Explore Slovakia’s Great Outdoors
Slovakia’s rural landscape of rugged mountains, valleys, farms, and mostly small towns is conducive to many kinds of outdoor activities. With so many Slovaks enjoying hiking, skiing, and caving, participating in the outdoor life is a terrific way to meet these easy going and friendly people.
The Orava district, near Slovakia’s northern border with Poland, offers a good slice of Slovakian life and culture. To reach this area, take a bus or train from Vienna (about four hours by train) or from Prague (about seven hours by train). You can also fly directly into Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia and then make your way toward Orava.
A must see in Orava is the Oravsk Hrad castle, one of Slovakia’s roughly 200 castles. Oravsk Hrad was built in 1267 A.D. and is still in excellent shape. You’ll see dozens of paintings of the barons who ruled this district.
The Orava Dam, known as the “Slovak Sea,” is the place to go for water sports and Dolny Kubin, set on the banks of the Orava River, is an ideal starting point for hikers.
Near Orava at the southern slopes of the Low Tatras is the Bystrianska Cave, one of the country’s nearly 4,000 caves. The Low Tatras National Park also offers access to the Demanovska Cave and Tatras has plenty of skiing and hiking trails for non-cavers. Many hotels, hostels, and campsites are available. To plan a visit to Orava or other districts within Slovakia, visit www.slovakia.org and www.sacr.sk for more information on accommodations and transportation.
At the end of an active day of biking, caving, hiking, or skiing, you can enjoy a soak in the mineral springs that dot the Slovakian landscape. Perhaps you’ll even be invited into the home of hospitable Slovaks. It is customary for Slovaks to welcome friends with bread and salt and prune liqueur. Be sure to remove your shoes on the porch, and you will be all the more well received!