Hiking and tourism

 

With its varied terrain, the Slovak Republic is a hiker's paradise. It is crisscrossed with valleys, basins, lowlands and hills. It is a country full of natural beauty. The biggest and best‑known mountains are Tatras ("Tatry") – a national symbol.

 

Mountains

The Tatra Mountains are divided into 'Západné' (Western), 'Vysoké' (High), 'Belianske' and 'Nízke' (Low). High Tatras 'Vysoké Tatry' mountains are situated in the northern part of Slovakia, on the border with Poland. In 1949, it was declared to be the first Slovak national park (Tatra National Park - TANAP) and in 1993 it was, together with the Polish part of the Tatras mountains, declared by the UNESCO to be the 'Biospheric reservation of the Tatras'. High Tatras, often called 'the smallest alpine mountains', include 25 peaks reaching the height of over 2,000 m. Some of the highest and most beautiful peaks in the range are 'Kriváň' (2,494 m), 'Gerlachovský štít' (2,655 m), 'Slavkovský štít' (2,452 m) and 'Lomnický štít' (2,632 m).

The Tatra National Park (TANAP) contains protected flora and fauna. The beauty of the National Park is enhanced by natural mountain lakes ('pleso') that were formed during the ice age. The largest of these is 'Veľké Hincovo pleso', while 'Štrbské pleso', 'Modré pleso', 'Zamrznuté pleso' and 'Zelené pleso' are amongst the most picturesque. Many waterfalls can also be found here, of which the most celebrated are 'Obrovský' and 'Kmeťov' waterfalls. 350 km of marked tourist paths are available for hikers. Different ski resorts with ski lifts, chair lifts, cableways and cable railway are on offer for downhill skiing. There are also several cross‑country skiing centres and official mountaineering skiing trails available.

If you are more interested in shorter strolls, we recommend you to visit the Pieniny National Park (PIENAP), situated to the east of 'Vysoké Tatry'. The most popular attraction is a fork in the River Dunajec, where rafting in 9 km long Dunajec Canyon (Dunajec gorge) from the Red Monastery to Lesnica is on offer.

Low Tatras 'Nízke Tatry' is the second highest mountain range in Slovakia and lies between the Váh and Hron valleys. The highest peaks are 'Ďumbier' (2,043 m) and 'Chopok' (2,024 m), from which there is an unmatched view of the surrounding landscape. The National park of Low Tatras has also been established there (NAPANT).

 

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Other natural attractions are:

  • Slovak Paradise "Slovenský raj"- national park situated in the eastern part of Slovakia,

  • "Slovenský kras" – the largest karst region in Central Europe,

  • "Malá" and "Veľká Fatra" – mountains,

  • "Súľovské skaly" – rocky massif formed into shapes of towers, cones, needles, gates, a unique phenomenon in the territory of Western Carpathian Mountains,

  • "Muránska planina" – plateau with a unique flora and fauna, including wild horses

 

Hiking signs and mountain rescue service

In Slovakia, there are numerous hiking routes, which are easy to follow thanks to colour symbols along the way. The hiking (trekking) routes are mostly marked by 3 horizontal stripes forming a square, 2 white stripes at borders to draw attention and a coloured one (red, blue, green or yellow) in the middle to indicate the route. If necessary the striped square takes the form of a striped arrow to indicate a change in the direction of the route. The lengths of the routes are given as average hiking times or as a distance in kilometres at frequent signposts. To see the used hiking symbols, please, visit the website of the Club of Slovak Tourists (in Slovak only, section "Značenie", subsection "O značkovaní").

To find out about the current situation and seasonal closings of the hiking routes, better watch the warnings by the Mountain rescue service or www.holidayinfo.sk. A person who goes to mountains is obliged to have a special mountain insurance in order to cover costs of emergency by the mountain rescue services. Several insurance companies provide such insurance and often it is possible to get the insurance online or by phone and even 1 day prior to the hiking tour. See the list of insurance companies.

 

Castles

The country's historic and architecturally precious buildings are also great tourist attractions. The first castles were built at the territory of the Slovak Republic in the 10th century at the strategically important locations. In those times, it was necessary to protect the border areas against attacks of invaders and to prevent their entering into the country. In addition to guarding services, a system of castles was used also to guard the most important roads. A protecting system of castles in the Považie region protected crossings over the Váh River. The most extensive construction of stone castles in Slovakia started immediately after the Tartars invasion in the middle of the 13th century and lasted till the half of the 14th century. New stone forts were built in the place of original wooden castles or near them, but new castles were built as well. Most of the Slovak castles were built before the half of the 15th century. The nobility got the royal property step by step either as advance payment for a loan given to a monarch or for extraordinary and loyal services to the king. In the period of humanism and renaissance, the system of the castles gradually lost its military and strategic importance and aristocratic families started to move from castles to manor houses and to the towns. In this period, a lot of castles were demolished, burned and others fell into disrepair after inhabitants moved out. At present, many of the castles are reconstructed and are open to the public. Seewebsite of the Slovak Tourist at Board http://slovakia.travel/

 

Caves

There are many karst regions and more than 6,200 caves in Slovakia, including ten stalactite caves, two ice caves, and one aragonite cave that are open to the public (see the webpage of the Slovak Caves Administration).

In different mountain areas you can find beautiful caves:

  • in Nízke Tatry – Demänovská jaskyňa slobody, Demänovská ľadová jaskyňa, Bystrianska jaskyňa and Važecká jaskyňa;

  • in Belianske Tatry – Belianska jaskyňa;

  • in Slovenský kras – Domica, Jasovská jaskyňa and Gombasecká jaskyňa;

  • in Malé Karpaty – Driny;

  • in Slovenský raj – Dobšinská ľadová jaskyňa;

  • in Veľká Fatra – Harmanecká jaskyňa;

  • in Slovenské rudohorie – Ochtinská aragonitová jaskyňa.

     

Slovakia and UNESCO World Heritage

Places included on the UNESCO List of the World Heritage and the UNESCO List of the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity:

Cultural  Monuments

Natural Monuments

Intangible Heritage

  • Bagpipe culture – bagpipe culture consists of a wide range of expressions and knowledge associated with bagpipes and their use, including music repertoire, style and ornamentation, songs, dances, instrument‑making, folk customs and traditions and special verbal expressions
  • Fujara and its music – fujara is a musical instrument that can be found only in Slovakia. It is a wooden over‑tone fipple flute that can be up to 1,8 m long.

  • Music of Terchová – traditional musical culture in the village of Terchová in north-west Slovakia

  • Puppetry in Slovakia and Czechia - puppet theatre is not only a popular form of traditional entertainment in the Central European region but also an educational tool with messages on moral values. 

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Spas

Spa treatment has a long history thanks to the country's large number of mineral springs. Some of them are mentioned under "Walks".

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Walks

  • In Bratislava region (official website of the city of Bratislava, Bratislava Guide) you can use your free time for walks in the historical centre of the capital, its cobbled streets and squares, visit Bratislava or Devín Castle, St. Martin's Cathedral, Church of the Poor Clares, Trinitarians Church, St. Elizabeth's Church (so‑called Blue Church) or other churches, Michael's Gate or Primatial Palace, Old Town Hall, Grassalkovich Palace – the seat of the president. You can also visit surrounding towns and villages, make a trip to hills like 'Malé Karpaty', cycling expeditions along the Small Carpathian Wine Route ('Malokarpatská vínna cesta') or you can go cycling along the Morava and Danube  Rivers. Do not forget to visit thermal spas and museums in this area.

  • In Trnava region, visit the historic town of Trnava and make a trip to the hills of the 'Malé Karpaty' and the Driny cave – the only cave open to the public in the western part of the country. You can also visit nearby castles of 'Červený kameň' (Red Stone), 'Smolenice' or castle ruins of 'Dechtice'. In Trnava region, there is also a popular spa resort of Piešťany.

  • In Nitra region, in addition to Nitra's historic treasures (Nitra castle, Franciscan Church and Monastery, The Small and Grand Seminary, Romanesque Church of St. Michael Archangel in Drážovce from the 12th century), visit nearby thermal spas in Diakovce.

  • In Trenčín region, use your stay for a walk around the town (Trenčín Castle, Roman inscription from 2nd century) or a trip to such hills as the 'Biele Karpaty', as well as the 'Strážovské vrchy' and 'Považský Inovec'. If you like spa resorts, you should definitely pay a visit to Trenčianske Teplice. In Trenčín region, near the town of Prievdza, lies an enchanting neogothic castle of Bojnice.

  • In Banská Bystrica region, you can enjoy the town's beauty (town castle complex, Square of the Slovak National Uprising, Monument of the Slovak National Uprising), trips to hills and such ranges as 'Starohorské vrchy', the Low Tatras ('Nízke Tatry') and 'Veľká Fatra' or 'Kremnické vrchy'. Do not miss the historical mining towns of Banská Štiavnica and Kremnica. Near Banská Štiavnica there is also an Antol Castle – mansion house in Svätý Anton.

  • In Zvolen area, you can admire a stunning landscape of hills like 'Kremnické vrchy', 'Štiavnické vrchy' and 'Vtáčnik'. The spa resorts of Kováčová and Sliač offer relaxation after a long hike. Visit also Zvolen Castle and Castle Pustý hrad directly in Zvolen that belongs to the largest ones in Central Europe.

  • In Žilina region, you can seize the day by walking in the town (long pedestrian zone, Square of Virgin Mary, church of St. Stephen in Rudiny from 13th century, Budatin Castle), visiting small villages, or hike in the hills as 'Malá Fatra', 'Súľovské vrchy'" or relax in the spa resort of Rajecké Teplice.

  • In Ružomberok area, there are beautiful villages near Ružomberok offering hikes up the hills and the 'Veľká Fatra', Low Tatras ('Nízke Tatry') and 'Chočské vrchy' ranges. The mineral springs of Kúpele Lúčky and Korytnica provide refreshment to everyone; an open thermal pool in Bešeňová offers a possibility of year‑round swimming.

  • In Prešov region, you can walk in the town (Uniate Bishop's Palace, Uniate Cathedral Temple of St. John the Baptist, Klobusiczky Palace, Church of St. Nicholas), visit nearby villages or towns or take a trip to the areas of Sigord, Haniska and Cemjata, as well as to the hills ('Slanské vrchy') or relax at the Domaša reservoir. Be sure not to overlook Dubník with its opal mines – a real European rarity. The town of Levoča is famous for its gothic art (wooden altars and statues) by the workshop of Master Pavol, the sculptor.

  • In Košice region, visit the Košice town (St. Elizabeth's Cathedral, St. Michael's Chapel, Saint Urban's Tower), the second largest town in Slovakia. The village of Herľany offers a unique cold geyser and mineral springs to relax by. Excursions to the surrounding countryside are not complete without seeing the Zemplínska šírava region, while wine lovers should certainly pay a visit to the wine cellars of the Tokay region, such as those in Malá Tŕňa or Veľká Trňa.