Welcome to Hooked on Cycling holidays and our self guided cycling holiday in Poland. This self guided bike vacation in Poland takes you exploring the region surrounding the historic city of Krakov. We have graded this cycle tour as a level 2 tour. Many of the most beautiful cycle paths run along river valleys flanked by mountains and hills. They follow ancient trade routes, through little towns full of beautiful historic buildings. The bike route you will follow takes us along the old towpaths, just above the level of the water, where for centuries horses pulled boats and rafts upstream. Although these routes lead into the mountains, the cycle route parallel to the river below is gentle and pleasant, with the constant presence of the river waters. It is not surprising that every year thousands of cyclists follow cycle routes along the Mosel, the Rhine or the Danube, and similar routes can be found in other Alpine countries, but are there any in Poland? The answer is yes, and one in particular is very spectacular!
Day 1 (Saturday)
Arrival in Krakow and first night in three-star hotel in the old town centre. After you have booked into your hotel, there is time for a preliminary stroll through Krakow and first impressions of the old town centre and its night life.
Day 2 (Sunday)16 miles 19 miles 25-30 km cycling
You will select your bikes at our cycle hire centre in the middle of the old town and begin your tour of Krakow. Poland's for
mer capital has a very distinctive character and is on UNESCO world heritage list. The city's historic architecture came through the Second World War unscathed and the city has preserved its rich culture to the present day. It was the residence of Polish kings, with nearly a hundred churches, as well as Poland's oldest university. Among its most important architectural treasures are St Mary's Church, which contains the world-famous altarpiece carved by Veit Stoss, the medieval buildings of the Jagiellonian University, and Wawel Castle with the Cathedral. On your cycle tour you visit the "Planty", the attractive gardens laid out around the Old Town on the site of the medieval city walls, Europe's biggest medieval town square, Kazimierz the former Jewish quarter and the promenade along the River Vistula at the foot of Wawel Castle. Not far from the old town centre you cycle across the Blonie, Krakow's large green open space, to reach the Kosciuszko Mound which has a fine view over Krakow and its environs. At about midday a minibus takes you to Podhale. Your destination is the village of Zab, the highest in Poland (the journey takes about 2 hours). The first ride will be to Gubalowka, where you can enjoy the most beautiful panorama of the High Tatras (if the weather is good!). You then ride down the mountain, past farm carts laden with hay. After a short rest at the point where the Poroniec and Zakopianka streams join the White Dunajec, you ride through the village of Olcza to Zakopane. Your accommodation here is not far from Krupowki, Zakopane's main street, which is pedestrianised and lined with lively cafés and shops.
Zakopane has developed a very distinctive cultural character. The folk culture of the people who live in the Tatras, the Gorale, have been preserved in their music, their songs and their local costume. The characteristic "Zakopane Style" of timber architecture, which developed around the turn of the twentieth century, is found nowhere else in Europe and has an unforgettable charm.
Day 3 (Monday) Zakopane - Nowy Targ 31 miles 49 km, mostly downhill
You take the cable car back to the top of Gubalowka. Then you ride down through the long village of Dzianisz as far as Chocholow, a village which is now a "living open-air museum" of vernacular timber architecture, where you can have lunch in the village inn. Then after a short climb you enter the valley of Cichy Potok ("the quiet stream"). Further downhill along the quiet path, through Ciche, Stare Bystre, Ludzmierz (with a famous Marian pilgrimage shrine), to the town of Nowy Targ, the main centre for the Gorale.
Not far from Nowy Targ, you cycle past the point where the White and Black Dunajec rivers meet. The route then runs for part of the way along riverside paths , to the historic villages of Waksmund and Lopuszna. At Lopuszna you spend the night in a pension at the edge of the forest, not far from some fishponds.
Day 4 (Tuesday) Nowy Targ - Niedzica 31 miles 49 km cycling
After a visit to the old wooden manor house in Lopuszna, you turn south and follow the course of the Bialka, a third mountain river flowing into the Dunajec. Here you see its impressive gorge near Nowa Biala. On the way you can also have a look in the church at Debno, one of the oldest wooden churches in Poland (built around 1500) with an impressive painted interior.
You are now in the Spisz region, which has rich history and a remarkable folk culture. Until 1918 this area was part of Hungary, and for many centuries it was home to several ethnic groups: Gorale and Ruthenians lived in the villages, Germans in the towns, and the
Hungarian nobility in the castles. Following the bank of the reservoir, you reach one of these castles.
Day 5 (Wednesday) Niedzica - Szczawnica 21 miles 35 km cycling
In the morning you visit the castle and ride to the Spisz village of Kacwin, whose unusual architecture is reminiscent of some Hungarian villages. At about midday will cross the border into Slovakia. First you ride to the village of Cerveny Klastor (Red Monastery), above which rise the three peaks of Trzy Korony (Three Crowns), the highest point in the Pieniny range. Here you can have a meal and visit the local museum. Then you cycle along the "Pieniny Way" (for walkers and cyclists only), a narrow ledge carved out of the cliff running the whole length of the Dunajec Gorge. The breathtaking limestone cliffs and luxuriant greenery along the way soon banish everyday cares. You feel you are in a different world, when all you can see are limestone cliffs dotted with unusual rock plants. You wave to the tourists on wooden rafts being steered down the river by Gorale, and you know that unlike them you can stop at any time to take photographs or even bathe in the river. Also very beautiful is the gorge of the Lesnicky Potok, a stream which flows into the Dunajec from the Slovakian side, passing through the sleepy village of Lesnica. Here there is an opportunity to do a little shopping, and then it's back into Poland. The little spa town of Szczawnica is a pleasant surprise, since it is so cycle-friendly. In the afternoon you ride along the elegant promenade in the valley of the Grajcarek and explore the paths in the lower and upper Kurpark.
Day 6 (Thursday) Szczawnica - Rytro 35 miles 55 km cycling
This takes us through what is known as the "green Dunajec Gorge", where the river passes between two ranges of Beskid mountains. Although there are no stone cliff walls here, the slopes with their beech woods are still impressive. You will soon leave the main road, turning across a suspension bridge to the right bank and making your way between the paths among the farms of the village of Tylmanowa. You can catch a glimpse though the open doors of the old barns, granaries and hen-houses. An attraction of a different kind is the stretch of river at Wietrznice which has been artificially prepared for whitewater canoeing. You ride through lacko, known for its slivovitz, an
d then alongside more fruit gardens on the valley slopes. At Golkowice you leave the Dunajec and ride to Rytro, an old feudal village at the foot of castle ruins. The night is spent in a small hotel on the shady banks of the Poprad, a tributary of the Dunajec.
Day 7 (Friday) Rytro - Krakow 9 miles 15 km cycling
After breakfast you take a 15 km ride through the Poprad Valley to Stary Sacz. The morning is spent exploring this historic little town, one of the most beautiful in Southern Poland. Here yoiu can breathe the atmosphere of past times and discover the maze of narrow streets by bike. Then you follow your way (by coach) to the neighbouring town of Nowy Sacz, which still has something of the Habsburg Empire about it. The neo-gothic town hall in the beautiful market square dates from that period, and the streets are lined with well-restored art nouveau houses. From Nowy Sacz you return to Krakow (bus journey about 1.5 - 2 hours).
Your accommodation for the last night is in the same Hotel as in the beginning, but you can spend the rest of the day in quiet Kazimierz district, once the Jewish quarter. An evening of klezmer music finalizes your tour if you wish.
Day 8 (Saturday)
Departure from Krakow or extra nights in Krakow