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 the little island of 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
Lets kickstart with one of the prettiest places in the Spis Region, and that will be in the heart of nature…Slovak Paradise.
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?
After having been to The Rockies in Canada and explore those stunning islands and mountainous region, it is hard to bet. But Slovakia didn’t disappoint with its beauty.
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.
Before going on your next travel adventure, consider booking Affordable Travel Insurance from US$14 onwards for that peace of mind! 🙂
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~!
Emma RaphaelJune 10, 2018 at 7:18 pm
It looks like you had a wonderful time – great photos! I have only made it to Bratislava so far, but I would love to go back and explore more having read your post! Thanks Lydia! 🙂
Lydia YangJune 11, 2018 at 12:01 pm
I had the best of times there and I would warmly recommend you visit this place, Emma! Glad you found the post inspiring. 😉
Sue SlagjtJune 12, 2018 at 4:02 am
When we went to Slovenia many people asked us if we meant we were going to Slovakia! Two different countries indeed. It looks like you had a fabulous adventure. So lush and so much to explore.
Lydia YangJune 12, 2018 at 7:37 am
The similarity of the name is what usually makes people think it’s the same country. I had a spectacular time in Kosice. It has an abundance of places and nature to be explored! 🙂
CindyJune 12, 2018 at 9:38 pm
We are trying to figure out how much of Slovakia we will get to this summer and it looks like this is a gorgeous area – if maybe a little more adventurous than I am. I’m not afraid of heights and usually will climb anything, but those ladders and the path over the river look more than a little intimidating!! Thanks for the tour.
Lydia YangJune 13, 2018 at 11:51 am
Glad you found the post motivating, Cindy. You should definitely explore this area when in Slovakia, its beauty is beyond words! 🙂
AnnaJune 13, 2018 at 9:02 pm
What a beautiful nature! I’ve been to Slovakia (Jasná Nízke Tatry) once as a child for a ski trip! Loved it and hope I´ll get to visit again in summer to do more of hiking!
StephanieJune 14, 2018 at 6:14 am
Lydia I absolutely loved this post! One of my roommates in Holland was Slovakian and at first I thought… where?????
But he showed me the most stunning photos year round, and have been wanting to visit ever since!
Just stunning pictures!
Happy travels xx
Lydia YangJune 14, 2018 at 7:34 am
Thanks for the kind words, Stephanie! I really hope you’ll get to explore Slovakia, it’s simply breathtaking. Safe travels! 🙂
LyndaJune 14, 2018 at 12:36 am
Love those flowers!
Lydia YangJune 14, 2018 at 7:33 am
I do too, Lunda! These are some of the most interesting and stunning wildflowers I’ve seen. 🙂
MiriamJune 14, 2018 at 7:45 am
It looks like a beautiful destination – the landscapes are incredible & I love the wildflowers. We have never been to Slovakia but you definitely put in on the map for us! Have a great weekend ahead!
Lydia YangJune 15, 2018 at 8:12 am
Hey, Miriam! It is a wonderful destination and I am so happy to hear that I’ve inspired you to add it to your bucket list. Enjoy your weekend, too! 🙂
kamila PalaJune 18, 2018 at 12:28 pm
Great adventure and beautiful landscape! I have been there couple years ago 🙂 Bye. K
Lydia YangJune 18, 2018 at 8:54 pm
Thank you, Kamila. Yes, the landscape is truly breathtaking and it’s really great that you’ve explored the area. 🙂
Adrenaline RomanceJune 18, 2018 at 7:31 pm
That’s a really nice park! We would love to hike and camp there. 🙂
Lydia YangJune 18, 2018 at 8:56 pm
Hiking and camping there are indeed awesome ideas! I hope you’ll get to explore the area soon!
Cindy BruchmanJuly 5, 2018 at 8:27 pm
Great article, Lydia. I loved your shots. Looks quiet and cool and refreshing.
Lydia YangJuly 17, 2018 at 5:19 am
Thanks Cindy. It was a lovely place, and those exact words – quiet and refreshing:)
Joel SmithJuly 6, 2018 at 11:53 am
Excellent park pictures. If possible I will goo there.
Lydia YangJuly 17, 2018 at 5:14 am
Slovak Paradise is not going anywhere, waiting for your arrival Joe!;)
NillasMarch 22, 2019 at 7:07 pm
What a wonderful trip coverage of Kosice!
Lydia YangMarch 25, 2019 at 1:25 pm
Thank you Nillas! Kosice really brought back such good memories!
Tina TwovelersOctober 22, 2019 at 10:15 pm
I like your article about hiking in Slovakia. Slovak Paradise is incredible place and hikes are always beautiful. I also recommend Via Ferrata Kysel, I visited few weeks ago and it was great experience!
Lydia YangOctober 25, 2019 at 10:37 am
Thanks Tina! Ahh, I didn’t get to try Via Ferrata there, which is such a pity. Maybe next time when I am back!! Hoping it will be this winter!