A beautiful day hike from Prague is in Český ráj.
Český ráj means Bohemian Paradise*, and is considered as some of the best, easy hiking in the Czech Republic. As with all hiking here, you follow a color-coded, laid-out trail, flitting from small town to castle to pub to castle ruins with a pub (so civilized in this country!), hitting all sorts of beautiful views and neat rock formations in between.
The trail we took wound through picturesque forests and pastures with a few lung-busting climbs up to more scenic points.
To be honest though, the trail we took was also kind of blind. We had a map and followed the color-coded trails faithfully and did end up where we intended to, but we also sort of just stumbled upon castles we didn’t know were there, didn’t get to see the castle we were aiming for, and even missed the last bus, forcing us to ask in broken Czech for the inn owner to get us a taxi to the town where we would catch the train (it was special).
But that just shows you! Even when you don’t know what you’re doing, the worst that can happen here is that you might have to spend one night in a picturesque little inn by impressive castle ruins. darn.**
For our trip, we started at Turnov (a Czech town) and worked our way down, south-east, through the paradise reserve.
After we climbed a steep hill to leave the small town and enter the actual national park, our first major attraction was a look-out point, built at the top of the hill, overlooking the valley.
Up a spiral staircase and onto a rock tower, you’re rewarded with this view of forest and farmland – Český ráj on your left, Czech homes on your right.
We then continued on through pleasant forests until suddenly we came across this castle, Valdštejn.
Valdštejn/Wallenstein Castle – aerial view | Czech paradise (not my photo, click for link)
Valdštejn was originally built in the 1200s as a gothic fortress atop three sandstone cliffs. It went through various owners and was added on to throughout the years, the most recent addition being a pilgrimage church built atop the ruins. (Actually the most recent addition was probably the ticket booth and beer/sausage stand just outside)
You pay just 50Kc and get a little leaflet with information in English. Then, you get to explore the ruins to your heart’s content! This means going in the buildings and church, running through little rock caves that connect different parts, and clambering up on partial ruins to see over the walls at the views beyond.
Pretty awesome! (and then grab a beer on your way out – you deserve it, you hiker, you!)
We then continued walking along until we came to a view point of the famous sandstone formations, the Hrubá Skála.
We continued hiking the ridge along side them until we came to the Hrubá Skála Chateau and wellness spa.
It was oddly empty while we were there, but you could tell that at its full grandeur, it would be a sight to behold.
And how cool would it be to have your summer sunset dinner on this terrace?
And a room with this view?
Instead of stopping here and catching a bus home (which, in retrospect would have been a good idea since we had started the whole adventure rather late and were short on time), we decided to push on to Trosky Castle. Its twin towers are the symbol of the whole Bohemian Paradise, after all.
And as we headed towards it, we were rewarded with little cow-filled valleys and sheep filled pastures on spectacular hillsides.
Too bad we just didn’t have time to actually reach it, in the end! We got so close…
But yet could only admire it while we nursed a beer and waited for our emergency taxi to arrive.
But, cool fact, Trosky was built on and right between two volcanoes, one tower being named the Young Girl, the other named the Old Woman. And, luckily, to visit it is cheap (Admission is 70 Kc for adults), and you can take a tour as well!
Although we didn’t actually get to go up to the castle that day and instead had to rush back to Turnov to get back to Prague (although, spending a night there wouldn’t have been the worse thing in the world!), the entire hike was well worth it.
Bohemian Paradise really does live up to its name.
Trosky Castle – Bohemian Paradise (not my image, click to link)
And really, with such great scenery so close to the city, how can you not spend a day of your Europe trip recharging your batteries in nature?
Here are some great links to get you started planning your itinerary to the Bohemian Paradise:
The site detailing all there is about Valdštejn is here.
For Trosky, it’s here. (use Chrome to translate the page)
Bring normal hiking things like good shoes, a light jacket for changing weather (tends to rain a lot in Bohemia), and water. But there will be refreshments and tourist spots along the way, so never fear :)
Don’t forget that there are many many more hiking and biking routes, castles, and famous spots to check out in the Bohemian Paradise! I just scratched the surface.
And as always, make sure you know the bus and train itineraries to get back into Prague. A good place to start is here.
*Čechie/Český/etc., when talking about regional areas in the language Czech, translates to Bohemia in English. So when we say the CZ is split into three regions, Bohemia, Moravia, and Silesia, Czechs (meaning all those from the entire CZ who speak the language) say there are three regions, Czechia, Moravia, and Silesia. Confusing, non? Almost as bad as “no” meaning “yes.”
**Nothing like America, where the worse that can happen is that you get lost in the miles and miles of endless wilderness.