Slovak Karst National Park (Slovenský kras) is in Eastern Slovakia. Known for its caves, together with the Aggtelek cave systems they make up the UNESCO World Heritage Site "Caves of Aggtelek Karst and Slovak Karst".
The main attraction of the park are the caves, of which more than 700 have been discovered here and in Aggtelek on the Hungarian side of the border. The park is made up of three parts.
The plains (plateaus) have many karst formations, such as karst pits with diameters of up to 250 m and depths of about 45 m, conical hills, blind and half-blind valley and dales. The subterranean karst is known for its deep vertical abysses, such as:
- Čertova diera (literally Devil's Hole; depth: 186 m)
- Brázda (181 m)
- Malá železná priepasť (Little Iron Abyss; 142 m)
- Diviačia priepasť (Boar Abyss; 122 m)
Some of the abysses are collapsed, especially the Silická ľadnica (Silica Ice Abyss; 110 m)
Flora and fauna
Fees and permits
While the hills are not too high (600-800m), the hiking can be demanding - especially in terms of orientation. There are not too many of water sources or villages around, and the signage is not ideal. Maps like OpenStreetMap, hiking.sk and mapy.cz seem to have good coverage of the area's hiking trails.
Thanks to the nature of the park, there are many caves and other similar nature features present. Open to visitors are the following caves:
- 1 Domica (Near Kečovo). One of the most beautiful caves of its kind, it's the most popular one. Ride in a boat in the cave is possible. Bigger part of this 25-km long cave belongs into Aggtelek's Baradla cave in Hungary. The cave shows signs of setlements 4000 years ago.
- 2 Gombasecká (Gombasec) (Near Slavec). Closed November-March
- 3 Jasovská (Jasov) (Near Jasov). Closed November-March
- 4 Krásnohorská jaskyňa.
- 5 Ochtinská aragonitová jaskyňa (Easy access by road from Hrádok village. Much more demanding hike up from Ochtiná village is possible too.). A small, approx. 45 minutes long, but unique cave. "Decorated" with aragonite formations - only 3 such caves were discovered so far in the world. Closed November-March.
- 6 Silická ľadnica (Stop 2 km from Silica village at a small parking spot, then go 15 min by foot). Frozen all year long, this freely accessible cave is lowest altitude ice cave in Europe. Going outside the designated path is prohibited. The cave lies up a small flat hill in a picturesque nature that is worth seeing on itself.
- 7 Krásna Hôrka. One of the most recognizable buildings in the area. The castle was fire-damaged in 2012, and thus closed for public (est. until 2018).
- 8 Turniansky hrad (Above the "Turňa nad Bodvou" village.). Castle ruins on one of the hills of the mountain range.
- 9 Betliar. An exhibition about the life and culture of the Hungarian nobility in the 18th and 19th century. Nice park and small waterfall.
- 10 Hájske vodopády (Jasov) (Between villages Hačava and Háj (nearer to the latter)). Series of about 10 small waterfalls. Can be combined with visit to a small, partly gypsy, village - Hačava.
- 1 Zádielska dolina (Zádiel valley) (Start at parking in village "Zádiel"). 3-km long karst canyon, only 10m wide and 300m high in some places.
- 2 Slavošovský tunel (Slavošovce tunnel). An unfinished 2.5-km long train tunnel (be sure to have a good headlamp!), accessible by general public, connects Slavošovce and Magnezitovice. The northern entrance is easily accessible, the southern has layers of stream sediments and thus you may get very dirty trying to cross it (or even get stuck in 1-m deep mud at times). Different happenings take place here at times.
Possibilities to eat around the park are mostly limited to restaurants around the main roads and in the villages/cities.
A somewhat underwhelming hut with basic food (soup, beer and some snacks) is about 3 km up the Zádielska valley, open on weekends during the tourist season.
- 1 Farebný penzión. A budget guesthouse, with a cozy pub downstairs and a terrace useful esp. during summer. The place is by no means luxurious, but it's clean, is equipped for families (kitchen, 2 bathrooms, social room with games, internet) and the owner is very helpful. €10/person.