End: Kraków, Poland
Distance: 244 miles(392 km)
Time: 30 days
Surface: Cross-Country, Medieval Paths
The ancient Amber Road led from the beaches of the Baltic Sea south to the Adriatic. Through history the exquisite brown fossil resin has been traded along this route. People still buy and sell amber; you might find a piece you like at one of the shops or markets on your journey. You will also meet some of the people who live along the ancient route and learn about their lives, their cultural heritage and their effort to preserve it.
The trail takes you both through the historic towns and the unspoiled countryside with typical highland villages. When it comes for the effort expended in conquering the more difficult route sections, it is more than compensated for by the panoramic views. The little villages might be lost in time; the hospitality of the local people, herds of sheep and cattle and traditional crafts, all this is part of the unforgettable experience of this trail, so far relatively undiscovered by outsiders. You can see little wooden churches built without a single nail, as well as majestic stone castles. You will truly appreciate the system of marked trails. The high point of the Polish side is Krakow itself, a wonderful historic, lively, pulsing city known among other things for the amber market at the Sukienice (Cloth Hall), reaffirming the meaning and existence of the Amber Trail as a link between North and South, a trade route that offers such riches as to become a destination in itself.
The Amber Trail leads through three countries – Hungary, Slovakia, and Poland in the steps of the historic amber trade route. Our journey starts on the Danube River in Budapest, the “Paris of the East”. The hike itself begins at the meandering Danube valley in the ancient town of Visegrad, the medieval capital of Hungary. Another historical town on your way – Esztergom has been for more than 1000 years the seat of the Hungarian archbishops, graced with its magnificent cathedral overlooking the Danube. Most of the trails, however, lead through the lush mountains of Slovakia, exploring their peaks as well as charming valleys. Your reward for the climbs will be the superb view of the breathtaking Slovak countryside dotted with traditional mountain villages, meadows and pastures. Perfectly matching the natural beauties are the ancient towns you will stay in, such as UNESCO protected Renaissance mining town of Banska Stiavnica, or Liptovsky Mikulas known for Juraj Janosik – the Slovak Robin Hood. Leaving for Poland visit the pilgrimage site of Kalwaria Zebrzydowska.
The section from here to Liptovský Mikuláš is the hardest on this trail, but the effort is amply rewarded by the glorious views over the Low Tatras hills, which, lovely as they are, struggle to compete with the Kvacianska Valley, with its waterfalls and limestone caves and the open-air folk museum in the village of Zuberec. Between Bobrov and Lipnica Wielka, cross the border into Poland and make your way to Lanckorona and its folk architecture, and from there to Kalwaria Zebrzydowska, with its thirty-two chapels representing the Stations of the Cross and its imposing Bernadine monastery. Journey’s end is at Kraków, a city that cannot be seen in a single day. Among the essential sights here are Wawel Castle, the Old Market Square, and the Kazimlierz Jewish Quarter.
Some hikers continue from here along the banks of the Vistula River to Niepolomice, where there is a fourteenth-century hunting castle.