These articles were published in the Spectacular Slovakia travel guide, published annually by The Slovak Spectator since 1996. The latest editions can be obtained from our online shop.



Liptov

By James Thomson

    Folk dancing at the Liptov Village Museum in Pribylina.
 Folk dancing at the Liptov Village Museum in Pribylina.
 Photos by James Thomson

Liptov region, which like Turiec and Orava is ringed by mountains, is home to a number of geothermal aquaparks and picturesque villages.

By the highway between Žilina and Ružomberok is the Salaš Krajinka. A salaš is a traditional Carpathian mountain dairy where sheep's milk is used to make unpasteurised cheeses which are smoked or hand-formed into distinctive balls of oštiepok, a type which now has EU-certified status as a uniquely Slovak foodstuff.

What sets this salaš apart, aside from its convenient position for passing motorists (most salaš are high up in the valleys), is its proprietor, Erik Badánik, who worked for three years as a sommelier for the well-known British chef Gordon Ramsay at a top London restaurant. His family bought the salaš ten years ago and in 2008 built an on-site restaurant from which diners can view the sheep pens, where the resident flock of 450 are hand-milked every day.

South of Ružomberok, off the road to Donovaly (one of the country's top ski resorts), is one of the best examples of Slovak mountain village architecture: Vlkolínec. High up in the hills, it has a gate at its entrance and charges a small fee to walk around.

    The mountains are never far away in Žilina Region.
 The mountains are never far away in Žilina Region.
 Stephanie MacLellan

Its classic one-storey wooden houses (interspersed with the occasional, rather incongruous, concrete two-storey) have been recognised with a UNESCO listing. But its quaint appearance belies the fact that this is still a functioning village whose residents seem relaxed about the crowds wandering about. If the weather is good, it's worth taking a stroll around the hill behind the village: from the other side is a fine view down the valley to Ružomberok.

Beneath the High Tatras at Pribylina is another skanzen, or open-air museum, this one dedicated to Liptov village architecture. Many of its buildings come from the eight villages submerged when the nearby Liptovská Mara reservoir was created.

The Liptov region has a number of fine churches. In Svätý Kríž, south of the reservoir, is a large 'articular' wooden church belonging to the same group as the one in Hronsek, near Banská Bystrica (see the article in the section on Banská Bystrica Region). This is one of the largest wooden religious buildings in Europe and, like the buildings at Pribylina, was also rescued from the water (it was originally built in the now-vanished village of Paludza).

And in the small village of Nižné Matiašovce, at the start of the precipitous route from Liptov to Zuberec (in the Orava valley), is a beautiful wooden-roofed church with defensive stone walls and bastions.

Liptov has two other big tourist draws: a pair of large geo-thermal aquaparks, at Bešeňová (near Ružomberok) and Tatralandia (near Liptovský Mikuláš); and the Demänovská valley.

On the way up the tree-lined Demänovská valley, are two large limestone cave complexes open to the public, the first of which is an ice cave (where the subterranean climate has formed a sort of underground glacier). The second, the Demänovská Cave of Freedom, is a huge complex of galleries featuring more stalactites and stalagmites than you can shake a stick at and, in its numerous pools, evidence of one of humankind's seemingly unconquerable desires: to hurl low-denomination coins into water-filled holes.

    Liptovský Hrádok
 Liptovský Hrádok
 Stephanie MacLellan

If you are a first-timer or a cave-lover, this is an impressive one - part of the guided tour takes you through a forest of limestone columns, brushing your shoulders on both sides. If you're neither, it will bear an uncanny resemblance to most other limestone caves, albeit somewhat larger.

At the top of the Demänovská valley is Jasná, another of Slovakia's top ski resorts. Perched on the slopes of Chopok, which at over 2000 metres pretty much guarantees winter-long snow, it has 31 kilometres of downhill runs and 25 lifts and cableways.


These articles and related information were published in Spectacular Slovakia 2009, which you can obtain from our online shop.

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