The 288 km route through central Slovakia, from the High Tatras to Budapest, from Grand Hotel Kempinski High Tatras to Budapest, is one of the most beautiful in Europe. Starting in the highest peaks of the Carpathians, taking in breathtaking landscapes and enchanting towns and villages along the way before arriving in Budapest, this Slovakian road trip itinerary combines the serenity of the mountains with the bright lights of the city. Plan a picturesque and exhilarating experience with help from Slavka Kosc, a passionate Slovak freelance travel writer.
Journeying through central Slovakia, starting out from the majestic High Tatras, with the vibrant city of Budapest as my finishing point, was my idea of the perfect road trip! The 288 km long route takes four hours to drive, but I took my time. I wanted to enjoy the picturesque towns rich in medieval landmarks, intact wooden folk architecture, hilltop castles and mysterious caves that pave the way.
After I’d explored the highest Slovak mountains, hiked scenic trails, met a Sherpa carrying supplies to high-altitude chalets and enjoyed spectacular views from the Lomnický Peak, I descended to the valleys. There I discovered more of the charming Slovak hinterland. The country roads lead through several protected natural areas, two UNESCO World Heritage sites and numerous pretty villages. I took my time, stopping to take in the rural beauty. These are some of my favourite places.
A short distance from the High Tatras, this is a great place to take a quick stop before beginning the journey. Known locally as ‘skansen’, it’s a perfect example of rural life in the Liptov Region during the previous three centuries.
Start your Slovakian adventure with a stay in the fairytale surroundings of Grand Hotel Kempinski High Tatras
The Liptov Region is home to many gems, among them the Demänovská Cave of Liberty and the Demänovská Ice Cave, located next to each other. The caves are part of a massive underground karst system and feature rich dripstone decoration, flowstone cascades, unique fauna, cave lakes and a subterranean river, as well as permanent ice formations in the ice cave.
A short drive north from Ružomberok, the mighty Orava Castle is a must-see on any Slovakian trip. I will never forget the imposing vertical structure, balanced on a steep rock and overlooking the rolling hills cut by the shallow Orava River. A much-loved filming location, this medieval fortress has seen everything including princesses and vampires.
Visiting the UNESCO-listed wooden village of Vlkolínec is like stepping into a fairy tale. The long, narrow log houses, typical of most of Slovakia, look as they did seven centuries ago. Although this tiny mountain village is an open-air museum, people still live there.
Just north of Banská Bystrica, Špania Dolina is one of the most historic villages in Slovakia. It’s famous for its copper and silver mining history and well-preserved mining architecture, as well as for its sought-after bobbin lace.
Off the main tourist route, the central Slovakian city of Banská Bystrica is best known for its excellent hiking in the surrounding mountains as well as its serene city life centred on SNP Square. I recommend looking up as you walk through the main square to appreciate the pastel hues of the Renaissance and Baroque facades, and climbing up the leaning bell tower for the best view. Be sure to stop by one of the coffee shops selling delectable cakes and Lemonades.
Spread across the green forested sides of the Štiavnica Hills, Banská Štiavnica was once a rich and bustling mining metropolis. Today, the medieval town is enjoying a rebirth as one of central Slovakia’s tourist magnets. Multiple Gothic and Renaissance landmarks, two castles, well-kept houses and hilly views contribute to its sleepy charm. I climbed up steep Calvary Hill to see its notable church complex and stunning panorama. I can highly recommend Erb Restaurant and Brewery for tasty local dishes and fine beer. I also enjoyed the excellent coffee and cakes at elegantly quirky Divná Pani.
As I crossed the Slovak-Hungarian border, I noticed the countryside becoming flat rather than hilly, and I began to focus on Budapest: the Danube beauty that ruled over Slovakia and central-southeastern Europe for over a thousand years. But Hungarian adventures would have to wait – for now, it was time to rest.
The hotel is a complex of three historic buildings, located on the shore of the Štrbské Pleso mountain lake, with great views of the High Tatras peaks. Stay in the mountains or embark upon a journey to Budapest along one of Europe’s most scenic routes. Our hotels will provide the anchors for your driving adventure, and a restful night’s sleep.