The Giant Mountains, known as the Karkonosze (pronounced [ˈkr̩konoʃɛ]) in Polish, Krkonoše in Czech, and Riesengebirge in German, are part of the Sudetes mountain range in Central Europe and form the border between Poland and the Czech Republic. They offer beautiful scenery and winter resorts. The Giant Mountains include two national parks – Krkonošský narodní park (Giant Mountains National park) in Czech Republic and Karkonosze National Park in Poland. This article is about the first one.
There are four main towns in Giant Mountains National Park, from west, these areː Harrachov, Rokytnice nad Jizerou Špindlerův Mlýn, and Pec pod Sněžkou.
- Town Harrachov is in the western part of Giant Mountains in the valley of the Mumlava River, is a centre of winter sports and resorts. There is also a cinema and some music clubs. A dominant feature of this town is a huge ski jump. The crest hike is usually started from this town.
- Rokytnice nad Jizerou features probably the worst skiing areal of these four, but it is a good base for trekking in the area. The town is especially popular during New Year’s eve, during which many Czech people come here to celebrate.
- Špindlerův Mlýn also features a ski areal and is known as the most expensive among these town, popular for among rich for its luxurious hotels.
- Pec pod Sněžkou is probably the most useful of these towns. It has the biggest (and probably the best) skiing areal among these, it features a lot of accommodation options and is located directly below Czech tallest mountain Sněžka, which makes it a good base for climbing up this mountain. If you do now want to climb it, the cable way up there also starts here.
The national park is quite large, about 40 km in west/east direction and 20 km in south/north direction. It covers the whole Czech part of Giant Mountains, which are the tallest mountains of the Czech Republic. The mountains are quite scenic, even though they do not resemble the typical mountains such as Alps, they are much more similar to what you would expect to see in Scotland or Scandinavia – that means that you won’t find any tall rocks or step cliffs here. Giant Mountains are a popular tourist destination for hiking in summer and skiing in winter, and can sometimes can overcrowded as such. The best time to visit for hiking is probably June because of good weather and smaller crowds, while other summer months are fine as well. For skiing, the best time to come is probably December or January.
The highest mountain Sněžka can be translated as “Snowhead” and is located directly on the Polish-Czech border. At 1,603 meters high, it is the highest mountain of the Czech Republic. There is a restaurant and a chapel on the Polish side. The peak can be reached via a modern gondola from the Czech side or a more antiquated chairlift from the Polish side. Hiking trails to peak approach from both sides of the mountain as well. The Elbe River starts near the border – it is one of the longest rivers in Central Europe and flows from the Czech Republic, (Bohemia) all the way through Germany to Hamburg.
There is a popular myth about the protector of the Giant Mountains, a giant or mountain spirit known as Krakonoš in Czech, Liczyrzepa in Polish, or Ruebezahl in German. You will find wonderful images of him everywhere!