The Ojców National Park is one of the smallest and most beautiful parks in Poland, particularly famous due to its proximity to Krakow and the fact that it is part of the historic tourist route called Trail of the Eagle’s Nests, an ancient defensive line dotted with wonderful fortresses and castles .
Today, the Ojców National Park is a particularly popular destination for families, for nature walks and to spend a quiet day exploring the park’s more than 50 kilometers of trails.
What you can find in this guide to Ojców National Park:
- Ojców National Park: what you need to know before you go
- Things to see and do in Ojców National Park
- How to get to Ojców National Park from Krakow
Ojców National Park: what you need to know before you go
The Ojców National Park is located in the southern part of the Krakow-Częstochowa Plateau, about 30 km from Krakow. It is the smallest National Park in Poland, but surprisingly one of the best to visit.
Ojców National Park can be visited all year round and admission to the park is free. In the park there are several attractions (caves, castles, etc.) that are worth visiting and each require the purchase of a ticket.
The natural scenery of the park changes from season to season and always offers visitors beautiful panoramas with wonderful colors, particularly appreciated by photography enthusiasts. It is the ideal place to spend a day away from the city, immersed in nature and peace.
The Ojców National Park was established in 1956 and takes its name from the homonymous village of Ojców, which is located a few kilometers away.
Its formation dates back more than 150 million years ago and over time the activity of water, the climate and the morphology of the land have formed a truly unique landscape.
There are steep canyons (some about 120 meters deep!), wonderful valleys such as those of the Prądnik and Sąspówka rivers, and more than 400 caves, including the largest: the Lokietek Cave.
The Park also hosts a great variety of flora and fauna, with more than 1000 different plant species and about 7000 animal species. The best time to admire the park in bloom is definitely spring, when the park is filled with beautiful flowers and colors. In Autumn the park turns red and gold, and is a very popular destination for foliage lovers.
Things to see and do in Ojców National Park
King Łokietek’s Cave
Lokietek Cave is the largest in the Ojców National Park. It is about 300 meters long with a vertical drop of 7 meters. Inside there are various corridors and two large halls, called the Hall of the Knights and the Bedroom, and two smaller ones.
The cave is located about 125 meters above the Prądnik valley, so its formation dates back to when the stream water was still at that level. It was discovered at the end of the 19th century and numerous bear bones and traces of human presence were found there. During the First World War it was used as a refuge by the local population.
Today in King Łokietek’s Cave it is possible to admire the work that water has done over the centuries, such as the spectacular stalactites and stalagmites.
The name of the cave is linked to a legend about the Polish King Władysław Łokietek, who is said to have taken refuge here when the Czech King Wenceslaus II invaded Poland between the 13th and 14th centuries.
The entrance to the cave was blocked by a huge cobweb, so the Polish king was forced to abseil down with a rope. In doing so, the Czech troops continued to believe that the cave was empty seeing the cobweb always intact.
The King remained in hiding for six weeks, helped by the local population who provided him with food and water and kept him updated on events. For this reason the cave is also called The Royal Grotto.
The internal temperature remains fairly stable throughout the year at 7-8 °C, so if you visit it in the summer it is best to bring a jacket. The cave is open every day from 9.00 to 18.00 and the entrance ticket costs 26 PLN (Reduced 13 PLN).
Hercules Club and Kraków Gate
Ojców National Park is famous for its rock formations, some of which are quite famous for the locals. Among these, the most important are certainly the Hercules Club and the Kraków Gate.
The Hercules Club, about 25 meters high, represents the highest formation in the National Park and takes its name from the shape of the rock that resembles a stick. It is located in the Prądnik Valley and there is a rocky terrace of about 10 meters.
The Kraków Gate consists of two pillars of 15 meters in height and represents a real gateway to the Ciasne Skałki Gorge, a narrow canyon between high rocks and surrounded by thick vegetation that creates a very cool microclimate, and which leads to the Prądnik Valley with an altitude difference of about 90 meters.
Castles of Pieskowa Skała and Ojców
Pieskowa Skala Castle is one of the most beautiful castles located in the heart of the Ojców National Park, and one of the most important in Poland. Its architecture is typically Renaissance, and thanks to the maintenance works carried out over time, it is preserved almost intact and today it can be completely visited.
It houses an important section of the Royal Museum of Wawel Castle, with the display of wonderful collections of Polish art and traditional Polish crafts.
In the park you can also see Ojców Castle, which was once an important bulwark in defense of the southern border of the Kingdom of Poland.
Today the fortress is completely in ruins, but in its still intact Gothic tower there is a small exhibition that tells its history. The castle is open from Monday to Friday from 9.00 to 16.00 and on Saturday and Sunday from 9.00 to 17.00. The entrance ticket costs 18 PLN (Reduced 9 PLN).
Both castles are part of the Trail of the Eagle’s Nests fortresses and castles, built during the 16th century by King Casimir the Great to be one of the most important defensive lines. The Trail of the Eagle’s Nests is now one of the most beautiful tourist routes to visit in southern Poland.
The village of Ojców, from which the National Park takes its name, is absolutely worth a visit. It is very small but also very cute. See the spectacular wooden chapel on the water known simply as Chapel On the Water or Chapel of St. Joseph the Worker, located at the foot of a rock formation suspended over a small river.
Its unusual position on the water is linked to the fact that Tsar Nicholas II issued a decree banning the construction of sacred buildings on the land.
The cross-shaped chapel is 11 meters long and 5 meters wide and has a small turret. The exteriors reflect the Swiss-style Alpine architecture, while the interiors are in the Zakopane style, very fashionable during the twentieth century.
The small village is dominated by the castle of Gora Zamkowa, from which you can enjoy a wonderful view of the park.
The village has become very touristy over the years, so here you can also find numerous restaurants and cafes where you can taste regional cuisine, for a break in nature and in the pleasant rural atmosphere of the village.
Natural History Exhibition
At the entrance to the park you will find the visitor center, where the interesting Natural History Exhibition is located. This small museum tells the history of the park in an interactive and multimedia way, also suitable for children.
Thanks to 3D films and models, it is told how the valley, the caves and the incredible rock formations that characterize the park were formed. There is also an exhibition of some archaeological finds that were found in the park.
Hikes and Walks around Ojcowski National Park
The Ojców National Park offers a wide range of hiking trails, totaling almost 50 km, from the easiest to those for more experienced and adventurous people.
The routes are well marked and allow you to visit the main attractions of the park. There are 5 recommended itineraries, identified by colors, which allow you to safely explore the different areas of the park and discover its natural wonders. The details of the routes can be consulted on the park’s official website.
How to get to Ojców National Park from Krakow
Ojców National Park is just 30 km from Krakow and is easily accessible by car. There are two paid parking lots near the park. It is advisable to park at the one called “Pod Zamkiem”, because the other one, called “Złota Góra” is located in the village of Ojców and is almost always full.
There are also convenient guided day tours from Krakow, which include round-trip transport, entrance fees (including a visit to Pieskowa Skala Castle and Lokietek Cave), and licensed English-speaking guide.
The park can also be reached by UNIBUS buses from the ‘Nowy Kleparz’ stop (ul. Kamienna 8), located on the outskirts of Krakow. However, the rides are infrequent and you risk wasting a lot of time: it runs every 2 or 3 hours and the journey takes about 40 minutes.
Useful Tips for Your Trip
Many people choose to visit the Ojców National Park on a day trip from Krakow, so here you can find the best useful tips to better plan your trip to Krakow and the wonderful region of Southern Poland: