Rocks, gorges, caves, waterfalls, lakes, and old castles... If this description is harmonious with your image of paradise, we have some good news. You don’t have to part with the earthly world. Paradise on earth can be found past the southern border of Poland, in the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
The Czech paradise is bigger, whereas the Slovakian one is more well-known and compact, but both are worth visiting.
Something for walkers and cyclists
"Karst Plateau, of an average height of 800-1000 MAMSL, is part of the Ore Mountains, is made of mostly Mesozoic limestones and dolomites"... Encyclopaedic descriptions of the Slovakian Paradise will bore you instead of inspire you to visit. However, its challenges and adventures eagerly await guests. With trails as gentle as mountain lambs as well as those that are more appropriate for skilled climbers. Tourists climb ladders chained to rocks, walk on footbridges and makeshift stairs located quite high above the ground or over a body of water. Even though this is a precarious journey and they can never be too careful, the spectacular views make it all worth the trek.
Visitors should spend more than one day exploring the area, which has 300 km of hiking trails and 150 km of cycling trails. However, even a few hours trip through the most interesting paths will tell you a lot about the characteristics and beauty of the whole mountainous region, which is permanently inhabited by wolves, chamois, lynx and eagles.
A monk’s paradise of seclusion
The most popular Slovakian Paradise trails lead through the Klasztorzysko, a large glade with the ruins of a former monastery. The ruins date back to the 13th century when the Carthusians settled in the glade. Far away from human settlements, monks were fulfilling their vow of silence, fasting and solitude.
After many centuries, on sunny holiday weekends, this same solitude can’t be experienced there. The monastery is filled with tourists. People stop to rest next to the ruins, admire the views of the High Tatras and plan a further journey. In the shelter on the glade, you can also get a room to stay overnight, eat and use the facilities.
A round-trip ticket moving in only one direction
The border crossing in Lysa Polana is only 60 km from Hrabusice and Podlesoka, tourist destinations where you can start trekking through the paradise. Of course, you can also make your way to: Dedinky, Spisske Tomasovce or Mlynky. All entrance charges to the forest-rock area are 2 euros for a one-day ticket for an adult. Further charges should be expected to be incurred by parking. A map with every trail’s description can prove to be a useful purchase (about 4 euros). On the most difficult and interesting trails, there is only one-way traffic. Safety issues, especially in special sections, i.e. the narrow footbridges and ladders, simply do not allow movement in both directions.
A piece of Paradise, somewhere near the depths of hell
The Slovakian Paradise paths lead underground as well. The Dobšinsko Ice Cave is a rarity that is registered on the World Heritage List. An important thing to note: you can only visit the cave from the middle of May until the end of September and tickets cost 8 euro.
At one time, concerts and skating practices were held inside the cave. Today, a group of visitors crossing a half kilometer tour can admire only a small portion of the frozen cavern. Nature and the weather worked miracles in this mysterious place. People also helped to showcase the most beautiful ice-rock forms by treading down corridors in gigantic sheaths and assembling electric lighting.
Larger means more
The Bohemian Paradise, in comparison to the Slovakian Paradise, is a behemoth at a size five times larger, coming in at a whopping 1,000+ square kilometers. Rock towns and labyrinths, castles, viewing towers, historic buildings, art galleries, museums, extinct volcanoes and caves are part of the tourist kingdom that attracts tourists.
"In few places in Europe are there such a plethora of curiosities and boundless beauty as in the Bohemian Paradise. At a glance, friendly landscapes bring to life dramatic rocky cliffs, deep shady valleys, winding streams and tranquil ponds surrounded by forests," quotes the description on the region’s official site, where you can enjoy hiking, cycling, climbing and kayaking. In the large area, guests with different tastes should find something for themselves. Buildings or natural peculiarities do not exhaust the list of attractions. Festivals, markets and history dot the region.
Heart of the UNESCO list
How to find the Bohemian Paradise? On the map, regions in the northern part of the Czech Republic are: Turnov, Semily, Nova Paka, Jicin, Sobotka, Mnichovo Hradiste, Rovensko pod Troskami and Mlada Boleslav. Each of these places offer accommodations and are good starting points for trips into the heart of the area, including the heart of paradise - an area of several dozen European geoparks, geologically significant, beautiful and historically and culturally valuable.
Selected from 22 stops
The Bohemian Paradise is so huge that it is extremely convenient to travel by car between the rocky towns, castles, caves and other places. In the summer season, you can take a ride on the historic steam train or special buses that run between 22 stops with the biggest paradise attractions. If you run out of time to stop at each one, we will recommend a few in the following.
Prachosvké skály - one of the most popular tourist attractions in all of the Czech Republic & a rocky town of sandstone, including: cracks, stone spiers and stairs, viewpoints and a small lake. The Bohemian Paradise Nature Museum neighbors the rocky area.
Castle Kost (bone) is a huge Gothic fortress preserved in perfect conditions and situated on a hill above the valleys and ponds. There are several routes to choose from, including a short one suitable for families with children. Inside you can see a hall of torture and a collection of medieval weapons.
Bozkovske Dolomite Caves - a complex of corridors and halls accidentally discovered in the 40’s by quarry workers. Thanks to this, people can admire the largest underground lake in the Czech Republic, rock formations of unusual colors and shapes, formed for thousands of years.
Paradise for the Czech korunas and paradise for the euro
Prices in the Czech Republic and Slovakia are not that far from Polish standards. Dinner in a restaurant can be 20-25 PLN (after conversion), and accommodation in a guest house can cost between 50-80 PLN. However, there are two different currencies in both paradises. The Czech Republic has retained the koruna and Slovakia has been trading in the euro for eight years. “The last few weeks have notably strengthened the Czech koruna in relation to the euro. The Czech currency, from the moment its exchange rate was released to the euro by the Czech Central Bank in early April, gained 3.1%. In turn, the Polish currency has not gained to the euro as well as the koruna in recent weeks. As a result, the zloty lost about 2.6% in relation to the Czech koruna since early April,” reports Bartosz Grejner, Cinkciarz.pl Analyst.