For most countries in the world, there’s no escaping the icy chill of winter, and it hits particularly hard through Northern, Central and Eastern Europe. So, if you’re going to do it, you might as well do it right – and that’s why we decided to experience a full program of winter activities during our 7-day Slovakia itinerary.
Over the course of the week, we enjoyed skiing, snowshoeing, dog sledding, and igloo building – and on top of that you can explore the capital and other towns and cities. Follow in our snowy footsteps with this guide to visiting Slovakia in the winter. Just don’t forget to wrap up warm!
Know Before You Begin Your 7-Day Slovakia Itinerary
Before undertaking any winter sports or activities – especially when you’re on the road – you should make sure you’re fully covered with medical travel insurance. Even if you’re a pro, accidents can and do happen – and more so when you’re partaking in riskier pastimes, such as skiing and snowboarding in this case.
And with it being a popular winter vacation spot, it’s also well worth planning well in advance for flights, accommodation, and activities. Places have a tendency to fill up fast, and you don’t want to be left out in the cold on your Slovakia trip. Browse the flights and accommodation deals now to get an idea of what to expect in terms of costs – you may be positively surprised.
Where in the World?
Slovakia (or the Slovak Republic – to give it its proper name) is a small, landlocked country sandwiched between Austria, Hungary, Poland, Ukraine, and the Czech Republic. A mostly mountainous region, it’s a very attractive winter sports destination, but widely regarded as a year-round paradise for all outdoor enthusiasts.
It’s also well-known as a country of castles, with over 100 fortified and stately buildings within its borders, including this fine, ancient example at Trencin. It’s clear that Slovakia’s geopolitical position in Europe is infused with its long and dramatic history – so there’s much more to see and do here besides the great outdoors. If you also like food and beer – this place is for you.
While its capital Bratislava often gets a bad rep for not being the most attractive European city (blame trashy horror filmmaking) its people are no less warm and welcoming as a result. And it’s here that you’ll likely touch down to begin the first of your adventurous seven days in Slovakia.
Day 1 – Bratislava in Winter
Bratislava has some of the best Christmas markets on the continent, but if you’re visiting sometime from January through to March, there’s still plenty to see and do – and with a regular sprinkling of snowfall, the city is arguably at its most beautiful at this time of year.
On your first day, must-see sights include Bratislava Castle which perches on a hill overlooking the charming medieval town center, while St Martin’s Cathedral (above) has striking Gothic architecture and fascinating catacombs that need to be explored. Check out the iconic UFO bridge and observation deck for a more modern view of the city.
The famous baby blue Church of St. Elisabeth looks good enough to eat, and if that’s what you want to do, head over to Stara Tržnica – an indoor farmer’s market which is a nice alternative to wandering around in the cold. The sights, sounds, smells, and tastes are to die for – but unfortunately it’s only open on a Saturday – so plan ahead as it’s a real institution.
Failing that, simply get lost in the old town, which you’ll discover to be a notable juxtaposition of medieval and baroque architecture and communist decay. The town hall is an excellent focal point, housing a museum of city history, with wonderful views from the tower of the surrounding square, which is regularly alive with cultural events and markets.
Don’t miss seeking out the city’s unique statue and public art collection while you’re there (including the infamous “Cumil the sewer worker” – pictured above). And with the vibrant nightlife and famed Slovak hospitality, you just might need more than 24 hours in Bratislava to really get under its skin.
Day 2 – Bratislava to Tatranska Lomnica
With checkout most likely being around 12 midday, get ahead of the curve and rise early to see more of the town center – including the 13th century St Micheal’s gate – part of the oldest fortifications in the city. Grab yourself a hot beverage in one of the fine Parisian-style coffee houses, but make sure you’re ready to board the bus or train to Tatranska Lominica before 4 PM.
The ski resort is nestled in the High Tetras Mountains, some 340 kilometers away from Bratislava. Catching the train is the best way to get there, it will take you around four hours and costs between 15 and 23 Euros. We highly recommend using Villa Beatrice as your home base upon arrival – although as comfortable as it is you won’t be spending too long indoors!
Day 3 – Skiing
At these altitudes in the Tetras Mountains – skiing is king. Since I’ve never done it before, day three of the Slovakia itinerary felt like the opportune moment to go in at the deep end. Besides, hitting the slopes when you arrive means you can mix activities up throughout your stay – as it is possible to do too much of a good thing.
There are several excellent runs to enjoy in the region with varying degrees of difficulty. Rookies like myself need not be intimidated as beginner slopes are plentiful until you get the hang of it. Best of all, it’s very affordable compared to the likes of France, Switzerland and Austria, so a winter sports experience in Slovakia is ideal if you’re on a budget.
Day 4 – Igloo Building, Huskies, and Snowshoeing
For the ultimate team building exercises, have you ever considered building an igloo? Who would have thought just how much sculpting a house out of snow could bring people together? While it’s a fair bit of work (it’s not just the surroundings that are breathtaking), ultimately loads of fun will be had by all – and you get to sleep in your creation overnight!
Our group united to build the icy shelters under the expert direction of Erik – our knowledgeable tour guide. You can hire your own for you and your family, or you could ask a local if it’s possible to use their land to channel your inner Eskimo. Either way, it’s the unusual bucket list entry you never realized you needed until now! Eat your heart out Bear Grylls.
With your icy accommodation built for the night, it’s time to move onto your next activity, and one that we heartily recommend everyone tries at least once. Dog sledding is an exhilarating thrill ride that combines some of the most awesome things in the world – nature, adrenaline, and huskies. What’s not to love?
It’s a must for anyone who adores animals (especially of the four-legged variety) as you get to know the husky teams up close and personal before embarking on a cross-country sledding adventure – if your face hasn’t been licked off beforehand. A seriously unforgettable experience, and you can check out Lydia’s huskies and igloo building story for more adorable pooch pictures and info.
While dog sledding is one way to get around in the Tatra Mountains, for the most part we were using snowshoes. They were particularly useful when hiking to and from our igloo homes, and learning how to use them is an experience itself. This is our second time donning the strange footwear, and walking in deep snow is near impossible without them.
They’re highly recommended if you’re looking to undertake any hiking in the region, and while you can certainly bring your own snowshoes, there are plenty of places to hire the equipment when you arrive.
As the sun begins to get sleepy it’s time for a quick stop back at your hotel to prepare for your harsh night on the side of a mountain. So long as you wrap yourself with suitable clothing and a -15 degree sleeping bag, it’s actually rather pleasant, and waking up to the dawn streaming through that little igloo entrance is something you won’t forget in a hurry.
Day 5 – Poprad
Rise with the sun and snowshoe/hot foot it down to your hotel for a warm shower. With all the physical activities you’ll have been doing lately, today is a good day for a relaxed exploration of the nearby city of Poprad – which is known as the gateway to the Tatras National Park, and one of Slovakia’s most prominent outdoor capitals.
Visit the Tatra Gallery, a bountiful array of regional Slovak artistic work housed inside a former steam power plant. Take a stroll through the picturesque Spišská Sobota neighborhood – filled with Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque architecture. The 13th century Church of St George in the main square is not to be missed, while the Tatra Museum is a culture lover’s delight.
If you’re ready for activities of the indoor variety, a new indoor rock climbing center opened in the town in 2017 and is a great spot for practicing your skills if the weather is bad. Follow up with a visit to Aqua City for a relaxing wellness spa afternoon in its geothermal waters, as well as enjoying the choice of 13 indoor and outdoor pools and several waterslides.
Make no mistake though, this is outdoor heaven. And although we were here exploring the region in the winter, there’s also plenty on offer through the summer months. You’ll have an opportunity for a great easy hiking tour in Slovakia, as well as an abundance of other pursuits to keep nature lovers and thrill seekers content. Taylor your seven-day itinerary to suit your needs – you’ll be spoiled for choice here.
Day 6 – Donovaly
It’s time to shift your home base for the last two days of your Slovakian winter adventure. Donovaly is another outdoor sport destination, a small mountain village in the Banská Bystrica Region of the country. Here you’ll find some of the best skiing and snowboarding Slovakia has to offer, and where I continued to practice not falling on my backside.
The well maintained slopes are open long into the evening, so even if you arrive late you can still get a couple of good runs under your belt. But the hospitality and après-ski options should also tantalize the most decedent of taste buds, and we recommend staying at the comfortable Residence Hotel and Club for the last two nights of your Slovakian itinerary.
Day 7 – Donovaly
Spend your final day at leisure in and around the Donovaly area, and feel free to choose any number of activities you would like to finish on. Park Snow is of particular note, as it’s the largest fun park for kids in Central Europe and a fantastic option for families. You might struggle to tear them away from all the fun, games, and competitions you could possibly have on snow and ice.
For me, it was the ideal place to learn how to ski, but there’s something here to suit everyone, with a full calendar of events throughout the season that will keep the whole family happy. And with that, your winter itinerary in Slovakia draws to a close, but if you’re anything like us – it will remain with you for a lifetime.
You are more than welcome to continue hitting the slopes for as long as your vacation will allow, but when it’s time to head for home, your best options are returning to Bratislava, or making your way up to Kraków in Poland. A bus there will cost you less than 10 Euros, and it is a wonderful city that you should cram in as an extra treat if you have the chance. Check out what to do in Krakow and you might find it’s a place you really wanna visit.
Winter doesn’t have to be a depressing time with a lack of sunshine and energy. Shake off the cobwebs and get yourself to Central/Eastern Europe and experience this memorable Slovakia itinerary, filled to the brim with activities to get the blood pumping. You’ll wish it could snow all year round!
Have you been to Slovakia? Is there anything we missed in our Slovakia itinerary?