A pocket-size cluster of tall limestone rocks with tall white cliffs, at whose foot the fast-flowing Dunajec River meanders, is a perfect destination for the whole family, as it offers many attractive ways of spending time together, and boasts perfect accommodation in close vicinity.
Perhaps the most picturesque walk is the one from Krościenko up Mt Sokolica, a tall white limestone promontory standing 300m over the river that actually chiselled it while trying to find a way through the rocks, and then on to Mt Czertezik and Mt Trzy Korony, that is “Three Crowns”, with a special platform built to admire the scenic beauty of the landscape stretching for miles and miles to the distant lofty Tatras standing tall on the southern part of the horizon. A legend makes the first two peaks take their names from a couple of star-crossed lovers, who will perhaps only come together when the two rocks do so.
Standing at the foot of Mt Trzy Korony and close to the river is the Trzy Korony iconic tourist shelter with its tall brown roofs, perhaps making the best starting point into the Pieniny.
If you prefer watching the mountains from below, which certainly saves you the trouble of climbing them, do let yourself be rafted along the Dunajec River by punters wearing local Highlander costumes and telling dozens of stories. The rafts follow the meanders of the Dunajec and let you see some of the overhanging cliffs first from one side and then from the other.
Now that you might have thought you have seen everything in the Pieniny, let me tell you there is another range sharing the name: the Małe Pieniny, called “little” even though they are bigger. The “little” range is about 14 km long and offers walks along numerous waymarked trails: to the Biała Woda Nature Reserve, and along the beautifully cascading stream up the charming Homole Gorge. Walking along it, over several bridges and up some flights of stairs, to Wysokie Skałki (1015m asl), the highest peak of the Pieniny, takes about two hours.
The Czerwony Klasztor (Red Monastery) standing on the Slovak side of the Dunajec is a popular destination for those who would rather not climb the mountains and also avoid being rafted along a mountain river. The waymarked trail running from Szczawnica is almost flat and doubles as a bicycle route.
The choices are nearly infinite, and you can help yourself make them by consulting these.
You can find an extra attraction if you choose to climb Mt Sokolica from Szczawnica rather than Krościenko: a ferry taking you across the Dunajec, as there is no bridge.
If you are a music fan, check the artist roster at Muzyczna Owczarnia – The Musical Sheepfold in Jaworki, it eagerly invites jazz, ethnic, and classical musicians, with Nigel Kennedy being among the regulars.
While in Szczawnica, walk or take a lift up Mt Palenica, and then take the yellow waymarked trail down to marvel at a different face of Mt Sokolica on the far side of the river. From this perspective, it looks like a wolf’s fang.