When I say the word ‘Slovakia’, do you think of an adventure destination? Have you ever thought of going there? Could you point it out on the map?
I’m going to guess your answer is no. But this unassuming, central European country has the all the ingredients to see it bite at the heels of the tourism behemoths of France, Croatia, Turkey and Greece.
So if you’re looking to get your fill of adventure without the crowds and price tag, you just might have found it with this black horse.
1. Unique landscapes
Slovakia’s National Parks alone make up roughly 8% of its total landmass. 9 national parks and 14 protected landscapes make Slovakia’s natural places some of the most protected in Europe.
Below the country, there’s a network of increasingly popular cave systems, including the villain-lair-esque Dobšinská Ice Cave.
Above ground, the Slovak Paradise National Park has 300km of ladders, trails and pathways through the diverse, green forests. Then ascend rugged, alpine slopes to the peaks of the UNESCO protected Tatras Mountains. Slovakia has a location for all tastes.
The number of international tourists in Slovakia is still relatively low. It received a total of 690K tourists. When compared with, for example, Croatia’s 1.7 million in the first 4 months of 2017, you might wonder if there’s something wrong with the place? Tourism, like pretty much anything else humans do, is trend driven.
As Slovakia has not been ‘discovered’ as a tourist destination, you can be sure the locals will still be pleased to see you. We predict that this won’t be the case for long, as this number is up 21.6% on the year before. If you’re one of those people who love to say “I went there before it got so popular,” then we suggest you get packing.
3. It has great transport links
Usually, getting to pre-tourist destinations can result in early grey hairs. But whether you choose to fly, drive or get a train, Slovakia has never been easier. If you’re a road tripper, then driving from London will be a scenic 16 hours, through the Belgian countryside and down the German autobahns.
But if you’re looking for a shorter break/are a non-road tripper, then airlines like Ryan Air and Wizz Air are opening up new flight paths every week. Book far enough in advance, and you can pick up flights to Bratislava or Krakow for a measly £50 pounds. Once you’re there, the roads are well maintained and public transport efficiency will surprise you.
4. It’s really cheap
Slovakia is cheap. Really cheap. If you’re used to weekends in London filled with pop-up craft pale-ale bars and questionably sized pulled pork rolls, you’re in for a treat. Prices in Slovakia have not kept up with the improvement in services, and as a result, you can expect to come home with more change than expected. Don’t believe me? Let’s play the comparison game, shall we.
In London, you’ll pay £12 for a basic lunch with a drink. In Bratislava, £5. In London, a pint in a pub would be roughly £5. In Bratislava, £1.50. In London, a night in a 5-star hotel can cost up to £1000 for a night, sometimes more. In Bratislava, you’ll struggle to find anywhere for over £200.
So there we are. Slovakia is cheap. Really cheap.
5. The food is unbelievable
Maybe this will surprise you, maybe it won’t. I don’t know. But Slovakian cuisine is to die for. Slovakia is surrounded by five more influential nations. So whilst Slovak food may feature the pickled Czech cheese, Austrian schnitzel and Hungarian goulash, the ways these are arranged into traditional soups, stews and pies is oh so different.
A suitable description would hearty and wholesome. It is generally characterised by potatoes, thick soups, cabbage and lots of pork. Dishes to try are the Kapustnica, (a sauerkraut sausage soup,) and Bryndzove halushky (potato dumplings with sheep cheese and roasted bacon).
6. The many, many castles
In the past, Slovakians loved building stuff. You’ll find over 6000 caves, 180 castles and 425 chateaux to prove this. Slovakia has more castles and chateaux per square capita than any other country. Bojnic Castle is probably the most popular, and definitely a must-see. The castles are staggering and give the landscape a unique, fairy-tale quality.