Date updated: 04/01/2023
Malá Fatra is a national park and nature reserve in Slovakia. It is situated in the north-west of the country, in the Fatra-Tatra region, 50 kilometres from Žilina.
Malá Fatra is a unique collection of nature. There are mountains of varying altitudes, gorges and waterfalls. The park is also renowned for its thick and impenetrable forests that are home to rare plants. And apart from all that, Mala Fatra is home to large wild animals, such as lynx and bear.
The history of Malá Fatra
The nature of this region of Slovakia has been shaped over several thousand years. Once upon a time, these parts were home to a great variety of beasts. Thus, in the Middle Ages, the Malá Fatra was mainly used as a hunting ground. The ruins of the castles that are extant today bear witness to this. They were used as country residences by wealthy hunters, including royalty.
In the middle of the last century, i.e. in 1967, a part of Mala Fatra (Krivanska) was designated as a specially protected area. This meant that no construction was allowed there, and hunting or fishing could be conducted only with special permits. Tourists were even required to obtain a special permit to enter the site. The Slovak authorities tried to protect the unique flora and fauna, for which the national park is renowned.
The designation of the Malá Fatra National Park is relatively recent. It was in 1988 when the Slovak government issued decree No. 24. This document prescribes all the rules and prohibitions that must be respected by all who cross the borders of Malá Fatra.
Geography of the "Malá Fatra"
Mala Fatra National Park is of karstic origin. It is based on crystals that were formed back in the Mesozoic era. That's almost 200 million years ago. Various granite rocks form the core of the mountain ranges. However, most of the slopes as a whole were formed by folded rocks. These are primarily limestone and dolomite.
The total area of the Mala Fatra park is almost 230 square kilometres. Almost all of this area is covered by forests, mountains and other natural landscapes. The river Váh crosses all this splendour. It is the longest river in Slovakia, and the left tributary of the Danube. It is almost 433 kilometres long. The name comes from the Latin word "vagus", which means "travelling, wandering". The river Váh repeatedly changed its course, so ancient inhabitants decided to give it this name.
The Váh divides the Malá Fatra National Park into two parts:
Kriváňska Fatra, famous for the beautiful Vrátna dolina (Vrátna valley). In this valley there is also a very picturesque village called Štefanová, famous for its archaic nature. Visitors who are more interested in national culture and old customs should not miss it when visiting Slovakia.
Lúčanská Fatra. Its main attraction is Veľká lúka hill rising to 1,475 metres above sea level. It is one of the favourite destinations of extreme tourists and climbing it is a major experience for them. Some even manage to take off in a paraglider or wing suit afterwards.
It is worth noting that the aforementioned Mount Velká Luka is not the largest mountain in the Malá Fatra National Park. It may be the most picturesque and favoured by tourists, but there are slopes much higher. Here is the list of mountains in the park:
Veľký Kriváň - 1709 metres high;
Malý Kriváň - altitude 1671 metres;
Veľký Rozsutec - altitude 1610 m;
Veľká lúka - altitude 1475 metres;
Chleb - altitude 1644 metres;
Stoh - altitude 1,607 metres;
Minčol with an elevation of 1,364 metres;
Kľak at 1,351 metres.
Some of these slopes are organised trails for skiers and snowboarders. Each year (from November to April) there is a large influx of foreigners in Slovakia, who come for skiing in winter. The Slovak mountains are visited by hiking and mountain climbing enthusiasts during the summer.
The Malá Fatra National Park is also the western border of the historical region of Turec (or as the locals call it, Turiec). The area has been densely inhabited by Slavs since the 7th century. And many historical evidences of those times have survived on this territory. The climate in "Mala Mala" is climatic, with the exception of the castles of the Middle Ages, some of which can be visited by organized excursions.
The climate of Mala Fatra
Overall, Slovakia's climate is another attraction. The weather here is comfortable almost all year round. It's not too cold in winter and not too hot in summer. Of course there is the occasional strong wind and rain and snow, but even these are not too much trouble for the locals or tourists.
The Mala Fatra National Park has its own special climate. It is mainly influenced by the numerous mountains. On the one hand they reduce the amount of sunshine, but on the other hand they protect the area from strong winds.
In terms of the seasons, the climate in the Mala Fatra park is as follows:
WINTER. The ski season is in full swing, plus many tourists come just for the spectacular winter scenery. The weather allows for a long stay in the fresh air. The daytime temperature is -3 ... +3 degrees Celsius. More serious frosts are possible at night. There is very little rain at the foot of the mountains, and if the snowfalls do occur, they fall at night.
SPRING. The warming comes very fast. If in March the air gets up to +9-11 degrees, in April and May it's already warm in summer. The average temperature is 17-22 degrees. However, the nights are quite cool in the spring, so it's worth taking some warm clothes with you.
SUMMER. As already mentioned, do not expect much heat. In general, the summer temperature is similar to that of May. The rainfall is minimal, so there is nothing to stop tourists from wandering around and visiting the many sights.
AUTUMN. This is probably the most 'unpleasant' time in terms of weather. Although September is still hot enough, one could even say that summer continues. Then comes the rainy season, which of course, prevents tourists to enjoy the beauty of the Mala Fatra National Park. Plus, the picture is spoiled by a strong piercing wind and low temperatures that quickly drop to just +5-8 degrees.
Mala Fatra sights
We've already said that Mala Fatra is home to skiing and snowboarding in winter. There are two main resorts:
Fačkovské sedlo. It is located in Lučanská Fatra. It offers 7 slopes of varying difficulty levels from blue to black. Both beginners and advanced skiers can ski there. There are also several interesting cross-country skiing tracks in the resort.
Vrátna dolina. This resort is already located in the Krivanska Fatra. There are over 10 tracks with a total length of 14 kilometres. Snow guns provide a permanent snow cover even at temperatures above zero. There are also separate tracks for snowboarders, with lots of jumps and other obstacles. Finally, there are 14 lifts, most of which are rope tow lifts.
In summer, tourists come to Malá Fatra National Park for the unique nature. Here are the sights worth visiting first:
Šútovský vodopád (Šútovský Waterfall) - situated in the Krivánská Fatra and 4 kilometres from the village of Šútov. It is the highest waterfall in the National Park. The water falls from a height of 38 metres.
Horné and Dolné Diery (Horn and Dolné Diery) - so called scenic gorges, through which there are hiking trails.
Jánošíkove Diery - a narrow pass between rocks, accompanied by several waterfalls. You will find it particularly pleasant to walk there on hot days.
Last but not least, there are a few monuments in and around the national park that are also worth a visit. Castle Strečno (Strečniansky Hrad) is one of them. In close proximity to Malá Fatra, you will find the Orava Castle, Budatín Castle, Castle Lietava, Hricov castle, Bytča Castle and Považský castle. Vlkolínec village in the Veľká Fatra (Great Fatra) National Park has remained almost untouched since the 17th and 18th century and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. One can also visit the beautiful town of Kremnica, located 100 km from the park. It became famous as a centre of gold and silver mining. The old mint is still running there.