Date updated: 04/04/2023
Poloniny National Park (Národný park Poloniny) is a protected area in eastern Slovakia, in the Snina region. It is the furthest point of the country, on the border with Poland and the Ukraine. The park covers about 300 square kilometres, plus another 110 square kilometres as a so-called buffer zone. The Poloniny National Park was recognised in 1997.
At the border with Poland Poloniny adjoins another National Park - the Bieszczady National Park, which is located in Poland. Together they form a huge biosphere reserve called "Eastern Carpathians". Moreover, the Poloniny is part of a huge UNESCO project called "Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians". It is a World Heritage Site and covers the territory of 12 European countries.
Each year tens of thousands of tourists visit the Poloniny National Park. Winter holidays here are an opportunity to go cross-country skiing. During the summer, the influx of foreigners is even greater. They come for the excitement of hiking, and dozens of different trails have been developed for tourists. It is also an opportunity to admire unspoilt nature and a break from the bustle of the city. The national park is the most sparsely populated area in Slovakia. Poloniny is quiet, beautiful and peaceful.
History and geography of the Poloniny Park
The park's topography dates back to the Mesozoic era, when dinosaurs walked the earth. Archaeologists periodically find evidence of this in the form of the bones of ancient lizards. For many thousands of years, the area was sparsely populated. It allowed preserving pristine nature. Suffice it to say that Poloniny has the highest concentration of primeval forests in Slovakia.
What is interesting is that the word Poloniny itself means low mountains and a flat surface. The national park area fits these features well. For instance, the highest point in the Poloniny is just 1,000 metres above sea level. In comparison, other national parks in Slovakia have mountains that are 2 and 3 thousand metres high. And there are organised ski resorts on them, which are very popular. The Poloniny National Park, unfortunately, lacks this. And there are only cross-country skiing available in winter.
More than 80 percent of Poloniny National Park is forested. The area is dominated by beech and fir groves. And as we have already said, the park has the most old-growth forests. The most famous ones, through which the hiking trails lead, are: Stužica, Rožok and Havešová.
These forests belong to the UNESCO World Heritage List. Naturally, many interesting species of flora and fauna have been preserved in these protected areas. For example, more than a thousand different plants can be found here. Some of them are endemics, i.e. are found only in a few places on earth. Lichens and mushrooms are the most common among them.
The fauna is no less rich. Due to the small population of the national park, there are a lot of animals and birds there. And they feel quite at ease here. So much so that tourists are highly recommended not to deviate from the marked routes. Otherwise there is a great risk to run into large predators, such as wolf, bear or lynx. There are also bison in the Poloniny National Park. These majestic animals live far away from crowds of tourists. It is considered to be a great chance to see them.
Climate in the Poloniny Park
The whole of Slovakia has a continental climate. This means that winters are never too cold and summers are never too hot.
The largest influx of tourists in the Poloniny National Park is from the beginning of May to the end of September. The temperature during this time is quite comfortable; even at the height of summer it doesn't rise above +22 degrees. Plus, the shade of the trees always hides from the scorching sun and strong winds. So tourists can spend hours on endless walks.
It is also quite comfortable in the Poloniny in winter. There are no severe frosts and the temperature does not drop below -2 in the daytime and below -10 at night. That is why there are so many holidaymakers in the park at this time of year as well. In early spring and late autumn, on the other hand, the number decreases considerably. It often rains during this time, which spoils the whole experience.
The Snina Gate
The closest airport to Poloniny National Park is the international airport in Košice. Even from there, it is almost 100 kilometres to Snina. You can travel this distance by bus, transfer, taxi or hire a car.
The largest settlement near the Poloniny National Park is Snina. It is located at the confluence of two rivers - Cirocha and Pčolinka. It is surrounded to the south and east by Bukovské vrchy and Vihorlatské vrchy.
It is a small ancient town with a population of only 21,000 people. It was founded at the beginning of the 14th century. And for a time it was a prosperous town with well-developed trade and crafts. However, in XIX century epidemics and poor harvest years caused people to leave Snina. This process was slightly reversed in the 1930s, but the town still has a small population.
For those who choose to stay in Snina, there is plenty to see beyond the beauty of nature. There are several interesting sights in the town:
The Snina Castle (Kaštieľ Snina) is sometimes called the Snina Castle. It is a majestic structure built at the end of the 18th century. After reconstruction, the mansion looks magnificent on the outside and the rooms inside have been turned into a museum. There is a large park next to the castle, which was laid out around the middle of the 19th century and is considered to be the oldest landscape composition in the city.
The Church of the Assumption (Kostol Povýšenia Svätého kríža) is a modern church built at the end of the last century. Chapel of the Virgin Mary (Kaplnka Sedembolestnej Panny Márie), which was built in 1842 by a local landowner.
The Hercules Fountain (Socha Herkula), situated in the centre of the town. The bronze statue in the centre represents one of the feats of Hercules as he fought the three-headed hydra.
The town is surrounded by dense forests, through which hiking trails wind their way. But once again, getting off these and setting out on your own is dangerous. The forests are home to many large predators.
In addition to the town of Snina, there are several smaller villages in the vicinity of the Poloniny National Park. The villages are Topoľa, Uličské Krivé, Ruský Potok, Jalová and Nová Sedlica. There are small hotels where tourists can stay. But there are not many places of interest there. The largest buildings are local churches. Even they look like the usual village log cabins.
Another detail that the Poloniny National Park is famous for is the night sky. There is very little artificial lighting. Therefore, a huge number of stars can be seen at night. The picture is so mesmerizing that you can often see people with telescopes in the park. These are amateur astronomers who come here just to admire the night sky.