You had us at Bohemian Paradise. Whether you choose to call this spectacular country Czech Republic, or its more recent official name of Czechia, the country’s old name of Bohemia, after which the Bohemian Paradise UNESCO Geopark is named, sums up the country’s secret, sweet spots perfectly.
When you think of Czech Republic holidays, most people hone in on Prague, which is a majestic but sometimes manic city. After you have had your cultural hit, however, you can head off on our cycling and walking holidays, Czech Republic offering not only the glories of Bohemian Paradise, just 90km north-east of Prague, but also the forest trails of Šumava National Park, which features on our Cycling holiday along the Vltava River Trail. Czechia’s Krkonoše Mountains are also the source of the great River Elbe which flows through Prague, creating an adventurous artery that is perfect for cycling holidays, Czech Republic linking perfectly with Germany on the Elbe Cycle Path.
Always look beyond the hustle and bustle in Czech Republic, because you are never far from Bohemian beauty.
Where to go
Prague is many things to many people. In peak season it’s a party city for some, and a cultural hub for others. On our Czech Republic holidays, it’s a jumping off point for cycling down the Elbe. An early start to avoid the crowds is recommended in Prague in peak season, but as our tours run between April and October, you can time more tranquil strolls to the likes of Charles Bridge, Wenceslas Square, Prague Castle and the Old Town Square. Adventurers also love their viewpoints, and you won’t be disappointed if you walk up to Letná Park, with spectacular views along the Vltava River, or from Vyšehrad fort from which you can look back to Prague Castle and other lovely landmarks.
For cycling holidays, Czech Republic’s wine region of Bohemia is a must, making its wine capital of Mělník a perfect stop-off on our Elbe Trail cycling holiday. Watch the sunset over the Elbe’s confluence with the River Vltava from the grounds of its medieval castle – while raising a glass of local Pinot or Hibernal. Indeed, the terraces below the castle are lined with ancient vines and you can take a tour of the wine cellars. The town’s Renaissance Square and surrounding streets are both colourful and peaceful compared with neighbouring Prague, and you can take a boat ride on the river as well to see the ancient skyline of this elegant town in all its finery.
Bohemian Paradise UNESCO Geopark
You can choose to either cycle or hike through paradise in this aptly named Bohemian Paradise UNESCO Geopark, but either way it will feel gloriously unreal. Known locally as Cesky Raj, these are epic landscapes of naturally eroded sandstone rock towers peeping up over forest canopies, waterfalls tumbling into vertical cracks in the rock and trails through rock labyrinths or ancient rock ‘towns’ (of which there are twelve). All in all, it feels as if you are stepping into another world. It’s very much the real world, however, and by spending a week here, you will get a chance to explore it in depth. Visit the gateway town of Jičín with its 17th century Wallenstein Palace, ancient cobbled streets and iconic red Valdice Tower, with views over Bohemia, ‘to infinity and beyond’. It’s all storybook stuff.
Šumava National Park
Šumava National Park, also known as Bohemian Forest National Park, covers 690km2 of southwestern Czechia, creating an arborial blanket near its borders with Germany and Austria. Designated in 1991, it was the country’s first national park after the fall of communism. It features on our Vltava River Cycling Trail holiday which starts in Český Krumlov, a UNESCO site and beautifully preserved medieval town, and ends in Prague, with protected forests lining your route like a green carpet all the way to the capital.
Things to do
- For cycling holidays, Czech Republic has two very contrasting tours, one along the River Elbe and the other through the Bohemian Paradise UNESCO Geopark. The former takes you between Prague and Dresden in Germany on a seven day self-guided cycling holiday, past vineyards and ancient riverside towns. And the latter through magical landscapes of giant sandstone towers, natural rock cities and castle ruins that emerge through the mist on an early morning start.
- Swap pilsner for pinot because although Czech wine might not be as famous internationally, vineyards are both prolific and historic, many dating back to the 13th and 14th centuries. Most of it is produced in the southern Moravia region, with a few fine wineries in the Bohemian Paradise region. It exports very little of its wine, so this is one local pastime that is really worth indulging in on Czech Republic holidays. Moravia is most famous for its aromatic white wines in particular, including Muller-Thurgau, Gruner Veltliner, Welschriesling, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Blanc and Chardonnay, However, check out the Czech reds too including Zweigelt, Blaufränkisch, Pinot Noir, Merlot and Cabernet Moravia.
- Get to know your wildlife a little before you head off on a walking holiday. This Czech wildlife enthusiast and photographer’s blog has a lot of English content to inspire and inform you before you travel. If you are cycling or hiking through the Bohemian Paradise UNESCO Geopark, for example, its rock cities and natural labyrinths are protective habitats for deer, red squirrels, horned feral sheep, as well as smaller rodents all perfect prey for eagles, owls, hawks and ravens hovering above the towering sandstones in wait.
Responsible travel tips
- Sustainable transport is relatively easy in Czech Republic, as it is a European hub of rail travel. No other country in central Europe can claim so many main lines and rural railways extending to every corner of the country, and with an excellent stock of modern trains too. Train travel in the Czech Republic is mostly run by the national rail operator České dráhy, often shortened to ČD, with RegioJet and Leo Express also offering some services. There are direct daytime trains to Prague (and other Czech cities) from Berlin, Dresden, Munich, Vienna and Budapest. There is also a sleeper train between Prague and Zurich, so you could do a double walking whammy and combine a Czech Republic walking holiday with one in Switzerland.
- Prague has suffered from overtourism in its fine capital of Prague, with the city becoming revelling central in peak tourism seasons. This has led to local resentment not only because of the stag and hen party crowds, but also because local facilities are being converted into tourism attractions or services. Although we definitely still recommend a visit to Prague at the beginning or end of some of our Czech Republic holidays, we advise avoiding the commercialism of the main tourism drags, supporting small local businesses when possible, and shopping at markets such as Náplavka Farmers’ Market on the river.
- Friends of the Earth’s organisation in Czech Republic is called Hnutí Duha and they lead on projects such as forest regeneration and the protection of wildlife especially in the national parks – they lobbied successfully to save Šumava National Park in 2013, protecting it from unsustainable development and logging. You can donate to support their work, or read up on local activities in more detail.