Photograph by Alexander Borais
Name: České Švýcarsko National Park (Bohemian Switzerland)
Location: Czech Republic
Date Established: 2000
Size: 30.5 square miles (79 square kilometers)
Did You Know?
• Young Park Also called Bohemian Switzerland National Park, České Švýcarsko is the youngest of the Czech Republic’s four national parks. It's home to the heart of a very ancient mountain realm, carved by canyons and marked by soaring sandstone rock “cities” standing out above the forested landscape.
• Artists' Destination For centuries the region’s beauty has drawn tourists and artists, like noted Romantic-era painters Adrian Zingg and Anton Graff, who first likened the area to distant Switzerland. Mesolithic hunters were drawn to the area far earlier—evidence of their settlements dates back nearly 10,000 years.
• Elbe Sandstones This rocky realm on the shores of the Elbe River is part of a larger geological formation known as the Elbe Sandstones. The park’s high point is the peak of Růžovský vrch (2,030 feet/619 meters) while the lowest, not only in the park but in the entire nation, is 374 feet (114 meters) in the depths of the Elbe Canyon. The park borders Germany’s Saxon Switzerland National Park.
• Europe’s Largest Sandstone Arch Bohemian Switzerland is home to incredible rock features, such as the Pravčická brána, Europe’s largest sandstone rock arch. The arch stands 52 feet (16 meters) high and 26 feet (8 meters) wide and serves as a symbol of the entire national park. Fire Rock, a sun-shaped sphere of rock, is unique to the park and believed by some to have been shaped by a lightning strike.
• Climbing This region exerts an irresistible draw on climbers and is home to several of the nation’s oldest alpine associations. The Fortress or Beckstein route, first climbed in 1888, was the first recreational rock climb inside the borders of what is now the Czech Republic.
• Upside-Down Climate Traditional climatic zones are turned upside down on the park’s rough topography because of a phenomenon known as climatic inversion. Here, cold air concentrates near the bottom of canyons and gorges, where alpine and subalpine species thrive, while higher slopes host species more accustomed to warmer climes.
• Flora and Fauna Old forests survive within the park on inaccessible cliffs and ledges and house rare fungi, mosses, and ferns. Many unusual insects and at least four worms found nowhere else in the world also live in the park. Peregrine falcons and black storks can be seen in the skies, but it takes a sharp eye and good measure of luck to spot one of the lynx that prowl the woods.
How to Get There
Trains from Dresden stop at Schöna on the German side of the river opposite the Czech town of Hřensko, which may then be reached by ferry. Hřensko can also be reached by bus from the Czech side of the border. Prague routes connect through nearby Děčín.
When to Visit
České Švýcarsko’s beauty never dims but merely shifts with each season. The colder seasons typically feature fewer crowds.
How to Visit
Hřensko, a picturesque village of historic, half-timbered homes, is the park’s tourist hub. Hiking trails from the town traverse the park’s ledges, hillsides, and steep canyons—some of which have been dammed and are navigated by local ferries.
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