I have just recently spent five fabulous days discovering Slovakia on a walking holiday. A perfect combo of hiking and learning about the culture, with our every need catered for.
I’m a bit embarrassed to say that it had never previously occurred to me to holiday in Slovakia and so I am very glad that I jumped at the chance when invited to join this group trip. Slovakia, which is dominated by the Tatra Mountains, I discovered is a stunningly beautiful and magical country, not touristy at all (or at least where we ventured it wasn’t), and I got to share it with a group of really wonderful people, none of whom I knew before the trip.
From our luxury, alpine lodge base near the lowland village of Pribylina, we took daily walking excursions into the Low and High Tatra mountains, led by our knowledgeable, good humoured, and very patient guide, Marten Hrotik.
I especially loved his regaling us with Slovakian legends such as the one explaining the reason for the name of one of the most famous and beautiful peaks in Slovakia, Kriváň, which means curved or crooked in English. A symbol of national pride, this majestic and crooked peak soars over the landscape to a height of 2495m (8186ft) but I am not going to spoil the legend for you, just know that it delightfully involves an angel and bags of beauty. You’ll need to go on the trip to find out the rest.
The lodge which is situated in a serene and secluded spot, hidden away in the trees, is complete with sauna, fire pit, and a glacial, babbling brook at the foot of the garden; a perfect natural ice bath for soothing your aching feet after a day’s hike. The air is fresh, the water is sweet and it is the ideal place to relax,
and let your cares float away, thinking only of what delights you may see the next day.
We walked and explored somewhere different every day. Our walking trails took us up and down valleys, including up to an historic and restored 19th century mill in the Kvačany valley, over low and highland meadows, through the forests, and around glacial lakes in the High Tatras.
Being springtime, at the lower altitudes the new leaves of the deciduous trees were vibrant green and were dazzling amongst the dark green of the pine forest. The land was also just starting to burst into life with an array of colourful wildflowers, albeit we were probably a couple of weeks too early to see them in their full glory. Never mind, there were plenty of other stunning sights on our journeys to nurture the soul, replenish the spirit and make the heart sing!
A highlight for me being the glacial lakes in the Vysoké Tatry (High Tatras), Štrbské Pleso and the smaller, higher lake, Jamské pleso where there was still snow on the ground and the air calm enough to treat us to some stunning reflections on the lake. An utterly perfect spot to enjoy our lunch with Marten regaling us with more Slovakian legends.
As well as our walks, on the first day we ventured into the bustling town of Liptovský Mikuláš and took in the sights and history of the town square, and on the third day, a particular highlight for me, we went underground into the spectacular karst cave system, Demänovská Cave of Liberty (Demänovská Jaskyňa Slobody) in the Low Tatras. The public entrance to this extensive (5 miles) cave system is at an altitude of 870 metres (2,850 ft), with the portion open to the public extending just over a mile; we were underground for over an hour! There were Karst gems at every turn, flowforms, stalactites, stalacmites, columns, sponge, grape and coral forms, and mesmerising emerald lakes.
We were extremely well catered for on the trip, a wide variety of options for breakfast and packed lunch was provided every day. Three of the five evenings we dined at the lodge, sampling some culinary delights of Slovakia prepared by our chef, with hearty and warming soups (garlic, sausage, goulash) to start, followed by a variety of dumplings, meat and Slovakian sheep’s cheese (bryndza) dishes. Just the thing to replenish you after a full day’s walking and exploring.
Our last two nights we dined out. The penultimate night we dined at the Chateau Grand Castle, a fine dining affair which was made more magical by an unexpected snowfall that evening, and our last night we ate at the more relaxed Italian restaurant, Point in Liptovksy Hradok. I would highly recommend trying both.
Our evenings were spent star gazing, fire building, chatting, playing truth and lies games, sharing our favourite tunes, and sipping on Tatra Tea, a traditional Slovakian tea-based herbal liqueur which has its origins far back in Slovakian history. Apparently, the mountain folk used to cure many ailments with their homemade brews. I feel fairly sure it helped ease my tired muscles and bones 😉.
In only five days, whilst it felt like we covered much ground, we really only barely scratched the surface of all that there is to do and explore in the area. Of particular interest to me after spotting some really spectacular aged Brackett/Shelf fungus on this trip, is that I am told that in the Autumn the woods and forests are bursting with all kinds of fungi. So, one trip is not enough and I will most definitely be going back. I would highly recommend Exploring Europe for your Slovakian and other adventures.