Is it possible to do three national parks in just one week? The answer is: Yes!
We hiked some of the most popular hiking trails in three different Slovakian National Parks. It was an arranged trip, but self-guided, with one day-hiking trips and lots of kilometers and not to forget altitude! We visited in mid August and had sunny days and a few rain showers.
After browsing the internet, we decided that our first summer vacation together should be spent hiking in the beautiful Slovakian Nature. I came across a travel agency (Travel Slovakia) offering a package of three hotels, with two days for hiking in each location. We went in August 2018, and therefore there might be some changes since then.
The website explains the details, but we were basically picked up from the train station in Žilina, where a representative from the agency picked us up, drove us to the first hotel and gave us our maps and pointed out the trails we could follow. When she left, we were basically on our own… Not many of the locals spoke English! But we did’nt need much communication during our trip. We had breakfast every morning, lunch bags for every hike and dinner in the hotel every evening included in the deal. After spending two days in each hotel, a taxi driver would pick us up and drive us to the next location!
Apologies in advance, not all of my photos are in a great quality.. I take most of my pictures on the go with my phone 🙂
Terchova Village / Mala Fatra National Park
The first hotel we stayed in was in the picturesque town called Terchova, with supermarkets, outdoor and skiing equipment, souvenir shops, and restaurants.
Day 2, Mala Fatra National Park part 1
A total of 13 km and 1050 m climb.
This was the toughest hike of them all, maybe because it was the first hike… The hike included some climbing using chains, staircases etc. But it was beautiful! See for yourself in the pictures below 🙂
I don’t remember how much time it took us.. as wildlife appreciators, there were some interesting birds such as Gray wagtail, European dipper, Golden Eagle, and lots of gorgeous butterfly of particularly Silver-washed fritillary. This made the whole hike a bit longer, with many small breaks underway.
I do remember a very nice reward at the end of the trail in terms of some ice-cold beer :).. After the hike you can take the bus back to Terchova.
Day 3, Mala Fatra National Park part 2
The hike was about 7 km and 940 m climb in altitude.
Arriving at the cable car ‘Vratna-Chleb’, we chose to take the cable car to the top to save our strength, still recovering from the first day hiking. We hiked longer than 7 km.
We walked along the ridge, which was covered in clouds, and birds were flying in an out of the mist, what an amazing morning we had! We were birdwatching along the way, and we got a feeling of being almost alone on this route.
Later we climbed higher up the mountain to the intended trail and found our way to the top! What an amazing feeling to get to the top, despite we didn’t climb all the way from the bottom 🙂
Štrbské Pleso / Tatra National Park
Štrbské Pleso (pronounced ‘strebske’) is also a skiing village during winter, and offers shops with outdoor equipment, various restaurants and bars and such. The beautiful lake lies at the town level, and a walk around the lake is a trip on it’s own!
We stayed in Hotel Toliar, just across the train station. This was the most luxurious of all the hotels we stayed at, with a sparkling clean bathtub and balcony. The hotel offered a spa (at an extra charge of course) and a buffet restaurant. We discovered that in Slovakian spas, people go nude!! Not our cup of tea, but no one asked us to remove our bathing suits 🙂
Day 4, Tatra National Park part 1
We soon discovered how popular this trail was… turns out it was one of the most busy trails we hiked in Slovakia! A funny thing was that we kind of followed a newly wed couple around, where the bride was hiking the trail in her wedding dress, the groom in his suit and fancy shoes! They seemed local, and hiked much faster than us despite their poor choice in footwear 🙂
It is popular for local families to do this hike on a ‘family Sunday’. Most people hiked to rest by the lake (pictured below), where you will find more restaurants. The place was extremely crowded and not to our taste. Philip continued to the peak, Rysy at 1100 m altitude, to explore this gorgeous blue mountain lake, while I went back another and less crowded trail.
In total, he hiked the expected 20 km and was very challenged. There were several river crossings, and I made the right decisions about going back, although he did have an amazing view from the blue lake!
I spent the afternoon relaxing in the bathtub in our room, what a joy!
Day 5, Tatra National Park part 2
This hike offered stunning views of distant mountains, and lush pine forests almost as far as the eye can see. We saw nutcrackers, butterflies and other interesting wildlife. The hike was not as popular as the previous day, which gave us space and time to enjoy our surroundings. Underway to the top we were caught in a super heavy rainfall, and to save weight Philip had removed his waterproofs in the morning… This meant we had to seek cover underneath a rock! Since then we learned which items cannot be spared on a hike 🙂
At the peak there were several restaurants, and we had a cold refreshment before venturing down the mountain again.
Podlesok / Slovak Paradise National Park
We stayed at the lovely Hotel Slovensky Raj for two nights. In Podlesok you will find a large camping site and a few other hotels, but within walking distance of the hotel there is not a lot of shops or bars.
The restaurant in the hotel was the best of all the hotels we had stayed at, with great service from the hotel staff. The apartment was huge, with two rooms, an older bathtub in the bathroom, and a living room with tables and a comfy couch.
Day 6, Slovak Paradise National park
11 km and 280 m climb, not to forget all the stairs!
Our last hike, but truly a unique one.. But it was also the most strange experience too! Never had I imagined, that I would stand in a line on a hike. But this trail in the Slovak Paradise was so popular, and included several stairs that had to be climbed, and could only take a certain amount of people at the time!
On our last day (day 7), we were supposed to do another hike. From what we could gather, it included a lot of climbing, and after 6 days of hiking and climbing, we decided that we were satisfied with what we had accomplished.
Instead we went birding in the local area in the morning. At our hotel there was a wedding taking place, which meant we could not be outside in the otherwise beautiful garden of the hotel.
In the afternoon we went to Košice, a large city in eastern Slovakia.
Food and accomodation
One night I tried the national dish, bryndza or Bryndzové halušky, which is creamy sheep cheese with smoked bacon on top. It was tasty, but it should be shared! Generally, dish sizes in the mountain villages are big.
In Štrbské Pleso, we had breakfast and dinner in our hotel at the buffet. In Terchova we had dinner at the neighboring restaurant. We could choose anything from the menu, but it was not available in English, which means you are picking your dinner in blind! You will find that there is a lot of German-inspired dishes on the menus.
It is easy to navigate in the Slovakian National parks. The trails are well marked, and there are many options and lengths of the hikes to choose between. You will have amazing views, cool wildlife and kind locals, despite language barriers. I did not travel solo, but I felt safe in Slovakia. The taxi drivers were a bit nuts, but name a country where taxi drivers don’t drive too fast? 🙂
Before coming to Slovakia, we spent a few nights in Vienna. Read my post here! We simply traveled by train from Vienna to Zilina in Slovakia. After our hiking adventure, we went to Košice, from where we spent two nights and had a flight back home to Denmark.