We must have been incredibly lucky that day. Being treated to bright sun, 20 degree heat and an explosion of autumn colors in October when we visited the Vintgar Gorge in Slovenia really felt like a real lottery ticket. There were also not too many people in the park on opening day. We had expected a full parking lot and queues of cars to get to the gorge, but we were almost the first to arrive. We paid parking and admission and headed into the gorge.
Although the Radovna River slowly glided by even at the parking lot, the murmuring sound increased the closer we got to the beginning of the gorge. The sound of the rushing water bounced between the high rocks and the river quickly became wilder, more crooked and faster.
The hiking trail follows the edge of the gorge, mainly on well-maintained wooden decks with railings. There is absolutely no need for super fitness or any survival kit here, but a good pair of comfortable hiking shoes is always good to wear. Often it can be a little slippery on the planks from rain or moisture.
The hike in the gorge is 1,6 kilometers one-way, but it can easily take 1,5 hours to walk the distance there and back. We allow ourselves to stop and enjoy the views quite often, because around every corner new views await. Also, every encounter with other hikers requires you to slow down and let them pass. The wooden deck is quite narrow in places.
The further into the gorge we go, the steeper the rock walls that embrace us become. The trail winds its way from one side to the other, over bridges and under cliff overhangs. Below us flows an icy blue river. The water is so clear that we can see large trout swimming in the water below us. Splash, play and swim in the cold. The water in the river flows all the way from Slovenia's highest mountain, Triglav, so it's not only ice blue - it's also ice cold.
It was a smart move to visit Vintgar Gorge on an early morning in October. Not only because the number of visitors was completely affordable, but also because the sun is so low that it doesn't manage to get down into the gorge. It's quite dark in the gorge and all the colors come into their own. The green moss that covers almost all the rocks is light green like freshly shed birch leaves and the river shifts in dark turquoise, black and icy blue. Above us lies a blanket of fiery yellow trees.
The water levels in the gorge were far from spring's record highs, but in practice that only meant we got to see more of the gorge's beautiful bedrock. Layer upon layer upon layer, like a stack of pancakes, it struggles to resist the forces of the river. Every year the river digs down a little deeper. A slow win for the river.
Towards the end of the walk, we passed under a stone railway bridge over a hundred years old and a man-made pond. Small waterfalls had formed from the dam. Neither natural nor great, but definitely worth stopping for. Even though we knew what awaited us a few hundred meters further on.
Now the road started to get a little narrower, paved, more hilly and with a few steps. We approached the end of the gorge and one of Slovenia's highest waterfalls – Šum.
I can start by lowering your expectations. Šum Falls is no Niagara Falls. Šum is only 13 meters high, but it is a really beautiful little end to the hike. Many were content to just photograph the waterfall from the bridge that crosses the river above the waterfall and not go down to the viewpoint. They definitely missed something.
We turned back to the car. It was still completely bearable with people on the trail, but in some passages we had to stop and let people pass. The sun had by this time begun to stretch its rays over the river and the contrasts between the sharp sun and the dark gorge almost hurt the eyes a little. We had some cookies and a thermos of coffee with us, so we settle down on the path's only wooden bench and sit quietly next to each other and just enjoy. Of the coffee. Of the cake. And of the sound, the views and the silence.
It took us exactly 1,5 hours to hike the gorge back and forth to the parking lot. This was certainly not a hard hike, but Vintgar is proof that a hike doesn't have to be hard to be eye-poppingly beautiful.
How do I get to Vintgar Gorge in Slovenia?
Vintgar Gorge is located 5 kilometers north of Bled. You can walk here from Bled, but there is also a car park for those with a car.
Turisticno društvo Gorje
Map (opens in Google maps)
How much does it cost to visit Vintgar Gorge?
The parking costs 5 euros, then the entrance for an adult costs 10 euros, children between 6-15 years 3 euros and children under 6 years 1 euro. For our family, it was 18 euros. However, prices can be a little variable. The price seems to have gone up 100% in the last year.
When can I visit Vintgar Gorge?
Vintgar Gorge is only open during spring, summer and autumn (April to November). Check the dates carefully Vintgar's official website before you go here in spring or autumn. The times the gorge is open vary throughout the year, when we were here in October the hiking trail was only open between 9am and 16pm.
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