When you think of the Czech Republic most people think of Prague, the country’s picturesque capital famous for both its cheap beer and perfectly preserved historic buildings. Although there’s much more to this beautiful country, only just a day trip away lies some of the most underrated and unspoilt countryside in Europe just waiting to be explored. Here’s why we think you should add the Czech countryside to your travel list…
It’s a more unspoilt alternative to other travel destinations in Europe
The Czech countryside is possibly some of the most beautiful in Europe and offers a great alternative to established locations such as Tuscany and Provence just without the crowds. Visitors have a chance to really lose themselves in nature here either by cycling through valleys, swimming in lakes, exploring chateaux or hiking over picturesque hillsides. Surely this is what a holiday is supposed to be about; relaxation and detoxing from our hectic everyday life?
It’s only a day trip from Prague
There are many spectacular beauty spots only a short travelling distance from Prague so you can combine a city and countryside break in one. For example, the medieval city Kutná Hora is less than an hour outside Prague and offers a heady combination of history, art and culture and quaint towns like Tabór, Olomouc or Karlovy Vary offer a welcome break from the hustle and bustle of the city. Tabór is famous for architecture ranging from gothic to art nouveau, Olomouc has a jam-packed festival schedule while Karlovy Vary is a world-renowned spa town. To find real peace though head for Český ráj, otherwise known as Bohemian Paradise. It’s a protected nature reserve filled dramatic rock formations, deep shady valleys, meandering rivers and tranquil lakes flanked by ancient forests.
There’s plenty to do
It is impossible to be bored in the Czech countryside regardless what time of the year you arrive at. The Spring and Autumn are perfect times of the year for taking mountain hikes or forest walks, there’s the option to hire motorbikes, mountain bikes and electric bikes and take to the country roads. For those looking for something a little different, there are several lakes that are safe to swim in, however- be warned, a lot of the natives, go..ahem, native in the lake so for those with more refined sensibilities, steer clear! For something more sedate, cruise along the Elbe or if you’ve no sealegs, just hike along it’s banks. In winter, there are spectacular open-air skiing routes along with many other snow sports but don’t miss an opportunity for a horse-drawn sledge ride through the snow, for your own Dr Zhivago moment.
The outstanding scenery
As home to a number of UNESCO Heritage Sites, it goes without saying that the countryside of the Czech Republic provides visitors with some of Europe’s most stunning panorama. Although the cityscapes are very special, you will truly be awed by what the countryside has to offer. The best way to experience these rolling hills and lush forests is on foot or by bike. This landscape of forests and fishponds with a delectable mix of fairy tale castles and rural setting. Whatever you do in this beautiful countryside, a visit to one of the many ‘rock towns’ (where huge sandstone towers, walls and rocky boulders, standing alone and forming groups with narrow walkways, ravines and trails) is an absolute must.
The beautiful castles
It is impossible to step into the Czech countryside, without encountering a castle. In fact, it has more castles per square mile than any other country in the world! The collection of royal castles and charming chateaux that dot the countryside are homes to the most beautiful gardens, intriguing legends, enthralling history and marvellous halls in the world. In many of the houses, you will be greeted by passionate tour guides in historical dress and experience re-enactments from various periods of history- don’t be surprised if you run into a ghost! During the summer season, you can watch a concert in some of the baroque theatres or at the revolving auditorium of the Chateau Cesky Krumlov. For the ultimate in romance- take a drive along Castle Road which, runs through Southern Germany and across a small section of the Czech Republic and is the address for some of the most picturesque and most-photographed castles on the planet.
The picture-perfect small towns
There are many beautiful small towns outside of Prague, that although smaller, they are just as lively. Firstly, Telc is worth a visit, it is about 2.5 hours from Prague but does not disappoint in terms of traditional, pastel-coloured buildings and a quaint, picturesque vibe. Litomysl is a small village bursting with history and culture, a fabulous Renaissance chateau sits atop a hill and as it is a university town, it has an impressive festival line up and variety of places to eat and drink. Melnik, is another perfect escape from the city, with its red-topped roofs, steep clock tower and symmetrical market square, it bears all the hallmarks of a traditional Czech town. It is soaked in history, as being the centre of the original Czech settlers around 600AD so is the heart of Czech culture- and is the centre of the winemaking region, what better way to enjoy the culture?!
With options like these, why insist on spending your holiday caught up in the hustle and bustle of the city, especially considering the real core of a country’s spirit lies within its heartland. Forget the schedules and timetables, hire a bicycle and take to the country roads and fresh air and really experience a country’s heritage.
Where to stay in the Czech Countryside
Nestled in the heart of the Bohemian Paradise Cesky Raj, I stayed in this newly refurbished luxury country cottage set in three and a half acres of pretty meadow gardens. ‘Peace of Eden‘ lies not too far from the of the historic village of Svatonovice which is only a 45 minute journey from Prague in an area of natural beauty with rolling hills, mystical forests and majestic ancient rock towns steeped in history. It offers a high standard of traditional decor, includes a large kitchen with a traditional wood stove and sleeps up to eight people in four spacious bedrooms (with two main bedrooms offer en-suite bathrooms).