If you enjoy a relaxed pace of life, rolling hills, rugged mountains and the sort of bucolic scenery that has attracted romantic sorts for generations then Slovakia is the place for you. From exciting hikes in the High Tatra mountains for those with experience, and gentle berry-picking, sightseeing strolls around such settlements as Banska Stiavnica for those that are looking for something a little less strenuous, Central Slovakia has something for everyone.
Around the old mining town of Banska Stiavnica you will find that nature has reclaimed her own. The mining-scarred pocks on the landscape have become tranquil lakes and it is delightful to hike up to one of these lakes, have a swim and a picnic and then head back to town in time for tea. One interesting walk in the area is that up to Calvary. It is only a kilometre or so north-east of the old town. Here you will find a group of red and white chapels and churches in the Baroque style. These each represent a station of the cross. Visit the tourist information centre in the town to get hiking maps and find out more about some of the cultural and historic highlights of the area.
The High Tatras, on the border between Slovakia and Poland, are visible from space. Gerlach is, at 2, 655m, is the tallest mountain in northern and eastern Europe. The splendours of this mountain landscape have inspired many, including the poet who came up with the country’s national anthem. The mountains here are bliss for those who enjoy to hike in the high ground, though be warned that these mountains can be dangerous – never hike alone and always be prepared. Weather conditions can change very quickly and on average, 20 people a year sadly lose their lives in the Tatras. If you do get into any difficulty then call the Mountain Rescue on 18300 – but don’t think of this as an easy opt-out as they charge a huge call-out fee!
Those who are sensible and prepared and travel with others, however, can have a wonderful time, walking from village to village or tackling some of the more challenging hikes if they have experience and a good fitness level. Plan ahead and be aware that public transport options in the area can sometimes be erratic.
If you are looking for a not too challenging hike, walk between Strbské pleso and Popradské pleso, two lakes with scenic views between. This walk will only take around two hours or so. On this walk you will also see a moving memorial garden for those who died in the Tatras. Looking for a good mountain hike? Try the day-long hike up the Krivan peak, only during the summer months. This walk will take you up to the 2495m summit on a signposted trail.
There are many walking options both in the rolling countryside and the high peaks. Be careful to stay within your competences and you are sure to have a wonderful time in this beautiful and fascinating country.