For a great escape, head to the Czech mountains
The Czech Republic is truly a country for all seasons. We may be losing the sunny warm days of summer to chilly days and cool nights, but that’s no reason to hibernate till the spring thaw. From hiking and watching the leaves change colors in the fall to skiing and other activities in the winter, there is someplace in the Czech Republic that will accommodate whatever time of year and mood you happen to be in.
Let’s go up. A mountain that is. The Czech Republic has all sizes of mountains literally surrounding the country. If you are looking to get some hiking in before the first snowfall, Helene Kopecke with Czech Tourism says all the mountain areas have kilometers of hiking trails, and are good places to see fall leaves. “The most popular with hiking lovers are the Jizerske Mountains, the Sumava Mountains and the Orlicke Mountains,” she recommends. Or head for the regions of Czech Paradise, Czech Switzerland and Adrspach-Telpice. “The Czech “rock towns” are unique in Europe,” says Kopecka. “They are not mountains, but areas absolutely great for hiking and fall is the greatest period to visit them.” The Czech Paradise area stretches between Mnichovo Hraditi, Jiein and Turnov. “Paradise is exactly the right name for this area,” says Kopecka. “It possesses romantic valleys, meadows, log cabins and amazing views of the surrounding area.” Historical sights, castles and chateaus give other sightseeing options, but be careful, many of these places are closed in fall and winter. “Visitors are often taken aback by the spectacle of grand castles and chateaux on literally every hilltop,” Kopecka says. The Trosky Castle Ruins and Hruba Skala, a Renaissance chateaux, are only two of the many places to visit.
If relaxing for you includes a good long hike, the Czech Switzerland area may be a better bet. “One of the most popular rock formations in the national park is the Praveice Gate, a sandstone arch, the largest of its kind in Europe,” shares Kopecka. She also recommends the Adrspach rock formations near the town of Nachod, almost to the Polish border. “There are several interesting walks visitors can take through the rock formations,” Kopecka says. “In the middle of the rock formations, there is a lake with a five metre high waterfall.” No matter which place you choose in this region, Kopecka says you can’t go wrong. “All the so-called rock towns differ from each other in many respects, but one thing they do have in common is they are superb places for hiking and climbing of all levels.”
So the snow is falling and your feet are itching to get back into a pair of ski boots. Kopecka says when it comes to the quality of ski resorts in the Czech Republic, size doesn’t matter. “The Czech Republic has many mountain resorts of high quality offering rich possibilities,” she says. You can both downhill and cross country ski, snowboard, relax in a spa, bring your family or escape for a romantic weekend away in just about every mountain range here. If skiing is what you are looking forward to most, a number of places will happily accommodate you. “The best known ski resorts can be found in the Krkonose Mountains,” says Kopecka. She suggests the resorts in Pec pod Snezkou, Cerna Hora – Janske Lazne, Spindleruv Mlyn, Harrachov and Rokytnice nad Jizerou. Which one you choose depends on what you are looking to do. “Spindleruv Mlyn has 25 kilometres of downhill courses and 100 kilometres of cross country trails,” says Kopecka. It also offers evening skiing. Also in the area, and unique to Europe, is the Krkonose cross country route. It offers skiers more than 520 kilometres of trails.
The Jizerske Mountain area caters to the cross country skier with 100 kilometres of trails. “The Czech Republic is one of the best places in the world for long distance cross country skiing,” says Kopecka. “All trails in this country have something in common – they are all superbly marked!” Skiers can find both the circuit type of trail which leads you around the same area, or long distance trails which often lead the skier along the tops of mountain ridges.
Snowboarders should head for the snowparks in Medvedin, Pec pod Snezkou, Harrachov and Horni Misecky. To feel like a true champion visit Svaty Petr, the venue for the world cup. In March, the European Snowboarding Cup will take place in Klinovec, in the Krusne Mountains. They also have an artificial snow making machine, so you won’t have to depend on Mother Nature. Also in Klinovec’s snowpark are numerous obstacles, including a U-Ramp Super Pipe category.
If you like a little more excitement on your skis, head to Harrachov where you can take advantage of their eight ski jumps. For the true adrenaline fan, why not try paraskiing? Do it with a professional instructor at various resorts in the area including Certova Hora near Harrachov and Medvedin near Spindleruv Mlyn.
Looking to combine some evening pampering with your active days? Book yourself into one of the many resorts that also boast spas. Spend your days skiing in the Krusne Mountains, and then head for one of the spa towns of Karlovy Vary, Marianske Lazne or Frantiskovy Lazne. “Fitness and wellness treatments at the spas are perfect for soothing those aching muscles after skiing,” says KopeckA. Both the Krusne and the Jeseniky mountain areas have a number of hot springs in addition to their downhill and cross country trails. Kopecka also recommends Priessnitz in the Jesenik Mountains and Olieky in the Orlicke Mountians to those looking for a quiet weekend. “They are quieter places, not as popular maybe as Krkonose and Sumava, but are extremely fine for both skiing and relaxing.”
The mountains are excellent places to bring children. “A cozy atmosphere, peace and unspoiled landscapes are the ideal backdrop for a family winter holiday,” says Kopecka. She suggests the mountain ranges of Sumava, Orlicke and Beskydy. The resorts of Zadov, Spicak and Kramolin in the Sumava region cater to less experienced skiers, and you can take advantage of the nearby Aquaworld when the little ones have become bored with the slopes.
Most of these places deserve at least a weekend of your time, and maybe more. All areas boast a variety of hotels, pensions, apartments and cottages to rent. Reservations are important, especially in winter. The area’s local tourist bureau may be able to help with recommendations and advance reservations.
Whether it be active or passive, alone or with the kids, no matter the weather the Czech Republic can accommodate your seasonal holiday wishes.