It is surrounded by mountains on each side and the longest Slovak river flows through it, but its “sea”, which was created by the inundation of several villages, is what has dominated the Liptov region for decades.
“The great thing about Liptovská Mara is that it is not surrounded by high buildings,” said Belgian Gerdi Vanfleteren, who lives in the village of Malatíny where he also runs the Sojka Resort.
Swimming near the almost untouched shores and in the bays of the dam or going on a boat trip while enjoying splendid hill views are memorable experiences. Water and mountains are important for tourism in Lipov, but villages in the region have their own unique spirit as well.
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“Sometimes there are small pearls, and one of them is Partizánska Ľupča,” Vanfleteren said about this former town with a rich mining history and extraordinary architecture.
The region contains the mythical peak of Kriváň, a Celtic site above Liptovská Mara, a number of wooden restaurants called koliba and salaš, tasty cheeses, and the longest cave system in Slovakia. Visitors should start their trip throughout this diverse region in one of the two major towns: Ružomberok or Liptovský Mikuláš.
From a bear’s den to a torture chamber
Liptovský Mikuláš, which lies close to the water dam, is more touristy. In addition to its beautiful historical centre, which is dominated by a church and a fountain celebrating the area's famous natives, the town is home to the Slovak Museum of Nature Protection and Speleology. A cave-like underground, bear’s den, as well as a lookout tower offering views of the Low and Western Tatras are ready to explore.
Local guide Linda Šimunová also recommends a visit to the Háj-Nicovô forest park, which offers a beautiful view of the Liptov region, sports activities, and military history. According to her, the waterpark Tatralandia and the Ondrej Cibák Canoe Slalom Area are worth a visit too. Tourists should also not miss biking along the Váh river, which runs through the town.
“Today’s phenomenon is viewing benches. There are several of them. You can see the town from different views, as well as Liptovská Mara and the mountains,” she added.
Olympic gold medalist in canoe slalom Michal Martikán and skier Petra Vlhová come from the town, and the outlaw Juraj Jánošík was tortured and executed here. Visitors can see different tools of torture on display at the local Janko Kráľ Museum.
In Ružomberok, the Ľudovít Fulla Art Gallery should not be missed when visiting Liptov. Nevertheless, it is more worthwhile to set out on a trip from the town to the nearby Hrabovská dolina valley in the Veľká Fatra mountain range where, in addition to hiking, tourists can ride boats. Visitors can also take the cable car to the Malinô Brdo resort where they can ski in the winter and tackle mountain bike trails in the summer.
According to Vanfleteren, the foothill settlement of Vlkolínec, which is on the UNESCO list and can be found near Ružomberok, is a must-see for every tourist. Unlike the village of Pribylina, where they can visit the open-air Museum of the Liptov Village, Vlkolínec is a living museum. To this day, villagers have lived here in colourful houses under Sidorovo hill.
“In every direction, you see a postcard,” said Vanfleteren. The settlement also enchanted Belgian singer Jo Vally, who shot a music video here.
A wooden church can be found in the village of Svätý Kríž. It originally stood in the village of Paludza, which was flooded during the construction of Liptovská Mara. The church will catch one’s eye for its size, paintings and uneven floor.
Vanfleteren also recommends the spa village of Lúčky, from where many go for a hike to the Chočské vrchy mountains. However, the village is unique for its waterfall.
“You don’t even have to hike, you don't have to do any travelling,” said the Belgian. "This waterfall is really in the middle of the village.”
It is this romantic place that is compared to the Croatian Plitvice Lakes, but Lúčky itself - if we remove accents – can be seen as a “lucky” place. The village of Kalameny, famous for its small thermal lake, is also nearby. Not only locals but also people from the wider area come to relax here.
“From here you can also go on a nice hike to the ruins of Liptov Castle,” said Vanfleteren, adding the ruins are the highest situated castle in the country.
A similar lake to Kalameny can be found in the village of Liptovský Ján in Jánska dolina valley, which is considered one of the most beautiful Liptov valleys.
Liptov peaks to conquer
Vanfleteren enjoys going on full-day hikes through the valleys around the villages of Prosiek and Kvačany and to the peak Chopok, where the well-known ski resort Jasná is located. Veľký Choč is also one of his favourites.
“A hike to Choč is not easy though, especially from the side of Lúčky,” said Liptov native Zuzana Trnovská. “But once you reach the top, you have Liptov in the palm of your hand.”
Trnovská is an experienced hiker and recommends climbing the Poludnica and Babky peaks, but her favourite peak is Sivý vrch. However, the best hike in her opinion is the one to Liptov Castle, which families with children will also enjoy.
Although cyclists often ride their bikes around Liptovská Mara, Trnovská draws attention to a cycling trip from Liptovská Kokava to Podbanské and to a cycling path between Ružomberok and the spa town of Korytnica.
“Liptov is a great holiday destination. You will find almost everything here,” noted Vanfleteren.
The podcast was supported by the Žilina Tourism Region and implemented with the financial support of the Ministry of Transport and Construction of the Slovak Republic.