Hot air balloon view, Lake Bled

Soaring above Lake Bled

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Lake Bled is undoubtedly one of the jewels of the Slovenian landscape, in a country where natural beauty isn’t exactly in short supply. Centuries-old buildings sit clustered on the shores of a crystal clear lake, the tranquil blue waters reflecting the clouds above.

The perimeter of the lake is around 4km, an easy hour walk beside dense forest and serene pebbled beaches – unless you stop for a coffee in the cafe half way round, or stop to take a thousand photos of the church in the middle of it.  Or, say, you just generally just dawdle along enjoying the views and the sunshine, in no hurry to do much of anything.

If that was the case, it could easily take two hours to get round.

Or so I’ve heard…

Our time in Bled happened to roughly coincide with Lauren‘s birthday, however, so merely walking around the lake was never going to suffice no matter how beautiful it was.  We had to do something more.

We had to fly.

Inside the balloon

When we saw that 3glav Adventures offered hot air balloon rides over the lake and surrounding countryside, there really wasn’t much of an option.  We knew we had to do it.  The weather hadn’t been playing nicely for a couple of days, however, and our first attempt was cancelled.  The rain poured most of the following night, and as we blearily trudged down to the office at 6am we weren’t certain we’d get up in the air this time either.

Even as we waited in the dawn light, however, we could see the clouds starting to break up and blue skies peeking through.  A 4WD pulled up alongside us, a distinctively-shaped lump sitting on the trailer behind.

“Are you going ballooning today?”

Yes.  Yes we were.

Hot air balloon view

With flames roaring above our heads we lifted off, a slight creak from the basket the only indication that we had left the earth behind.  Above the tree-line we climbed, drifting out towards the castle that overlooks the lake.  And then, suddenly, all was silent.

The burners had been shut down, and the magic of hot air ballooning had replaced them.  I had heard people describe the peacefulness of a balloon flight before, but experiencing it for myself was something else.  Only the click of a camera shutter or murmured conversation disturbed the morning quiet.  Ducks quacked on the lake below.  A car engine growled in the distance.  I was transfixed.

Church in middle of Lake Bled

Cloud reflections in Lake Bled

Cloud reflections played tricks on the eyes as we crossed the lake, resembling a swirling abyss as much as anything else.  Hovering above the town our pilot allowed us to lose altitude, the changing breeze pushing us back towards the water as we steadily lost height.  He touched us down on the lake surface, his quiet confidence a sign of a man who knows his craft as we all started to wonder if our shoes were waterproof.

Hot air balloon view

Bled church and castle

Bled church

Nearing the half-way point of our 90 minute journey we lifted up again, floating over the town and into the Slovenian countryside. Roads and motorways stretched out below, the cars looking like children’s toys as we climbed high into the morning sky.  Ordered fields gave way to forests and then snow-capped mountains in the distance.  It felt like we could see to the ends of the earth, the open air making it a far more personal experience than any plane flight.  This was magic.

Lake Bled

Slovenian countryside


The rapids of a nearby river hinted at some of the other outdoor activities that make Bled famous – everything from horse trekking to rafting, kayaking to canyoning.  Adrenaline sports seemed incongruous amidst the cobbled streets of Bled town, but the rolling landscape suggested otherwise.

Finally we started to descend, aiming for a small airfield we had spotted nearby.  “Bend your knees” was the sage advice, the touch-and-go landings having been known to send more than a few people flying in the past.

Narrowly clearing the low fence beside the parking lot, we gently bounced once, twice, three times before finally coming to a halt.  With smiles and handshakes we climbed out of the basket, our balloon carried back over the fence and stowed back onto the trailer in a remarkably short time.

Amidst a few curious stares from airport staff turning up to work, the four passengers were ‘baptised’ into ballooning with sprinkles of champagne on our foreheads and rather more of it in our glasses.

It had been an amazing experience, and we couldn’t wipe the smiles off our faces for the rest of the day.  It was the first hot air balloon experience that either of us had ever had.

I have a feeling it will not be the last.

Thanks to 3glav Adventures for providing both a wonderful birthday present for Lauren and a discounted flight for both of us.  If you’re looking for any sort of outdoor activity in Bled, check out the website or pop into their store on the main road and see what takes your fancy!

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  1. Wow! Truly beautiful! I can’t believe how beautiful Slovenia is – I definitely want to go there one day. The lake is the perfect color of blue!

  2. Beautiful! And a lovely way to celebrate Lauren’s birthday!

    I’m quite jealous, I’ve been wanting to go hot-air ballooning for ages, but Gareth has a terrible fear of hights. I’m thinking if Lauren can do it, he probably can too though 😉

  3. I am glad that you enjoyed in my chichenshape country… but you havent’t see it all, just a slice of it… next time you will have to take more time. My cousin from Melbourne, also Dave, was here 3 months and I could not showen him everything. Yes, we are very small, only 2 mio souls living here, but a lot to see and discover.
    Welcome back


    1. You’re so right … MUCH more time required. We’re seriously thinking about spending 1-3 months in Slovenia next time we’re here… and there will be a next time!

  4. What a great adventure and your photos are really gorgeous!
    If you need some pointers on things to see for the next time you are in Slovenia, you can drop me a line at my blog. I am always happy to help a fellow travel blogger.

  5. Those cloud on the lake photos are just breathtaking! I’ve never seen anything like it. I think I’m too chicken to take a hot air balloon ride. I’ll just experience it vicariously through people like you 🙂