Slovakia. Unfortunately many people will think of Russia or Czechoslovakia when hearing the word – some will have no idea it’s even a separate democratic country. And that’s a huge shame! Slovakia has a lot of hidden gems and so far I have not heard of anyone who visited the country and did not find something they would really enjoy – and no, no one is killing tourists here like in the Hostel movie. The movie was not even filmed in Slovakia so not a scene in it is real. Be brave, don’t trust the movie and go to explore the best places of Slovakia.
As I was born in a small town in the very East of Slovakia, just a few kilometres from Ukraine border, each time I wanted to fly to another country, I just had to cross the whole Slovakia to get to the airport in the capital Bratislava – everyone says it’s a waste of time to live so far away but for me it has always been a pleasure as I can say I really know Slovak hidden gems personally now.
If you ever go to Slovakia, please do not make the same mistake as many others. Bratislava is a cool city with beautiful old town, 2 castles and amazing Danube river but it has nothing to do with the rest of the country. In the past few years Bratislava has changed from a communist city into a Western city and even the prices got higher. The rest of Slovakia has not changed so much. During your typical route Prague-Bratislava-Vienna-Budapest I also recommend you to find a week or two to spend some quality time in the ”real” Slovakia.
Here are 5 places to visit in Slovakia
One of the 9 national parks in Slovakia is the most visited by both locals and foreign tourists. The prices here are about the as in Bratislava but still you won’t destroy all your budget compared to other European destinations. High Tatras can be visited both in summer for hiking, or winter for skiing and snowboarding. For those less fit, there are many easy walking routes, chilling out at lakes and also getting the best views on a sunny day from a cable car. You cannot get to the High Tatras highest peek – Gerlachovsky stit, but the second highest one with 2,633 m a.s.l. – Lomnicky stit is reachable by a cable car.
With just around 250,000 inhabitants, Kosice is it the second biggest city of Slovakia. If you visit Slovakia in 2013 and you are a culture/concert freak, then you have to visit the Eastern Slovakia town of Kosice!
Together with Marseille they are both European capitals of culture of 2013 offering its visitors concerts, festivals, dance performances, night galleries and museums, literature classes, music days and much more.
Don’t forget to visit also the St. Elizabeth Cathedral from 1380 which is the biggest church in Slovakia.
Many people are amazed at the fact that we have at least 44 explored caves in such a small area and many more undiscovered yet, out of which 2 are ice caves and one aragonite cave (Ochtinska aragonite cave is one out of the only 3 aragonite caves in the world). The ice caves (Dobsinska ice cave, Demanovska ice cave) are covered with ice throughout the year but logically have more ice in winter months. Get ready for hundreds of steps and bring your jacket, gloves and a hat.
One of my favorite places in Slovakia – unspoiled nature, fresh air, clear water rivers, a bunch of small waterfalls and gorges formed by many creeks you need to cross and the best views when hiking the national park. All this and as well as the ruins of Klastorisko – a monastery from the 13th century which was hidden in the forest for hundreds of years until its ruins were rediscovered. Slovensky raj with its literal translation Slovak Paradise truly proves why it got its name.
Spissky hrad (sometimes translated to English just as Spis Castle) is a complex Romanesque castle with walls from the 12th century. A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1993, it is also claimed to be the biggest castle in Central Europe.
Situated on a huge whitish calcareous stone it’s visible to tourists and passers by already from afar. Unfortunately, the castle burned down in 1780 and only the ruins that are being reconstructed remain. It still attracts thousands of visitors every year and has been used as a location in many movies, too. Spissky Castle
(photos supplied by author)