Through mountains and valleys
The Little and Maków Beskids are picturesquely located mountain ranges with varied topography, intersected with deep river valleys. The mountains are covered with spruce-fir-beech forests, which are home to rare species of animals, including lynx. Part of the area of Little Beskids is protected as the Little Beskids Landscape Park – both the range itself and the Park stretch further west in the Śląskie Voivodeship. Hikers especially like to reach the peaks in the Range of: Broken Rock (Broken Rock with Madohora Reserve, Leskowiec, John Paul II Mountain with a hostel and a chapel dedicated to the saint), Babica (with Las Gościbia Nature Reserve), Koskowa Góra (with the popular Kotoń) or Lubomir (with astronomical observatory, Łysina and hostel in Kudłacz). In the local forests you can admire the magnificent sandstone rock outcrops and caves. On the Skawa river, between Zembrzyce and Świnna Poręba, there is the Mucharskie Lake, which in the future is to serve for tourist purposes. It is worth visiting the largest reserve in the Małopolskie Voivodeship: Las Gościbia, located 30 km to the east. It covers the northern part of the Babica slopes with several side ridges, intersected by valleys of the Gościbia stream and its smaller tributaries. The entire area of the reserve is covered with forest. The landscape values are determined by deeply indented valleys of streams, which over a short distance of only 2 km overcome more than 300 m difference in altitude, creating a series of small cascades, rapids and waterfalls. The area is overgrown by Carpathian beech forests and fascinating plant communities in stream springs. Artificial planted coniferous stands also have a large share in the reserve's forests. In addition to natural values, the reserve fulfils the function of protecting drinking water sources for Sułkowice. During Second World War, especially in 1944, partisan units had their base in the forest around the Gościbia valley.
War events also took place in the Zamczysko nad Rabą reserve. In the 13th century, a stronghold was built on the area of the current reserve, the main element of which was a massive, stone defensive tower called “bergfried”. The stronghold had both fiscal and protective function over the trade route from Kraków and Wieliczka to Hungary, running at its feet. It was part of the fortifications of the Myślenice brona (harrow) – a system of obstacles made of felled trees, running across the Raba valley, on the southern borders of the lands belonging to the Prince of Kraków. The watchtower was blown up with a powder charge in unclear circumstances – one hypothesis is that it happened in 1457 by order of Casimir IV Jagiellon, who was afraid that the building would be used by rebel mercenary knights. Madohora Reserve, located in the Małopolska commune of Andrychów, protects 150-year-old spruces, splendid beeches and rock outcrops, including the “wandering stones” and bryophytes located on the “Polish red list of threatened mosses”.
Both in the Little and Maków Beskids we will find many monuments. The most famous of them are sacred buildings. The most valuable is the mannerist architectural and landscape complex as well as the pilgrimage park from the 17th in Kalwaria Zebrzydowska, which was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1999. The complex consists of the Basilica of Our Lady of the Angels with the Sanctuary and the miraculous painting of Our Lady of Calvary, the monastery of the Bernardine Fathers and the famous pilgrimage park, consisting of 45 chapels and churches. At Bernardyńska street, in front of Rajski Square and the entrance to the monastery complex, there is a string of buildings called Pilgrims' Houses. The two-story houses were built in the first half of the 18th century and have original wooden terraces with roofing. Other sites worth seeing are the church of St Joseph and the church of St Michael the Archangel, as well as the Brothers Hospitallers Convent of St Florian in Zebrzydowice. Wadowice, the hometown of St John Paul II, is definitely a must stop. When visiting the town, don't miss the Basilica of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Monastery of the Discalced Carmelites with the Sanctuary of St Joseph.
In addition, the wooden church of St Joachim in Skawinki, the Shrine of Our Lady the Queen of Families in Maków Podhalański, the church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the church on Stradom in Myślenice, are all also worth attention. In this area you can also visit the church of the Holy Trinity in Jordanów and the Shrine of Our Lady of Inwałd.
There are many more sacred monuments. The church of St Erasmus in Barwałd Dolny, as well as the church and monastery complex in Sucha Beskidzka are also noteworthy. The first church in this place was built in 1614 by the owner of the settlement, Piotr Komorowski. He did this after being miraculously healed from his eye disease.
In the Little Beskids there is also the Mountain of John Paul II (formerly Jaworzyna, 886 metres asl) located in the eastern part of the range. Under the peak of the mountain you will find the chapel of Our Lady, Queen of the Mountains erected as a gift of tourists for the Holy Father John Paul II. A steel cross dedicated to “people of the mountains” and a statue of John Paul II were placed next to the chapel.
Being in the area it is worth visiting the charming Lanckorona, once a favourite resting place of Krakow artists. Today, the old charm has been preserved by the unique wooden buildings and the church of John the Baptist from the 14th century. Particularly noteworthy is the market square, around which the most interesting architectural buildings as well as the ruins of the castle from the time of Casimir the Great are towering over the village. Wooden buildings can also be admired in Maków Podhalański, where houses from the first half of the 19th century have survived.
Sucha Beskidzka also has its unique atmosphere, resulting from, among others, the Renaissance Komorowski castle, often called the “Little Wawel” (due to the similarity of the arcaded courtyards in both buildings). Currently, it houses the Municipal Museum of Sucha Beskidzka, the Municipal Culture Centre with the “ZAMEK” Art Gallery, the College of Tourism and Ecology, and the "KASPER SUSKI" Hotel and Restaurant, among others. A well-known attraction of the area is the “Rzym” inn - a tavern located in the original inn building from the 18th century, where tasty, traditional dishes are served.
Being in Myślenice, you can't miss the Greek House, the Lower Town Manor, a water-powered grist mill, a castle and you have to take a walk on the historic market square. It is worth knowing that in Tokarnia there is a manor house with a historic fire engine. In Jordanów, you can walk on the charming market square, where you will find the biggest attraction and at the same time an excellent showcase of the entire Jordanów commune – the Town Hall. This one-story building was built in 1911. It originally had wooden finishes, but after a thorough renovation its external appearance was changed. A few minutes’ walk from the market, you can admire the magnificent Oak of Freedom in the Planty Szubertowskie park. It was planted based on the resolution of the Town Council on 21 May 1919 to commemorate Poland regaining independence.
When traveling around Little and Maków Beskids, remember to visit the Classicist Bobrowski Palace in Andrychów. The palace, next to the parish church, is one of the oldest buildings in the town. The palace and park complex is located in the very centre of Andrychów. It is made up of a three-wing, one-story, partially cellar palace, facing the Krakowska street, and a spacious park with a large pond on the south-eastern side.
One of the most interesting monuments in the area is the manor in Stryszów, built in the 16th century by the then owner of Stryszów, Adam Suski, as a defensive manor. In the first half of the 18th century it was destroyed by fire, and after the reconstruction its character changed - the manor was given it the characteristics of a country house. In the 1950s it was handed over to the Wawel Museum and today it serves as a museum, being branch of the Wawel Royal Castle.
Why don't you... visit a museum?
When wandering around Little and Maków Beskids, it's worth visiting the local museums. The John Paul II Family Home Museum in Wadowice, opened on the 64th birthday of Karol Wojtyła, enjoys great interest. Inside you can watch, among others, the reconstructed interior of the Wojtyła family's apartment.
In Maków Podhalański, located south of Wadowice, you should obligatorily see the Emil Wacyk Regional Chamber of the Maków Land. The chamber is located in the “Paczosówka manor” and you can see the documents and photos concerning the history of the town and the surrounding area (also related to the period of the Nazi occupation). There are also old household items and works of folk artists, including sculptures, paintings, wooden toys and examples of the unique white Maków embroidery.
In Lanckorona, located in the north of Maków, you will find the Museum Chamber named after Antoni Krajewski, a professor form Kraków. This facility is housed in a wooden building, that survived the town fire in 1896. The museum was founded on the initiative of the Friends of Lanckorona Society, and you can see there exhibits from excavations at the Lanckorona castle as well as everyday objects and folk handicrafts of the local residents from the beginning of the 20th century. Part of the exhibition is dedicated to the Bar Confederation.
In the Myślenice Museum of Independence there are collections from excavations carried out in the castle of Myślenice and arrangements showing stylish bourgeois interiors from the 19th century. Other museums worth visiting include the Municipal Museum in Sucha Beskidzka, the Local Product Gallery in Stryszów, the Municipal Museum in Wadowice and the Polish-American private museum Hell's Angel. The exhibition presents, among others, fragments of the American B-24 “Liberator” bomber, which was shot down in Zygodowice during World War II after an air raid on the chemical plant in Oświęcim.
Active leisure in Little and Maków Beskids
Little and Maków Beskids can boast of a well-developed network of hiking trails. Most of them lead by the ridges of the most important ranges, so you can easily reach all the most interesting peaks.
For those who want to feel the fresh mountain air on their skin, we suggest hiking routes: the Small Beskid Path running along the main ridges, routes in the Koskowa Góra Range, in the Babica Range and these leading to Mountain of John Paul II and Leskowiec. The Małopolska Pope's Trail, being one of the most interesting thematic routes in the region, leads in the footsteps of Karol Wojtyła, the later Saint John Paul II. Its main route leads from Kalwaria Zebrzydowska to Stary Sącz (231 km). Several side routes depart from it, and the total length of the trail, along with variants, is about 620 km. The trail uses the existing PTTK tourist trails network.
We recommend skiers to check out the local ski lifts: Czarny Groń, Arena Myślenice and Szklana Góra.
The Beskid bicycle routes are very varied. Beautiful views and architectural curiosities will make every enthusiast of cycling tours delighted. The multitude of paths and roads enables quick escape towards civilisation in the event of bad weather or equipment failure. We especially recommend the trail around the “Little Wawel” leading by the castle and the “Rzym” inn in Sucha Beskidzka. Cyclists especially value the trail around the “Free Time Zone”, which includes Zarabie, Zamczysko, churches and the Greek House in Myślenice as well as churches in Pcim and Trzebunia. Another interesting bicycle route leads by the Sanctuary and paths in Kalwaria Zebrzydowska and in their vicinity.
Cultural side of Little and Maków Beskids
The Wooden Architecture Route in the Małopolska region, creating a network of 255 historic buildings, is certainly noteworthy. It consists of picturesque churches, beautiful Orthodox churches, slender bell towers, Old Polish manors, wooden villas and open-air museums, belonging to the most valuable monuments of wooden material culture. The following were entered in the route's register: the buildings of Lanckorona and the “Rzym” inn in Sucha Beskidzka and the church of St Erasmus in Barwałd Dolny.
The Małopolska Gourmets Route is another interesting proposition. The facilities located on this route are restaurants, or more precisely – regional taverns that serve regional products and present the culinary heritage of the Małopolska region. We especially recommend the inn “Rzym” in Sucha Beskidzka, “Kocierz” in Andrychów and the taverns in Rzyki.
The Małopolska Craft Trail was created so that tourists could get to know folk artists for whom crafts are not only a profession, but above all a passion. Thanks to this initiative, you can look into Jerzy Mika's pottery in Wadowice, the weaving workshops in Sieniawa, to the wicker plantation and to the sculptural land. For those who value active leisure, combined with learning craftsmanship, we recommend visiting Tokarnia, famous for tissue paper craft and folk sculpture. Maków Podhalański will enchant you with traditional games and embroidered products, Jordanów with great examples of glass painting, Myślenice will reveal the secrets of folk sculpture, and Lanckorona – the production of famous ceramics.
Let's have fun!
Numerous music festivals and cultural events in Little and Maków Beskids attract guests from all over Poland.
We especially recommend International Folk Meetings Małopolska in Myślenice, which offer handicraft workshops for children and adults. They include dance classes, ethnic music concerts, cinema screenings, exhibitions and meetings with artists. The festival calendar of Wadowice includes some already well-known events: Reggae Most Festival, Wadowice Run, Powsinoga Run, Mountain Film Review and Zgraja Theatre Festival. The city also celebrates the birthday of Saint John Paul II. The Młyn Jazz Festival has been taking place in Jaroszowice near Wadowice for a decade. This open-air festival of jazz lovers is hosted by the owners of the Młyn Jacka Hotel.
Sport fans will certainly find amusing the running event Bieg Po Serce Zbója Spod Złotej Górki – a charity competition for runners and cyclists organised in Andrychów. In addition, it is worth participating in the August International Cycling Race “Memorial of Henryk Łasak”.
When going to Maków and Little Beskids, it is worth being up to date with the programmes of cyclical cultural events: inauguration of the summer holidays called Days of Sucha Beskidzka, Summer Festival in Myślenice, Summer Music Festival in Kalwaria Zebrzydowska, Angel in the Town Festival in Lanckorona or Week of Beskid Culture in Maków Podhalański.
Morever, don't forget about the rich offer dedicated to families with children. The youngest tourist will be delighted with a visit to the Mini Pony Zoo in Inwałd, flower lovers will love the unusual Garden of John Paul II, visitors interested in the world can see the “World of Dreams” Park of Miniatures, while fans of “Jurassic Park” can’t miss Dinolandia, and finally whoever is interested in the past, should visit the Medieval Inwałd Stronghold. It is also worth visiting the Apilandia – Interactive Beekeeping Centre in Klecza Dolna, as well as the astronomical observatory in Lubomir.