The Bohemian Paradise (Czech: Český Ráj) is a protected landscape area located in North Bohemia, Czech Republic. It provides numerous options for hiking and biking through the environment.
Bohemian Paradise (Český ráj) earned its name in the nineteenth century due to its picturesque landscape in the foothills of the Giant Mountains, and its many castles and chateaus build in beautiful areas with sandstone rocks. In 1955 it was made the first Natural Protected Landscape Area in former Czechoslovakia. It has been very popular tourist destination since the beginning of 20th century.
In 2005, the original Protected Landscape Area of Bohemian Paradise was extended with the establishment of Bohemian Paradise Geopark, which now cover more than 700 square km. European Geoparks Network was established as a voluntary organization in 2000. The main objective of the EG Network is multilateral cooperation in the protection of geological heritage, education, support of geotourism and strategies for sustainable development of the participating territories. European Geoparks Network members are also associated in the Global Network of Geoparks, which is supported by UNESCO. Bohemian Paradise Geopark is the very first territory of this kind in Czech Republic. Geopark task is to show the unique geological heritage and the relationship between nature and our existence. Geopark denotes the importance of geological processes on human society and informs us how to responsibly use natural resources. It popularizes geology and propagates the historical, cultural and environmental qualities of nature and landscape to public. Geoparks promote all resources of the region, including the genius loci of many picturesque sceneries, the beauty of unique locations, the wealth of cultural heritage, traditional crafts, regional agricultural products and interesting local cuisine. Bohemian Paradise Geopark was again approved by UNESCO and also declared the first Czech National Geopark in 2010.
Bohemian Paradise is an area with a very interesting geological evolution. The geology has provided the foundation for the rich natural diversity of the region, for human settlement, agriculture, and commerce. There are only few places in the world where you can find such a wide variety of geological phenomena and where its diversity play such an important role in shaping the environment. All places are suitable for excursions for all who wish to enjoy the pleasures and excitements of geotourism and they are interesting and accessible even for people with minimal geological knowledge.
The distinctive sandstone formations of Bohemian Paradise were created as sea sediments of the Cretaceous Period. The landscape was later formed by volcanic activity, which also produced many of the precious stones for which the region is also famous. There is a long tradition in jewellery production, especially using famous Czech Garnets: cutting and setting precious stones, and engraving gemstones (glyptic).
Apart from the main areas of PLA Bohemian Paradise, the Jizera and Kamenice rivers valleys belong the sites of European Natura 2000 network of highly protected areas. Most of the landscape is protected according to uniform principles to ensure the diversity of fauna, flora and habitat types that are most valuable, most endangered, rare or reduced in their presence to a particular region (endemic).
A small fish Vranka Obecná (Cottus gobio) with completely stunted gas bladder, moving among the rocks across the river bottom in typical “jumps” live at the bottom of the clean mountain streams and rivers. The Jizera River is inhabited by trout (Salmo trutta morpha fario) and rainbow trout, there are also rarely eel (Anguilla anguilla) and river lamprey (Lampetra fluviatilis) present here. Rivers, streams, natural pools, and their surroundings are inhabited by the fire salamander (Salamandra salamandra), non-venomous grass snake (Natrix natrix), Toad (Bufo Bufo), and the birds such as Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis), Dipper (Cinclus cinclus), White Wagtail (Motacilla alba) and mammalian such as water shrew (Neomys fodiens), which all are bound to water habitats. The black stork (Ciconia nigra) appears in the Bítouchov area on the Rieger´s Path in recent years. The meadows are inhabited with papillons e.g. (Papilio machaon), and small lizards of Lacerta agilis, and Anguis fragilis specimen in sunny parts of the rocky hillsides, also the Balea perversa live here.
Forest vegetation on the slopes of the valleys are inhabited by black woodpecker (Dryocopus martius), kinglet bird (Regulus ignicapillus), nuthatch (Sita europaea), warbler (Sylvia atricapilla), wren (Troglodytes troglodytes), Prunella modularis, and Phylloscopus sibilatrix. Merlin (Falco subbuteo), tawny owl (Strix aluco), wood pigeon (Columba palumbus), and spotted flycatcher (Muscicapa striata), live in the forests. Rocky areas serve as home for swift bird (Apus apus), redstart bird (Phoenicurus ochruros), sparrowhawk (Accipiter nissus), kestrel (Falco tinnunculus), and great owl (Bubo bubo). Also raven (Corvus corax) can be spotted often.
Other common forest dwellers are mammals, such as squirrels (Sciurus vulgaris), shrew (Apodemus sylvaticus), hare (Lepus europaeus), fox (Vulpes vulpes), and roebuck (Capreolus capreolus), occasionaly moufflon (Ovis musimon) and wild pig (Sus scrofa).
A substantial portion of the area is covered by forest vegetation represented mainly by pines with the minority of oak and beech, and less by other deciduous trees. Other parts include meadows and river valleys.
Forests are predominantly consisting of beech (Fagus sylvatica), maple (Acer pseudoplatanus) sycamore (Platanus hispanica), birch (Betula pendula), linden tree (Tilia platyphyllos), white fir (Abies alba), oak (Quercus robur), and hornbeam (Carpinus betulus). Spruce monocultures (Picea abies) grow in minor areas, for example the immediate vicinity of Rieger's path. Many rocky areas of Bohemian Paradise are covered by pine forest (Pinus sylvestris).
Jizera river serves as a corridor to the descent of mountain and piedmont species to lower altitudes, while the thermophilic plants are spreading upriver. The area is a home to many flowers, for example Saxifraga decipiens, subsp. Steinmanii, Vincetoxicum hirundinaria, Campanula rotundifolia, Digitalis grandiflora, Silene vulgarit, Polypodium vulgare, and Asplenium virose are present at the rocky slopes of the Jizera river canyon.
Mildly temperate climate of Central Europe offers hot days (max. around +35 ºC = 95 ºF) suitable for sun-bathing and watersports during summers and a lot of snow and good weather conditions for skiing during winters (max. around -20 ºC = -4 ºF).
Volcanites in Bohemian Paradise
The abandoned quarry Hvězda with the length of its wall about 170 m and a height of up to 25 m, located on Mt. Staropacká about 2 km from the town Stará Paka, is known as deposit of many precious stones. The deposits of pyroclastic rocks of phreatomagmatic eruption of maar volcano are exposed in this place. Massive amygdaloidal andesitoids and several types of irregular red-brown lenticular positions of tuffites and its agglomerates are present there. Almonds are somewhere plentiful, rare elsewhere, their size range from the cavities with millimeter dimensions to 15 cm in diameter. Moss chalcedony, agate, geodes, and calcite are to be found there usually.
The highest peak of Bohemian Paradise is a part of Ještěd-Kozákov ridge. It was created by uplifting along the Lusatian Fault 5 million years ago and it consists of Paleozoic phyllites, rocks of Carboniferous and Permian Ages, Cretaceous sandstones, and Tertiary basalt. A body of amygdaloidal melaphyres in the Votrubec´s quarry gives the evidence of volcanic activity in the Late Paleozoic Era. Various types of quartz, agate, jasper, chalcedony, zeolites, and more crystallized in the cavities of the melaphyre. Stones from Kozákov were used already by prehistoric hunters. A tourist lodge with restaurant is on the top of the hill, with a new 40 m high publicly available lookout tower offering wonderful view of the Bohemian paradise landscape.
The youngest volcanic activity took place here in the Tertiary period. Basaltic rocks cover the northern slope of the hill. Tephres, which appear at the beginning and in the middle of the volcanic activity, represent only about 5% of the mass produced. Columnar structure is a typical characteristic of igneous rocks that cooled near the surface. The columns of basaltic rocks lined up like organ pipes or presented in fan-like shapes are located on the northern slope. Volcanic bombs can be found on the top of Kozákov as well as in the former volcano crater at Prackov. Green olivine stones are mostly present in the basaltic rocks.
Mužský (463 m)
Basalt hill, of similar origin as Trosky, stands in the middle of a sandstone plateau lying in the southwestern part of the Bohemian Paradise about 2.5 km northeast from the town of Mnichovo Hradiště. The highest peak of Příhrazy platform is the basaltic remnant of the magma-supplying vein of former volcano. Gravitational collapse, supported by historical mining was the cause of a small cave in basalt. The plateau is divided by canyons into five parts called Hrada, Mužský, Příhrazské rocks, cliffs and rocks at the Drhleny, and rocks near castle Valečov. The area was inhabited already in the Neolithic Age. A beautiful view of the landscape around is available from the bare top of Mužský hill. A memorial of the fallen soldiers was built here in 1866. Village of Mužský located below the hill has been announced a historical reserve due to its original character.
Hill Strážník is quite famous and perhaps the only site in Europe, where the Star Quartz can be found. The origin of local unique radial star-shaped quartz is linked to the hydrothermal vein pervading through the melaphyre in the southeastern part of the top platform, called "Boroví". Weathering processes such as erosion, frost and slope sliding in the past caused the distribution of star quartz down the slopes. The maximum reported diameter of radial aggregates was 10cm. Nowadays, the site where the star quartz was found was covered with soil - to prevent further collecting - it was declared natural preserve in 1963.
Hill Zebín is one of the landmarks near the town of Jičín. A marshy landscape with shallow lakes was here about 17 million years ago. Then a hot magma penetrated into it, which was fractured into small fragments due to the reaction caused by its contact with water. However, the strength of the eruption has not increased much. That´s how the tuff cone was created, which was later filled with magma through the dike vein and a lake of lava formed in it. Abandoned quarry lying on the hillside reveals the structure of a scoria cone volcano remnants. A Chapel of St. Mary Magdalene was built in 17th century on the top of the hill.
Sedimentary rocks of Kumburk formation – Štikov arcoses 300 millions years old are shown on the wall of the abandoned quarry. Arcoses are distinctly horizontal and cross-bedded with fluvial channels. There are three silicified wood of Dadoxylon type embedded in various directions and levels inside north wall of the quarry. The biggest of them is about 75 centimetres thick in diameter. Sub vertical dike of Miocene basalt rock with maximal thickness of 1 metre intrudes on the east wall of the quarry. Small basalt bed of breccia structure with typical hexagonal seclusiveness occurs near the bottom of the quarry, it is probably the remnant of volcanic dike channel.
Castles, chateaus and castle ruins
Bohemian Paradise Geopark encompasses many castles and chateaus, often build in attractive locations on sandstone rocks. Some of the castles and palaces are in excellent conditions and they are offering an exhibitions of their historical interieurs with original furnishings and equipment, other are left as romantic ruins in the wild nature, suitable for a family trip.
Frýdštejn castle ruin
Well-preserved ruins of the castle rises above the valley of the Jizera River, dominated by the castle's highest tower which is its best conserved part. It is 15 meters high with a diameter of 9 meters and its walls are two meters thick. Frýdštejn was built during the 14th century. A number of small rooms, including a chapel, was carved directly into the rock. The owners of the castle superseded several times. The castle has lost its function after the sale in 1556, and it has been uninhabited since the late 16th century. Today the castle is owned by the municipality of Frýdštejn. Open: May to October 10:00 to 5:00 p.m.
Hrubá Skála Chateau
Chateau Hrubá Skála was built on a sandstone rock on the site of a former medieval castle rock, which was established by Hynek of Wallenstein. The castle was first mentioned as the property of Wallenstein dynasty in the charter of 1353. It was rebuilt into a Renaissance chateau in the mid-16th century and later rebuilt in Neo-gothic style during the Romantism period. Chateau currently serves as hotel and offers a variety of unique dining experiences at restaurants and other representative rooms of the castle.
Hrubý Rohozec Chateau
Today´s Chateau Hrubý Rohozec was founded as a gothic castle around 1280. Later it was architecturally modified in the Renaissance, Baroque, and Empire style, which is now the most noticeable. Two libraries, dining room and green salon have been preserved with the original equipment to present date. The chateau exposition is arranged in cooperation with the Prague Museum of Decorative Arts. The castle is surrounded by park with a collection of stone masonry of the Romantic period. Open: October and April: weekends and holidays 9:00 to 4:00 p.m. May - September: Tue – Sun 9:00 - 17:00
Humprecht, designed by Carlo Lurago, was built as a small hunting lodge by Humprecht Černín John the Earl of Chudenice in the years 1667-1672. A banquet hall, library and black kitchen can be visited in basement, the women's and men's rooms with original furnishings and ladies' dressing rooms with a small picture gallery are in upper floor. Open: April and October, weekends, holidays: 9 to 3:30 p.m. May: Tue - Sun 9 to 4:30 p.m. June-August: Tue - Sun 9 – 5 p.m. Sept.: Tue - Sun 9 – 4 p.m.
Castle stands on a sandstone rock in the intersection of three valleys - Plakánek, Prokop´s, and Černý Pond. It was founded with its characteristic massive so-called White Tower in the late 14th century. Massive reconstruction of the castle has been done in the mid-20th century. At present, the castle belongs to the Kinsky family property. Open: April: Wed - Sun 9 – 4 p.m. May, June: Tue - Sun 9 – 5 p.m. July, August: daily 9 – 6 p.m. September: Tue - Sun 9 – 5 p.m. October: Wed - Sun 9 – 4 p.m.
Kozlov (Chlum) castle ruin
Rock castle Kozlov was built on several sandstone blocks at Chlum hill (358 m above sea level) above village Podháj. Only few remnants of the castle survived until present: small rooms carved into the rock, defensive moats and castle well. Mortises for the wooden parts of the castle are well visible in the rocks. The castle used particular natural rock formations as defense walls, which were extended by wooden fortifications. There are many interesting rocky outcrops around the castle area. The lookout of Karel Vaclav Rais is near the castle.
Kumburk castle ruin
Kumburk castle was founded around the year 1300 at the latest. The phase of the castle flourish immediately preceded the Hussite riots in 15th century. Castle´s outer fortifications were demolished in the 17th century, the castle itself was deserted and dilapidated. Kumburk stands on the former lava lake, which emerged when magma filled the crater created by an explosion caused by contact of hot magma with water-saturated sediments about 17 million years ago. Basaltic columns, which are arranged in the shape of an inverted fan below the castle remind us of that volcanic event.
Mnichovo Hradiště Chateau
Chateau is a magnificent example of Baroque residence. It was designed by architect Canevalle who started generous reconstruction of the former Renaissance chateau in 1696.The castle art gallery, Golden Cabinet, and the chapel with rich decorations were built after 1730. The castle rooms shows excellent examples of Baroque interior design. Opening hours: April, October: Sat, Sun and holidays 8:45 to 3 p.m., May, June, September: Tue - Sun 8:45 to 4 p.m., July, August: Tue - Sun 8:45 to 5 p.m..
Rotštejn castle ruin
The remains of a gothic castle lies in the Nature reserve Klokočské rock, which was established in 1985 on an area of 228.13 hectares. The sandstones form about 2 km long rock wall with several standalone rock pinnacles above village Klokočí. Rotštejn was founded by Markvarts family in 14th century, and it was abandoned in the early 16th century. Open: from Easter to the end of May: sat 10:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., sun 10:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., June-August: Mon - Fri 10 – 4:30 p.m., Sat 10 – 5 p.m. Sun 10 – 4 p.m. Sept - Oct: Sat 10 – 5 p.m Sun 10 – 4 p.m.
The Neo-Gothic chateau served as residence of the Rohan family of French origin. The palace rooms are equipped with original furniture, paintings and other accessories, most of the rooms also have splendid carvings. The chateau interiors are open to the public, including its large park. Open: January-March: 10 – 2 p.m., April: 9 - 3:30 p.m., May-August: 9 – 4:30 p.m., September-October: 9 – 3:30 p.m., November-December: 10 – 2 p.m.
Trosky castle ruin
The hill Trosky (488 m above sea) represents the remnants of volcanic scoria cone. The original volcano, which broke with the explosion through sandstone about 17,5 million years ago, was worn down by erosion over time. Only two highly resistant basaltic towers remained exposed, which are the remnants of conduit that once filled the vents inside the scoria and ash cones. The thicker one is called Baba and thinner is called Panna. The famous ruins are the remains of castle built here in 14th century. Opening hours: April and October: Saturday, Sunday and holidays 8:30 to 4:00 p.m., May-August: Tuesday - Sunday 8:30 to 5:30 p.m., September: Tuesday - Sunday 8:30 to 4:00 p.m..
The oldest castle in the Bohemian Paradise was built around the 1260. Its residential function ended in late 15th century and the castle was abandoned. Ruined castle raised to a new glory with the efforts of Wallenstein family, who rebuilt it into a remarkable pilgrimage site with a unique genius loci in the 18th century. The new owners of Lex of Aehrenthal made castle available to the public and they finished the romantic adaptations of old residence into famous landmark in the 19th century. Open: daily, April and October: Saturday, Sunday and holidays: 9 to 5:30 p.m., May-September: 9 to 5:30 p.m.
Originally wooden castle was built on the rocks by family of Valečov after 1300. It was burned down by Henry Wartenberg after Hussite wars in 1439. A stone palace was built in the first half of the 15th century, another floor was added in next century. The castle later served as administrative center and the nobility did not live here anymore, it was noticed as abandoned in 1652. Since 1994 the castle is owned by the municipality Bosen. Open: November-February: Sat, Sun 10 – 5 p.m., March, April: Sat, Sun and holidays 10 – 5 p.m., May, September: Mon-Sun 9 – 5 p.m., July, August: daily 9 – 5 p.m.
Vranov - Pantheon castle
Rock castle Vranov also known as Pantheon with its length of almost 400 m is considered the most complicated rock castle in Bohemia. The form of the castle was determined by the sandstone cliffs, in which it was built before 1425. It was abandoned during the 16th century. Later modifications transformed the ruins of the castle into a romantic monument available to public called the Pantheon. Reconstruction was completed in summer 1826, when a chapel was built high above the Jizera valley. Open: April, May, September, October: Sat, Sun 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., June-August: daily 9:a.m. to 6 p.m..
Zbiroh castle ruin
Zbiroh castle was founded in the early 14th century high above the village Rakousy, where the Jizera river creates a great meander. Zbiroh is noticed in the written documents of king Wenceslas IV. , when it belonged to a prominent bohemian magnate Markvart of Wartenberg. During the long years of anarchy and chaos in the country after the Hussite wars, the castle Zbiroh along with other castles in this area become the outpost for robbers and bandit troops, therefore the army demolished it in 1442 and about 1458 is mentioned already as abandoned. Only remnants of walls and vaults carved into the rock remains us of the former castle today.
The bigest towns of Bohemian Paradise are Turnov, Jičín, Nová Paka, Semily, and Železný Brod. They are connected with Prague, Liberec, Mladá Boleslav, and Hradec Králové by trains and buses, which run usually about every 2 hours. The fastest travel by car is on the motorway R10 (E65) about 80 km in the north-east direction from Prague to Liberec through Mladá Boleslav and Turnov. Another road E442 (R35) leads across Bohemian Paradise from Hradec Králové through Jičín to Turnov and continues to Liberec.
Buses from Prague to Turnov, Železný Brod, Jičín, Nová Paka, and other places in Bohemian Paradise departs from the bus station Florenc (subway line B and C in the center of Prague) and from the station Prague Černý Most (subway end-station at line B). All towns in the Bohemian Paradise Geopark´s territory are well accessible by regularly departing bus lines connecting them with Prague, Liberec, Hradec Králové and Pardubice.
A seasonal tourist buses provide the transport across the main sites in Geopark during the main summer season, which cover the main pedestrian and biking paths, and railway stations. Actual tourist bus timetables are available at tourist information centers, at bus stops, and on websites www.cesky-raj.info  and www.bohemian-paradise.info .
Bohemian Paradise can be accessed by train along the route No. 231 from Prague to Nymburk and the route No. 61, which continues to Jičín. Another main railway No. 41 leads to Geopark from Hradec Králové through Jičín to Turnov. Another mail railway with several tunnels through the foothills of the Giant Mountains line the route No. 30 from Pardubice to Liberec through the towns of Stará Paka, Železný Brod and Turnov, which is the main rail hub in the Bohemian Paradise. It takes about 2 hours by bus or 2,5 hours by train from Prague through Mladá Boleslav to Turnov and it costs about 130-150 Kč.
For actual timetable check the online Czech bus/train timetable .
Traveling across the Geopark area is free. Some of the castles and chateaus require small entrance fees, when you want visit their interiors and see their exhibitions.
Bozkov Dolomite Caves can be accessed only with a small entrance fee and a guide available there during opening hours.
Municipal museums and Art Galleries in the area of Geopark have their own individual admission fees.
Bohemian Paradise area is covered with a dense network of marked bike trails that pass through the most interesting places of Geopark. Many of the trails can be traveled on skis during winter.
Some of Geopark's trails are not suitable for anything except walking. There are numerous different colour-coded tourist marked trails which provide hikes as short as one hour or as long as an entire day. Some sections of the trails across rocky areas may include steep stairs, but most of them are safe even for families with small children.
Jizera River has good conditions for canoeing. Also rivers Kamenice and Oleška are navigable in the spring.
Sandstone rock formations
Twenty minutes of hiking along almost any of the marked trails from the bus or railway stop will bring you to the stunning sandstone formations of Bohemian Paradise. These can be admired from the bottom of the valleys or from numerous lookouts along the trails atop the rock formations.
Walking along the Geopark trails
The area of Bohemian Paradise Geopark is covered by colour-coded marked trails for tourists, which guide across the main interesting parts and which also connect the places with nearest bus and railway stations, and parking places in towns and villages of Geopark. New educative trails for geotourists are installed with geotags at the main sites, which can provide you with additional multimedia information available to your mobile devices with internet connection about interesting gelogical, archaeological, and other various interesting phenomena of the Bohemian Paradise landscape.
Biking and inline skating
Bohemian Paradise area is covered with a dense network of bike trails that pass through the most interesting places of Geopark. A new network of trails for biking and in-line skating through nature called Greenway Jizera was built along the Jizera river in the picturesque valleys and meanders leading from Semily through Železný Brod, Malá Skála and Rakousy as far as to Dolánky valley below the chateau Hrubý Rohozec in Turnov.
Jizera River has good conditions for canoeing. Also rivers Kamenice and Oleška are navigable in the spring. Upper parts of Jizera are suitable for experienced paddlers, while the Jizera near Turnov is quieter and easier for anyone. Many natural lakes and rivers in the area of Geopark offer refreshment during hot summer days. Some of towns in Geopark have municipal public swimming pools or aqua-centers. The quarry at Nová Rumchalpa is the base place for divers.
Many sites can be visited on skis during winter. When snow conditions are good, there are beautiful trails through Želejovské valley, Žehrovka valley, along the Golden path of Bohemian Paradise or on the ridge trail from Kozákov to Hamštejn. Downhill skiing is possible in these locations: Frydstejn: 1 lift, 600 m slope. Koberovy, TJ Koberovy: 1 lift, 350m slope. Kozákov, TJ Chuchelna: 1 lift, 500m slope. Líšný, TJ Líšný: 1 elevator. Lomnice n. P., V Popelkách: 1 lift, 300m slope. Tabor: 1 lift, 450m slope. Semily ski resort Nad Nádražím: 1 lift, 350m slope. Turnov: ski resort Struhy: 1 lift, 300m slope with lights.
Bohemian Paradise offers many excellent opportunities for rock climbers. Sandstone rocks are protected, and therefore all the rules must be respected! Detailed information is available at information centers, on Internet etc., conditions may vary for different rock areas.
Paragliding and kiting
Kozákov hill has become very popular place for fans of paraglide-flying and kiting. There are three starting points (west, south and north) on its top. Landing place at an altitude of 484 m is marked by wind sleeves. Pilot courses and tandem flights are held here, in which the control is left to an experienced glider pilot, while the only thing you care about is a wonderful view of the Trosky castle and surrounding landscape, with no sign of engine noise, just a beautiful feeling of flight.
Restaurants, pubs, supermarkets and shops are available in main towns Turnov, Jičín, Semily, Nová Paka, and Železný Brod and also in many smaller villages along the main tourist paths. Most of the castles and chateau sites offer refreshment and souvenir shops, the biggest Chateau Sychrov  and Chateau Hrubá Skála  have their own restaurants.
List of accomodation in Bohemian Paradise 
Hotel Karel IV. 
Hotel Paradis 
Hotel Korunní Princ 
Pension Svatý Jan 
Hotel U Krále 
Hotel Štikov 
Pension Ráj Skokovy 
Many private pensions offer accommodation in the area. Český Ráj is also near enough to Prague that it can be done as a day trip.
Wild camping is not allowed in the protected areas of Geopark and in its sandstone caves. However, there are many public camping places available in the area of Bohemian Paradise, for example the most famous Autocamp Sedmihorky which lies about 6 kilometers far from Turnov in the direction to Jičín and Hradec Králové (road E442) at the central part of Hruboskalsko, just below the chateau Hrubá Skála.