Šumava National Park
Sumava National Park © Prochaine
The name Šumava translates as the 'Whispering Forest' which perfectly sums up the magical nature of this natural jewel in the heart of Europe. The Šumava, along with the Bohmerwald which it adjoins on its southern border, forms the largest forest in central Europe: 'Europe's Green Lung'.
For forty years, during the Communist era, Šumava flora and fauna flourished relatively undisturbed by human activity, as the area fell within the Iron Curtain exclusion zone. Now the watchtowers and minefields have gone and visitors are encouraged, but Šumava is still protected and is thriving; the once-rare lynx is now regularly seen. In addition to the whispering trees of the Šumava Forest, visitors can explore the park's marshes (with peat-loving plants), rushing streams (home to otters, kingfishers and other animals), glacial lakes and mountains.
The park is criss-crossed with well-marked footpaths and cycle routes, which become cross-country ski paths in the winter. The area is popular with Czechs for winter sports, with several good skiing resorts. Lake Lipno on the edge of the park offers a variety of watersports in the summer. Although summer is the peak holiday season, the Šumava is beautiful all year round. The winter sports season is December to March. Spring is popular with nature lovers, as this is probably the best time for seeing flowers and birds. And the Autumn colours of the Šumava Forest can be spectacular.
Visitors can opt to stay in a hotel or cottage in the park itself or in one of the historic towns on its edge, including Prachatice, Cesky Krumlov, and Kasperske Hory.