In numerous tourist guides and brochures, Liptov is described as the heart of Slovakia, not only because of its location, but also because of the warmth of the region’s people. Locals often say that Liptov folk speak the “cleanest” Slovak and although they sometimes have only a vague idea what that exactly means, they know that in 1843 Ľudovít Štúr, the father of the Slovak language, described the central-Slovak dialect as its essence.
If you seek similar qualities in the beauties of nature, you are also in the right place. Majestic mountains, vast meadowlands, picturesque valleys and glimmering tarns hide secrets, tales and enormous natural beauties which you can discover at your leisure, delving into the shadows of the 4th century BC and emerging in the highlights of the second millennium. Liptov is located in the north of central Slovakia, where the most dominant characteristics are the countless ranges of mountains. The Low Tatras, West Tatras, Great Fatra and Choč Mountains all offer exquisite hiking opportunities. But non-ramblers should not worry. There are numerous views worth seeing with a little less sweat required: they can visit some of the lovely valleys such as Račková, Kvačianska, Prosiecka or Demänovská.
The Demänovská Valley is widely known for its cave system, the longest interconnected karst system in Slovakia with two of the countries most important caves, Demänovská Cave of Liberty and Demänovská Ice Cave . Both of them are open to the public. There are also caves in Jánska dolina, where visitors are invited under the Earth's surface only with hard hat on their head, torch in their hand and the back of professional spelunker in front of them.
Across the whole area flows the Váh River, the longest in Slovakia. In the early 1930s, to safeguard against the danger of flooding, a system of dams and power stations was built, known as the Vážska cascade. Liptovská Mara , one of the dams, is still very popular and offers a variety of recreational activities. Adrenaline enthusiasts are welcome to enjoy rafting on the Váh and fans of bubbly water can compare several aqua parks and thermal pools scattered throughout the area, for example Aquapark Tatralandia, Thermal Park Bešeňová or the thermal pool Sorea in Liptovský Ján.
After hiking at great altitude, swimming at sea level or emerging from under ground, some visitors might also like some intellectual nourishment. Take your pick. Liptov boasts numerous museums, art galleries, castles and churches from different time periods. They vary from Havránok, an archaeological open air museum with remains of a Celtic settlement, to Pribylina, an ethnographic museum with a full replica of a traditional medieval Liptov village. Although it is not a museum, the working mountain village of Vlkolínec, at an altitude of 718 m, is included in the UNESCO World Heritage List and is a magnet for visitors.
For basic orientation in the region you should know that Liptov is divided into three parts, each of which has its own “capital” – Lower Liptov with Ružomberok, Middle Liptov with Liptovský Mikuláš and Upper Liptov with Liptovský Hrádok. The first two are designated “district towns” but Liptovský Hrádok lost this status almost 50 years ago. Even now there is something of a rivalry between the towns, fuelled by vicious comments from self-important townsmen of Liptovský Mikuláš and somewhat offended residents of Liptovský Hrádok. Fortunately, the majority of people think of it as nothing but harmless teasing.
To explore the region fully would take more than a month of even the most efficient traveller’s time, but it is possible to pick out a few of the most essential stopping points to make the most of a trip to the region. When you decide to explore Liptov, try to do so using a car. Public transport is functional and reliable, but only with your own wheels you can really savour the mountain views, take a picture of cow herd grazing in the meadow beside the road or spot a guy selling blueberries, mushrooms or bee honey just in time to tell the driver to stop and prepare the money.
The first area of interest might be Upper Liptov, specifically Liptovský Hrádok . One of the most attractive points in the town is the Grand Castle, a remarkable former castle and manor house from the first half of the 14th century, now converted into a hotel.
Throughout its history the castle has had several owners, among them the blue-blooded Magdalena Zai, who outlived five husbands during her 23-year tenancy. Like those husbands, the castle itself went through hard times, battered by floods and ravaged by fire throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. The turning point came in 2001, when an ambitious reconstruction began. Today the place looks like a set from movie depicting the aristocracy of the 1800s.
“I remember we used to come here as kids, when I was about ten years old,” said Petra Urbanová, 21, a hotel receptionist and tour guide. “Then it was just an ugly wreck – everything empty, dark, no windows. Fear and loathing. Now it's completely different, and more than just an ordinary modern hotel.”
There is a tour available for visitors, during which you can learn more about the history of the place. You can take a walk around the courtyard and see the inside of the manor house. The bonus is a dramatic view from the top of the nearby grove called Skalka.
The next stop on our tour of Liptov should be the Museum of the Liptov Village in Pribylina , 10 km from Liptovský Hrádok, through Liptovský Peter and Vavrišovo. Here, you will find yourself in a 19th century Slovak village with Gothic church, Gothic Renaissance manor house and school. With commentary from a guide, you can see how peasants, craftsmen or the mayor lived - as well as the animals they kept. You may be introduced to Kamil the horse or Gizela the jennet, who are very popular with children and parents alike (some of whom may have met Kamil and Gizela in their own childhood). There is also a large flock of sheep, which have always played a major part in the lives of local residents. “Sheep have always belonged to this region and have literally kept people alive,” said Zdena Račková, who works at the museum. “But don't think that seeing these kinds of animals in their natural environment is an adventure only for the city kids. I have seen several children living in the country mistake sheep for goat or the other way round.”
In addition to preserving the traditions of the Slovak village from the turn of the past century, the museum also houses replicas of significant buildings from local areas liable to flooding, including the Church of Virgin Mary from Liptovská Mara and a manor house from Parížovce.
“They are built in 1:1 scale with use of some original components,” said Račková.
Furthermore, just outside the village is an exhibition of a narrow-gauge Považská forest railway from 1912, which was functional for 60 years and originally ran for 65 km.
Next target: Liptovský Mikuláš or “The City of The Olympic Winners” as it says in the sign located at the entrance of the town from D1 highway. But this is a relatively recent addition, recognising the achievements of the double Olympic canoeing champion Michal Martikán, who was born and still lives in the town. What is more permanent, however, is the historical spirit of Liptovský Mikuláš.
Officially it all started in 1286 with the Church of Saint Nicolas. Liptovský Svätý Mikuláš started to grow and gain more importance mainly thanks to the privileges given by the king, including the privilege to organise markets and fairs. In the 17th century, Liptovský Svätý Mikuláš became the seat of Liptovská Stolica (county) and the local intelligentsia, who were interested in raising awareness of Slovak culture and national identity. In the turbulent period during the first half of the 19th century, Ľudovít Štúr and other leaders of Slovak national activities created the first countrywide cultural association, Tatrín, and introduced the first political programme of the Slovak people, the Petition of the Slovak Nation.
These days, the information centre offers regular guided tours entitled Mikuláš´s Historical Milestones and Secrets, taking visitors behind the walls of houses in the historical centre (summer months only). The information centre is well prepared for foreign visitors, with a staff willing to help with almost every request.
“We once had to help a pet get shampooed against fleas,” said Stanislava Fašánková, a 13-year veteran of the information centre. “We try to make sure that visitors won't feel sorry because they have missed something.”
Moving through Liptovský Trnovec, Liptovská Sielnica and Bobrovník (17 km from Liptovský Mikuláš) you will find the Celtic settlement of Havránok , located a short walk up a gentle hill from the car park. (The nearby white tower is the original of the Church of the Virgin Mary, whose replica is in Pribylina.)
A guide is usually on hand to provide basic information about the origin of many objects in the settlement, as well as historical context about the importance of the site and the people who founded it. “The Celts were the children of nature – they managed to find water on the hill,” said Zdenko Bubniak, who has worked as guide at Havránok for five years, while pointing out an authentic 2.8-metre-deep well. “The Celts were the third most remarkable nation after the Greeks and the Romans. There were numerous tribes. Probably the most popular Celt is Asterix the Gaul, but in our area there were Cotini [a tribe that inhabited what is now Slovakia probably in the 1st century.]”
Eventually the Celts were pushed out of the area by German tribes, who lived there for approximately 300 years.
“The scholars are not entirely sure what happened after that,” said Bubniak. “But what is certain is that in the 9th century the Slavs appeared.”
The area of Havránok also served in the Middle Ages as watchtower belonging to Liptov castle and its elevated location still allows contemporary visitors to stand at the highest point, breathe the fresh air, listen to the birdsong and enjoy a spectacular view of the Low Tatras and the Liptov basin.
A further 19 km away is the city of Ružomberok , whose industrial significance is attached to its paper mills. But it is something else that makes this town special.
“When I came to Liptov, I really had no idea what to expect,” said Graham Leeder, 30, an English teacher who moved to Liptov in 2006 from Newcastle-upon-Tyne in the UK. “When I first arrived, I loved the scenery and the mountains that were all around Ružomberok. I was surprised how many really nice places there were in such a small area.”
One of these places is Vlkolínec , situated under the Sidorovo hill, 7 km from Ružomberok. Many people, even locals, tend to mistake this place for an open-air museum but although visitors can access some of the cottages, it remains a living village. It has a single street, typical wooden houses, a church and a pub and a permanent population of 17 people living in six houses.
The rest of the buildings are holiday homes, owned by people like Loise Jacz, 38, a doctor from Holland.
“My husband comes from Slovakia and we come here three or five times a year,” said Jacz. “It's very nice here, our kids love it.”
The caretaker of Vlkolínec is Erika Bradiaková, 46, who came to the village 13 years ago and is now one of the 17 permanent residents.
“We wanted our children to grow up close to nature, not in the middle of ugly blocks of flats,” Bradiaková said.
Living in such a place has pros and cons. “We couldn’t make it without a car. Also my son once grumbled that everyone lives in a ‘normal’ house, only we live in wooden one,” Bradiaková said.
The rustic beauty of Vlkolínec makes it the kind of place that demands to be experienced first hand - much like the whole of Liptov, one of the most beautiful and rewarding regions in Slovakia.
Biela Púť – Demänovská Dolina;
Mob: +421 (0)907 886-644;
Driving from Liptovský Mikuláš: 16 km / 19 mins; Public transport from Liptovský Mikuláš (www.cp.sk) Bus: 15 mins
Demänovská jaskyňa slobody (Cave)
Tel: +421 (0)44 559-1673
Open: Jan-May: Tue-Sun 9:30-16:00, Jun-Aug: Tue-Sun 9:00-16:00; Ticket price: € 7; One of the most significant caves of Demänovský Cave System with lenght 8,126 m and depth of 120 m. Two variants of tour available – 1,150 m and 2,150 m.
Demänovská ľadová jaskyňa (Demänovská Ice Cave); www.ssj.sk
Tel: +421 (0)44 554-8170
Open: May: Tue-Sun 9:30-14:00, Jun-Aug: Tue-Sun 9:00-16:00, Sep: Tue-Sun 9:30-14:00; Ticket price: € 7
Stredisko Jasná Nízke Tatry (Ski resort)
Mob: +421 (0)907 886-644
The biggest ski resort in Slovakia with two parts:
Chopok Sever in the Žilina region and Chopok Juh in the Banská Bystrica region; skiing, snowboarding, ice skating, cross country skiing; (Chopok Sever: Total length of ski-slopes: 25 km, 11 lifts, 7 cableways)
Chopok Sever accessible from Demänovská dolina (valley); A lot of activities also during summer: Tarzania (rope climbing - € 10), hiking, nordic walking, biking (rent a bike: price start
at € 7); paragliding…
Chair lift Záhradky – Konský Grúň,
Tel: +421 (0)44 559-1670
Located next to the Hotel Ski Záhradky, transfer in Rovná hoľa station; Ticket: € 10
Tel: +421 (0)907 585-007
Rope climbing park – ladders, stages and barriers hung in the trees 4-7 m above the ground. Located in Jasná-Demänovská Dolina, approximately 200 m from hotel Grand; Ticket: € 10
Wellness Hotel Chopok**** (€ 109)
Tel: +421 (0)44 559-1488
Demänovská Dolina 20
Hotel SKI** & bungalovy
(Hotel SKI** and bungalows) (€ 30)
Mob: +421 (0)915 783-321
Demänovská Dolina 69
Hotel Tri studničky****
Tel: +421 (0)44 547-8000
Demänovská Dolina 5
Vodná nádrž Liptovská Mara (Water dam)
The dam is located in the Middle Liptov. Probably the best access to it is from the village Liptovský Trnovec 7 km from Liptovský Mikuláš. There are many accommodations in the neighbourhood, including hotels, camps and guest houses. It is a great place for summer activities – bathing, fishing or water sports (yachting, surfing, windsurfing, diving).
Mara Camping/ATC www.maracamping.sk
Tel: +421 (0)44 559-8458
Accommodation (huts, caravans, tents), playgrounds, sports facilities (tennis, table tennis, petanque), equipment rentals (badminton, water bike, boats), Wi-fi.
Population: 1,500; Driving from Liptovský Hrádok:
10 km / 11 mins; Public transport from Liptovský Hrádok (www.cp.sk)
Bus: 16 mins
Múzeum liptovskej dediny (Museum of a Liptov Village)
Tel: +421 (0)44 529-3163
Open: May-Jun: Mon-Sun 9:00-17:30, Jul-Aug: Mon-Sun 9:00-19:30, Sep: Mon-Sun 9:00-18:00, Oct: Mon-Sun 9:00-17:00, Nov-Apr: Mon-Sun 9:00-16:00,
Ticket price: € 3
Events in Pribilina
April: Sviatky jari v Pribyline (Easter in Pribylina); Workshops, illustration
of folk traditions, www.slovenskemuzeum.sk
December: Vianoce v Liptove (Christmas in Litpov)
Population: 8,232; Driving from Liptovský Mikuláš: 10 km / 14 mins; Public transport from Liptovský Mikuláš (www.cp.sk) Train: 12 mins, Bus: 25 mins
+421 (0)44 522-5060; SNP 172, Liptovský Hrádok; www.liptov.travel
Hrad a kaštieľ Liptovský Hrádok (€ 103 / room)
(Castle and Manor house)
Tel: +421 (0)44 520-7711
Open: daily, entrance at 11:00, 13:00, 14:00, 15:00; Ticket price: € 3; Castle and manor house built in 14th century – lovely surroun-dings, tour, restaurant and accommodation direct in complex available.
Národopisné a Ovčiarske múzeum Liptovský Hrádok
(Ethnographical Museum of Liptov)
Tel: + 421 (0)44 522-2485
Partizánska 153, Liptovský Hrádok; Ticket price: € 1
Archeologické múzeum v prírode Liptovská Mara – Havránok (Open-Air Archaeological Museum)
Mob: +421 (0)905 790-218
The easiest way to get there is from the village of Bobrovník; Driving from L. Mikuláš: 16 km / 18 mins; Public transport from L. Mikuláš to Bobrovník (www.cp.sk) Bus: 30 mins; Open: May: daily 9:00-17:00, Jun-Aug: daily 8:30-18:30, Sep-Oct: daily 9:00-17:00; Ticket price: € 2; The museum has a gate, a shrine, a bridge, a medieval moat...
Hiking in Liptov
-map and proper clothes and footwear are crucial
-always stay on pathway; pathways are colour-coded (red, blue, green, yellow)
-for more information about hiking tips visit www.mikulas.sk
Tip n. 1: Iľanovo – Poludnica – Suchá dolina – Opalisko – Závažná Poruba; Low Tatras, medium difficulty, simple orientation, approximately 4.5 hours duration, 915 m superelevation
Tip n. 2: Žiarska Valley – Baranec; West Tatras, high difficulty, approximately 7.5 hours duration, 1,304 m superelevation
Tip n. 3: Instructive path of Demänovská Valley: Jasná – Tri vody – Luková – Široká dolina – Lúčky; Low Tatras, medium difficulty, approximately 4.5 hours duration, 750 m superelevation
Cycling in Liptov
-Rental available – visit information centre in Liptovský Mikuláš (Námestie mieru 1,) -Know and follow the traffic codes as well as rules that apply in a protected landscape area
-For more information about cycling tips visit www.mikulas.sk
Tip n. 1: Around the West Tatras: L. Mikuláš – Podbreziny – Veterná Poruba – Žiar – Smrečany – Háj – L. Mikuláš - medium difficulty, asphalt surface, approximately 25 km
Tip n. 2: Around Low Tatras: Liptovský Mikuláš – Ploštín – Iľanovo – Závažná Poruba – Liptovský Mikuláš
- medium difficulty, asphalt surface, approximately 20 km
Tip n. 3: Around Liptovská Mara dam: Liptovský Mikuláš – Ondrašová – Liptovský Trnovec – Bobrovník – Vlašky – Vlachy – Ľubeľa – Andice – Benice – Palúdzka – L. Mikuláš- medium difficulty, asphalt surface, approximately 40 km
Population: 32,318; Driving from Žilina: 88 km / 1 hour 22 mins; Public transport from Žilina (www.cp.sk) Train: 56 mins, Bus: 1 hour 20 mins
+421 (0)44 552-2418; Námestie mieru 1
Liptovský Mikuláš www.mikulas.travel
Tel: +421 (0)44 324-0073
1. mája 34/193, Lipt. Mikuláš
Dining and drinking
Hotel Jánošík**** (€ 80)
Tel: +421 (0)44 552-2721
Jánošíkovo nábrežie ; Liptovský Mikuláš
Pod šibenicou, restaurant
Tel: +421 (0)44 554-1130
Palučanská 5; Liptovský Mikuláš
Soda Club, restaurant
Mob: +421 (0)911 300-400
Belopotockého 2, Liptovský Mikuláš
Route 66, disco, bar and restaurant
Tel: +421 (0)44 562-3017
Garbiarska 627, Liptovský Mikuláš; Open: Mon-Thu 9:00-24:00, Fri 9:00-2:00, Sat 10:00-2:00, Sun 11:00-24:00
Museums and galleries
Múzeum Janka Kráľa
(Museum of Janko Kráľ)
Mikulášska mučiareň (Mikuláš's torture chamber)
Tel: +421 (0)44 552-2554
Námestie osloboditeľov 30, Liptovský Mikuláš; Open: Mon-Fri 9:00-16:00, Sat 10:00-17:00, Jul-Aug: Tue-Sun 10:00-17:00; Price: € 2
Tel: +421 (0)44 552-2554
Hollého ul., Liptovský Mikuláš; Open: Jul-Aug Tue-Sun 10:00-17:00, off seasons only upon request; Price: € 1
Liptovská galéria Petra Michala Bohúňa (Liptov Gallery of Peter Michal Bohúň); www.galerialm.sk
Tel: +421 (0)44 552-2758
Tranovského 3, Liptovský Mikuláš; Open: Tue-Sun 10:00-17:00; Price: € 3.5
Centrum Kolomana Sokola
(Koloman Sokol Centre)
Tel: +421 (0)44 552-2758
Námestie osloboditeľov 28; Liptovský Mikuláš; Open: Tue-Sun 10:00-17:00;
Price: € 1
Slovenské múzeum ochrany prírody a jaskyniarstva (The Slovak Museum of Nature Protection and Speleology)
Tel: +421 (0)44 547-7230
1. mája 38, Liptovský Mikuláš; Open: Apr-Oct: Mon-Fri 8:00-17:00, Sat-Sun 10:00-17:00
Nov-Mar: Mon-Fri 8:00-16:00, Sat-Sun booking necessary; Price: € 1.5
Aquapark Tatralandia - Tatralandia Holiday Resort
+421 (0)44 547-7811
Ráztocká 21, Liptovský Mikuláš; Open: Jun 11-Sep 18: daily 9:00-21:00; Price: € 19; Located just outside Liptovský Mikuláš, offering accommodation, wellness services, water park, bowling, cinema.
Western City – Tatralandia
Tel: +421 (0)44 547-7811
Ráztocká 21, Liptovský Mikuláš; Open: Jun 24-Sep 3: daily 11:00-23:00 (for visitors of aquapark), 18:30-23:00 (non-visitors of aquapark); Price: € 2 / programme in amphitheatre, horse rides, Union Pacific train, bungee trampoline, motor-racing circuit, programme in amphitheatre, € 1 / bull rides, archery; Show in the style of the Wild West, attractions, sporting events, theatre performances, dancing, snacks.
Tel: +421 (0)44 562-0625
Ul. Starohorského 3, Liptovský Mikuláš
Price: bowling € 15 / hour, pool € 7 / hour
Kino Nicolaus (Nicolaus Cinema)
www.kinonicolaus.imafex.sk (Slovak only)
Tel: +421 (0)44 556-4050
Hollého 2, Liptovský Mikuláš; Open: daily; Price: € 3
Mob: +421 (0)918 417-487
Ul. kpt. Nálepku 12, Liptovský Mikuláš; Open: any day, booking necessary, depending on weather; Ticket price: € 150 / person / hour
Mob: + 421 (0)918 517-332
Žiarska 601/1, Liptovský Mikuláš;
Rafting Belá river: more adventurous, wilder; Open: spring months, booking necessary; Ticket price: € 21
Rafting Váh river: more suitable for families with small children; Open: booking necessary; Ticket price: € 21
Rafting artificial channel in O. Cibák area; Open: booking necessary; Ticket price: € 23
Paintball: Open: any day, booking necessary; Ticket price: € 9 (equipment)
+ € 6.5 (100 balls) + € 3 (safety overall)
May: Medzinárodný tatranský slalom (International Tatra Slalom); www.ktklm.sk
June: Raftové preteky (Rafting contest for non-proffesionals); www.ktklm.sk
June: Stoličné dni – in the town centre, celebrations of the first written refference of Liptovský Mikuláš; www.mikulas.sk
June: Cena Liptova (Liptov Trophy); Dance sport competition held in Culture House; www.ksis.php5.sk
November: PAN Festival – Slovak competitive show of pantomime and movement theatres) – held in Culture House; www.mikulas.sk, www.festivalpan.sk
December: Mikulášsky jarmok (Liptovský Mikuláš Fair) – in the town centre, stands with souvenirs, snack, cultural events
Population: 29,793; Driving from Žilina: 63 km / 1 hour; Public transport from Žilina (www.cp.sk) Train: 47 mins, Bus: 1 hour
+421 (0)44 432-1096;
A. Bernoláka 1, Ružomberok
Hotel Kultúra*** (€ 62)
Tel: +421 (0)44 431-3111
A. Bernoláka 1, Ružomberok
Dining and drinking
Koliba u dobrého pastiera (restaurant)
Mob: +421 (0)917 440-604
Čremošná ulica 8684, Ružomberok
Čajovňa relax Club (tea room); www.cajovnarelax.sk
Tel: +421 (0)905 660-778
Podhora 37, Ružomberok
Panská 2, Ružomberok
Open: Wed-Sun 19:00-5:00
Museums and galleries
Galéria Ľudovíta Fullu
v Ružomberku (Ľudovít Fulla Gallery Ružomberok)
Tel: +421 (0)44 432-4868
Makovického 1,Ružomberok; Open: Tue-Sun 9:00-16:00; Price: € 1.7
Tel: +421 (0)44 432-2468
Námestie Š.N. Hýroša 10, Ružomberok; Ticket price: € 2
Malinô Brdo – Ski park Ružomberok; www.skipark.sk
Tel: +421 (0)44 432-2606
Hrabovská cesta 1679/31, Ružomberok; Cableway open also during summer season: Sat - Sun, Jun 11 - Sep 18: daily 8:30-16:30; May 14 - Jun 10, Sep 19 - Oct 2: Sat-Sun 8:30-16:30; Price: € 3; hiking, mountain biking, skiing, rope climbing park
Bowlingový klub Stodola (Bowling)
Tel: +421 (0)903 417-418
Ivana Houdeka 39, Ružom-berok; Price: € 10 / hour
June: Ružomberský jarmok (Fair) – souvenir stands, snacks, concerts, dance performances, raffles, fireworks
Slovak mountain village with typical architecture, included
on the UNESCO World Heritage List; Population: 17; Driving from Ružomberok: 7 km / 13 mins (follow the signs – in Ružomberok take the route E77 to Banská Bystrica, pass
Biely Potok, turn right and
continue to the hills)
Roľnícky dom Vlkolínec (Farmstead Vlkolinec)
Tel: +421 (0)44 432-2468
Ticket price: no entrance fee
(Wooden folk house)
Mob: +421 (0)918 179-905
Vlkolínec 9020; Price start at € 100 for the whole house
May: Fašiangy in Vlkolínec / Stavanie Májov; Opening of the summer season