Biking/Trekking in Slovakia
- Submitted by: Jacek A. Jankowski
- Website: None Available
- Submission Date: 04th Feb 2005
A few days with a bike in Slovakia.
My school English is not perfect. Sorry for that.
I am a mountain guide and I have NEVER been there on a biking tour. This is very important: I know the mountains there only from the backpackers' perspective. That is why you so often may read in my article about the views from a top or visiting a cavern, without mention that you couldn't not reach these places on a bike easily...
The state of the roads in Eastern Europe is very unpredictable. What you find on a road map as a thick red line could be worse as a thin grey country road. Sometimes the state of the surface is excellent, sometimes - forget it. The most surprising for many may be the changeability even on the shortest distance.
The roads I have written about are usually OK for a standart bike.
Technical aspect: a repair kit for your particular type of bike is very important. European standards, based on DIN usually, may be different as in USA, although I am not sure.
All slovak diactric symbols are lost in geographical names. It may be confusing when these are not properly pronounced or spelled. Some training before-hand may be useful.
I have tried my best in this article because I do think that backpacking or biking is the best way to travel in Eastern Europe. You stay in a natural way in a constant contact with the people - and this is an extremely important aspect of travelling there.
Buy a good road map home, scale minimum 1:300 000. In Slovakia you may surely also buy some, but it's better to have something before. Try to buy the maps for different mountain ranges/regions described, 1:100 000 or better, they are cheap and relatively good, especially compared to a normal road maps. In Bratislava, for guidebooks and maps try the shop: predajna vydavatelstva SPORT, Bratislava, Gorkeho c. 6. Maybe they still exist. Try to get the book Ubytovane na Slovensku - it is a list of all possible hotels, hostels, campings...
I have no idea of the southern valley of The Vah River, no idea of the Danube valley -- so the direct neighbourhood of Bratislava is unknown to me.
If you like to move north-east, take some train along the main railroad line Bratislava-Trencin-Zilina-Martin (Vrutky)-Rozumberok-Liptovsky Sv. Mikulas-Poprad---and on, it will deliver you to the montaneous world of slovak western Carpathian Mountains. The transport of bikes could be easily arranged in a train, ask about in the main railway station in Bratislava (a propos, some dictionary/phrasebook would be extremely helpful, especially in rural areas...).
I will describe shortly only the regions, which I know and which could be characteristic for the slovak province. Sorry, almost all what I write I have done by foot - not with a bike, and with probably different attitude (tops, not valleys...). You may take off or jump in the train easily almost everywhere along the described way.
If you get out in Zilina, go north-east in the direction of Orava, a very characteristic region in northern Slovakia - from Zilina along the northern slopes of the Mala Fatra range. Try to get to Vratna valley (a nice camping, or rooms in the village Stefanova, a very nice place). In Terchova, on the way there, Janosik, a local folk hero (Robin Hood-type) was born. Try to get to the top of Velky Rozsutec (without bikes obviously). Or, quicker, with a lift to Cheb - nice views around. Probably it is better to get out a few stations later on from Zilina - in Stecno - two castle ruins dominate over The Vah River there. And it is only some 30km to Vratna. Make sure the train stops there! But Zilina is also worth seeing... Martin - forget it.
Later on through a low pass to Zazriva and then down to the valley to The Orava River. From here you may reach Oravsky Podzamok with the castle called Oravsky hrad. Later on to Zverovka (camping, hostel) in the western part of The Tatra Mountains. From there you may reach the tops of Rohace or Volovec with beautiful views around. Ask about museum Oravske Dediny - I am not sure if it is interesting. If you have enough of the mountains you may reach the artificial lake north of Tvrdosin and Trstena (camping). Evacuation with a train possible.
>From Zuberec south - up the pass leading to Huty, then down Kvacianska Dolina to Kvacany and down to the next artificial lake - Liptovska Mara (camping) in the middle of the Liptov Valley and to the town of Liptovsky Sv. Mikulas, where Janosik died. In Liptovsky Hradok camping. But it would be a better idea to reach Demanovska Dolina (Valley), also with a camping, hostels and two long caves (ice cave Demanovska Ladova Jaskyna and Demanovska Jaskyna Svobody) and a few other. Up in the valley (a few hostels) a lift leading to the top of Chopok in The Nizke Tatry Mountains - one of the best view points of Slovakia. From Liptovsky Mikulas good train connections, east-west.
The Tatra Mountains are divided into western part, and higher eastern part - Vysoke (High) Tatry. They ARE crowded, but not everywhere.
From Liptovsky Hradok north-east, to Pribilina with a museum, then up to the lower part of Rackova dolina (camping): lots of mountains to climb... Then take the road traversing the slopes of The High Tatras through Podbanske, Strbske Pleso, Smokovec to Tatranska Lomnica, where south of it Eurocamp and Sportcamp are slightly overcrowded, but really international campings. A good meeting place. If you want something not so crowded, you have a lot of possibilities along the 537 traversing road or try to get further north to Zdiar (folklore!) or even to Javorina (camping?) behind a pass, almost on the polish border. The northern valleys of The High Tatras are the wildest and the emptiest (Javorova and Belovodska along the polish border). Here the best possibility to visit the polish side (more folklore and more atmosphere) but you want Slovakia.
From town Poprad, just south of Tatranska Lomnica, good train connections. Poprad is situated in the middle of the intersting region of Spis - mixed Slovak/Hungarian/Polish/Ukrainian/Austrian influences for the specialists seen everywhere. First-class attractions are the towns along The Poprad River Valley, once an autonomous polish province in hungarian surroundings: Poprad, Spisska Sobota, Kezmarok(!) camping James, Spisska Bela, Podolinec, Stara Lubovna. In Ruzbachy camping. Furthern north, behind the ridges of the Magura Spiska, the region of idyllic villages of northern Spis, where you may forget the stupid nervous world outside. A camping is in Cerveny Klastor (worth seeing), on The Dunajec River. You may float down a canion there, although the main attractions are on the polish side. I am not sure if you can bike along the gorge (national park), but if you can, do it. A nice castle of Niedzica on the polish side, but probably no possibility of crossing the border, ask someone).
The Hornad Valley is also worth seeing: especially Levoca east of Poprad is here the most visited town with its famous Wit Stwosz altar. Mittle ages in their finest. Later on east the pictursque symbol of once hungarian domination over this area with a mysterious history: Spissky Hrad over Spiske Podhradie - a huge castle dominating over western Spis. South of Poprad Slovensky Raj - a beautiful area with Hornad Gorge (Prelom), waterfalls, caves, etc. A camping in Klastorisko and in Hrabusany, but it is probably better to drive to Stratena later on to south. There is another ice cave - Dobsinska Ladova Jaskyna. One of the most beautiful caves in Europe, one hour trip, 7 Celsius. In Dedinky a lake, camping, hostels, etc. You are on a railway line now... You may get a train from here through Banska Bystrica and Zvolen (a castle!) to Bratislava. Or, if you are ambicious - later on east to the town of Kosice (architectual attractions), to the south to The Slovensky Kras Mountains (Roznava-Silica, another caves... one of them with an underground river from Slovakia to Hungary!) or turn back to the east along the southern slopes of The Nizke Tatry Mountains to Banska Bystrica (The Hron River valley).
Mala Fatra, Tatry, Nizke Tatry, Slovensky Raj are national parks or nature reservations. Please, respect the rules.
As you may notice, it is a program for far more as 8 days... Try to choose something. I hope I have helped you. A nice trip.
Jacek A. Jankowski
Institut fuer Stroemungsmechanik phone +49-511-762-4294
Universitaet Hannover fax +49-511-762-3777