Bohemian Switzerland National Park offers some of the best rock-climbing and hiking experiences in the Czech Republic for any outdoor enthusiasts. We only stayed for one day in the park, but were amazed and made a note to ourself to return.
The main attractions of the park are the geologic formations, followed by the beautiful flowers and diversity of animals. Well-worn paths lead to strange rock formations, beautiful canyons, dense forests, cute houses, and amazing viewpoints, that leave one speechless and provide great photo opportunities. The best part is that the trails aren’t at all strenuous and most of the people can navigate them easily.
Location and history of the Bohemian Switzerland National Park
Also known as Czech Switzerland, this beautiful nature reserve lies in the north-western part of the country. In the Czech Republic, the park stretches over an area of 79 km2, 97% of it still covered by forests. It also transpasses the border with Germany, where it’s called Saxon Switzerland National Park. The two are a part of the larger region known as the Elbe Sandstones, that contains the mountain range with the same name.
The entire area was covered by sea thousands of years ago. Over time it retreated and the rivers carved an unique landscape, with impressive gorges, ravines, valleys, stone towers and cliffs. In the 18th century, some Swiss painters came to see this natural wild beauty in the Kingdom of Bohemia and were reminded of home. Since then, the name of the park has been Bohemian Switzerland. It has been protected since 1972.
When to go to Bohemian Switzerland National Park
The park is open to the public all year long. You can visit it by yourself, without a tour guide. However, you should keep in mind that some of the trails might not be accessible, depending on the weather and period of the year. Check with the park information center before you start any hike.
The place is very busy, especially in summer. In order to avoid the tourist crowds, choose spring, pick a weekday instead of the weekend, go early in the morning or after 16 o’clock, when the group tours have left the area.
How to get to Bohemian Switzerland National Park
The Bohemian Switzerland National Park can be visited by car on a day trip from Prague. You reach the park in less than 2 hours, discover the trails during the day and return to the capital in the evening. The access by car is well signed. On the way, notice the cute folk style homes specific to this area.
It is best to park your car in the village of Hrensko, located at the Czech-German border or at the Hotel Mezni Louka and take the shuttle bus farther if you need to.
Similar tours are also offered by the agencies and usually cover transportations from Prague to Bohemian Switzerland and the hiking experience.
If you prefer to travel by bus or train search for the best route and timetables here.
Pravčická brána or Pravcicka Gate is the largest natural sandstone arch in Europe and has become the symbol of Bohemian Switzerland. It has even been featured in the Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. The must-see arch is 27 m long and 16 m high.
Next to Pravčická Gate stands a rustic style chateau built in the 19th century, the Falcon’s Nest. Once used as a hotel, today it hosts a restaurant and a photo gallery upstairs.
The viewing terrace can only be accessed after 10 o’clock. From there you can enjoy the breathtaking view of the arch and its surroundings. In order to preserve Pravcicka Gate, the arch itself cannot be climbed.
- The shortest hike starts in Hrensko, near Hotel Mezni Louka and is 3 km long.
- You should follow the red route.
- The very easy trail will walk you through the forest and sandstone formations until you reach its last part, which is a bit steeper.
- Opening hours: in summer from 10:00 to 18:00 o’clock and from November to March on Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 10:00 to 16:00 o’clock.
- Price for the viewing terrace: 3 euros for adults and 1 euro for children and students.
- There is a little food stall right under the arch that sells snacks and beer.
Gorges of Kamenice
You can’t leave the Bohemian Switzerland National Park without going on an idyllic dinghy ride in the rocky canyons of Kamenice river.
This memorable experience starts with a 20-minute walk along the river that will take you deep into the gorge, where the sun can barely penetrate through the trees. You’ll reach a boating platform. Buy your ticket for the boat and wait for your turn with the other hikers.
The boats are old school, powered not by motors, but by smiling Czechs with long poles, that push them along the narrow valley. The same men will point out weirdly-shaped rocks and the animals or characters they resemble. You might even spot little birds or fish in the emerald water.
The peaceful glide through Edmund Gorge is 960 m long and takes around 20 minutes, enough time to experience the beauty of nature, relax and maybe even feel the splash of a small waterfall.
If you want more, continue on the same trail for about 20 minutes and you’ll get a second round. The Wilde Klamm (Divoká Gorge) is 450 m long and can be traveled through in 15 minutes.
After the boat trips, you’ll have to walk a little, more or less 20 minutes, to get to the main road. The bus will take you back to the parking place.
- The access to the trail is near the Klepac restaurant and you should follow the yellow route.
- The entire path is flat and very easy, suitable even for kids and elderly people.
- Opening hours: The Kamenice Gorge between April and October from 09:00 to 17:00/18:00. In winter the gorge is closed.
- Boat trip price: 3.50 euros for adults and 1.50 euros for children. No round tickets.
- Dogs are allowed on the boats with muzzles.
Tisá Rock Labyrinth
We didn’t get to these bizarre rock formations, but they are a highlight of the Bohemian Switzerland National Park, but plan to do so in the future. This sandstone labyrinth with little caves and holes was another one of the filming locations for the Chronicles of Narnia!.
Read before you go
There is no entrance fee for the park, but you have to pay small fees to get closer to Pravcicka gate or take the boat trips. You had better have some CZK cash on you, even if some places accept Euro. In restaurants and hotels, cards are widely used.
Bring water, snacks, outdoor clothes, and your camera as this park is incredibly picture-perfect.
The map below shows you the most popular hiking trails at Bohemian Switzerland to Pravcicka gate and Kamenice Gorges.
As much as I loved Prague, Karlovy Vary and Cesky Krumlov, the experience would have been incomplete without seeing some of the natural wonders of the Czech Republic: Punkva Cave and Bohemian Switzerland National Park, with its absolute highlights, Pravcicka Brana and the peaceful Gorges of Kamenice. But there are more exciting things to see in this huge park. If you have enough time, I recommend you stay here for at least two days.