We usually pass them, when driving along the “zakopianka” road on the Kraków-Myślenice section, the A4 motorway or – a little slower – the “sądeczanka” road on the Brzesko – Nowy Sącz section. The Wieliczka, Wiśnicz, Rożnów and Ciężkowice Foothills are quite wrongly overlooked, and yet they hide many secrets. They are very diverse from the topographical and cultural point of view, they offer many tourist, historical and ethnographic attractions. They offer interesting attractions for all visitors, regardless of preferences. We invite you to a journey through this vast area of the Małpolska region that will delight everyone!
Lake Czchów was created as a result of damming the waters of Dunajec river on the dam in Czchów. Increasing the level of the river has changed the character of the region, but at the same time has stopped destructive floods. A few kilometres further south there is another artificial reservoir, namely Lake Rożnów. The proximity of Nowy Sącz makes it a popular place among tourists. Accommodation facilities await guests in Tęgoborze, Znamirowice, Gródek nad Dunajcem and Rożnów, you can also rent some floating equipment at the yacht marina in Znamirowice.
Another site to check is Lake Dobczyce on the border of the Wieliczka and Wiśnicz Foothills. This water reservoir was created due to the accumulation of the Raba waters and, as in the case of Lake Czchów and Lek Rożnów, its establishment solved in the area the problem of flooding. Not everyone knows about it, but water from Lake Dobczyce is a drinking water reservoir for Krakow.
But lakes are only a natural introduction to the green attractions of this region. We invite you to Jamna, a mountain with a height of 530 metres asl, and more precisely: to the Chatka Włóczykija hostel. The place offers wonderful views of the Foothills, and in good weather you can also see the Tatra Mountains. It is close to the Devil Rock reserve in Bukowiec, which was established to protect the outcrops of the Ciężkowice sandstone. According to legend, the rock was brought from Hungary by the devil himself. The site is a bit smaller than Stone City in Ciężkowice, but equally interesting.
The Stone City Reserve is the biggest natural attraction of the Ciężkowice-Rożnów Landscape Park. Rock outcrops built of heavy sandstone, scattered over a length of 700 m, starting with “Witch” and “Town Hall” rocks to the highest situated “Skałka” (367 metres asl) are under protection. The most famous outcrop is the “Witch” visible from the provincial road 977. Indeed, when we look closely, we will see in it the outline of a human face. They say it is a witch that was turned into rock because she insulted the priest who was going to see a sick person. Since we are already in the Stone City, it is impossible to ignore the Ciężkowice Waterfall. To reach it, you have to go along the Witches Gorge. Its name comes from the legend according to which witches used to celebrated here Sabbaths with devils.
20 km south of Ciężkowice you will find the Beskid Morskie Oko. Located on the slope of Maślana Góra (753 metres asl), it is a landslide lake that was created in 1784. It lies very close from Jelenia Góra (684 metres asl), where there is a reserve protecting mountain sycamore, Carpathian beech and fir.
Let's stay in Ciężkowice Foothills and go to the Brzanka Range Landscape Park, famous for habitats of European beaver, otter, crested newt, Carpathian newt and yellow-bellied toad. The highest peak of the park is Brzanka (536 metres asl) and it is worth climbing there, because on the top of it there is a viewing platform from which you can perfectly see the whole area of Foothills and, in good weather, the Tatra Mountains as well.
The reserve located in the Styr mountain massif was created to preserve the natural forest communities typical of the Carpathian Foothills. The Cisy w Mogilnie reserve on the northern slopes of Jodłowa Góra (715 metres asl) is located near Nowy Sącz. On the area of 56 ha, common yew (cis in Polish, hence the name of the reserve) is protected here. Interestingly, it was this tree species that was protected as the first one in Poland, and it happened during the reign of King Władysław Jagiełło.
Let's now move to the Wiśnicz Foothills to see the Wiśnicz-Lipnica Landscape Park. The “must see” list includes rock outcrops known as Brodziński Stones, the wooden church of St Leonardo inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, the Kamień-Grzyb Nature Reserve and the Bukowiec Reserve.
From the Wiśnicz Foothills we shall go to the Wieliczka Foothills, and more precisely: to the Mogilany region. We come here to see the Kozie Kąty nature reserve, which protects a mixed stand with fir and the Cieszynianka floristic reserve protecting the island position of Hacquetia epipactis.
For centuries religions were functioning side by side, intertwining throughout the entire Małopolska region, so it's no wonder that the Foothills abound in many magnificent sacred buildings, of both the Christian and Jewish origins. The vast majority of wooden buildings are included on the Wooden Architecture Route.
We encourage you to visit the complex of the parish church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Czchów. The building was erected in 1346 in the Gothic style. It is the oldest and best-preserved monument of religious architecture of the Brzesko region.
There is a Romanesque church in Tropie nad Dunajcem, one of the oldest in this part of Poland. According to tradition, it was built in the place where the hermitage of St Andrew Zorard, a Benedictine monk, was living at the turn of the 10th and 11th centuries. Only the walls of the chancel survived from the original building. Another Romanesque church can be found in Dziekanowice. According to historians, it could have been built at the turn of the 11th and 12th centuries.
In Iwkowa there is a cemetery church of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary dated on the second half of the 15th century. We also recommend a visit to the parish church of St Nicholas the Bishop in Tymowa, founded in the 14th century. Both objects lie on the Wooden Architecture Route.
Other nearby temples that are included on the Route are: auxiliary church of St John the Baptist in Rzepiennik Biskupi from the early 16th century, the parish church of St Bartholomew in Jastrzębia, the parish church of Our Lady of the Rosary in Przydonica, the parish church of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross in Podole-Górowa, the church of St Peter and Paul the Apostles in Rożnów, the church of All Saints in Bobowa.
The interiors of the following temples are equally interesting: the church of St Margaret in Żurowa, the church of St Michael the Archangel in Jodłówka Tuchowska, the church of St Justina in Paleśnica, the church of St Stanislaus in Wilczyska, the church of St Catherine in Ryglice, which was built on the site of a 17th-century wooden temple or, finally, the monastery complex of the Franciscans in Zakliczyn.
Separate attention should also be paid to the monastery complex of the Franciscans in Wieliczka with a picture of Our Lady of Grace, the Duchess Wieliczka, auxiliary church of St Adalbert in Szymbark, which according to tradition stands in the place where St Adalbert celebrated a mass on his way from Hungary to Poland. Be sure no to miss the UNESCO World Heritage Site: the church of St Michael the Archangel in Binarowa and the church of St Leonard in Lipnica Murowana.
We have two important churches in Nowy Wiśnicz. The first is one is a complex of the parish church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, where in the presbytery you can admire a painting “Resurrection of Lazarus” by Jan Matejko. In turn, the Carmelite monastery complex in Nowy Wiśnicz is located in... the prison. You can enter there only once a year, during the Weekend with Monuments of the Bochnia Poviat, organized every year on the first Saturday and Sunday of September.
When visiting sacred buildings in the Małopolska region you cannot miss the collegiate basilica of St Nicholas in Bochnia. This largest and oldest church in the town was built in the 15th century. Next to the church there is a free-standing wooden belfry of the pillar structure from the early 17th century, which was entered into the Wooden Architecture Route.
There are many sacred testimonies of Jewish culture in the area as well. In Bobowa, it is worth seeing the synagogue and the Jewish cemetery – both places associated with the Hasidic centre founded at the end of the 19th century by Rabbi Szlomo Halberstam. In the synagogue, services are held during Hasidim pilgrimages to the tombs of Bobowa tzadikim.
Małopolska region was the place of many fights during World War I. The most important battle and the breaking of the eastern front took place near Gorlice, where Russian troops were defeated by the German and Austro-Hungarian troops and forced to retreat. Many soldiers were killed in the fighting on the front, hence in the area there are many cemeteries where they were buried. One of them is the object number 123 Łużna on the Pustki hill, located on the World War I Eastern Front Trail. It is the largest of all 400 necropolises of the First World War in Western Galicia. Nearly 1,201 soldiers are buried here.
Something for the body and the spirit
The Foothills are famous for culinary specialties that cannot be found anywhere else. These include suska sechlońska – a variety of plum, which is characterized by a fleshy flesh and wrinkled, sticky skin in dark blue colour. The Raciechowice area is known for apple orchards! The local fruit ripens in a harsher climate, and due to the sunny southern slopes, they acquire a unique taste.
From the “Piękny Jaś” you can make literally everything, which is by the way confirmed by the culinary competition accompanying the annual feast in Zakliczyn. It is worth knowing that this plant has been included in the list of European Protected Geographical Indications.
And if you're not yet fed up with food, then we invite you to the Salt Festival in Wieliczka. Or maybe something stronger from a nearby vineyard? No further than 3.5 km from Wieliczka there are plantations of Chardonnay, Riesling, Merlot, Cabernet, Muscat, Gruener Veltliner and Pinot noir varieties, and visitors can taste wines and learn about their history and production process. It is worth looking for small family vineyards throughout the entire Foothills.
At the end of the culinary feast, we offer a delicacy in the form of piaszczańska sausage, which is registered in the EU system of protected designations of origin and protected geographical indications, as well as traditional specialties guaranteed. According to legend, this pork specialty cured in herb marinade and rock salt used to be was delivered to the Wawel Royal Table. The addition of herbs distinguishes piaszczańska sausage from other sausages, because in Poland spices other than salt, pepper and garlic aren't usually added to the production of sausages.
However, Foothills are distinguished by much more than just regional flavours. Bobowa is famous for the International Bobbin Lace Festival, and every year in Dobczyce there is a peculiar event called “Grazing in Dobczyce”. The name comes from the old name of the local population, which was called koziorze (goatherds). This feast associated with colourful procession is accompanied, among others, with competition for the prettiest goat, vintage vehicle shows, charity events, sports competitions and culinary tastings. Just before Easter it is worth coming to Lipnica Murowana, where the competition for the highest palm is organized – the record palms can reach several meters!
For music lovers, we recommend the Kromer Festival in Biecz, during which historical interiors resound with early music performed on historical instruments. Remaining in the area of music, we can recommend another attraction, namely the educational concert CHOPINspired – a unique project showing the enormous influence of Frederic Chopin's work on both Polish and foreign composers.
If you are looking for interesting objects for photography, it's worth paying attention to the 3D painting “Salt World” on the Wieliczka Market Square - currently the largest image of this type in Poland. It contains characteristic fragments of real interiors of Wieliczka salt mines (e.g. St Kinga's Chapel) specifically arranged and seen in a huge rock chasm.