Between 1993 and 1999 5 times I went on 10-14 day long bicycletours in Slovakia and in the polish Tatra with packs behind me. On these tours I gathered ca. 5500 kms in the slovakian land. I compiled the following tips from these experiences:
If bicyclers go on a bicycletour in Slovakia, it is very likely that they will visit the High Tatra. Because in each of the 5 occasions we didn’t missed the High Tatra, I will divide the slovakian routes into two parts, based on, if they are situated eastwards or westwards from the Tatra – Bükk (hungarian mountain-range) line.
General experiences: In Slovakia the roadsurfaces are better, the traffic are less busy than in Hungary. The wide hard shoulders / edges of the main roads are ideal for bikers, so – because the traffic on these roads are only normal and not too busy – during cycling there it won’t mean a problem. There is no reason for feeling fear because of the cars. The quality of the secondary roads are either not bad, but on these roads we can find somewhere rough surface or pot-holes.
Unfortunately in Slovakia there are no open well along the roads, streets, so the biker can fill the flasks only at petrol stations or private houses. In the Slovansky Raj or High Tatra(s) there are some springs along the roads.
Accomodation: With my tourmates in each of the five years we preferred to wild camping, usually at the edge of forests (the only exception were the nights in the High Tatra). I suggest to hide behind bushes, or turn off onto minor roads without any traffic. At the feet of the High Tatra (for example in Nova Lesna) there are a lot of private houses where we can rent/hire rooms or appartments.
In the course of my slovakian biketours a few of my most remarkable feelings came from such roads which went through fir tree forests and there were tipical flowers of the Tatra and Slovakia. (its colour is rose and they have a long head with a lot of flower-head on it. It can be more often seen in Slovakia, then in the Alps – I think).
Maps: I have been bringing a 1:500.000 map with me for years, but for having more and detailed informations about the climbs I bought some 1:100.000 tourist-maps about the mountain-ranges. In the last few years slovakian bike-maps are also offered, which show MTBpaths and the steepness of the roads.
Starting the tour from East-Slovakia, I suggest two routes to begin the slovakian bicycletour : (I suppose that the bikers don’t want to cycle on busy main-roads, like the road (no. 3.) between Miskolc and Kosice and the other road between Miskolc and Bánréve):
From Roznava (314m) to Dobsina the road ascends very pleasantly to between higher and higher mountains.
At the end of Dobsina starts a middle hard climb up to a 870m high saddle next to the lake Dedinky. On this 7,3 km the biker has to climb 400m heightdifference. The slope goes up with serpentinebends between fir trees and gives some nice views to the valley. Although the road doesn’t go through Dedinky, the lake (there are 1000-1200m high mountains around it) and the village is worth seeing anyway (1st photo). We can take a round towards the lake, but we can go through the dam that swells up the water. Next to the village there are shore, where swimming is let. Remaining on the main road the land will be more romantic with some rocks, and besides the valley became narrower. During cycling in the valley we can enjoy the beauty of the fir trees, mountains, the clear air. At the entrance of a tunnel I suggest to choose to turn right into a canyon. That road is closed for the cars and only one kilometer long, but very romantic and beautiful! After the kilometer the road joins into the main road. Before Stratena there is a ca. 30m high rock next to the road, which can be – carefully – climbed. In every year when we cycled there, we went up to the top of that rock; it was a tradition for us.
Turning right, to Poprad a 1,3 km long 10-12% steep ascent goes to the 1056m high pass. While we are slowly struggling up, we can hardly notice the flowers, the fir tree fragrance.
The steeper part of the descent is 6km long; somewhere twisting, but it has good surface. We can catch sight of the peaks of the High Tatra from Hranovica which seems to be full of gipsy inhabitants. Before Poprad there is one climb left, the Kvetnica; its light ascent is only 3 km long. After a short downhill there is maybe the best view to the High Tatra. Coming out from the forest we can see how the whole High Tatra mountain-range rises up to the sky (photo).
This june (2004) I plan to climb the heighest asphalted road in Slovakia, to the 1946m heigh Kralova Hola in the Low Tatra.
After Roznava we start with the same road (towards Dobsina), about I have written above, but at Gemerska Poloma if we turn right (towards Hnilec) we can enjoy cycling on a very calm, quiet road. On that road the bikers can’t meet too many cars. The climb has a long almost flat beginning section, then it goes into the forest, but although the gently sloping section is long, the 10 km long climb isn’t too hard. Not much before the 909m high Sulova pass there is a spring under the fir trees. From the saddle the view extends only to the neighbouring mountains, on the saddle I’m sure everybody feels the quiet, and mood as we would be at the the worldend. On the descent there are potholes, but for these the biker are compensated by the beautiful scenery towards north, towards the valley of Hnilec (photo). After a few kilometers long flat section we had to climb some kilometers onto the mountainside, where this road joins the other road that connects Spisska Nova Ves and Dedinky. Turning north (right) the climb continues to the 1069m high Grajnar saddle, while choosing the other direction (left), on this we can roll to the shore of the Lake Dedinky (11kms from the junction). From Dedinky we can reach Poprad on the same road, about which I have written in the last paragraph. (There is an other road towards Poprad through the Slovensky Raj and Hrabusice, that’s rough and mended. The other, through Vernar is much nicer.)
From Bánréve our route comes closer to Rimavska Sobota through flat land; there are not too much traffic. After the town we push the pedals in a gently ascending valley northwards to between the mountains. After Tisovec the valley has a true slovakian character: in the lower part of the climb a stream and the fir trees together makes the valley be more atmospheric. In the middle of the climb the road goes under a viaduct. On this road there aren’t too much traffic too. The 725m high Zbojska saddle is similar to the Sulova pass, where we can meet a car only in every half an hour.
A gently sloping descent goes down to Brezno (500m), from where a 7% steep calm climb waits for the biker. The ascent is only 4km long, but is between the most beautiful ones. The ascent twists up through a fir tree forest and then on the 733m high situated top the biker gets a fantastic view to the whole Low Tatra mountain-range for his/her efforts (photo). This is one of my favourite passes. After a few kilometer long descent we arrive at Myto pod Dumbierom (650m), where a 10-11 km long middle steep climb goes up to the 1238m high Certovica pass.
(From Myto pod Dubmierom we can take a ca. 30 km long detour (climb) into the Bystra valley and to the 1216m high situated Srdiecko hotel , to under the Chopok.) On the Certovica pass an old motel can be found, and besides there is a small but friendly restaurant and pension. The first half of the descent to Liptovsky Hradok gives opportunity to enjoy the speed, but in the second half pedalling is needed.
Side valleys / roads towards to Tatra, which is suggested to discover:
If we want to visit the east Slovensky Raj, or Spisska Nova Ves, going towards the High Tatra, there is only one road to choose: from Dedinky through the 1069m Grajnar pass. The 15 km long climb has 300m heightdifference, and is steep only on short sections. From a left bend we get a pleasant view to the whole valley. It’s interesting that there is no prospect from the saddle, but a chapel. The descent has a pleasant steepness and bends and good surface. Going down towards Spisska Nova Ves we can enjoy rolling in the fir tree forest very much (photo). This road is ideal for bicycling: beautiful and not too hard. From Spisska Nova Ves the road ascends lightly to Levoca in a pleasant shady avenue. We catch sight of the town from a hillside. Levoca seems to be a nice small town: on the hillside some houses, with a church between them and a chapel on the hilltop.
With a 35km long detour we can visit the largest fortress of Middle Europe, the Spisské fortress. The short steep climb - on which we left the town - is followed by a 4 km long descent. Not far after it the fortress can be seen (photo): it’s much easier to keep on cycling, when we see, what’s our destination. The road goes up to the 675m high situated fortress from behind. (In 1997 we had to pay 40 Sk for the entrance, and besides we should had to pay 50Sk for the videocamera. The whole building can be visited and gone through; there are stairs inside the wall of the tower; on a model of the exhibition we saw its hungarian name with pleasure, because 100 hundred years ago it was the part of Hungary. On the ca. 1 km long wall of te fortress can be also gone through.)
After Levoca we had to push the pedals for a few kilometer long on straight, bare and lightly steep climb. After a long downhill we arrive at Spisska Stvrtek, that is known for its church with a white tower and wooden top. To Poprad there are some 1-2 km long, somewhere 10% steep climbs.
Cycling eastwards from Roznava we had to cross a small hill to arrive at Krasnahorské Pohradie, which is known for its castle. I suggest the climb that starts behind the village only for enough trained cyclists, because on the next 9 km 660m heightdifference is to be gone through with some steep sections. (It’s true I cycled there with 23 kg pack on my bike.) The ascent is hard for long and we cycle on an almost empty road to the 1030m high saddle, which seems to be much more at the worldend than the Sulova pass. In 1997 on that climb I met only one car. At the pass I found a gipsy who brough up the ladies from the hardly visited village to pick crops, berries. I felt it unbelievable! And that was true, that only 50kms from Hungary people picks berries. On the descent there were some potholes, but beautiful views too. In the valley the inhabitants looked at me in the helmet as I were an UFO. A lady who asked me about the time, didn’t know the watch with digital numbers in it instead of the two hands (traditional clock).
From Poprad we cycle towards Kezmark (22km) along a river with looking back with goodbye to the mountains of the High Tatra. Besides the castle the church is also be worth visiting: the grave of the famous hungarian, Imre Thököly can be found inside that. It was a nice surprise to see the hungarian words on the grave and on the ribbons. From the area of Spisská Bela (or the valley of the Poprad river) there are two roads to cross the 800-1000m high Spisské mountain-ridge:
From Haligovce we can catch sight of the nice shaped rocks of the Pieniny mountain-range above the river Dunajec. The Trzy Korony, the peak at the end of the valley is situated just on the polish side. The RAFT-TOUR leads at the feet of it. This land is calm and not busy so it’s no problem to find a place for a wild camp. The raft-tours leave the start point, Cerveny Klastor in every 30 minutes, or based on the demands. The raft – in which I was sitting in 1998 - was made of 5 wooden digged out blocks, on which planks were taken. The people had to sit onto the planks and in the blocks. There were 20 of us in that raft. Onto the front of the raft branches were taken to save us from the water that sometimes bang against the raft. The raft was guided by two piskmen. One of them in front, the other at the back of the raft. I enjoyed very much how the piskman waited for the time when the raft swam to the right point in the bend, because that point was where he had to direct the raft into the right direction. The rafting-tour in the canyon lasted for about 60-70 minutes long. In 1998 the tour with the bustrip back to the departure costed 200 Sk. Instead of this there is a path at the bank of the Dunajec to walk back (1,5 – 2 hour long) to the departure. The whole trip was a fantastic experience! I suggest not to miss it!
We keep on cycling towards Stara Lubovna in a pleasant, hardly ascending valley through rare visited villages. In this region (maybe on sundays or when the ladies goes to the church) sometimes we can see ladies, girls dressed in national costume/dress. 1-2 km middle hard ascent after the last houses of Stranany we arrive at a saddle where from we can enjoy the picture of the Trzy Korony last time. After light rolling, pedalling we arrive at Stara Lubovna which is situated at the bank of the river Poprad. A 1,5 km long - at its end steep - climb goes up to the castle. Although we could hear pleasant music-voices from the building, because the entrance fee for the foreign tourists was the double as for the slovakians, we didn’t want to go in. Towards Bardejov the route is flat for a while and follows the river, then after Lubotin it comes closer to the polish border and runs next to it for about 10 km long. The hilly land is nice and friendly. After the houses of Obrucne the road reaches its top at the end of a kilometer long steep climb. As the route is more and more far from the high mountains we can feel that the temperature is higher, and higher and coming closer to Bardejov not fir trees but leafy trees „follows” the road. On the slope down I couldn’t already feel the slovakian character/atmosphere of the area; the land was just like in the Pilis, in Hungary. We can go fast to Malcov, but after the village the road needs pushing the pedals.
Bardejov (part of the UNESCO world heritages) is one of my favourite slovakian towns. I have never met with such a pleasant atmospheric main square in a town. We feel as the time were 100 years before: a church stands in the lower / north part of the square, in front of it the town hall can be seen, and round the square well renovated, somewhere decorated, atmospheric houses. (In the town nice and renovated wall of a fortress can be found too.) In 1998, when we cycled there, in front of the town hall (in the main square) a stage was built up, on which young were singing, playing music very well. We thought those youngs got chance to sing and play music to the people. Their music and the atmosphere of the main square was so well, that we were just sitting on the banks and listening to the music and enjoying the life for a while. Northwards from the town a few wooden church and an open air museum waits for the tourists. East-north Slovakia is famous for its wooden architecture.
If we don’t want to cycle on the main road between Presov and Kosice, or we want to cycle more eastwards to discover those land, county, the Velka Domása bathlake can be a destination of a day. The road in the Topla-valley is flat, and the following mountains are only 500m high. Only one climb is between Giraltovce and Turany nad Ondovou; from this village cycling goes along the shore of the lake. About 6-8 kms after Turany, if we turn off rightwards onto a small road we will find good places to swim in the lake. After cycling it’s good to swim and rest our legs.
Leaving the lake and the hills, next to it an other - but smaller - lake will appear on our right side. Although in 1998 we set up our tent on the west side of this lake I don’t suggest it: in 1998 we had very much insects during the night. (Maybe they were exterminated only around the previous lake.) Cycling southwards and coming closer to Vranou nad Toplou even the smaller hills are rarer. If we have enough time the Zemplinská Sirava lake and the Vihorlat mountain-range can also be visited. I suggest to choose the road through Herlany (between Vranou and Kosice), because along this road, in that village a spring can be found which erupts in every 32-36 hours up to the height of 30-35 m high. It can be called a geyser. The climb goes in a pleasant mountainside. Sitting on the bank in the forest on the 580m high saddle we can feel the calm, the quiet, the smell and the voices of the forests. We hardly met any cars.
On the slope it’s better to roll down carefully, there are some potholes on the road. (in 1998) The geyser of Herlany is just like a fountain in a park. It’s not like the Old Faithful in the USA, in the wild nature. The eruption of the geyser takes place for half an hour long. The tourist office of Kosice can give information about the exact time of the eruption, but a clock also shows it next to the geyser. From Bidovce we cycle on the E50 road towards Kosice; to the town we meet with 2-3 hills to climb. Besides Bardejov the other town is Kosice which impressed me very well. It has also renovated houses in the center, a wide promenade goes through it, with a park, and banks in the middle of it. In the middle of the almond shaped main square a chuch and the theatre can be found; between them a nice fountain erupts for the voices of the music. It’s another place where it’s enough only to sit in the shadow and listening the music, looking the fountain, or around the people, the houses, etc. From Kosice to the border-village of Tornanadaska (Hungary) we cycle on the 2*2 laned busy main road, but there is enough place in the wide hard shoulder of the road. In the environs the romatic valleys of Haj and Sadielska is suggested to visit.
From Tatranska Lomnica a medium steep climb goes to the Strsbké pleso (Lake Strbské) along the slopes of the Tatra. The wide road, the hard shoulder and the pleasant steepness makes it ideal for cyclers. It’s enjoyable and atmospheric to push the pedals in the mountainside between fir tree forests. The road after Stary Somokovec is flat for a while, but a few kilometers before the Strbské lake it’s middle steep (6%). About 1,5 – 2 kms before the lake a forest road – which is closed for the traffic – turns off. It ascends to the 1494m high, between 2300m high mountains situated Popradské pleso / lake. From the Strbské lake there is a beautiful panorama to the mountain-chain. After the lake a long and lightly sloping ascent goes to Liptovsky Hradok and we can say goodbye to the High Tatra. (This june (2004) I plan to discover and get over the climb of the Sliezsky dom (1665m) from Tatranska Polianka.)
Between Tatranska Lomnica and the polish border the road is similar to road between Tatranska Lomnica and the Strbske pleso / lake. Although the Strbské lake is situated 500m higher and the border at Lysa Polana is only 120m higher than Tatranska Lomnica, in spite of it the more heightdifference we had to climb towards the polish border. On the first few kilometers there are some views to the Lomnicky peak, then as the road turns northwards – after Tatranska Kotlina – there is a fine panorama of the mountains of the the East-Tatra, it is called Belianske Tatra. The village Zdiar is famous for its folk art. In the village a few kilometer long open climb starts, which goes up to an 1081m high pass with a rain-cottage and a spring. In the middle of the climb there is a buffet with nice panorama. From the saddle to the polish border ascents and descents change each other.
If we want to visit the polish side of the High Tatra (I suggest it), we can cycle the tour to and back from Zakopane (100-120 kms) in a day, but besides an other advisable route is to come from east and go west (or the other direction) with a night at the feet of the polish Tatra.
A VISIT IN KRAKKOW:(Lysa Polana – Nowy Targ – Rabka – Myslenice - Krakkow = ca. 120 km + ca. 1000m heightdifference)
Krakkow, which town has maybe the most sightseeings (Wawel, Maria-church, posztócsarnok……) in Poland is situated not too far from the slovakian border, even by bike. Towards the city the route from the border by Lysa Polana goes through Tatranska Bukowina and Nowy Targ. The road between the top of the ascent after the border-station and Tatranska Bukowina is one of the most beautiful ones in the polish Tatra: there are some views to the snowy peaks. At Bukowina nice, good original hand made product can be bought. Leaving the village, the road descents gently to Nowy Targ. East from the town, in Debno a lovely wooden church of pilgrimage can be found (that was visited by the pope too). Between Nowy Targ and Rabka the road goes through a nice area with hills with nice views back to the Tatra; unfortunately the road is very busy and there is no hard shoulder. It isn’t ideal for hobby bikers, but the views…. This section is dangerous; be careful! (We cycled there late in the afternoon and enjoyed the sunset with the panorama). From Rabka a more and more busy road goes to Krakkow. After Myslenice it is 2*2 laned, ascents small hills, but the climbs are about 1-1 kilometers long. We catch sight of Krakkow from a top of a hill. If we visit Krakkow, an other sight that must be seen is the salt cave museum of Wieliczka, where a lot of nice things (dwarfs, sculptures) are carved out. Going back to Slovakia from Wieliczka we can enjoy the nice and not too trafficked road, the variable land, and the middle high mountains, small villages. In one of them we have a talk with a friendly uncle who had lovely memories about hungarians. The last kilometers before Kasina Wlk are a little bit mountanious. In Kasina Wlk if we turn right, onto the road no. 98 we can lighty roll down to Rabka. Between Rabka and the border at Trstena the road climbs up to a 709m high saddle which is only the feet of the 1725m high Babia Gora, under which (up to the height of about 1000-1100m) an asphalted road goes.
Coming out from the small valley of the slovakian – polish border we cycle along a row of trucks. (after the EU-join it will disappear ??) We arrive at Trstena on a pleasant descent. Cycling to Ruzomberok (and then to Zvolen) basically there are three routes to choose:
My other travelogues, and other favourite links
2003, Bicycletour from Slovenia to Montenegro along the Adriatic
2002, Train camp in the greek spring
2002, Crossing the Swiss-Alps by bike
2000, From the snowy mountains (Dolomites) to the sandy beaches and Slovenia
1999, Crossing the Carpathians by bike
1998, Adventurous bicycletour in Slovakia
1997, Zig-zagging in Slovakia
1995, Tatra bicycletour
1993, Tatra bicycletour
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