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Date updated: 04/04/2023

Pieniny National Park

    Pieniny National Park

    Pieninski National Park (Pieninský národný park) is one of 9 national parks in Slovakia. It is located in the north of the country, close to the border with Poland. The Pieniny Mountains cut through the park, giving the area its name.

    It is also known as the smallest national park in Slovakia. It has an area of only 37.5 square kilometres. Plus there is a buffer zone, which also has all the restrictions related to nature conservation. The area of this area is almost 245 square kilometres.

    History of the Pieniny Park

    Pieniny National Park

    The Pieniny Mountains were formed many millions of years ago, when dinosaurs were still present on Earth. The Pieniny Mountains were formed millions of years ago, when dinosaurs were still present on Earth. Archaeological findings provide evidence of that fact.

    In the Middle Ages, Slovakia was part of the Kingdom of Hungary. Almost all of its territory was protected land, at the hands of wealthy merchants and noblemen. There were even royalty among them. And many built castles there to use as country residences. People came here simply to relax, ride horses among the endless forests and to hunt. 

    In 1932, the renowned Polish botanist Vladislav Shafer suggested that the land be made into a national park. By that time, the area was no longer owned by private landowners, but by the state. The government heard the famous scientist. In May 1932 the Pieniny National Park was created. It was five times smaller than it is today. Its area was only 7.5 square kilometres.

    The present-day appearance of the park, as well as its affiliation to Slovakia, was documented in 1967. The size of the territory was defined as 21.2 square kilometres. In 1997, the area was expanded to its current size.

    Geography of the Pieniny Park

    Pieniny National Park

    As we have already said, the Pieniny National Park is located in northern Slovakia. Specifically, in the Prešov region. Moreover, there are two districts that pass through these lands. 

    The Kežmarok District (Okres Kežmarok). It is home to almost 70 thousand people. There are 41 settlements on this territory, including 3 towns. The main one is Kežmarok.

    The Stará Ľubovňa district (Okres Stará Ľubovňa). The area is slightly smaller in size. It is inhabited by 50 thousand people. And there are 33 settlements. Including two towns, one of which is the administrative centre. It is the town of Stará Ľubovňa.

    The Dunajec River runs through the entire Pieniny National Park. The Dunajec is almost 250 km long. It starts in Slovakia and ends in Poland. The Dunajec is famous for its rapid currents, so rafting is very popular on its sections.

    The Pieniny Mountains also pass through the entire park. It is also partly in Slovakia and partly in Poland. The highest peak has a romantic name "Tri koruny". Tourists can easily get up there. Plus, you can add a lot of caves, gorges and waterfalls.

    In some ways the Pieniny National Park has its own unique flora. You can find mountain siberian woodpecker, tufted arabis, Pieniny dandelion and Zavadsky's dendratemu there in large numbers. These plants are endemics. In other words, there are few places in the world where they grow and therefore they are considered rare.

    The fauna is no less rich. For example, the national park is famous for a huge number of butterflies. There are over 750 different species of butterflies. The Dunajec River is home to over 20 species of fish, including salmon and Danube trout. But there is also a chance to spot some of the bigger ones. On the banks of the Dunajec, for example, otters are often spotted. If you go deeper into the woods, you might come across a lynx. Tourists are therefore strongly advised not to deviate from the established routes. 

    Climate of the Pieniny Park

    Pieniny National Park

    The climate in Pieniny National Park is almost the same as in the rest of Slovakia. It is continental, i. e. with a pronounced seasonal division. But it is also very moderate. There are no hot summers and cold winters.

    Thus even in the height of July air is heated to a maximum of 22 degrees. And the areas adjacent to the mountains get even less. And in winter the frost rarely gets above -5 degrees. But the most pleasant times of year for long walks in the national park are spring and autumn.

    The presence of mountains has another effect. Thanks to them there are no strong winds in the Pieniny. This is, once again, an added advantage in favour of long walks and nature watching. The only thing to keep in mind is that at night (except during the summer months) it gets pretty chilly in the park. You should therefore pack some warm clothes.

    The Pieniny National Park is primarily designed for walks. There are kilometres of trails in the park. You can walk on your own, or you can take organised excursions to various natural attractions. Among them:

    The Three Crowns Mountain (Tri koruny) - the highest point in Pieniny. There is a special route that allows climbing to a height of 982 metres above sea level. The view from the mountain is magnificent.

    Dunajec River - one can try their hand at rafting. Many of the trails are intended for beginners, so they are not dangerous at all. Plus, tourists receive detailed instructions and life jackets.


    Haligovské skály is a complex of mountain peaks known for their many caves. In the company of experienced instructors it is possible to descend into some of them. 


    The area around the Pieniny National Park is home to several villages: Kežmarok, Stará Ľubovňa and Červený Kláštor, where most tourists stay. You can find hotels, restaurants and shops there, as well as historical sights.

    Stará Ľubovňa

    Stará Ľubovňa

    The first written mention of Stará Ľubovňa dates back to 1292, but it certainly existed before that. 

    The year 1364 was important for the development of the town when King Louis I. the Great (Ľudovít I) granted two privileges to Stará Ľubovňa. The first privilege increased the status of the town to that of Košice and Buda. The second charter, dated October 13, 1364, gave the town broad privileges in holding annual markets. Further development of the town was largely influenced by the pledge of the area to the Polish king in 1412 - 1772.

    In 1412, the "Treaty of Lubovnia" (Treaty of Deposit) was concluded between King Władysław II Jagiello (Vladislav II. Jagelo) of Poland and King Sigismund of Luxembourg (Žigmund Luxemburský). According to this treaty, 16 towns in the Spiš area, including Lubovna castle (Ľubovniansky Hrad), were pledged for a total sum equivalent to seven tons of silver. The agreement also granted the right to incorporate the pledged territories into Poland until the debt was paid. Although there were other terms in the treaty, they were not relevant to the history of the castle. As a result, Hungary was never able to recover the money and the Spisz territory remained part of Poland until the end of the 18th century.

    Main attractions: 

    The Church of St. Nicholas (Kostol svätého Mikuláša). It dates back to 1280. It is one of the oldest churches in the country. It was rebuilt in the second half of the 17th century. Its interior contains a rare 16th century baptistery made of stone in the late Gothic style as well as late Gothic tombstones made of sandstone and red marble.

    Lubovna castle (Ľubovniansky Hrad). The Lubovna castle is partly preserved on a limestone hill surrounded by picturesque scenery at an altitude of 548 m above sea level. In its early days the fortress was a strategically important stronghold to protect the trade routes passing through the land. Most probably it was built at the turn of the 13th and 14th centuries. The first written reference to it dates from the end of the 13th century.

    Ľubovniansky Hrad)

    Open-air museum (Ľubovniansky skanzen). The open-air museum is a village that resembles a picturesque mountain village and is an example of national architecture and folk architecture. Here you can see several wooden buildings from the 19th and early 20th centuries and get acquainted with the everyday life and economic culture of the local people. The natural exposition includes a smithy, a hunter's house, a school house and a water mill.

    Ľubovniansky skanzen

    The most valuable exhibit of the open-air museum is the Greek Catholic wooden church, built in 1833. The magnificent wooden structure with its original iconostasis was dedicated to St Michael the Archangel. An interesting fact is that the church still hosts Greek Catholic services on major religious holidays.

    Lubovňanský burgher's house (Dom ľubovnianskeho mešťana). The house at No. 21 on St. Nicholas Square (Námestie svätého Mikuláša) was built on old foundations in the 18th century and has an interesting architectural element - a late Renaissance door panel in the passage on the ground floor. This panel bears an inscription documenting a fire in 1639. There is also a painting of the Holy Trinity on the front wall in a blank window. Today House 21 shows the life of the middle class in the 19th century and reveals the secrets of the gold coinage craft.

    Červený Kláštor

    This is a village that can be translated as "The Red Monastery". It is located on the banks of the Dunajec River in the Pieniny National Park. This is the Zamagurie region, northeast of the High Tatras (Vysoké Tatry). The village is the entrance to the Pieniny National Park and leads to the Dunajca Gorge (Prielom Dunajca), a national nature reserve. The Dunajca Gorge is located on the border between Slovakia and Poland in the Pieniny Mountains. It is a majestic canyon, carved out of a limestone massif by the Dunajec River. Its length is approximately 9 km, and its walls are 200-300 m high.

    The history of the village Červený Kláštor is associated with the history of the Kartuzian Monastery, which was founded in 1319. Until 1563, the monastery was used as a residence of Carthusians. From 1704 to 1782, it was the base of the Kamalduli order. In 1956 and until 1966, the state undertook the restoration of this national cultural monument and opened it to the public as a monastery.

    The Pieniny National Park is a true treasure trove of nature, which will not leave untouched any lover of nature and scenic landscapes. Beautiful mountains, rivers and lakes, rare plants and animals, as well as clean air and a favourable ecological environment, all make the park an ideal place for hiking, walking and cycling, as well as for scientific research and educational programmes. If you have not yet been to the Pieniny National Park, be sure to visit this amazing place and enjoy its unique beauty and tranquillity.

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