Karlovy Vary (Carlsbad), or simply 'Vary' to Czechs, has greatly stepped up its game in recent years, thanks largely to a property boom spurred by wealthy Russian investors. Indeed, the first thing you'll notice is the high number of Russian visitors, all following in the footsteps of Tsar Peter the Great, who stayed here for treatments in the early 18th century.
Plzeň, the second-biggest city in Bohemia after Prague and the European Union's 'Cultural Capital' selection for 2015, is best known as the birthplace of Pilsner Urquell beer, but as the EU obviously knows, the city's charms run much deeper. In Plzeň's case, literally deeper: exploring the city's extensive underground tunnels is worth the trip here alone.
České Budějovice (pronounced chesky bood-yo-vit-zah or simply 'Budweis') is the provincial capital of southern Bohemia and a natural base for exploring the region. Transport connections to nearby Český Krumlov are good, meaning you could easily take in both places on an overnight excursion from Prague.
The town of Tábor, south of Prague, earned its place in Czech history in the 15th century as home to the most radical wing of the Hussite movement. These days, there aren't many radicals left, but Tábor makes for a convenient lunch-and-a-stroll stopover on the trip south towards České Budějovice and Český Krumlov.
Třeboň is traditionally known throughout the Czech Republic for its many fish ponds, which produce much of the carp consumed around the country on Christmas Eve. The ponds are still there, but these days they're also prized for aesthetic reasons: they make a picturesque backdrop while hiking or biking through the Třeboňsko Protected Landscape.
Mělník sprawls over a rocky promontory surrounded by the flat Central Bohemian plains. The bus station is 800m east of the town centre, so you begin with a gentle uphill walk along Kapitan Jaroše street. Pass below the prominent clock tower to the main square, then bear left for the chateau.