Although Slovakia borders some frequently visited countries like Austria, relatively few people visit for tourism. Anybody that does visit Slovakia will be pleasantly surprised as the country has lots of beautiful nature, impressive medieval castles and many interesting places to visit. For climbing, Slovakia has several well established and good quality venues and surely much more areas that haven’t been developed yet.
We enjoyed a road trip through Slovakia, as part of a bigger journey in Eastern Europe and the Balkans. We entered from Poland, explored several interesting areas, along the Western side and then moved on to Hungary. We didn’t know or expect much from Slovakia before we went, but we really enjoyed our time there and we were very impressed with the stunning natural landscapes throughout the country.
Kalamarka is a crag in central Slovakia with over 200 routes. What makes this crag special is the rock. Kalamarka is an Andesite crag, a type of volcanic rock that is effectively halfway between Basalt and Rhyolite.
The texture of the rock and the shapes are quite unusual and the style of climbing is notably different to other rock types. The climbing style is generally steep wall climbs, with either crimpy or flat holds. The routes often have striking features like corners and roofs. The holds don’t tend to be overly positive, so you need to squeeze a bit harder than normal. This will get you pumped!
Some of the routes will feel hard for the grade and the bolting can be a bit spaced. We saw people using nuts to plug the gaps on easier routes, on harder routes it wasn’t as much of a problem. However, nothing here is a clip up so be prepared to log some air time if you fall off. The crag is split in to two sectors, which are on opposite sides of the road from each other. We climbed some great quality routes here and the crag really exceeded our expectations.
Súlov is a climbing area in Northern Slovakia. The rock is a very unusual type of micro-conglomerate. Most conglomerate climbing areas have a selection of pockets and pebbles ranging from the size of a cherry to a large potato. In Súlov it is much different, the features are all so small it feels like you are climbing the walls of a pebble dashed house!
We found the climbing here to be very technical with stiff grading. Balancing on the pebbles feels desperate and the pockets are often sharp and not as deep as you’d like! Sometimes the small pebbles can pop off, especially when using them as footholds, so consider wearing a helmet for belaying.
The area is quite vast, with loads of buttresses, pinnacles and even archways scattered throughout the forest. Even with the guidebook it is easy to get lost, which we did, several times. The rock also varies in quality between the different sectors with some much more compact than others.
Slovakia has lots of beautiful national parks, with lots of great hiking through forests, mountains and crystal clear rivers. The High Tatras, Low Tatras and Slovak Paradise are among the best and most popular national parks in Slovakia. The Kalameny thermal spring (pictured above) is a free, natural hot spring in Northern Slovakia and is a cool place to visit as part of a road trip through Slovakia. As well as the outdoors, Slovakia is famous for its many castles and the beautiful cities of Bratislava and Košice. The national dish is called Bryndzové Halušky, it consists of potato dumplings with sheep’s cheese and bacon. It is a really tasty meal and is well worth seeking out while you’re in Slovakia.
Slovakia is a really nice place to visit, with lots of unspoilt natural areas and friendly, welcoming people. The climbing areas we visited felt quite unique and were really good quality. There are lots of other areas we didn’t visit that also look good, as well as the potential for development of new routes. Due to the varying aspects and elevations of the crags climbing is possible at most times of the year, although avoiding mid winter would be wise.
Relevant links and resources
Topos for climbing in Slovakia