Bohemian or Czech Paradise ("Český Raj")
is the oldest nature reserve in the Czech Republic. It does not have definite borders, but several towns demarcate them: Turnov
, and Mnichovo Hradiste
. The beautiful, unspoiled landscape - a mixture of undulating terrain and grotesque rock formations - interspersed with small towns - has attracted generations of Czech weekenders.
The name Czech Paradise has become a symbol for the delight felt by the intellectual and social elite in the second half of the 19th century over the beauties of nature. The name was soon accepted. Recognition of the value of this territory was manifested by proclaiming Prachovske Skaly
Nature Preserve in 1933 and Český Raj Protected Landscape Area in 1955.
The most distinctive features of Český Raj are its sandstone rock cities ("skalni mesta"). Rock cities are naturally a magnet for rock climbers, who you'l see in abundance, as they crawl up to rock surfaces. Numerous hiking trails twist their way through the rock cities, and mountain bikers enjoy navigating their way around.
The bright white of the pillars contrasts strikingly with the deep green of the surrounding woodland.
Another important landmark is the Trosky Castle
comprised of two 14th-century ruins. The two ruins rise prominently from atop a hill, sending them high into the sky above the flatlands around the area.
How To Get There and Location
Driving in Bohemian Paradise - Trosky Castle seen in the background
Map of Czech Republic and location of Cesky Raj
Jicin and Turnov are accessible by bus from Prague. Start at Cerny Most bus station, beside the metro terminus (end of the Yellow Metro line). The bus takes about 1.5 hrs, and the distance is roughly 90 km. Bus is the quickest mode of transport.
It is possible to take a train, but there are not direct routes, and it takes a longer time. Train is also more expensive.
You can rent a car through numerous car rental agencies in Prague.
Keep in mind that it is only a short distance from Prague, and weekends can by busy.
Geology of Cesky Raj = Bohemian Paradise
The Bohemian Paradise represents a territory of almost 700 km2 and was listed on the European Network of Geoparks in 2005.
In the course of the Earth history, the area was repeatedly the bottom of seas and lakes and volcanos erupted here several times. The sediments of the Mesozoic sea created the base of the current sandstone "rocky towns". During the Tertiary, the sandstone blocks were broken by volcanic activities and the red hot rocks set solid under the surface, forming mounts and cones. The earth surface was exposed to effects of natural forces - the wind, water, frost and sun. The result is the landscape with wild rock towers.
During the geological development deposits of iron ore, copper and silver were established, and also precious stones, slate and limestone useful for craft and industrial production. The local tradition of precious stone processing is considered one of the oldest in Europe.
Kapela - Hruboskalsko
Prachovska jehla / Prachov rock town
Prachov Rock Town
Some parts of Czech Paradise are free, and some require an entry fee. The problem with the collection of an entry fee is that some rock towns, e.g. Hruboskalso is very large and there are many different ways to get in. There is no fence around the area. Some people live within the region, in a near proximity of rock towns.
Currently you need to pay if visiting Prachovske Skaly
: adult 60 CZK (~ 3 USD), students, children and seniors 30 CZK (~ 1.5 USD)
Climbers are considered an attraction and they have a free entry as long as they show a membership to some climbing club (e.g. American Alpine Club card, locals tend to be members of some little climbing groups).
Suche Skaly: free
View of Hruboskalsko and ruins of Trosky Castle (in the far distance) as seen from the Valdstejn Castle.
: expect to pay an entry fee. There are numerous castles, chateaux's and ruins located within the Czech Paradise. See this website for more information - here.
The most visited are: Trosky, Kost, Valdstejn, and Hruba Skala.
the picturesque ruins are loved by artists, photographers and romantic souls. The ruins consists of two towers Baba (Old Woman) and Panna (Virgin), it is considered a dominant symbol of Bohemian Paradise. Wiki page on Trosky
Entry Fee: Adults: 70 CZK (3.2 USD), Students/Children/Seniors - 40 CZK, dogs 20 CZK, Family (up to 5 people) 180 CZK, Children under 6 - free.
: the name would be translated as "Bone". The legends says it got its name because it was a strong as a bone and difficult to conquer. For the current fees check here
. Kost is one of the most important castles in the Czech history and very well preserved. It is privately owned. Wiki page on Kost.
Chateua Hruba Skala
- originally it was a gothic castle, which burnt and rebuilt into its current state. It serves as a hotel too. Some more information here
. There is a parking fee if parking directly by the castle based on time required, if you drive a little bit along the road there are pull outs with free parking.
Climbing Rules on Bohemian Sandstone
I would like to mention that climbing ethic is very strong in this region and locals know how many days you have to wait after rain for each specific region. I was told that Hruboskalsko has the softest sandstone and you should wait 3 days after a rain, Prachovske Skaly 2 days, and Suche Skaly has the hardest rock - 1 day.
Below I will try to list some of the climbing rules translated from Cesky Horolezky Svaz = Czech Climbing Club. The complete list of rules is here
- only in Czech. Some rules seem pretty obvious, some are unique for soft sandstone.
- Climber honors the beauty of sandstone rock towns, honors the history of local climbing and its traditions.
- Do not harm the nature around you. Try to keep the area clean. Try to use established pathways.
- It is prohibited to change the surface of rocks, e.g. create artificial holds, or even use any form of metal protection (this includes nuts, hexes and camalots). The only allowed protection is the use of slings, knots and kinderkopf's.
- Be careful when manipulating your rope - rope can cause a serious damage and on some towers there is even a metal bar for lowering, so the rope does not rub against the rock. Top Roping is not allowed since it damages the rock.
- Fixed rings and rappel rings are under the responsibility of the rock town and Czech Climbing Club. Climbers should inform these authorities if they find it unsafe. It is not allowed to change or add new fixed protection.
- Protection is only allowed by using knots, rings, and rappel rings.
- Use of any chemicals or minerals is prohibited, this includes the use of chalk. Chalk is considered ok for extremely challenging routes (IX)
- All knots and slings must be removed at the end of your climb.
Mnich - Prachov
Richelieu / Prachov sandstone rock town
Summit of Majak
Czech climbers, Suche Skaly
Summit log container
Climbing Guide books for Czech Paradise
Hiking is very popular here. The trails are easy to follow and well marked. As mentioned above, the area has been proclaimed the first UNESCO Geopark in the Czech republic and the diversity and charm of this region should not be missed. There are not only deep valleys and ponds reflecting the towers of rock towns, but also many peaks and observation points offering wonderful views of the country.
And do not miss the charming castles, ruins, and chateaux. No wonder the Bohemian Paradise is the oldest nature preserve in the Czech Republic.
Maps are widely available at bookstores, and at tourists shops throughout Bohemian Paradise. Trails are marked in colors, and those colors are then marked on trees/rocks and very easy to spot.
Information on hiking trails here
Hiking at Hruboskalsko
Prachovske Skaly hiking
Chateua Hruba skala and ruins of Trosky far - Marianska vyhlidka "overlook"
Some narrow passages
Nice rest spot
Hiking at Hruboskalsko
Below the Valdstejn
Hiking Prachov Rocks
Hiking throughout the Bohemian Paradise is very safe, but be aware of ticks. Check your body afterwards. Ticks are in the forest and meadows. These miniature creatures are carriers of infection from spring till fall. Ticks can infect humans with Lyme disease and tick-born encephalitis. There is no vaccination against Lyme disease, but there is vaccination against tick born encephalitis (not available in US).
There are multiple choices for different types of accommodations. Just while driving around, you can see many advertisements. (I stayed at a guest house, Czechs call it "Pension" for about 15$ per night near Prachovske Skaly, no website).
I will mention just a few, and check this link
for more options.
Chateau accommodation at Hruba Skala
- you are right in the center of the the amazing rock climbing, sandstone rock city and a hiking. Plus how often do we get to sleep in a chateau?
- you can camp here, or you can hire a cabin. This place was recommended to me by locals, and many german climbers we spoke to stayed there. Great location in Hruboskalsko.
- Could not find english website, but have different categories for accommodation, and a restaurant, great location just at the entry to Prachovske Skaly. E-mail if interested: firstname.lastname@example.org
Pension in Bohemian Paradise
- there are many these sort of accommodations, I have not checked this one, have no clue about it, just a nice website while surfing the web.
Parkhotel Skalni Mesto
- great location by Prachovske Skaly, I just stopped by for a dinner - food was good, waitress looked like she was crying, and forgetful, which created some mixed feelings in us about coming back.