Slovakia's national parks centre on the country's greatest natural resource: its mountains. From the alpine High Tatras down to the hilly Poloniny in the secluded northeast, this wide variety of mountains provides the lifeblood of the nation, supplying the purest water and air, hosting its richest forests and inspiring most of its folklore. All of this is easy to find in and around the parks.
Although mountains and hills stretch from one end of Slovakia to the other, it is the ranges in the eastern half of the country that have been granted the strictest protection afforded by national park status (though other categories of protected areas abound throughout the country).
All of the parks are accessible by road or by public transportation, although the quietest areas require more effort to get to. Each offers a variety of hiking for tourists at all levels, from novice to expert, through deep and extensive forests.
Slovakia's national parks
Slovakia's best-known, best-loved and most-visited park, with its distinctive Alp-like peaks. Heavily frequented skiing areas (downhill and cross-country). Guided mountain climbing available. Airport with direct flights to London, Bratislava and other cities, and easy access by car, train or bus from all over Slovakia.
Slovakia's largest national park, with very extensive rounded mountains and magnificent valleys. Downhill skiing of all types, and good conditions for other outdoor sports, particularly mountain biking. Numerous caves. Approachable via Liptovsky Mikulas in the north and Banska Bystrica in the south.
Closest park to Czech Republic, between Zilina and High Tatras National Park, Mala Fatra boasts rock peaks and beautiful views from its main ridge, which is often a weekend destination for many hikers. Wide variety of downhill skiing in winter. Rich traditional folk art in nearby areas.
Velka Fatra is a huge mountain range lying between Liptov and Turiec regions. It is known for its continuous forests and long valleys. Due to 30 years of nature conservation, many valuable natural assets are successfully surviving here.
Apart from its natural beauties, including the picturesque Dunajec river with its gentle rafting trips, this small park, stretching along the border with Poland, hosts the fabulous 14th century Cerveny Klastor monastery. Best reached by car, or by infrequent bus connections from Poprad and Stara Lubovna.
The quietest and easternmost of Slovakia's national parks, with the gentlest hills and original extensive beech forests, which were put on the UNESCO Natural Heritage List. Wonderful preserved historic wooden churches can be found here. Best reached via the town of Snina.
Exceptionally lush forests, waterfalls and cliffs characterize this popular national park. Some of the spectacular laddered hiking trails are only for the hardy, but others are easily managed. Not far from Kosice and High Tatras National Park, its entry points are from the north via the village of Hrabusice (connected by bus from Kosice), or from the south Dedinky (by train from Kosice).
Muranska planina is perhaps the best-preserved untouched landscape in Slovakia. Located in the very heart of Slovakia, it is guarded by the legendary Muran castle and blessed with wild and unspoilt karstic landscape.
Slovensky Kras National Park is the largest karstic area in Europe and the youngest national park in Slovakia. Twelve of its caves and abysses are inscribed in the UNESCO Natural Heritage List! Many easterners, most from Kosice, second largest city in Slovakia, come here for recreation and relaxing hikes.