Donovaly, Slovakia. An idea for family holidays for the active
Once charcoal was burned in Donovaly, today the main source of income for residents of this mountain village is tourism. The ski lifts and slopes on both sides of the valley attract skiers, but this is just one of several winter attractions that make Donovaly a place worth visiting – during the winter holidays or even on a longer weekend, since access from the south of Poland is quite fast and easy.
Location and access (pandemic perspective)
Pandemic-related restrictions, inconvenience and uncertainty for a long time were not conducive to planning overseas trips. Concerns and restrictions – at first real, actually in force – over time have turned into a habit. But I think it’s time to erase this pandemic afterimage, for the first fire: Slovakia.
Recommended skitouring in Slovakia (fot. outdoormagazyn.pl)
Slovakia is currently one of the countries to which a trip does not pose major problems. Those vaccinated with a booster dose can enter Slovakia without additional testing, just fill out a short form on the internet and save the covidium certificate in your phone (you will find exact information on it here). This, coupled with easy and relatively short access, may prove to be a nice way to break the post-pandemic impasse.
Paragliding launch pad, and the village of Donovaly below (fot. outdoormagazyn.pl)
Donovaly is located on E77, about halfway between Ružomberok and Banská Bystrica, on a narrow strip of land between the borders of two national parks, the Vyšné Fatra and the Nízke Tatry mountains. From the north the village is sheltered by the massif of Zwolen (1402 m) and from the east by the massif of Prašivá. From the Polish border we get here in about two hours.
The massif of Zwolen – the immediate surroundings of the town of Donovaly (fot. outdoormagazine.pl)
Snow Sport Donovaly ski resort
Divided into two parts (Nová Hoľa – northern, slightly more difficult and Záhradište – southern, easier), the ski resort offers several interesting trails, mainly for beginners and intermediate skiers. It’s a good place to learn and for the youngest skiers – we mention it mainly in terms of family trips. Altitude range: 916-1402 m.
Park Snow Donovaly (fot. outdoormagazine.pl)
Skitoury – in Slovak ski alp
On the website of the resort you will find suggestions for three approach routes to the top of Nova Hoľa (under „Ski Alp”). This is an option for those taking their first steps on seals, wishing to learn about the equipment and not riding off-piste. A slightly more interesting route, also for beginners, leads along the ridge of the Zvolen massif. From the upper station of the cable car we ascend to the top and continue along the gentle ridge towards Maly Zwolen (1372 m).
Skitouring in the massif of Zvolen (fot. outdoormagazyn.en)
This trip is worth taking for the views, especially in the late afternoon, when shadows dot the eastern slopes and valleys, highlighting the whiteness of the bald peaks. The surrounding unforested peaks and sparse forests below offer several interesting and safe freeride runs. If snow conditions are good, it’s worth looking for them on your own.
Skitouring (fot. outdoormagazine.pl)
The massif of Zwolen is, of course, the minimum option. Donovaly can be treated as a base for more serious skitouring excursions, especially if you want to cater to all members of the family during your trip, both the older ones and the youngest ones.
Skitouring in the massif of Zwolen (fot. outdoormagazine.en) Skitouring in Slovakia (fot. outdoormagazine.pl) Skitouring in the massif of Zwolen (fot. outdoormagazine.pl) Skitouring in the vicinity of Donovaly (fot. outdoormagazine.en) Skitouring in the massif of Zwolen (fot. outdoormagazine.pl)
Veľká Fatra and Ostredok
The length of this range from north to south is about 40 km. The peaks here are a bit lower than in Mala Fatra, the highest being Ostredok – it has 1592 m. Almost the entire area is protected under the Great Fatra National Park. This is one of the most pristine and uninhabited mountain groups in Slovakia.
Mild and sweeping ridges and steep slopes of the Greater Fatra (fot. outdoormagazine.en)
The western part of the Low Tatras and the Prašivá massif
The name Prašivá (pol. Prashiv) is traditionally defined as the westernmost part of the main ridge of the Low Tatras with a length of about 8 km. The highest peak of this group is Veľká Chochuľa (1753 m). The ridge is mostly unforested or rarely forested.
View towards the Low Tatras and the Prašivá massif (photo. outdoormagazine.pl)
All of the mentioned places are connected by a red-marked, long-distance tourist trail (Cesta hrdinov SNP). From east to west: Ostredok, Zvolen, Donovaly, Veľká Chochuľa.
Skitouring in the Zvolen massif (fot. outdoormagazine.pl)
The field for skitouring exploration, both on the side of the Great Fatra and the Low Tatras, is very wide. When planning a trip, remember that above the border of the forest we must reckon with avalanche danger.
Donovaly, to the north the Zvolen massif, to the west the Ostredoka massif, to the east the Prašivá massif (map: maps.cz; elaborate. MG) Skitouring in the massif of Zwolen (photo. outdoormagazine.pl)
Additional attractions for active families
- Ski FUNPARK – one of the largest snowparks for children in Central Europe,
- Riders park – snowpark for adults (freestyle),
- Ice rink – right next to the lower station of the ski lift to Nova Hoľa,
- Evening skiing – Záhradište,
- About 30 km of groomed trails for cross-country skiers,
- visiting the settlement of Vlkolínec. Picturesquely located village consisting of 43 residential and farm buildings, resembling an open-air museum, but inhabited. Vlkolínec has been inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
The area around the top of Zvolen is a popular launching pad for paragliders – even in winter. The favorable terrain and the often good weather conditions that occur here allow takeoffs and landings on the summit, so commercial flights have also developed here. Of course, this is only a substitute for the real adventure, but at the same time a recommended first step – if you want to learn more about paragliding training and exams, please see the guide:
Paragliding in Donovaly (fot. MG . outdoormagazine.pl)
Tandem flight with an experienced pilot does not require any special skills, knowledge or above-average physical fitness – this fun can be tried by anyone. The only somewhat challenging moment is the takeoff – you have to struggle for a while to stay on your feet during the few initial jerks of the wing.
Paragliding in Donovaly (fot. MG . outdoormagazine.pl)
The length of the flight can be determined individually with the pilot. The shortest flights last 10-20 minutes. The longest even an hour. For more information and the official price list, visit: