Slovakia offers an alluring mix of tourist activities – from mountains to nightclubs to rivers to breweries. If you’re visiting for the first time, make plans to spend a couple of days in Bratislava and a few more days exploring some of the country’s incredible treasures in the often overlooked and extremely underrated north, east, and south. Need advice about what to see and do? Here’s 12 amazing Slovak experiences not to miss:
Take in the view at Spis Castle
No trip to Slovakia is complete without climbing the ramparts of the largest fortified castle in Central Europe. Construction of the castle dates back to the 12th century and throughout the centuries additional strongholds and structures were built within the castle complex, resulting in a fascinating mix of architectural styles. The impressive outline of the castle is visible from several kilometers away due to the castle’s dramatic location on a 600 meter (1968.5 ft) hill about the town of Spisska Kapitula.
Spisky Hrad, 053 04 Spišské Podhradie +421 53 4541336
Hike through the waterfalls at Slovenský raj
Translation: Slovak Paradise. So called because of the 100 kilometers of picturesque hiking trails leading past canyons, meadows and many waterfalls. During many sections of the marked trails, it’s necessary to navigate narrow passages, use chains above ravines, and ascend steep ladders. Although the hiking isn’t particularly strenuous, these obstacles make it a bit more interesting. The area also offers several caves for exploration and guided horseback excursions in the beautiful nature reserve.
Narodný park Slovenský raj +421 53 4422010
Sip a glass of red wine in the Modra Vineyards
Nestled in the foothills of the Little Carpathian mountain range near Bratislava lies Modra, a small town with a big wine making tradition. Annually on the Modra Wine Cellars Day, many of the wine cellars organize a day-long tasting for visitors to enjoy. The most popular wine from this region is Frankovka modrá, a red wine similar to pinot noir.
Visit the elephants and bears near a Medieval Castle
The Bojnice Zoo was originally opened in 1955 and now offers more than 350 animal species for visitors to observe. It is located right next door to the medieval Bojnice Castle, one of the most beautiful and well-preserved castles in the country. Bojnice also offers a nearby thermal spa. Combining a visit to each of these three excellent attractions makes for a fantastic day trip.
Zoologická záhrada Bojnice, Zámok a okolie 6, 972 01 Bojnice +421 46 5402975
Admire the ice stalagmites in the Dobšinská Ice Cave
Wear warm clothes to descend into the most famous ice cave in Slovakia. Temperatures often hover around -3°C, but enduring the cold is worth it to admire this underground beauty! The cave is unique in that unlike in most caves where you can admire grey and brown formations, many of the ice formations in Dobšinská glow a pretty bright turquoise blue.
Dobšinská ľadová jaskyňa, 049 25 Dobšiná +421 58 7881470
Soak in a scorching hot cave bath at Spa Sklené Teplice
Although the entire procedure takes about an hour, you will only actually be in this cave bath for about 20 minutes. That’s because the temperature of this hot healing water is 42°C! After soaking, you’ll be led to a relaxation area where you can lay down, breathe deeply, and allow your body temperature to return back to normal.
Sklené Teplice Cave Bath, 96603 Sklené Teplice +421 54 7880880
Marvel at architectural treasures in Banska Stiavnica
If you want to take postcard-worthy pictures of Slovakia, this is the town to do it! The town is included in UNESCO’s World Heritage List. Strolling along the main street, you’ll find architectural gems from the Late Gothic and Renaissance periods, such as the stunning Church of Saint Catherine.
Sample local beers and visit micro-breweries
Some of the most famous beers produced in Slovakia are Zlatý Bažant and Šariš. You can find these in any regular Slovak pub. Several microbreweries operate in Bratislava, serving beer straight from the cask – try Zámocký pivovar, Meštiansky Pivovar, or Pivovarský Hostinec Richtár Jakub. For a unique Slovak microbrewery experience, head to Buntavar Micro-Brewery near Poprad ¯ they won the award for Best Slovak Micro-Brewery in both 2013 and 2014!
Buntavar Micro-Brewery, P. Jilemnického 306/1, 059 21 Svit +421 94 8698555
Up your skiing game with alpine skiing
Alpine (or uphill) skiing is extremely popular in Slovakia. One benefit of hiking up a mountain in your skis is that you do not have to pay for a lift ticket. Another advantage is all of the extra calories you will burn so you can indulge in some homemade Slovak dumplings and beer at the end of the day. You can rent alpine skis at almost every large ski resort in Slovakia.
Jasná Nízke Tatry Ski Resort, 031 01 Demänovská Dolina +421 90 7886644
Run a marathon in Kosice
Run the oldest marathon in Europe! The Kosice Peace Marathon has been held annually since 1924. In 2016, Kosice was also awarded the Best European City of Sports Award. In addition to the opportunity to enjoy all of downtown Kosice, the marathon weekend also presents extra events for visitors such as Saturday evening’s Nuit Blanche, a festival of modern street art.
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Pet a baby lion cub at Zoo Kontakt
Seriously! You can pet a baby lion cub… and a bear cub too! More than 400 animals live at the contact zoo in the Liptov region, providing visitors with an experience they won’t forget in a hurry (and some incredible photo ops too). The opportunity to get so close with animals such as lions, bears, llamas, parrots, rabbits, and owls is unforgettable.
Zoo Kontakt, 031 05 Liptovský Mikuláš +421 91 9220760
Travel to outer space… or at least get close by visiting UFO tower
The UFO Tower’s Observation Deck and Restaurant provide the absolute best view over Bratislava. At 95 (311.8 ft) meters above the ground, the tower belongs to the World Federation of Great Towers. On a clear day, visitors can enjoy a panorama spanning about 100 kilometers in every direction. Enjoy a cocktail in the restaurant at sunset for a memorable evening in Bratislava.
UFO watch.taste.groove., Most SNP 1, 851 01 Bratislava +421 26 2520300