Pieniny are Slovak mountains located on the border with Poland in the northeast of the country. Part of this beautiful area also creates the national park. These mountains are often skipped by the international tourists. One of the reason could be the distance from traditional tourists spots and big cities, or the bad infrastructure, or lack of English speaking people in the area. Anyway, whatever the reason is, today I will show you how beautiful the mountains are and that they have a full right to stand in the spotlight right next to the High Tatras.
Why we love Pieniny National Park
Most of the visitors to the park are Slovak or Polish speaking people. We are sort of used to our bad roads in our country, so we don’t let that to stand in our way when adventure awaits. The park offers you various types of activities. You can go hiking, rent a bike and enjoy some mountain biking, rent a raft and get wild on the water, take a tour on one of the wooden rafts, or just play tennis at the local tennis courts. The easiest way to get to the Pieniny mountains is by car, hiring a local guide, but you can also get here by bus.
Rafting on the traditional wooden rafts
First Pieniny adventure on my list is rafting on the wooden rafts on river Dunajec. This is not adrenaline “on the edge” kind of rafting like you’ve seen in the movies. These rafts are wooden, slow, comfy and safe. It’s a perfect whole 3 generation family fun. But you have to watch your kids so they don’t end up in the river ? The wooden raft can take up to 10 adult people and the rafter/tour guide/the guy who directs the raft. In Slovak, we call these people “pltníci” (sg. pltník) and the rafts are called “plte” (sg. plť).
Dunajec is the only river that takes waters from the Slovak territory to the Baltic Sea. It is actually one of only two Slovak rivers flowing to the north. Back in the middle ages people started to use it to transport the goods to the North. It was easier and faster to put the piles of wood to the raft and let the mother Earth do the work for you than to carry them over the mountains. Wood got transported this way the most often because the north people needed wood for the ships. Later in the 18th century locals started to use it as a form of transportation for people too.
The tour on the raft is 14 km long, takes around 1 hour and 45 minutes and costs 10 – 12 Eur pp. Once you get into the raft you get welcomed by the tour guide who will direct the raft and also explain and describe what you see. These guys are locals who have rafting in their genes. They all wear old local clothes and black hats decorated with little white shells. The shells have special meaning, every shell stands for one voyage to the north and to the see. Some of them do speak English and some don’t. I guess you need to get lucky with the tour guide ? One little advice – Wear waterproof shoes and prepare you might get bit wet.
The rafting experience is awesome. You will see the best of the mountains from the unique perspective. Through the ages the river created a canyon – Dunajec Canyon. This is the biggest naturally build Canyon in the Central Europe. The sceneries you will see are really breathtaking. The tour guide will point out the highlights of the tour and he will add a little story to every single of them. The river is pretty deep, at some places almost 12 m. Overall you go through the elevation of 40m.
At the end of the tour you have a couple of options how to get back to the start point (and to your parked car). You can walk, rent a bike or hop on the carriage pulled by horses. Transportation back is not included in your initial 10 Eur so you need to prepare some extra cash. Walk back is not that physically difficult (no elevation) but it is pretty long.
Rafts take off every hour and you need to get your tickets prior to the boarding ?. You can buy them in the little store located next to the raft harbor. Note that places on the rafts are limited and it might happen that you have to wait for the next tour. While waiting, you can enjoy some local food and drinks in nearby restaurant and hotel. Rafts are available daily from 9:00 to 16:00.
There are various overnight possibilities in the area as well. You can stay in the local hotel, or camp outdoors (you need to register which is app. 2,50 Eur per tent). If you decide to stay longer you can also try real adrenaline rafting or kayaking. Both are available with the instructors. Just ask at your hotel and they will be happy to help you out.
Abandoned monastery in Cerveny Klastor
Another spot worth visiting in the area is Cerveny Klastor – Red Monastery. Cerveny Klastor is an abandoned monastery located nearby the village of the same name. The monastery got its name from the red shingles, on the roof. It was built in the 14th century, when the region was part of the Hungarian Empire. In 1307, a man Master Kokos, committed a murder and as a punishment he had to found 6 monasteries. Later he donated a large portion of land from his village to monks to build a monastery. It was originally built out of wood, but later rebuilt using bricks.
The monastery was home of the Cartesian monks, one of the strictest hermetic orders. Their life in the monastic community was spent in seclusion, in continual silence, prayer, fasting and meditation. In 1565, the monastery was invaded by mercenaries, which resulted in the monks’ abandoning the place and fleeing abroad and dissolution of the monastery. The monastery has never retained its former glory back.
Today the monastery is open to the public. It has been reconstructed and it works as a museum with local geographical exposition, spiritual/monk live exposition and part is also devoted to monastery most famous monk – Cyprian.
Brother Cyprian was a famous surgeon, doctor and pharmacist, who, in his most significant work ‘Herbarium’, written in the 18th century, describes almost 300 species of herbs found in the Pieniny and the High Tatras. He also opened one of the first Slovak pharmacies and help locals with their illnesses. An old legend says that he died while testing his flying machine. He jumped out of a mountain in Pieniny and when angels saw him flying they stroke him with a lighting and he ended up on the bottom of the river Dunajec.
The museum is open daily all year long. The opening times varies according to the months. In summer months its open from 8:00 till 19:00 and in winter it’s from 10:00 till 16:00. The last tour is always an hour before the closing time and entrance fee is 3 Eur pp. For bigger groups or some special assistance, you need to call them and reserve the tour.
National park Pieniny has a lot to offer. You can go for a tour on wooden rafts or visit a very unique monastery museum. I haven’t mentioned dozens of hiking paths across the mountains with the most stunning views. You can pick! People in the area are very friendly and will love to help and advise. The untouched beauty of the mountains is well preserved and you will find something to do here all year long. In the winter, you can also check out local ski resorts. In the summer, it’s just 7 km to a big lake in Poland or to Slovak aquacity in Poprad (50 km). The area in general, service and accommodation here is way cheaper than in High Tatars but equally awesome!
Where to stay in Pieniny?
There are plenty of reasonably priced guest houses in the area of the National Park of Pieniny. If you would like to try the traditional rafting during the day, do some walking in the nature and relax with no hassle, the best place to stay overnight is the village of Červený Kláštor located on the right side of the Dunajec river, or a Polish village Sromowce Nizne right across the river. We recommend to book your stay in following hotels and guest houses:
Penzión Tulip is a perfectly located guest house right in the middle of the village of Červený Kláštor. All attractions (such as rafting, kayaking, bike rental & restaurants) are available just few steps from the entrance door. We love this place because you can get the large apartment including kitchen and breakfast for two people for less than 50€!
Drevenica pod Troma Korunami
Drevenica pod Troma Korunami is an ideal place for your stay if you love traditional wooden architecture of Slovakia and you’re looking for a great deal. This is neither a hotel nor guest house, but you will definitely fall in love with this one. It is a wooden cottage with 8 beds and you can book the whole house for just 79€/night during the summer season.
Hotel Nad Przełomem
Hotel Nad Przełomem is the only hotel in our list of recommended accommodations. And it deserves a great respect. We were amazed by excellent breakfast options, big and comfortable rooms with unlimited access to the wellness area and free parking. It was a pleasure to get a 60 min. massage after a day full of entertaining activities in the nature.
Click here for bookings, rates and availability.
Would you like to experience the rafting on the traditional wooden rafts in Pieniny? Book our one-day trip to Pieniny and enjoy your time.