Nature reserves

Nature reserves

Kluczwoda Valley

A beautiful dell near Kraków, also called the Wierzchówka Valley, stretches for 6 kilometres from Bębło to Bolechowice. A stream, also dubbed Kluczwoda (meaning wandering water, since it wanders through the valley), meanders into the Rudawa river. The most precious area of great natural interest - a forest gorge with steep sides situated in the lower part of the valley between Gacki and Wierzchowie - has been protected since 1989. The reserve ensconces this characteristic landscape covered with dry-ground forest complexes and xerothermic rock plant formations. One of the valley’s climbing attractions is the Zamkowa Rock with ruins of a knight’s watchtower estimated to date back to the 14th century. However, the greatest treasure of the whole valley is the Wierzchowska Górna Cave situated near the Wierzchowie village. This natural monument is almost one kilometre long, 700 metres of which has been adapted to sightseeing (the longest route of this type in Poland, available only by guided tour: Apr-Nov). The underground route leads through chambers and corridors bejewelled with beautiful mineral deposits.

Homole Gorge and Biała Woda (White Water)

Homole Gorge (800 m) is one of the most beautiful corners of the Little Pieniny range. It forms a deep canyon with steep sides (up to 120 metres high) covered scenically with juniper and calcicole plants. The Kamionka stream, whose bed is filled with boulders, flows though the gorge. This romantic corner, adapted and ideal for sightseeing, became a nature reserve in 1963 to protect its landscape and precious geological features. A green trail, which starts just before Jaworki village near Szczawnica, crosses the gorge. A sign marks the entrance to the reserve (just before it, you can find a car park and an inn). Many tales tell that already by the 5th century the gorge was being explored by treasure hunters. In one of the rocks, called Prokwitowska Homola, the mineshafts of those storied gold-greedy explorers have been found. The first stretch of the trail crosses the canyon, where the lofty rocks can be admired. Further on, the trail leads up through the forest scree towards a glade.

Biała Woda nature reserve, which can also be reached from Jaworek city centre, was established and open to the public in 1963, just like the Homole Gorge. This picturesque, almost woodless and wide land can be traversed via the yellow trail, which is perfectly adapted for tourists (with numerous benches and information points provided). The trail ends at the Rozdziele Pass which demarcates the natural borderline between the Sądecki Beskid and the Little Pieniny range and offers a beautiful panorama to end your journey.

Homole Gorge and Biała Woda, in-season admission fee (May-Sept): PLN 1.50

Skamieniałe Miasto (Stone City)

This is one of the main attractions and sights of the Carpathian Foothills, a geological reserve where large sandstone rocks of fanciful and splendid shapes can be admired. As a natural monument, the area was already protected in 1932 but became a reserve only a couple of years later in 1974. This place of outstanding beauty is situated within the borders of Ciężkowice town, only 700 metres from the city centre (along the road from Tarnów to Gorlice and Krynica). The rocks, which acquired their shapes under the influence of erosion, bear interesting names. Apart from the Witch with a hooked nose, which guards the city’s entrance, there is also the Town Hall, the Tower, the Club, the Pyramid, and the Badger…. One gathering of rocks has even been dubbed Grunwald in memory of the greatest victory in Polish history. In the vicinity of the reserve there is one more interesting site: the miniature - being only 70 metres long - Czarownic (Witches) gorge. It can be reached via the trail from the Stone City. Lastly, the gorges greatest attraction is an impressively large waterfall, which in winter creates a splendid ice wall while in summer plunges resoundingly onto the rocks.

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