Bicycle touring in Slovakia – 13 reasons why

Probably the most underrated cycling destination in Europe. Hilly, green and idyllic Slovakia is made for biketouring, but the crowds of tourists are still not there. Below my subjective list of cycling, gastronomic and sightseeing reasons to visit the country of Janosik.

  1. Location: in the heart of Europe. You can easily combine a bicycle tour in Slovakia with visiting Budapest, Prague or Vienna. Two (or even four) birds with one stone!
  2. Around the Tatra Mountains Trail. I cycled only a little part of it, from the Polish border to Trstena, but I definitely want to come back and do the rest as well. This trail has everything a cyclist could dream of: spectacular panoramas, perfect tarmac, well-thought infrastracture and good marking. On the project’s website [click] you can find maps, guides, hints and plenty of information that will help you plan your trip.IMG_0035IMG_20190713_123142IMG_20190713_124539IMG_20190713_132407
  3. Green forests and smooth hills of Orava, with the sheeps grazing and thyme growing (you can make a delicious tea of it, tastes best made on the campfire). In Oravska Lesna you can take a trip with a cute narrow gauge railway and in Stara Bystrica you should check out Slovensky Orloj – astronomical clock with quite an interesting design.IMG_20190714_144927IMG_20190714_143254IMG_20190714_170035
  4. Mala Fatra. You can cycle up to the mountain hut Chata Pod Suchym or between the steep walls of Vratna Valley. Vratna was the birthplace of Slovak Robin Hood – Janosik, who (contraty to popular befief) didn’t steal to from the rich to give to the poor but rather to give presents to the girls he was hitting on. Next to the mountain lift from Vratna to Chleb you can leave your bicycle and go hiking, for example to Velky Krivan (Big Krivan, 1709 m), which paradoxally is smaller than the regular Krivan (the holy mountain of Slovaks in High Tatras), but offers quite splendid views as well.IMG_20190715_132438_HDRIMG_20190715_150932_HDRIMG_20190715_163033_HDR
  5. Radler 0 % Zlaty Bazant, with fancy flavours like black currant with lavender or grapefruit with rosemary. The best refreshing drink after a long, hot day in the saddle.IMG_20190716_141008_HDR
  6. Plenty of perfectly marked and diversified cycling trails, especially in the north of the country. You can find more information on the website cykloportal.sk, with an interactive map of the trails marked with different colors. By clicking one, you will get the information about the difficulty and if the trail is suitable for a road/trekking bike or MTB. The website is in Slovak, but what do we have Google Translate for? Some of my favourite routes are…
  7. the routes in Lower Tatra mountains. Cycling up to Priehyba saddle (and especially cycling back down) was like a visit to cycling heaven – one wide tarmac lane going up, another one going down, and between them green, wild forest. On the end of the road you have a perfect camping spot on Priehyba saddle, one of the few available camp spots in Lower Tatra National Park. There is even a lean-to shelter, a fireplace and a spring – limply dripping but still a spring! And in the evening you definitely should take the short hike to Velka Vapenica  (1691 m) to watch the sunset.IMG_20190717_142012IMG_20190717_152707IMG_20190717_193700
  8. Wild camping is completely legal in Slovakia (besides national parks, but even there you have some designed areas where it is allow to camp) and there are plenty of epic camp spots. One of my absolte favourites is:
  9. The beach at Liptovska Mara. One of the few places where you can take a swim with a view at the highest peaks of Tatra Mountains.IMG_0077IMG_20190716_204200_HDRPANO_20190716_201453
  10. Kralova Hol’a, the highest mountain in Slovakia that you can reach by bicycle – 1956 meters. The lower part of the road is quite damaged but the views are rewarding. On the way there you can stay in a charming little town Sumiac. In the morning you can experience a pinch of Czechoslkovakian nostalgy when the loudspeakers around the town start to play lively fok music intertwined with news about upcoming local events like dog vaccinations or market. If you visit Sumiac, you should stay in Penzion Drevenica: wooden rooms with law ceilings, drying lavender and a very sociable owner who always finds time to entertain his guests in any possible language they speak.IMG_20190718_183049IMG_20190718_190423IMG_20190718_192331IMG_20190718_195802
  11. Cheese. Slovakia deserves a title of the Cheese Capital of Central Europe. They even have cheese vending machines there! You should definitelytry bryndzové halušky (a kind of gnocchi with sheep cheese) and vyprážaný syr (fried cheese, usually served with french fries and tatar sauce) – it’s a shameless, almost decadent pleasure, but after cycling in the mountains, you deserve it!

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    Cheese machine
  12. Muranska Planina. This wild national park is often overlooked by the tourists who would rather choose higher Tatra mountains or Big and Small Fatra where the mountains are higher and the landscape more spectacular. But the mild hills of Muranska Planina are just made for cycling (and in winter this area is perfect for XC skiing). This region is inhabited by many wild animals. Muranska Planina has Slovakias biggest bear population, which I could experience myself, having a close encounter with a she-bear with cubs. As some of the employees of the national park said, we were lucky twice: first, because we  saw a bear from less than 1 meter disctance, second, because the she-bear only roared to warn us and left us in peace.IMG_20190719_111717IMG_20190719_120603IMG_0150

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    I don’t have a picture of the bears we met (didn’t really think of grabbing my camera at that moment, honestly, but I have some pictures of some other representatives of Muranska Planina’s fauna.
  13. Muranske Buchty in gypsy town Muran – the best yeasted pastry I’ve ever eaten. No wonder there is always a long queue to the inconspicuous booth where the tempting aroma comes from. Cherry, blueberries, nougat, cottage cheese, strawberries or chocolate in soft, warm pastry – the variety is big and I still cannot decide, which one is my favourite. I have no idea why buchty still didn’t make it to the bakeries all around the world, because in my opinion they are way better than all the croissants and cinamonn rolls.IMG_20190719_122957IMG_20190719_131406

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