Kingfishers swoop above the glistening mystical streams; green, lush moss wallpapers the magnificent sandstone rocks; the sun beams down over the silent pine forest. This description is that of the Bohemian Switzerland National Park Czech Republic (České Švýcarsko), a fairytale landscape full of deep valleys, soaring sandstone towers, and some spectacular vistas.
The Czech Republic is home to four national parks and the Bohemian Switzerland National Park, or Czech Switzerland National Park is the youngest of them all. Mostly unknown to visitors of the Czech Republic, this magical and unique national park may not be as famous as others in Europe such as the nearby Saxon Switzerland National Park, but its maze of intertwined sandstone valleys, bridges, and naturally formed gates make the Bohemian Switzerland National Park a hidden gem and one that has plenty going for it…
1. Pravčická brána
Follow the popular route of Gabriel’s Trail and after 6km you’ll reach the icon of the Bohemian Switzerland National Park; Pravčická brána, a naturally formed sandstone gate. As the largest arch in Europe, this magnificent beauty one of the most striking natural monuments in the Elbe Sandstone Mountains.
Think you’ve seen it before? That is because it was featured in the Hollywood movie The Chronicles of Narnia! Although unfortunately, you are no longer able to walk across the gate, so the actors/actresses were pasted in using a green screen in the filming studio.
This is also the location where the famous fairytale writer Hans Christian Andersen wrote part of “The Snow Queen”
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2. Kamenice River Boat Trip
While the Bohemian Switzerland National Park is abundant in fascinating towering rock formations, the park is also home to an idyllic and mystical canyon, where you’ll find Edmunds Gorge and Divoká Gorge (meaning Wild Gorge). The gleaming and musty teal Kamenice River runs through this shaded canyon with 40-metre cliff walls either side. Here you can board wooden boats manned by ferrymen with a bargepole and travel through two gorges on an eccentric trip through this magical landscape.
Don’t forget to pull the rope and activate the waterfall, which gushes out between the rock formations into the twinkling gorge below!
This historical town is the gateway to numerous hiking trails and sandstone towers that rock climbing enthusiasts dream about. It is also one of the best places to stay in the BohemianSwitzerlandd National Park.
But before you head off for your adrenaline dose, make sure you spend a little time just wandering through this picturesque town, home to numerous traditional style homes that have become an attraction in the town themselves.
4. Mariina Skála (Mariina vyhlídka)
Probably one of the National Park’s best-kept secrets is the lookout tower located on the top of a sandstone rock close to the town of Jetřichovice. Mariina Skala (Mary’s Rock) is one of the best viewpoints in Bohemian National Park and it is the perfect spot to head to for sunset. But this view doesn’t come without pain; it’s 600+ stairs to the top will test your leg muscles and count for your cardio workout for the day. But trust me – the view is 100% worth it!
5. Šaunštejn Castle
Another site located not far from Jetřichovice is Šaunštejn Castle, a relatively unknown lookout point and home to the ruins of a 14th Century stone castle. With views out over the National Park’s forests and valleys, this picturesque spot is the ideal location if you’re looking to propose or watch a romantic sunset. While not as strenuous of a hike as Mariina Skala, you’ll still be required to climb some pretty steep ladders to enjoy the view!
It is best to adventure into the Bohemian and Saxon Switzerland National Parks with a knowledgeable and English-speaking tour guide; I spent the weekend exploring Bohemian Switzerland National Park with the helpful Vitek, from Northern Hikes Tours on their popular Bohemian Switzerland Tour (00 420 730 962 221, firstname.lastname@example.org).
Update: Thanks to Andy for pointing out that Hummingbirds are not found in the Czech Republic and in actual fact they were Kingfishers! 🙂