Slovak UNESCO self-guided cycling tour

Slovak UNESCO self-guided cycling tour
Hello Bara,

I apologize for taking so long to respond, but I had such a wonderful trip in Slovakia thanks to Travel Slovakia that I wanted to take the time to leave a proper review!

The tour was overall very well designed. The lengths of the daily bike routes were long enough to feel like you’ve gotten a good amount of exercise but still short enough to enjoy touring at sites along the route and/or at the day’s destination.
It was nice to spend two nights in Levoča in the middle of the trip and two nights in Banská Štiavnica at the end of the trip, for this gave me a bit more time to rest as I didn’t have to rush to check out of my room for a day! It was wonderful to see so many famous and well-known sites in Slovakia, and the two weeks of the bike tour felt very short. Overall, I cycled 571 km with 8865.4 m of climbing, which I was really proud of.

If I could’ve extended the trip, I would spend a full day in Červený Kláštor so I could take one of the famous rafting trips on the Dunajec River and explore the many biking and hiking trails in the area. I also would spend an extra day in Ružomberok in order to do a day trip to Orava Castle and back, much like I did with a day in Levoča just to cycle to Spiš Castle and back.

The accommodations were all very good, and I would stay at all of them in the future. The only exception to this was the attic room I was assigned in Banská Bystrica, for I kept hitting my head on the severely sloped ceiling. The breakfasts were all amazing and put hotel breakfasts in the Unite States to shame (if breakfast is even offered). I particularly want to mention the exceptional service I received in Liptovský Jan. That hotel was hosting a conference the night I was there, but the staff was still extremely patient and helpful with me. Their restaurant was closed because of the conference, but the staff still let me order from the dinner menu and served me in their coffee shop. The managers/owners at the hotels in Ružomberok and Levoča were also extremely kind and welcoming to me beyond what I expected, making my time in those cities feel extra special and enjoyable.

I really enjoyed all of the actual bike routes, and like the tour I thought they were very well-designed. As an avid bicyclist having well-designed bike routes mean a lot to me, for I really want to enjoy the journey. I could definitely tell that the routes were developed by a cyclist or someone who’s very familiar with the roads and cycle routes in a large swath of Slovakia, as there’s no way that Google maps (or myself having never been to Slovakia before) could’ve come up with those things. The routes did a good job in staying off busy roads and made use of official cycling routes when possible. However, there were still some sketchy sections (The very steep and rocky gravel road descending from Donovaly comes to mind, where the front suspension on my bike was extremely necessary. I would have probably taken the busy paved road instead.), but over the 571 km I rode there was bound to be some kilometers that I wasn’t fond of. I was glad that I got to talk to Martin about the routes! He said that given Slovakia’s mountainous terrain and where interesting cities are located, the routes tended to been short and steep instead of long and flat.

The most beautiful ride was hands down the ride from Stará Ľubovňa to Ždiar, as riding though Pieniny National Park and one of the crests of Tatra National Park was absolutely spectacular. The ride from Liptovský Jan to Ružomberok was really fun because of all the off-road sections, and the great views of both the Low Tatras and High Tatras didn’t hurt. All of the Liptov cycling clubs would be definitely be proud of that route! There were many nice climbs on this trip, such as climbing up to the mountains behind Ždiar and through the Low Tatras from Mýto pod Ďumbierom to Liptovský Hrádok. And since what goes up must go down, the descents from Ždiar to Kežmarok and from Donovaly to Banská Bystrica were particularly noteworthy. The bike I was provided (an Author touring bike with front suspension) fit well and was appropriate for the terrain. I brought my own pedals and helmet. The GPS I was given with all the routes worked great, and I appreciated notes made on the digital map such as where UNESCO sites were located. I was provided with lots of bike accessories that were very helpful and nice to have, which were very much appreciated. However, I discovered that provided pump didn’t fit tubes in the tires, and the valve stem one of the extra tubes on didn’t fit the wheels. I was able to buy the correct supplies in Levoča. Thankfully I didn’t get any flats, but I wasn’t going to take any chances of getting a flat on some remote side of the road.

I had two problems that need to be resolved during the tour, and in both instances Travel Slovakia responded promptly and professionally, which I appreciated immensely. These included:

The luggage transport service scheduled between Mýto pod Ďumbierom and Liptovský Jan didn’t work. Travel Slovakia sorted it out promptly, with Martin personally driving between the cities from Banská Bystrica so I could have my luggage that evening.
It was pouring down rain the morning I was due to bike from Banská Bystrica to Banská Štiavnica, and given the rain I didn’t want to start the ride due to safety. Travel Slovakia agreed with me, and I was driven to Banská Štiavnica along with my bike and luggage by Martin. Thankfully the rain let up late in the afternoon that day, enabling me to do the lovely ride planned around the Banská Štiavnica hills.

Word of warning: I seemed to have picked an “off season” to travel to Slovakia at the end of September, in between the summer tourist season and the winter tourist season. All the “major” tourist attractions (such as Spiš Castle, Stará Ľubovňa Castle, etc.) were open, but some minor ones like the ice cave near Stratená were closed. As well, the restaurants at three of my accommodations were closed for the season. This only became a problem in Mýto pod Ďumbierom, where literally the entire little village was dark and shut down on a Sunday night. If I had a car it might be no problem to drive to a nearby city like Brezno, but having only a bike in a village surrounded by steep mountains doesn’t give you great transport options. The hotel receptionist had pity on me and very kindly helped prepare a dinner for me from the hotel’s kitchens.

A huge thank you to Bara, Martin, Lucia, and anyone else involved with Travel Slovakia for such a wonderful trip! I would do it again in a heartbeat. I recommend this trip for cyclists who love nature, who love seeing castles and colorful cities, and who don’t mind climbing. Beginning cyclists who want easy cycling along a river with lots of café stops probably wouldn’t be too happy with this trip. I would definitely consider working with your company in the future, and I will recommend it to anyone interested in visiting Slovakia.

Charlotte from the USA
- rating 5