Image by Richard Nebesky Getty Images
Slovenský Raj's rocky plateaus, primeval forests and interlacing streams form some of Slovakia's most picturesque hiking terrain. Treks often involve scaling metal ladders or balancing on footbridges above waterfalls. For some, the ice-cold slap of river water is reward enough; for the rest of us, it's the views: cliffs giving way to forests and fog-filled valleys, and soft meadows.
Trails are challenging but well-marked, and information centres offer multilingual advice. If visiting outside July-to-August high season, read up in advance.
Within Slovenský Raj's dramatic karst bedrock are more than 500 caves, while its meadows are a habitat for rare orchid species. More than 90% of the park is forested, and European honey buzzards, golden eagles and 2000 butterfly species fly through.
The park has 300km of walking trails. One of the loveliest (and most popular) routes from Podlesok is the two- to four-hour ascent up the dramatic, ladder- and technical-assist Suchá Belá Gorge, then east to Kláštorisko Chata, where you'll find a reconstructed 13th-century Carthusian monastery, on yellow then red trails. From there, take the blue trail down to the Hornád River, then follow the river gorge upstream to return to Podlesok. Start at 8am or 9am on popular trails: in high summer, it's common to queue for the ladders later in the day.
From Čingov a green trail leads up Hornád River Gorge an hour to Tomašovský výhľad, a 146m-high rocky outcropping and overlook; a good short-hike destination. Or continue to the green, one-way, technically aided Kláštorisko Gorge trail (five hours). You can also reach the Kláštorisko Gorge ascent from Podlesok (two hours). There is accommodation available at Kláštorisko Chata.
One of the shortest, dramatic, technical-assist hikes starts at Biele Vody (15 minutes northeast of Dedinky via the red trail) and follows the green trail up Zejmarská Gorge. The physically fit can clamber up in 50 minutes. To get back, you can follow the green trail down to Dedinky, or there's a chairlift that works sporadically.