An English friend of mine is going to the Czech Republic with a friend of hers for a week this summer and has asked me to give her some tips for a couple of hiking trips (they are keen walkers!). They’re going to hire a car and don’t mind spending a night or two outside Prague. How nice to think that there are actually foreigners who are brave enough to want to venture out of the capital 🙂
I came up with a few different ideas just to give the girls a bit of a choice. Here is my first suggestion – a nice hike of about 16 km through some beautiful Czech countryside, a stone’s throw from Prague! PLEASE NOTE that this hike is not for the faint-hearted. You will need to be relatively fit to do it – BE SENSIBLE and consider your abilities before you set out! This hike is best done in the summer when the days are long and daylight plentiful as it will pretty much take up the whole day.
There are colour-marked tourist / hiking routes literally everywhere in the Czech Republic (even in towns!), which makes finding your way a lot easier. These markings consist of three horizontal stripes – two white ones and a coloured one in the middle (either red, blue, green or yellow) – and they are painted on trees, telegraph poles, fences etc.
Svatý Jan pod Skalou → Karlštejn and back
Svatý Jan pod Skalou (St. John under a rock) is a hidden Czech gem that not many foreign tourists know about. It’s a picturesque village, surrounded by steep rocks, that lies about 8 km north-west of Karlštejn and about 20 km south-west of Prague. It’s home to a monastery whose beginnings date back to the 9th century. The monastery has a vivid recent history, having been used as a labour camp after the war, a prison between 1951-55, a secret police training school for 30 years after that and the Interior Ministry archive from 1985. In 1994 it was given back to the Church and now serves as a Teacher training college. The monastery itself is not open to the public but the baroque church of John the Baptist and the renaissance church of Virgin Mary which is inside a cave (!) are, not all year round though. You can visit them weekends from 1st April – 31 October between the hours of 10-13 and 14-17. During the Czech summer holidays (1 July – 31 August) they’re open every day except Monday.
- See reviews of Svatý Jan pod Skalou on Tripadvisor
Karlštejn is THE Czech castle. Built in 1348 by Czech king and Roman emperor Charles IV, it’s definitely the most famous castle in the Czech Republic and absolutely stunning, too. Opening times are 9.30 – 17.30 every day except Monday from 1 March to 30 September. During the Czech summer holidays (1 July – 31 August) the castle is open on Mondays too. For detailed opening times check their official website. If you want to go inside you will have to book a guided tour up at the castle’s booking office (reservations not necessary).
- See reviews of Karlštejn on Tripadvisor
Length: 7.8 km each way – 15.6 km in total
Time: 2h 41m each way – 5h 22m in total (according to Mapy.cz although I’m sure it could easily be done under two hours considering the average human walking speed is 5km/h)
- You can use one of the 4 designated parking areas in Svatý Jan pod Skalou – see parking map on the official website of the village. Parking is subject to a charge and tickets can be bought in two ticket machines in the village (those are the Parkovací automat marked in red on the parking map).
GPS for Svatý Jan pod Skalou: 49°58’8.926″N, 14°8’0.743″E
GPS for Karlštejn: 49°56′20″N, 14°11′16″E
Route and markings: Follow the red tourist signs from outside the monastery in Svatý Jan to Karlštejn castle. Red and white markings will be painted on trees, stones etc. There will be several proper signposts along the way showing you how much further you’ve got to walk 🙂
- Leave Svatý Jan pod Skalou at 9am. Arrive at Karlštejn by 11.30am. Take a guided tour of the castle. Have some lunch in one of the lovely pubs near the castle. Leave Karlštejn by 3.30pm to arrive back at Svatý Jan by 6pm.
- Alternatively, if you want to visit the church in Svatý Jan pod Skalou you could do that and set out from the village at 11am to arrive at Karlštejn by 1.30pm. Have some lunch, take a guided tour (or leave it out), leave Karlštejn by 5.30pm to arrive back at Svatý Jan by 8pm.
Map of the hike: see map below (you can zoom in and out in the top right corner) + Czech Tourist Hiking Atlas + GPS