This is one of the oldest and most beautiful Polish tourist routes, winding through the nooks and crannies of the Kraków-Częstochowa Upland along the line of defensive strongholds built according to the design of King Casimir the Great. High hills, inaccessible rocks and wild nature were ideal for building castles and watchtowers. The 163.9-kilometre-long trail leads from Kraków through to the castles at Korzków and Ojców, then through Pieskowa Skała, ending its Małopolska section in Rabsztyn near Olkusz. From there on it runs through historic Małopolska in areas now within the boundaries of the Silesian Voivodeship – through the ruins of castles in Bydlin, Smoleń, Pilica, Ogrodzieniec, on Mount Birów, in Morsko, Bobolice, Mirów, Ostrężnik and Olsztyn, ending its course at Jasna Góra in Częstochowa. Today, of the dozen or so mighty Jurassic strongholds, only a few have survived.
Picturesquely situated on a limestone hill above the Korzkiewka River, in the buffer zone of the Ojców National Park, this 15th-century knight's castle is a residential and defensive structure with a high tower offering a magnificent view of the surrounding area.
Ojców Castle ruins
The ruins were once a knight's stronghold towering over the fairy-tale Prądnik Valley. It owes its present appearance to restoration work between 1913 and 1935. According to legend, Casimir the Great named the castle Oczec u Skały in honour of his father, Władysław Łokietek, who, during the battle for the Kraków throne with the Czechs, took refuge nearby in Łokietek's Cave, thanks to which he survived. The name survives as Ojców.
Pieskowa Skała Castle
A well-preserved gem that was erected in the 14th century. The subsequent owners, the Szafraniec family, gave it a Renaissance character more than 200 years later. Italian architects built, among other things, an arcaded courtyard modelled on the royal Wawel Castle and arranged an Italian garden on the terrace above the cliff. A legend explains the name of the Castle: in the Dorotka Tower, one of the Tęczyński daughters was punished by being starved to death for her love of a lute player, and a dog tried to save her from death by climbing the rock and tossing her food.
Rabsztyn Castle ruins
The Castle was built from the 13th to the 14th century, and its Renaissance character was given to it in the 16th century by the then-owners – the starosts of Rabsztyn, the Boners. At the turn of the 17th century a Renaissance palace was built on the site of the lower castle, and its walls can still be seen today.
The Festival of the Kraków-Częstochowa Upland takes place annually in the second half of September in several dozen sites in the Małopolska and Silesian regions. Presenting the wealth and heritage of the Jurassic region, it transports participants into the medieval atmosphere of castles and fortresses. It also an 3-dimensional, full-sensory immersion during knightly tournaments, historical shows, and fairs as well as numerous workshops, educational activities and craft demonstrations, and of course, in the hearty delights of regional cuisine. In addition, night tours, concerts, rallies, guided tours and climbing activities under the guidance of instructors are always on offer. This is a special time, when places that are usually inaccessible to visitors open their doors.
The Kraków-Częstochowa Upland with the Eagles' Nest Trail is a beautiful and picturesque land, abundant in charming natural landscapes, historical and sacred buildings and spaces for various spheres of activity. Poland's only desert, caves, green valleys, lofty hills, fanciful limestone rocks and clear karst springs are the natural riches of the Jura. It is not without reason that it is also recommended to lovers of active leisure – hiking, cycling and horse riding, climbing, and golf are suggestions from which everyone will choose something for themselves.
Ojców National Park
Although the smallest in Poland, it hides natural treasures and fairy-tale nature in the Dolinach Prądnika and Sąspowska Valleys.
The Prądnik Valley as a gallery of extraordinary karst creations is the prettiest in the Kraków-Częstochowa Upland. A karst ravine with perpendicular rocky slopes and a flat bottom, crafted by nature out of limestone 150 million years ago. Intense erosion led to the formation of natural rock formations of incredible fanciful shapes the Kraków Gate, the Herkules Mace, along with caves that bring to mind the long-gone Neanderthals and which today constitute the most valuable archaeological sites in Poland the Łokietek Cave and the Ojców Cave).
The charming buildings of Ojców, known as the Polish Switzerland, are connected with its spa history. It did not have a unique microclimate or therapeutic waters; its exceptional natural qualities prompted the establishment of a therapeutic facility here in 1855. The crowds were big and the visitors many, including big names such as Fryderyk Chopin, Franciszek Karpiński, Cyprian Kamil Norwid, and Jan Ursyn Niemcewicz. Ojców officially gained the status of a spa after World War I.
The Polska Sahara – the only place in Poland where nature has created a unique desert ecosystem. It is also the country's most extensive area of dunes and shifting sands (33 square kilometres). The desert is a protected area where climate-specific protected species of plants and animals live; it is located within the Eagles’ Nests Landscape Park. Until a hundred years ago, sandstorms occurred here, was as did the phenomenon of Fata Morgana, both of which have never been heard of elsewhere in Europe.
The desert is also a popular tourist attraction – lookout points and educational paths have been created on Czubatka Hill and Róża Wiatrów, and the yellow PTTK Desert Trail from Błędów to Ryczów and the orange Trans-Jurassic Horse Trail run through it –annual events are held there. When exploring in the Błędowska Desert, it’s worth taking some time to visit the nearby beech forest in the Pazurek Reserve. An unquestionably charming place, it offers a 6-kilometre-long forest nature trail with unusual limestone rock formations springing up suddenly among the trees.
The Kraków Valleys Landscape Park is one of Poland's most beautiful climbing spots. It is here that the climbers Jerzy Kukuczka, Martyna Wojciechowska, and Artur Hajzer as well as other famous Polish Himalayan mountaineers and sport climbers began their climbing adventure. The first bolted routes (i.e., where climbing hooks have been hammered in) can already be found within the boundaries of Kraków (Twardowski Rocks, Zakrzówek, Liban Quarry and Krzemionki). The Kobylańska Valley offers walls of various difficulty levels, so many rock climbing courses are held here. The Będkowska Valley (a description of the Będkowska Valley) has the highest climbing rock in Jura – the approximately 60-metre-high Sokolica. Although the Bolechowicka Valley with the famous Twardowski Rock (Kurtyka Rock) is very short, it is one of the most popular for climbing, and it was here that many outstanding Polish climbers took their first steps. The area around the charming Zimny Dół Nature Reserve has the most significant number of bouldering routes, which are short, not high, but technically challenging sections. Other climbing spots in Jura – Jurassic monadnocks: Skała 502, Ostry Kamień, Słoneczne Skały – are located in Jerzmanowice.
Cycling Trail of the Eagle's Nests
A beautiful and picturesque route 190 km long (89 km of which are in Małopolska), running through landscape parks (Eagles’ Nests, Kraków Valleys [a description of the Kraków Valleys] Tenczyński), nature reserves and Natura 2000 areas (Eliaszówka Valley, Racławka Valley, Ruskie Góry, Kmita Rock, Smoleń, Jurassic Valleys, Jaroszowiec, Czerna, Krzeszowice, and Mid-Jurassic Retreat), with numerous attractions along the way (among others the Wooden Villa of 1896 in Zabierzów, Carmelite Museum in Czerna, Potocki Palace in Krzeszowice, and the Rabsztyn and Tenczyn castles).
Trans-Jurassic Horse Trail
It starts at the Hucul stud farm in Rudawa – Nielepice and runs through Małopolska and Silesia, including the Błędowska Desert, Eagles' Nests castles in Ogrodzieniec, Bobolice, Mirów, Olsztyn, and the Ostrężnik and Parkowe nature reserves.
Recreation and Landscape Park ‘Silver Park’ in Olkusz
The place for lovers of extreme sports, cyclocross, and parkour is also recommended for relaxation. It offers a water reservoir with cascades, a playground, a multifunctional gazebo, alleys, and lots of greenery. It was created on the premises of a former calamine mine, and its additional attraction is an open-air museum of mining machines that used to work in the surrounding mines, as well as educational paths with information boards on the history of mining and the vegetation found in the Park.
Kraków Valley Golf & Country Club in Paczółtowice
One of Poland's most sizeable golf and recreational complexes, designed by one of the world’s most famous golf architects, Ronald Fream of California, and built to USGA standards. There are 18 holes on 80 hectares and 6,518 metres of fairways and greens. International tournaments can be played here.