The next stop on my Slovakia travels was Banska Bystrica, a stunning little village/town nestled in a wide valley right beneath the Low Tatras mountain range.
It's a very sleepy town most of the time, despite the fact that it's Slovakia's second largest city. By city, I really mean village, because it's population is only around 80,000 people. Because the place is so close to the mountains and amazing wilderness everyone is probably out skiing, rock climbing, mountain biking or hiking 🎄☃🗻.
And that's the main reason you would want to come here anyway. It's an outdoor-lovers paradise. And I gotta say, the locals are extremely helpful and so passionate about nature too. They're very positive people and so openly pleased to see tourists come into town. That was really refreshing and I immediately felt at home when asking for local tips, despite the obvious language barrier.
If you only have a day or two to explore, then I'd probably recommend you go to Donovaly which is the main ski resort in the area. Even if it's not ski season you can still catch a lift up the mountains and do some hiking.
In town there is the eerily beautiful Museum of the Slovak National Uprising. Scattered throughout the property are old tanks, machinery, train cars and other artifacts that were used during WWI and II. It's a little bit spooky and quite sad, but I think it's worth visiting. It'll give you a real appreciation for the struggle that the Slovaks went through during these horrific times.
And finally, one of the most exciting things me and my friend did was go see a local hockey game. Banska Bystrica are at the top of the national league and their local supporters are super passionate. It's a wild experience, full of crazy horns, drums, local songs and chants, and beer! A ticket cost something like €6 and was well worth it!
In my opinion Slovakia is a very underrated tourist destination. I love hiking and climbing, so for me it was paradise. It's still a fairly under developed country by European standards and I really believe that the country could benefit greatly by showing off their natural wonders. There isn't a lot of good information online and in English, so a lot of work needs to be done to make that information more accessible. But if you're up for a random and unexpected adventure then be sure to check it out!