The Visegrad Group countries make up a compact part of central and northern Europe bordering Ukraine, Russia, Lithuania and Romania on the east, Germany and Austria on the west and Slovenia, Croatia and Serbia on the south. This part of Europe offers a whole array of natural gems ranging from snow-topped mountains to lowlands with verdant fields and clear lakes and even a long coastline along the Baltic Sea. And the region’s position as a crossroad between the west and the east has given each country many varied and unique cultural and historical sites.
Slovakia has nearly every kind of attraction for tourists, with the exception of a sea. Its lush nature and many cultural and historical monuments make it a most-desired and frequently-visited destination. The competitive advantage of Slovakia, according to Lívia Lukáčová from the Slovak Tourist Board, is that such an extensive spectrum of tourist opportunities are offered within such a small geographical area.
Lukáčová sees convention, medical and spa tourism as not yet fully utilised and she expects that interest in golf tourism in Slovakia will increase.
For tourists interested in historical sites related to technological development, Slovakia is rich with sites such as the water mills on the Malý Dunaj River, the Mint Museum in Kremnica and the old mines around Banská Štiavnica. Among Slovakia’s long list of natural sites and outdoor activities, Lukáčová mentions just a few lesser known attractions such as the unique ‘rocky balls’ in Kysuce region, the Cave of Dead Bats in the Low Tatras, and rafting down the Orava and Váh rivers. In the winter the mountains of Slovenský Raj offer ice climbing.
Poland is the only V4 member state which has a sea, the Baltic Sea, on its north coast. But in Poland cultural tourism is definitely the most important, especially cities like Krakow, Warsaw and Tricity on the Baltic coast, Emilia Kubik of the Polish Tourist Organisation told The Slovak Spectator.
When speaking about sectors of Polish tourism not yet fully tapped, Kubik’s says more attention is required in promoting active tourism and spa and wellness trips to Poland, particularly among Slovaks and Czechs who often spend their holidays in very active ways.
In listing some lesser known, but still unique tourist attractions and destinations, Kubik enumerates several tourist attractions in northern Poland. These are, for example, the Gothic city of Toruń and Malbork Castle. Among natural sites, she mentions the Białowieża National Park, the wetland marshes along the Biebrza River in the Biebrzański National Park, and the Słowiński National Park with its nearby Łeba seaside resort.
Hungary is a relatively small country with much to offer visitors. There is diversity in its landscape, ranging from flat and grassy plains to rolling hills and valleys, and its culture has space for both traditional wooden churches and vibrant modern nightclubs, says Márk Kincses from the Hungarian National Tourist Office.
Kincses lists health tourism and several niche products, such as bird watching and religious/pilgrimage tours, as aspects of Hungarian tourism not fully utilised so far.
In recommending some less well-known but still unique tourist attractions and destinations in Hungary, Kincses lists Pécs, which will bear the title of European Capital of Culture in 2010, the Cave Bath at Miskolc-Tapolca, the wetland reserves of Lake Tisza with its many natural treasures which have given it UNESCO World Heritage designation, the picturesque bike trails running between the volcanic hills of the Balaton uplands, and the system of caves under the hills of Budapest.
The Czech capital, Prague, is described as one of the most beautiful cities in the world and is probably the most popular destination of foreign tourists in the Czech Republic. But the country has much more to offer. As Czechs are known as people who like spending their free time in very active ways, the Czech Republic offers plenty of opportunities for biking, hiking, and skiing. History lovers can visit castles and chateaus turned into museums, or Jewish monuments, many of which are listed as UNESCO World Heritage sites.
The list of lesser known, but certainly interesting, historical sites includes Mikulčice, an early medieval Great Moravian fortified settlement on the eastern border with Slovakia. Nearby, wine lovers can find a multitude of wine cellars under Pálava hill in the region of Mikulov. And imbibers can continue on to Karlovy Vary, which along with its famous spa is the hometown of the legendary herbal liqueur, Becherovka. The southern parts of the country offer excellent fishing opportunities, fascinating UNESCO sites such as Telč and Český Krumlov as well as the picturesque village of Holašovice, considered as a true pearl of the rustic Baroque style.
The piece is part of the Visegrad Countries Special, prepared by The Slovak Spectator with the support of the International Visegrad Fund. For more information on cooperation between the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia please see the following document.