Intro: Take our Slovakia travel trips and plan your unforgettable expedition into this underrated country punctuated by mountains, castles, and historic cities.
Europe is one of the most-visited continents in the world, housing countless must-see destinations. Not into bumping shoulders with tourists every step just to get from A to B? Find far lighter crowds and standout destinations in Slovakia, an underrated gem right in the heart of Europe. This little country boasts mountainous expanses that rival any other outdoor destination and towns and cities rich with history. Rock climb, hike, sightsee, bike, ski, and swim off the beaten path while you travel Slovakia!
Table of Contents
Best Places to visit
Best Things to Do
Great Adventure Trips
Best Time to Visit
How to Get Around Slovakia
Best Places to Stay
Useful Travel Tools
Visa Requirements When Travelling to Slovakia
Interesting Facts about Slovakia
Frequently Asked Questions
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Slovakia is a self-assured nation born of the 1993 split of Czechoslovakia. Peacefully parting ways with the Czech Republic, each country embraced their own cultures and traditions to better define the two regions as separate entities. As a country that packs enticing topography, deep history, and distinct culture into one little package, it won’t take a long trip to get a feel for why other travellers are missing out by missing Slovakia.
Travellers to Slovakia often come to explore the splendid Old Town of Bratislava, the war-scarred fortresses, the impressive mountains, and the stately castles. For a trip that mixes outdoor adventure with cultural discovery, this is the place to be! While Bratislava will be most traveller’s jumping-off point, the far-north High Tatras mountain range cannot be left off the adventure traveller’s list. Košice provides a charming break en route to the Tokaj wine region in Slovakia’s sparsely-populated east. There’s lots to see, but this travel guide to Slovakia will show you how easy it is to see it all.
Best Places to Visit
When you step out of the plane, train, or automobile that brought you to Slovakia, odds are high that you’ll find yourself in Bratislava. This city of around 425,000 has been the capital since Slovakia became independent, and it’s a colourful blend of styles. Expect to find Gothic, Baroque, and Renaissance architecture all in one walk as you explore each castle and palace. Communist influence contrasts starkly with the ornate styles of earlier periods, with blocky apartment buildings harking back to the influence of the Communist Party of Slovakia.
While you’ll be cruising the gorgeous Old Town and perusing cafes and shops during the day, it’s impossible to ignore the raucous nightlife once the sun goes down. Bachelor parties from Vienna often target Bratislava to take advantage of the ever-flowing taps and rowdy bars. If you’re keen to be social, Bratislava will deliver.
We’ve talked about the High Tatras mountain range in detail, but you simply can’t plan an adventure travel trip to Slovakia without visiting these peaks. The High Tatras range is actually known as the smallest alpine mountain range in the world, but don’t let that deter you. The highest point of the range, Gerlachovský štít, reaches 8711ft high. Mount Kriváň, Slovakia’s most iconic and recognizable peak, reaches 8186ft high.
The High Tatras range is part of the larger Carpathian range that sprawls over the border between Slovakia and Poland. This region is home to ski resorts, over 600km of marked hiking trails, and cozy mountain towns to enjoy. Long-distance hikers love the 44.7mi Tatranská Magistrála trail that connects the mountains from east to west. Mountain bikers and snowshoers flock to the trails. Rock climbers can try their hands at unique routes. All that to say, this is where the action’s at if you’re looking to get outdoors!
Those visiting the High Tatras can make Štrbské Pleso, Starý Smokovec, or Tatranská Lomnica their home base.
Slovak Karst Caves
Get on top of the world, and then get below it! Some of Slovakia’s most incredible natural attractions are the karst caves tucked along the border with Hungary. These caves are a UNESCO World Heritage site, recognized for their otherworldly scenery. Seriously, it feels like you’re in a movie down here.
There are seven components to the entire site, four of which are in Slovakia. While all of the designated cave areas are worth seeing, we definitely recommend heading down into Dominica Cave to take an underground boat ride on the River Styx. Don’t worry, you won’t be headed to Hades.
Designated as the 2013 European Capital of Culture, Košice is the second-largest city in Slovakia and the hub of the eastern side of the country. While only populated by some 240,000 people, Košice is packed with museums, galleries, exhibitions, and theatres. The architecture around the city is to die for, especially the dramatic St. Elisabeth Cathedral. Take a stroll down the pedestrian-only main street, where churches, aristocratic palaces, and modern boutiques line the sidewalk.
Košice also provides a great home base for those looking to explore the quiet eastern end of Slovakia. Most visitors to the idyllic Tokaj wine region will use this city as their gateway.
Best Things to Do
Slovakia boasts plenty to do for the adventure traveller and the casual tourist alike. To start building out an itinerary, here are some of our favourite things to do in Slovakia.
Get into those mountains! While we’ve covered the High Tatras, there are also great hiking routes in the Mala Fatra Mountains, which are conveniently just a couple of hours outside of Bratislava. While we’ve got a collection of route guides to help you find your way in Slovakia, some of our favourite hikes in the country include Mlynická Dolina to Furkotská Dolina Loop, Zelené Pleso, and Mount Rysy.
If you’re not looking to gain major elevation, a casual walk to explore the Garden of Janko Kráľ in Bratislava is lovely. Since 40% of the country is forested, you’ll find plenty of spots for a nice nature walk out in the woods without needing to scale a mountain. One of the top outdoor destinations in the country is Slovak Paradise, a national park that combines 19 different nature reserves, over 350 caves, and countless canyons and gorges to explore.
So we’ve got mountains, we’ve got snowy winters… All we need is skis! Slovakia has a smattering of ski resorts, the most popular being Jasná Nízke Tatry–Chopok (perfect for advanced skiers and freeriders), Tatranská Lomnica (great for beginners), and Park Snow Donovaly (ideal for families with children). If you prefer cross-country to downhill, try Ski Mlynky. One of the most popular snow sports in Slovakia right now is “uphill skiing,” which is essentially the same as alpine touring. Skiers will use skins and detachable heel boots to climb up the hill, then shed their skins and lock in to descend.
Of course, snowboarders are more than welcome at the resorts of Slovakia. Most resorts open in December and remain open through the end of April.
There’s a thriving mountain biking scene in Slovakia, so those looking to explore on two wheels should feel right at home. Trails range from beginner to advanced and you’ll be able to find trailheads quite close to Bratislava. Some of the top-rated trails in the country include the Včelín Biely Kríž – Malý Slavín Bratislava Loop from Bratislava hlavná stanica (a mouthful), the Sandberg – Rozhladna Devinska kobyla Loop from Devínska Nová Ves, and the Forest Path Loop from Košice.
If you’re wanting to travel light, you can rent mountain bikes at shops throughout the country.
Cultural and Historical Exploration
Once you’ve tired yourself out on the trails, come back to the cities and towns of Slovakia to experience what makes this little country so special. Castles both pristine and in ruin are a true highlight here, and a day or two spent castle-spotting is a must. There are over 100 castles dotting the hills of Slovakia, the lovely 12th-century Bojnice Castle being one of the most visited castles in Europe. The neo-Gothic Orava Castle is one of the most beautiful in Slovakia and was used as a filming location for the 1992 silent film Nosferatu.
Once you’ve had your fill of castles (if that’s ever possible), pop into local museums to catch glimpses of Slovakia’s rich history. Our favourites are the Bratislava City Museum, the Museum of Clocks, the Slovak National Art Gallery, and the Danubiana Meulensteen Art Museum in Bratislava.
Great Adventure Trips
Planning your perfect Slovakia trip? Booking a guided or self-guided tour can take the stress off, allowing you to soak up the scenery while your accommodations, transport, meals, and activities are looked after. We add more adventure tours all the time, so check back soon to see what incredible trips we’ve added in Slovakia!
Slovakia is a small, landlocked country in central Europe. It’s bordered by Poland to the north, Austria to the southwest, Ukraine to the east, and the Czech Republic to the northwest. Much of the northern reaches of the country are covered with forested mountains. The central regions see a transition from the Ore Mountains to the lowlands of the Danube. Rural countryside dominates the east, where wine regions intertwine.
You’ve probably got it down by now that if you’re looking for adventure in Slovakia, you’re going to head north to the mountains. Slovakia’s mountain ranges are more impressive the further north you go, and this is where you’ll find the best hiking, mountain biking, skiing, and snowshoeing in the country. The Carpathian Mountains actually reach down into central Slovakia before giving way to flatter grounds.
The popular High Tatra range, where one of Slovakia’s most popular national parks lies, is part of the Central Western Carpathians. The Ore Mountains lie farther south, an important economic feature (judging by the name, you can probably guess why).
Outside of the mountains, most of Slovakia is lowland that leads towards the Danube River along the southern border. All of Slovakia’s smaller rivers drain south towards the Danube, which is a vital connector through Central Europe (and a fun spot for a river cruise!).
Bratislava dominates the western lowlands, and the eastern, while sparsely populated, host a wine region that sprawls into Hungary.
Good news! Slovakia won’t break the bank for travellers. While other, more well-known European destinations require some serious splurging (looking at you, Scandinavia, France, and Switzerland), Slovakia retains a factor of affordability due to its underrated travel status. While it’s not on par with known budget destinations, it’s a great way to experience the charm of Europe without draining your savings. We’ll talk about costs in USD for consistency.
Accessible to those in Europe but overseas for many travellers, flights to Slovakia vary greatly in cost depending on where they’re departing from. Travellers from North America should budget anywhere from $700-$1000 for flights depending on where they’re flying out of. Travellers in Europe could enjoy flights as cheap as $100 or less!
Where you rest your head each night can be one of your best budgeting tools. Expect to spend about $50 per night for a midrange single-occupancy hotel (more like $80 or $90 for two people) or about $40 per night for a budget hotel or hostel. High-end hotel rooms can be booked for north of $300 per night.
While the cost of your day-to-day in Slovakia can be highly variable, expect to budget anywhere between $40 and $90 per day for food, travel, and sightseeing. If you’re planning a special excursion, we recommend choosing a provider beforehand and budgeting according to their costs.
Restaurant meals start at about $10, with lunch often being cheaper. Beer is exceptionally cheap here, with pints flowing for as little as $1.50. Expect fast food meals to come in around $6 and a three-course meal at a mid-range restaurant to run about $35.
Tips and Gratuities
Travellers from heavy-tipping countries, take note! Tipping in Slovakia typically happens at a much smaller percentage than you may be used to. 10 percent of the bill at a sit-down restaurant is plenty. When you pay, tell the server how much you want to pay, not how much change you want back. Take care not to say “thank you” until you’ve received your change back or the server may take it as a sign that you don’t want change.
Tipping hotel staff is not expected, but it’s nice if they went above and beyond for you. In taxis or shuttles, rounding up to the nearest euro is sufficient.
Slovakia is a considerably safe destination, with little for travellers to worry about beyond basic safety practices. You’ll likely find people to be generally courteous and polite.
There are a few local scams that specifically target tourists. First of all, although it might sound like a good time, beware of good-looking strangers inviting you to a specific bar. This is a common scam where foreigners are charged for overpriced drinks all night. While you might still enjoy your evening, your wallet will take a bigger hit than necessary.
Additionally, some taxi drivers will attempt to overcharge tourists, especially in Bratislava. Ensure you’re in an official cab (have the bar or hotel call a cab for you if you’re unsure), and insist on paying what the meter reads.
Another common scam involves strangers slashing your tires and then offering you help when you notice. If you see you have a flat tire and someone offers help, be suspicious. Keep an eye on your belongings, as theft is nearly always an objective in these situations.
Besides those specific scams, simply practice the same vigilance you would anywhere else. Keep your wallet and purse secure, especially in crowded areas, take care at ATMs, don’t travel in flashy jewelry, be wary of assertive or aggressive strangers, take care when travelling at night, and keep an eye on your drinks at the bar.
Travellers heading into the mountains should consider hiring a guide. If not, ensure you’re well-prepared with maps, GPS routes, proper clothing and footwear, and contacts off the trail who know where you’re going and when to expect you back.
Best Time to Visit
Most travelling to Slovakia come between June and August when the warm summer weather is at its best. If you’re keen to explore the cities, hike, swim, or bike, summer is the perfect time to make the trip. If you’re more interested in skiing, December through February are ideal.
The busiest season in Slovakia is July and August, so be prepared for potentially heavier crowds around tourist attractions should you choose to visit during the summer.
How to Get Around Slovakia
In line with much of the rest of Europe, Slovakia boasts a well-connected public transport system that makes getting from A to B quite easy. In addition, other modes of transport and the small size of the country make it easy to navigate.
Not many travellers will fly across Slovakia. While you certainly could book a flight, taking the train is generally the more popular option. Most domestic flights serve to cover the ground between Bratislava and Košice. This route is run by Czech Airlines.
Trains are the easiest (and most scenic!) way to travel through Slovakia. The route between Bratislava and Košice is the most popular in the country, but you can also take the train to the north or south ends of the country.
We recommend buying tickets online in advance, as navigating the train system on the fly without any knowledge of Slovak can be hit or miss. The most popular train lines are Intercity (IC), or Eurocity (EC). You can purchase tickets online through Slovak Railways.
With an impressive network of bus lines spidering through the country, it’s impressively easy to reach even seemingly remote towns by bus in Slovakia. We recommend paying close attention to timetables, as weekends, evenings, holidays, and the size of the town served all affect how often buses run.
If you prefer total control over your travel plans and the flexibility to move around without a schedule, renting a car might be the best way to get around Slovakia. Rental cars can be arranged in Bratislava, Košice, and Poprad. You may need an International Driving Permit to drive in Slovakia, so we recommend touching base with a rental car company in advance to check.
Highways in Slovakia are kept in good shape, but you may find potholes, cobblestone streets, and narrow lanes in cities and towns. Take care. Additionally, know that winter tires may be mandatory in the snow, and you’ll not be permitted to drive with any alcohol in your system. Speed limits in Slovakia may feel fast to drivers from some countries- you’ll see drivers easily exceeding 130km/hr on the highway. Keep out of the passing lane unless passing and note seasonal reductions in speed limits.
Best Places to Stay
When you travel to Slovakia, you’ll have a few choices of where to rest your head each night.
For those on a budget, hostels are available. Check out Hostel World for locations throughout the country.
Camping isn’t as popular or easy in Slovakia as it is in some other European destinations, as wild camping or random camping is prohibited. You’ll need to book a designated campsite, some of which offer nice facilities and spaces for campers or other larger vehicles.
Most travellers to Slovakia will stay in hotels, which are safe bets across the country. You’ll be able to find a hotel room in most places you end up.
Useful Travel Tools
Train Tickets and Car Rentals
Planning on getting out and about? Of course you are. For warm winter threads suitable for the hill or trail, some of our favourites are Arc’teryx, Patagonia, and Helly Hansen. For those needing trail running and hiking gear, check Salomon and the Running Room. And if you plan on doing some hiking and backpacking, gear up through MEC or MSR.
We recommend choosing your gear ahead of time and bringing it with you, as quality outdoor gear is not very widely available in Slovakia.
Visa Requirements When Travelling to Slovakia
Slovakia is part of the Schengen zone, a group of countries in Europe with standardized visa requirements. You can find a list of countries whose nationals are required to apply for a visa prior to travelling to Slovakia on the Schengen Visa Info website, but always check with your local travel authority to confirm. Depending on your country of origin, you may need to apply for a visa just to change planes in the Schengen area. For quick reference, citizens of Canada and the United States do not require visas. Tourist visas are normally valid for 90 days.
No matter where you fall in terms of your visa, you’ll always need a valid passport issued within the last 10 years and valid until 3 months after your departure date. Certain criminal convictions can prevent your entry to Slovakia, so it’s good to check ahead to make sure you’re eligible for entry.
Interesting Facts about Slovakia
Want some fun facts to share with your newfound Slovak friends? Here are some interesting claims to fame for Slovakia.
- Slovakia boasts the highest number of castles per capita in the world. There are 180 castles and 450 chateaux within its borders.
- Even more impressive than the number of castles is the number of caves in Slovakia: 6000 of them!
- Bratislava is the only capital city in the world that borders two other countries (Hungary and Austria).
- The geographical middle of Europe is in Slovakia, close to a village called Kremnické Bane.
- You can stand in awe of the tallest Gothic wooden altar in the world here. It’s the altar of St. Jakub.
- The oldest toy ever discovered was dug up near Košice: a 3000-year old wheeled pushcart.
Frequently Asked Questions about Slovakia
Nobody hops on a plane without a few questions first! Hopefully these answers to frequently asked questions about travelling to Slovakia help you plan your perfect trip.
What language do Slovaks speak?
Well, Slovaks speak Slovak. Slovak is similar to literary Czech, but the two languages are distinct. You’ll likely also come across German, Hungarian, and Czech speakers while travelling through Slovakia. Many Slovaks know some English, especially younger generations, but it’s not as reliably spoken as in some other European countries.
How should I travel around Slovakia?
Trains and buses are the best way to travel within Slovakia. They’re well-connected, affordable, and allow you to appreciate the fantastic scenery.
Is Slovakia cold?
Sometimes, yes! Slovakia enjoys pleasant summers and chillier winters. If visiting between November and March, expect some occasional below-freezing temperatures and snow, especially closer to the mountains.
Is Slovakia dangerous?
Slovakia is not especially dangerous for travellers. Exercise the same common-sense safety practices you would anywhere else.
Does Slovakia use the euro?
Yes. You can pay using the euro in Slovakia, which was adopted as their currency in 2009.
What is the food like in Slovakia?
Slovakian cuisine is similar to other Central European nations, focusing on meat and dairy. Slovakian food was born of a need for high-energy, affordable, quick meals for peasants, herders, and labourers. Lovers of leafy greens should prepare themselves: vegetables are not as plentiful or diverse in Slovakian food.
Expect dishes like pork dumplings, pierogies, cabbage soup, bread with meats or jam, and goulash soup. While in Bratislava, you’ll be able to find more popular chain restaurants and fast food if you look for it.