Slovakia - Tatra mountains, Slovakian paradise
Trip in Slovakia will usually focus on a relatively small area, which includes the High Tatra mountains, the Low Tatra mountains, and the Slovakian Paradise.
Poprad is the main town of the High Tatras and the Slovakian Paradise. It will be a central point for orientation and for shopping.
Liptovsky Mikulas is the main town of the Low Tatra mountains. It will be a primary point of orientation and shopping in the Low Tatras.
Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia, is a highly recommended place to visit. It’s not too close to the Tatra mountains, but it is worth it.
Arrival and Planning the Trip
The main tourists attraction in Slovakia is the Slovakian mountains. International flights are landing in Bratislava, and also in the neighboring countries, such as Austria, Hungary, and Poland. Your best choice would depend on the seasonal prices and the other destinations you wish to visit.
For accommodations in the mountain area, you need to decide if you prefer to stay in one place only, or you prefer to split your stay between several hotels. The distances are not significant, and in less than 2 hours you can cover the whole area of the mountains. Therefore, a “star topology” trip is ideal. On the other hand, some people prefer to refresh their accommodation place and save some car mileage. Bottom line, it is a very personal preference.
For those driving to the low Tatra from either Budapest or Vienna, you may plan a few stops on the way. Bratislava is worth a day or two. Banska Bystrica and Ruzomberok are beautiful cities for a few hours stop. Trenčín sits on the river, and offers a visit to the Trenčín Castle (Trenčiansky Hrad). You may also plan a stop at the restored village Vlkolinec. Cicmany is a very extraordinary village, with uniquely decorated wooden houses. The “wine road” is north of Bratislava, with small villages such as Svaty Jur, Pezinok and Modra.
If you land in Kocise, it is worthwhile visiting the city. Otherwise, need to consider if it is worth the ride. Attractions for children can be found at the mountain slides Letna Bobova Draha Kavecany, just near the city zoo. The zoo itself is enormous, and includes a Dino-park featuring real sized dinosaurs in the forest.
For tourists driving to the High Tatras from Budapest – prefer the highway over the mountain roads. The mountain roads are a bit difficult for the children in the back seat of the car. The scenic views can wait a few more hours for your arrival.
A fantastic trip in nature. Water, ladders, bridges, waterfalls. The walk is not easy, but absolutely possible for the average person. Also kids who are big enough and walk well, will enjoy this trip. The start point is at Podlesok, near a town called Hrabusice. The path is 9km long, 4km up the valley, and 5 km walk down a wide road (with steep shortcuts…). It is also possible to rent bikes for the way down. Please note there are very tall ladders in the path. Climbing the ladders may be dangerous, especially if the trail is wet after it rains.
There is another beautiful trail, from the same starting point as the Sucha Bela. It is called Prielom. Following the blue signs, the first section is fairly easy and can suit families with small children. If you want to take it nice and easy, just walk near the water and enjoying the day. After a while, or when it becomes too difficult, just turn around and return to the parking lot. However, if you seek adventures and advanced hiking, continue with the blue trail, then take the green trail up the mountain. The green section is very challenging.
A small and romantic lake which resides in the south part of the Slovakian Paradise, very near the ice cave. You may walk along the lake bank, or add some “action” for the kids and rent a pedal boat.
Near Dedinky there is a beautiful easy trail, going up valley Zejmarska Roklina. The trail goes up the canyon, and it is suitable also for children. Please note there are ladders and bridges in here, like all tracks in the Slovakian Paradise. The walk is about 4 kilometers, circular path. The trip starts at Dedinky village. A walk of about 2km east will lead to Zejmarska Roklina starting point. The amazing trail up would take about one hour. Then, take the green path down to Dedinky, through the forest. Groups with several cars, can make this trip shorter. Leave one car at the end of the trip, at Dedinky, and then drive to the trail starting point. After the trip, the drivers will ride back and get the cars.
Midway between Dedinky and the Ice cave there is a nice canyon with a flowing river and an easy track to walk. For those who arrive from the cave side, the parking is just after a tunnel on the road. The walk is on a paved road, which some may not like.
Dobsinska Jaskyna (The ice cave)
This famous cave with an iceberg inside, keeps the temperature below zero all year. To reach the cave, there is a 20 minutes path in the woods, uphill. The tour inside the cave is about 30 minutes long. Obviously, you will need to prepare in advance some warm clothes. This cave, like many sites in Slovakia, is closed on Mondays. Near the parking field, there is a small Lego exhibition for kids.
Half an hour walk will lead to a magnificent view from a 146 meters cliff. Park the car at Spisska Tomasovce or Cingov, and follow the marked path to the viewpoint at the top.
Accommodation in Slovakian Paradise
Chata s výhľadom na Tatry are private wooden houses in Hrabušice. Hrabušice is located at the north part of the Slovakian Paradise, and is just 2 minutes drive from the Sucha Bella. It is a small village with a restaurant, pizzeria and a supermarket. Very convenient for families. The house itself is large and pretty new, has a kitchen, and even a place for a fire in the backyard.
Vysoke Tatry (High Tatra)
There are three major sites as a base for a trip: Stary Smokovek, Tatranska Lomnica, Strbske Pleso. Each of these sites offers cable cars to the mountains and various tracks for hiking. Note that cable cars are quite expensive, probably because you don’t have an alternative… You may go down in the cable car, or take a trail down. Note there is 2 Euro deposit per each cable car path, so don’t forget to return it at the end of the day and get a refund.
In some of the places, there are mountain carts for rent, for going downhill.
Tatranska Lomnica and Stary Smokovek
There are several mountain peaks you may reach by a cable car. The highest one is called Lomnicke Sedlo. It is not a trivial destination for the common person, because the price is very high (35 Euro) and you need to book few days in advance. But actually, there is no real need to travel there. Taking the cable car two stations uphill, you will reach a lake called Skalnate Pleso, 1751m. You may walk around the lake and return via the cable car.
A better alternative for the way back to the car would be a round trip. Take the red trail towards Hrebienok. It is marked as 1.5 hours, but may take longer because the path consists of rocks, and the walk is difficult (for adults :). Kids are jumping over the rocks easily…). Take the funicular down to Stary Smokovec, and from there take a train back to the parking lot at Tatranska Lomnica. When buying the cable car tickets, if you plan to take the round trip, you may buy it in advance. This whole trip would take around half a day. For a map press here.
An option for a shorter trip would be to park in Stary Smokovec, take the funicular to Hrebienok, and there walk a 15 minutes trail to the waterfalls.
When traveling with kids, you may want to visit the mountain slides, Tatrabob, in Tatranska Lomnica. It’s a nice ride, but relatively short.
A nice attraction, which can be a great solution for a rainy day, is called Tricklandia. The gallery has rooms with visual illusions and 3D tricks. Great place for pictures. Note that booking must be made in advance.
A pleasant lake, with an easy road around it for walking. Near the lake there is a big touristic area, with hotels, restaurants and souvenirs shops. An open chairlift leads to the mountaintop, and from there you may either take the lift back down or hike down. The rocky path down starts with a trail marked blue, down to the valley. Then a yellow trail will take you to the lake. For a map of the trip press here .
Another option would be to just walk around the lake, and enjoy the view and the special fitness spots on the way. It will take about an hour.
Rafting in Pieniny Park
One hour ride north of Poprad, you will reach the Dunajec river, on the Poland border. From a town called Cerveny Klastor, you may take a rafting rubber boat down the river, with a guide. The river itself is quite calm, with a bit of faster sections occasionally, for the joy of the children. The huge cliffs on the riverside make this trip totally remarkable. The trip lasts around 1.5 hours, and going back is either by a public bus or by renting a bike. Rafting Pieniny is a recommended company, and booking in advance is possible via mail or SMS. They will also offer bikes rental for the way back. Another recommended company, which will also offer a free ride for the drivers back to the cars, is Tri Koruny Rafting.
An alternative for the rubber boats is wooden boats, stirred by locals wearing traditional costumes. It fits all ages, including elders, but less exciting than the rubber boats.
An impressive bridge crosses the river to the other side, and it would take you no more than 5 minutes walk to reach Poland.
On the way to Pieniny, there is a ski resort, offering summer activities such as mountain slides. It is called Bachledka Ski and Sun.
A huge and impressive castle, especially because of the scenic view in all directions.
Accommodation in the High Tatras
A boutique hotel located in Nova Lesna, at the bottom of the High Tatra mountains is called Vila Grand. Decorated with natural material, great breakfast, and a small children playground. The perfect experience and the perfect central location for High Tatra trips.
An alternative place for a stay, a bit north in the mountains, is Penzion Pod Magurou. Having an awesome restaurant and very friendly owners, the place offers high value for a decent price.
A beautiful polish village, relatively close to the High Tatra, which makes it a popular addition when visiting Slovakia. The main streets, Krupowki and Koscieliska, are full of life, shops, and restaurants, and this is sometimes enough for a full fledged vacation.
On the way to Zakopane there is a nice lake called Morskie Oko. However, in July and August it is too crowded to visit.
In Zakopane there is a park with pedals carting for children (ages 3 to 12) called Gokarty. The cable lift to the high mountains leads to a magnificent view, but here also the waiting in the line could be several hours in July and August. Therefore, tickets must be booked in advance here.
From the north part of Zakopane, there is a cable railway to a mountain peak called Gubalowka. Another chairlift, even a better option, is called szymoszkowa. Located near hotel Mercury, with free parking there. The open chairlift takes you up the mountains, to a great viewpoint and a nice walkway with restaurants and shops. There is also a good adventure park up there, called Przygody.
A unique restaurant with delicious food is called Marzanna.
And to finish the visit with a great splash of fun, the new and all heated water park, Chocholowskie Termy is very recommended for both children and adults.
Poprad and Shopping
Poprad city center has nothing spectacular about it, but it does have shops and restaurants. Frankly speaking, the place is a bit boring. But in August there is a summer festival, and the streets are coming to life, with food carts, live shows and crowds of local visitors. A huge modern mall is located in the city center, called Forum, with top brands and good prices. The kids may like the 5D cinema small attraction. Another mall in Poprad is called MAX, and besides the regular shopping stores it has a laundry shop, which may become useful. The laundry is expensive, but will have your clothes ready within 24 hours.
AquaCity Poprad is a high class water park in Poprad. The focus is more on indoor thermal water pools, and less on water slides.
Low Tatra mountains
Many accommodation places are scattered in Demanovska Dolina (valley), which leads to the Jasna ski park. During summer time, there are various attractions to visit, such as an ice cave, stalactites cave, hike paths and an adventures park, Tarzania.
For reaching the caves, the car will be parked at the valley, and a 25 minutes hike uphill will lead to the cave. The ice cave does not have much ice in the summer, so there is not much point of visiting it. The stalactites cave, called Liberty Cave, is huge and impressive, and worthwhile a visit.
The mountain peak is called Chopok, and a cable car will get you there. At Chopok you may enjoy the view and the restaurant, or take a one hour hike to the nearby mountain peak (2053 meters). The same cable car ticket can take you down the other side, and you may visit that part also. Note that in summer the cable cars are working only every half an hour, so you may need to wait at some places. Kids may get inpatient, so consider it before taking this cable car further on.
If you are traveling with kids, you may want to visit the mountain slides Fun Park Ziarce. The ride is long, and there are also other activities in the park.
For a map of Jasna cable cars press here
Up the road there is a small and romantic lake. A walk around it is a short and relaxing experience. Parking is near Hotel Grand Jasna, and a small path through the woods would lead to the lake.
A day hike in a gorgeous river valley, with bridges, flowing water, and waterfalls. The path starts at the parking of hotel Diery. The total length of the walk is 9.5km, at it would take about 2.5 hours. The path starts with a blue sign, going up river. Then, take the yellow path, with bridges and more challenging walk. At the top, there is a small shed, selling beer and cheese. Beware of the goats’ electrical fences – it is working, we checked :). Going down in the blue path will get you back to parking lot, and to a good restaurant at the hotel.
Click on the map to view the track:
On the way to Diery, you may stop for a nice break in a farm called Salas Krajinka. There is a restaurant there, and animals.
This small village is on the World Heritage list. The place itself is indeed unique, but it is the scenic view of the green mountains around it which makes the visit an extraordinary experience.
Tatralandia water park
A huge water park, with dozens of attractions and water slides. There are also hot thermal water pools and a circus. In spite of its size, during summer time the place can get quite crowded. Best would be to visit the place when the weather is nice, and not count on the indoor pools.
Another water park close by is called Besenova. It presents a good alternative to Tatralandia. Tatralandia is more extreme, with better challenges for teenagers. Besenova on the other hand, provides more thermal pools. There are also water slides in Besenova. In rainy days, Besenova is better, because it has more indoor areas.
Near Tatralandia there is a small special zoo called Kontact. Small children will love it.
In Liptov lake, you can do water sports of all kinds, at Marina Liptov.
Ziarska Dolina and the Bear Cave
For those who fear tall ladders, there is a relatively easy track, just 20 minutes ride north of Liptovsky Mikulas. The Ziarska track takes around three hours, part of it near water, and other part in green view. It is much less exciting walk than the typical Slovaky Paradise track. However, it is suitable for small children who are able to talk a few hours. The track is marked with blue and white signs, it is 5 km long, up hill. At the end, there is a nice restaurant to fill up the body energy. The fun part is the way down. You may rent scooters, i.e. bikes without pedals. Kids over 20 kg may ride alone, and smaller children will sit in a chair with their parent. Helmets are available. The ride is downhill all the way, and the road is comfortable.
Near the start of the track, there is a mine cave called Medvedia Stolna, or the Bear Cave. The tour inside the cave starts every hour, and it takes around 45 minutes to complete.
45 minutes drive north of Liptovsky Mikulas there is an impressive castle. The entrance to the Orava castle is with a guide only. English tour takes place every two hours, odd hours starting from 9am. The tour is characterized by many stairs, magnificent view, and beautiful castle rooms.
- A good place for accommodation, east of Liptovsky Mikulas. It has the adventure part Tarzania Hrabovo with rope sliding over the lake. It also offers Malibo Brdo Ski & Bike, with downhill paths for bikes of various kinds. Another adventure park near by is Liptov Active, with water sports, archery, paragliding, and other activities.
Shopping and accommodation
Before the entrance to the village Liptovsky Mikulas, there is an open mall with various shops. In the town, there is a mall called Stop Shop. Parking is free in both places.
Riverside hotel is a popular place for families who search comfort. The location is great, and there is a playground and a restaurant near the hotel, breakfast included. Another recommended hotel in the same area is called Hilson Jansa, is offering a huge playground and sitting places, with all green around it.
Penzion Via Mara is also a good choice for families with kids. The room is big and comfortable, there is a kitchen to cook, and the place is close to the town center. Children has a playground and parents can use the Sauna (extra fee).
If you are willing to pay a bit more, you will surely enjoy Wellness Hotel Chopok. It has a warm waterpool with a view to the mountains, Jacuzzi, children pool, spa, huge rooms with a balcony, and cool fun for children.
This beautiful Slovakian city is a natural stop between Bratislava and the Tatra mountains. The old city center provides shops, coffee places and ice cream, in a pleasant European atmosphere. The clock tower at the center is a bit tilted on its side, and therefore considered the “Pisa tower” of Slovakia. You may climb to the clock tower top, and view the whole city and the mountains around it. At the clock tower bottom there are two great ice cream shops – one is big and commercial and the other is family owned. Both are extraordinary.
The capital city of Slovakia has a very pleasant city center, colorful streets, historical buildings, and coffee shops. Bratislava castle is located above the city and a 10 minutes walk would get you there.
One day is enough to visit the city center, walk along the Danube river, climb to the castle and visit Saint Martin church. If you got the time, you would enjoy shopping in one of the modern malls of Bratislava. The prices are cheap, and there are awesome sales.
Small tip – Loft Hotel Bratislava
A luxury hotel 15 minutes walk from city center. The prices are somewhat expensive relatively to rural Slovakian hotels, but it is worth it. Exclusive rooms, rich breakfast, huge beds, and a free minibar, will keep you smiling the whole visit. Link to the hotel page at booking.com.