With a large variance between summer and winter temperatures, especially in the mountains, Slovakia seems like a completely different location during different times of the year. If you visit in winter, you’ll find a snowy paradise, with ski resorts, ice skating, and hot mulled wine. Visit in summer, however, and you will find warm weather, outdoor festivals on the weekends, and lots of rivers, lakes, and pools to cool off in. Here’s our guide to the best features of every season in Slovakia.
For those who love snow sports, winter is the best time to visit Slovakia! From December until March (and in some places even until April), you can find many ski resorts spread throughout the country which attract all levels of skier. Alpine skiing is incredibly popular in Slovakia, and while you can rent alpine skis and give it a shot for the first time at every major resort, many Slovaks also go off piste to explore some beautiful mountain vistas not accessible by chairlift. Snowboarders will also enjoy one of the many fun parks with jumps at the larger resorts.
If you can only visit one Slovakian resort then head to Jasna Nizke Tatry, the largest ski resort in the country, located in the Low Tatra mountain range. Jasna is incredibly modern and offers convenient ski-in, ski-out accommodation and log cabins near the slopes. Less expensive hotels and motels can also be found within the surrounding 10 kilometers and a ski bus will take you directly to the lifts. Several delicious cafes and restaurants on the mountain serve warm coffee in the morning and hot beverages spiked with Tatra Tea (a herbal liquor), in the evenings.
Another fun aspect of winter in Slovakia is the Christmas markets in Bratislava and Kosice. You can shop for unique handcrafted souvenirs while sipping spiked punch and enjoying a performance by a choir in the historic Old Town’s of Slovakia’s two largest cities. You can also enjoy performances of the Nutcracker throughout December at the Slovak National Theatre in Bratislava. The atmosphere is fun and festive!
In the southern parts of Slovakia, spring begins as early as March, but in the northern regions, the temperature doesn’t begin to heat up very much until April. As the days become longer many people who have spent their evenings cooped up in the warmth of their homes during winter finally emerge and enjoy the fresh air. Spring brings many fun festivals and traditions to Slovakia.
Visiting during Easter can provide a unique cultural experience if you are lucky enough to spot some boys throwing buckets of cold water all over young girls! This is an old tradition which is based on the superstition that the cold water will bring the girls blessings and fertility for the year ahead. The tradition is still celebrated in most smaller towns and villages throughout Slovakia but is starting to die out in the larger cities.
May 1 is also a fun day to head to a smaller town in Slovakia, as the municipalities hold May Day celebrations. The highlight of a Slovak May Day celebration is the assembly of the May Tree, which is typically freshly cut from the nearby woods. No one goes to school or work, instead, the day is dedicated to shaving all of the branches off of the tree except for the top few branches which remain and are adorned with colorful ribbons. The trees stay up until June 1, when they are brought down with another ceremony which welcomes summer.
If you enjoy outdoor music festivals, Slovakia offers several great ones during the summer. Perhaps the most famous is Pohoda Fest, which takes place at Trencin’s Airport (some 120 kilometers from Bratislava) over three days in July. Pohoda Fest is Slovakia’s largest annual live music event, and in 2017 big name artists like M.I.A. and Solange were featured alongside many other international artists. Another great summer music festival is Grape Festival in the spa town of Piestany, featuring two days of live music on multiple stages.
Summer is also the best season for hiking in Slovakia, especially if you have an eye on the High Tatras. It has even snowed during July in the High Tatras before, so if you are planning a trip specifically to hike there, August is the safest bet for clear passage. Several mountain huts service hikers on the challenging and rugged trails of the High Tatras, which are physically demanding but extremely rewarding; many have compared them to the Alps in Austria. Perhaps the best thing about hiking in Slovakia in summer is that you will never experience the crowds you might in more popular hiking destinations. The Low Tatras are spectacular to spend three to four days traversing, staying in one of the ski lodges, which offer discounted rates in their offseason.
Another highlight of Slovakia in summer is the opportunity to participate in water sports at one of the many lakes and rivers. Rafting, kayaking, and canoeing are all extremely popular in Slovakia. You can also enjoy a refreshing dip at the large Zlate Piesky lake resort near Bratislava or enjoy the outdoor pools and water slides at Tatralandia, the largest water park in Slovakia which is worth spending at least a day or two at in order to try out all the slides and book a relaxing spa treatment!
As the leaves change to orange, red, and yellow in Slovakia and the temperature starts to dip for the cold winter ahead, there is no better time to enjoy a bowl of traditional cabbage soup or Slovak goulash after a day spent hiking, perhaps in Slovak Paradise National Park. Slovaks love their soups, and you can find soup on the menu at every Slovak restaurant. To enjoy it Slovak style, you must always first order a soup as an appetizer before indulging in the main course. But some soups are hearty enough to be enjoyed as meals on their own!
September is also a lovely month to plan a holiday to Slovakia because it is the month of the grape harvest. Many winemakers offer special weekends at the vineyard to celebrate the harvest, and several wine towns near Bratislava offer weekend festivals, serving the “young wine” alongside other Slovak festival foods such as trdelnik. Perhaps rent a car and spend a weekend driving to Slovakia’s many wineries in the south and central part of the country. We recommend staying in the chic, four-star Amade Chateu, which offers wine tastings and a spa to unwind in after a day of exploring the region.
You’ll have an unique experience no matter what time of year you visit Slovakia. Whenever you go, make sure to take advantage of the seasonal highlights we’ve mentioned here to enhance your trip!