Welcome to The Visitor's Drive and Walk route to Ojcowski National Park (OPN). The OPN was founded on the 14th January 1956 and now covers an area of 2145,62 hectares. It is a beautiful region with picturesque valleys created by the river Prądnik. No industry has spoilt its wild and magnificent forests, rivers, caves and those very strangely shaped rocks scattered around the park have been formed by Nature herself. It is a place you have to see. What we propose here is a one day outing, although remember you can always change, extend and modify our route according to the time you have and your physical capability as some of the mountain walks might be a bit tiring. Anyway you won't have any regrets. Promise!
You leave Kraków by route 778 (direction SKAŁA). 20 km later you reach the town of SKAŁA. Go directly to the market square and turn towards PIESKOWA SKAŁA route 773 (be careful with maneuvers in the market sq). After about 3 km turn left towards OJCÓW. Then into the village of OJCÓW and drive until the ON THE WATER CHAPEL is seen on the left (just as the village buildings stop).
The Ojców spa resort history reaches back to 1855 when doctor Lucjan Kowalski opened a hydro-bath station here. For many years the health resort grew adding to it hotels and restaurants. After the 1920`s Ojców became a popular health resort in Poland but in the 50`s it lost some of its importance to competition from other developing resorts which had opened in Poland. Today Ojców is a quiet, orderly village attracting tourists and is a holiday destination or a starting base for OPN exploration and rock climbing.
1. The Chapel
of Josef the Craftsman is called the „On the Water Chapel”. Visit the interior before the Sunday service or during the day, though you will only see the interiors through the barred doorway. The chapel was constructed in 1901 on the Prądnik river, on pillars built into the river bed. This unusual idea was used because the Car Mikołaj II, who ruled this part of Polish territory in those times, prohibited any construction of buildings for prayer on Osco territory. So, the chapel was not built „on the ground“ but „on the water“. It was designed as a cross in an area of 5 x 11 m and is an example of local design and architecture. Inside there are interesting cottage roof shaped altars. Reserve about 20 minutes.
Back to the car and we continue on the same road to the cross roads following the OJCÓW CENTRUM signs. After 1 km you will see a wooden house and parking. Stop and prepare 10 zł for this unguarded service! After paying your protection money to the parking attendant you will have to decide what to do. Follow the park path which runs parallel to the castle rock to the sign with its wide assortment of wooden indicators in different colours. Every indicator shows a different direction and coloured tourist route. You can try any of them, just follow the colour. The painted marks show you the way. All of the paths are interesting and worth the effort. Check the distance and duration of your walk before you set off. Please respect the National Park regulations (e.g. do not pick forest fruits or flowers, do not go off the marked route). And beware of snakes. Some of them are venomous and can be mortal.
If you don't have much time try The Visitor's proposal. We can show you what is best to see in the area! (duration about 3-4 hours).
The BLACK and GREEN ROUTE - direction right - walking duration c.a. 10 minutes, distance 500 meters (yes, the castle on the rock you passed).
2. The Ojców Castle
, tel. 012 389 20 44. Sundays and holidays one hour longer. Tickets: adult 2,50 zł, reduced 1,50 zł. The castle was built in the XIV c. by King Kazimierz The Great as one of the fortresses protecting Kraków against enemies. Tradition says that the king gave the name to the castle „Father at the rocks” because of the legend saying that the king's father (King Łokietek „The Short”) hid in Ojców forest and its caves when he was being hunted by the Czech King Vaclav II. Originally the castle was surrounded by deep moat with a drawbridge making the fortress difficult to take by siege. However, the castle was successfully attacked by the Swedes during Swedish Invasion and was turned into armory and store. In the in mid XVII c the castle was partly destroyed. Then it was transferred from one owner to another who rebuilt and changed it many times over. Finally, in 1826, one of the walls collapsed and fell from the rocks and this was the start of the demolition of parts of the castle. The castle was reconstructed and in 1893 and the bridge was removed, the moat was filled in and the tower was lowered by 6 meters for reasons of safety. At the end of the XX c. the castle was renovated to its present condition. Take a look at the river Prądnik valley from the tower terrace, visit the small museum located at the entrance gate and try the echo at the well which originally was 40 m deep to assure the defending soldiers with water during a siege (it is now half filled). Reserve about 45 minutes
Go back to the sign post with the routes and follow the BLACK ROUTE - left, direction the ŁOKIETEK CAVE (JASKINIA ŁOKIETKA); 45 minutes walk, ca. 2,5 km.
3. The King's Cave on Chełmowa Hill, tel. 012 419 08 01. Tickets: adult 7 zł, reduced 5 zł. Guided visits only. Wait for the group (max every 20 minutes). ATTENTION! The temperature inside is a constant 7 degrees Celsius. So put on some warm clothing before entering. There is a legend that King Łokietek (The Short) escaped into the cave when Vaclav II (the Czech king) soldier's were searching for him. As he entered the cave a spider covered the entrance with its web. The soldiers thought that no one had entered the cave for a long time (it would have taken days for a spider to build such large web) and the king was saved. Another legend says that if the rock formation called the bed of King Łokietek is touched at the same time as a wish is formed then the wish will come true! You can always try. The cave is located 130 metres above the level of the river Prądnik and is the biggest and most beautiful cave in the area. It consists of two chambers and several corridors with a total of 320 metres in length. Electrical lights illuminate the interior. The visit takes about 30 minutes with the lights on (and a week in the dark).
Now follow the BLUE ROUTE and go to the BRAMA KRAKOWSKA - the Cracow Gate Rock. (ca. 20 min walk) and another cave located opposite.
4. The Dark Cave (Jaskinia Ciemna) on Koronna Hill, tel. +48 12380 10 11. Tickets: adult 6 zł, reduced 4 zł. Visiting regulations and inside temperature are the same as in the previous cave. The cave is not as beautiful as the previous one but is well worth visiting. Some 120 thousands years before Christ it sheltered men and the last inhabitants of the cave left in Medieval times! It has 186 meters of corridors of and the largest geological chamber known in this area, 90 x 20 meters. This visit will take about 30 minutes. Don't get lost though.
Go back to the CASTLE PARK using the GREEN ROUTE. Once there and probably tired, drive to the next attraction which awaits you. You have to go back to OJCÓW, passing the ON THE WATER CHAPEL and at the crossroads (to Skała and Olkusz) follow the OLKUSZ sign, route 773.
TIP! On your left there is a very good open air grill bar. Check it out. As well as the grills they have that large, round farm type bread with sesame or cumin. Delicious! For those who do not like grilled meats there's the Wernyhora restaurant, about 6 km at the cliffs, with a summer garden, on your right. It's about 10 km to the HERKULES CLUB and PIESKOWA SKAŁA CASTLE.
PARKING! Cost of both parking places, 10,00 zł (!); unguarded, unlimited time. The first car park is just left of the Herkules Club, the second 1 km away at the castle hill. The Herkules Club is just a picturesque spot for some photographs. Stop for 2 minutes (be careful of the cars... and the police) take some photos and drive to the castle hill parking.
5. Hercules Club. And now another legend.. The Wizard, Mr Twardowski signed a pact with the Devil. His life is to be one fantastic rave until he gets to Rome and there he will be taken to hell for ever. The Devil tricks him and takes him to an inn called Rome. Here Twardowski was supposed to give his last three wishes to the Devil and after that - go to hell. One of the tricky wizard's wishes was that the Devil move a rock from the Prądnik Valley and place it pointed side down. Did the devil succeed? See with your own eyes! For those of you who don't believe the legend - the rock narrow at the base wide at the top is the result of wind and the rain erosion.
6. The Castle on Pieskowa Rock
tel. +48 12 389-60-04. adult 10 zł, reduced 7 zł. The castle was constructed in the XIC c. by order of King Kazimierz The Great. It was part of the border defence system with Silesia and guarded the trade route from Kraków to Wrocław. It is the best preserved castle of its kind, defence - residence, existing in the OPN. From the end of the XIV c. it was owned by rich Polish families, rebuilt and transferred from one owner to another. During the Partition of Poland (Austria, Germany and Russia) it was a place of pilgrimage for Polish people as it was considered the symbol of Polish nationality and was called The Museum of Poland. After WWII it was taken over by the state and in 1970 a museum was opened. The stormy history of this castle has left none of its original interiors intact and no furnishings exist except those found in some museums around the world.
This is the last stop on our route today. We hope you have enjoyed the trip and it wasn't too strenuous and you were able to enjoy the simple beauty of the region. If you have any comments please share them with us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you and let's meet again for another trip together.
To return to Kraków (ca. 30 km) go back to SKAŁA and from there take the 778, back to the city.