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Pieniny and Spiš

Pieniny and Spiš

wschód słońca w górach, ciemne zarysy gór, pomarańczowo-złote niebo wśród chmur

Pieniny and Spiš are one of the most attractive tourist regions of our country, they are both worth visiting regardless of the season. Natural values, cultural diversity, a multitude of monuments will allow you to get to know the unusual face of the Małopolska region.

The Pieniny area is located in the central part of the Pieniny Klippen Belt. From the north, the Pieniny border with the Gorce and Beskid Sądecki, and from the south with Magura Spiska. The entire range is 35 km long and 3.5 to 6 km wide. Pieniny are naturally divided by the river Dunajec into three fragments, namely Pieniny Spiskie, the Pieniny Właściwe and Little Pieniny. The highest peak of this mountainous land, formed of limestone, slate, sandstone and conglomerates, is Wysoka (1,050 metres asl).

Spiš attracts history enthusiasts because of its interesting past. The first traces of human presence in this area come from the Palaeolithic period. The subsequent turbulent history of the Polish-Hungarian and Polish-Czechoslovakian border did not spare this area.

The region offers many attractions. A dense network of intersecting hiking trails and several ski stations provide an unforgettable experience for winter sports enthusiasts and hikers. For all those seeking respite, we recommend Szczawnica and Krościenko nad Dunajcem – two high valued health resorts in which you can, among others taste the spring water with healing properties and unique taste. It is also worth taking advantage of the rich offer of cultural events.

Tourist paradise

Since 1932 Pieniny are under protection within the Pieniny National Park, which stretches on both sides of the border with Slovakia. The Pieniny Właściwe range stretches on the protected area, culminating in the Three Crowns massive towering over the Dunajec valley. It is here that you can find extremely rare species of colourful flora and fauna. The rocky environment provides excellent conditions for the life of butterflies with the graceful name Apollo butterfly, and the relict pines in Sokolica make the landscape extremely characteristic.

There are many animate and inanimate nature reserves in Pieniny and Spiš. In the Homole Gorge reserve in Jaworki you can admire a deep canyon decorated with limestone boulders. The White Water reserve will enchant visitors with volcanic rocks and streams creating phenomenal cascades and deep evorsions. In turn, in the Białka River Gorge reserve near Krempachy you can see the rocks of white and red limestone, which hide the famous Obłazowa Cave. These picturesque places were the scenery for several films, such as the “Janosik” TV series or “Karol: A Man Who Became Pope”.  In the Blue Valley reserve, you will find a unique beech old forest, where the oldest beeches are over 200 years old, and in the Wysokie Skałki reserve you can see the last upper montane belt spruce forest in Pieniny. On hot days, to cool down you can opt for a trip to Żary (you can admire from that site the beauty of the Spiš Pieniny), rafting down the Pieniny gorge of the Dunajec river or a walk to the Zaskalnik waterfall.

Remarkable historic places

When in Pieniny, it is worth visiting several historically priceless sites. The rich past of this area can be discovered by, among others, visiting the castle in Frydman – a magnificent fortified manor house that once served as the summer residence of Jerzy Horvath – a Hungarian magnate. The turbulent fate of Niedzica is “hidden” in historic buildings, such as the castle on Lake Czorsztyn. In its medieval walls you can feel the atmosphere of a fortress that once used to be bustling. Near the castle there are also a historic granary and a customs house. The castle in Czorsztyn is another destination for tourists visiting the Pieniny area. It has been partially restored and the exhibitions attract crowds of tourists from all over Poland. In addition to recreation, the health resort in Szczawnica also offers numerous health treatments, and the popularity of this place is getting even greater.

In addition to secular monuments, there are also some noteworthy religious buildings – you cannot miss the church of St Elisabeth in Trybsz, the church of All Saints in Krościenko nad Dunajcem, or the oldest temple in the in the Polish Subtatra region, namely St Stanislaus church in Frydman. Worth mentioning are also: the church of St Catherine in Nowa Biała, the church of St Martin in Krempachy and the church of St Quirinus in Łapsze Niżne, belonging in the 14th century to the Order of the Holy Sepulchre. Noteworthy is also the church of All Saints in Kacwin, built in 1313, which was in possession of Lutherans from 1602 and returned to Catholics 30 years later. Built in 1278, the church of St Bartholomew the Apostle in Niedzica, belonging to the group of Gothic Spiš churches, still enchants with stone traceries in the windows of the presbytery. Few people know that there are former Greek Catholic churches in the area – one in Jaworki and another in Szlachtowa. Currently, they are functioning as Roman Catholic churches.

Museum side of the Pieniny

When traveling around the region, it's worth visiting some museums. An absolute must-see is the Museum of the Pieniny National Park in Krościenko nad Dunajcem, where the natural, historical, landscape and cultural values of the Pieniny and its surroundings are exhibited. In the entrance pavilions of the national park we will find interesting exhibitions on various topics, e.g. “Pieniny forest ecosystems” or “Pieniny rock ecosystems”. One of them is in Szczawnica, two in Czorsztyn, and another two in Sromowce Kąty and Sromowce Niżne.
Particularly noteworthy is the Spiš Folk Culture Museum in Czarna Góra, where the buildings of the Korkoszów homestead and the Sołtys Homestead in Jurgów – branches of the Tatra Museum in Zakopane – are presented. Another interesting proposition is the “Sypaniec” regional chamber in Łapsze Niższe and the regional chamber in Sromowce Wyżne presenting the everyday life of the inhabitants of Pieniny in the past. A similar theme is presented by the open-air museum in Kluszkowce, also known as the Czorsztyn Settlement. The private Pieniny Mock-ups gallery in Krościenko nad Dunajcem offers visitors the opportunity to see miniatures of these beautiful mountains. At the Pieniny Museum in Szlachtowa you can see exhibits related to the history of Szczawnica, and at the carriage exhibition in Niedzica – carriage and horse carriages belonging to the former owners of the castle.

No less attractive is the nature exhibition of Tadeusz and Anna Oleś in Krościenko nad Dunajcem. It includes an impressive collection of rare animal specimens from around the world. The author's gallery “Pod Okółkiem” in Krościenko nad Dunajcem presents the paintings of Andrzej Michał Beliczyński made with the use of watercolours and pastels. In the “Krzywa Jabłonka” gallery in Szczawnica we will see folk art and handicrafts of Pieniny artists, same as in the wooden church in Sromowce Niżne, which since 2010 is no longer a sacred object, but acts as a local museum.

Active leisure in Pieniny

Szczawnica and Krościenko nad Dunajcem are recommended as starting points for hiking trips. Tourists can choose routes to the Three Crowns or towards Sokolica, depending on their preferences and skills. The trails start in the centre of the village and lead to Pieniny, Gorce and Beskid Sądecki. The red trail leads to Prehyba (1,176 metres asl) or Lubań via Jaworzyna (1,050 metres asl). The blue trail is also a very interesting route – it runs along the ridge of Pieniny Właściwe and Little Pieniny. The Tatra, Gorce and even Slovak Levoča Mountains can be clearly seen from here. This trail is also ideal for ski tours. After an exhausting walk, you can experience a respite in one of the mountain hostels: Orlica, Trzy Korony and Pod Durbaszką.

You can also admire the mountain panorama by taking the chairlift up to Palenica, from which you can also ski in the winter season. The gravity slide located on the mountain slope is also an interesting spot.

Fans of two wheels fans will find in Pieniny and Spiš many bicycle routes. The bicycle trail around Lake Czorsztyn is an ideal destination for lovers of monuments who, by combining active leisure with sightseeing, will remember the visit to Pieniny for a long time. The Pieniny Road, i.e. the red trail along the Dunajec gorge, can be travelled on foot and by bicycle, which is an additional advantage. The VeloDunajec bicycle route runs along the Dunajec river as well.

“Rally by the Dunajec Valley” encourages competitive cyclists to participate in the fun, which in addition to sports emotions, also provides opportunities to spend time surrounded by nature.
However, this is not the end of the attractions offered by the Pieniny region. Horse riding fans will also find something for themselves with the Transbeskidian Horse Trail running through this area. Szczawnica-Piwniczna is its most popular route. To choose the right walking, horse or bicycle route, please visit malopolska.szlaki.pttk.pl.

Cross-country skiing enthusiasts are invited to Krościenko nad Dunajcem where the boulevards by the Dunajec river have properly prepared skiing routes running alongside. Sports adrenaline can also be found in rope parks, such as ABlandia Amusement Park or Adventure-Sky in Krościenko nad Dunajcem.

Moreover, numerous running events are very popular among sports fans. The youngest enthusiasts can participate in Mini Runs in Szczawnica, which promote a healthy lifestyle among children and teenagers. The competition offers several routes adapted to the age and predisposition of the competitors, so you can choose a distance from 100 metres to even 2 kilometres. Adults also willingly take part in the competition during the Triada run. An interesting fact is the form of the race itself, which in addition to being fast and intense, consists of running up the peaks at night. 

Attractions at the foot of the mountains

One of the most characteristic attractions in this area is undoubtedly rafting down the Dunajec River Gorge, with tradition dating back to the 19th century. During rafting you can admire the Pieniny peaks, including the Three Crowns. For the sake of natural and historical values, the gorge was recognised as a natural monument. Rafters wonderfully amuse their passengers on the way by telling jokes and anecdotes.

An equally interesting experience is a cruise on the “Harnaś” ship on Lake Czorsztyn. Passengers on board can enjoy a cup of coffee while admiring the surrounding natural and architectural monuments.

You can't get bored in Pieniny and Spiš! An interesting experience is participating in the folklore custom of playing music around mojs. During the night before the feast of Pentecost, each of the bachelors in the neighbourhood strive to put a moj (little tree) in front of the house of a maiden. Then they sing songs in honour of the Mother of God and wander the whole village merrily. Disguised as gypsies, local youths collect donations for their “child”, and the girls from nearby houses dance with them to the music they play.

This live folklore is also presented during the inauguration of the Pieniny Summer event. Everyone who stays in Szczawnica at the time has the opportunity to see the traditional costumes of rafters, carriage drivers and highlanders from Spiš and Pieniny. A fair of folk craftsmanship and concerts of highlander bands complete the atmosphere, which for many mountain fans is a priceless holiday memory.

Shepherd culture plays a very important role in the social life of this mountainous region, which is also an interesting opportunity to learn more customs. Every autumn, time comes for redyk, i.e. the traditional return of sheep from the pastures. All the sympathisers of this event can celebrate, among others, in Jaworki, and in the Majerz clearing, they can welcome the shepherd (baca) and his young helpers (known as juhasi) returning from the shepherd's hut.

Muzyczna Owczarnia, which is one of the most popular meeting places for music lovers, is also extremely popular. Concerts and meetings are organised there throughout the year. Another events worth recommending are Ethno-Novo, Autumn in Szczawnica, the Pieniny-Kultura-Sacrum Festival in Krościenko or the Baroque Ancient Music Festival in the Spiš.

Pieniny and Spiš are famous for their wonderful regional cuisine including dishes such as: gałuski dumplings, kołoc pie, plum soup (known as śliwianka), oscypek cheese, kwaśnica (sauerkraut soup) or trout. Several dishes unknown in other regions are a treat for lovers of traditional delicacies.

Another unique attraction awaits you at the Szczawnica health resort, where you can try one of the twelve mineral waters. Some of them are available by the sources without any restrictions, others are served in the “Magdalenka” pump room. Equally valuable are the properties of the “Stefan”, “Maria” and “Michalina” waters available in Krościenko nad Dunajcem.

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Beskid Sądecki and Low Beskids

Beskid Sądecki and Low Beskids

widok na góry, niebieskie niebo z chmurami, zielone łąki, różowe kwiaty na pierwszym planie
Like the two sentries, Beskid Sądecki and Low Beskids guard the Polish-Slovak border and, metaphorically speaking, also the tradition and health. They cover the area from the Dunajec river to the eastern border of the Małopolskie Voivodeship. The rich and diverse character of the sentry brothers means that they have many friends who, regardless of the weather and preferences for spending free time, will find attractions that meet their expectations. You can join them!

The Beskids captivate with their peaceful beauty, offering safe trails and beautiful landscapes. Despite the different nature and height, they have a lot in common: valued health resort, numerous wooden monuments, cultural traditions and events that have gone down in the history of the world. During the First World War, the eastern front was broken near Gorlice – the German and Austro-Hungarian troops defeated the Russian forcing their army to retreat. Every year, a historical staging commemorating this event takes place in Sękowa. Those who fell in the battle were buried in war cemeteries, e.g. Magura Małastowska, where the front line used to run. Much earlier, the Gorlice Land was famous for oil deposits, which began to be mined around the world in the 1850s. Stanisław Jabłonowski is considered one of the pioneers of the oil industry. He built the first kopanka – oil well thanks to which oil was pulled out in buckets deep from the ground.

For nature lovers

If you are looking for peace surrounded by the Beskid nature, you will undoubtedly find it in the Magura National Park, which was created in 1995 in the Low Beskids. Almost 800 species of plants and 200 species of animals have been recorded here, among which there are rare or endangered birds (golden eagle, lesser spotted eagle, eagle owl and honey buzzard), butterflies (clouded Apollo, scarce swallowtail, common yellow swallowtail) and beetles (Alpine longhorn beetle and Cerambyx scopolii), or come across large predatory mammals. The park was established in areas which until 1947 were inhabited by Ruthenian highlanders – the Lemkos. There are numerous monuments in the form of roadside figurines and chapels, Orthodox churches and churches.
One of the attractions is Lake Klimkówka – immortalised in the movie “With fire and sword”, where you can go windsurfing.

Beskid Sądecki boasts the Poprad Landscape Park with its Natura 2000 Ostoja Popradzka area, as well as many educational and ornithological paths, among others on the slopes of Góra Parkowa, Jaworzyna Krynicka or in Łopata Polska. Thanks to health resorts famous for medicinal waters, Poprad Landscape Park is considered one of the most attractive areas in Poland. There are 13 nature reserves here, of which Kłodne nad Dunajcem, Obrożyska and Pusta Wielka are particularly noteworthy. When you come here, don't miss the Bobrowisko natural enclave in Stary Sącz, cool carbon dioxide fumes in Tylicz – called mofety, the Czarna Młaka pond near Muszyna, or the fancy spiral viewing platform in Wola Krogulecka.

For lovers of museums and open-air museums

In museums and open-air museums located, among others in Nowy Sącz, Krynica, Stary Sącz, Gorlice, Muszyna and Łoś you can find collections of valuable exhibits from various eras and different areas of human activity.

The headquarters of the District Museum in Nowy Sącz was moved in 2018 to the historic building of the former Austro-Hungarian Bank. The modernisation allowed to emphasise the representative character of the staircase and the main hall on the top floor, where variable exhibitions, meetings and concerts take place. The departments and branches of the District Museum contain exhibits depicting the extraordinary history and culture of the inhabitants of the Beskids.

In the Sądecki Ethnographic Park in Nowy Sącz there are several thousand exhibits presenting the folk culture of Lachy, Polish Highlanders, Highlanders of Łącko, Lemkos and Carpathian Gypsies. It houses, among others over a dozen peasant homesteads with characteristic rural buildings. An element unique on a national scale are the reconstructed temples of three denominations: the church of St Martyr Dymitr from Czarne, the wooden 18th century church of St Peter and Paul from Łososina Dolna and the church from Świniarsko, which originally served the Protestant colonists.

A Galician Town, modelled on the 19th-century Galician settlements, was created next to the Ethnographic Park. You can see there the Old Town Hall and the noble manor house from Łososina Górna, in which there is a conference and training centre, a fire station and two residential buildings housing a set-up of watchmaker's workshop and potter's workshop.

Classic art can be admired at the Gallery of Maria Ritter in Nowy Sącz, located on the first floor of a historic, 200-year-old tenement house. The collection of works donated by the painter from Nowy Sącz include oil paintings, watercolours, graphics, drawings, collages, sculptures and wall paintings. The interior design introduces guests to the atmosphere of the apartments of the former burgess.

The Nikifor Museum in Krynica, in turn, presents the work of one of the most famous representatives of primitivism in the world – Nikifor Krynicki or actually Epifaniusz Drowniak. The documentary part of the exhibition consists of souvenirs of the artist and publications devoted to him. The museum is also a place for exhibitions of well-known artists from the area of non-professional and folk art. In Tylicz we will find the Museum of the History of Tylicz, which in addition to ethnographic exhibitions has also a collection dedicated to the Bar Confederation.

Souvenirs of famous residents of Stary Sącz can be seen in the local Regional Museum. The exhibits collected in the historic building know as Dom na Dołkach show the history of the city, handicrafts, military items, as well as works of art. The tenement house, which houses the museum, was the only one to survive the great fire of 1795 and retained the 17th-century Baroque character. It owes its name to its placement in the (once) lowest place (dół) of the market square, or, as another legend says, from pits (dołki) dug in the tenement basement by a local gravedigger.

Among museums, there are plenty of those that will appeal to children, e.g. The Starost's House in Muszyna, which currently houses the local cultural centre, the Toy Museum in Krynica run by a married couple of enthusiasts, in which toys from almost all eras can be found, or the Zagroda Maziarska in Łoś, a homestead where you can see everyday clothes and items of the old oil dealers.

For lovers of active leisure

A rich network of tourist routes allows you to reach all the most attractive parts of the region. Beskids offer tourists hiking, biking, horseback, cross-country, ski, as well as cableways and recreation centres. There are two cableways in Krynica-Zdrój: one goes to Góra Parkowa and another to Jaworzyna. The latter is the longest gondola lift in Poland.

Among the walking routes, the red Main Beskid Trail, and the blue Żegiestów Zdrój – Leluchów trail are particularly recommendable. The most interesting bicycle routes are the yellow bicycle trail Wysowa Zdrój – Regietów – Wysowa Zdrój, which allows you to see wooden post-Lemko Orthodox churches in the vicinity of Wysowa-Zdrój. Beskids sites are also included on the VeloDunajec and VeloNatura routes.

There are many studs and horse-riding centres in the Beskids – it is a very popular activity in the region. In Gładyszów there is the largest Hutsul horse farm in Europe. Individual and group rides for tourists are organised here, as well as horse riding lessons with an instructor, horse rides, carriage rides and sleigh rides. Around 100 km of marked horse trails have been led in the vicinity of the centre. Every year in September, a three-day event known as Hutsul Days is organised here. The horse trail worth recommending is Rytro – Uhryń – Hańczowa – Nieznajowa – Kotań – Olchowiec, a fragment of the Transbeskid Horse Route, which leads form Rytro, located in Beskid Sądecki to Olchowiec, which is already in Low Beskids. The trail runs through the Magura National Park.

The offer of sports activities in the winter season is so rich that it is impossible to list everything. The most frequently chosen by tourists include: cross-country ski trails, trail skiing, skitouring and hiking in snowshoes. Beskid Sądecki and Low Beskids boast top-level ski resorts, of which Słotwiny Arena, Henryk, Jaworzyna Krynicka, Tylicz Ski, Master Ski and Wierchomla are particularly worth recommending. If you are just starting your adventure with skiing, try smaller lifts, such as: Kokuszka, Kamianna, Magura Ski Park and Smerekowiec.

Visitors to the Beskids should take advantage of the rich offer of stationary centres where you can have just as much fun as on the trails. The most visited are rope parks Ablandia in Rytro, rope park in Wysowa, Winter Sports Centre in Ptaszkowa as well as Recreation and Sport Centre Zapopradzie. Lovers of water madness in the summer season can take part in the river trip down the Poprad river.

For lovers of health resorts

It is worth going to Beskid Sądecki and Low Beskids to have some rest. The balance of both spirit and body is restored by water from the local springs, appreciated for its taste and healing properties. Beskids are truly famous for their health resorts. Many mountain towns are visited throughout the year by tourists who come here to improve their health. The list of most-valued resorts includes:

Krynica-Zdrój, called the pearl of Polish health resorts. It has not only the features of European resorts such as the promenade, stylish guesthouses or spa houses, but above all the pump rooms where most of the local natural treasures are available – 23 mineral water intakes, with the most popular “Kryniczanka”, as well as the Słotwinka, Jan and Zuber sources.
Wapienne is one of the oldest health resorts in Poland. Sulphide water intakes are used here in the treatment of musculoskeletal and rheumatic diseases. Before the war, the town was famous for oil production, as well as a stonemason's centre, and to this day it is inhabited by several Lemko families. The local spa houses use mud and medium mineralized sulphide waters from the Kamila, Marta and Zuzanna sources.

Piwniczna-Zdrój specialises in the treatment of respiratory and digestive diseases as well as prophylaxis of locomotor organs. Here, you can taste for example the “Piwniczanka” water. There are excellent tourist and walking areas around the town, attractive both in summer and winter, as well as sources of mineral waters – most of them offer tasty, healing water flowing straight from the ground or solid rock. Sources can also be found in the beautifully situated valleys of Beskid Sądecki in Łomnica-Zdrój or Wierchomla.

Muszyna – once the centre of a large area called the “Muszyna state”, today it is eagerly visited by sufferers of respiratory and digestive diseases.

Wysowa-Zdrój is a small health resort famous for the “Wysowianka” mineral water. In the local health resort park, you can try medicinal waters from the following springs: Józef, Franciszek, Henryk, Słone and Bronisław. They are recommended for the treatment of respiratory, digestive and urinary tract diseases.

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