Vintgar Gorge emerald green water

Vintgar Gorge in Slovenia: 9 Things to Know Before You Go

Last updated Jan 11, 2023 | Best Hiking Europe, Slovenia

I have never seen water that turquoise! Vintgar Gorge is the essence of pristine alpine beauty. It is located inside the Triglav National Park at the foot of the Julian Alps and is flanked by lush forests.  A wooden walkway puts you in close proximity to the crystal-clear pools and waterfalls within the gorge as it crisscrosses over the Radovna River multiple times. DO NOT MISS this attraction if you are visiting Slovenia. Yes, it can get crowded, but it is still worth visiting.  

Ready to maximize your visit? 

Here are the 9 things you need to know before you go. 

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Know Your Hiking Route

The hiking route has changed since we were there. You can NO longer walk back the way you came.

According to the official Vintgar Gorge website, you have TWO OPTIONS for picking your return route from Sum Waterfall: St. Catherine Circular Route and Blejska Dobrava Circular Route. See the maps below.

Hiking distance and time depend on which route you take:

1) St. Catherine Circular Route

  • Hiking distance: 5.7 km (3.5 miles)
  • Hiking time: 85 minutes

1) Blejska Dobrava Circular Route

  • Hiking distance: 4.3 km (2.6 miles)
  • Hiking time: 75 minutes

* Note, estimate between 2-3 hours to complete these circular routes due to crowds and photo stops.

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OPTION 1: MAP OF THE ST. CATHERINE CIRCULAR ROUTE

Detailed Map of St. Catherine Circular Route for Vintgar Gorge in Slovenia

Map of St. Catherine Circular Route

After you reach Sum waterfall, turn right. You will then walk 1.2 kilometers (0.7 miles) through a forest as you follow signs for St. Catherine’s Church.

Once at the Church, you then follow signs for “Vintgar Parking” to reach the parking lot where you started your walk at Vintgar Gorge.

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OPTION 2: MAP OF BLEJSKA DOBRAVA CIRCULAR ROUTE

A Detailed Map of Blejska Dobrava Circular Route for Vintgar Gorge in Slovenia

Map of Blejska Dobrava Circular Route

Once you reach the end of Vintgar Gorge, walk down to the scenic viewpoint at the base of the Sum Waterfall. From that viewpoint, you will walk 20 minutes on a macadam (crushed stone) road until you reach a parking lot under the cemetery in Blejska Dobrava.

Continue to walk the paved roads until you reach St. Stefan’s Church. Continue on the road up to the left. Once you reach the top of the hill, you will reach a well. Turn left at the well.

Continue past the end of the village until you reach a forest trail, which is known as Strma Stran aka “The Steep Side” because it winds you on top of the cliffs above Vintgar Gorge. This path will take you straight back to your starting point.

ALTERNATIVE OPTION TO AVOID THE RETURN TRAIL

If you want to avoid the extra walking, the tour company Mamut will drop you off at the Vintgar Gorge entrance and pick you up at St. Catherine’s Church. 20 € roundtrip, which includes the entrance ticket cost. You will still have to make the short walk from Sum Waterfall to St. Catherine’s Church though. 

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What to Expect from the Hike

After we purchased our tickets, we walked through this spiky metal gate, which marks the beginning of this nature’s masterpiece. The first part of the walk is the most DRAMATIC, so take your time to get some great photos.

Entrance to Vintgar Gorge

Entrance to Vintgar Gorge

There are multiple beautiful sections of this walk. In the beginning, we noticed quite a few small rapids and pools, where the water is white and frothy.

Vintgar Gorge pools and rapids

Some sections of Vintgar Gorge are fast-moving, forming white, frothy pools. 

In contrast to the rapids and pools, there are also sections where the water is almost completely still and changes color before your eyes depending on how the light hits the river. Sometimes it appears turquoise, and sometimes it appears to be a shimmering emerald green. You can even see little fish swimming around. Brown and rainbow trout call the Radovna River home.

Slovenia is known for using local ingredients such as trout in its cuisine. We had the opportunity to eat at the world-famous, 2 Michelin starred restaurant Hisa Franko while in Slovenia. Chef Ana Ros serves some excellent and creative dishes with locally sourced trout.

Vintgar Gorge emerald green water

Still emerald green waters of the Radovna River 

Turquoise water at Vintgar Gorge

Sometimes the water looks turquoise …

Emerald green waters at Vintgar Gorge

And sometimes it looks emerald green

As we snaked our way across Vintgar Gorge, we used a series of very sturdy wooden walkways and bridges. There were a few sections where the path becomes dirt/gravel but still incredibly easy to navigate. We saw people of all ages out on the trail. 

Walking the gravel path at Vintgar Gorge

Not all sections you walk on will have wooden walkways. Some sections are gravel/dirt.

As we came towards the end of our walk, we encountered the Vintgar dam, where the water flows to the small hydro power plant. Right above the dam is the Bohinj Railway Bridge, which was constructed in 1906. We waited around a little bit to see if I could get a photo of when the train passes by but no such luck. Beautiful nonetheless!

Bohinj Railway Bridge at Vintgar Gorge

Bohinj Railway Bridge 

Our leisurely walk ended at Sum Waterfall, which is considered to be the highest RIVER waterfall in Slovenia. It forms a deep pool below. You can see the top of it by standing at the bridge at the end of the walk.

However, if you want to view it from the base, you have to exit out of the Vintgar Gorge ticket station (keep your ticket to get back in) and hike down to a wooden platform.

At the end of the trail at Vintgar Gorge

Gorgeous view at the end of the trail at Vintgar Gorge right above Sum Waterfall 

Sum Waterfall at Vintgar Gorge

Sum Waterfall at Vintgar Gorge

I will be honest. Sum Waterfall is nothing spectacular but great if you want a little more exercise. I’m probably spoiled because after hiking to see Kozjak Waterfall in Kobarid, this waterfall paled in comparison. 

To get back to the parking lot, we returned the way we came back across the wooden walkways and bridges.

NOTE: Remember you can NO longer walk back the way you came across the wooden walkways. There are now separate entry and exit points to eliminate people having to pass each other in the narrow sections of the trail.

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6 Best Ways to Get to Vintgar Gorge from Lake Bled

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#1 CAR

This is the easiest and fastest way to get to Vintgar Gorge. We rented a car for our road trip around Slovenia. I highly recommend the local car rental company, Atet!

We stayed in Lake Bled the night before, and it only took us 10 minutes to get from our accommodation in Lake Bled to the parking lot at Vintgar Gorge. I love the freedom a car allows. Arrive and leave when you want.

Strongly consider making Lake Bled your base for a few nights. There are plenty of enjoyable activities to see and do to keep you entertained.

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#2 BIKE

If we had more time, we would have loved to rent bikes and cycle our way to the entrance. There are a few hills along the way, so some opt to rent an e-bike.

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#3 FOOT

You could technically walk there according to GoogleMaps, but it would take roughly 1 hour one-way depending on where your starting point is around Lake Bled

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#4 SHUTTLE

If you do not have a car, there is a direct shuttle you can take from Lake Bled. It is run by Mamut Slovenia, and they are located right by the bus station. The cost is 20 € roundtrip, which includes the entrance ticket cost.

If you choose the shuttle bus, the earliest time slot is at 8:45 am.

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#5 BUS

According to the official Vintgar Gorge website, there is a bus that will take you from Lake Bled to the Podhom bus station during the peak summer months for 1.3 €.  Then it’s a 25-minute walk from the Podhom bus station to the Vintgar Gorge entrance.

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#6 TRAIN

Take a 3-minute train ride from the Lake Bled railway station to the Podhom railway station. Then it’s a 15-minute walk to the Vintgar Gorge entrance. 

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Book Tickets in Advance & Get There Early!

When we went, we purchased tickets at the entrance. It appears the process has changed. They now ask you to purchase tickets ahead of time online. Tickets are limited, so purchase in advance!

In addition, you have to pick a date and time slot for your excursion. The options for times are every 30 minutes so 9 am, 9:30 am, 10 am, etc. They are limiting the number of visitors that are allowed at Vintgar Gorge at any one time, which is probably for the better! Big crowds can really detract from your experience.

Hopefully, these changes will make future experiences more enjoyable.

Also, arrive early to get good parking! We arrived 1 hour past the opening time and had no problem. By the time we left 1.5 hours later, the parking lot had really filled up.

The cost is 5 € per car or 10 € for a camper/van.

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It's Not Open Year-Round

It is important to know Vintgar Gorge is not always open. If your heart is set on visiting the gorge, do not come in the winter. It is closed from December-March. It usually opens at the end of April until early November. Always check the official Vintgar Gorge website to confirm the gorge is open to tourists.

April – June: 8 am – 6 pm

July – August: 7 am – 7 pm

September: 8 am – 6 pm

October – November: 9 am – 4 pm

We went in May. The weather was just slightly cool, so we wore a light jacket. Great walking/hiking weather!

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Best Time to Visit Vintgar Gorge

Vintgar Gorge wooden walkways

Vintgar Gorge wooden walkways with few crowds

We prefer to plan travel during the shoulder season when the weather is still pleasant and there are fewer crowds. I would try to target visiting Vintgar Gorge during April/May or September/October. If you go during the peak summer months of June, July, and August, expect to be bumping elbows with your fellow tourists.

PRO TIP: I cannot emphasize this enough. Arrive right at the opening time! Avoid the large tour buses, which usually start to arrive around 10 am. We went during the shoulder season in May and arrived around an hour after they opened, and it was already starting to get a little crowded.

If you want photos with fewer crowds, leave early and get there when they open! Alternatively, go later in the afternoon.

The Vintgar Gorge official website states the gorge is busiest between 10 am – 1 pm.

There are several blog posts on the web that share how their experience was ruined because they arrived too late in the day, and there were hoards of people. Not every tourist is mindful of your space and time. Some people have no problem stopping the flow of traffic for 10 minutes to obtain that perfect Instagram shot or bumping you with their backpack because they are completely unaware of the space around them. Ugh. Avoid it by following my advice!

Alternatively, some recommend arriving a few hours before closing time to beat the crowds. We did not come during that time, so I cannot vouch for the truth in that statement.

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What to Bring

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GOOD GRIPPY SHOES

It can be wet and slippery especially if it rains. I brought my trail runners, which worked well. I would highly discourage sandals or flip-flops.

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LIGHT JACKET/RAIN JACKET

Dress in layers. It was a little cool, so I brought my light super packable light down jacket. I did not have a rain jacket with me, but it would have been smart to bring one. There is always a chance of rain since the weather can be temperamental.

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DSLR CAMERA

We just used our iPhone for photos. However, I’m kicking myself for not bringing our DSLR camera to get some cool waterfall and rapids photos. This stunning location is a photographer’s dream especially if you get there at opening time!

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GorillaPod

There is no way you are going to be able to use a standard tripod for your photos on some of the narrow pathways. One option is to use a GorillaPod instead. You can secure your DSLR camera with its wrappable legs around the railings to stabilize your equipment when you need a steady shot.

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Best Place to Stay Near Vintgar Gorge

Penzion Berc in Lake Bled Slovenia

Penzion Berc in Lake Bled, Slovenia

We stayed at the charming accommodation, Penzion Berc, which is located right off a quiet side street in the heart of Lake Bled. Located less than 15 minutes away from Vintgar Gorge, it made it very easy to get an early start before all the tour buses rolled in!

This hotel had such incredible hospitality and some of the most amazing food! Their restaurant is one of the top dining establishments in Lake Bled. They make some great traditional Slovenian dishes.

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Food Options

There is a little pizza place nearby from Vintgar Gorge that was recommended called Pizzerija Betlehem. However, we did not eat here because we wanted to get on the road as soon as possible to check out all the food vendors at the Open Kitchen in Ljubljana.

It is only held on Fridays during the warmer months. We purposely structured our itinerary, so we could be there on a Friday to check out the Open Kitchen. If you are a foodie, you will love this event! Check out my article below on Ljubljana to find out more.

Open kitchen in Ljubljana in Slovenia

Open kitchen (Odpata Kuhna) in Ljubljana

Final Thoughts

When you see Vintgar Gorge for the first time, you will think they must dye the water. There’s no way that color of water exists in real life! But it does, and it’s gorgeous!

I strongly advise putting this nature’s masterpiece on your must-do list, but please get there right when it opens so all the tourists won’t interfere with your magical experience.

Beautiful Radovna River at Vintgar Gorge

Gorgeous Radovna River at Vintgar Gorge

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Questions about our time at Vintgar Gorge?

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