If you've never seen pictures of Bled, Slovenia, you may as well have been living under a rock. This stunning resort town is home to the most photographed sight in the country: the glacial Lake Bled and the 11th-century Bled Castle, which sits on an island smack dab in the middle of the turquoise water. Have you ever seen anything so fairy tale-worthy in your life?
But there's a lot more to Bled than just photogenic buildings and incredible scenery. In fact, this mountain town in northwest Slovenia has long been a destination for outdoorsy types, nature lovers and spa-goers with an interest in going off the beaten path. Plan a trip to Bled and discover its huge variety of offerings, from golf, thermal springs and horse-riding to mountain treks, white water rafting and kayaking.
Bled Castle and the island it sits on are perhaps the most iconic attractions in Slovenia. The castle, built in medieval times, stands on a cliff 130m above the lake (and you'll need to climb up a steep staircase to reach it). It was once an estate called castellum Veldes, but these days it's a popular tourist attraction as well as an extremely romantic and picturesque wedding venue.
Bled Castle is actually a collection of buildings arranged around two courtyards, with a staircase connecting them. Ramparts, towers and terraces with spectacular views add to the magical charm of the fortress, and the views are truly outstanding.
The most popular way to reach the island is by traditional flat-bottom wooden boats called Pletnas, which have distinctive colourful awnings. Pletnas have been in operation since the 16th century, and the title of Pletnars - a professional Pletna rower - tends to be handed down from generation to generation.
Visiting: The castle is open from 8am to 6pm in January, February, March, November and December, and from 8am to 8pm in April, May, June, September and October. In the height of the summer (July and August) it's open from 8am to 9pm.
Bled is about 50km northwest of capital city Ljubljana (that's about 45 minutes by car), making it an easy day trip. If you're flying, Ljubljana is also the nearest airport, and you can catch a bus from there.
You can also drive in under five hours from Venice airport, Vienna or Zagreb.