National Parks in Poland: Pieniny [GUIDE]

This small range is subdivided into Pieniny Spiskie, proper Pieniny and Małe Pieniny. Cutting through its scenic limestone rocks, the unruly Dunajec makes a dramatic, deep gorge. To protect this beauty, Pieniny National Park was established in 1932. It is one of the smallest parks in the country, but this is easily compensated for by its wealth of attractions. As in Tatras, accommodation is good and easy to find.

Rafting down the Dunajec

This is without doubt the number-one attraction of Pieniny. The narrow wooden canoes, roped by five into small platforms and steered by raftsmen in folk costumes, have been carrying tourists for well over a hundred years. The 15km stretch of the Dunajec makes three enormous bends, which snake down a scenic narrow gorge flanked by monumental slopes.

Rafting starts at Sromowce Wyżne Kąty and ends at Szczawnica, just over two hours later. It's best in autumn, when the wooded mountains take on all the hues of red and yellow, but the experience is thrilling at any time of the year.


Perched on the Dunajec River, Szczawnica is a charming little town and well-known spa, its assets including an attractive location at the foot of the Pieniny, mild climate and curative mineral waters.

To take advantage of the mineral springs, stroll to Szczawnica's centre. There is a pleasant spa park with a pump room, in which you can drink from several springs. As the water contains acid carbonates of the alkali metals and iron salts, it is hardly tasty, but very good for ailments such as throat illnesses, asthma, imflammation of the urinary tract and nephrolithiasis.

The lower part of Szczawnica has a chairlift to Mt. Palenica (722 m), using which you can quickly get to the Małe Pieniny ridge, which boasts magnificent views. From the upper station, have a walk (about 15 min) to the summit of Szafranówka (742 m), from which the Tatras can be seen on a clear day. If you enjoy long hikes, you can continue along the scenic ridge trail as far as Mt. Wysoka (the highest peak in the entire Pieniny range, at 1050 m). This is a daylong trek and you descend at the Homole Ravine and Jaworek.

A trip to Mt. Sokolica and Trzy Korony

This daylong hike is for true mountain lovers only. Although a bit strenuous, it offers dramatic views that you will never forget.

Starting at Szczawnica's riverside car park, go along the asphalt promenade to a tiny pier to cross the Dunajec in a boat. On the opposite bank a blue trail begins, which ascends steeply for 1 hour 15 min to Mt. Sokolica (747 m). The panorama from the summit will compensate for all the pains of climbing.

Continue along the spectacular blue trail, which follows a narrow rocky ridge known as the Sokola Perć. To make the hike easier and safer, ladders and barriers have been put up, and from time to time there are also platforms offering magnificent views over the Dunajec Gorge. After less than three hours you reach Trzy Korony (Three Crowns, after the characteristic three peaks), the highest mountain in the proper Pieniny range (982 m).

Homole Ravine

Some 7 km east of Szczawnica is Jaworki, a tiny hamlet serving as the gateway to the widely popular Homole Ravine. Its vertical rocky walls, often taking on bizarre forms, are built of white and red limestone and rise up to 120 m. The Kamionka stream flows at the bottom, with a green trail following its banks. The rocks gradually give way to equally picturesque broad clearings, which are great for picnics. In summer, grazing sheep provide an extra attraction. The walk is easy and takes about 1 hour 30 min both ways.

Other sights

Niedzica Castle - a 14th-century fortress rebuilt in the Renaissance style and regarded as one of the finest defensive structures in Poland. Commanding the artificial Lake Czorsztyńskie, now a popular recreation spot, it looks best from the dam, along which you can have a pleasant walk.

Czorsztyn Castle - perched atop a high rock on the lake's opposite shore. Founded in the 14th century by Kazimierz the Great, it burnt in 1790 when struck by a thunder and is now a well-preserved ruin offering splendid views from its terrace.

St. Nicholas' Church in Dębno Podhalańskie - a lovely wooden church built in the 15th century (some elements in its interior are even older) and inscribed on UNESCO's List. The most precious decorations are the perfectly preserved colourful paintings that cover its walls and ceiling.

Source: Poland - an ilustrated guidebook. For more information look at Pascal

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