which then opened to the public in 1893. Towards the end of the gorge walk, you’ll also see the 30m high stone railway bridge added in 1905 as part of the the Bohinj Line.
On Flash Pack’s Adriatic Adventure: Slovenia & Croatia, you can enjoy its wonder on a private day trip from Ljubljana. After a hearty breakfast, you’ll board a private minibus and head an hour north into Slovenia’s beautiful countryside. You’ll take in the drama of the gorge before visiting the fairytale Lake Bled, with its cliff-top castle and turreted island chapel.
Here is everything you need to know about visiting the Vintgar Gorge, from the best time to visit to what to look out for.
Explore the stunning natural landscapes
Formed by the energetic flow of the Radovna River as it cut through the hills of beech forested Hom and Borst, the gorge is a towering limestone canyon of pools, waterfalls, flora and fauna. From the sounds of the cascading water flowing over rocks to the chirps of nature in the trees, the natural beauty of Vintgar Gorge far surpasses expectation.
Meandering the 1600 metre narrow wooden walkway, you’ll witness the colour of the pools change from a tantalizing turquoise to a shimmering emerald green. At points the river flow is rapid, while at others it’s beautifully calm and still. Depending on the time of day, the sun bursts and refracts through the spruce trees and shield ferns and you’ll hear the likes of wrens, chaffinches and white-throated dippers in the trees. There’s also a host of wildflowers, from peach-leafed bellflower to yellow foxglove.
Walk along the gorge's wooden walkways
Built to enable visitors to properly experience every aspect of the gorge’s natural beauty, the man-made walkways and bridges weave along the rock formations, blending seamlessly into the surroundings. Criss-crossing the river at staggered points, you’ll also glimpse pools and waterfalls from above, as well as having an opportunity to see the local wildlife in situ.
Time your visit for early morning or late afternoon and you’ll be able to take in the peacefulness of the gorge away from other visitors, too. While the one-way walk can be done in 30 minutes, linger for longer, stopping to take photos and properly take in each and every viewpoint.
Flashpacker, Emma Riley, from London says, “The Vintgar Gorge was one of my highlights from the Slovenia and Croatia trip. It was a nice easy walk. We kept stopping to admire every waterfall and the view around each corner.”
Be mesmerized by the cascading waterfalls
As the boardwalk hugs to the side of the gorge and zigzags over the river, you’ll pass gushing waterfalls, pools and rapids flowing over moss-covered rocks. Each waterfall is different in stature, with some offering just a gentle lip over which the water falls, while others provide more height and theatre.
Flashpacker, Sara F, traveled with a friend she met on Flash Pack’s Turkey adventure. She says, “I was obsessed with Vintgar Gorge. It was an opportunity to reconnect with the beauty of nature. I stood in awe at every corner seeing the magic around it.”
At points along the river, the boardwalk becomes a pathway, meaning you walk just metres from the river’s edge. At the end of the trail, the arched railways bridge hovers over the dam that feeds into a small hydroelectric power plant beneath the imposing Šum Falls.
Visit the spectacular Šum Falls
Just outside the exit to the gorge, past the small refreshment cabin, you’ll find the majestic Šum Falls. The name translates to noisy, which is no surprise. This powerful, cascading flow is the highest river fall in Slovenia, tumbling around 13 meters into a deep pool below.
Through the gate, you can head to the viewing platform below, where you’ll be able to look skyward and witness the smoke-like gush and thunderous roar of the river as it rushes over the falls. Alternatively, visitors can climb to the wooden footbridge that straddles the waterfall for a bird’s eye view.
Discover Vintgar Gorge's historical significance
Previously inaccessible, the gorge was discovered in 1891 by the mayor of nearby Gorje, Jakob Žumer, and a photographer and cartographer, Benedikt Lergetporer, from Bled who were exploring the region. Together they brought it to prominence, and by 1893, over 500 metres of bridges and galleries, named after Žumer, had been built and opened to the public.
Towards the end of the gorge, the pretty stone arch bridge was completed in 1905 as part of the Bohinj railway, the country’s most scenic, which connects Jesenice in Slovenia with Trieste in Italy. The largest and most preserved bridge of its type in Slovenia, it stands over 100ft above the river below.
Hiking at Vintgar Gorge
The hike within the gorge is one of the most gentle and breathtaking in the area. It’s also currently still one-way, meaning you’ll need to find another route back to reach the entrance and car park. Mostly flat, with a few small inclines, it can take 30-40 minutes from start to finish, so there’s plenty of time to explore beyond it.
Flashpacker, Anna Bones, says, “The hike is manageable with some small inclines. But the views make it totally worth it. The majority of the trail is in the shade too, with a nice cooling spray every now and then from the river.”
There are two circular routes you can use to return with signposted paths. The green circular route, St Catherine, is 5.7kms and takes just under an hour and a half, including the gorge walk. At the end of the gorge, go right, following signs to the Church of St Catherine’s. You’ll walk through beautiful forest and fields, with outstanding views of the surrounding countryside. You’ll need comfortable shoes with a good grip and puff for some steps and short inclines. Bones says, “I enjoyed my first bled cake in the cafe at St Catherine’s church – a great way to reward yourself after the walk.”
The red circular route, Šum – Blejska Dobrava, is just over 4kms and takes 1 hour 15 minutes, starting at the entrance to the gorge. From the viewing platform underneath Šum waterfall, you’ll climb a car-free road 20 minutes through the forest to a car park at Blejska Dobrava. As you head up through the village, you’ll take a few turns before heading back towards the gorge entrance via a forest path that runs along the top of the gorge.
It is also possible to walk from Vintgar Gorge to Lake Bled in around an hour, but the route takes you along roads which can be busy in summer with shuttle buses ferrying tourists between the two sights. For the prettiest views, stick to the two circular paths.
The low-down on Vintgar Gorge
Now you have an idea of what to expect in terms of spectacular scenery, romantic walkways and impressive natural beauty, it’s time to answer the all important logistical questions you may have about Vintgar Gorge.
And, as Flash Pack have expertly curated a visit as part of our Adriatic Adventure: Slovenia & Croatia trip, we are well placed to answer your questions. Here’s all you need to know about visiting Vintgar Gorge, Slovenia.
Can you swim in Vintgar Gorge?
Unfortunately, as enticing as the teal waters of Vintgar Gorge look, swimming is prohibited, and for good reason. With the fast-flowing river, waterfalls, rapids and pools, not to mention the chilly temperatures, it’s too dangerous to allow visitors to enter the water. It’s also a protected site which strives to avoid damage to the sensitive ecosystems in and around the water.
It is, however, possible to swim in dedicated public areas, such at Lake Bled and Lake Bohinj nearby, although they are generally only open between June and September.
How long does it take to walk through Vintgar Gorge?
The 1.6km walk through the gorge can take anywhere between 30 minutes and one hour, depending on how many times you pause to take it all in or for photos. Tickets are limited per day so you shouldn’t encounter crowds that slow you down but, the majesty of the scenery likely will. Although the first part of the gorge walk is the most spectacular so don’t rush.
If you opt to do one of the two circular routes – St Catherine or Sum – you should leave yourself two to three hours. There are also refreshment kiosks at the entrance to the gorge and at the exit, should you want to have a breather.
Can you do Lake Bled and Vintgar Gorge in one day?
It’s more than possible to do Vintgar Gorge and Lake Bled in one day. In fact, on Flash Pack’s Adriatic Adventure: Slovenia & Croatia trip, both are covered on Day 2. You’ll walk through the mighty gorge before hopping back on the shuttle bus to the enchanting Lake Bled, with its cliff-top castle and turreted island chapel.
There’s also a hilly trail climb to the top of Mala Osojnica for unparalleled views over the lake. For the adventurous, there’s a standup paddleboarding session on the lake, followed by a refresher in one of the lakeside cafes. Come evening, it’s on to Bled’s wilder big sister, Lake Bohinj.
For those traveling solo, most day trips will include the shuttle between both, but always check before booking.
How deep is Vintgar Gorge?
From top to bottom, Vintgar Gorge measures a lofty 800ft in depth. Situated on the eastern side of Triglav National Park, the surrounding area is flanked by the soaring mountains of the Julian Alps, which stretch from the north of Italy into Slovenia.
The gorge itself evolved when the Radovna River etched its way through the limestone peaks of the Hom and Borst hills. Carving its path, it’s cusped on either side by the towering rock faces.
What should you wear to Vintgar Gorge?
Due to the depth of the gorge, much of the route is shaded, meaning it can be cooler than the areas around it. Breathable sports clothing is recommended as you’ll be walking and hiking on your visit, so comfort is key.
A good closed pair of shoes is a given as the paths and trails can be uneven as they pass through forest. A good grip is useful as the wooden boardwalk can be subjected to water spray from the waterfalls.
Riley says, “I recommend good trainers with grip as it can be a bit slippy in places where there is more spray from the waterfalls. I would also recommend bug spray as the mosquitos seem to like the humidity.”
And, if you’re not a fan of getting wet, a waterproof coat is handy to protect from splash from the gushing falls. And, depending on what time of year you travel, the alpine weather can be unpredictable.
Can you walk behind waterfalls at Vintgar Gorge?
No, the route through the gorge passes by or over the waterfalls, but never behind. But this doesn’t mean the visit isn’t immersive. The wooden boardwalk clings to the rocks, overhanging the river for the majority of the route. And, it crosses the river at a few points, giving an excellent view of it from above.
Further down the river at the Šum waterfall, just beyond the exit of the gorge, there’s a wooden bridge that straddles the falls, offering an excellent viewpoint as the water tumbles over the edge.
How do I get to Vintgar Gorge?
It obviously depends where you are traveling from but there are numerous options of day trips from all the surrounding areas. One of the most popular starting points is the capital, Ljubljana. It’s around a 45-minute drive but there are plenty of operators who offer the trip, some also stopping at the Julian Alps, Triglav National Park, Lake Bled or Lake Bohinj.
It’s also super easy for those staying in and around Lake Bled to visit. Most of the hotels in Bled offer shuttles to and from Vintgar Gorge multiple times a day.
If you’re driving, there are various car parks in and around the gorge, all payable. The one at the entrance (P1) is the busiest and limited on spaces, so it’s worth factoring in a short walk or a park and ride from the other options nearby. You can also get the train from Bled to Podhom.
What is the best time to visit Vintgar Gorge?
Vintgar Gorge is open annually from April to November, although the exact dates vary depending on the weather, so it’s best to check the main website for details. The gorge is closed during winter as the weather conditions can make it unsafe and, if heavy snow, impassable.
Summer is by far the warmest but busiest time to visit, so if you’re traveling then, try and time your visit for first thing in the morning or later in the afternoon when the main throng has dispersed. If you’d prefer to pretty much have the gorge to yourself, early spring and late autumn are idyllic and, if lucky, the weather can still be glorious.
Flashpacker Laura from London visited the gorge late afternoon and early evening. She said “We had a great time. It wasn’t busy. The water was beautiful, a turquoise colour, with stunning waterfalls and rapids everywhere. The little wooden walkway bridges were sturdy.”
What facilities are at Vintgar Gorge?
It’s 10€ for adults to enter, and between 1€ and 3€ for children, with monies going back into the upkeep of the gorge. There are public toilets at both ends of the gorge, as well as refreshment cabins. There are also a few restaurants and inns walkable from the entrance and exits to the gorge.
Experience the unforgettable Vintgar Gorge with Flash Pack
Now you are armed with all the tips to explore and enjoy the unique Vintgar Gorge, it’s time to book your next adventure and see it for yourself.
On Flash Pack’s Adriatic Adventure: Slovenia & Croatia trip, you’ll spend three days exploring the glacial lakes, Alpine peaks, emerald rivers and cobbles of the capital in Slovenia. You’ll take a funicular up to Ljubljana’s picturesque hilltop castle, you’ll canoe along the Sava river, one of Europe’s longest. And, of course, you’ll meander the majestical walkways of the Vintgar Gorge before moving onto the fairytale shores of Lake Bled.
So, what are you waiting for…
Ready for your next adventure? Try group solo travel in Slovenia with Flash Pack, designed exclusively for people in their 30s and 40s seeking the independence of solo travel within the safety of a group.
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