With the holidays already here, this section may help you to plan trips on free days to explore natural beauties, visit cultural events or just learn more about Slovakia
ONE DAY TRIP - Meeting the city
Explore the Žilina city centre. From the train station walk up Národná ulica street to the renowned Námestie Andreja Hlinku square, climb the Farské schody steps and visit the Kostol Najsvätejšej Trojice (the Most Holy Trinity Church). Through the narrow Farská ulica street cross to Mariánske námestie square, which is walled by historical buildings unique for their curved arcades and pinnacle roofs.
English-speaking guides in the city (Sk400/hour) can be ordered at the Selinan travel agency, which also serves also as a local information centre, on Burianova medzierka 4. Tel: 041/5620-789.
Visit the reconstructed Strečno castle ruins, towering over the left side of the river Váh. Park under the castle and climb the 150 steps, or hike the old castle road.
Open Mon 7:30-14:30, Tue-Sun 9:00-19:15. Admission: Sk20-40.
Return to the parking lot and cross the Váh river on foot. On the other side, search for the red trail leading upstream to the Starhrad castle ruins (a 40-minute hike), which offer a magnificent view of the river's curved channel.
Return to downtown Žilina and refresh yourself at the Gazdovský hostinec, offering Slovak and other nations' specialities. Horný val 37, Tel: 041/5643-662.
WEEKEND TRIP - Getting to know the Liptov area
Rich in natural beauty, the Liptov area extends across the north of Slovakia on both sides of the upper Váh river. It is surrounded by Slovakia's highest mountain ranges - the West, High and Low Tatras and the Veľká Fatra. In its centre lies the town of Liptovský Mikuláš.
FRIDAY evening - Liptovský Mikuláš
Have dinner at the Liptovská izba (Liptov Room), offering Slovak cuisine specialities. Námestie Osloboditeľov 21. Tel: 044/5514-853.
Accommodation: Hotel Bocian, Palučanská 38. Tel: 044/5541-276.
SATURDAY - Liptovský Mikuláš, Liptovská Mara
Explore the Námestie Osloboditeľov square with the St. Mikuláš Church and visit the Slovak caving museum before actually visiting the local caves.
Open Mon-Fri 8:00-17:00, Sat-Sun 10:00-17:00. Admission: Sk20-40. Ulica 1.mája 38. Tel: 044/5522-061.
Drive to the country's largest dammed lake, Liptovská Mara. Climb the small Úložisko hill, on the dam's western bank, to see the Havránok archaeological open-air museum with a reconstructed Celtic settlement.
Open daily 9:00-16:00. Admission: Sk10. Tel: 044/4322-469.
Then continue to the northern bank of the dam to the Liptovský Trnovec campground. There you can board the Mária tour boat and admire the surrounding natural scenery from the water.
Departures at 10:00, 12:00, 14:00 and 16:00. Tickets (Sk40-60) can be purchased on the boat. Tel: 044/5593-100.
Accommodation: Same as on Friday.
SUNDAY - Demänovská dolina, Bešeňová thermal spa
Drive 10 kilometres south to Demänovská dolina, a dolomite valley in the Low Tatras. Take a guided tour through the Demänovská dripstone cave called Sloboda (Freedom).
Open Tue-Sun 9:00-16 (with entries every hour). Admission: Sk100-200. Tel: 044/5591-673.
Hike to Vrbické pleso (Mountain Lake). Start from the parking lot in front of the cave, and follow the blue-marked one-hour path.
Relax at the Bešeňová open-air thermal pool, near the Liptovská Mara dam.
Open daily 10:00-21:00. Admission: Sk50-100. Tel: 044/4392-429.
WEEK TRIP - Preserved Slovak cultural traditions
Žilina region is reputedly the most diverse region in Slovakia, offering possibilities from hiking, cave and castle exploring, swimming and rafting to admiring the best-preserved original folk architecture and traditions in the country.
SUNDAY - Čičmany - folk architecture
Visit the Čičmany village, unique for its traditional painted cabin houses. The Radenov dom museum offers closer insights into the customs and traditions people practised in past centuries.
Open Tue-Sun 8:00-18:00. Tel: 041/5492-213.
Accommodation: Penzión Rajec, Nám. SNP 4, Rajec. Tel: 041/5424-502.
MONDAY - Rajec - tannery
Get to know the town and the hilly surroundings famous for their tannery, wood carving and furriery. See the craft traditions at the Mestské múzeum on Námestie SNP 15.
Open Mon-Fri 8:00-15:00. Tel: 041/5422-198.
Accommodation: Same as on Sunday.
TUESDAY - Rajecké Teplice - spa
Relax at the nearby spa area. Take a walk around a beautifully arranged spa park, rent a boat on the lake and have lunch at the Rybárska bašta (Fishermen's Bastion) on an island in the lake (open 10:00-22:00). Then swim in thermal pools, sit in saunas and go for massages at the spa's Aphrodite building.
Accommodation: Hotel Veľká Fatra, spa centre. Tel: 041/5493-727.
WEDNESDAY - Žilina - tinkery and rafting
Visit the Budatín castle in Žilina and have a look at the world's only exhibition of the traditional Slovak tinker's craft.
Open Tue-Sun 8:00-16:00. Topoľova 1, Žilina. Tel: 041/5621-943.
Raft the Váh river on traditional boats. Arrive in Strečno town and go to Penzión Irenka (between 10:00-15:00), from where you will be transported to the rafting starting point. Led by professional rafters through the cascading river, you will be returned to the penzión. Tickets: Sk160-190. Tel: 0907/196-999.
Accommodation: Hotel Astória, Národná 1, Žilina. Tel: 041/5623-173.
THURSDAY - Blatnica - Slovakia in photos
Situated near Martin, Blatnica is famous for its original houses of people who extracted oil from plants. Visit the local Karol Plicka Museum, located in an 18th century mansion, with a display of photos taken by the famous photographer.
Open Tue-Sun 9:00-17:00. Tel: 043/4948-142.
Accommodation: Hotel Luna, A. Medňanského 18, Martin-Priekopa. Tel: 043/4281-893.
FRIDAY - Nová Bystrica, Vychylovka - narrow-gauge forest railway
Explore the Vychylovka Kysuce Village Museum, an open-air museum bringing the life and culture of the Kysuce area into focus, while sitting in a unique forest train.
Open Tue-Fri 9:00-17:00, Sat-Sun 9:00-18:00. Train ticket: Sk25-50. Tel: 041/4397-350.
Accommodation: Hotel Park, Radlinského 21, Dolný Kubín. Tel: 043/5864-110.
SATURDAY - Zuberec - Podroháčske folk festival (Aug 2-4)
From Zuberec, continue to Brestová (3 km) to visit the open-air Orava Village Museum, encompassing traditional farmers' houses and wooden churches.
Open daily 8:00-18:00. Admission: Sk40. Tel: 043/5395-149.
Join a parade of folk groups starting at 15:30 from the museum grounds and leading to an amphitheatre featuring the Podroháčske folk festival over the first August weekend. Tickets (Sk30-50) can be purchased at the museum.