This is a guest post from Patricia of The Journey Journal
Slovakia is a small country hiding lots of treasures. While many travelers make a stop in Bratislava on the way to Vienna, Prague or Budapest, other parts of Slovakia generally escape attention. Most visitor’s don’t know what to expect from a country that’s officially on the maps just for 22 years. And yet, being a member of the European Union and having euro as a currency makes it much easier to explore this overlooked part of Europe. I hope that my list of the top places to visit in Slovakia will give you some serious wanderlust.
1. Tatra Mountains
The top 1 thing that I would recommend to any visitor to Slovakia is hiking in the Tatra Mountains. Tatras are the highest mountain range of the Carpathian Mountains and they form a natural border with Poland. There are hiking treks requiring different fitness levels and you can choose what fits you best. One of the most beautiful walking treks is the trail to the Green Lake (Zelené Pleso) in High Tatras. I have been there twice and I really loved it, you don’t need to be superfit and the view of the green lake and surrounding mountains is magnificent.
2. Spiš Castle
The Spiš Castle is one of many Slovak’s castles from the medieval times when northern Slovakia was a border, supposed to protect the kingdom from Turkish and other attacks. It is one of the largest castle sites in Europe and it is listed as one of the seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Slovakia. If Spiš Castle is too far off your way, visit any other of the famous castles, for example Čachtice, Bojnice, Krásna Hôrka or Strečno.
3. Caves of the Slovak Karst
There is a number of caves opened to public. They have outstanding decorations of stalagmites and stalagtites, aragonite and sinter formations, underground domes and lakes, calcite waterfalls. Most of the caves are very easily accessible and you only need warm clothes to visit. Others, like the Cave of Dead Bats offer more adventurous tours, where you are equipped with speleological clothes and mining helmets.
Vlkolínec is a small village consisting of traditional countryside log houses. The present settlement represents a remarkably intact Central European village from 19th century, although it dates back to 14th century. I have visited this architectural gem for three times and I always like to go back because of its charming atmosphere.
5. Dunajec River Rafting
Dunajec is a river that makes up 27 kilometres of border between Slovakia and Poland. It flows through the Pieniny National Park, offering fascinating views of surrounding landscapes. There are several companies that offer a unique experience – rafting on a wooden canoe called “plť” led by a Goral highlander in traditional clothes. If you are looking for a more hands-on adventure, it’s possible to rent a raft or individual canoe and raft the river yourself.
6. Banská Štiavnica and the mining region
Banská Štiavnica is the oldest mining town in Slovakia and the medieval character of the town is still visible nowadays. Banská Štiavnica as well as some nearby towns are well-known producers of gold and silver. Precious metals made the whole region rich and attracted attention of engineers and businessmen from all over the Europe. Thanks to the wealth of local nobility, the town now prides itself on a variety of Gothic, Baroque and Renaissance buildings and interesting mining-themed museums.
7. Slovak wine regions
Recently, Slovak wines are receiving awards at international competitions and are gaining a good reputation. I always find it a bit disappointing that it’s almost impossible to find Slovak wines abroad. When you travel to Slovakia you should visit a local winery and try the unique Slovak variety Dunaj or one of the popular wines Veltliner, Riesling, Pinot Blanc, Müller Thurgau or Cabernet Sauvignon.
8. Slovak Paradise
Why not end this list in a paradise? Slovak Paradise National Park is one of the most popular hiking destinations in Slovakia. It attracts tourists by stunning canyons and waterfalls, the endemic flora and diverse fauna. Many of the treks in Slovak Paradise lead across waterfalls, gorges and some parts include climbing on fixed ladders.
Patrícia is a travel blogger from Slovakia. She is an evolutionary biologist, a writer, a traveller, a photographer. She blogs at The Journey Journal – a travel blog tracking her journey to explore the world from traditional touristic places to more autentic destinations. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.
Have you been to Slovakia? Which one of these places would you visit?