Hiking the Canyons of Slovak Paradise

Hanging out in Slovak Paradise

Leaving Budapest we had brief stop in Kosice, a nice, quiet little town. We walked around a bit and ate but for some reason most things were close do we didn’t stay too long.  We were on our way to Slovak Paradise (Národný park Slovenský raj in Slovak) where we planned on hiking through narrow canyons and on trails built many times out of ladders and steel rebar steps instead of just being on dirt.  Slovak Paradise is an amazing place and has some of the most unique hikes you’ll find but planning can be a bit tricky if you aren’t familiar with the area. You may first go to the Slovak Paradise website but when trying to plan your trip it seems like they expect you already know how everything works.  Here’s what you need to know: Most of the trails with the really cool ladders and bridges are in the northern section, the ice cave and other sights are in the south, no roads connect them.  The trails are really well-marked, different trails have different color codes making everything really easy to follow.  The easiest thing to do is ask for recommendations from your hotel or guesthouse when you arrive, they should also have one of the paper trail maps (the National Park website doesn’t make this available online last I checked.  I’ll link to the GPS routes from our hike at the bottom of this post.

View from the Villa Raj
View from our room at the Villa Raj

There aren’t any real hotels in the area, just guesthouses.  We booked a room at Villa Raj because of the very high ratings and it is definitely a place we’d recommend.  It was inexpensive ($50 for two nights), very new and the family that owned it was super nice.  It was offseason when we hiked so not to many things were open.  Not only did the owner pick us up from the train station but we he drove us to a hotel he worked so we could eat and the next day dropped us off at the trailhead.  It saved us a ton of time plus he had great advice on what trails to hike.  The little town of Hrabušice we stayed in was very small and quiet but had a couple nice restaurants.  It was so small you could walk across the entire town in just a few minutes and was a great access point to the park – the main reason we chose it.

Heading into Slovak Paradise
Heading into Slovak Paradise
Slovak Paradise trail map
Our route is in purple

Since the park is a large network of trails, you can make your own hike in dozens of different variations.  I’ll describe the hike our guesthouse host suggested to us which we thought was perfect.  On the left is a photo of the trail map and linked here is a Google Map of our route (the full GPX file is at the bottom of this post.)  The route starts from one of the park headquarters near the car camping in Podlesok.  All the trails in the park have small ‘flags’ on signs or painted on rocks that are white stripes with a color.  You are looking for a green-striped flag towards Suchá Belá.  You’ll pay a couple euros on your way in for the entry fee.  This trail gets very busy during high-season (but we had it nearly to ourselves) and as a result you’re only allowed to travel in one direction, uphill/South.  The narrow canyon winds uphill and you’ll cross dozens of wood ladders, steel rebar steps pounded into the sides of cliffs and climb steep metal ladders without protection.  If you’re afraid of heights this is probably not a great trail for you but if you give it a shot I think you’ll love it!  A couple times we did run into groups of people who traveled slowly over the more challenging ladders or bridges – another good reason to go in shoulder season and avoid what I’m sure becomes major traffic jams.

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