Interview: Gabriela Kohuthova, executive director of Enjoy Tatras DMC

Gabriela Kohuthova, executive director of EnjoyTatras DMC

In your opinion, what are the top sports/adventure activities in the High Tatras and Liptov region?

In the Tatras/Liptov mountain region, the best things happen outdoors in all weathers and year round. There are 50 peaks more than 2000m in the region, it means a diverse, far-reaching landscape of breathtaking views and fresh air. The majority of visitors come mainly for some hiking – it’s an integral part of the right “Tatras holiday” – making it the top sport activity, in all forms, even for the most laid back person. Mountains and winter sports inherently belong together, the Tatras region is no exception. We have different ski resorts, small and large, each with its own specific character. They offer excellent conditions for beginners to professionals. I suggest trying the steepest ski slope of the Tatras in “Tatranska Lomnica” – the “Sedlo” right under the second highest peak of the High Tatras. The slope is challenging and only suitable for experienced skiers, but rewards with the best possible views one can imagine.

If you are a walker or hiker what would you recommend as interesting trails? 

The great thing about the Tatras/Liptov region is that you don’t have to be an experienced hiker or walker to conquer the best views. If required, cable cars will take you to amazing viewpoints and starting points of various hiking trails, e.g. not confident with challenging hikes, you can take the cable car from “Tatranska Lomnica”, go up to 1,750m above sea level to “Skalnate pleso” and start hiking gently down to the Cold Creek Waterfalls, Hrebienok and than to the mountain village “Stary Smokovec”. This hike uncovers amazing views over the valley below, as well as the Tatras peaks. Another example for gentle hikers, is the Liptov region; take a cable car from “Jasna” to the second highest peak of the Low Tatras – Mt. Chopok and go for a comfortable ridge hike to the highest peak of the Low Tatras – Mt. Dumbier. Everything depends on your skill level and desire. More advanced hikers will definitely appreciate 21 peaks over 2,000m which are accessible without a mountain guide – the hiking trails are well marked and the orientation is easy. As for my recommendations – if you are sporty and like a challenge, conquer the Rysy peak or the Krivan peak – both iconic. Personally, I really like the hidden mountain tarns (lakes) and waterfalls below the fascinating peaks, as well as the iconic mountain chalets. I can recommend the hike to Sliezsky dom – former mountain chalet, now a four-star hotel on the bank of the mountain tarn Velicke pleso. After this hike, you will definitely feel your muscles, but you can do it even if you are not well trained. The views from there are amazing and unique, you find yourself under the highest peak of Slovakia – Mt. Gerlach. For those who want to avoid the most popular places and prefer some hidden gems and silence, I recommend the Liptov region’s canyons and valleys. My personal favourite is the Prosiecka valley.

I understand that you can go bear watching, are there other animal tours in the region and are they open to everyone?

There are about 150 brown bears in the Tatras and we have some professional guides who can take you on safe bear watching tours to the natural habitat of the bears. The tours are organised in small groups, mostly early in the morning. Be ready to bike to the viewpoints – biking through the valley will save a lot of time and energy. There is high probability to spot the bears. Honestly, except of the bear watching tours, you will not need other animal tours, as there are good chances that you will see some amazing wild animals during your hikes – if you hike high enough, you will see mountain goats resting on the rocks or spot marmots. In the valleys and forests there are plenty of squirrels, if you are lucky you will meet a fox while hiking. Deer sometimes come down to parking lots. Sometimes you see mountain goats from cable cars.

Whilst the Tatras and Liptov Mountain Region is full of sports travel activities, it also has plenty of cultural and historical experiences on offer – can you name a few?

The High Tatras was known as a climatic spa for the European aristocracy in the early 20th century – real tourism started after the opening of three famous Grand Hotels – Grandhotel Praha in Tatranska Lomnica, Grandhotel Stary Smokovec and the unique Grand Hotel Kempinski in Strbske Pleso; luxurious, historical, affordable and worth every penny – you can find yourself in a grand bygone era, a kind of “living history” experience. There are nice small wooden churches in the High Tatras and a lot of gothic sites across the regions. The city of Poprad is the gateway to the High Tatras, easily accessible by the iconic red electric train – it´s historical part “Spisska Sobota” is one the best preserved medieval urban units of Slovakia. During your stay in the region you should visit the picturesque small town Levoca and the famous Spis Castle, both listed in the UNESCO World Heritage List. If you want some authentic folklore experience, the Liptov region is a real paradise – the Vlkolinec open air museum, the Svaty Kriz wooden church should be on your list, as well as some small villages which still preserve a lifestyle from the past.

With some 1,150km of biking trails, cycling in both summer and winter is easy and popular in the region both for amateur and professional cyclists. Can you name some of the best routes? 

Biking and cycling is becoming more and more popular here. The Liptov region offers amazing, yet easy and moderate bike routes which are suitable even for families. A very popular route is the 40 km long route from Liptovsky Hradok to Besenova, providing great vistas and stops in Lubela, Pavcina Lehota and enables one to view local life, also not forgetting Liptovska Mara water dam for all manner of water sports. Another popular route is from Lopusna Valley passing by a unique piece of work – pumped storage power station “Cierny Vah” consisting of an upper and lower water basin. The route ends in Liptovsky Hradok. We have great downhill and freeride bike parks in Jasna and Malino Brdo in the Liptov region, Hrebienok in the High Tatras and Bachledova Valley in the Eastern Tatras.

The ‘Chodnik Korunami Stromov’ (Bachledka Treetop Trail) is a great activity for families, what other family friendly activities can you recommend?

Well, the Bachledka Treetop Trail is worth visiting without any doubt. It’s a unique eco-friendly concept and enables you to see the amazing area of the High Tatras, Pieniny National Park and the Eastern Tatras from high above the treetop. The highest point of the treetop trail is 24m, the highest point of the observation tower is 32m. A modern cable car takes you to the treetop trail, if you prefer cycling or walking up from the valley. There are many fun activities for children all around. Another great activity for families is the Contact Zoo (petting zoo) in Liptovsky Trnovec by the Liptovska Mara water dam – kids can touch and caress baby animals. Of course, families cannot miss the famous and very popular water parks Tatralandia, Besenova or AquaCity. If you are visiting with kids, visiting one of the five caves of the region is a must. Everyone is amazed by the underground beauty of the region. There are some rope parks, bobsleigh tracks, animal farms and outdoor playgrounds families can enjoy. Quite an unforgettable adrenaline activity is the Hurricane Factory in Tatralandia – the one and only wind tunnel in Slovakia.

Do you have any personal top tips or advice to travelling in the Tatras and Liptov mountain region? 

Since I was a little kid, I have always been fascinated by the iconic red cable car from Skalnate Pleso to the Lomnicky Peak. It is remarkable for its lack of support pylons between the two stations. The ride itself is a breath-taking adventure – you will feel like you are floating into the clouds. From the height of 2,624m you can see even Krakow if you are lucky with the visibility, it also feels like “being on top of the world”. Spending the night in one of the two rooms there is a one of a lifetime experience – you can see the rising and setting sun and enjoy privacy and silence.

RAMY JAMES SALAMEH