Oh my goodness. I had no idea I did this much hiking.
This is the last of the Czech Republic hikes, but really, this is just the beginning of all the rest. I have a hike in Santorini and many hikes in Colorado and Utah yet to come. But enjoy the last post (for now) that includes hiking in lush forested areas! Because we’re all about the arid and dry from then on out…
České Švýcarsko is a little but fabulous hiking region right on the border between Germany and the Czech Republic. It was name by two Swiss guys because of (you guessed it!) how much it reminded them of their home country.
It’s very easy to reach by public transit from Prague (like many Bohemian hikes), is clearly marked out so you don’t get lost (like many Bohemian hikes), is full of beautiful natural wonders (like many Bohemian hikes), and also has many little pit-stops for beer and food (…like many Bohemian hikes).
So basically it’s great (like many Bohemian hikes).
You start out by taking a train to Děčín, a small town near the border (takes maybe an hour and a half? I don’t remember exactly), then hoping a local bus to an even smaller little town called Hřensko.
Hřensko is a bit touristy and full of everything German, so if you’re going to be staying the night somewhere, make it Děčín or some town halfway through a long hiking route.
BUT, Hřensko is also just so adorably cute and really fun to try to pronounce.
Either get off on the bus stop in Hřensko and head across the small stream and go right to get out of the town, or watch the others get off then go the next stop, which is up a fairly long stretch of rather boring uphill road and conveniently puts you at the actual trailhead. (We took the first option, and while it was good to grab coffee and go to the bathroom, it was kind of an unnecessary walk to the trailhead)
Then, continue on into the forest for roughly 3 km. You’ll pass beautiful rock formations and tree-lined paths, all the while led along by the ever-present red and white markers .*
Seriously, it’s pretty.
Then, near the end of those 3 kilometers, you’ll notice the slope rising. Suddenly, in front of you are some man-made switchbacks and a huge natural arch. It’s the Pravčická brana, or the “Pravčická gate,” the largest natural arch** in the Czech Republic and the symbol of the whole region.
But wait! There’s more!
Turn the corner, and you’re greeted to a beautiful, ornate restaurant, perched on the cliff above you, right into the cliff.*** It’s called the Sokolí hnízdo, or the “Falcon’s Nest,” and, lucky you, it’s your first stop for food and beer.
After rewarding yourself for the climb with a cold, great Czech beer and some hearty snacks at the food stand (or a full meal in the restaurant), take a look around.
You can no longer climb on top of the arch, but there are view points at the base of it, as well as on the other side of the rock formations, as seen in the photo below (look at the tiny people at the top of the rocks).
And the views from all angles are gorgeous.
Then, head down from the gate and make your next decision. Do you want to go to the left and back the way you came? or do you want to head right and continue on? You’re next point to turn around is at Mezní Louka, a tiny town another 4.4 km away. And then from there you can again choose – head right and follow the path in a loop back around to Hřensko, continue on to another stop.
The loop to and from Hřensko will take 5-6 hours, and be about 15 km. The path from Hřensko to Mezní Louka and on will be…8.3 km plus however much else.
But of course, if you’re doing a day hike like we were, you can still stop and catch a bus in various places along your route. Just make sure to know what they are!
We just barely scratched the surface of the Czech Switzerland on our route, although we did hike something like 20 km (we kept going after Mezní Louka) and managed to see the most famous beautiful and famous spot of the area.
But were I to go back, I would definitely spend a weekend there, exploring the other rock formations and leisurely hiking from small town to small town.
The Czech countryside is perfect for that in general, but maybe no place more-so than České Švýcarsko.
So pack your day-packs, folks, and get out of the city!
The bus from Děčín to Hřensko can be found right outside the train station, to the right, I believe. Just look for a crowd that looks like it’s going to go hiking (we were accompanied by quite a few couples, families, families with dogs, and a boyscout-like troop) then check the schedules for the bus going to Hřensko.
– to read the schedule (and any schedule in the CZ), notice the city names go from top to bottom. The one in bold is the stop where you are now. All those names not in bold above it are the previous stops it makes BEFORE it gets to you. The ones not in bold below it are the stops it will take you to AFTER your stop. You’ll notice all the times it comes to your stop posted on it as well.
Before, in this post, I showcased some of the photos from this same trip (many photos are actually repeats, I’m afraid, in this current one).
And as always, here’s the link for the buses and trains. Print off/have a good map beforehand, know your return bus/train times, and bring water and snacks and layers!
*And the ever-present stream of other people. I’m not used to hiking on such populated trails. But it was still very pleasant and nature-rejuvenating experience.
**The arch is impressive at 26.5 m wide, or 86 ft. For some context, though, Utah has quite a few larger ones. For example, the Morning Glory Arch outside Moab is 74 m and 243 ft long, and the Landscape Arch (the 2nd longest arch in the world) is 88 m, or 290 ft, wide.
***The whole thing feels very Wes Anderson/Budapest Hotel.