Pieniński National Park
Pieniński National Park
The fairly small and rugged Pieniny Mountains are the jewels of the Carpathian range. Built from Cretaceous and Jurassic limestone, they are characterised by a distinct terrain. The park extends over the most attractive part of the mountains – the emerging steep quasi-islands called the Pieniny Właściwe. The preservation of this area started prior to World War II, but the park gained its current name only in 1954. Precipitous peaks, small rocks, regal gorges and the scenic Dunajec Valley that cuts through the mountains serve to create a realm of enigmatic beauty. Among these, Okrąglica (982 m asl), situated in the Trzy Korony (Three Crowns) massif, is the highest peak of the park.
Flora and Fauna
Limestone bedrock, and the extensive geomorphologic diversity coupled with the fairly low altitude of the mountains, helps to support a wide variety of flora. Apart from the beech and fir forests, the park is distinguished by its flowery meadows (with a number of different species including a couple of varieties of orchids) and the grass upon the rocks. The latter has sheltered two endemic species (found only in the Pieniny range): Taraxacum pieninicum and Erysimum pieninicum, and the relict Dendranthema zawadskii which grows in the vast areas of Central Asia and only in the Pieniny Mountains in Europe. A great diversity of wildlife is another characteristic feature of the mountains. It is estimated that half of the species recorded in Poland live here, most of them insects. Lynx and wild cat can also be found prowling beneath the forests’ canopy. The mountains also provide a habitat to the eyries of the eagle owl, the lesser spotted eagle and the golden eagle. However, what makes the site so popular and unique is the scenic landscape emphasised by the park’s logo, which includes the Dunajec waters cascading down the mountain peaks.
Pieniński National Park. Trail admission fee: free of charge (including the Slovakian side of the mountains), in May-Oct fees are charged for the viewing terraces on top of Trzy Korony and Sokolica. The ticket purchased on Trzy Korony is valid for entry to Sokolica and vice-versa. www.pieninypn.pl.
Homole Gorge and Biała Woda (White Water), charming nature reserves (see p. XXX).
St. Martin’s Church dating back to the 15th century, situated on the Wooden Architecture Route in Grywald.
Rafting through the Dunajec Gorge, the greatest attraction of the Pieniny. The trip starts at the rafting stand in Sromowce Wyżne-Kąty (www.flisacy.com.pl; rafting: Apr-Oct) and within 2-3 hours covers an 18-kilometre distance towards Szczawnica or 23 kilometres towards Krościenko.
Dunajec Castle in Niedzica, which towers over the surface of the Czorsztyn Lake, is the best preserved residential and fortified building in the Carpathian Mountains. It also houses a museum. On the opposite side of the lake, you can admire the ruins of Czorsztyn Castle, which can be reached by the ‘Biała Dama’ (White Lady) and ‘Harnaś’ (a legendary leader of robbers in the Tatras) boats.