For lovers of the great outdoors, Slovakia's High and Low Tatras mountains offer a wide spectrum of exciting, visually astounding natural terrain and sporting opportunities, with an ever-expanding network of guide services and agencies throughout the region.
Adventurous souls can paraglide from lofty ridges over mountain valleys steeped in each shade of green found north of the equator or delve through mountain caverns shining with phosphorescent minerals, slaked with subterranean streams and studded with bizarrely shaped, iridescent flutes of stone. . .
Scale sheer windblown cliffs inhabited only by tenacious lichens, fleet-hoofed chamois and metallic-blue beetles. . . Board a punt with a green-hatted Horal boatman and drift down rickling rivers under soaring limestone cliffs. . . Gallop on horseback through primeval valleys between sleepy villages, or leap like a demented Bedlamite off alpine bungee-jumps. . .
Below are the names and a description of several sporting and excursion agencies and services that hopefully will help adventurers from getting vertigo as they contemplate the mind-boggling possibilities. (All prices are for foreigners). . .
Breeze through rolling meadows in Slovenský Raj or pound down mountain trails in the High and Low Tatras.
Crystal Ski rents bicycles for 50 Sk (one hour), 200 Sk (half-day), and 290 Sk (full day). Special guided bicycle excursions in the High and Low Tatras cost 380 Sk per half-day, 580 Sk for a full day. Jur Šport's bicycle rentals for mountain biking are somewhat cheaper on average, at 50 Sk for an hour, 150 Sk for a half-day, 240 sk for a full day.
The Information Center in Liptovský Mikuláš rents bikes for 50 Sk per hour on mountain bike trails in the Liptov region, 150 Sk per half-day, 240 Sk for a day. T-Ski charges 180 Sk per hour for mountain bikes, 100 Sk per hour and 250 Sk per day for other types of biking.
This mode of recreation provides a great view of Slovakia's alluvial forests and cliffs from the perspective of those for whom rivers offered a means of livelihood from logging and trading for centuries.
On the Váh, Belá and Hornád rivers in Pieninský National Park, Crystal Ski charges 700 Sk for two hours (including transport to and from rafting locations by car). Jur Sport charges 560 Sk for a half-day, 680 Sk for one day (including transport, instruction and equipment) for rafting excursions on the Váh and Orava rivers.
The Information Center in Liptovský Mikuláš charges 560 Sk for a half-day of rafting in inflatable rubber rafts on the Váh river, 680 Sk on the Orava. T-Ski arranges raft tours for 690 Sk per person, including bus transport to rafting sites.
Sample fine steeds at a leisurely canter or a full gallop across Slovakia's sweeping landscapes, and imagine yourself as a brooding Turk or Avar chieftain on a caparisoned charger as you and your companions gaze around you at a land coveted for centuries by innumerable raiders on horseback.
Crystal Ski offers horse-back riding in the High Tatras, near the village of Mengusovce (near the city of Svit) at 700 Sk for two hours, 2,400 Sk for two days, 3,000 Sk for three days.
Jur Šport charges 380 Sk per hour of horseback riding. The Liptovský Mikuláš Information Center charges 300 Sk per hour of riding. T-Ski charges 250 Sk per hour, 2,000 Sk per day.
The physically demanding business of scaling sheer rock chasms with a cable and pick requires a good deal of grit and/or hubris, but the panoramic (and adrenal) rewards are (said to be) well worth the effort.
Crystal Ski charges 700 Sk for a day of rock-climbing in the Mengusove region, 1,360 Sk for two days, 1,800 Sk for three days. With Jur Sport, a half-day of rock-climbing costs 650 Sk per person, 960 Sk for two. A full day costs 960 Sk for a single climber or 1,200 Sk for two. Jur Sport's guided hikes in the High Tatras cost 720-2,500 Sk per group. Longer excursions are also available.
The Liptovský Mikuláš Information Center can provide rock-climbing lessons for 650 Sk per half-day, 960 Sk per day. The Center charges 720 Sk-2,400 Sk for guided group hikes in the region for one day and more.
Slovakia gives natural-born troglydites ample latitude for their subterranean wanderlust. Breath-taking caves coursed through with glittering malachite crystals and exotic ores of all colors and shapes abound in the Slovenský Raj and Slovenský Kras regions.
"Caving" more or less signifies underground jollies-seeking, while "spelunking" is the goofy-sounding term for the physically-demanding practice of lowering oneself by rope down the throat of an abyss from which the blood-curdling whimper of bats and the ammoniac reek of guano compete for suggestions of infernal mischief.
Crystal Ski arranges cave excursions at Demänovská Cave (12-15 minutes by car from Liptovský Mikuláš) in the Low Tatras for 350 Sk for unlimited periods of time. Guided visits are also available to Dobšinská Ice Cave, near the village of Dobšina in Slovenský Raj, for the same price. Jur Šport can link individual and group cave-explorers with Dunajec, a guide service which leads a minimum of eight persons on caving tours for 550 Sk per hour, or Speleo, which offers 4-8 hour guided cave visits for 850 -1,350 Sk. The Information Center in Liptovský Mikuláš can arrange for half to full day spelunking excursions for 850 Sk-1,350 Sk, depending on the level of challenge involved.
This celestial recreation isn't as harebrained or dangerous as it may look from the ground, with qualified experts available to help first-timers avoid the fate of Icarus. After taking a running leap off a cliff, the flyer sails through the air in an ultra-light structure contrived from a nylon parachute braced with aluminum struts, soaring godlike in the sunclad azure for exhilarating minutes before drifting gradually and safely earthwards, where s/he lands on both feet.
During basic training, flyers glide at heights of 90 meters; those who grasp the basics may then work their way up to flying 500 to 800 meters off the ground. During his flight each student stays in contact with an instructor via CB radio. Hard-core aficionados must take a written exam as well as a final controlled flight to qualify for their license, and may purchase their own paraglider.
A half-day of paragliding with Jur Sport costs 640 Sk; a full day 1,200 Sk, and the "A"-license training course 6,000 Sk.Tandem glider-flights can be arranged for 1,100 Sk. Prices include transport, instruction, training materials and equipment.
Crystal Ski offers paragliding in the Demänovská valley, near the village of Ploštín, (640 Sk for two hours, 1,200 Sk for four hours, 1,680 Sk for six hours). A two-hour lesson is required of all first-timers.
The Information Center in Liptovský Mikuláš charges 640 Sk per half-day of paragliding, 1,200 for a day. Tandem flights cost 1,100 Sk. Intensive five-day training for an A-license costs 6,000 Sk.
T-Ski offers sightseeing flights in light aircraft for groups of three people in the High Tatras for 2,200 Sk per 30 minutes, 3,100 Sk per 45 minutes, 3,900 Sk for a full hour.
Agencies, information & guide organizations
Crystal Ski, Jasná; tel. 0849/914-60
Crystal Ski, Štrbské Pleso; tel. 0969/424-938
Jur Šport, Závažná Poruba; tel. 0849/272-49
T-Ski, Starý Smokovec; tel. 0969/422-370, 0969/423-265.
Krokus Travel Agency, Poprad; tel. 092/231-11
Information Center, Liptovský Mikuláš; tel. 0849/224-18.
Association of Mountain Guides, Starý Smokovec (rock-climbing lessons); tel. 0969/425-065.
17. Jul 1997 at 0:00 | Tom Reynolds