Slovakia

Lying at the very heart of Eastern Europe both in a physical and metaphorical sense, the small, land-locked country of Slovakia has overcome a great deal since its independence in 1993. A former Soviet Union member, its emergence from its communist days has largely been eclipsed by its Czech neighbours in terms of political and economic clout. Yet, with a flourishing capital, breath-taking scenery, and more gothic and baroque churches and castles than you can shake a stick at, Slovakia’s tourism industry is finally coming of age.

Most visitors to the country will head to the North-East of the country and the nation’s capital, Bratislava. Boasting a thousand year history and an awe-inspiring backdrop, this charming medieval city is fast becoming a hub of culture and activity as sight-seers flock annually to experience the winding cobbled streets, cosmopolitan atmosphere, and numerous outdoor cafes. From here, there is a wealth of sights to be discovered in the magnificent regions of the Danube River and the Tatra Mountains.

Yet, whilst day trips from the city can afford glimpses of the many treasures Slovakia has to offer, increasingly visitors are demanding more interesting and exciting ways to get up close and personal with the spectacular scenery and more traditional Slovakian culture.  With the recent heightened interest in responsible travel, Slovakia is responding to the request of its tourists and delving into the world of eco tourism to find that this has some very positive results.

One such example of this is the wildlife conservation holiday, which offers eco-volunteers the opportunity to get involved with conservation projects in the heart of the Tratas Mountains. With an incredibly diverse wildlife population, visitors are offered the opportunity to do anything from bear tracking to wolf and lynx conservation, all whilst encountering the wonders of the very remotest parts of this European region. Accommodation typically involves sleeping in secluded mountain cottages in local communities; giving travellers the rare chance to experience life in areas of Slovakia normally off-limits to tourist hoards.

If this sounds a little too extreme, then there are many tamer possibilities available for those looking for a healthy compromise between the commercial package deal and the ‘real’ thing. A winter activity week in a traditional Slovakian mountain town is a great way to experience all the fun of a snow holiday, without feeling like just another number in the usual Alpine ski resorts. Such packages include activities such as dog-sledging and skiing, as well as trips out to surrounding thermal spars and hillside towns. What is more, they are all tailored to help the local community support their local customs whilst maintaining the natural environment.

As this way of holidaying looks to make the move from niche to mainstream at some point in the near future, Slovakia is feeling the benefit of the boost that eco-tourism can bring to its landscape, economy, and people. To experience something a little different in Eastern Europe, have a look at internet deals on responsible travel that include flights to Bratislava.

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