Beautiful nature, historic monuments, an extensive network of cycle routes and cross-country skiing trails, various spa facilities and water parks with thermal water, top-class ski resorts, traditional quality gastronomy – the Žilina region definitely offers a lot to do and to see.
This is the area where one can find the most visited Slovak castle – the Orava Castle (in the Oravský Podzámok village), the tallest wooden statue in Slovakia – a unique Slovak astronomical clock (in Stará Bystrica), a rare tinker art exposition in the Budatín Castle, a remarkable historic forest switchback railway in Vychylovka. Everybody falls for the Čičmany village, which is known for painted wooden houses with ornaments that look like gingerbread houses. Wooden rafting below the Strečno Castle or the Orava Castle promises great family adventures. Hiking lovers can enjoy themselves in gorges and canyons called Jánošík Holes in Terchová, on the ridges of the Roháče Mts. or in the Demänovská Cave. Fans of UNESCO sights will love the Vlkolínec settlement near Ružomberok and wooden churches. Nobody should leave the region of Jánošík, a famous Slovak bandit, without visiting shepherd’s huts and tasting delicious gnocchi and cheese specialities.
One of them most visited and most beautiful castles in Slovakia is located in the village of Oravský Podzámok. It reminds of an eagle nest placed on a high rock above the country. Scary night castle tours and various theatre performances are very popular. It is a national cultural monument, a jewel of the Slovak cultural heritage. Aerial views of the monumental castle complex that towers on a rock are included almost in all international presentations of Slovakia. Several well-known Slovak fairytales were shot there and so was the first film about Dracula – Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror.
Budatín Castle with a park
One of the oldest medieval castles can be found in Žilina, the centre of the Žilina Region. The first written record dates back to the 14th century, when its owner Máté Csák of Trencsén died. Today, there is the Považské Museum with the only exposition of tinker art in the world. The castle is surrounded by a historic park which is ideal for taking a walk or having a picnic. Various interesting events are organised there during the year.
One of the largest castle complexes in Slovakia is located just a stone’s throw away from Žilina in the direction of Rajecké Teplice. There is a permanent exposition dedicated to the castle history, archaeological finds and firearms. It is a tactile exposition and all exhibits can be touched, which makes it very special. However, the exposition and the castle buffet are not opened regularly.
The ruin is available any time and there are several spots ideal for outdoor roasting. We suggest walking up along the blue marked tourist trail from the Lietava-Majer village or along the green trail from the Lietavská Svinná village. In both cases, it takes about 45 minutes to walk up to the castle ruin comfortably.
If you want to have a ringside seat to see Žilina, make an easy hiking trip to an observation tower located above the city. The 27.4-metre high tower offers beautiful views of the whole area from the top of Mt Dubeň (613 m a.s.l.). In general, all ten observation towers located in the Žilina Region are known for imposing views, e.g. the 30-metre-high “Heart of Terchov” tower, Bobovec in the Kysuce region, Špicák above the Strečno Castle. Špicák is truly original because one can see four castles from there: Strečno, Starhrad, Budatín and Lietava.
Hiking and nature in the Žilina Region
The Žilina Region is rich in natural treasures that are attractive to all nature lovers. Tourist trails of this region make one quarter of the total of all Slovak tourist trails. Via ferratas, rock formations, mountain ridges, waterfalls, tarns, deep forests, mineral and thermal springs, valleys and caves are like magnets for tourists.
Where to go: beautiful natural scenery of the Súľovské skaly (Súľov Rocks), Roháčske plesá (tarns), valleys: Gaderská dolina, Blatnická dolina, Prosiecka dolina, Kvačianska dolina, Demänovská dolina, Jánošíkove diery (Jánošík Holes – gorges and canyons) etc.
Cycle route along Bystrická dolina (valley)
The popular cycle route runs along the former switchback railway. It begins in Krásno nad Kysucou and continues under one of the biggest preserved bridges from the late 19th century in Central Europe. The route is mainly flat and runs past a forest to the Slovak astronomical clock in Stará Bystrica – the tallest wooden statue in Slovakia. From there, one can cycle to the Bobovec outlook tower. More experienced cyclists may continue to Nová Bystrica and the Museum of Kysuce Village in Vychylovka. The cycle route is a popular attraction in summer as well as in winter (when it is groomed for cross-country skiing). It is lined with benches, gazebos, information boards, car parks and is ideal for families with kids.
Vlkolínec, Museum of Orava Village, Čičmany
The region boasts the best preserved folk architecture reserve in Slovakia. The Vlkolínec village in the Liptov region is on the list of the UNESCO World Heritage sites. The first written records date back to the 14th century and people still live in the local wooden houses even today. One can learn more about the history of the Orava region in the Museum of Orava Village in Zuberec and find out how people lived in the region in the past. Or visit the charming Čičmany village with “gingerbread houses”. The wooden buildings are decorated with white geometric patterns that are unique all around Central Europe. Folk traditions are still kept in the village. The so called geometric ornamentation embroidery is used to make pictures, tablecloths and beautiful folk costumes.