Map of Ceský ráj (Czech Paradise) Rock CitiesLoad map
The coordinates shown for all tentative sites were produced as a community effort. They are not official and may change on inscription.
Český Ráj (Bohemian Paradise) is the Czech classics among protected landscapes and it is used mostly and preferably for recreation, leisure time, and for rock climbing sports. The protected landscape area was established in 1955 as the first and thus the oldest one in former Czechoslovakia. Before the protection, it has been inhabited and used by humans for thousands years already. The proposed TWHS consists of the series of impressive sandstone formations called “rock cities”, thus, it is not surprising it has been already included to the list of UNESCO geoparks (since 2005).
Český Ráj is not alone among the sandstone rock cities in the central Europe. There are plenty of them, for example: the Broumov area, Bohemian-Saxonian Switzerland with surrounding Elbe sandstones, several areas in Bavaria (Frankische Schweiz) and Poland.
It should not be definitely natural WHS (only exceptional natural quality is its geology, but still it is of national importance). I can only ironically comment it that Český Ráj is the classical area of recreation for poor and middle classes, and it might be included to the serial nomination with TWHS Nice and Cote d`Azur, as also classical touristy area, but for aristocracy and rich people.
Moreover, we have another hot candidate for the inscription as a natural site in Czechia – beech forests of nearby Jizerske hory Mountains!
I visited the area (Hrubá Skála, Prachovské Skály, Malá Skála) for recreation several times, in most cases as a kid with my parents, and it was always an impressive experience to walk through the rock cities. It is easily accessible by public transport from surrounding towns Turnov or Jičín.
During my re-visit in February 2020, I explored two proposed components: (1) Apolena natural reserve (close to the emblematic castle ruins Trosky), and (2) Hrubá Skála (Hruboskalsko).
Apolena rock city is very small and the entering is not recommended because of a danger of collapsing rocks, but I safely approached it from the upper sides from meadows around the ruins of Trosky castle. The area is covered by dense forest, but rocks were visible in February. The layering and erosion of the rock blocks are fascinating (PHOTO). They are pristine white on the sides due to their continuous diminishing, but green on the top because of the lichens and other flora.
Hrubá Skála rock city is the biggest and most important area of sandstone formations in Český Ráj. Thus, it is very touristy (it was even in sunny but chilly February). I walked along marked tourist routes with the castle Hrubá Skála, now hotel, as their focal point. There are nice trails to the gorge around the castle, further, the blue route goes directly through the most impressive parts of the rock city, while the red route goes parallel and there are excellent views from above. The rocks are really impressive and much taller than one can even imagine. It is also fascinating that the extent of erosion of the rocks is different in different layers.
Even if the rock cities are very nice, I cannot imagine that this would ever become WHS.
Central Europe seems to offer nice autumn color viewings, and I thought I'd take an advantage of that and go to visit Cesky Raj (Czech Paradise) in Czechia in early November.
Cesky Raj is actually a very large area with varied natural beauties, but the nomination has to do with the several Rock Cities within the area.
My quick research before the trip revealed that out of the 10 proposed Rock Cities for inclusion, 2 are the main ones: Hruba Skala and Prachovské Skály, and the former is mainly for rock climbers and the latter is for tourists.
Although I visited both and also the Trosky Castle ruin, the main attraction of Cesky Raj, located between the two Rock Cities, I explored Prachovské Skály more in detail by hiking. Prachovské Skály is supposed to be the oldest nature protection area in Czechia.
There are 2 recommended hiking routes at Prachovské Skály, the Yellow Loop and the Green Loop. The former is only 1.5 km long with 2 lookouts and the latter is 3.5 km long with 8 lookouts. So I took the latter. (But this decision required a major change in my trip plan, that is, one more overnight stay at the pension in the village of Libun.) I would highly recommend this Green Loop: https://www.prachovskeskaly.com/en/tourism
I started hiking from the train station of Jinolice, went to the trail head of the Green Loop and ended hiking at the train station of Libun, which was near the pension I stayed at. The whole process took me about 6 hours, including one-hour lunch at a restaurant near the trail head.
Prachovské Skály is basically a valley surrounded by towering rocks. This valley is comparable to Yosemite Valley in California or Lauterbrunnen Valley in Switzerland. Well, that may be a little bit of exaggeration, but the hike, for which I needed to go up and down and right and left, looking for the green markers, was indeed a lot of fun. The Green Loop took me from the bottom of the valley to the lookouts on top of some of the towering rocks. The autumn color was in its final stage but was still pretty.
These unusual natural rock formations can also be seen in almost anywhere around the "tri-corner" area of Germany, Czechia and Poland but mainly in Czechia. Considering the fact that there is no World "Natural" Heritage Site in Czechia and in accordance with Unesco's "Global Strategy," I think Cesky Raj might as well be the first WNHS in Czechia. Cesky Raj also seems to be the only site nominated for the WNHS among the 19 TWHS in Czechia! (Is this correct?)
I notice Jinolice and Libun are connected directly to Prague by train that takes less than 2 hours. This train does not run every day but otherwise you can change train once or twice that takes less than 3 hours. So I believe it's quite possible to take a day-hiking trip from Prague to Prachovské Skály if you are willing to hike 10 to 15 km. But if you also want to visit the Trosky Castle ruin, an overnight stay in the area would be recommended.
During the same trip I also visited the nearby city of Liberec and attempted to see the TWHS of the “Mountain-top Hotel and Television Transmitter” in Ještěd just outside Liberec. It was so foggy that day that I could not see it from the city center or from the foot of the mountain. These is a cable car that goes up the mountain, which would have certainly made it possible for me to see it, but the cable car was out of order that day, which was not even announced on their website! Due to time constraints, I could not hike up. So I failed to see it to my disappointment.
Read more from Tsunami here.
2004 Requested by State Party to not be examined
Proposal called "Rock Cities of the Bohemian Paradise" was withdrawn by Czech Republic
2001 Added to Tentative List
The site has 10 locations