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SLOVAKIA HAS 9 NATIONAL PARKS, EACH WITH A SPECIAL CHARACTER AND UNIQUE NATURAL SIGHTS

The Spectator's national park guide


The High Tatras
Founded: 1948
Area: 73,800 hectares

The High Tatras is the oldest national park in Slovakia. The terrain of the Tatras was mainly created by icebergs that formed valleys and alpine lakes. The largest lake in the Tatras is Veľké Hincovo pleso, which is 54 metres deep. The Gerlachovský štít peak, at 2,655 metres, is the highest point in Slovakia. The Kmeťov vodopád waterfall, with a height of 80 metres, is the tallest waterfall in the park. Belianska jaskyňa cave is the only one in the range of Tatra caves that is open to visitors. Tourists can enjoy almost 600 kilometres of marked trails. Two-thirds of the area is covered by forests, mainly by several kinds of pines. Chamois, marmots, voles, and eagle can also be found among the Tatra's rich fauna.

The High Tatras
Founded: 1948
Area: 73,800 hectares

The High Tatras is the oldest national park in Slovakia. The terrain of the Tatras was mainly created by icebergs that formed valleys and alpine lakes. The largest lake in the Tatras is Veľké Hincovo pleso, which is 54 metres deep. The Gerlachovský štít peak, at 2,655 metres, is the highest point in Slovakia. The Kmeťov vodopád waterfall, with a height of 80 metres, is the tallest waterfall in the park. Belianska jaskyňa cave is the only one in the range of Tatra caves that is open to visitors. Tourists can enjoy almost 600 kilometres of marked trails. Two-thirds of the area is covered by forests, mainly by several kinds of pines. Chamois, marmots, voles, and eagle can also be found among the Tatra's rich fauna.


The Low Tatras
Founded: 1978
Area: 72,842 hectares

The Low Tatras national park is the largest in Slovakia. Ďumbier peak, at 2,043 metres, is the highest in this region. The massive Kráľová hoľa is the place where three Slovak rivers - the Váh, Hron, and the Hnilec rise. Over thousands of years the waters of the Low Tatras have hollowed out and formed an underground world of caves open to tourists, among them are the Demänovská jaskyňa Slobody, Demänovská ľadová jaskyňa (an ice cave), Bystrianska, and the Važecká jaskyňa. The Demänovská jaskyňa cave is an underground labyrinth of corridors spanning 23 kilometres, the longest cave system in Slovakia. Forests cover about 70 percent of the park's territory.


Slovenský raj
Founded: 1988
Area: 19,763 hectares

The Slovak Paradise is home to various plateaus, deep canyons, gorges, waterfalls, surface karst (eroded limestone) formations, and underground caverns with limestone and ice decorations. There are about 200 caves and gorges, only one of which, however, is open to the public. This is the Dobšinská ľadová ice cave, discovered in 1870. Suchá Belá, Piecky, Sokol, and Kyseľ are the most well known gorges and have a number of waterfalls. The valley of the river Hornád, about 11 kilometres long, is an interesting site containing unique geomorphic formations. The highest peak is Predná hoľa, reaching 1,545 metres. Hidden in these deep forests one can find animals such as bear and lynx.


Pieniny
Founded: 1967
Area: 3,750 hectares

This national park, which sits on the Slovak-Polish border, is the smallest in Slovakia. However, it is rich in natural sights and picturesque countryside. The meandering gorge-like valley of the Dunajec River is the most characteristic image of the park. The symbol of Pieniny national park is the massive Polish mountain, Trzy Korony (Three crowns). Rock towers called Sedem Mníchov (Seven monks) also belong among the most well known formations in the park. Beasts like lynx and wolves also live here. On the riverbanks you can sometimes see otter. A medieval monastery that was established in 1330 is also an attractive tourist sight. The Monk Cyprián founded a herbarium there in the 18th century that is preserved to this today.


Malá Fatra
Founded: 1988
Area: 23,262 hectares

This park has varied terrain and rich flora and fauna. Its highest mountain is Kriváň (1,709 metres), but it is the rocky Rozsutec peak (1,610 metres) that provides the most characteristic view of the park. Also among the park's most well known sights are the Kryštálová jaskyňa cave, the 38-metre-high waterfall Šútovský vodopád, the 7-kilometre-long valley of the river Váh, and the Strečno castle ruins. This park is home to some endangered species such as eagle, owl, and stork. Bears, lynx, wildcats, and wolves also inhabit the region.


Poloniny
Founded: 1997
Area: 29,805

This park is located in the northeastern part of Slovakia, on the borders with Poland and Ukraine. Its extraordinarily preserved state and the typical character of the countryside were only some of the reason for listing the park among the biosphere preservations of the UNESCO Man and the Biosphere Programme. Beech and beech-fir forests dominate the area. The virtually untouched old-growth Carpathian forests, with 400-year-old firs, are the most valuable assets of this territory. The primeval Stužica forest, which lies beneath Kremenec (1,221 metres), the highest peak, is the most famous. European bison and elks sometimes come to the park from Poland.


Muránska Planina
Founded: 1997
Area: 20,328 hectares

This karst plateau was preserved in its natural state thanks to its inaccessibility. Deep valleys with several waterfalls have created limestone caves. There are a number of various karst formations, 170 caves with limestone or ice decorations, 14 chasms (the deepest falls 105 metres - Michňová priepasť) and karst fields. Bobačka cave (2,221 metres long) is the longest cave system in the park and contains various siphons, underground lakes, and karst decorations. The caves are also home to 18 species of bats. The Muránsky Castle ruins are also popular with tourists.


Slovenský kras
Founded: 2002
Area: 34,611 hectares

Slovenský kras is the largest karst territory in Slovakia, situated in the Slovenské rudohorie mountain range, on the border with Hungary. The area is divided by small rivers on several plateaus of various surface and underground karst formations such as karst fields, holes, caves, and gorges. The Ochtinská aragonit cave is a unique formation, one of the few of its kind in the world, with precious decorative deposits of the white mineral aragonit. The Silická ľadnica ice gorge is also an exceptional sight, with ice decorations that remain throughout the year. The Domica, Gombasecká, and Jasovská caves are among the most famous in Slovakia. The area stretches into Hungary where the territory is called Agtelek. The caves of Slovenský kras and Agtelek are on the UNESCO list of world heritage sights.


Veľká Fatra
Founded: 2002
Area: 40,371 hectares

This park is an interesting and beautiful mountain range located in central Slovakia. Harmanecká jaskyňa cave was discovered in 1932 and represents the underground beauties of the park. The Veľká Fatra is Europe's richest deposit of the interesting but poisonous wood yew shrub. The park is also known for its rich population of deer, bear, and lynx. The folk architecture of Vlkolínec village is on the list of UNESCO natural and cultural heritage sites.


Compiled by Marta Ďurianová from materials of the Slovak Environment Ministry

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