Suppose you fancy a carefree pace of life, rugged mountains, rolling hills, and the sort of pastoral scenery that has attracted romantic types for generations. In that case, Slovakia is the place for you. From breathtaking hikes in the High Tatra mountains for those with expertise, and tender berry-picking, excursion strolls around such towns as Banska Stiavnica for those that are looking for something a little less demanding; Central Slovakia is tailor-made for everyone.
Around the ancient mining town of Banska Stiavnica, you will find that nature has recovered from the mining past. The mining-scarred marks on the panorama have become peaceful lakes, and it is refreshing to hike up to one of these lakes, have a picnic and a swim, and then head back to the city in time for evening tea. One exciting walk in the area is that up to Calvary. It is only a kilometer or so north-east of the ancient town. Here you will find a group of white and red chapels and churches in the Baroque fashion. These each represents a station of the cross. Visit the tourist information center in the town to pick hiking maps and find out more about some of the area’s historical and cultural highlights.
The High Tatras, on the frontier between Poland and Slovakia, are visible from space. Gerlach is, at 2, 655m, is the highest mountain in northern and eastern Europe. The glories of this hill landscape have inspired many, including the poet who came up with the nation’s national anthem. The cliffs here are ecstasy for those who enjoy hiking in the high ground, though be warned that these ranges can be dangerous – never hike alone and always be equipped and be prepared. Climatic conditions can change very quickly, and on average, nearly a dozen people every year sadly lose their lives in the Tatras. If you do get into any trouble, then call the Mountain Rescue on 18300 – but don’t think of this as an apparent opt-out as they charge a colossal call-out fee!
However, those who are conscious and combat-ready and travel with others can have a pleasant time, walking from town to town or village to village or grabbing some of the more adrenaline-pumping hikes if they have expertise and a right fitness level. Plan ahead and be aware that public transport options in the region can sometimes be erratic.
If you are looking for a not too dangerous and challenging hike, walk between Popradské Pleso and Strbské Pleso, two lakes with spectacular views between. This trek will only take around two hours or so. You will also see a touching memorial garden for those who died in the Tatras on this walk—looking for a good mountain hike? Try the day-long hike up the Krivan peak, available only during the summer months. This walk will take you up to the 2495m summit on a well preserved signposted trail.
There are several walking options both in the rolling farmland and the high peaks. Be careful to stay within your abilities and you are sure to have an excellent time in this fascinating and beautiful country.