Climb, hike and cycle among the rock towers, gorges and ravines of this beautiful but unknown part of Slovakia - but hurry before everyone else discovers Sulovske Skaly too.
Even for those able to differentiate their Slovakias from their Slovenias, this region remains undiscovered. Lower in altitude than the better-known Tatras to the north-east, its rock towers, needles, windows and gates, separated by deep waterless gorges and ravines, form a national nature reserve, deservedly popular with Slovakian walkers and climbers. Its forested and round-topped limestone ridges are also much more typical of Slovakia’s mountains than the Tatras, but you’ll find little tourist infrastructure and few English speakers.
Low Tatras is Slovakia’s biggest national park (slov. Národný park Nízke Tatry- NAPANT) and second, after High Tatras, most visited mountain range in the country. The highest peaks are located in the western part of the massif where, on the steep slopes, flocks of timid Tatra chamois can often be spotted. The massif of Chopok (2024m) is also the largest ski resort in this part of Europe. The eastern part of the range, which stretches to the east of Certovica Pass, is much less developed and less visited section of the park. In the Chopok massif there are about 34km of piste. There are also various off-piste freeride zones and the 90 kilometre ridge of the massif is a popular ski touring destination.
www.napant.sk/en/ - Park's official website
www.jasna.sk/en/ - skiing/accommodation info
www.chatamrs.sk - Štefanikova mountain chalet
www.kamennachata.sk - Kamenna mountain hut
www.heartofeurope.co.uk/slovakia_spa.htm - a list of spas in Slovakia
slovakia.travel - national tourism portal of Slovakia
One of only three aragonite caves in the world open to the public. It is a beautiful and amazing experience to wander through this small but incredibly colourful and delicate cave. You can't help but be reminded of the crystals you could make as a child with a Christmas bought chemistry set.
Nearest main town is Roznava. There is poor public transport.
Ochtinská aragonitová jaskyňa, 049 35 Ochtiná-Rožňava, Slovakia
+421 58/488 10 51
Google map: bit.ly/vU5LW1
Poprad in N.E. Slovakia is a great winter city break.
I recommend staying at the wonderful AquaCity hotel spa resort.
You can sit outside, wallowing in the healing thermal waters and gaze at the snow-capped High Tatra mountain peaks in the distance, or move into the watery cocktail bar and try a typical - and very warming Demanovka liqueur while still wallowing in the water.
Aquacity even offers cryotherapy, a subzero healing treatment recommended for sportsmen and women, which is said to prolong life!
A fabulous little bookshop, cafe, bar, sun-trap terrace and place to check your emails for free.
A 'living room' style ambience where you can feel at home.
Lots of fair trade coffees and great beers.
Situated in a historic house. a few minutes' walk from the Presidential Palace.
Really worth checking out, for a sit down and a hot (or cool) drink, and a great selection of new and used paperbacks.
Next Apache Panenská 28
811 03 BRATISLAVA,
Mobile/cellphone: + 421 903 818169
Monday - Friday: 9:00 - 24:00
Saturday - Sunday: 10:00 - 24:00
This canoe ride is really exhilarating. A fantastic feature of Slovakia's Pieniny National Park is the 10km-long gorge. Canoes and traditional rafts (called plt') sail past narrow limestone cliffs and get up quite a speed. Rafters dressed in traditional Goral (the local mountain people) costume give talks on the surrounding sights, flora and fauna. The Polish peak of Trzy Korony (Three Crowns) looms like chunks of white Toblerone. En route there is plenty of opportunity to marvel at the local flora and fauna in spectacular, unspoilt and relatively undiscovered scenery. A gem.
Rafts and canoes usually set off from near Cerveny Klastor (Red Monastery), a fascinating museum in itself.
Check out www.rafting-pieniny.sk for more details.
Pohoda is a weird festival made up up of a mix of pro-life groups, ravers and the Slovak army who seem to help organise it. It takes place on an airstrip, half of which is still used during the festival so you get to see planes and helicopters coming a bit too close to the crowds.
In the past it has been headlined by The Streets, Fatboy Slim and The Prodigy. This year is as diverse as past ones with Traivs, Basement Jaxx, Alabamba 3, Hot 8 Brass band and Pendulum to name a few of the artists.
It's a lot cheaper than English festivals and sunshine it pretty much guaranteed. Plus they have bungee jumps, climbing walls, lots and lots of inflatable games like lifesize table football and very nice hog roast!
I went skiing in Jasna this year in March and had some of the best skiing I have ever had. I stayed with a British chalet holiday company called Ski and Snowboard Slovakia they organse everything for you and the chalet was beautiful and right on the slopes amazing!
I have wonderful memories of skiing at Jasna and the wonderful hot chocolates they made.
We stayed in a beautiful wooden spacious chalet, and we were spoilt with underfloor heating, woodburner and 38" Flat screen TV, it was 5* luxury and a great surprise! A river rushed by about 10 yards from the chalet and birds chirped in the mornings. Bliss.
We found our chalet by surfing www.slovaklodge.com
Its location is very close to the old town with a couple of cafes locally. The rooms are functional, clean with good toilet and shower. Breakfast is included and the staff are very helpful. You could get cheaper accommodation but this was good for the price and location.
The hotel arranged an airport pickup for 20 Euros direct to the door. The only problem was the proximity to a tram line - bit noisy at night.
Zamocka 13, north of and just under the castle.
Fantastic hostel with great individual rooms and apartments. We stayed in the Budapest suite, four beds, separate kitchen and own facilities.
Five minute walk to old town square and ten from river. Also a nice little bar and left luggage facilities.
Nice way how to get more information about Bratislava is to use this MP3 audio tour. It lasts about 40 minutes but covers all important points of interest including the castle, main square, Primatial Palace, Michael's Gate and others.
Bratislava Castle is a must see. Great views over Bratislava, a cool museum to have a look about in (it costs though) and, if you walk back into the city, there's some cool little bars to keep you occupied on the way down.
Warning - if you get a tram, make sure to buy a ticket. They're very, very inexpensive and you don't want to be caught without one. Two of the lads I was travelling with got stopped by plain clothes inspectors who wanted £35 from them (known as a tourist fine).
My mates kicked up a fuss until a policewoman came on, told my mates to pay up or else they'd be taken to the police station, and then left. Not very pleasant.
Also, stay away from the train station area, a very dodgy area. I've never been propositioned as many times in my life!
I picked up a great map for free in one of the tourist offices but I think you can order it from the Czech cartographer company SHOCart.
It's called 'Slovensko Kemping, Termalne Kupaliska' which means 'Camping and Thermal Pools in Slovakia'. It details every pool and campsite in the country and is very useful and inspiring for planning a trip.
Autocamping Borová Sihoť is open all the year round and it's very popular with those who want to explore the High and Low Tatra mountains or take part in white water rafting, canoeing, cycling or hiking.
The large campsite is situated amongst trees in a beautiful rural setting and facilities have been updated this year.
Outdoor fireplaces with firewood are prepared for guests to cook their own meals on - it's lovely!
You can also hire bikes and other sports equipment from the campsite.
I suggest flying to Poprad on budget SkyEurope (www.skyeurope.com) then hiring a car at Poprad-Tatry airport (www.hertz.sk) to explore this fabulous country which is unspoilt and gorgeous.
This website for the Czech company TopBicycle is useful for anyone who wants to go cycling in Slovakia. It has details of bike tours with details of sights to see en route.
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