Bratislava and hiking in Slovakia part 1
Slovakia definitely is a superb destination for all outdoor enthusiasts! This land of mountains, caves and national parks offers endless amount of hiking trails from easy walks to demanding mountain adventures, also for MTB riders.
We started our stay in Slovakia with a drive from Polish border to the capital city Bratislava. Highway network in Slovakia seems to be comprehensive, basically all bigger highways seem to be 130 km/h motorway, so moving from one place to another is quick and easy. Also the public transportation network is wide.
In this post there is first a short story of our stay in the capital, but the main focus is on our hiking trip in Low Tatras National Park. In the second part of the post you can read about 2-days hike in High Tatras and a day hike in Slovensky Raj national park.
Sightseeing in Bratislava
When in Bratislava, we again chose affordable accommodation few kilometers out of the city center via Booking.com. HostelLemon was a decent option with well-equipped kitchen and spacious, clean room. Accommodation in Bratislava is generally somewhat pricey, but otherwise Slovakia is surprisingly cheap country. Meals in restaurants start from around 4 euros and you can get a big beer with just 1 € or even less. Also craft beers and wines are inexpensive.
There would have been tram connections to the city center right next to our hostel, but as usual, we chose to walk. Not really to save the ticket price, but to see more and enjoy the sunshine while getting some light exercise. The most popular sight in Bratislava is the handsome, shiny-white castle (build in 9th century – 18th century and rebuilt in 1956-1964), which can’t be missed since it is located on a hill right next to the old town. Wandering around the castle area is free, but there is a fee (7 €) for the museum inside the castle.
Old town pedestrian area is charming, and there is enormous amount of restaurants and pubs to choose from. City center was very lively, both locals and international tourists were having afternoon walks and enjoying the sunny terraces. In addition to sightseeing, we continued our craft beer tastings in the small 100 Piv Craft beer shop and pub. We really enjoyed the atmosphere of Bratislava and could have stayed a lot longer than just couple of days, but we were eager to get our hiking boots dirty in the mountains!
Day hike in Low Tatras
First hiking destination was the National Park Low Tatras (Nizke Tatry) in central Slovakia, between rivers Vah and Hron. The main mountain ridge is 80 kilometers long and there is a red-marked hiking path covering it from Donovaly in the west to Certovica in the east. Highest peaks are Dumbier (2043 m) and Chopok (2024 m), and the red trail goes over both of them. Four to five days hike through the whole Low Tatras, spending the nights in mountain huts (chatas) would be awesome for sure. For day hikes, probably the most popular starting point is the town of Jasna on the north side of the mountains, from where there is easy ascend to the top of Chopok using chairlifts.
We decided to stay on the southern side, and first stop was in lovely town of Banska Bystrica, where we gathered some information over Low Tatras and got a directive map with hiking and biking routes. Since we were not heading for multi-day hike, we set our camp in the nearby village of Tajov, in reasonably priced (12 euros per night for two persons with a tent and a car) but a bit worn camping area called Velky Dvor / Tajov Auto Camping.
From Jasenie to Durkova hut
Based on the map we got from the tourist info, we chose to drive to town of Jasenie (elevation 500 meters) and start our hike up from there (starting point of the hiking paths is in a bus stop after driving past the town center). We didn’t have decent hiking map with neither length nor time estimate of the trails, so the long ascend to the slopes came as a surprise. We walked along the green marked trail towards mountain hut Durkova under the peak Chabenec in 1955 meters. First 8 to 9 kilometers were a bit boring, just walking along a small road slightly upwards. There is a pretty stream next to the road though. Ascend was followed by zigzaging dirt road up to the point where green and blue trails get together close to the tree line. Then the mountain views opened up, and rest of the way to the hut was along quite steep path, sweaty job when it’s close to 30 degrees and the midday sun is burning your neck 🙂
Durkova hut (Utulna Durkova) offered a great setting for having a break. The hut is beautifully located in the slope under the peaks. It is possible to stay overnight (for just 5 euros per person) and on the menu they have at least tasty goulash with bread (3 €) and of course beer (2 € / 0,5 l). Fresh, cold drinking water comes from a spring.
From Durkova hut to Chabenec peak and back down
After having lunch and stretching our legs in the hut, we climbed up to Chabenec along blue marked trail. It is quite steep but easy-to-walk path up, and climb is rewarded with great views towards High Tatras mountains on the north. It was rather windy in the top, so we headed back after a short photography break. Original plan was to continue along the red-marked trail on the top towards Chopok peak, but we didn’t have enough time since needed to get back down before dark. Only if we had had sleeping bags and stuff with us, would have stayed the night in the mountains.
But well, back down we walked, along the blue trail this time. After crossroad with green-marked trail it was first nice path through forest, but shortly changed to small rocky road which was bit annoying to walk. After few kilometers the trail continued along the road towards Jasenie. Due to blister in my heel and aching toes it was getting a bit hard to walk. Another pair of shoes, like walking sandals, would have been perfect for both the beginning of the ascent and the rest of the descent.
Right at the moment when we thought that we might just never reach the village, a friendly couple driving by stopped and offered us a ride! Perfect, it would have been pretty painful last kilometers for us without them. Total length of the hike was somewhere around 30 kilometers (sport watch battery didn’t last until the very end) and it took 6,5 hours without the lunch break. Maybe a bit too long, but a nice day hike it was, and pretty demanding one with 1455 m vertical climb.
FinnsAway recommends to visit Low Tatras when in Slovakia, and if the time allows, take a multi-day hike along the main ridge!