Slovenský Betlehem


There are several places in Slovakia where wood-carvers have put their lathes to the challenge of creating a Nativity scene, but 'Slovak Bethlehem' is the most incredible of the lot. Artist Jozef Pekara (1920–2005) masterminded this 8.5m-long tableau, which not only shows scenes from the life of Christ against a backdrop of Slovakia's best-known landmarks – Bratislava's UFO, vineyards, shepherd country and all – but parts of the sculpture move. There are more than 300 figures in this mind-bogglingly detailed carving.

It's well signposted in Rajecká Lesná, 20km west of Martin and 20km south of Žilina. There are buses from Žilina (€1.80, 45 minutes) but it's most easily visited with private transport.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Slovakia attractions

1. Radenov House

8.07 MILES

Split between two romantic timbered buildings, Čičmany’s museum has displays on local culture and folklore, especially rites of passage from birth to…

2. Turiec Gallery

13.02 MILES

Trace Slovak identity through the last century or so of modern art at this diverting gallery, the best in central Martin. There's a permanent collection…

3. Museum of the Slovak Village

13.33 MILES

This picturesque recreated village – Slovakia's largest skanzen (open-air museum) – showcases over 120 faithfully reconstructed 19th-century dwellings in…

4. Burian's Tower

13.34 MILES

During the 16th century, cries from this tower were the first warning of an approaching army. These days, visitors ascend this baroque-style former bell…

5. Holy Trinity Cathedral

13.36 MILES

Consecrated in 1586, this triple-nave cathedral has a coppery spire that dominates A Hlinku nám together with its twin, Burian's Tower, an Italian-style…

6. Strečno Castle

13.75 MILES

Folded into a bend in the Strečno River, this medieval castle offers stupendous views over the surrounding valleys. Written mentions of Strečno Castle…

7. Bojnice Castle

18.39 MILES

Gazing at fairy-tale Bojnice Castle stirs fantasies of knights and maidens in even the world-weariest travellers. Blushing sandstone towers and…

8. Vrátna Valley

20.95 MILES

Limestone pinnacles and thick forest conspire to make Vrátna Valley one of Slovakia's most majestic areas to hike or ski. A scenic road winds south from…