Poprad Valley – the valley of health, tourism and history

A bird’s-eye view of the castle ruins in Rytro. with forests in the background.
Poprad Valley. This is one of the most beautiful places in Poland. The valley offers attractions for every tourist. Trekking, mountain hiking, beautiful views, encounters with precious monuments and history. There’s also something for the tourist wishing to improve their health, as this is also a health resort area with peace, quiet, clean air and mineral waters. It’s home to the largest health resort complex, with such well-known sites as: Krynica-Zdrój, Piwniczna-Zdrój, Muszyna, Żegiestów-Zdrój, Łomnica-Zdrój, Wierchomla. All these places are full of therapeutic mineral water springs, which account for around 60 per cent of Poland’s resources.

Poprad is a river that has its source in the Slovak Tatra Mountains. In Poland, a stretch of about 30 kilometres flows through the very picturesque area of Beskid Sądecki. It separates the Jaworzyna Krynicka Range (1,114 metres amsl) from the Radziejowa Range (1,266 metres amsl). The river flows into the Dunajec River between Stary Sącz and Nowy Sącz. Which villages situated in the Poprad Valley are worth paying special attention to?

The best way to explore the Poprad Valley

•    By car: along roads no. 87 and no. 971. One of the most spectacular Polish roads. It connects Stary Sącz and Muszyna and runs between the river and the slopes of Beskid Sądecki.
•    By train: railway line no. 96 Tarnów-Leluchów, connections to Krynica-Zdrój. Convenient access from Kraków, Tarnów, Nowy Sącz. An unforgettable scenic serpentine route with a tunnel; just like in the case of the car route, it’s one of the most beautiful scenic railway lines in Poland. Small, charming stations await everyone.
•    By raft or pontoon. You can use rafts to go from Piwniczna-Zdrój to Rytro, while pontoons can be used e.g. on the Muszyna-Andrzejówka section; moreover, you can also use canoes on any sections.

Rytro – in the shadow of the medieval castle

One of the most interesting villages in the Poprad Valley is Rytro. Founded in the Middle Ages, for centuries it was closely linked to the powerful castle. The ruins of the Rytro Castle are still one of the most important attractions in the area. The opportunity to discover the mystery of the Castle Hill attracts many history lovers to Rytro, although ecology enthusiasts are also visiting the area more and more willingly. This is thanks to the ecological park, which was established in the Wielka Roztoka Valley to protect and promote knowledge of the local reptiles and amphibians. The medieval Rytro Castle, or rather its ruins (ruins of the tower and remnants of the wall have been preserved), are located on a high hill (463 metres) on the right bank of the Poprad River. The castle was built at the turn of the 13th and 14th centuries and had a residential and fortified character. It belonged to the leaseholders of the royal estate, and in the 15th century, it was the residence of the starosts of the Sądecczyzna region. In 1657, during the invasion of George II Rákóczi, it was destroyed and from then on began to fall into disrepair. During its heyday, it hosted many important people on several occasions, including King Casimir the Great, Queen Jadwiga with King Władysław Jagiełło and Casimir IV Jagiellon.
Rytro Castle is recommended not only for families with children and history lovers but also for those who enjoy views: from the Castle Hill, you can admire the Poprad Gorge and the ridges of the Radziejowa Range, as well as the slopes of Makowica. It’s still being reconstructed and rebuilt. Rytro is also the beginning of one of the most beautiful valleys in the Małopolska region: the Roztoka Valley. 

Piwniczna-Zdrój, winter and summer

The health resort history of Piwniczna-Zdrój begins in 1880. At the time, Juliusz Korwin Gąsiorowski, a doctor from Lviv, recommended the mineral waters found in the Piwniczna area for use in treatment. Health resort status was granted to Piwniczna in 1967. Today, Piwniczna-Zdrój is a hospitable tourist destination. It attracts, above all, with its tranquillity, landscape, climate and the atmosphere of a small resort. Numerous hiking trails allow for hiking in summer, while ski trails are waiting for you in winter. Mountain biking enthusiasts will find here several cycle routes of varying lengths and difficulty. The park at Kicarz allows those who don’t prefer long-distance hikes to have walks. Patients and tourists can also participate in numerous cultural events. The Pijalnia Artystyczna site is open all year round. Strolling through the beautiful market square, mountain hiking and, in winter, skiing in the Sucha Dolina area – these are the suggestions with which this health resort town can attract tourists wishing to spend an unforgettable holiday in the mountains.

Barcice, similar to the Balkans

Barcice, located near Rytro, is another village worth paying a little more attention to during a trip along the Poprad Valley. The village attracts lovers of sacred art who are very keen to visit the local church. Although it was built at the beginning of the 20th century, an interesting monument from the 15th century can be seen inside: the wings of a Gothic triptych, regarded as one of the most interesting works of the so-called Sądecka school. Barcice is also a village that every year hosts music lovers... from the Balkans, thanks to the Pannonica Folk Festival.

Viewing Platform in Wola Krogulecka

The Viewing Platform in Wola Krogulecka, nicknamed the Snail, allows you to admire beautiful mountain landscapes:  Beskid Sądecki, Gorce and Beskid Wyspowy, Rożnów Foothills and, of course, the Poprad Valley. The extraordinary spiral viewing platform in Wola Krogulecka is located on the hill of Dzielnica, at a height of approx. 550 metres amsl, above the Poprad Valley. Its unusual form was designed by the architect Wojciech Świątek from Limanowa. From the top, there is a magnificent panorama: we can see the Poprad Valley cutting in between the ridges of the Radziejowa Range and the slopes of Makowica (948), as well as the Sądecka Basin to the north and the peaks of Beskid Wyspowy on the horizon. Next to the ‘Snail’, there’s a shelter, benches and a fire pit with a barbecue, which makes it a great place to relax.

Łomnica-Zdrój, a village that is a health resort

The healing waters and microclimate are also the pride of Łomnica-Zdrój – a village that lies a short distance from Piwniczna. The local sorrels have a beneficial effect on the circulatory system, which is certainly more than enough as an incentive for many people to visit this village. Łomnica is, at the same time, a great place for relaxing in nature and a place from which to start interesting excursions along the Beskid trails. Numerous hiking trails in the area lead to a number of peaks: Kicarz, Hala Łabowska and Parchowatka, which offer spectacular views not only of the Beskids, but also of the Tatras and Pieniny. When visiting Łomnica, you should not miss its two very important natural monuments, namely the waterfall on the Łomniczanka stream flowing through the village and the Łomniczanka sandstone rock. The rock has been under protection since 1998. 

Żegiestów-Zdrój. From another world

Żegiestów-Zdrój is one of the most phenomenal Polish towns. Situated on a high slope by the Poprad River, it simply enchants with its stylish buildings: on the one hand, with the monumental ruin of the Spa House (one of the pearls of Polish Modernism, designed by Adolf Szyszko-Bohusz himself), which is currently being reconstructed, and on the other hand, with cosy villas hidden in the forest. It is a land from a completely different era, emerging either from the mists or from the green or autumn-coloured beech forests. The local healing waters have been known since the middle of the 19th century: ‘Anna’, ‘Zofia II’ and ‘Żegiestów II’, with the highest magnesium content in Poland, which, as we know, is one of the elements of life. Basic health resort procedures include: baths, massages, hydrotherapy, kinesitherapy, inhalations and mud treatments. It’s here that both the road and the railway line have their most spectacular sections. There’s also a great geological rarity here: a river meander carved by the river into the rocks called Łopata Polska (Polish Shovel).

Wierchomla, Lemko souvenirs

The Lemko village of Wierchomla is more than just beautiful views. It has numerous reminders of the Lemkos, who dominated the population of the village until World War II. To this day, you can still see many historical cottages here, although it’s the wooden Church of St Michael the Archangel from the 19th century that is the most popular among tourists. For lovers of mountain hiking, we recommend the route to PTTK Shepherd’s Hut Nad Wierchomlą. It’s one of the most beautifully situated shelters in the Beskids. It lies at a height of 887 metres amsl on a large clearing by the blue trail between Runk and Pusta Wielka. If the visibility is good, we can enjoy wonderful views here. There’s also a chairlift: one of the longest in Poland, with a length of 1,600 metres.
Wierchomla is also one of the best known and most extensive ski resorts, not only in Beskid Sądecki but also in the entire Poland.

Muszyna, a town of gardens and many qualities

Muszyna is a town known for its mineral water, parks and gardens. Muszyna is an old town, founded by King Casimir the Great in 1356 at the foot of a hill with a starosts’ castle, which lies at the confluence of the Poprad and Muszynka rivers. In the 1920s, Muszyna became a health resort, and in 1930, it was admitted to the Association of Polish Health Resorts. However, the first two springs were drilled as late as in 1932. Thanks to its long history, Muszyna boasts some interesting monuments. Charming, small-town wooden buildings (located on the Wooden Architecture Route) have been preserved, especially in Kościelna Street. The Baroque Church of St Joseph, dating from 1676 to 1728, also stands here. Next to it are the largest Bible Gardens in Poland. On an area of 1.3 hectares, there are five themed gardens featuring plant species mentioned in the Bible, miniature landscapes, as well as architecture and sculptures illustrating particular biblical themes. The gardens are divided into five themed gardens (Salvation History Garden, Bible Landscape Garden, Teaching the Prophets, Children’s Bible Garden, Garden for Lovers). See: walk around Muszyna. 


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