The BEST of Małopolska, or six recommendations for a walk or day trip

A waterfall and a lake among high mountains
Are you looking for oddities, surprising places, or strange things to see? Then Małopolska is the place for you. This must-see collection of the best things to see is for you, seeker of little-known places, or for those who want to see something from a different perspective.

The DARKEST sky in Poland close to Krakow

At first glance, we don't realize it, but our world has become littered with light. It's getting harder and harder to see a patch of starry sky, and we don't even realize how much we are losing out. In Poland, the first park protecting the night sky has even been established, called the Dark Sky, a place where there is a sky without the glow of a big city, illuminated roads and illuminated houses in the countryside. There is a nine-point scale that shows the possibility of observing stars depending on the light pollution of the sky.  A degree nine on the Bortle scale, like the sky in the centre of a large city, lets us only see the moon and a few planets, while the first degree lets you see the far reaches of the Milky Way. Małopolska is filled with extraordinary places where the night sky can enchant you: the borderlands Beskid Wyspowy ) and the Makowski Mountains – the Kudłacze tourist hostel (730 m a.s.l.) and the Lubomir Mountain (904 m a.s.l.). These are some of the least polluted dark skies in Poland, which is why private and state observatories were established here already before World War II. To this day, the Kudłacze region is often visited by astronomy lovers. The first observatory of the Jagiellonian University was built on the Lubomir Mountain in 1922, and it was here that astronomer Lucjan Orkisz discovered his comet. Kazimierz Kordylewski, the discoverer of the second satellite of the Earth, i.e. the dust moons, also conducted his observations here. After years of observation, a new astronomical observatory was built here in the 1990s.

Both places are situated 40-50 km from Krakow. There is a well-equipped hostel with accommodation on Kudłacze. It is a place that the whole family can enjoy.

The observatory on the Lubomir Mountain can be visited every Saturday and Sunday from May until September.

The OLDEST boomerang in the world in Podhale

Just behind the village of Nowa Biała in Podhale hides one of the most charming places in Małopolska. The Białka Gorge in a nature park hides in the heart of the Tatra Mountains, in the waters of Morskie Oko. Two clifs – Kramnica (688 m a.s.l.) and Obłazowa (670 m a.s.l.) were cut over the years by a mountain river and are now separated by 100 m. Coarse sand can be found between the rocks, which is unusual for mountain rivers. There are also forest groves. It’s no wonder that this place has become a magnet for tourists. It turns out, however, that the Przełom Białki has been attracting people for thousands of years.

There are two caves in Obłazowa in which archaeologists have made extraordinary discoveries. The remains of prehistoric animals and the oldest, 40,000-year-old boomerang have been found here. They were created by the so-called Mousterian culture, which were mainly found in modern day Spain and France, but also reached Poland. The caves were also used in pre-Christian times. Traces of Midsummer’s Eve celebrations have also been found here.

Tarnów – the WARMEST city in Poland 

Poland’s heat pole is undeniably Tarnów! Here there is:

  • the highest average air temperature during the year – 8-9 degrees C,
  • the longest thermal summer in Poland – 114 days (the number of days with an average daily temperature above 15 degrees C),
  • the largest number of sunny days – 55,
  • the longest growing season in Poland – approx. 225-230 days a year.

These phenomena, so favourable in our changing climate, make Tarnów an almost perfect place for trips. It should be remembered, however, that they apply not only to the city on the Biała river, but also to this part of the Pogórze Karpackie (Carpathian Foothills), which also includes, among others, Bochnia, Brzesko, Dębica and Dąbrowa Tarnowska. The thermal conditions here are determined by, among others, by warm winds from the south and west and the ‘halny’ mountain winds from the Tatra Mountains. However, it is hard to come to Tarnów only for its sunny weather.

It is a well-connected and interesting city. Apart from Krakow, it has the most monuments in southern Poland and is called the the Polish Pearl of the Renaissance). The local old town, preserved in its outline from the time of its origin in 1330, is a real Renaissance heritage museum. Today's tenement houses with arcades and decorative attics date back to the 16th century. In the centre of it all, there is the Town Hall, rebuilt in the Renaissance style by the famous Italian architect Jan Maria Padovano. The three-nave cathedral basilica of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary is of particular interest, with its 72-meter-high tower. Its interior, with preserved fragments from the 14th century, is a real museum of Renaissance and Mannerist sculpture. General Józef Bem is buried in Tarnów. His ashes were not brought from Aleppo until 1929 and then placed in the mausoleum erected in the Strzelecki Park. In the Tarnów District Museum there are also fragments of one of the largest Polish paintings – the Panorama siedmiogrodzka (Transylvanian Panorama), which was 120 m long and 15 m high. In the museum, you can see 23 out of the 38 found fragments of the work. The Panorama illustrates the victorious Spring offensive for Sibin, in which the Hungarian army, commanded by Bem, defeated the Austrians and the Russians.

The OLDEST woolly rhinoceros in the world stands in Krakow

It is one of the most sensational pieces in the museum in Krakow, visited by tourists from all over the world. A glimpse into the past – a fully preserved body of a woolly rhinoceros from 30,000 years ago. Tourists flock to the Museum of Natural History of the Instytut Systematyki i Ewolucji Zwierząt PAN (Institute of Systematics and Evolution of Animals PAS) in Krakow, at ul. Świętego Sebastiana 9 to see it. But, how did this animal come to Krakow?

In 1907, “Tygodnik Ilustrowany” (The Illustrated Weekly) wrote:

“Discovery of an antediluvian elephant in Galicia

Something so astounding turned up in the village of Starunia that all naturalists in Galicia were rooted to the spot.

Starunia, or rather the Staruń mines, are now owned by Mr and Mrs Campe and Mr Muller from Hamburg, who bought themselves into the area for 2,000,000 crowns.  In one of their shafts, after penetrating approx. 12 meters of blue Miocene clay, a layer of earth wax (ozokerite) was discovered, and in it, a miner's pickaxe found some bones. What have they found so far? First, there were two enormous tusks, about two meters long and 15 cm thick in their thickest part. One of the tusks had been taken out with the fleshy root that was as soft to the touch as if it had been torn from a living being. Next to it, there was a broken jaw whole enough to be put together, with an incisor that was 16 cm in length and about 10 cm wide. Further, they found the animal’s feet in all their glory, still covered with skin; all toes outlined perfectly. The spinal column of the single bell-shaped tarsal bone was not damaged, as well as the strong ribs and the dorsal bone. Finally ... the skin, from the head to the caudal cartilage on one side, was intact.

According to prof. Siemiradzki, if something can be firmly stated already now, the excavated skeleton is an antediluvian elephant (elephans antiquus), which lived on earth about two million years ago. A piece a tree, preserved close to giant animal's neck, shows that the elephant, or rather its female partner (as Prof. Raciborski claims), had succumbed to some sort of natural disaster and fell into an earthly crevasse (a source of oil), which luckily embalmed her for such a long time, so that she could presently give herself to science.

The Staruń excavation site will be mainly a scientific curiosity and a destination for scholars' pilgrimages, as the entire skeleton of an antediluvian elephant has not yet been found elsewhere, let alone a skeleton covered with skin”.

But that was just the beginning. Since the isokerite mines in Starunia were still yielding discoveries of animal remains, in 1929, during the Second Polish Republic, a special scientific expedition began a search whose results quickly shocked the world for the second time. On October 23, 1929, an almost undamaged woolly rhinoceros specimen was found at a depth of 12.5 m. The bodies of three other rhinoceros were later found in the same place, unfortunately incomplete. 

In later research, it turned out that the rhinoceros was one of the most important finds for the natural world, and still astounds scientists today. 

The discovery from Starunia was first transported to the museum in Lviv, and then to Krakow. It was a huge logistic operation due to the size of the animal and the need to preserve the surviving remains. For the first few decades, they were exhibited in the building of PAN Sciences at ul. Sławkowska, to be later transported to ul. St. Sebastian in the mid-1990s, was where you can still visit it. It is in a special display case, and its prepared character seems to bring it to life.

Poland's HIGHEST peaks

The fact that Rysy (2499 m above sea level) is the highest peak in Poland is a known fact. They have one geographical disadvantage - they lie on the Polish-Slovak border. Therefore, the highest peak lying entirely within the borders of Poland is Kozi Wierch (2,291 m a.s.l.). Both are, of course, within the borders of Małopolska. However, taking into account the so-called the eminence of the peaks, i.e. the difference between the summit and the surrounding terrain, it turns out that many mountains can surprise us. Poland’s top six most outstanding peaks are: Babia Góra, Turbacz and Radziejowa. There is no Tatra peak in the top ten, but there is Luboń Wielki!

The positioning of Beskid Wyspowy is a great surprise. The mountains of this range – Lubogoszcz, Mogielica, Ćwilin and Jaworz – are in the second half of the top twenty of the most outstanding ranges in Poland.
The real challenge does not lie within the climb to Rysy or Kozi Wierch, but within facing Mogielica or Ćwilin!

One of the BIGGEST deserts in Europe, and the only one in Poland

The Błędowska Desert stretching along the western regions of Małopolska, it is unique on a European scale. It’s storehouse of sand has been calculated at 2.5 billion cubic meters. Here, German troops practiced before their unsuccessful conquest of Africa. It was here that experiments with chemical weapons were carried out after the Second World War. Located next to the industrial village of Klucze, a desert area is approximately 9 kilometres long and 3-4 kilometres wide. The sand layer is up to 60 meters thick, and its deposits could form a block measuring 7 x 7 x 7 kilometres. The sands may date back to the times when the glacier stopped and melted here, and they were deposited by the waters flowing from the ice sheet. It is definitely something that everyone must see, at least once in their lifetime.

We also have:

  • The biggEST Market Square in a city in Europe  (Kraków),
  • The tallEST waterfall in Poland (65 m – Siklawa in the Tatras),
  • The longEST cave in Poland (23,7 km – Wielka Śnieżna in the Tatras),
  • The smallEST national park in Poland (21,46 km sq. – Ojcowski National Park),
  • The longEST  continuously operating industrial plant (since 1251  – Salt Mine in Bochnia),
  • The biggEST Gothic altar in Europe (Wit Stwosz altar in St. Mary’s Basilica),
  • The oldEST botanical garden) in Poland (since 1783 in Krakow),
  • The world’s oldEST and most beautiful wooden churches,
  • And so on and so on…



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