Walking and trekking
The first place to mention is perhaps an unusual name for a prime walking area, but its remarkability and proximity to Prague makes it a must. The Bohemian Paradise is a protected landscape of a mere 92km2 is a delight, comprising thickly bedded sandstone which was once a seafloor. This has been heavily eroded into some astonishing shapes, such as rock windows, buttes and caves which have given rise to the designation of certain areas within the paradise as ‘rock towns’, warren-like formations which are at their most spectacular at Trosky. Here there is also Trosky castle, a 14th century ruin built on two rock spires which give it a truly arresting profile. There are walking trails (signed in white), and cycle trails too. A great, quirky area to get started or wind down in.
Another excellent walking location is Czech Switzerland National Park, (or Bohemian Switzerland National Park) which is also home to much arresting geomorphology of eroded sandstone, but also to the Kamenice River Gorge near Hrensko, which leads up a trail taking in ledges, walkways, tunnels and trout filled streams, overlooked by towering sandstone faces. It is a wooded and rocky area right on the border (with Germany, interestingly) and is well worth a visit.
Adrspasske rocks (properly Adrspasské Skály) lie just outside a little city called Adrspach in the Northern part of the Czech Republic, and featured in the movie version of the Chronicles of Narnia. It is like a pine forest, but made from rocks. Surreal.
Moving away from quirky geology, the Sumava mountains are the oldest mountains in the Czech Republic, stretching 125km along the border with Austria and Germany. These are excellent mountains for walking and trekking, and are covered in unspoiled, ancient forest which gives the area a dusky, medieval feel. The mountains are hardly sky-piercing - think the Howgills, but more spread out – but the area is very out of the way, large and unspoiled, with many rivers, lakes and walking trails.
Another area for superb walking is the Krkonose Mountains, on the Polish Border, upon which the Czech Republic’s highest mountain – Snezka – sits. It is not the most beautiful mountain you are likely to climb, being home to several buildings on its summit, as well as the aforementioned border, which adds considerable novelty to any ascent. However in winter the mountain is transformed into a stunning pyramid; it is possible to climb in winter, though considerable care must be taken as there is a high risk of avalanche in certain snow conditions. Remarkably, the Krkonose Mountains – nicknamed the Giant Mountains - are part of a geological system which terminates in Wales, at Snowdon. There is much walking to be had here, especially around the town of Spindleruv Mlyn, high in the mountains and ideally placed as a base to explore the highest peaks of the Czech Republic.
In the north-east of the country, the Beskydy mountains (or Beskids) are a low extension of the Carpathians, and offer good walking, endless hill and forest trails, terrific views of the Tatras, as well as good skiing in winter.
Golf is huge in the Czech Republic, and is home to several extensive grass courses at Karlstejn Konopists and Cihelny near Karlovy Vary. The golf course in Mariánské Lázns is placed in an attractive spa environment with magnificent natural scenery. Cycling also has good infrastructure in the country, and many trails which link up with the European trail network of EUROVELO. The first route that opened, the Greenways route, connects Prague and Vienna. Other long-distance trails run around the Lipno Lake and through the Sumava mountains. The Czech Republic is also excellent for trout fishing, especially the Vltava River, the Otava near Susice, the Lipno dam reservoir, the Jizera near Harrachov, the Kamenica, the upper stream of the Orlice and the Morava. These can be fished between April and November, and permits are required from whichever administration is responsible for the watercourse. The Cesky and Moravský rybársky svaz (Czech and Moravian Angling Union; www.rybsvaz.cz) should be able to give you the info you need.
Windsurfing, yachting and rowing, as well as other types of watersports, are also readily practised in Czech Republic. The lakes of Lipno, Orlik and Slapy are particularly popular, and although they are reservoirs, have attractive infrastructure and are pleasant places to make for.
Geological formations are manifold in the Czech Republic, culminating with the Moravian Karst – a beatiful, heavily wooded area near Brno, where you can visit canyons and some 400 caves created by the subterranean River Punkva.
Finally, aside from the intoxicating culture of Prague, there are plenty of spas where you can de-tox.
The Czech republic is called the ‘roof of Europe:’ TRUE. But not because it is the highest point, far from it. The main European watershed extends through the country, dividing the drainage areas of the north and south seas. Here we can even find the massif, Kralicky Snezník (1,423 meters), from which water runs into three different seas according to which slope receives rain. The North Sea, the Baltic Sea and the Black Sea meet here.
Must see and do
- Walk aross the Pravcicka brana Located in Czech Switzerland, Pravčická Brána is the largest natural stone bridge in Europe and a natural monument of our country. Sadly, you can’t walk across it, but its situation and scale is astonishing, as is the adjacent chateau. http://www.pbrana.cz/en/
- Walk through Adrspasske rocks Just to see the arresting geomorphology of these rocks is worth the trip alone, but a walk through them is a must. See a 360 panorama of them here:
- Detox at Karlovy Vary One of the most famous spas in the Czech Republic, and renowned for its regenerative waters and distinctly Victorian air. A bit like a Bohemian Banff.