Ojcowski National Park
Ojcowski National Park
Ojcowski National Park, Poland’s smallest national park, is precious for its geological, natural and cultural resources. Created in 1956, it has protected the Prądnik and Saspówka Valleys and a few small gorges. The importance of this area was already appreciated by the 19th century, undoubtedly thanks to its close proximity to Kraków. The fairy-tale character of the landscape formed by steep-sided canyons, jutting rock pinnacles and groups of monadnocks came as the happy result of destructive water activity. Jurassic limestone rocks are quickly eroded by rain and this process, repeated for millions of years, resulted in astounding forms. The most spectacular is the Prądnik Valley - a gallery of karst works - which is endowed with tall rocks of fanciful shapes, karst springs and a cornucopia of caves (approximately 400).
Flora and fauna
A characteristic microclimate has evolved in the valleys carved by water. The climatic conditions combined with the substratum’s rich diversity gave rise to the abundant floral resources that are a feature here. Over a thousand vascular plants, half of all species occurring in Poland, have been recorded here. Among the most interesting species here is the lady’s-slipper orchid, known as the “common obuwnik” in Polish and which, despite its name, is not very common, and mother-of-thyme, which grows only here in Poland. In terms of fauna, bats are the most popular inhabitants of the park. Out of 21 species living in Poland, 17 of them have been spotted here. A bat’s iconic silhouette has been included in the park’s logo.
Ojcowski National Park, trail admission fee: free of charge, ww.opn.pan.krakow.pl.
The ruins of the castle Ojców, erected during King Casimir the Great’s reign in the 14th century, can be sighted on the Trail of the Eagles’ Nests. Situated along the Wooden Architecture Route, the beautiful Chapel on the Water built in 1901, with three original cottage roof-shaped altars, can also be seen.
Open to visitors is Grota Łokietka (Łokietek Cave), where, according to tales, centuries ago the future Polish ruler hid. Also open for sightseeing is the Ciemna (Dark) Cave where one of the oldest Neanderthal camps was discovered. Moreover, one can enjoy the castle in Pieskowa Skała, also called the ‘Pearl of Jura,’ complete with a museum exhibition culled from the Division of the National Art Collection of the Royal Castle at the Wawel Hill. Maczuga Herkulesa (Mace of Hercules), the most well-known Jurassic limestone rock in the shape of Hercules’s mace, and the famous monadnocks, Skamieniały Wędrowiec (Petrified Wanderer) and Igła Deotymy (Diotima’s Needle), are other interesting attractions.
Here, too, stands the Kraków Gate formed by two epic 15-metre limestone rocks.