I have to be honest, until about a year ago I had never even heard of Bohemian Switzerland… and that’s despite having travelled previously to the 2 major cities nearest to it – namely Dresden in Germany and Prague in the Czech Republic.
And this may give you some idea of a) how off the beaten track this wonderful natural area is and b) how confusing its name is!
Because yes, unlike many of us first assume, Bohemian Switzerland isn’t in Switzerland *missed spoiler alert warning*
In fact, it’s not even remotely near Switzerland… if we’re talking in European terms that is.
Because Bohemian Switzerland is actually located in…. (drum roll please) the country of Czechia (formerly known as the Czech Republic).
An easy train ride, drive or even cycle from Prague, this often-forgotten area is a hidden part of the country that’s now making a big splash.
And after the 5 delightful days I spent there, I’m happy to report it’s quite a splash.
So here’s the full travel lowdown on visiting Bohemian Switzerland National Park if you want to check out this up and coming (and may I add superb) Czech corner…
My trip to Bohemian Switzerland was kindly sponsored by the Czech Tourist Authority CzechTourism and the Ustí Region but, as always, all views are my own.
This page contains affiliate links meaning Big World Small Pockets may receive a small commission on any purchases at no extra cost to you.
Why Visit Bohemian Switzerland?
There’s lots of great reasons you should visit Bohemian Switzerland – beautiful nature, great hiking, lovely cycling opps and delicious beer are among them – but another great motivator is that this is a superb region for anyone looking to get a bit off the beaten track in Czechia.
Yup, if you want to experience real Czech life, with few international tourists, then this is a winner of a place to head to.
This is especially true if you’re on a bit of a European travel circuit – and by this I mean a whirlwind tour of some of the continent’s most popular spots. In general, these trips tend to involve running from bucket-list ticking historic city to bucket-list ticking historic city (elbowing crowds out of the way as you go!) and quite frankly, it can be exhausting.
I know, I’ve done it!
But enter the lovely region and national park of Bohemian Switzerland and you’ve got yourself the perfect break from busy sightseeing life and the tourist crowds in the form of a short detour that really will allow you to see an authentic and beautiful slice of central / eastern Europe.
Because this place really is a wonderfully quiet, natural area in which you can truly unwind and relax for a few days… and let’s be honest, who isn’t into that?!
But it doesn’t stop there, because Bohemian Switzerland is also a fab spot for active travellers too, y’know us outdoorsy types who love getting amongst it all.
From hiking to biking, canoeing to climbing, this area offers a wealth of activities that are perfect for stretching those muscles and taking in some serious lungfuls of clean air.
With one of Czechia’s largest national parks situated in this region, the German border close at hand, a lively local identity and plenty of interesting historical stories, Bohemian Switzerland ticks just about every box… and failing all that, there’s a lot of craft beer and micro-breweries you can sample here as well!
When to Go?
Situated on the edge of eastern Europe (so much so that I’m actually going to say it’s more in central Europe), there’s no doubt that visiting Bohemian Switzerland is best done in the summer… especially if you’re a freaking winterphobe like me!
Yes for those who like things a bit warmer too, from May to September you’re likely to be greeted here with warm sunny days, blue skies and temperatures ranging between 18 and 33 degrees centigrade during the day – yes please!
And even if you’re not opposed to the cold, there’s so much outside fun to experience in Bohemian Switzerland, that I’d still really advise visiting during these months if you can too.
In this way, you’ll avoid the wet, snowy winters (the months of October through April here can be freezing – literally) that would make enjoying the stunning natural surrounds here a bit of an arduous chore!
That said, like most of Europe, the peak tourist months in this region are July and August, when the weather is best and the school holidays across the continent are in full force.
The crowds in Bohemian Switzerland won’t be international tourists (they are most likely to be Czech or German), but they will still be heavy, so if you’d rather have a quieter time, I’d avoid these 2 months and stick to visiting during May, June or September.
And I can definitely attest to this because my visit to Bohemian Switzerland coincided with an August weekend and it was pretty busy.
Although it has to be said, the whole place still felt wonderfully relaxed compared to the visitor crowds of Prague for example!
Where is Bohemian Switzerland?
So now we come to the classic question… where the heck is the Bohemian Switzerland region?
And the answer is, confusingly, in the northwest of Czechia (formerly known as the Czech Republic), in a region called Ústí nad Labem.
Historically part of the Bohemian Kingdom (which is how this national park and the surrounding area came to acquire its somewhat misleading name), the main access point here is a small city of only 60,000 people called Děčín (pronounced de-chin) which is actually just 10km from the German border and situated along the Elbe River.
In fact, this area is so close to the German province of Saxony, that the national park actually straddles the border (although it has a different title on the German side – Saxon Switzerland), which makes hopping across to this other EU country for lunch as easy as making a sandwich!
Despite this being the case, it is still worth pointing out that Bohemian Switzerland – the area and the towns here – are distinctly Czech.
It’s Czech beer that’s drunk here, Czech language that’s spoken here and Czech Koruna that you use to pay here.
And yes, newsflash, if you thought Czech people used the Euro you’re wrong, so come prepared with your Wise card to avoid having to carry too much cash when you travel here or pay crazy high transaction fees with your usual bank card.
How to Get to Bohemian Switzerland from Prague?
Located around 125km from Prague, the amazing news is that you can get to the delightfully rural area of Bohemian Switzerland from the Czech capital easily and quickly.
In fact, if you’re short on time, a day trip from Prague to Bohemian Switzerland is even possible.
This top-rated option includes an accommodation pick-up in Prague, a local English-speaking guide, lunch and drinks – winner!
With your own vehicle (get a great deal on a rental here), the simple journey between the capital and Bohemian Switzerland can be made in around an hour and a half and, as you escape the city, there’s no doubt the views become more delightful as you go.
I can vouch for this because the views I saw from the train I caught from Prague to Děčín were very pleasant, as trees and green hills increasingly overtook the sight of grey buildings and factories.
Taking under 2 hours on a direct and comfortable train from Prague’s Central Station (Hlavní nádraží) – a train, I might add, which boasted both aircon and seat-side charging points in regular class – there’s no doubt the 8€ ticket for this ride was a bargain!
As always, I use Trainline to book my travel across Czechia, and central Europe in general, as I find their booking process easy, their live departure notifications super useful and their prices the best.
Otherwise, the most exciting and adventurous way to reach Bohemian Switzerland from Prague is via bike.
Yup, using the old 2 wheels definitely makes for an eco-friendly choice, because, amazingly, you can cycle here along a designated route that actually extends all the way to Dresden and onto Hamburg in Germany!
A great Czech company, based in Děčín, called Active Point have tons of helpful info on this route and they can even map you an itinerary, building in accommodation and creating a bespoke package so you can enjoy an excellent trip. Do check them out if this appeals.
Once in Děčín, you can then catch public bus #434, which will take you the short drive to the national park entrance. The stop you want is Mezní Louka.
How to Get to Bohemian Switzerland from Dresden?
It therefore goes without saying, that you can also cycle from Dresden across the border into Bohemian Switzerland and then onto Prague if you’re heading in the other direction.
Equally, trains all the way from Berlin, passing Dresden, head straight into Děčín… or you can make the drive too in just over an hour.
As is the joy of travelling in the EU, borders are generally quick and simple to cross.
This makes a day trip from Dresden to Bohemian Switzerland also possible – have a look at this top-rated option for more info.
A Word About Bohemian Switzerland Day Trips
Being so accessible from Prague and Dresden, it certainly is possible to make a day trip to Bohemian Switzerland as I’ve mentioned.
For this, most people use an organised tour that includes return transport and normally involves a day hiking in the national park, primarily to see the main attraction of Pravčická brána, which is the largest, natural sandstone arch in Europe.
After this, lunch at a local restaurant is normally available, followed by a delightful hike and boat trip through the picturesque Hřensko Gorge.
However, if you only make a day trip to Bohemian Switzerland, you really aren’t doing this place justice.
For starters, you won’t get the chance to really relax in this area, which is what Bohemian Switzerland does best thanks to its quiet local charm and delightful natural surrounds.
Secondly, you won’t be able to enjoy the full range of outdoor activities here, of which hiking is just the tip of the iceberg.
As I said before, if you’re looking to get off the sightseeing circuit in Europe for a few days, and instead want to savour some tourist-free views and some epic active adventures, then a stay of 2-3 days in Bohemian Switzerland would be ideal.
I actually spent 4 days in this lovely area and still felt like there was more to do and see!
Bohemian Switzerland National Park Itinerary
So the main attraction within this area is, of course, the Bohemian Switzerland National Park.
This is where you can enjoy the hike to the largest sandstone arch in Europe, take a boat ride through beautiful gorges, as well as enjoy a multitude of hiking and cycling trails.
The whole national park is a large woodland area, a magical, forested glen set to a backdrop of towering sandstone structures, incredible lookout areas and ancient rock castles.
Unsurprisingly, many local myths and fairy tales are wrapped up in this landscape too.
Once part of a prehistoric seabed, hiking here is largely under the shade of huge pine trees and, underfoot, the sandy terrain gives the impression of an amazing coastal area, even though you’re miles from the sea!
The huge rock formations make for some super photo opps and the calm Elbe River, which flows through it, is the perfect accompaniment to the well-maintained and well-marked trails.
Otherwise, you can float up the river too, either in a canoe or a kayak, or ride along peaceful cycle paths that thread their way alongside it.
Overall, the national park is the jewel in this area’s crown and is an easy bus ride from the town of Děčín – in fact, local bus number #434 will take you right into the heart of it.
Entrance to the national park is free, although it costs 3€ to enter Pravčická brána and a similarly small amount to take the boat ride through the gorge – a price well worth paying in my opinion!
A great day option for visiting this park is to canoe / kayak from Děčín to the town on the otherside of the German border – its name is Schmilka – where you can enjoy a great lunch.
You can then get a small boat (with your bike) across to the other side of the river for a mere 2.50€, before cycling back to Czechia and the entrance of the national park.
Stop for coffee at one of the many riverside cafes along the way if you do choose this option, so you can take in the views and peaceful atmosphere.
Oh the magic of travelling in Europe!
Things to Do in Bohemian Switzerland
I believe I’ve mentioned already that hiking, camping, rock climbing, canoeing, kayaking and cycling are the main things to enjoy in Bohemian Switzerland, but thought I’d put it here again just for the record!
Most of these activities are conducted in the national park, with the exception of rock climbing, which tends to take place along the Via Ferrata, a designated climbing cliff with various pegged trails in the town of Děčín.
Active Point can rent you climbing gear and offer guides if you are a novice, as I was!
Active Point can also supply canoes and kayaks, as well as bikes, and most of the activities (including hiking) can then be enjoyed without a guide – hoorah for ensuring those smaller pockets go just a little further…
As always, I recommend downloading maps.me to ensure you know exactly where you are hiking, because this app works even if you don’t have access to functioning wifi or data – a godsend in a forested national park!
If you would rather have a guide however, then day trips with Active Point start from just 10€, and one of their best-selling tours (which includes canoe and bike rental) costs just 24€ per person.
Where to Stay in Bohemian Switzerland?
If you’re visiting this area for a few days, I would strongly suggest you base yourself in the nearby town of Děčín, so you can have easy access to the national park, the river and the climbing opps, as well as a good choice of accommodation, restaurants and bars in the evening.
Within Děčín, I highly recommend the very affordable and centrally located Hotel Ceska Crown, which offers 3* comfort and has a designated space to lock up your bike.
Otherwise, Kemp Děčín (Camp Děčín) offers budget accommodation via tents, yurts and cabins. It also has room for you to pitch your own tent or park your van, and is located right on the side of the river.
As I’ve said before, bikes and canoes / kayaks can be hired from here as well.
Key Packing Items
The following would be a great idea to pack for a multi-day, active time in Bohemian Switzerland…
- Running Shoes or Walking Shoes
- Sunhat / Cap
- Insect Repellent
- Hiking Day Pack
- Metal Reusable Water Bottle
- Dry Bag
To learn more about packing for a trip to the Czech Republic, check out this article I wrote, which gives you a complete checklist.
Where to Eat and Drink in Děčín?
The following are all excellent places I enjoyed eating and drinking in Děčín and come highly recommended…
Things to Know Before you Go!
There are several ATMs across Děčín that accept both Visa and Mastercard.
Banks, pharmacies and supermarkets scatter the town too, so you don’t need to worry about supplies.
You can also pick up a local SIM card here if you need to, although be aware that roaming within the EU is free – so if you have a SIM card from any other EU country, you don’t need to get a new one for travel in Czechia.
The train station in Děčín is centrally located and cycling or walking around town is both easy and safe.
Locals here are very friendly, although not a lot of English is spoken. You may fair slightly better if you have a bit of German under your belt, but sadly this wasn’t my strong point either! Go for Google Translate!
Laundry facilities are available at Camp Děčín.
Quick Czechia Travel Guide
Best Travel Insurance for Czechia
If you’re looking to get outside and active in the Bohemian Switzerland area, or anywhere in Europe, then I do highly recommend ensuring you’re covered by a travel policy.
And my go-to is always travel insurance from World Nomads, which I’ve used throughout my time across Europe thanks to its great coverage of active adventures including hiking, rock-climbing and canoeing.
Alternatively, if you’re a digital nomad or remote worker looking for travel insurance cover, then look no further than Safetywing’s great Nomad Insurance policies.
These guys will cover you at some seriously great prices, including if you have to quarantine!
5 Packing Essentials for Your Czechia Trip
#1 Good Camera – You will be pretty much snapping non-stop in Bohemian Switzerland and will need a good camera to do this gorgeous part of the world justice. I highly recommend the Sony A6000, which I use for all my travels and which I love, not least because it’s light, compact and robust!
#2 Good Walking Shoes – There will be a lot of walking here, it’s as simple as that! Make sure your feet are comfortable therefore with a pair of New Balance Trainers. I love mine.
#3 Good Guidebook – I’m still a massive fan of the Lonely Planet Guidebooks and do think their Czech Republic edition is well put together and able to save you a lot of money if you want to learn about the history of this country, but not pay for a guide.
#4 Good Water Bottle – All that outdoor stuff is thirsty work, so make sure you have a metal water bottle that you can refill as you go, because Czechia tap water is drinkable… and free!
#5 Good Backpack – And to carry your water bottle, camera and guidebook, you’re going to need a decent backpack that will help you balance the weight as you walk the national park. In my opinion, you can’t go past the Bobby Anti Theft Backpack, which is also perfect for helping you avoid pickpockets in Prague too.
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And there it is, my full travel guide to visiting Bohemian Switzerland in Czechia.
Have I convinced you to head to this beautiful, off-the-beaten-track part of the country yet?
Any questions you have, or pieces of advice you can add for other travellers, please drop them in the comments box below…