The Slovak Paradise National Park (Slovenský raj) is in eastern Slovakia and is a natural continuation of the slopes of the Low Tatras. This area was placed under protection in 1988 and is one of the youngest of the nine national parks in Slovakia. Slovak Paradise lives up to its name. In fact, the park is characterized by beautiful mountains and breathtaking gorges, numerous waterfalls and over 200 caves. Around 90 percent of its area is covered with spruce forests, where with a bit of luck you can see bears, lynx, wolves and deer. Moreover, there are spectacular hiking trails with free-standing ladders, footbridges, chains and bridges right through the gorges of the national park. Consequently, I will present one of these impressive paths to you here.
The route of my hike in brief
If you click on a link below, you will be taken directly to the corresponding section of the route. This starts at the parking lot in Podlesok. From here you can reach the Suchá Belá gorge in a few minutes. Picturesque waterfalls, iron ladders and steep climbs await you as the route continues through the gorge. This is followed by a relaxed section through forest areas to the old Kláštorisko monastery. From here a path leads north to the Hornad River, along which the rest of the tour leads. Here, too, there are footbridges and stairs that form the path along the rock walls. A short section through a forest brings you back to Podlesok.
Stairs, ladders, walkways, hardly secured
Circular hike through a gorge
This is how you get to the impressive gorges in the Slovak Paradise
The most famous and most impressive hiking trails in the Slovak Paradise can be found in the northwest of the national park. Starting point for many tours is the small town of Podlesok which can be easily reached by car. You can park in the car park Parkovisko Hrabušice Podlesok for 3 Euro all day. However, getting to the place by public transport is more difficult. Go to Vydrník train station and take a bus from there or take a direct bus from the surrounding towns of Spišská Nová Ves or Poprad. The bus stop is called Hrabušice, rázc. Betlanovce. I recommend the app cp.hnonline.sk for traveling by train and bus within Slovakia, because it covers even the smallest villages and bus stops and is available in German and English. In addition, for a better overview, I have also marked the stations on the map. Back then, we came by car and stayed in the neighboring town of Hrabušice. But more on that later.
Hike through the paradisiacal Suchá Belá Gorge
Before we can start our adventure, we still have to overcome three hurdles. There is a hut directly behind the parking lot, where we first have to pay 1.50 euro for entry. Then we pass several restaurants with scantily clad promoters standing in front of them and trying to lure us in. Several hiking trails are signposted, from which we keep in the direction of “Suchá Belá”. It goes quickly into the gorge and we can guess what will await us here. Moist tree trunks block our way. Others support the rocks that tower above. Green plants grow on the rock walls to the left and right and birds are chirping in the tall trees. The loose stones on the ground rattle under our shoes. Wet Bridges made of wood, some of which are missing crossbeams, wobble and bounce when crossing. Nevertheless, the first part of the way is still quite easy to master.
Ladders, footbridges and waterfalls in the gorge
We started the hiking trail with many other people, but at the latest when high iron ladders and unsecured footbridges appear, most people gradually turn around. Hikers who notice that their hiking sticks are out of place come towards us and block the paths. The trail can only be tackled in one direction and at some point, there is no turning back. Better for us because we have the Slovak Paradise Park to ourselves. In general, I cannot recommend this route to people who are afraid of heights, families with small children or people who expect safe paths like in Germany.
In the further course, the Suchá Belá meanders through narrow rock ledges and passes several waterfalls, which we have to climb over steep stairs, walkways and ladders. Nothing for weak nerves. The iron ladders are unsecured. On the left a huge rock, on the other side a waterfall plunges into the depths. The dirt from the shoes of the man in front patters down on me. Don’t look down. Again and again, we climb over iron footbridges that are attached to the rock walls. Chains rarely offer additional support. We squeeze through narrow passages. The rock walls are cool and rough. Smell of damp earth. Drops fall down. We have to cross the stream bed more often, so I recommend waterproof hiking boots. This backdrop truly promises an impressive natural experience. The Slovak Paradise National Park is an absolute highlight for every nature lover
Short Facts for your Trip
The main season lasts from May to September. We were in Slovakia in July and it was very hot and dry. The canyon Suchá Belá shone in green and was relatively empty. However, this hike is certainly very interesting in autumn, when the leaves are colored, it is a little cooler, and the waterfalls have more water.
From Suchá Belá to the Kysel Gorge
The hiking trail leads up to Suchá Belá záver at a height of 400 meters. Once there, there is a rest area where we relax for a while. There is also a bike rental shop at the fork, which you can use to start your way back to Podlesok. We can’t find this rental, but we want to continue walking towards Kláštorisko anyway. To do this, we follow the yellow hiking route through dense forest and after about 2 kilometers turn right onto the red route at the Pod Vtáčim hrbom junction. Compared to the gorge, the route is unspectacular, but very idyllic. Grasses, that rustle and chirp, green between tall trees. A woodpecker hammers and knocks on a thick trunk as the sun’s rays shine through the treetops. We listen to the singing of nature; we don’t meet people.
There are supposed to be bears here. Is there a chance that a bear will surprise us behind the next hill? Probably not, but for some reason a bear would fit this scenery perfectly. After 2 kilometers, the red path joins a blue route. We turn right and after a few minutes we reach several viewpoints. These allow a great view of the Kysel gorge and the vastness of the national park. I have marked it on the map as well.
Stopover at Kláštorisko
We turn around and take the blue route to Kláštorisko, where the ruins of an old Carthusian monastery stand. There is also a small hut here where snacks and drinks can be bought. So, an ideal place for a lunch break. Many tourists sit on the spacious meadows and enjoy the sun’s rays. Suddenly a handful of leaves is dancing next to us. We must look closely until we see that it is indeed a small whirlwind. The leaves float within this unity with an indescribable elegance and calm. In contrast, the vortex itself sweeps past us dynamically and then disappears into the bushes. Impressed, we move on to explore the ruins. We come across crumbling walls and buildings. Some have been reconstructed. A kind of stage is located in the center.
From Kláštorisko over the Prielom Hornádu back to Podlesok
North of Kláštorisko it goes downhill along the yellow hiking route to the Hornad River. The other path (green) leads directly through the Kláštorská roklina gorge, but unfortunately it is only accessible in the direction of Kláštorisko. Meanwhile, the last part of the yellow route goes steeply downhill until we finally reach the junction Kláštorská roklina – ústie. Here we come across a suspension bridge, which we do not cross, but follow the blue route towards Podlesok. This hiking trail always leads us along the river, and we have to cross iron steps, chains and wooden bridges again. Occasionally we march along the riverbed and enjoy the bright rays of sunshine that are reflected in the water. On other sections we can only listen to the rush of the water. Compared to the route through the Suchá Belá, this route is much easier to master, so that we also meet many families here. Nevertheless, it is a wonderful hike with an idyllic natural backdrop.
At the Hrdlo Hornádu junction we cross a bridge and on the other side we reach a hill where we get a great view. After another 1.5 kilometers along the blue route we make it back to Podlesok. In conclusion, the entire route is about 14 kilometers long and it took us around 6 hours with breaks. It’s an unforgettable route through the park’s breathtaking gorges and I recommend it to anyone with a spirit of adventure. Nonetheless, families should rather choose the route along the Hornádu, but that is up to you. If you still need current information about the trail conditions, activities or hiking maps, visit the homepage of the Slovak Paradise National Park.
Overnight stay and highlights in the Slovak Paradise National Park
We stay at the Hotel Petra Garni in the neighboring town of Hrabušice. Our accommodation is simple but very clean and there is an enclosed car park and a good breakfast buffet. The owner is very friendly and can speak German well. When we arrive, immediately after the greeting, he unsolicited show us where we can buy beer. Very sympathetic. So I can fully recommend the hotel. However, there is not much to see in the village itself. But you can visit a nice church and some restaurants for refreshment after the hike. I can recommend the Raj restaurant especially for people who want traditional Slovak food. An alternative is the Jendrál restaurant with good slivovitz.
In the Slovak Paradise National Park, you can also find the famous Dobšiná Ice Cave (Dobšinská ľadová jaskyňa), one of the largest ice caves in Europe and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. However, we did not visit the cave, because we had already visited another ice cave the days before. Information about the cave can be found on the Slovak caves website. Another highlight in the area is the Spiš Castle. You can find detailed information in my post about the castles in Slovakia. Also visit my country page and learn more about my experiences in Slovakia. What are your best moments in this country? Let me know in the comments.
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