The Polana Nature Reserve is famous for its coniferous forest, postcard-like plateaus and the Bystre Waterfall. It is one of the most beautiful regions in Slovakia. The inactive volcanic region, which is only 2.5 hours away from Bratislava, is not only a local gem but also an excellent destination for hiking and mountaineering.

There are many hiking trails in the area where everyone can find a beginner or advanced route they like. The fairytale landscape offers fewer crowds yet wonderful experiences.

Another advantage of the Poľana countryside is that it is an ideal weekend or long weekend program due to its proximity. You can also find several bus trips (mostly one-day trips) each year, so if you don’t have a car, you can join others.

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The Polana Biosphere Reserve is part of the Unesco World Heritage Sites.

Overview

Polana Mountains (Poľana) Details
Country Slovakia
Location Western Carpathians, central Slovakia
Closest big cities Hriňová, Detva
Distance from Bratislava 2.5 hours / 240 km
Area 20 360 ha
Top attractions Chaldea, Bystre Falls, Polyana Peak, Melich Rock, Malcek Rock, Kopa
Highest point Polana (1458 m)

Map - Where is Polana?

The Polana Mountains are located in Slovakia, about an hour's drive from the Hungarian border. It is located almost halfway between Bratislava and Kosice. The reserve and countryside around the mountains are named after the mountain range itself. The nearest town is Hrinová.

Polana is a small mountain range that rises south of the Low Tatras in the Western Carpathian. The mountains are bordered east by the Slovak Ore Mountains and south and west by the Zvolen Basin.

  • Distance from Bratislava: 2.5 hours / 240 km
  • Distance from Banska Bystrica: 1 hour / 70 km
  • Address: Polana, 962 05 Herenc Valley, Slovakia

Parking

You can park in several places, depending on where you want to start the hike and how much you want to hike. There is a car park close to the Bystré Falls. This is also the perfect starting point for many hiking tours.

  • Coordinates of the parking lot: 48.624131, 19.481652
  • Parking fee: free

More about the area ...

Since 1981, the mountain range has been part of the Polana Protected Landscape Area. The former volcano is thought to have been as high as four thousand meters millions of years ago.

According to some research, the eruption of the former volcano affected not only the countryside but Europe and the planet - which is easy to believe as the eruption itself had the 7th strength.

The classic cone-shaped volcano ruptured and sank as a result of the eruptions. In the regular former caldera, solidified andesite appears in many places. The caldera here is 18 kilometres in diameter.

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What is a caldera? The caldera is a volcanic surface formation, a crater-like dyke created by the eruption and collapse of a volcano.

Andesite lava flows have now been replaced by beautiful meadows, lush forests, and cooling streams.

The area got its name from the meadows here (in Slovak, Polana means meadows). The forest is interrupted by these green lands.

The highest point of the medium-high mountains is the inactive stratovolcano of the same name - the peak of Polana (1,458 m). It is one of the largest extinct volcanoes in Europe.

More peaks

  • Predná Poľana (1,367 m)
  • Kopce (1,334 m)
  • Bukovina (1,294 m)
  • Katruska (1,380 m)

Why is it unique?

The area is covered with a contiguous forest area, of which 85% are pine trees. Also, the highest volcanic mountain in Slovakia can be found here.  

Flora

In addition to the former volcanic activities, it is also worth observing the rich and varied vegetation. The countryside, consisting of a huge, contiguous forest, is approx. 85% of it is pine, among which 200-year-old trees are not uncommon. The countryside is characterized by the coexistence of both thermophilic and mountain plant species.

The area is also on the UNESCO list of biosphere reserves.

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As the area is protected, it is no longer possible to touch the countryside in addition to the existing pastures and agricultural areas.

The forest system is diverse, from oak forests to spruce forests growing on andesites, covering the highest part of the mountain range in the Western Carpathian, which is well known for its southernmost common occurrence.

About 1,220 higher plant species live in the area and are also rich in lichens and mosses. Of these, 80 species are protected. The diversity and species richness of Polana’s flora reflects the diversity of the environment.

The area is still sparsely populated, with only 3 settlements, a recreation centre, and several farms and forest houses. Most of the 400 permanent residents are retired, many of the workers commute to other cities, and only a few work in forestry or agriculture.

In addition to the meadows and forests mentioned earlier, the countryside also hides a 50-hectare reservoir.

Forest management is based on decades-long plans incorporating most of the nature conservation requirements. Cattle and sheep graze the mountain meadows and pastures.

Cities and towns

The following settlements are nearby:

  • Hrochoť
  • Očová
  • Detva
  • Hriňová
  • Ľubietová

Bystré waterfall

Vodopád Bystré

The 26-meter-high Bystré Falls is the number one attraction in the region. The waterfall is located on the southern hillside of Polana, at the end of the valley of the Bystre Creek. The flow of the Bystre varies from season to season and depends on the rainfall in recent days. The waterfall falls from the wall of the caldera mentioned earlier.

The waterfall has two branches. The "smaller" on the left is less visible in the pictures. A ladder leads up and down the waterfall. Using this, you can leave the valley and move on to the summit.

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Tip: if you like waterfalls, you can also drive to Vodopád Spády, north of the park.

Bystre waterfall, Polana Slovakia

Hike in the Polana Mountains

The distance and elevation of the hike to the summit are moderate. With hiking experience and average athletic fitness, the hike is easy to complete.

The terrain is easy to walk and not particularly technical. A rocky, gravelly, dusty path leads all the way to the top of the mountains. Some sections are steep, but they are also easy to walk. Suitable hiking shoes are definitely recommended!

Route: Parking -> Bisztra Falls -> Polana (1,458 m) -> Katruska (1,380 m) -> Horský hotel Poľana -> Parking

The starting point for the tour is the free car park below. The Bystre Falls is also close to the car park.

  • Starting point: Parking lot (48.624131, 19.481652)
  • Hotel, restaurant, buffet, washbasin: Buffet Macík - Horský hotel Poľana

You should first admire the waterfall from the car park and then head to the top of the peak using the ladders next to the waterfall. The road will gradually become steeper uphill.

Pay special attention when using the ladder next to the waterfall because the road can be used in both directions. Wait for those who are coming down.

After the waterfall, you reach the Horský hotel Poľana slowly. Leaving the building, you will soon reach a swamp area where you can continue on a wooden boardwalk.

Polana Peak is not far from here. There will be no panorama from the top yet, but from the top of Katruska, which rises five hundred meters away and reaches 1,380 meters, you can enjoy the view of the heights without covering.

From the peaks of Polana, you can also see the Little Fatra and the Great Fatra. You can also see the Caldera of Polana and the surrounding highlands.

You can rest on the hilltop and then return to the hotel, where if you find the buffet open, you can order a glass of beer or Slovakia’s favourite soft drink, Kofola.

Then all you have to do is return to the parking lot.