Jura - limestones with medieval castles

A limestone hilly area called Jura Krakowsko-Czestochowska stretches over 100 km between Krakow in the south and Czestochowa in the north. It is an excellent place to organize a one-day picnic and walking excursion from Krakow, or to go for multi-day trekking and mountain biking. It is the caving and rock climbing heaven in Poland (many climbing roads are well secured with pitons), with Krakow being a center of Polish rock climbing. History-lovers will be pleased by views of the 14th-century castles, topping white-rocks of Jura. Beware of ghosts that according to local people occupy each castle, mainly white maidens. The most charming and spectacular castles are the Royal Castle of Wawel in Krakow, Pieskowa Skala in Ojcow National Park, Ogrodzieniec, Bobolice, and Olsztyn near Czestochowa. Czestochowa, the north endpoint of Jura, is worth a visit for its fortified 14th-century giant monastery Jasna Gora. It is a popular destination of pilgrims from all over Poland for the Black Madonna of Czestochowa icon, with culmination of pilgrims' trips each August 15th (with a massive celebration in the monastery).


Jura is an excellent place for all kinds of trips on a horse back. Around Kraków there are several stables, but the family-run stable in Nielepice, an hour drive from Kraków, is absolutely exceptional. The Mikołajewicz family enthusiasticaly preserves traditions of Huculs (just taste a Hucul soup and see artifacts of Hucul people) and breeds unique mountain Hucul horses.

Huculs are the ethinc group that inhabited eastern parts of Carpathian mountains, and the Mikołąjewicz family is more than happy to show traditional artifacts that once belonged to Huculs. Even more, you are welcome to mount a hucul horse to explore the nearby forested hills with a qualified instructor for as long as you like. The most typical are one to two-hour rides, but you can organise the whole-day experience to reach Tenczyn castle, a part of the chain of old fortresses along Jura Krakowsko-Częstochowska. For the ultimate experience, go for a multi-day trek to distant parts of Jura with its medieval fortresses (contact the stud in advance to organize the longer treks). Amazingly, there is a horse-riding trek on maps leading from Kraków to Częstochowa and even furtrher north to Wieluń, which can be covered on a horse in two weeks one way (only for real cowboys).

Hucul horses are one of very few mountain breeds of horses in Europe. They are also the oldest breed originating from the area once covered by the Kingdom of Poland. The first reports about Hucul horses date to the beginning of 17th century. Many researchers agree that a tribe of people called Huculi originated from Asian step-dwellers who were then forced to live in harsh environments of Eastern Carpathian Mountains by waves of aggressive nomad warriors. Therefore, horses which Hucul people used and bred for centuries, and which are now called Hucul horses, are phylogenetically related to an ancient step horse. The nowadays Hucul horse has been shaped by the pressure of severe mountain climate of Central Europe and crossbreeding with warm-blooded horses from the area of Poland, Turkey and Hungary. A Hucul horse breed was officially established in the second half of 19th century in the Austro-Hungarian Empire: the first National Stud of Hucul horses was opened in Łuczyna (now Northern Romania) and the first criteria of the breed were described (morphological measures, coloration, courage tests). Currently, Hucul horses are bred in countries adjacent to Carpathian Mountains (Czech Republic, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Ukraine, and Hungary). There are also isolated Hucul breeding centers in Austria, Germany and France. Breeding of Hucul horses is regulated by the European Union breeding program of genetic pool maintenance.

Practical information

  • Klub Wysokogorski Krakow is the association of mountain climbers in Krakow, contact them if you need more info about climbing and caving around Krakow.
  • The best outdoor equipment in Krakow, including climbing gear, you will find in PolarSport on Sienna street, Wierchy on Szewska street, and Sklep Podroznika on Szujskiego street (the shops are right in the old town of Krakow).
  • For a wide range of tourist and trekking maps and guidebooks (in English) visit Sklep Podroznika on Szujskiego 2 and its branch on Jagiellonska 6.
  • Smaller destinations on Jura are served by local MPK buses and long-distance PKS buses from Krakow. There is also a growing number of minibuses that connect small destinations with Krakow (ask around local people). Larger destinations such as Czestochowa are also served by trains from Krakow.
  • The best place for one day trips from Krakow is Dolina Bedkowska and Dolina Kobylanska, two pretty valleys that can be reached by walk from a village Bedkowice. Take bus #210 from Krakow (Bronowice) to go to Bedkowice. These two valleys are also the rock-climbing sanctuary nearest Krakow. Another one-day trip place is Dolina Pradnika, a valley with a river in Ojcow National Park, with Pieskowa Skala castle in the middle.
  • You can easily find accommodation on Jura in small gesthouses run by local pepole. Just appear in one of the villages and ask for a room. Often, people advertise "Pokoje, Rooms, Zimmer" in front of their family-run hotels.