Wild Slovakia Travel
Slovakia is a minnow in European tourism terms – just over 2 million foreign guests visited in 2017, making it one of the least-visited countries on the entire continent. And while few visitors venture beyond the capital, Bratislava, this mountainous country has so much more to offer. A mecca for outdoor lovers, Slovakia offers world-class hiking, superb wildlife watching and plentiful wilderness, easily explored. Fantastic fortresses perch on hilltop eyries, emerald rivers carve through rocky canyons and medieval cities abound with Gothic and Renaissance architecture. This is a small country that packs a serious punch.
What to see and do in Wild Slovakia
Get high in the Tatras. Reaching an altitude of 2500 metres, the Tatras, or High Tatra, are the dominant topographic feature of Slovakia. Whether you’re a keen hiker or a winter sports enthusiast, these mountains offer something for every adventurous soul. Only three hours north of Bratislava, they’re the ideal blend of wilderness and accessibility.
Have a hill-top hammam. Slovakia has more than twenty spa towns, the finest of which is folded into the wooded hills near the Czech border. People have been coming here to take the waters since the mid-thirteenth century, and even just being here, in such a beautiful setting, is a rejuvenating experience. Even better, take a Turkish hammam, and admire the ornate tile-work while enjoying a proper massage.
Row, row, row your boat. Wile away your days rowing, or just gently paddling, down one of the many rivers that lace Slovakia. Drift down the Hron, Orava, Maly Dunaj or Vah, stopping for a picnic on the riverbank. There can be few better ways to explore a country that by its waterways, naturally slowing to the pace of the nature around you.
Wildlife in Slovakia
Capercaillie are not considered ‘at risk’ by international conservation organisations, but sadly, in many parts of Europe, this characterful bird – also known as the Wood Grouse – is under threat from habitat destruction. In Slovakia, the population is in steep decline due to logging, which destroys lekking (breeding display) areas for these forest birds. We are keen to ensure that the Capercaillie is seen to be valued by visitors, as this will help to increase scrutiny and conservation efforts in the country.
Sturgeon, or specifically the Sterlet Sturgeon, are considered vulnerable, but populations of them continue to have a fin-hold in the Slovakian Danube and Morava Rivers, where these metre-long relics of prehistory are a vital indicator of human influence on the aquatic environment. We tend to have a a greater, perhaps mammalian, empathy with furred and feathered beasts than fish, which glide unseen below the surface. But to know they are there, surviving despite – and sometimes with – a little assistance from us, feels reassuring.
Wildcats While Scotland’s famed Wildcat population is now sadly considered nonviable, in Slovakia they still prowl the Tatra ranges. Sharing the forests with Eurasian Lynx, Wolf, Brown Bears, Polecats and boar, here they remain thankfully unaffected by the genetic dilution caused by interbreeding with domesticated cats.
Rewilding and Conservation in Slovakia
There are nine National Parks in Slovakia and a further five National Nature Reserves, plus fourteen Protected Landscapes that together cover more than 35 per cent of the country. At nearly 10 per cent more than the UK and 25 per cent more than the USA, it indicates the importance Slovakia gives to preserving its wild places.
On the Danube, organisations like BROZ and Rewilding Europe are focusing attention on conserving the wetland ecosystem by restoring river branches, improving hydrodynamics, replanting native tree species and allowing the floodplain to act as exactly that. The European Beaver is present in small numbers here, and camera traps recently confirmed they are now breeding once more in the Danube Delta in Romania. The return of this key species along the Danube basin is something that will assist with habitat creation and maintenance for a huge variety of species, with a useful side-effect of helping to slow flood events for human settlements and agriculture.
In 2006 the Alpine Marmot was reintroduced to the Tatra National Park and the population is growing steadily, thus filling an important ecological niche. These large rodents form a vital part of the food web in the mountain ecosystem and will encourage a stable population of predatory mammals, alongside scavenging birds of prey, jackals and wild felines. This is encouraging news.
Travelling to Slovakia
Slovakia is in the heart of Europe and is easily accessible by rail from the UK and the rest of Europe. As with all of our destinations, the beauty of rail travel is the incredible flexibility that it affords you: stopping where and for however long you please, and making the journey part of your holiday rather than just being a process of endurance.
From the UK, you can reach Slovakia via Paris, Munich, or even Prague, but the easiest route is this one, via Brussels.
Catching the Eurostar from London St Pancras just before lunch, you’ll pull into Brussels at around 17.30. Depending on the day of the week, you’ll either make the one and a half hour hop, via the high-speed Thalys service to Cologne, or continue from Brussels – suitably fortified with good food and a Trappist beer or two.
In either case, your overnight sleeper will get you into Vienna, the City of Music, by around 08.30. You can either choose to spend time in Vienna, or you can travel directly onward to Bratislava – either by fast ferry on the Danube or by train along its banks. In either case, we’ll be there to meet you and start your Slovakian odyssey.
Wild Slovakia Tours
With high mountains, winding rivers, beautiful cities and abundant wildlife, this country has it all. On this holiday you’ll track wolves, meet the last of the Slovakian sherpas, explore medieval cities and walk in old-growth forests.