The Most Beautiful Places You Must Visit In Slovakia
Where is Slovakia, some might asks. Slovakia ranges from the Polish borderlands in the north to the snaking Danube in the south. It covers some seriously awesome corners of Central-Eastern Europe. They include the mighty Tatra ranges with their ski fields and cloud-shattering summits.
There are also deep, dank caves formed by ancient karsts and gushing riverways. And fir forests topped by massifs, and glistening lakes ringed by hiking paths make an appearance to boot.
But the most beautiful places to visit in Slovakia aren’t just about the great European outdoors. There are also towns here that are sure to steal your heart. Just look at the gilded Slovakia capital. It’s crowned by stunning castles and woven with stony lanes. Away from that, all manner of highland villages and medieval settlements have their own fortresses and unique Slovakia culture to get stuck into.
This list can help you plan a trip to this amazing country. It’s got tips on the must-see locations within its borders, including everything from submerged tunnels and national parks to ski fields and buzzing Slovakia cities…
TREK THE HIGH TATRAS OF SLOVAKIA
Like a line of daggers that crash along the northern edge of Slovakia, the High Tatras are one of the most dramatic sections of the long Carpathian chain. On the one side, they plant their foot in southern Poland and the winter capital of Zakopane (the best spot to go skiing in Poland!). On the other, peaks like Gerlachovsky Stit (the highest in Slovakia) and Krivan (a sacred mountain that’s held dear to Slovak climbers) rise to the skies.
In fact, the High Tatras are the tallest and the only complete alpine range of all Slovakia mountains. As they unfold with their snow-capped tops and deep valleys from east to west, they offer all sorts of activities…
Hiking – of course – is often top of the bill. You can pull on the boots here and conquer trails that weave through pine forests to blustery summits, or encircle glimmering lakes. Accomplished ski towns have cable cars that can reach top stations of nearly 2,600 meters above the slopes of Lomnicky Stit. And there are oodles of natural spa towns that bubble and boil with natural hot springs – perfect if you’re after some post-hike relaxation!
TRAVERSE THROUGH THE CRAGGY MOUNTAIN TOPS OF LOW TATRAS
Facing the High Tatras along the border with Poland is another of the most iconic of Slovakia mountain chains: The Low Tatras. They are located entirely within the borders of the country, as they spread through the Inner Western Carpathians with their grassy slopes and craggy tops. In total they run over 80 kilometers, ranging from Poprad to Martin.
These days, the vast proportion of this handsome range is protected by the Low Tatras National Park. It was established way back in 1978 to encompass more than 728 square kilometers through the heart of northern Slovakia.
However, despite their protected status, the Low Tatras is still a hotspot for tourism. The little town of Liptovsky Mikulas, for example, serves the ski runs of Jasna-Chopok (more on that later!). There are hundreds of miles of hiking paths which run up summits and wiggle into high-altitude refuges. There are caves and karst rocks for climbers. It all promises to be an adventure filled with adrenaline!
LEARN THE SLOVAKIAN’S CULTURE IN KOSICE CITY
Kosice has an enthralling past and comes layered with Slovakia culture and history. It’s hard not to be wowed as you hop between its central squares. It’s difficult not to fall in love with the town as you wander its ancient cobbled lanes. And there are sure to be moments of wonder as you see the gorgeous array of architecture that coalesces in the old center.
Most of the sights revolve on the main walking street of Hlavná ulica. Look up and you’ll catch the elegant spires of St Elizabeth’s Cathedral. It’s one of the easternmost Gothic cathedrals in all of Europe. Also, present on the main street is the St Michael’s Chapel, complete with 14th-century frescos, and a tall campanile that has stones that date back to the Roman era.
In 2013, Kosice was hailed as the European Capital of Culture. That’s helped to nurture a more cutting-edge side to this historic town. Break out to the alleys and lanes surrounding the center and you’ll soon be lost amid cool veggie bars, beer dives, and art galleries.
WANDER AROUND THE CAPITAL CITY OF SLOVAKIA – BRATISLAVA
The biggest of all Slovakia cities is the Slovakia capital of Bratislava. It huddles into the south-western side of the country. There, it straddles the meanders of the Danube just a stone’s throw from Vienna and the start of the Austrian plain.
The unique geography has made it a real steppingstone between east and west over the centuries. These days, that emerges in the cobbled squares rimmed by Hungarian Secessionist and Neo-Classical Hapsburg palaces. Some of the grandest of the lot include the Grassalkovich Palace (residence of the Slovak president) and the white-tinted walls of Bratislava Castle (dating all the way back to the era of the Celtic tribes and Romans).
Bratislava anchors on its Old Town area. That’s a mass of wiggling lanes and small streets where pubs and clubs and jazz bars pop up. Nearby, the district of Nove Mesto comes with bohemian coffee shops and galleries. Go there after dark to join the local students in their parties and beer drinking.
HIKE FOR THE MAJESTIC VIEW OF CHOPOK MOUNTAIN
Move over Slovakia cities – Chopok is a mountain, not a town. Soaring some 2,024 meters above sea level in the middle of the Low Tatras, it’s a focal point for winter sports and adventure pursuits. That’s mainly down to the up-coming ski resort of Jasna-Chopok. It’s now the largest in Central-Eastern Europe and comes complete with nifty lifts and gondolas. Put together, the ski field clocks up an enticing 44 kilometers of marked runs. They start at tree-lined blues and simple greens for beginners at the base level. And then there are the gnarly, ice-caked black runs shooting down straight from the top station of the resort.
During the summer, Chopok becomes a haven for hikers and mountain bikers. The ski slopes transform into trails and cycle runs as the snow melts. Hit those and you’ll be able to rise high above the clouds and see the iconic Tatra range unfolding all across northern Slovakia.
ENJOY THE NATURE IN SLOVAK PARADISE NATIONAL PARK
Go off the beaten track to the depths of eastern Slovakia and you’ll discover the wilds of the Slovak Paradise National Park. Set over a series of lower Slovakia mountains between Poprad and Dobsina, the whole reserve is a wonderland of karsts, caves, gushing waterfalls, and semi-alpine landscapes.
It’s nowhere near as popular as the great Slovakia mountains in the Tatras during the main trekking season between May and August. That means you’re likely to find yourself totally alone amid the pines and spruce woods. The highlights are many. From the gurgling cataracts of the Great Sokol gorge to the UNESCO-attested Dobinska Ice Cave, it’s bursting at the seams with things to see.
Aim for the small activity towns of Cingov or Dedinky if you’re looking for somewhere good to base yourself in this beautiful region. From those, it’s possible to join all manner of walking routes and cycling trails. In fact, there are over 300 kilometers of marked paths linking up the park, so you’re never going to be short of a direction to head in!
EXPLORE THE STUNNING CASTLE IN SPIS
There’s really one thing that puts this small town at the eastern end of the Tatras on the map of the most beautiful places to visit in Slovakia. That’s Spis Castle. An amazing array of half-ruined turrets, towers, gatehouses, and crenulations is what marks it out on its lonely hillside. They rise like a haunting mass of stone forgotten centuries ago. Today, the whole lot is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, reining as one of the largest of all European castles.
Constructed in the 12th century under the guidance of the Hungarian kings, the mighty citadel started life as a humble Romanesque fort. It soon expanded and became an important outpost on the boundaries of what was to finally be the Austro-Hungarian empire. Chapels and new walls, Gothic turrets, and more defenses were added in the late middle ages, creating the dramatic ensemble of bulwarks that now rises over north-eastern Slovakia.
After partial reconstructions throughout the 1900s and 2000s, Spis Castle is now a fully-fledged heritage and history site. Visitors can delve into a series of museum exhibits that chronicle the rise of the settlement since the Stone Age. A walk along the old walls is also a must, particularly on a clear winter’s day when the snow-capped Tatras serrate the horizon. (Entrance to Spis Castle is 8 EUR for adults and 4 EUR for children.)
ENJOY THE QUIRKY ROCK FORMATIONS AND TUNNELS IN SLOVAK KARST NATIONAL PARK
Extending over 346 square kilometers through the southernmost Slovakia mountains, the Slovak Karst National Park is another of the country’s natural jewels. The reserve occupies one of the most rugged and untamed landscapes in this corner of Europe. It is divvied up by wide valleys, spiked by stone towers, and – most notably – whittled by deep cave systems.
Talking of cave systems…there are a few of the world’s largest underground tunnel complexes in these parts. They start with the awesome Domica Cave. Go there and you’ll find yourself boating through dank subterranean caverns under water-shaped rock formations. Alternatively, the ochre-tinted stalactites of the Gombasecka Cave open for the summer. It’s another UNESCO site famous for its geological wonders and 500-meter viewing walk.
DISCOVER THE HISTORY WITHIN ORAVA CASTLE
Orava Castle crowns a sheer-cut bluff of stone in the midst of the northern Slovak mountains. It gazes over a wide valley like something out of Game of Thrones. To the north are the craggy peaks that roll into Poland. To the south are the folds of the Low Tatras. All around are green dashes of alpine hillside and woodlands of pine. The result? Somewhere that’s sure to take the breath away!
The history of Orava Castle is another enthralling aspect of this must-see among places to visit in Slovakia. The fortification was originally constructed in the 14th century as part of a line of outlying defenses controlled by the Kingdom of Hungary. Expansions came in later centuries as the castle passed to regional dukes and magnates. In 1800, a huge fire ravaged the site, until reconstructions restored its former glory in the late 19th century.
These days, gazing up at the mighty citadel from the winding road or Orava River far below is one of the great joys. The place makes the perfect pitstop on trips heading south through central Europe from Poland. You can also make the climb up to visit the museum that’s inside. The collections within contain medieval weaponry, Slovakian paintings, and various archaeological relics.
ESCAPE TO THE SMALL TOWN OF ŽILINA
A cocktail of Slavic grit and Slovakia culture, Žilina is a lived-in city with plenty to say for itself. The anchor of it all is the main square, where shops and bars meet under a speckling of plane trees. Above that, the bulbous domes of the Church of the Holy Trinity hearken back to the town’s medieval roots, and the old Radnica hall reveals the handsome construction of a building that dates to the early 1500s. In addition, across the Vah River, the mighty Budatín Castle still commands the banks. Having stood since the 12th century, it now sports whitewashed keeps and red-tiled roofs shimmering under the sun.
Finished tracing all that regional history? How about a dash of nightlife? Žilina’s working-class charm means there are plenty of dives and cafés where you can settle in the evening to listen to the harsh sounds of the Slovakia language and smell the Slavic hops. Moreover, wilder escapes are on the menu for those who make for the Mala Fatra National Park. It’s just on the horizon, with snow-dusted summits and jaw-dropping views over the Carpathians.
There you go, the 10 most beautiful places in Slovakia. If you’re planning a trip to this country, make sure you include them in your travel itinerary. If you’ve been here, share with us your stories in Slovakia. We would love to hear from you.