On a Traditional Wooden Raft through Pieniny National Park
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You can take a trip on an ancient wooden boat through the rugged Pieniny National Park in Poland. This excursion is called Dunajec River Rafting where you go out on the water with a unique boat. It's very different from whitewater rafting, but just as much fun. I got on board and rafted down the river.
The Dunajec River Gorge runs through the Pieniny mountains in the south of Poland. These mountains belong to the Carpathians. The area is best known for the limestone rocks, of which the mountain top Three Crowns (Trzy Korony) is most known. You sail past it, which brings the opportunity to take beautiful photos. In fact, you feel insignificant in the face of so much natural force.
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The boat is assembled on site from five smaller elongated rafts. These are tied together with twine. So be on time so you can see how they build these boats, something that has been happening for decades. It is a completely different experience than rafting because you sail relatively calmly down the river.
In addition, you do not have to paddle yourself, the helmsman and captain move the boat. For this they use long wooden sticks, with which they both steer and push. You also do not get wet and certainly do not fall out of the boat. But it's a wonderful tour nonetheless. This is mainly due to the landscape and the mountain people who raft on the river.
Excursions for tourists have been offered here for decades. These boats have been used for centuries to transport goods and people. They sail over the waves and through the various rapids. This trip is an adventure, but above all an experience. Along the way you learn a lot about the history of this way of locomotion and the local culture.
The men who work on the boats are only allowed to come from the surrounding villages, which are Sromowce Wyżne, Sromowce Niżne, Szczawnica, Krościenko and Czorsztyn. They follow a three-year course, where they learn everything about the water, the currents and all the dangers. But also how to deal with tourists.
You can do this tour in two ways. There is a longer route, which takes an average of 2 hours and 45 minutes, although it can be slightly shorter or longer. The start is in the village of Sromowce Wyżne - Kąty, where the boats are also assembled. This route is approximately 18 kilometres long. The first part is the least beautiful according to many.
That's why I choose the second option. I start at the nearby village of Sromowce Niżne. This route is 12 kilometres long and brings you immediately to the impressive mountains of the Pieniny National Park. This trip takes about 1.5 to 2 hours. You can also first look at the construction of the rafts and then hop on board at the second location.
This excursion is offered from Spring (1 April) through Fall (31 October). In winter there is too much water, so the boats cannot sail. You do not need to book in advance. When you arrive in the morning you will automatically see captains with whom you can go down the river. The prices are fixed, so you don't have to negotiate.
Most tourists combine this excursion with a trip to Krakow. The river flows about 100 km south of the popular town. It is about a two-hour drive. Day trips are offered from Krakow including transportation.