Somewhere between the borders of Poland and Hungary lies a country that few from my part of the world ( Asia) have visited – Slovakia.
And no…it is not Slovenia as many (including myself) used to have that misconception. Slovakia ( called Slovensko in their native language) used to be part of the big Czechoslovakia nation before they came out on their own. The main difference between Slovakia and Slovenia other than the land and population size ( Slovakia is double that of Slovenia), Slovenia has a coastal element/ access to the sea while Slovakia has the high mountains.
So enough of that…
I visited Slovakia in the summer of 2018, focusing especially on 1 beautiful region every outdoor lover should go – Kosice.
I took a 14.5 hour flight from Singapore – Kocise Airport via Turkish Airlines, with a pleasant stopover in Istanbul. You would even have time to get out of the airport to see a bit of Istanbul before coming back in for the evening flight. While most people on an eastern Europe tour would cross into Slovakia to visit the capital -Bratislava, Kosice is the region where it has a great deal of adventure action, outdoors and culture to behold.
Let me walk you through the rugged and outdoor adventures I experienced here in Kosice and Spis Region when I was here with Lisa, a Singaporean female friend of mine, as we explored the best of the country.
Outdoor Adventures to experience in Spis Region
My Day Visit through Slovak Paradise National Park
When I first heard the name of the national park, I already knew I was going to love it. No place would ever dare call itself paradise on earth unless there is something really surreal and unearthly about it, and that’s what you get here when hiking in Slovenský raj National Park (Slovak Paradise).
Walking/ Hiking Trails and Flower Tales
The entire morning walking through Slovak Paradise, a 1,200 metres high national park in Spis Region, is a really refreshing experience as we breathed in the fresh forest air and smell the wood as we walk through the dirt path, pass the waterfalls, up the ladders and hopping from pebble to pebble over the trickling river bank.
We started our trail at Podlesok ( which was where we parked our car and had an awesome lunch at the wooden cabin restaurant there!), then continue on to Prielom Hornadu –>to Klastorska roklina gorge –> Klastorisko-Kysel gorge. There are other trails one can take but we started ours at 8.30am and finished around 3+pm, as we were going on a slow and relaxing pace with loads of breaks and photo taking.
Slovakia Landscape: How was it?
The weather was lovely on this beautiful day, with a little cloudy but yet no hot blazing sun cast on our back as we trot along from 8 am onwards. We were accompanied by our very ‘young at heart’ guide called Vladimir, the Slovenský raj National Park guide for up to 15 years. He was very energetic and informative as he shared with us the history about the national park ( started in 1988, same year as I was born) and the different segments/ partitions in the forest – meaning which areas are deemed as ‘Zones of Silence’ to safeguard the original natural habitat, and what areas are protected against deforestation.
The natural park has incredibly preserved plateaus, deep cut river canyons, gorges with waterfalls and even ice caves which can be visited in Summer!
Look out for some really interesting wildflowers and animals along your trail. We spotted so many exotic flowers like the ‘Orlicek’, a deep purple colour flower, Stokraska, also known as ‘A Hundred Beauties’, Lunaria-mesacnia was also known as Moonflower, pupava ( my version of dandelion) and lastly an orchid-like flower called Cypripedium calceolus.
Interested to know more about Kosice Region, read about my outdoor adventures in the city!
Walking over steel grills, climbing ladders & splashing through the river
Slovak paradise cannot get more exciting if you don’t work hard to go through the trek. Come prepared with a long sleeve top to block out the wind chills, but no need for thick winterwear as you will work up a little sweat if you walk fast and steady into the hike. It is also useful to have proper waterproof hiking boots given you will be walking on a mix of dirt paths both uphill and downhill, small pebbled walkways and steel narrow bridges. to walk in to prevent slipping and twisting your ankle.
In the entire 5-7 hour walk, you will cross up to 7 waterfalls while climbing ladders, steel grills ( Stupacky) and more. One of the nicest waterfalls we saw was called rainbow falls, given the pretty rays that burst through the water into colours that you will see when you go up close. Some parts of the trail you can actually stop to refill your water bottle with fresh spring water!
Little thing to note: Don’t expect too much water going down the river and waterfall as you hike/ climb it, in fact, dries up more in summer.
Other fun activities one can experience in National Park of Slovenský raj
- Cycling and mountain biking
- Rock Climbing in certain areas ( Wish I did!)
- Water Sports
- Skiing in Winter Only
- Tandem SkyDive/ Gliding
- Horse Trekking and Riding through the forest( Must Try!) –
Our horse riding experience in the later part of the afternoon was also really lovely and relaxing. We did it with Salaj Horse School, where they conduct horse riding classes or horse trekking for 15 Euros per hour. I had a lovely chocolate brown horse called Sara, while Lisa’s horse was Aja, and we had a nice peaceful trek through the forest and fields for an hour. Important to wear a helmet for safety which was provided by the owner Laco Salaj of the horse riding school.
Thinking about: Going for Proper Horse Riding Classes for future!!;D
Day Trips from Kosice to this Park
Slovak Paradise is very accessible, especially if you come by car. Its an hour 10 minutes drive to get from the Kosice City centre to Slovak Paradise, so one can make day trips from Kosice over the weekend easily.
One can also visit via bus or train as well, which promises you a scenic route through the most beautiful spots of Slovakia. Check out the Slovak Republic (ZSSK) rail which operates train from Košice to Slovak Paradise National Park hourly. It might vary due to seasonality so better to recheck again when you arrive.
If you are coming by train, a point many have recommended to start off their train journey is from Margecany, and passes through old quaint towns like Gelnica. I didn’t get to experience this when I was there, which was a pity, though I hope I will the next time around.
Best Season to Visit Slovak Paradise
I managed to check out this lovely country in Summer/ Autumn period, but I believe that Slovak Paradise is a national park that is beautiful all year round. I promised the team that I cannot wait to be back to see how it looks in Winter, with snow everywhere.
Here concludes my lovely half day in the lovely Slovak Paradise where Lisa and I wished we had more time than that. Where have you been to find your little paradise on earth?
For more information about Kosice Region or Slovak Paradise National Park, click here.
If you want to experience something at an even higher altitude, then there is something even higher up you can experience, stay tuned to read more about the highest mountains in Slovakia – High Tatras~!