Out of Slovakia’s 9 national parks Slovak Paradise (or in Slovak: Slovensky Raj) definitely has the coolest name. It would be hard to argue with this naming as this small park is a real paradise with its lush forests, wild creeks, adventurous ravines, glens and waterfalls. Could you see yourself climbing up to the top of a 70-something meters waterfall on series of ladders? Or walking in an ice tunnel? Or hunting waterfalls in charming glens? These are the main reasons Slovak Paradise has quickly became our little paradise.
Dobšinská Ice Cave
There’s not many ice caves in the world which is located so low as Dobšinská Ice Cave in the Slovak Paradise. With the elevation of only 920 to 950 meters it’s still an icy wonderland all year! It belongs to the first electronically illuminated caves in Europe and it’s also a UNESCO world heritage site since 2000.
Dobšinská is open to visitors roughly from the middle of May until October and you can explore it during a 30 minutes long guided walk. This was our first time in an ice cave and walking in ice tunnels and visiting ice halls was kinda cool! Check out their official homepage for opening hours, prices and other useful details.
Dry White Gorge (Roklina Suchá Belá)
It’s one of the most popular ravines in the Slovak Paradise. Easily accessible, charming, adventurous and it only takes a couple of hours to do this loop. They say it’s busy, but when we arrived around 3 pm in the afternoon and started the trail we met only very few people. Guess we were late. But still we had plenty of time to enjoy this hike on that long summer day.
The narrow gorge runs in a glen and there’s 4 lovely waterfalls on the way, the highest is 29.5 meters and the smallest is 8 meters. There’s ladders, platforms and iron steps built in the rock so that we can safely climb in the glen without any professional climbing equipment. Waterproof hiking boots are useful though, because there’s countless creek crossings on the way.
This was our first glen hike in the Slovak Paradise and it was so much fun! So much that we decided to go back a few weeks later and explore more of those glens.
Falcon Valley (Sokolia dolina)
Falcon Valley is one of the most remote and wild ravines in the Slovak Paradise. Its most exciting section is climbing over the 75 meters high Závojový Waterfall! It’s the highest one in the Slovak Paradise and there’s series of ladders, footbridges and footsteps to help you conquer it safely. There’s 3 other smaller waterfalls, too, in Falcon Valley.
This hike is definitely not for someone fearful of heights, but as long as you are okay with that and with climbing (sometimes rusty) ladders, it’s not so hard, but challenging and fun. The entry point to the valley is not accessible by car, you need to hike there through other canyons and glens. It’s not such a bad thing though as they are all very beautiful!
Hornád River Canyon (Prielom Hornádu)
This trail runs in the charming valley of Hornád River. Hornád River is one of those wild, fast, perfectly clear and cold small mountain rivers and this hike is an easy and rewarding one. There’s only one challenging section where you climb iron steps built-in the rock straight above the river – if you ask us this was the best part of it!
Hornád Canyon is the way to the heart of Slovak Paradise giving access to several more remote places like Velký Kyseľ or Falcon Valley.
Useful hiking info
As in many European countries hiking trails are marked with colors in Slovakia. There are usually maps and signposts at the trailhead and you should look for the color signs on the trees once you are on the trail. Signposts are often there to help you at crosses during the trail, but it’s always good to have a map with all the trails and their colors on it (at least, take a photo of the map at the trailhead with your phone).
There is a small entrance fee (1.5 EUR/person at the time of our visit, 2016 June) to Slovak Paradise National Park which is collected at some of the most popular trailheads.
Most of the glen hikes are one-way: only up! This is to ensure safety and there’s always an easy trail leading down outside of the glen.
Beware of bears!
There are bears in the Slovak mountains. They are rarely seen and no one has died from a bear attack in Slovakia since long years now. (We’ve never seen any bears yet while hiking in Slovakia.)
But it’s good to keep the general bear safety tips in mind. In a nutshell: make noise (talk loudly, sing, clap) to make your presence known, in case of an encounter don’t ever turn your back to the bear and try to leave the area slowly. You can check this for more details, but there’s tons of good advice out there on the internet about bear safety.
Have you ever been to any of the Slovak national parks? Are they on your bucket list?