Polish Lake Garda
It was just one of the terms that immediately sprung into my mind when I reached the Czorsztyn Castle at sunset, after I rode around the entire lake along the planned route. Some of the others were “the most beautiful landscape and bike loop in Poland” and “biking dynamite.” From my observations, the works are going swimmingly and the route will probably be completed in autumn of 2019. The roads stretching along the banks of the lake are – as far as I can see – 95% done, the works on bridges and culverts are pretty advanced, and the famous “red” section of the Velo Dunajec route from Falsztyn is already paved all the way to Niedzica. It only needs the abrasive layer. I’ll be honest with you – I couldn’t believe my eyes, and I’m sure that my bike wouldn’t believe it either. It was amazing, even though I rode a mountain bike through a rough and muddy construction site – after all, it rained all week before the festival.
I’ve been following the plans and concepts of this route for a long time, since the southern shores of the lake are a part of Velo Dunajec. Of course, as you probably already know, plans are one thing, but the execution is a completely different animal. However, in this case I could see first-hand that Małopolska “can do bikes” – without taking any shortcuts and cutting corners. Both the Voivodeship Road Administration in Krakow, which was one of the investors on this route, as well as local authorities, who are responsible for the rest of the project, faithfully translated the concept into a solid and reliable bike infrastructure.
It looked amazing on paper, since the plan envisioned creating a paved route of 30-something kilometres between Niedzica Castle and Czorsztyn Castle, leading cyclists along the shores of Czorsztyn Lake, with nearly no car traffic whatsoever. All of this plus rest spots, access roads, bridges and culverts built where necessary – all to ensure its character as a route “for everyone” by making every effort to keep it as flat as possible when it comes to elevation. In reality, there is only one challenging uphill section along the entire route (near Falsztyn) and it is there due to the detour around the area of the Green Rocks Nature Reserve – rocky formations submerged in the lake. The route could either lead over special bridges on the lake, which were rejected due to exorbitant costs, or a picturesque hill with an amazing view of the lake and the surrounding mountains. Is there anyone who hasn’t seen this famous red stretch of asphalt road going down towards the lake, with a beautiful view of Niedzica Castle? It is exactly this detour that can be credited with this amazing descent to Kosarzyska Harbour. It is said that the red colour was accidental; however, it’s already pretty much a landmark and one of the most memorable stretches of Velo Dunajec.
Okay, let’s go back to business now. The “Around Czorsztyn Lake” route, which I’ll call Velo Czorsztyn, is comprised of two sections:
- southern, which leads along the Velo Dunajec route from Niedzica through Falsztyn and the side dam in Frydman to the bridge in Dębno – about 15 kilometres;
- northern, which takes you from the bridge in Dębno, through Maniowy, Kluszkowce, to the castle in Czorsztyn, built as part of a separate project – also about 15 kilometres.
As you can see, the route will not be a full loop. This idea was blocked by the Pieniny National Park – the park’s authorities opposed the building of a route through the very rocky area of the National Park connecting Czorsztyn Castle and the Niedzica Dam. Of course, if you want to ride or walk around it, it’s pretty much a non-issue. You will be able to complete a loop either by riding your bike between castles along the normal road through the Osice Pass, or by jumping on the fast waterways transport – gondolas that will take you from one castle to the other. The latter option is open from May to October, the current price is 7 PLN, the trip takes just a few minutes and the gondolas are launched even for one person with a bike. I dare even say that this waterways transport will simply be an additional attraction, especially if someone comes here with kids. And – to be honest – I can fully recommend doing this, since as I’ve already mentioned in the beginning, the entire route will be devoid of any car traffic. Only a couple of sections are internal roads, with negligible traffic, limited only to local residents.
You can find the map of the entire course, along with the progress of work and the surface types on the Velo Dunajec map (bit.ly/mapVD). When the route is finished, there’s no way I won’t recommend that anyone who wants to ride along the Dunajec and set off from Zakopane to plan the first night’s stay somewhere around Czorsztyn Lake, so that they can ride around the lake in the morning and then continue to Szczawnica.
SYou can find a detailed photo report from the trip in my FB album, – the photo descriptions have a lot of details and my insights about the route. The map at www.bit.ly/mapVD is updated on a regular basis as the work progresses – I will also check the route on a regular basis with my own eyes…and wheels. Come back in September for a report of the official opening.
I am sure that this route will become another key tourist attraction of this area – right alongside Dunajec rafting – and a must ride for every cyclist in Poland. I’m also pretty sure that it will be also enjoyed by roller-skaters, wheelchair users, runners and everyone else – the route is wide enough to accommodate us all, so that we can enjoy the wonderful views around us, without having to keep our eyes on the road under our feet. Or wheels.
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