Stretching in the continuity of the Giant's Mountains (Karkonosze/Krkonoše), the Iser Mountains (Góry Izerskie/Jizerské hory) belong to the westernmost end of the Sudetes. Slightly lower in elevation, they present a similar geology and character, mainly made of Hercynian granite that sometimes juts out in bizarre-shaped rocky outcrops. But few other features make this range unique in the landscape of Central Europe.
The Iser Mountains present themselves as a wide flat grassy plateau, where flows the most beautiful river of the region, the fairy-like Izera, whose name derives from the Celtic word "isirás", meaning "rapid". It is interesting to note that this is not the only European river that goes by such a name; toponymic homonyms are found in France and Germany, in particular the French river Isère.
Hala Izerska, a wide clearing located in the heart of the range, is the best place to admire the Isera river in all its splendour. It is interesting to know that this place holds the title of Poland's coldest place in Poland in average during the year !
Their generous topography make the Iser Mountains an ideal area for outdoors during all seasons. Due to the gentle elevation when starting from Jakuszyce, not far from the border, masses of cyclers are met on the well-marked and numerous cycling trails. The terrain is gentle enough for city-bikes, or even parents with baby-trailers !
The two huts of Orle and Chatka Górzystów, in the heart of Hala Izerska, make perfect stops to have a meal, a drink, or just a rest. Orle used to be the main building glassworks formerly known under the name of "Carlsthal", more than two centuries and half ago ! The second is also the unique remain of another settlement, Groß-Iser, destroyed during the war, and whose school was nowaday's hut building. The countless old books that encumber the shelves attest from it and give the place this so special atmosphere.
Thanks to the Schengen space, few trails connect to the Czech network, where the picturesque mountain village of Jizerka makes the main attraction. Due to the purity of the atmosphere and the total absence of light pollution, astronomy evenings are regularly held for amateurs and enthusiasts. More skilled mountain bikers can experience the "Singletrack pod Smrkem", a customly built track for this purpose, like many were made in USA, a totally new concept in this corner of Europe.
For the same reasons than above, winter combined with generous shapes turns this terrain into a fantastic area for cross-country skiing, probably the most renowned in Poland. The only route from Jakuszyce to Chata Gorzystów makes a wonderful day-trip that will fit most people's level. There is not entrance fee, just a whole open mountain where people are free to go, and renting the basic gear doesn't exceed 30zl. Rental of basic equipment, found in mass Jakuszyce, is accessible to all budgets. For more advanced skiers, a huge yearly race, Bieg Piastów, gathers thousands of skiers, from the world elite to the amateurs.
The Iser mountains culminate in Wysoka Kopa (1126m), which is not really a sharp summit, neither served by any trail. But Smrek, second in height just for two meters, is topped by an outlook tower over the tree line, allowing visitors to enjoy a stunning panoramic view. This viewpoint isn't only accessible to fit tourists, thanks to the cable-car reaching Stóg Izerski, remote of only few hundred meters and elevating from Świeradów-Zdrój, a pleasant spa on the foot of the mountains.
The route 358 that connects to Szklarska Poręba, (whose two-hours drive from Wrocław, is usually the "gate" to these mountains), will exhilarate
with scenery road lovers and amateurs of unusual landscapes, particularly during its long straight stretch through the trees, several kilometers long, immersing us into the great Canadian North. But beware of the "death bend" (Zakręt Śmierci), suddenly interrupting it above Szklarska Poręba !
A more peaceful mode of transport worth mention is the railway line "Kolej Izerska", linking Jelenia Gora with Harrachov, in Czech republic. Built with lots of viaducts during the early twentieth century, in order to link the Prussian and Austro-Hungarian Empires, it ceased to operate as the Treaty of Yalta went into effect, closing hermetically enough the border with Czechoslovakia, and consequently leaving the line in the state of abandonment. Fortunately, funds from the region of Lower Silesia and the Schengen agreements allowed it to get back into service in 2010, with brand new electric trainsets. With a mainly touristic vocation, this is one of the most spectacular railway lines in the area.
Past Harrachov, a well known winter sports resort, visitors venturing into Czech side can extend the visit to the lovely town of Liberec, as well as Frýdlant with its famous castle.
The region is located between five major towns:
- The Czech ski resort of Harrachov, best when coming from eastern Czech rep.
- The Polish ski resort of Szklarska Poręba, best when coming east from Poland
- The Polish spa of Świeradów-Zdrój, best when coming from northern Poland
- The Czech town of Frýdlant with its famous castle, best when coming from Germany
- The other Czech ski resort of Liberec, best when coming from Prague
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No particular red tape, except the usual rules when you are in a natural reserve: no fires, no rubbish, etc etc. If you wildcamp, do it discretely and responsibly far from inhabited areas or huts.
* Bivouac / Wild camping : Probably not allowed according to the reserve's rules. However in remote place the chances that someones checks are small. Just behave responsibly (no trash, etc).
* Mountain huts :
- Chatka Górzystów, probably the one in the most scenerical location, Hala Izerska.
- Stacja Turystyczna "Orle", a bit further below in the valley, also bigger.
- Schronisko na Stogu Izerskim, at the top of the eponym peak. At the end of the chair lift, a hut dedicated more for the ski season. Crowded.
- Chata Jizerka, near the eponym top
- Šámalova chata, near the city of Bedřichov
- Chata Hubert, near the city of Bedřichov
- Horská chata Smědava, near the city of Bílý Potok
* Campsites & Accomodations in houses : There is pleinty to be found in the cities neighbouring the area (see the "Getting There" section). Just use Google with the keyword "noclegi" for Poland or "ubytovanie" for Czech Rep.