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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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In and around Tarnów

In and around Tarnów

rynek wraz z ratuszem i przylegającą do niego wieżą, wokół kamieniczki
Passing through the Małopolska region, it is worth devoting some time to the city of Tarnów and its surroundings, which delight tourists with their charm. Tarnów is one of the most important tourist and cultural centres in the voivodeship. It has very favourable microclimate, which makes it the warmest city in Poland. Each visitor can buy a special souvenir “heat from Tarnów”, which is a charming gadget similar to a cushion, acting as a thermal heater to remind the wonderful moments spent in this city. The warmest point in Tarnów is the Sanguszko Park. It is characterized by exceptional sunlight and the specific angle of the sun. The positive and warm Tarnów climate contributed to the creation of vineyards in the vicinity. Wine from the region is more and more often noticed and awarded at national festivals and competitions. Many local vineyards are listed on the Małopolska Wine Trail. At the end of 2019, the integrated wine product “EnoTarnowskie” received the certificate for “The Best Tourist Product of 2019” granted by the Polish Tourist Organisation.

Pearl of the Renaissance

“Pearl of the Renaissance” – that's how outstanding art experts speak about Tarnów and its Old Town. The most outstanding Italian architects and sculptors such as Bartolommeo Berrecci, Giovanni Maria Padovano and Santi Gucci created here. Wandering the streets of Tarnów, we can admire the Renaissance tenement houses, located in the heart of the market square, the Mikołajowski House built in the 16th century, the Florentine House or the centrally located Town Hall with a 30-meter tower and the oldest hand-winding clock in Poland.
You cannot miss the elements of Jewish culture, such as the bimah, cemetery and mikvah with the monument dedicated to the First Transport to KL Auschwitz (14 June 1940). In Tarnów you will find also a monumental railway station from 1910, renovated in 2007-2010, which was bombed in 1939. History enthusiasts should also visit military cemeteries from the First World War.
Tarnów is famous for the monumental tombstones of the Tarnowski and Ostrogski families (the highest in Europe) located in the Cathedral Basilica. The ruins of the Tarnowski family's castle tower over the city, being a symbol of the importance of this influential family.

For lovers of modernism, we recommend a visit to the industrial part of the city, namely Mościce. The rich history of this district fascinates not only historians, but also tourists visiting it, and its buildings are a true legacy of past times. Architects and builders were guided by an overarching goal – residents were supposed to live comfortably here, the buildings had to be functional and optimally located on the city plan. The combination of architecture with green areas was of particular importance, thanks to which the design perfectly fitted into the idea of the “city of gardens”. Villas surrounded by greenery refer to manor houses from the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries, the building of the local nitrogen plant, a factory estate (entered in the register of monuments), the artistic installation of Wilhelm Sasnal – Mościce is certainly one of the most interesting districts of Tarnów, it is worth spending some time at discovering it!

Places of worship

There are several important places of worship in Tarnów and the surrounding area. One of them is the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Sorrows (Cathedral Basilica), which houses the statue of Our Lady of Sorrows made in wood in the 17th century and considered miraculous. Equally charming is the wooden church of Our Lady of the Scapular, where the beautiful Rococo high altar gives the interior a unique character. On the altar you can see the painting of the Mother of God with the Child, famous for many favours, decorated with a crown and embroidered dresses.

The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Fatima is noteworthy as well – the relics of Blessed Francisco and Jacinta are surrounded here with special devotion. In addition, near Tarnów you can admire the unique monuments of sacred art, i.e. the wooden church in Zawada, the wooden church in Skrzyszów or the sanctuary in Odporyszów. In the local Sanctuary there is a wonderful painting with the image of Our Lady of Odporyszów, as well as a spring that, according to legend, saved the lives of thirsty soldiers. Many people owe their health to its water.

It is worth visiting the Sanctuary of Saint Stanislaus Bishop and Martyr in Szczepanów and the Sanctuary of the Visitation of the Virgin Mary in Tuchów – the largest Marian centre in the Tarnów region. It is a one-nave church with side chapels and a beautiful Baroque altar, in which you will find the image of Madonna and Child, famous for many favours.

Other sacred places of interest are the former synagogue in Dąbrowa Tarnowska, the church in Dębno near Tarnów and the village of Wał-Ruda, where Bl. Karolina Kózkówna was born.

Let's go back in time

When wandering around Tarnów and its surroundings, you cannot pass by numerous museums reminding about old times. When you're leaving the cathedral, take a look to the right and you will see the oldest church museum in Poland – the Diocesan Museum. The nearly 500-year-old building hides numerous religious treasures and more. Masterpieces of painting, sculpture, liturgical vestments attract the attention of many art connoisseurs.

When you're on the Sobieski square, just turn left into the Krakowska street and you will... feel like you are in Vienna - it is a real pearl among the city streets. One of the tenement houses on this most important street in Tarnów once housed the seat of the Ukrainian government in exile. Between the buildings you can see a manor, which is currently the seat of one of the most interesting Polish museums – the Ethnographic Museum, known for the only exhibition on the history and culture of the Roma in Europe. In its courtyard, during the events organised by this institution, you can take part in a gypsy bonfire, and also admire the dances of Gypsy women dressed in colourful costumes.

When visiting Tarnów, it is also worth getting to Zalipie, a charming village with Felicja Curyłowa Farmstead Museum. In this village takes place the oldest folk art competition “Painted Cottage”, organised by the District Museum in Tarnów and the House of Painters in Zalipie. The House of Painters is a centre of creative work with mission of disseminating knowledge about the art of the region. 

If you have enough time, it is also worth going to Wierzchosławice and Szczucin. A large dose of knowledge and inspiration awaits us in both these places. In Wierzchosławice, situated on the south of Zalipie, you will find the Wincenty Witos Museum, i.e. the farm of the first Polish prime minister originating from the peasantry. In Szczucin, on the other hand, awaits you the Museum of Road Building, one of the most interesting museums of technology in Poland. It contains old road building machines and devices, as well as a rich collection of road signs or kilometre columns. It's really worth attention!

Friendly city 

Numerous parks and playgrounds in Tarnów encourage to take a Sunday family walk and play with children outside. The possibility of having some rest on kayaks or bikes are additional attractions. The Vistula Cycling Route runs through the most picturesque parts of the valley of Vistula and its tributaries. The VeloDunajec route is also very popular. For people who value hiking in the woods, we recommend walking in the nearby forests, where in the season you can find beautiful mushroom specimens. Green parks and wooded paths in Tarnów are perfect for nordic walking. People who like active leisure can try in Tarnów numerous sports facilities: swimming pools, gyms or climbing centres.

At the corner of the Krakowska and Nowy Świat streets there is a painting of an elephant painted by children..., and on gen. J. Bem's square toy can see a monument commemorating the exceptional figure of Organ Grinder, who used to play in Tarnów before the war ad was most often seen in this place. The sculpture has a special musical mechanism, which means that when you're standing near the Organ Grinder, he “starts his concert” and from a short distance you can hear a characteristic melody. We also recommend seeing the monument of King Władysław I the Short at ul. Wałowa. According to the legend touching the royal shoe with your right hand brings luck, so there is no time to lose. Let the luck come to you! 

At ul. Wałowa there is the “Poets Bench” with figures of Agnieszka Osiecka, Jan Brzechwa and Zbigniew Herbert. In the boxes next to the sculptures, with a bit of luck, you can find books they wrote.

Cultural life of the Tarnów region

Culture and entertainment lovers will also find something for themselves and will certainly not get bored while staying in this charming city. Gourmets will enjoy delicious regional dishes such as siuśpaj, i.e. barley porridge with prunes and kręciołki cookies. It is also worth taking part in the Pleśnieński Bacchus, which is the edition of the Festival of Fruit and Bee Products, and for connoisseurs of good wine we recommend Tuchovinifest – International Wine Festival. You can’t miss the Tarnowskie Dionizje event either, during which local winemakers run a traditional wine procession in the Old Town.

Life is not only about food. When you plan to visit Tarnów, it is worth to first carefully study the calendar of cultural events that take place in the city. The long list of events that you cannot miss includes the TALIA National Comedy Festival, during which you'll see the best comedy performances from all over Poland. In your free time, it is also worth visiting the Art Exhibition Bureau, Panorama Gallery and Mościce Art Centre.

Fort Wapiti, or Indian Village in Zalasowa, next to Tarnów, also guarantees some interesting entertainment. This peaceful place with views on the Brzanka range is rich in unusual attractions and play zones, especially for children. This is where you can see the unique exhibition of 19th-century Indian handicrafts, Indian costumes, listen to amazing stories and feel the smell of smoke from the fire.

We also have good information for enthusiasts of long trips and history – when you're in Tarnów, remember to check out the First World War's Eastern Front Trail, which leads through several voivodeships, including the Małopolskie voivodeship and the Tarnów region. It includes, among others, the memorabilia of war operations with beautiful cemetery areas, for example in Łowczówek.
Tarnów is full of magic and secrets, you have to see it with your own eyes! Take your loved ones with you and spend unforgettable moments, among the monuments with soul, enjoying family entertainment.

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