Pieniny is a small mountain range in the south of Poland and the north of Slovakia. The most famous peaks – Trzy Korony and Sokolica are less than 1000 m high but they offer great views on the Dunajec river and Tatra Mountains. There are also other attractions available like castles and raft trips down the Dunajec on traditional wooden rafts.
Trzy Korony peak
Trzy Korony (Three Crowns) in Pieniny National Park is 982 m high and the shortest trail to the summit goes from villages Sromowce Niżne or Krościenko nad Dunajcem. The trails are easy and suitable also for children. On the peak there is an observation platform hanging over a 500 metres precipice, with amazing view on Dunajec river and Tatra Mountains. Recently in winter, on a frosty day but with great visibility I had a chance to observe lovely views!
Probably the most famous polish tree you will find on Sokolica summit. The pine on the slope is about 500 year old and is an unofficial symbol of Pienins. The summit is only 747 m asl but it offers great view on flowing 300 m lower Dunajec river and surrounding mountains.
The trails to the summit are as easy as to Trzy Korony. You can get there from Krościenko nad Dunajcem or from Szczawnica by the blue trail which crosses the river by a boat (open only in summer season).
Pieniny for history lovers
Pieniny mountains can be attractive not only for hikers. In Czorsztyn there is a castle from 14th century.
On the other side of Czorsztyn Lake, there is another castle – in Niedzica, also built in 14th century.
You may also like to visit Červený kláštor (Red Monastery), a monastery in Slovakia, founded in the early 14th century.
Rafting on the Dunajec River
Rafting on a traditional wooden raft is one of the biggest attractions of Pieniny Mountains. The river flows between high rock cliffs and surrounding woodlands and the landscapes are really lovely!
Although traditional rafts are the most popular, for adrenaline lovers there are also inflatable rafts and kayak rentals available.
Pieniny National Park by bike
Pieniny Mountains can be a great idea also for bikers. You won’t get by bike to Sokolica or Trzy Korony but Niedzica Castle, Czorsztyn Castle and Red Monastery are easy accesible by bike. Recently I did such a trip:
From Czorsztyn to Sromowce Wyżne there is a great winding road going down and another downhill which made me a big pleasure is in Slovakia. In Veľký Lipník you have to climb a steepy road 150 m high and then you go down about 3 km. Most of the trail goes on paved roads except few kilometres in Slovakia, between Lesnica village and Červený Kláštor. It is marked as a bike trail but only a middle part is possible to ride a bike.
The above photo doesn’t reflect it well but the beginning and the end of the trail is pretty steep with many loose stones. You won’t climb there by bike and also during downhill ride there were parts where I was afraid of riding and prefered to walk.
If you prefer easy bike trails with nice views you will like the bike path along the Dunajec river. It’s only few kilometres but landscapes are really nice!
However, don’t follow in my footsteps and don’t ride a bike to Pieniny from Kraków. I tried to ways: from Kraków through Gdów, Lake Rożnów and Nowy Sącz and I returned through Nowy Targ, Rabka-Zdrój and Mszana Dolna. From Kraków I set off at night and until Rożnów the ride was great but from Nowy Sącz to Pieniny and then from Pieniny to Rabka-Zdrój roads are narrow and heavily crowded. From Rabka-Zdrój to Kraków it’s not so bad but still too crowdy for me. There are only short parts where you can bypass it sideroads. Probably it’s better off season. During summer season probably the best option is to take bikes by car or rent bikes.
Accommodation in Pieniny
There are a few accommodation options in Pieniny Mountains. You can stay in a mountain hut: Trzy Korony, Orlica or Pod Durbaszką. In Sromowce Niżne and Sromowce Wyżne there are campings. You can also choose a hotel, a guest room or a guesthouse in Sromowce Wyżne, Sromowce Niżne, Szczawnica, Krościenko nad Dunajcem or surrounding villages. Some of them you can find on booking.com, however there are mainly the more expensive ones. Cheaper accommodation you can find on polish websites: eholiday.pl or nocowanie.pl.