September rain is washing the windscreen of our rental car when we’re curving along the winding mountain roads towards the town of Adršpach in the North-East part of the Czech Republic. The Czech mountains secretly stole my heart already in January on my one-day trek in Bohemian Switzerland National Park.
Even if Bohemian Switzerland seemed like something you could only meet in a fairy tale, Adršpach-Teplice Nature Reserve and its rock towns immediately earned their place on top the list of the most stunning places I’ve ever seen.
Hiking in the Czech Republic made me doubt the reality—on the rugged trails of the rock labyrinths of Adršpach-Teplice, I had to rub my eyes more than once to realise
–I’m not dreaming. This place really exists.
When I look back at the autumnal hiking trip in Adršpach-Teplice, I barely remember the rainy and chilly weather. Instead, I recall the giant rock formations reaching up to those clouds and their funny names they’ve inherited from their shapes; Siberia, Turtle, Butcher’s Axe, Lovers, Giant’s Shorts.
I remember the wooden walkways disappearing into the steep gorges and canyons, and the gentle gurgle of the mountain streams. I remember myself hurrying around each obscure corner, as every time the view opened even more incredible than before.
I remember the deep and narrow caves calling for an endless adventure, as it’s exactly how far they seemed to reach. I remember how I flinched when I felt something moving next to my leg in the pitch-black cave corridor. I remember how I laughed after realising it was a tiny dog who investigated the caves at least as eagerly as I did.
I remember the mystical stone gates that could lead you to another reality.
I remember the landscapes worth every praise.
Welcome to the thrilling trails of Adršpach-Teplice Rock Towns.
What is Adršpach-Teplice?
The two large clusters of rock towers, locally referred as rock towns, inherited their names from the small towns of Adršpach and Teplice nad Metují. The rock towns share a common nature reserve and a vast network of hiking trails as well as routes for mountain biking.
Adršpach-Teplice aren’t the only rock towns in the Czech Republic, and even if I’d love to say they’re impossible to beat, Czech nature keeps surprising me. I can’t say I wouldn’t be surprised if someone told me even more stunning rock town is hiding in a Czech forest somewhere.
I do dare to say it’s highly unlikely, though.
It’s hard to believe how such a place, where we can today look at the world from an ant’s perspective, was once the bottom of the sea. The first hikers and climbers found the Adršpach-Teplice Rocks already in the 18th century, but only the great fire in 1824 revealed the magical rock formations to a larger group of nature lovers.
Erosion has given the rock towers their exciting shapes. The information boards and name signs are describing their stories along the trails.
Walking past the signs pointing their names is hard. Trying to guess Virgin Mary, Sleeping Swan and Giant’s Shorts is part of the fun in Adršpach-Teplice.
Not to mention the scary-looking canyons, rocks covered in bright-yellow moss, waterfalls hiding in the depths of the caves, lakes with crystal-clear water and other fascinating surprises this nature reserve conceals behind its green forests.
One hiking day, two rock towns
Both Adršpach and Teplice feature their own circular route. If you’re looking for a longer hike, you can walk the trails joining the two rock towns.
If you only have one day to spare, you should choose one of the circular routes, preferably both. There is a tourist info in each starting point with English brochures and maps. If you take the circular trails, a map isn’t necessary, as the trails are well marked.
If you want to have a map with you, you can conquer the language barrier with the Czech word ‘mapa’.
Besides the 4 km circular route in Adršpach, there is a shorter route going around the turquoise lake resting next to the nature reserve entrance. If you have enough time, you can take a boat ride or rent a rowboat to admire the rocks from a different angle. From the two circular routes, Adršpach is more built and better protected, meaning it’s also more visited. You can avoid the great tourist masses by starting your hike early in the morning.
In Teplice, you can add length to the 6 km circular route by climbing up the 300 steps leading to the top of a viewing rock at the start of the route. You’ll easily increase the number of steps by investigating the numerous caves along the trail.
Each circular route takes approximately 3 hours, including photography breaks, which you’ll take a lot. The hiking trails are fairly easy to walk on, but there are many steep uphills and steps, so you’re guaranteed to feel it in your muscles afterwards. Good, comfortable shoes are indispensable—on a rainy day the rocks are slippery, and on the cool gorge named as Siberia, the snow and ice defrost only in June.
Both rock towns hold their special characters. That’s why it’s impossible to say which route to take if you only have time for one.
The best advice I can give is to make sure you have enough time for them both. If you really have to choose between the two, I hope a photo walk through the rock towns will aid you with your tough decision:
The Teplice Trail
The Adršpach Circular Route
Have you been hiking in the Czech Republic? Share your best tips and stories in the comments below.
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