Ojcow National Park, or the Ojcowski Park Narodowy – is the smallest national park in Poland, less than 20 kilometres away from the edge of Krakow. It might be surprising that you can find such a beautiful natural wonder so close to one of the biggest cities in the country. We’d say this is a great spot to escape the hustles and bustles of the urban jungle and enjoy the nature.
This ultimate guide will talk you through the ins and outs of the Ojcow National Park. We’ll deal with all the practicalities of planning a trip there, and look at the top things to do in the small reserve. Read on…
What is the Ojcow National Park?
The Ojcow National Park, locally known as Ojcowski Park Narodowy, is the closest nature reserve to Krakow. It’s one of the most accessible spots to reach from the city to enjoy the peace and quiet away from the hustles and bustles of urban life. There are a couple of easy-going trails, but don’t expect hardcore mountain treks as you’d get in the High Tatras. Instead, there are plenty of paths around the limestone formations, caves and castles. Most of the area is forested, so there is plenty of shade on hot summer days.
The symbol of Ojcow National Park is a bat, and there is a good reason for it. There are over 400 caves, which make a perfect hiding spot for these nocturnal flying creatures. Nearly 20 different species of bats live within this small park. That’s actually two-thirds of all species in all Poland.
Unlike many other national parks in Poland, the entrance to Ojcow is free. However, there is a small fee for parking and the access to the caves and castles, so it’s handy having some cash on you.
Where is the Ojcow National Park?
Ojcow National Park is around 20 km northwest of the centre of Krakow. Covering only a little over 20 square kilometres of land, it’s actually Poland’s smallest national park. Forests cover majority of the park, and the trees within are strictly protected by law. The park is located in an area known as the Jurrasic Krakow-Czestochowa Upland (Wyzyna Krakowsko-Czestochowska).
How to get to Ojcow National Park?
It’s not hard to get to Ojcow National Park from Krakow, even if you haven’t got a car. However, driving is the quickest and the most convenient way to reach the park, especially if you’re coming from parts of the city far away from the bus route. You can park right outside the entrance for a small fee (10 PLN).
You can also get to the park by public transport, which will only cost you 6 PLN one way. The best way to do that is to catch an express 310 bus, which goes every 20/30 mins from osiedle Podwawelskie, a stop close to Forum Przestrzenie. You will need to get off at Czajowice, a bus stop a few minutes’ walk from the park entrance. Alternatively, you can catch a 267 bus from Krowodrza Gorka and go all the way to the final station at Smardzowice, which is around 30 minutes walk away from the centre of the park.
What’s in the Ojcow National Park?
Ojcow National Park might not be amongst the largest nature reserves in the region, but this picturesque spot is packed with attractions. There are plenty of hiking and biking paths for the active bunch, plus some climbing spots for those looking to increase their adrenaline levels. That’s because there are many limestone rock formations around the park.
There are loads of caves and ravines scattered around the place, with the most popular ones being King Lokietek’s Cava and the Dark Cave. Both cost a small fee to explore (14 PLN and 22 PLN respectively per adult). Other attractions include the Krakow Gate – the best of the rock gates within the park, and Maczuga Herkulesa (Hercules’s Mace) – a tall limestone stack that resembles a large baseball bat.
If you want to learn a little about the history and geography of the park, we’d recommend going to the main museum. You can also explore the ruins of the Ojcow Castle or take a tour around the Pieskowa Skala Castle.
On warm summer days, Ojcow is a great spot for family picking surrounded by the nature. There are also some restaurants that serve freshwater fish and other local delicacies.
Hiking in the Ojcow National Park
You might not find the gnarliest mountain treks within this small park, but there are lots of picturesque and easy-going trails on offer. Here are some of the most popular routes in the area:
- Green scenic trail – It’s one of the most popular hiking trails in the park, which offers fantastic views of the cool rock formations along the way. The whole trek takes between 1.5h to 2h to complete.
- Ojcowski Park Triangle – It’s a scenic loop around the park, which should take between 2.5h and 3h to complete. It requires moderate fitness because there are plenty of up and down sections.
Wildlife in Ojcow National Park
One of the main reasons why this area is protected is because of the rich wildlife in the park. There are fifteen species of bats (bear in mind that there are only 23 altogether in the country) living across more than 400 caves scattered across the park. There are also over 4,000 species of insects, which include beetles and butterflies and many small mammals like beavers, badgers and ermines.
Best time to visit Ojcow National Park
Ojcow National Park is beautiful all year round, but some caves and paths might not be open in the winter. We’d say that autumn is a wonderful time to visit the park when the trees turn golden and scarlet and the temperatures are still mild. Summer is great for picnics and family outings, but that’s also when the park is at its busiest.