Orava is a region located on the north of the country, the northest point of Slovakia is village called Oravská Polhora. Area of Orava is 1661 km² and it is divided into two parts: Dolná Orava (with Dolný Kubín as a centre) and Horná Orava (the centers are Námestovo and Tvrdošín).
Orava is surrounded by a border from the north and the east, by the mountain Západné Tatry (West Tatras) from the south-west, and by the mountain Chočské vrchy from the south. It is one of the most favorite tourist areas in Slovakia. The most interesting sights are: Oravský hrad (Orava Castle) and Oravská priehrada (Orava reservoir).
The highest peak in Orava region is Baníkov (2,178 m above the sea level), which is located in the Western Tatras ridge. The highest peak of the whole flysch chain is Babia Hora (1,725 m a.s.l.). According to the orographical classification the territory of Orava belongs to the sub-province of the Outer Western Carpathian (Oravské Beskydy, Podbeskydská furrow, Podbeskydská highlands, Oravská Magura, Oravská highlands, Skorušinské mountains, Podtatranská furrow) and just the territory of Western Tatras belongs to the sub-province of the Inner Western Carpathians (Roháče). On the Orava territory prevail mainly flysch mountains. Geologically very interesting and important here is the cliff band and nuclear mountains in the eastern part.
The most interesting terrain is in the northern part of the Orava – Oravské Beskydy ridge on the border with Poland. In this area are the two highest peaks of the described area – Babia Hora (1,725 m a.s.l.) and Pilsko (1,557 m a.s.l.), whose common feature is the lack of water. In wooded foothill parts causes the impermeability of the sub-soil high levels of groundwater, thus a significant waterlogged terrain. Swamp is created even in the lower-lying parts of the main ridge of the Oravské Beskydy. Although, Oravské Beskydy are pretty wooded part of the Orava, there are cleared areas on the ridge (west of Pilsko).
More accessible and visited area is Oravská Magura, whose ridge divides the territory of Orava into two parts. The southern part is known as the Lower Orava and the southeastern part is known as a the Upper Orava. Oravská Magura is characterized by relatively low altitude – the highest peak Mincol (1,396 m a.s.l.) and Kubínska hoľa (1,346 m .a.s.l.). Oravská Magura ridges typical cleared areas, covered with grass and with bilberries. A special phenomenon are the springs of the chaser (abatement in chaser in the Kubínska hoľa). A racy nature has the area between Oravská Lesná and Zázrivá. Both villages are separated by a significant, pretty wooded ridge, which forms a valley on the north and east. In the basin on the slopes lies a the village Zázrivá with areas spreading on the steep grun (hillside). Grun is an extremely steep and despite of the low altitude yields the surrounding landscape an alpine characteristics. The northern part of the territory is still pretty wooded. Right in the massive mountains is only one cottage in Kubínska hoľa, which lies about 800-1,000 m below the crest of Kubínska hoľa on its southern slope. Similar nature to Oravská Magura are the Skorušinské Mountains. Actually, they consist of one continuous ridge, about 25 km long, which reaches the greatest altitude of 1,314 m on the top of hill Skorusina. Crest continuously rises from east to west to Skorušina, from which descends to the valley Oravice. Ridge slopes especially in the lower parts are furrowed by flume ditches and creeks.
Oravská highlands, which is separated from the Skorušinské Mountains by Studená kotlina (Cold Valley), reaches the altitude of about 100 m. It is furrowed by a number of valleys, which separate the low crests. Particularly eye-catching is the small settle Svorad at the interface of Veľké Borové and Malatina. Impermeable subsoil causes waterlogged places. Above the village Vyšný Kubín tower two huge rock formations – Tupa (Dull) and Ostrá skala (Sharp Rock), protected monuments, from which is a beautiful view to the entire Lower Orava and even far beyond its borders.
The area of Orava region lies mainly cold zone. Just the valley of the river Orava has a slightly warmer climate. The coldest moth of the year is January and its average temperature ranges from -4 °C to -7 °C. Although there are big height differences, the air temperature is relatively stable especially the winter months. This event is typical for the whole Slovakia and is related with the great diversity of the terrain, which allows in winter the creation of temperature inversions. Heavier cold air fills the area of basins and valleys for few days, and makes the formation of freezing foggy weather, while in higher positions may be warmer and clean weather. Greater temperature dependence of the altitude can be observed in the warmest month of the year – July. In Oravská Lesná is the average temperature in July around 15 °C and in Babia hora is around 10 °C. The average annual temperature decreases depending on the altitude – 5-6 °C in the valley Orava and Oravska basin, 4-5 °C in Oravská Magura, 3-5 °C in Skorušinské Mountains and Oravské Beskydy.
The generally cool climate is described and demonstrated by the occurrence of the “chilly days” (with the daily temperature below 0 °C), of which number is 120-140 days/year in the lower alevations and 160-180 days/year in the mountains. Compared with this there are only 20-30 summer days/ year in Oravská basin and valley, 0 summer days/ year in the tops of Beskydy.
Territory of Orava is characterized by cool and dampy climate. Oravská basin is the driest area of Orava. Notable damp area is the western part of Oravská Magura with the rainfall from 1,000 to 1,200 mm. The main crest of Oravské Beskydy and Skorušinské Mountains are known for heavy rainfall, annual precipitation overpasses 1,200 – 1,400 mm. Most precipitations fall on July, lesser on the winter months. Generally speaking, with increasing altitude, the number od precipitations increase, except the Oravská basin, because it is lying in the shadow of high mountains. The area is also characterized by a sufficient thickness and long-term snow cover. It lasts from early November until early April in the lower altitude (the thickness is about 60 cm), and from October until the second half of May in the highest points (the thickness is about 180 cm).
Fauna & Flora
The impact of the climate change was reflected in the different geological periods – its change lead to a large migration of animals. Creating the water reservoir Orava causes the change of aborigine meadow communities. At the same time, the occurrence of some new fish and bird species was denoted, first nidation of white-tailed eagle at the water reservoir Orava. Orava’ s fauna to Euro-Siberian subdivision. Various forms of the relief and a considerable range of altitude caused the different occurrence of animals. At the foothill level some species are nesting – Skylark, Partridge, but there are also species, which find their food there – hawk, buzzard, falcon, kestrel. Very colorful is the animal species composition in the area of field hedges, in overgrown shrub, along the streams and in riparian forests, as well as in boggy peat habitats. At the foothill zone human settlements are located, where from birds occur – swallow, martlet, sparrow, tit, colared dove and from the mammals – pine marten and fitch. The forest degree is relatively rich in species, typical species are wild beasts, tit, woodpecker, trush, black cock, bullfinch, hazel grouse, red grouse, yellow oxeye. The dwarf pine zone completes the expansion of forest species and begins the extension of the mountain and alpine species. These include Water Pipit and Alpine Accentor. Species of lower elevations, such as willow, grey wagtail, starfinch, swiftlet. A particular feature is the Orava water reservoir that provides suitable habitat for fish, and even for birds. Peat and marshy areas are suitable habitat for several rare reptile species and amphibians.
Tle largest part of the area was originally grovy by spruce, fir, pine and beech. Intense economy activities disrupted forest areas and turned them into spruce monoculture. Remains of the original forests are now only small areas on higher altitudes or in propriety areas. The area of Orava can be divided into these growing stages – wold stage, foothills stage, upland stage and subalpine stage, which occupies the highest parts of Babia hora and partly Pilsko. In the forest community is a predominance of spruce, largely as a monoculture. Silver Fir mostly creates vegetations with beech and spruce. The whole region is extended by the juniper. The lower elevations have a predominance of the deciduoud forests, where predominate beech, alder, white birch and hazel. In the range of forest undergrowth can be found typical forest species as wood-anemone and asarabacca. In humid groves and shrubs wood sorrel and jimsonweed are blooming. The higher positions are represented by severel species of fern and club-moos, bilberry, hadder and cranberries. The bushes in the forest zone are predominated by rowan, raspberry and brambleberry. In the waterlogged spruce forest undergrowth are abundant mosses and mouse-ear, an endemic of Babia hora.
Folklore in the Orava region was closely associated with folk traditions throughout the year. Major social events such as marriage or various holidays were opportunities for entertainment. Ancient history have the Carnival, Catherine and Stephan entertainments. The basis of the national folklore is dancing and singing. The most typical male dance is odzemok. Odzemok is a solo dance, often danced with Valaška. Round dances were danced by young girls and young women coupled in a circle. The most typical for Orava are the Goral dances, which have varied choreography. Folk dance is accompanied by folk music. Typical musical instruments were violin. Folk dances are preserved thanks to folk groups and folk festivals. At present, we can see them on the performances of local folk groups such as Skorušina z Liesku and group Oravan from Nižná.
Goral garb has a special characteristic of the goral region and was preserved in the villages Hladovka (Hungers) and Suchá Hora (Dry Mount). Men’s clothing is characterized mainly by hat decorated with shells and eagle or hawk eider. Richly embroidered pants, embroidered jacket and valaška. Women’s clothing consists of white long-sleeved shirts with embroidered white perforated embroidery, a colorful jacket decorated with plants ornaments and with a great band. Skirts are varied and flowered. Women wear a neckle with red beads.
Orava Castle (Oravský hrad or Oravský podzámok) is situated on high rock, 520 meters, just next to the river Orava. It is considered to be one of the most interesting castles in Slovakia. It was built in the 13th century. The first written mention about the castle is from 1267, when the castle was taken over by the king Belo IV. from Miko Balaš, castle became a royal property.
Nowadays the castle consists of three separate parts – the upper, middle and bottom. This unusual solution was forced by the shape of the rock, on which the castle is located. Castle is easily accessible by car, bus or train from Ružomberok. The building is in a very good condition. To reach the top of the rock there are nearly 300 stairs to climb. During the high season you can find a variety of cultural events there.
Orava Castle (or Oravský Podzámok) is a large preserved castle situated on a steep limestone cliff directly above the village at an altitude of 112 m above the river Orava. The castle is a national cultural heritage. Orava castle, having been the seat of Orava county, was founded in the 13th century. The first written mention dates back to the year 1267, when it was a royal property and then it gradually changed owners. Today’s appearance thanks to Thurzos, whose building reconstruction rank the castle among the most important constructions from the Renaissance period. In 1800 the castle burnt down and was badly damaged. The last and most comprehensive renovation took place in 1953-1968. The most preserved is the chapel interior from the year 1752.
Orava Castle is a part of the Orava Museum of P.O.Hviezdoslva in Dolný Kubín. The museum was founded in 1980 by merging Orava Museum and Oravský Podzámok and the Literary Museum of P.O.Hviezdoslav in Dolný Kubín. Its original name was the Orava Museum in Dolný Kubín. The museum documents the natural conditions and social development throughout the region of Orava. A part of the collections is the historical book collection Čaplovič Library. The Čaplovič Library is one of the most precious historical and scientic libraries in Slovakia. Its founder was Vavrinec Čaplovič from Jasenová – one of the greatest book-collector in the 19th century in Slovakia, who donated his book-collection to Orava Bench in 1839.
Museum of Orava village Zuberec-Brestová is housed in a beautiful setting in the foothill of submountain Roháče. Originally there were only grazing but in 1967 the building of museum began. More than 50 folk architecture are positioning here in a several units, which recall different parts of Orava – Dolnooravský rinok, Zamagurská ulica (Zamagura Street), Goralské lazy. Technical constructions such as water-powered mill, oil-mill, pottery kiln can’t miss here. Above the “village” is towering a wooden Gothic church, the church of St. Elisabeth of Hungary from the early 15th century from the village Zábrež. The church with a late Baroque painted ceiling and a functional Baroque organ is a real jewel of the museum. Home appliance and domestic animals allow visitors to imagine the life and work at Orava in the past.
Kysucko-Oravská forest railway was built to solve the problem of wood transporting. The forest railway was established in 1926, completing the connecting section between the existing Kysucka forest railway (Oščadnica-Chmura) and Oravská forest railway (Lokča-Erdutka). After combining, the total route length is more than 100 km.
Orava reservoir (Oravská priehrada) with its 35.2 km², is the biggest lake in Slovakia. It was constructed between 1941 and 1953. A few villages, mostly former villages, were inundated when Orava was build. The best known village was Slanica, where a famous Slovak intellectual Anton Bernolák was born.
More and more tourists are attracted to this lake every year. The most famous resort is a village – Slanická, which offers many possibilities for water sports such as diving, boating, water skiing, water biking, windsurfing, sailing or sightseeing boat trips.
The most suitable for water tourism is the flow of river Orava. Given to its size it has a greater retention basin capacity. In addition to natural factors aquosity of river Orava affects the water reservoir Orava. The river is navigable throughout the whole flow from Tvrdošín to its flow into Váh in Kraľovany. Till lately, the flow was longer for few kilometers, but a buffer tank was built in Tvrdošín, so the floating must be discontinued in the dam reservoir. The total length from Tvrdošín to Kraľovany is 63.5 km. In drier period it is not navigable in its entire length. Whereas along the flow are not built any industrial complexes, Orava water remains clean throughout the entire flow. River-basin is 50-100 m wide and considerably varied. Advantage over the rivers in the southern parts in the summer period is a limited number of mosquitoes.
- Priehrada (Dam)-Parnica: river km 63.5 – 8.6; slope 1.5 ppm; difficulty of WWI.
- Parnica-delta: river km 8.6 – 0; slope 3 ppm; difficulty od WWII.
Another flow suitable for water tourism is river Oravica. It has a natural character with the difficulty WWII, the average slope of 7.9 ppm. Navigable section is 21 km long. The navigation on the Oravice begins in spring and early summer when the creek is supplied by the water from melting snow in the Western Tatras. Another river suitable for water tourism with some restrictions is river Biela Orava (White Orava). The total length of navigable flow is 33 km. During the navigation you can hit only one obstacle – fallen trees. The average slope is 4.5 ppm with the difficulty of WWII. Enough water for rafting is only in spring melting and after heavy rains.
Water sports are concentrated on Orava dam. During the summer season, the main focus is on sailing, windsurfing, water skiing, personal watercraft, recreational rowing and swimming. Boat renting are in camping Stará Hora and Slanická Osada. In the recreational center Studnička is an opportunity of renting boats, surfboards and personal watercraft in the Jami rental.
Among the oldest spas in Slovakia belong Spa Lucky (known since 1761), which are located on the boundary of Orava and Liptov below the foothill if the Great Choča. Spa has a long tradition in the comprehensive treatment of gynecological diseases. It is the only spa in Slovakia focused on the treatment of gynecological diseases. Currently, there are treating gynecological diseases and musculoskeletal conditions. In the treatment plays a crucial role the earthy-plaster carbonic mineral water of healing spring with the temperature 32 °C, containing natural carbon dioxide. For the purposes of the treatment there are used baths, peat wraps, steam baths and other hydrotherapy treatments associated with massage to completed with the rehabilitation exercises and physiotherapy.
Oravice Meander Park thermal is located in the Orava region – the Western Tatras, near the Polish border, just a few kilometers from Zakopané. From the depth of 1,611 m springs the natural thermal water with a beneficial effect, with the temperature 58°C, which flows into all the pools in the area Meander Park thermal in the area of 1,545 m2. The thermal water is highly mineralized sodium-calcium-magnezium sulfurous with a high iron contant. The direct acces to the indoor and outdoor pools allows bathing in any weather and any season. You receive a bracelet with a chip on entry, in which is loading the amount of drinking in the refreshment facielities and also serves in the opening and closing the cabinets. You’ll need cash just when you’re leaving, when all is paid at once.
AQUA Relax Dolný Kubín offers the opportunities for bathing in a crystal clear water. There is a swimming pool, the only rustless pool opened through the whole year, a relaxating pool, a big multifunctional pool below a pyramid basin, and a pool for children, a system consisting of two pools with a slide.
Brestovská cave is located in the Tatra National Park in the village Zuberec at an altitude of 867 m a.s.l. The cave was known to people long ago, what caused extensive devastation of the stalactive decoration. The devastation was avoided by a cap building. The cave was declared to a national monument in 1979. The cave was created by the erosion of Studený potok (Cold Creek). It is important for research on the geomorphological evolution of mountain and karst hydrography, because the cave has an active underground stream, together with several lakes and traps. Brestovská cave belongs to the most varied species underground shelters of bats in Orava. The cave and its immediate surroundings were identified nine kinds of bats. Regularly and in greater number, plain bat (Myotis myotis) and small horseshoe (Rhinolophus hipposideros) are overwintering here.
Orava is also famous for lot of ski opportunities. Skiing is an inseparable part of Orava during the winter months. Skiers have a lot of different opportunities to choose an appropriate ski lift, resort or hill. Those who are attracted to more cross-country skiing can choose a cross-country track in Dolný Kubín.
Orava Snow – Oravská Lesná
This winter resort lies in the coldest valley of Slovakia – Oravská Lesná. Despite of this fact it is one of the fastest growing Slovak ski resorts. Visiting Orava Snow is great chance to experience the beauties of Oravian nature.
Ski Park – Kubínska hoľa
One of the most popular ski resorts in Slovakia is Kubínska hoľa, which is located close to Dolný Kubín. Excellent ski slopes are surrounded by beautiful countryside, by the mountains Oravská Magura, Tatry (Tatras), Malá and Veľká Fatra (Small and Big Fatra). Resort has 8 ski lifts with a carrying capacity of 7, 000 passengers per hour. The total length of the ski slopes is 13 km.
Meander Skipark – Oravice
Slopes in Oravice are perfectly prepared for hundreds of skiers. After a long day in the nature you can enjoy relaxing such as hot water in more swimming pools. Meander Skipark area is located only 15 km from Polish boarder (Suchá Hora) and 110 km from Krakow.
Ski Resort Zverovka–Spálená
Zverovka–Spálená provides optimal conditions for all categories of skiers and snowboarders. Beginners or children are satisfied, but also big fans of winter sports demanding long and interesting slopes find there everything what they need.