switch-dark switch-light

Date updated: 04/05/2023

Slovak Karst

    Slovak Karst

    The Slovak Karst National Park (Slovenský kras) is located in south-eastern Slovakia. Together with the neighbouring Aggtelecký National Park (Hungary) it forms a unit, which as a continuous area represents the most extensive plateau-type karst area in Central Europe. Remember in one of the books about the Wizard of Oz, there was a story about seven underground kings. And there were endless caves that spanned the whole of the Wizardland and even extended into American Kansas. Well, there you go - fabulous dungeons exist in reality as well. And the Slovak Karst is living proof of that.

    The region is home to several high peaks, including Matesova skala (925 metres above sea level) and Jelení vrch (947 metres above sea level). The lowest altitude in this region is near Hrhov, at about 190 metres above sea level.

    Since 1995 the caves of Slovak Karst and Aggtelec Karst (Hungary) have been added to the UNESCO World Cultural and Natural Heritage List. This recognition marks their exceptional beauty and importance for the world heritage, and underlines the importance of preserving and protecting this unique natural attraction for future generations. Visiting these caves is becoming increasingly popular among tourists and nature lovers, who want to enjoy the beauty and explore the historical and cultural significance of this amazing natural landmark.

    The Slovak Karst area has more than 1,350 caves, making it one of the most famous karst regions in the world. More than 78 percent of the area is covered by forests, which creates a favourable ecological situation and helps to preserve many plant and animal species. More than 1,500 plant species can be found in the Slovak karst, among which there are rare and unique specimens that are not found elsewhere in the world.

    History of the Slovak Karst

    The karst caves of the Slovak Karst have a rich history dating back many thousands of years. These caves were formed in the Mesozoic era, some 100 to 200 million years ago.

    For a long time the area of the Slovak Karst was under water, so the karst formations that can be seen in the caves today were formed under the water. 

    During the Jurassic period, about 200 million years ago, the Slovak Karst was covered by the ocean. The water acted on the rocks, causing them to break up and dissolve, leading to the formation of the first caves.

    During the Cretaceous Period, which occurred about 100 million years ago, the Slovak karst was partly under water and partly above water. This period accounts for most of the formation of karst formations in caves.

    In Paleogene period, which started around 65 million years ago, the territory of the Slovak Carst was above water. Water flowing on the surface and underground continued to form caves and create new karst formations.

    It is thanks to these natural processes and its rich history that the caves of the Slovak Karst have become some of the most striking and unique karst formations in the world.

    Karst caves were used by people as dwellings long before Christ. Archaeological findings testify to that. More modern records of the Slovak karst date back to the mid 16th century, and then to the end of the 18th century, when scientific research on the karst began. At that time, about 2 to 3 kilometres of underground passages were explored, and the first map of the caves was drawn.

    Scientific exploration of the caves has continued for more than three centuries, and during that time tourist interest in these places has also increased. Especially many foreign visitors started to come to the Slovak Carst in the 20th century. With the increasing number of tourists, the local authorities started to think about the protection of the unique nature. The Slovak Karst received legal protection on 31 August 1973 when a protected landscape area was established. In 1977 it became the first Slovak territory included in the international network of biosphere reserves within the Man and the Biosphere Programme of UNESCO, and is currently one of four Slovak biosphere reserves.

    In 2002, the Slovak Karst was transformed into a national park with the surface area of 34,611 ha, which consolidated its status and increased the protection of the unique nature on the territory.

    Climate in the Slovakian karst

    In winter the average temperature ranges from -2 to -6 degrees Celsius, while in summer in the Slovak Karst area there is no stifling heat, even at the height of the season the temperature does not exceed +22-24 degrees Celsius, which makes for long hikes. However, the caves can be much cooler, especially the deeper ones. If you are going to explore the underground tunnels, be aware of this and stock up on warm clothing. And of course, you should not get involved in speleology during the rainy season (autumn). It is extremely dangerous.

    Flora and fauna

    The Slovak Karst is rich in flora and fauna, thanks to its unique topography, varied microclimate and geological features.

    Two large carnivores, the golden eagle and the brown bear, occupy a special place.

    The golden eagle is the largest hawk found in Europe. In the Slovak Karst, these majestic raptors nest on rocky slopes. They prey on large rodents, such as hares and roe deer, and can climb up to 1.5 km in search of prey.

    Brown bears are by far one of the most interesting mammals to be seen in this region. They are the largest predators in Europe and are of great importance to the ecosystem. They are at the top of the food chain and can eat meat, fish, berries and plants.

    Another interesting inhabitant of the Slovak karst is the tiny shrew. It is a small creature, only 5-7 cm in size, that lives in the ground and feeds on insects. It is not easy to spot, but sometimes you may see it running around on the ground in search of prey.

    The area is home to the largest wintering colony of bats, numbering between 50,000 and 55,000 individuals. The site is also home to 11 of the 12 frog species, 11 of the 12 reptile species, 6 of the 7 tit species and 24 of the 28 bat species.

    In addition, the colony of bats is a truly spectacular species of its kind, which is proof that the Slovak Karst is an important place for biodiversity conservation.

    In terms of flora, the Slovak Carst is home to many plant species. Oak, beech, spruce, pine, and various shrub species grow in the forests. Alpine plants and many species of mosses and lichens grow in the rock wall area. There are also many types of flowers, such as blue and yellow asters, daffodils and various kinds of orchids.

    The presence of such diverse animal and plant species makes the Slovak Karst an ideal place for tourism and travel, especially for those interested in wildlife and fauna.

    Slovak karst caves

    The Slovak Karst is a huge massif of caves, with more than 1,350 limestone caves and many underground rivers and lakes. However, the caves of the Slovak Karst are not only an impressive natural site, but also an important historical monument. Traces of ancient settlements and artefacts have been found inside them, testifying to the life of people in these places more than 10,000 years ago.

    The most popular Slovak Karst caves accessible to the public include Domica, Gombasecká jaskyňa, Jasovská jaskyňa, Krásnohorská jaskyňa and Ochtinská aragonitová jaskyňa. Each of them is unique and astonishing with its colourful formations, unusual fauna and mysterious atmosphere.

    Visiting the Slovak Karst is an exciting adventure and a unique opportunity to experience the mysterious beauty of the underworld, which will be remembered forever.

    The Slovak Karst is an extraordinary place, worth a visit for anyone who loves nature and wants to delve into the world of mysterious underground caves and beautiful karst formations. It offers many options for hiking and excursions, ideal for experienced speleologists and beginners alike.

    The Slovak Karst is also of cultural significance, as some of its caves contain archaeological findings, which bear witness to the fact that people lived here in ancient times. This makes the place even more interesting and attractive for tourists.

    Anyway, a visit to the Slovak Karst will leave an unforgettable impression and fill your life with new vivid memories. So, if you haven't been there yet, be sure to visit the place and enjoy its unique beauty and magic.

    Exchange Rates

    USD flag
    GBP flag
    HUF flag
    CZK flag
    PLN flag
    CHF flag
    TRY flag
    THB flag