Text by Ramy James Salameh

Vladimíra Gašparová is the CEO & Director of Tatry Travelia, a well-established tour operator in the Tatras Mountain Region of Slovakia. The ethos of the company is to provide wonderful holidays for travellers looking for adventures in nature, but above all those seeking to reduce their impact on the environment, travel responsibly and make incredible memories with loved ones. Vladimira and her team are aware of the growing trend and seeing more demand for more trips integrating ‘Health/ Wellness/ Sustainability’ (especially post-pandemic), as we all see the benefit of ‘natural surroundings’ and activities on body and soul.

1-Does your company support local communities through the SUSTAINABLE products/ activities you offer tourists e.g. Hiking and Cycling and how do the local communities benefit?

We of course prefer communities with sustainable products and/or activities. For example we recommend our clients to engage with restaurants that cook from organic products or from products sourced from local farms. For example, our company also owns a ‘bike rental company’ which means that we prefer to go around our region by bike not by using a car. We also recommend our clients to use transfers by trams not by cars and try to motivate our clients to come to the High Tatras during the shoulder months when it is less busy and less strain on infrastructure when it is not season period (not just in season), to prefer / find not just the most frequent hikes/walks of their trips.

2-How does your company promote sustainable practices? What initiatives do you and/ or your company do to be eco-sensitive and sustainable?

Our company is right now attending The ECO-TANDEM Training Programme to improve our skills and build capacity around the standards for sustainability in the tourism industry.

3-How does the region preserve the landscape for the next generation?

The territory of the High Tatras is our oldest National park which results in the company appreciating and protecting its rarity of communities and the uniqueness of this area. There are also restrictions within the current legislation of Slovakia to follow and adhere to. One such example is that during this spring time, organisations in the High-Tatras focus their actions on waste management.

4-In your opinion, what are the top sports/ adventure activities in the ‘High-Tatras & Liptov’ region?

In winter it is skiing, ski-hiking, cross-country skiing or visitors can even try snowshoeing in our beautiful nature. And of course snow bikes. We can get recommendations for easy routes or we can lend the electric snow bikes if the group decides to go for a more difficult route. We bring the snow bikes directly to our clients’ hotel or straight to the starting point and always provide a map of a route (ONLINE to mobile) or can provide a guiding service in English for our customer. It is a very nice activity, with suitability also for families with children; they can make an easy route and admire a beautiful snowy country.

I love a combination of all sports and everyday select a different kind of activity. Very nice experience is evening ski hiking of Fresh track – early morning skiing which includes a hearty breakfast under the peaks. Other options are to join adventurous rides on the snow cat vehicles that keep the pistes pristine. And why not even try dog sledding.

In spring, summer and autumn I love ‘bike&hike’ in the High-Tatras or hiking with leaders in our other National park – ‘Slovensky Raj’ (Slovak Paradise). It is also a very nice experience is visit Pieninský National Park to try rafting on traditional wooden boats with original Goral music typical for this part of Slovakia.

5-If you are a walker or hiker what would you recommend as interesting trails?

My most favourite hiking trail is to Kriváň peak (2495 m). It is a slightly more difficult hike but you are rewarded with the most unforgettable views of the surroundings. I have still my first memories behind my eyes when I think about such hiking places. I also love Jahňací peak (2230 m) it is also a beautiful hiking opportunity without too many hikers along the way and you will be able to see many chamois in a near distance to you. When I am in the High-Tatras I always feel I am in another world that is only surrounded by the scent of nature and singing of birds.

If you like easier tours, I love and would choose a Cottage near ‘Green Lake’ (Chata pri Zelenom plese, 1550 m) and ‘Skalnaté Lake’ – you can get here also by cable car.

6-I understand that you can go bear watching, are there other animal tours in the region and does Tatry-Travelia offer any?

Our sincere desire is to be able to inspire our visitors to respect nature, and visits to the Tatras region should not be perceived as purely commercial. We will be happy to provide our visitors with chamois watching, bird watching, our experts could tell you about the movement of animals, or show visitors endemic species to the High-Tatras including the Tatra Chamois.

7-Your company offers winter cycling and summer cycling – can you offer trails for amateur to professional cyclists and what route itineraries are best? 

In the High-Tatras region we have cycling routes of varying difficulties. The simpler ones is Tichá and Kôprová valley and possibly Monková valley.
Among the slightly more demanding routes, I would include Popradské Lake, Sliezsky dom, eventually reaching the route to the Treetop path. These routes are already with a higher elevation, but still mostly on paved roads.

The most challenging routes include Zelené pleso (Green Lake) and the Plesnivec chalet, which are for experienced riders and fully technically diverse cuts. By combining individual routes, we can adjust difficulty and length according to the requirements and abilities of visitors.

My most popular route leads through the Tatranská Kotlina, Monková valley to Bachledová valley in which we reach the Treetop path, from there we follow along the ridge of the Spišská Magura, which divides the Tatras and Pieniny national park, and then ends the trail within the foothills of the High Tatras. This route belongs within the ‘difficult’ category but is full of beautiful views.

8-Are there any stand out festivals worth attending in the ‘High-Tatras and Liptov’ region?

Our travel agency Tatry-Travelia is a partner of the city of High-Tatras and we make many events for visitors during the whole year, representing our region but also the culture of others for e.g. in 2019 we made an event of cult Czech and Slovak film Perinbaba https://www.facebook.com/325040958253724/videos/832223343892913/ .

In summer there are many Music bands of different genres invited to the High Tatras, in winter visitors can visit Ice Tatra Temple on Hrebienok (each year the ice-carvers create a new theme such as recreating Notre-Dame cathedral for the beautiful and spectacular temple). During whole year you can visit one of our historical really beautiful hotels and relax with live music (classical music or Slovak traditional folk or gypsy music) and a glass of wine!

9-You and I visited the ‘Chodnik Korungmi Stromov’ (Treetop viewing point) – what other family friendly activities can you recommend?

A beautiful trip is to go by cable car to the magnificent ‘Skalnaté Lake’; families can admire this watery wonderland by walking around the lake, they can also take their children to visit the amusing squirrel park. Also, just a 5-minutes hike away to ‘Skalnatá Cottage’ and everyone can enjoy real Tatras coffee named ‘Štbské presso’. From Skalnaté Lake you can go by cable car to the 2nd highest peak – ‘Lomnický’ peak (2655 m). Another option is a trip by cable car to ‘Hrebienok’ where you will find many options for easy hiking. Sight-seeing can take other forms, such as visiting the ‘Exhibition of miniatures’ or the most beautiful Tatras cottages or visit ‘TANAP Museum’ in Tatranská Lomnica.

Add to the list……

-A very nice activity for families is boating on Štrbské Lake,

-Visit art of illusion – Triklandia https://www.tricklandia.sk/en/home-en/#galeria,

-Pedal planet http://www.pedalplanet.sk/eng/ or

-Gallery of a Good toy https://www.dobrahracka.sk/.

Biking options: There are opportunities to ride, or example from Tatranská Lomnica to contact ZOO in Gerlachov, or biking to Belianska Cave or biking in Kôprová or Tichá valley with a picnic break.

In winter sledding from Hrebienok or dog sledding.

10-Any personal top tips/ advice to travelling in the High Tatras & Liptov region – anything you really love e.g. best viewpoints?

For my family and I, one very memorable and powerful experience was to spend a night at Lomnický peak – the 2nd highest peak of the High Tatras (2665 m). We had a beautiful dinner and could observe the sky and stars from the summit. It was a truly unbelievable experience.

I really love to spend time in our Nature, I love to visit all events, I like to spend time with our visitors and I really love to go for a coffee and cake in Grandhotel Praha****, hotel Patria****, Hotel Lomnica**** or hot chocolate in Nestville (the first Slovak Whisky distillery). I really recommend to all visitors to try our typical Slovak cuisine – Halušky (gnocchi with sheep cheese and bacon on the top) or Pirohy (flour meal with stuffing with potatoes and sheep cheese) – it is delicious!