If you like fairytale landscapes dotted with scenic rocks, you’ll be delighted to visit the Pradnik Valley. Located only 25 kilometers out of Krakow, it abounds in bizarre rock formations, caves, tunnels, and ravines carved by glaciers and water. The most famous of all is so-called “Hercules’ Club”.
Established in 1956, Ojcow National Park is Poland’s smallest (1580 ha). More than 20 percent of its area is encompassed by strict reserves. There are about 220 caves, the best known of which is Lokietek’s Cave (Jaskinia Lokietka), entered at the top of Gora Chelmowa, the highest elevation in the Pradnik Valley (472 m). Legend has it that for a long times the future King Wladyslaw Lokietek (the Elbow-High) hid here when fighting for the throne. About 270 meters long, the cave is actually a series of chambers with names such as Knights’ Hall, Kitchen, or Bedroom. Only fragments of the Ojcow Castle have survived to this day, including sections of ramparts with a massive gate and parts of a draw bridge. The fortress was constructed in the second half of the 14th century by Kazimierz the Great. The castle offers beautiful views across the extremely photogenic southern part of the Pradnik Valley.
Some 7 km away from Ojcow the area is commanded by a castle at the top of Pieskowa Skala. Below the hill stands the unbelievable Hercules’ Club (Maczuga Herkulesa), a 20-metre upright rock formed by erosion and karst effects. The castle at Pieskowa Skala is considered to be a remarkable example of Renaissance architecture, its form owing much to Italian and Dutch architects. The curious inner courtyard is surrounded by arcades decorated with gargoyles and reminiscent of the Wawel Castle. Inside is a museum presenting European art from the Middle Ages to the 18th century, with a separate section devoted to English painting.