Slovakia, formally known as the Slovak Republic (Slovak: Slovensko or Slovenská republika; both names are legally accepted) is a landlocked nation in Central Europe. It is bounded on the west by Austria, on the northwest by the Czech Republic, on the south by Hungary, on the north by Poland, and on the east by Ukraine. Slovakia is a contemporary democratic nation and a European Union member.
The primary reasons to visit Slovakia are its natural beauty, vibrant history, and plenty of recreational activities (and due to the small size of the country, it is quite easy to combine all three).
Slovakia contains nine national parks that span a significant section of the country and include the highest peaks of the Carpathian Mountains, the High Tatras, which provide excellent possibilities for mountain and winter sports as well as spectacular views. A significant portion of Slovakia is composed of limestone, which, when combined with numerous springs and rivers, resulted in the formation of numerous caves (12 of which are open to the public, several of which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites), as well as the stunning rocky formations, canyons, and waterfalls of the Slovak Paradise and Slovak Karst. Even outside of these regions, Slovakia has some stunning scenery, and the whole country is covered by hundreds of well-marked hiking paths.
Slovakia boasts the greatest concentration of castles and chateaux per population in the world, ranging from basic ruins to well-preserved livable castles with furnishings, so if you’re a fan of medieval history, look no further. Additionally, Slovakia, including the capital, has many Gothic and Baroque cities and villages. Additionally, there are well-preserved specimens of wooden folk architecture, including churches constructed entirely of wood and the world’s largest wooden altar.
There are many mineral and thermal springs in Slovakia, and around some of these world-famous spas, which provide excellent therapeutic treatments or just relaxation, have been constructed spas. You may also relax, swim, and sunbathe on the beaches of many nearby lakes and pools, or go to AquaCity waterpark for a more adventurous experience. Bratislava, in particular, has a vibrant nightlife and is a favorite party destination.
Natural landscapes, mountains, caverns, medieval castles and villages, folk architecture, spas, and ski resorts may all be found in Slovakia. In 2015, over 4.3 million visitors visited Slovakia, with the city of Bratislava and the High Tatras being the most popular locations. The Czech Republic (approximately 26 percent), Poland (15 percent), and Germany are the countries with the most tourists (11 percent ).
Dolls dressed in folk costumes, ceramic objects, crystal glass, carved wooden figures, rpáks (wooden pitchers), fujaras (a folk instrument on the UNESCO list), and valakas (a decorated folk hatchet) are typical Slovakian souvenirs, as are products made from corn husks and wire, particularly human figures.
Souvenirs may be purchased from the state organization UV (stredie udovej umeleckej vroby– Centre of Folk Art Production). Dielo is a store chain that offers the products of Slovak artists and craftspeople. These stores are mainly located in cities and towns.
Costs for imported goods are largely the same as in neighboring nations, but prices for local goods and services, particularly food, are often cheaper.
Slovakia is located between the latitudes of 47° and 50° N, and the longitudes of 16° and 23° E.
The Carpathian Mountains span the majority of the country’s northern half, and the Slovak landscape is known for its rugged character. The high peaks of the Fatra-Tatra Area (containing the Tatra Mountains, Greater Fatra, and Lesser Fatra), Slovak Ore Mountains, Slovak Central Mountains, and Beskids are among these mountain ranges. The rich Danubian Lowland in the southwest is the biggest, followed by the Eastern Slovak Lowland in the southeast.
The Tatras are the tallest mountain range in the Carpathian Mountains, with 29 peaks rising over 2,500 meters (8,202 feet) AMSL. The Tatras cover an area of 750 square kilometers (290 square miles), the most of which is in Slovakia (600 square kilometers (232 square miles). They are split into sections.
The High Tatras, close to the Polish border, are a popular hiking and skiing destination with numerous beautiful lakes and valleys, as well as Slovakia’s highest point, the Gerlachovsk tt at 2,655 metres (8,711 ft) and the country’s very iconic peak Krivá. To the west are the Western Tatras, which have the highest peak, Bystrá, at 2,248 meters (7,375 feet), and to the east are the Belianske Tatras, which have the smallest area.
The Low Tatras are separated from the Tatras proper by the valley of the Váh river, with their highest peak, Umbrier, standing at 2,043 meters (6,703 ft).
The Tatra mountain range is shown as one of three hills on Slovakia’s coat of arms.
Slovakia has nine national parks:
|Tatra National Park||1949||738 square kilometres (73,800 ha)|
|Low Tatras National Park||1978||728 square kilometres (72,800 ha)|
|Veľká Fatra National Park||2002||404 square kilometres (40,400 ha)|
|Slovak Karst National Park||2002||346 square kilometres (34,600 ha)|
|Poloniny National Park||1997||298 square kilometres (29,800 ha)|
|Malá Fatra National Park||1988||226 square kilometres (22,600 ha)|
|Muránska planina National Park||1998||203 square kilometres (20,300 ha)|
|Slovak Paradise National Park||1988||197 square kilometres (19,700 ha)|
|Pieniny National Park||1967||38 square kilometres (3,800 ha)|
Under its mountains, Slovakia contains hundreds of caves and caverns, 15 of which are accessible to the public. Stalagmites rise from the ground and stalactites dangle from the ceiling in the majority of the caves. There are presently five Slovak caverns that have been designated as World Heritage Sites by UNESCO. Dobinská Ice Cave, Domica, Gombasek Cave, Jasovská Cave, and Ochtinská Aragonite Cave are among them. Other public caverns are Belianska Cave, Demänovská Cave of Liberty, Demänovská Ice Cave, and Bystrianska Cave.
The majority of the rivers originate in the Slovak highlands. Some merely go through, but others form a natural boundary with neighboring nations (greater than 620 kilometers (385 miles). The Dunajec, for example, is 17 kilometers (11 miles) to the north, the Danube is 172 kilometers (107 miles) to the south, and the Morava is 119 kilometers (74 miles) to the west. The total length of rivers in Slovakia is 49,774 kilometers (30,928 mi).
The longest river in Slovakia is the Váh (403 km (250 mi)), while the shortest is the ierna voda. The Myjava, the Nitra (197 kilometers (122 mi)), the Orava, the Hron (298 kilometers (185 mi)), the Hornád (193 kilometers (120 mi)), the Slaná (110 kilometers (68 mi)), the Ipe (232 kilometers (144 mi), forming the border with Hungary), the Bodrog, the Laborec, the Latorica, and the Ondava are other important and large rivers.
The greatest amount of flow in Slovak rivers occurs in the spring, when the snow on the mountains melts. The sole exception is the Danube, which has the highest discharge during the summer when the snow melts in the Alps. The Danube is Slovakia’s biggest river, flowing across the country.
In the High Tatras, there are about 175 naturally created tarns. Veké Hincovo pleso is Slovakia’s biggest and deepest tarn, covering 20 hectares (49 acres) and reaching a depth of 53 metres (174 feet). Trbské pleso, Popradské pleso, Skalnaté pleso, Zbojncke pleso, Velické pleso, abie pleso, Krivánske zelené pleso, and Roháske plesá are some more tarns in the High Tatras. Aside from the High Tatras, there are Vrbické pleso in the Low Tatras, Morské oko and Vinné jazero in the Vihorlat Mountains, and Jezerské jazero in Spiská Magura.
Liptovská Mara and Sava are the two biggest dams on the Váh River. Oravská priehrada in the north, Zemplnska rava and Domaa in the east, and Senecké jazerá, Zlaté piesky, or Zelená voda in the west are other well-known dams.
Slovakia has a moderate climate with hot, bright summers and cold, foggy, humid, snowy winters. The climate is continental, with four seasons, and although the general climate is moderate, the temperature difference between summer and winter months is significant.
It is typically warmer in the south and lowlands, where summer temperatures may reach 30°C (86°F) on hotter days and rain is more frequent in winter than snow, which normally evaporates in a few days.
Northern, particularly mountainous areas, have a cooler climate, with summer temperatures seldom reaching 25°C (77°F). Snow is frequent in the highlands throughout the winter, and it may become very cold, with temperatures as low as -20°C (-4°F).
If you intend to visit the mountains, keep in mind that, as in any mountainous area, the weather may change drastically in a matter of minutes, and it can rain (or snow!) even in the summer. Don’t forget to bring proper equipment and don’t underestimate the weather.
According to the 2011 census, the majority of Slovakia’s population are Slovaks (80.7 percent ). Hungarians are the most numerous ethnic minority (8.5 percent ). Other ethnic groupings include Roma (2%), Czechs (0.6%), Rusyns (0.6%), and others or unidentified (7.6 percent ). Unofficial estimates place the Roma population at approximately 5.6 percent.
Slovakia was projected to have a total fertility rate of 1.33 in 2007 (i.e., the typical woman would have 1.33 children in her lifetime), which is considerably lower than the replacement level and one of the lowest rates in the EU.
The greatest waves of Slovak emigration occurred in the nineteenth and early twentieth century. 1.8 million individuals self-identified as having Slovak ancestry in the 1990 US census.
The Slovak constitution protects religious freedom. In 2011, 62.0 percent of Slovaks identified as Roman Catholics, 8.9 percent as Protestants, 3.8 percent as Greek Catholics, 0.9 percent as Orthodox, 13.4 percent as atheists, and 10.6 percent did not respond to the question regarding their religious beliefs. In 2004, about one-third of church members regularly attended church services. The Slovak Greek Catholic Church is a Catholic Church of the Eastern Rite sui iuris. The country’s pre–World War II population includes an estimated 90,000 Jews (1.6 percent of the population). Only approximately 2,300 Jews survive today as a result of the Nazi era’s murderous tactics (0.04 percent of the population).
In 2016, the Slovak parliament approved a new law that would prevent Islam from becoming a state-recognized religion by increasing the minimum number of adherents from 25,000 to 50,000. The bill was approved by parliament with a two-thirds majority.
The Slovak economy is developed and high-income, with GDP per capita equaling 76 percent of the European Union average in 2014. Prior to the current global economic crisis, the nation was known as the “Tatra Tiger.” Slovakia transitioned effectively from a centrally planned to a market-driven economy. Major privatisations are almost complete, the banking system is almost entirely private, and foreign investment has increased.
Prior to the 2007–08 financial crisis, Slovakia had enjoyed rapid and sustained economic development. Slovakia was the fastest growing economy in the European Union in 2007, 2008, and 2010 (with GDP growth rates of 10.5 percent, 6 percent, and 4 percent, respectively). Slovakia was the second fastest growing Eurozone member after Estonia in 2011 and 2012. In 2012, more than 75% of Slovak exports went to other European Union member countries, while more than 50% of Slovak imports came from them.
Slovakia’s government debt-to-GDP ratio has reached 58 percent at the end of 2013.
According to the Slovak Statistical Office, unemployment fell from 19 percent at the end of 1999 to 7.5 percent in October 2008. Aside from economic development, labor migration to other EU nations also contributed to this decrease. According to Eurostat, which employs a different calculating technique than the Statistical Office of the Slovak Republic, the unemployment rate in September 2016 was 9.4 percent, ranking sixth in the Eurozone.
Inflation fell from a 12-percentage-point average annual rate in 2000 to 3.3 percent in 2002, an election year, but it increased again in 2003–2004 due to increasing labor expenses and taxes. It was just 1% in 2010, the lowest reported incidence since 1993. In 2011, the rate was at 4%.
As the Eurozone’s sixteenth member, Slovakia adopted the Euro currency on January 1, 2009. On May 7, 2008, the European Commission authorized the use of the euro in Slovakia. On May 28, 2008, the Slovak koruna was revalued to 30.126 for one euro, which was also the euro’s exchange rate.
Slovakia is appealing to international investors because to its cheap salaries, low tax rates, and well-educated labor population. Slovakia has pursued a strategy of attracting international investment in recent years. FDI inflows increased by more than 600 percent since 2000, reaching an all-time high of $17.3 billion in 2006, or approximately $22,000 per capita by the end of 2008.
Slovakia, like other post-communist nations, has significant difficulties in the knowledge economy. Business and government R&D spending are much lower than the EU average. The OECD-coordinated Programme for International Student Assessment presently ranks Slovak secondary education 30th in the world (placing it just below the United States and just above Spain).
Slovakia’s economy has now matured sufficiently, according to the Ministry of Finance, to no longer need World Bank assistance. Slovakia began providing assistance towards the end of 2008.