Slovakia: From the Danube to the High Tatra Mountains

Bratislava, Bears and Big Mountains in Slovakia
  • Bratislava Slovakia_1589x1050
  • Slovakia Capercaillie_1575x1050
  • Slovakia Tatra Roszutec Mountain in Winter_1680x813
  • Marrols Hotel Bratislava
  • Bear rescue and release_slovakia
  • Devin Castle
  • Vintage Skoda
  • Banska Stiavnica
  • Kempinski High Tatra spa
  • European Beaver
  • Slovakia Mountain Landscape_1680x968
  • Spis Castle_Slovakia_1680x945
  • Zdiar Slovakia_1575x1050

Experience Wonderful Slovakia on one of our Tailor-Made Tours

On this tailor-made Slovakia tour you’ll explore one of Europe’s wildest mountain environments, visit medieval cities and feast on delicious food.

This Slovakian exploration will take you from beautiful Bratislava, on the banks of the Danube, to the  alpine slopes, deep valleys and long-rooted traditions of the High Tatra mountains. In between, you’ll visit Poloniny National Park, on the country’s eastern border with Ukraine, where rewilding efforts are focused on restoring and protecting the wolves who roam these old-growth forests.

Further south, you’ll wander through the historic streets of old Kosice, where you can enjoy fine wines, Slovak beers and some of the town’s many museums and galleries.

Feel Inspired by the Natural Beauty and Cultural Richness of Slovakia

This bespoke Slovakia tour has been designed so you can experience the country through the lens of its wild spaces. This is Wild Europe at its best.

Thanks to our specialist research, this tour offers a unique opportunity to get involved with rewilding and conservation efforts across Slovakia. With us, you’ll travel to the places where your impact is most positively felt, and meet the people involved in rewilding and conservation efforts. Along the way,  you’ll stay in charming hotels and cosy homestays, where you’ll gain a deeper insight into what life here is all about.

This is guilt-free, regenerative travel at its best.

DEPARTURE/RETURN LOCATION Arrive: London St Pancras Station (or your local station)

Depart: London St Pancras Station

DEPARTURE TIME Flexible: see Itinerary tab for details
INCLUDED
  • Rail travel to and from your home
  • Accommodation throughout
  • Visits to rewilding and conservation projects and donations to these projects
  • Annual membership of Mossy Earth, supporting rewilding and conservation efforts
  • Some or all meals, whichever you prefer
  • All transfers and transport
  • Professional English-speaking guides
  • All entrance fees
  • Coffee, tea, filtered water and fresh fruit throughout
  • Carbon calculation to show the carbon impact/benefit of your trip
NOT INCLUDED
  • Visas – if required
  • Guide tips
  • Souvenirs

Visit Bratislava and the High Tatras

Bratislava is often eclipsed by its better known neighbours, Vienna and Prague. Similarly situated on the River Danube, this historic city has a wealth of sights and beautiful architecture and is happily lacking in the crowds that throng these other European capitals. Which, for us, is what makes it all the more fascinating.

The High Tatra Mountains have been a Slovakian national park since 1948, and part of a trans-border protected area with Poland since 1954 – an area now recognized by UNESCO as a biosphere reserve. With nearly thirty peaks over 2500 metres, this impressive wilderness is home to a remarkable diversity of species, including the critically endangered chamois and several apex predators such as wolf, bear and lynx. This precious wild area is exactly the sort of place we want to help to protect.

As with all of our itineraries, this is just a sample of what we can offer, and can be tailored to fit your interests and style of travel.

1

Day 1 - Cross Europe in Style

Start Point: London St Pancras (or your home station in the UK or elsewhere in Europe)
Destination: Brussels, then onward to Vienna
Travel: Intercity Service, Eurostar or Thalys from St Pancras to Brussels.
Notes: Join the overnight sleeper service to Vienna, 1st class cabins available with at-seat breakfast

Start your holiday the moment you leave your door. Either catch your local service to London St Pancras or we can organise for an electric car to whisk you directly to St Pancras, where you’ll clear passport control and settle into the midday (or thereabouts) service to Brussels.

This will be either on the Eurostar or Thalys service, both of which offer comfortable high-speed travel to Brussels.

Alternatively, you might decide to travel via Paris or Cologne where, as with all of these tailor-made journeys, you have the choice to spend the evening and tomorrow getting to know the city.

However, this sample itinerary has you aboard the overnight sleeper service from Brussels, which will depart around 22.00, giving you plenty of time to enjoy a good meal and perhaps a Trappist beer or two. The sleeper has extremely comfortable beds and you’ll spend the night rumbling south through Germany and Austria, arriving into Vienna, the City of Music and Dreams, just after breakfast – which you’ll have enjoyed in the comfort of your seat.

2

Day 2 - Vienna and onto Bratislava

Start Point: Vienna
Destination: Bratislava
Travel: Arrival from Vienna by train or river boat along the Danube

Guten morgan aus Wien!

On arrival in Vienna, you might decide to spend today and tonight in this beautiful city, perhaps taking in an opera while you’re there. Alternatively, you can head directly on to Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia.

To get to Bratislava, you can either travel along the banks of the Danube by train, or whistle along the river itself by speedboat. Either way, you’ll be met in Bratislava by one of our superb local guides, and transferred to your hotel in time to drop your bags and find some lunch. We like the Marrols Hotel in Bratisvlava, offering a stylish welcome and 5* facilities in a prime location.

Marrols hotel bratislava slovakia

There are also plenty of other hotels so suit most tastes.

Bratislava shares a lot of architectural history with its larger northern cousin Prague but, thankfully, doesn’t share the same issues with over tourism. We’re sure you’ll enjoy the historic streets and more laid-back feel of this characterful old dame.

Options abound here  – if you are keen we can take you off to taste wines, wander the old city streets with a local guide or even try to spot the mouflon sheep at a reserve not far from the city. Or you can just spend the afternoon relaxing, and exploring the city at your own pace.

3

Day 3 - Bratislava

Start Point: Bratislava
Destination: Bratislava
Travel: Visits to local rewilding project by hybrid low emission car with driver

After breakfast at your hotel you’ll head off to spend the day on a nearby stretch of the River Danube where some important ecosystem restoration is taking place. You can either be driven there in a low emission vehicle, or drive yourself in a vintage Skoda, with your guide in a following vehicle. The choice is yours.

Vintage Skoda

The Danube floodplain is a hugely important region – not only for wildlife, but as a place with a natural capacity to soak-up floods and store carbon. The fantastic project you’re visiting today is working to restore wetlands, river branches, meadows, pastures and floodplain woodlands and, in doing so, has encouraged a huge increase in species diversity. This is exactly the kind of grassroots project that we are keen to support through our trips.

devin castle

After a healthy, hearty lunch at a nearby farm, you’ll return to Bratislava, via the spectacularly located Devin fortress, above.

This evening will be spent in Bratislava. Either we can book you a table at one of our favourite restaurants, or we can arrange for a local chef to take you shopping for ingredients and then prepare and enjoy a delicious meal with you – this gives a very good insight into the pulse of Slovak life.

You’ll stay in Bratislava tonight, where excellent beers and fine wines abound in a panoply of pavement bars.

4

Day 4 - Bratislava to the Tatras

Start Point: Bratislava
Destination: Tatra Mountains
Travel: Travel by electric or hybrid car with driver/guide

After breakfast, you’ll head east from Bratislava into the verdant hills of central Slovakia, arriving in the delightful town of Banská Stiavnica in time for lunch at a local microbrewery. Slovakia has a strong history of beer making: here you’ll meet the brewers and learn how Slovakian beer was a craft long before the age of craft beers.

Banska Stiavnica

Lying on edge of the once prolific coal and silver ore fields of central Slovakia, this fantastically preserved medieval town is relatively little-visited. But its mining wealth built Renaissance palaces, 16th century churches, elegant squares and castles, which make it a fascinating place to wander around.

After lunch and a chance to admire some of this architecture -including some under UNESCO World Heritage designations – you’ll head north, stopping briefly to admire the epic Bojnice Castle, below.

Taking tea below the ramparts, you’ll then head north to the Tatra Mountains, where you’ll check in to the stylish 5* Grand Hotel Kempinski High Tatras.

Kempinski Hotel High Tatras

Kempinski High Tatra spa

There are some other options, but the location and service here is hard to beat, and the views from the rooms are epic. Supper tonight will be in the hotel’s excellent restaurant, from where you can enjoy views across lake and mountain.

5

Day 5 - High Tatras. Wildlife Rescue, warm-up hike

Start Point: Lake Strbske
Destination: Lake Strbske
Travel: Electric or hybrid vehicle with driver/guide

Today is about getting acquainted with the wildlife of Slovakia, and you’ll start with a short drive to an animal rescue centre whose primary mission is to rescue and rehabilitate a range of raptors; among them Golden Eagles, owls and other birds of prey. The centre also helps with the rehabilitation and release of other injured animals, and you might see otter, deer, lynx or even bear cubs here. This place does some great work and we are very pleased to be able to support them in their efforts.

Bear rescue and release_slovakia

You will then have a light lunch in a local guesthouse before heading back towards Lake Strbske.

kada thermal slovakia

On the way, you’ll take a short hike to a thermal pool popular with local people (this one isn’t roasting hot and the mineral mixture is said to be excellent for joint pains), before taking the winding road back to the Kempinski. Today is a shorter day of activities because tomorrow will be an early start.

6

Day 6 - High Tatra wildlife encounters

Start Point: Lake Strbske
Destination: Lake Strbske
Travel: E-Bike and hiking
Notes: Some degree of physical fitness will be needed today - the more we put in, the more we get out!

It’ll be an early start this morning, but we’re certain you’ll think it worthwhile…

Accompanied by your guide, you’ll hop on a comfy electric bicycle and head into the forest, where you’ll swap to your feet and hike further into the woods. Here, you’ll meet a local bear specialist who knows the best places to observe these animals without causing any detrimental impact to them, and where you’ll also be safe. Take a good pair of binoculars and/or a good camera.

After spending some some time observing the bears, learning about their behaviour and the critical role they play in the ecosystem here, you’ll hike back to your bicycle and whizz back to the hotel. If you aren’t used to electric bicycles, rest assured – they are comfortable and safe, and you can put as much or as little effort as you like into pedalling.

You’ll have a late lunch at the hotel before a short drive to Liptovsky Mikulas, a town between the High Tatras and Low Tatras National Parks. Here, you’ll meet a team of film-makers who have established a fund to protect the Western Capercaillie.

This remarkable bird, often considered a symbol of conservation in Scotland, in fact has a historically strong population here in Slovakia. Sadly, numbers have decreased by over 40 per cent in the last fifteen years, and the species now faces some very real risks. It has an important role to play within the forest ecosystem and the work of this team is vital to arresting the decline of this charismatic species. Again, we will be making donations to the fund on your behalf.

This evening, you’ll have supper with some of the team  at a local restaurant, before returning to the Kempinski for the night.

 

7

Day 7 - East into the Tatras

Start Point: Lake Strbske
Destination: Village in High Tatras
Travel: Low Emission Vehicle with driver/guide

You’ll start today with a short drive along the base of the mountains to meet and understand a truly unique  Slovakian tradition – that of the porters, or ‘Slovakian Sherpas’. You’ll meet some of these ultra-fit, charismatic gents (and they mostly are men) who form the supply and logistics service to the high mountain huts along the border between Slovakia and Poland.

High tatra porters_slovakia

Slovakia is the last country in Europe where supplies are still carried to mountain huts by humans, and the service is listed as a national heritage job.

From here, after a spot of lunch, you’ll head east to one of the mountain villages where some of the traditional wooden architecture has survived an onslaught of cookie-cutter alpine chalets. You’ll spend tonight with a local family in one of these traditional houses, and enjoy a delicious supper –  cooked outside over the fire if the weather is fine – with them. A lovely way to enjoy a slice of real Slovak life.

If you feel adventurous this afternoon, you can try out the nearby  summer luge….

zdiar summer luge

Either way, this is a good place to relax and soak-up some rural Slovakia before you head further east tomorrow.

8

Day 8 - Tatras to Poloniny National Park

Start Point: Village in High Tatras
Destination: Poloniny NP
Travel: Low Emission Vehicle with driver/guide

After breakfast at your homestay, you’ll head east to the the little-visited Poloniny National Park, Slovakia’s most remote protected area.  In the country’s far east, on the border with Ukraine, this is a remote area where traditional architecture and old wooden churches abound.

Uliscke Churches Poloniny NP_Slovakia

Arriving in the late afternoon, you’ll spend tonight in a comfortable, welcoming guest house tucked into the hills in the last village up a remote valley.

After a delicious home-cooked supper, you’ll head to bed early, so you can be well rested before tomorrow’s early start.

 

9

Day 9 - Poloniny National Park and Kosice

Start Point: Poloniny NP
Destination: Kosice
Travel: Hiking (6 hours), then 1.5 hour transfer by low emission vehicle to Kosice

It’s an early start today, as you’re heading into the nearby ‘Wolf Mountains’ to spend the day hiking with a local conservationist working on an internationally-supported rewilding programme here.

Wolf hunting was banned here in 2014, and since then this Priority Species has been steadily increasing. As you walk through these ancient fir, beech and birch forests, you’ll be looking for signs of wolves, and learning all about their place in this precious ecosystem.

As well as relishing the beauty and wildness of this area, know that your visit is key to helping the project achieve its long-term goals of encouraging responsible tourism as a means of directly funding wildlife conservation.

 

Rabia Skala_Poloniny NP_Slovakia

At the end of your walk, you’ll have tea with the conservationist before being driven to the small city of Kosice, surely one of the most charming cities in Europe. Here, you’ll be staying at the best hotel in town.

You have a wide choice of places to eat and drink this evening – Kosice has a vibrant epicurean culture and is close to the Tokaj wine-growing region… If you’d like to learn more about these wines, we can arrange for you to enjoy a wine tasting session with a local expert. We always think drinking is the best part of the viticulture process…

10

Day 10 - Kosice and back to Bratislava

Start Point: Kosice
Destination: Bratislava
Travel: Foot and vintage vehicles in Kosice and then train or low emission vehicle to Bratislava

Today you’ll have all morning to enjoy this delightful city – much underrated in our opinion, but certainly worth exploring thanks to a fabulous mix of architectural styles. The city has an intact medieval heart with a mixture of Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque and Art Noveau elements. Don’t miss the immense 14th century Gothic Cathedral.

Kosice_Slovakia

We can also take you on a whistle-stop tour, by vintage Soviet car, around communist Kosice – giving you the chance to  see the city through the prism of Slovakia’s time in USSR. Undertaken with lighthearted humour, but not shying from the realities involved, this enlightening few hours will give you a glimpse of the subcultures, housing and architecture of the country’s decades under communism.

Lenin_Kosice_Slovakia

After lunch at one of our favourite restaurants, you’ll catch the afternoon train to Bratislava, which you’ll enjoy from the comfort of your business-class seat. The views from the train are superlative – mountains, lakes, forests and the odd onion-domed church – making this a wonderful way to travel to the capital. Even better, the train has excellent on-train catering.

You’ll arrive back in Bratislava this evening, in time for a beer and a nightcap before bed.

11

Day 11 - Bratislava and homeward bound

Start Point: Bratislava
Destination: Cologne via Vienna
Travel: River transfer to Vienna and overnight sleeper to Cologne

As the evening train from Vienna to Cologne doesn’t leave until 9 p.m, the day is yours to travel as slowly as you like. Why not do a spot of shopping in Bratislava, or visit to a traditional konditorie, below, for fabulous cakes and coffee. Whenever you’re ready, we’ll transfer you to the banks of the Danube, to catch the 1.5 hour ferry service to Vienna.

In Vienna, you can either explore on your own, or we can arrange for a local guide to show you some of the best sights. You’ll then catch the sleeper train to Cologne, and spend the night in a comfortable compartment, trundling west through Austria and Germany.

12

Day 12 - Cologne to Home

Start Point: Cologne
Destination: London St Pancras or your home station anywhere in Europe
Travel: High speed Eurostar or Thalys to London, local Intercity beyond

You’ll arrive into Cologne at around 08.30 this morning. Either you can spend some time in the city, or travel directly back to London on the Thalys high-speed line, connecting with the Eurostar in Brussels for the short hop under the channel.

Thalys 1st Class

You’ll  arrive in London around lunchtime, from where you can make onward rail connections to your home station, or we can arrange to whisk you home in a low-emission vehicle from St Pancras. The choice is yours.

EV Charging

However you make the journey home, no doubt your memory and memory cards will be overflowing with super experiences and you’ll be safe in the knowledge that your trip also did something to help our planet and its biodiversity.

Where will we be staying?

You’ll be staying in a variety of accommodation – from excellent 5* hotels to welcoming mountain homestays. As this is a tailor-made tour, we will book your hotels according to your tastes and preferences. We can all book a 5* hotel and know what to expect but, to our minds, luxury is the chance to get to know real people and understand the culture of the place you are visiting, not simply to see it through the lens of a glitzy hotel. These are the sorts of memories that last a lifetime.

What will the weather be like?

Slovakia is in the centre of Europe, so expect warm and generally dry summers and cold winters, with plenty of snow in the mountains. As there are diverse geographical locations, you can expect the climate to change throughout the year and  be dependent on location. Some wildlife is clearly only going to be visible at certain times of year – we can’t expect bears to be awake in winter, for example, but wolves will perhaps be easier to track. But whatever the season, Slovakia has a huge amount to offer, so just let us know when you can visit, and we will develop a thoughtful itinerary based around that time of year. In any event, we will provide a detailed packing list in your Welcome Pack, so you’ll be prepared whatever the weather.

I’m a solo traveller – is this for me?

Yes. This is a tailor-made trip, so whether you are travelling alone or in a private group of ten, we will put exactly the same high level of care and attention to detail into your trip. This has become our hallmark, and a tradition we are proud to continue.

What kit do I need to bring?

We will provide you with a Welcome Pack after you’ve booked, and this will detail any particular equipment we think either necessary or useful.

What vehicles will we be travelling in?

You’ll be travelling by hybrid or electric cars most of the time. On this trip you will also have the chance to ride in some classic Soviet-era cars, which are perhaps less comfortable but will be infinitely more characterful than their present-day counterparts.

What will the food be like?

Very, very good. The food in Slovakia is excellent and you will be eating in a variety of places, from top-notch restaurants to local homes. You’ll enjoy a wide range of dishes and have the chance to eat local, often seasonal produce at its best.

Rail bookings look really complicated, do you handle all of that for me?

Yes. Even in the 2020’s, booking international rail tickets is still not a simple affair. Rest assured we will handle all of that for you. All you need to do is sit back, relax and let us take the strain.

Enquire

EnglishFrançaisDeutschItalianoEspañolPortuguês