The Vintgar Gorge
The Vintgar Gorge is among the most stunning natural attractions in the Bled area. Its ‘creator’, the Radovna river, was the star of one of the previous blog posts. Now, when the spring is finally here in full bloom, inviting us to get back outdoors, a lovely walk along the water is refreshing for the body and uplifting for the soul, especially on hot days.
The history of the gorge
© Jošt Gantar
In 1891, the photographer and cartographer Benedikt Lergetporer from Bled and Jakob Žumer, the major of Gorje at the time, were the first to enter the gorge when the Radovna’s water level was extremely low. The discovery was soon followed by the construction of 500 meters of wooden galleries and bridges and the gorge was open to the public in 1893. The most stunning and picturesque galleries in the gorge are named after Jakob Žumer. The gorge is 1,600 meters long and up to 250 meters deep. More about the gorge >
The Vintgar Gorge ranks among the most popular tourist attractions in the hinterland of Bled. Its visitation numbers are high, as can be expected for a natural asset of such outstanding importance. To tackle the rising tourist numbers, the Gorje Tourist Association and Bled Tourist Board started a tour bus route already in the pre-Covid period, and a designated parking place was been set up from where a shuttle took the visitors to the gorge.
Normally, the gorge opened to the public at Easter time but this year’s plans were thwarted by Covid-19. With the situation in Slovenia stabilizing, the gorge is now already open and eagerly awaiting domestic and foreign visitors.
© Jošt Gantar
According to an old Slovenian saying, everything is good for something. In 2020 the gorge management reacted to the restrictions that prevented visitors from meeting and bypassing each other on the narrow bridges and paths through the gorge and found a solution that is equally safe and pleasant as well as beneficial for the natural attraction. The tour of the gorge now runs in one direction, which means that all visitors enter the gorge in Podhom and exit at the Šum waterfall. Visitors can then choose one of the three return routes: over the Hom hill to the Church of St Catharine and back to the starting point; towards Bled; or via Blejska Dobrava and Strma stran back to Podhom. According to the Gorje Tourist Association, the change was well accepted by the visitors.
Gorge safety and maintenance
© Jošt Gantar
The narrow gorge is surrounded by forests, which trees also growing on the steep slopes above the gorge. Sadly, in recent years Slovenian forests have been severely affected by bark beetle infestations and this spring foresters had to cut down many infected spruce trees that were already beginning to dry. The Gorje Tourist Association admits the felling was a highly demanding and dangerous task but it had to be carried out to keep the gorge safe and secure.
Trail upkeep and grooming
© Marko Mencinger
A part of the gorge trail system is managed by the Municipality of Bled. Last winter the municipality reconstructed the trail between the Šum waterfall and the Church of St Catharine on Hom. The trail that connects the church and the waterfall is over one hundred years old and has been practically unchanged since the opening of the gorge. The trail, which runs mostly along forest roads or skid trails, has been used by local people for centuries and is equally popular with tourists. The Municipality of Bled groomed the path and carried out some maintenance and reconstruction works. At five sections, new safety fences and access barriers were put up to ensure the safety of hikers, prevent erosion, and keep the visitors on the on the trail to minimize impact on the environment.
Given that the trail runs mostly along forest roads, there is an occasional problem with drainage. To remedy the situation, the Municipality resurfaced the trail and made new wooden steps.
Local people are familiar with the trail from the Church of St Catharine to the Šum waterfall but for most visitors, hikers and tourists this is the first time in these parts. The signage that used to mark the trail is now replaced to suit Bled's uniform system of walking path signage.
Railway bridge and railway line
© Miro Zalokar
An interesting feature of the gorge is the railway bridge that rises across the Radovna river. Podhom, a small village located near the gorge entrance, got its railway station as late as 1912, mainly for economic reasons, since many Jesenice Ironworks staff came from the area of Gorje, Podhom, Zasip and part of Bled. Built in 1906, the Bohinj Line has been in operation for 115 years. The bridge rises more than 30 meters above the Radovna and has a span of over 50 meters.
Hints and tips
When planning your visit to the Vintgar Gorge, please check the opening times so you can choose the best time to visit. The pandemic has affected us all but we firmly believe that this summer will be a lot like the summers we loved and enjoyed a few years back.