The Old Castle above Smlednik
Slovenia is packed with stunning views of churches and mountains. In fact it’s pretty famous among photographers for this, and there are many amazing viewpoints that are equally well-known. However, Slovenia also has a number of interesting castles, among them of course the most famous being the Ljubljana Castle. Many of these castles have been renovated in some way, but some are still quite old and rundown. But there is one castle in ruins that lies on the outskirts of Ljubljana called Smlednik Castle.
The Old Castle overlooking Smlednik lies just a short drive north of the capital Ljubljana. It sits on a hill above the village of Smlednik.
This Romanesque castle was built in order to protect the area against invaders. It’s one of the more classic medieval castles in Slovenia and one of the most important.
When it was first built, there was only one independent defence tower and a moat. During the Gothic period it was renovated and then again after the 1511 earthquake, when the renaissance-style living areas and defence towers were added. The castle continued to be renovated up to 1610 and is the best example of a medieval castle in Slovenia.
How to get to Smlednik Castle
You can visit Smlednik castle. It’s a nice little walk from the village below. To get to the village, head north on the motorway from Ljubljana towards Kranj and Bled. Take the motorway exit for the village of Vodice, then make a left and drive through the villages of Zapoge and Hraše, soon after you’ll arrive at Smlednik. There is parking at the pizzeria at Hotel Baron if you feel like something to eat before you go, otherwise you can park by the roadside further up.
It’s best to start the walk from the restaurant because it takes you first up through the Valburg Calvary. At the top, you then join the gravel road that leads all the way up to the castle ruins.
The hike takes about 20-30 minutes and while a little steep at times, the path is easy and it is not too strenuous.
If you prefer though, you can also drive up and park below the ruins. There is a playground for the kids, and a little cafe and snack bar next to it with a nice view too.
If the kids like climbing, there is a little roped section for them to climb up the castle hillside.
View from the castle
Head on up to the castle from the car park and you can stand right on top of the castle walls. The view from here is stunning, and better for photography as you get more clearance from the trees below.
From here you can see right across to the Kamnik Alps and the Julian Alps, and get a perfect view of Mt. Triglav, Slovenia’s highest mountain peak, when clear enough.
You can also see right across to the Ljubljana airport and the village of Hrase below, with its lovely little church sitting below the main part of the Kamnik Alps chain.
Looking to the left you can get Mt Storzic with the village of Cerklje at its foot, and then further left this stunning view across to Mt. Triglav.
Watch my photoshoot from Smlednik
In this video here you can watch as I hike up to the castle via the Valburg Calvary and then how I setup and photographed the photos above.
The second part of the video takes you through the editing process of one photo and then how and where I sell them.
Smlednik Castle from a distance
Although it is a great photography location from the castle itself. The view in the header photo was obviously taken from further away. This location lines up the castle on the hill with Mt Storzic, part of the Kamnik Alps mountain range.
The viewpoint is marked here on the map, and is located at the foot of Smarna Gora hill. From here you get a stunning panoramic view of not only this but the rest of the Kamnik Alps too.
Best time to photograph
The best time to photograph from here is close to sunset. At this time the sun will light the left side of the castle. Although I haven’t been here in the morning yet, by plotting it on TPE I could see that in the morning the sun will light the right side only.
In the afternoon the sun goes down behind some hills, so you lose light on the castle right at the point of sunset. However, the hills are not that tall so as it crests the hill the light falling on the castle is still nice and warm, and the clouds are usually starting to catch some colour.
However, even when the light is lost on the castle, you can turn to the right and photograph the rest of the Kamnik Alps as their peaks glow when the last of the ambient light hits them.
If you look to the right from this location you get a beautiful view of the main part of the Kamnik Alps, and in particular Mt. Grintovec the highest in the chain. Using a telephoto lens you can zoom right up close to this distinctive peak as it catches the soft warm light of the golden hour.
The other peaks
In the video here, I take you on a winter photoshoot from this amazing location.
Equipment used in my photoshoots
These are links to photography equipment I use and what’s in my bag and great places to buy them.
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