The irresistible pull of the High Tatras has allowed some of Slovakia’s national parks to remain light on crowds. Malá Fatra National Park, encompassing a 226-sq-km swathe of the Western Carpathian mountains, is reasonably popular with locals but doesn’t draw anything close to the visitor numbers of the High Tatras further east. The landscape is somehow peaceable and perilous all at the same time: rough crags of limestone rise behind wildflower meadows and fuzzy evergreen forests. Hiking trails have similar contrasts, with level pathways veering abruptly into steep waterfall ascents by ladder.
Though trails can be tough, hiking areas are tantalisingly easy to access from straggling gateway town Terchová, such as the short cable-car ride to the dizzy heights of Vrátna Valley. Heightening the mystique is the region’s association with Slovakia’s Robin Hood, the righteous outlaw Juraj Jánošík, who is thought to have prowled these hills and gorges.