Lesser Poland (Malopolska) is an extraordinary region of Poland, which, as the name suggests, contains a little Poland inside of it. That is the literal translation of the meaning of this region’s name.
The mosaic of fields and meadows, forests, wilderness and mountains, lakes and winding rivers are characteristic elements of the landscape of the region. It lies in the south on the Carpathian mountain range with the majestic peaks of the Tatra and Pieniny mountains, which continue north and stretch along the ranges and hills of the Beskids. In the north, its borders are marked by the rocks of the Kraków-Częstochowa Upland (so-called “Jura”) and the culmination of the Świętokrzyskie Mountains, while in the east by Roztocze. Between the hills there stretch fields of the fertile lowlands of the Carpathian Foothills and valleys in the forks of the Vistula and San. In the west, the Oświęcim region meets with Silesia with a conventional border.
The huge topographic diversity of Lesser Poland (Malopolska) and its turbulent history allow this land, like no other in Poland, to boast a huge number of monuments and beautiful landscapes. In the capital of the region – Krakow, we find hundreds of monuments, including the Wawel Royal Castle and the Main Square, as well as traces of the multicultural past in the Kazimierz district and monumental socialist-realist architecture in Nowa Huta.
In the northern part of Lesser Poland (Malopolska), there is the Kraków-Częstochowa Upland. A geological and landscape gem. Here you will find canyons with steep walls, protruding needle rocks, groups of outliers – resulting from the destructive activity of water. The most spectacular is the Prądnik Valley. There are also many extraordinarily-shaped rocks, several dozen meters high, karst springs and caves inhabited by bats. A characteristic element are the ruins of medieval strongholds ‘planted’ on limestone hills, like eagle’s nests, which has given rise to the name of the trail connecting them – the Trail of the Eagles’ Nests (more on the trail here). The very trail begins in Częstochowa – a city known as the direction of numerous pilgrimages and the image of Our Lady of Częstochowa.
In the south, there are the Tatra Mountains and Podhale. This is the only alpine range in Poland. On the one hand, there are sharp ridges, steep crags, glacial boilers in which snow remains all summer, on the other – picturesque stream valleys and extensive meadow glades, where sheep graze. Of course, Zakopane is the most famous place in Podtatrze and Podhale, visited by tourists in great numbers during the holiday season. Podhale is also known for attractions such as thermal pools, where you can regenerate your body after physical exercise on a bicycle. This land is also famous for its rich culture and tradition as well as incredibly tasty regional cuisine.
The small, precipitous Pieniny is a gem among the Carpathian mountain ranges. Built of limestone, chalk and Jurassic rocks, they have an extremely characteristic sculpture. Crags, rocks, ravines and a cutting range, the beautiful landmark Dunajec Valley creates a corner full of mysterious charm. The additional appeal is added by the Czorsztyn Lake together with the Dam. On both sides of it, there are majestic castles in Niedzica and Czorsztyn. The first hides the secrets of the Incas. These areas also conceal UNESCO-class monuments such as the wooden Archangel Michael’s Church, built without the use of a single nail. The extraordinary nature of this region is emphasized by the fact that it is covered by special protection in the form of the Pieniny National Park.
DAY 01 | Meeting in Krakow
We meet around 18:00 at the hotel. Dinner is followed by a briefing and discussing organizational information. Matching bikes to participants.
DAY 02 | Jura Highlands | 55 km | 730 m ascent | 730 m descent
The first day of cycling is about exploring the Kraków-Częstochowa Upland, a region north of Kraków, rich in numerous sightseeing values. We will visit the Ojców National Park, to which we will be led by an unusual route along the Prądnik Valley. During our trip, we will stay in Ojców, a former health resort. It will be possible to visit the Dark Cave. The purpose of our trip is to reach the Castle in Pieskowa Skała, where, in addition to this structure, you will be able to admire an unusual rock inselberg called the “Hercules Club”. In the afternoon we will return to the hotel for dinner.
DAY 03 | Oświęcim – Kraków | 63 km | 670 m ascent | 710 m descent
After breakfast, we take a bus and bring our bicycles on a trailer to Oświęcim, where we will start the journey along the Vistula Cycling Route. We will set off on a bicycle trip along the Vistula, which is mostly excluded from car traffic. Halfway to Krakow, we will make a stop to visit the Lipowiec Castle in Wygiełzów and the Ethnographic Museum. Our next stop will be Tenczyn Castle in Rudno and a beautiful route through the Dulowska Forest towards Krakow, where we will finish our trip.
DAY 04 | Wieliczka Salt Mine and transfer to Zakopane
After breakfast and check-out, we will take a bus with our baggage to Wieliczka, where we will visit the unique Salt Mine which has been written into the UNESCO world heritage list. We will spend 2-3 hours there. After sightseeing, we will go to Zakopane, the capital of the Polish Tatra Mountains. During the trip, we will stop for lunch. After we are accommodated, we will enjoy a tour of Zakopane, and in the evening we will have a gala, regional dinner, thanks to which will reveal before us highlander cuisine and its dishes.
DAY 05 | Zakopane – Chochołów | 48 km | 460 m ascent | 840 m descent
After breakfast, we will travel on our bikes to the Gubałówka ski lift. There, we will ride to the summit using a cable car, from where, after free time for taking photos of the Tatra Mountains, we will descend towards Kościelisko. Along the way, we will admire the highlander wooden architecture so characteristic of this region of Poland. After traveling a few kilometers downhill, we will pass through the heart of the Tatra Mountains, along the Chochołowska Valley. It will be quite a challenge during our journey, but every driven kilometer and the surrounding views will reward the hardships of the route. We will end the day in Chochołów, a village with characteristic wooden buildings. In the afternoon, before dinner, we will enjoy the thermal pools to regenerate after a few days of driving.
DAY 06 | Chochołów – Lake Czorsztyn | 65 km | 505 m ascent | 720 m descent
After breakfast, regenerated after a visit to the thermal pools, we will continue exploring Podhale on a bike. To start the day, we will take a beautiful bicycle route along the Historic Trail Around the Tatra Mountains, with the panorama of the range accompanying us. The route is almost 100% car-free. On our way, we will pass small towns that will reflect the atmosphere of the place. Along the way, we will visit places such as Nowy Targ, Krempachy and Dursztyn. We will finish the day with dinner at the hotel on Lake Czorsztyn.
DAY 07 | Lake Czorsztyn – Szczawnica | 51 km | 680 m ascent | 800 m descent
After breakfast, we will visit the Castle in Niedzica, which hides the secrets of the Incas. The next stage of our bicycle route called Velo Dunajec runs along the Dunajec River. The first stage is the section to the Red Monastery in Slovakia, where we will start driving along the most beautiful route in Poland – the Dunajec River Gorge. At this stage, we have booked some time for a commemorative photo. This trail will lead us to the Szczawnica health resort which we will visit. Next, we will set off towards the White Water Valley, where we will visit a shepherd’s hut with sheep cheese – a regional specialty.
DAY 08 | Szczawnica – Nowy Sącz | 48 km | 300 m ascent | 400 m descent
After breakfast, we will head out to the last day of our cycling adventure. We will continue our travel along the Velo Dunajec cycling route, which will end in the town of Nowy Sącz. This stage of travel means the company of places known for growing apples, plums and the production of local liquors such as plum brandy called “Sliwowica”. After reaching Stary Sącz, we will go to the last stage of the journey to Nowy Sącz, which will complete our trip with dinner on the market square. We will pack our bikes and go to Krakow by bus, where we will end our adventure.
Kraków | Wiślana Trasa Rowerowa (The Vistula Cycle Route) | VeloDunajec Cycle Route | Around the Tatra Mountain Cycle Route | Ojców | Ojcowski National Park | Pieskowa Skała Castle | Auschwitz-Birkenau | Lipowiec Castle | Tenczyn Castle | Castles in Niedzica and Czorsztyn | Dunajec River Gorge | Szczawnica | Zakopane | Chochołowska Valley | Tatry Mountain | Thermal Pools | Gubałówka Range | Pieniny Mountain | Podhale | Stary Sącz | Nowy Sącz | Solt Mine in Wieliczka
Tourist trip for intermediate bikers. The group is accompanied by a bus that carries luggage. We recommend riding a trekking or mtb bike. The tour runs mostly along an asphalt surface with short gravel sections and very gentle terrain. We come across asphalt, gravel, forest paths. The route leads through upland areas, so expect hilly terrain. Level III difficulty. What does this mean? Click this link.
Ride, ride, ride. To get the most out of this trip you must be prepared for it. Before the expedition, be sure to cover similar distances to those planned and ride through hills; if there aren’t any near you, cover longer routes. The basis is also a functional bike, meaning mandatory MAINTENANCE of the bike before the tour.