Cesky Raj, known in English as the Bohemian Paradise, is the oldest nature reserve in Czechia. Most climbers come here to have a different and unique climbing experience and none regret it! However, Cesky Raj is worth visiting not just because of its climbing. The region is famous for its beautiful and wild landscape. Tall sandstone towers are surrounded by pine forests and steep rock cliffs plunge straight down into deep valleys. The dramatic scenery is extremely diverse, while the whole area is contained within less than 200 square kilometres.
The Bohemian Paradise lies only about an hour’s drive from Prague but climbing here has a remote, wild vibe. The sandstone towers form what the Czechs call ‘rock towns’. These rock formations have been sculpted over millions of years by the wind, rain, and temperature changes. From some of the tallest towers you can enjoy a view not only on the magnificent rock towns but, on a clear day, you can see the vast scenery of Czechia.
As the rock here is very soft, you are not allowed to use chalk and top-rope climbing is prohibited as, hanging from above, the rope scars the delicate rock. For the same reason there are very few bolts (or sometimes none) compared to other European climbing destinations. This somewhat adventurous style of climbing developed in order to protect the rock. It is also closely connected to the local climbing mentality, which is very traditional and purist.
From the beginning, the Czech sandstone climbing culture has been influenced by the English approach and has accepted similar rules. As a result, a unique climbing style has developed in Cesky Raj. Using cams, nuts and other metal gear is prohibited to protect the rock from damage. Bolting is not allowed either, so in the Bohemian Paradise climbers use knotted prusiks and slings of different sizes to protect their falls. It sounds odd but it works!
Remember to leave your chalk-bag at home! Chalk leaves marks on the rock, so in this purist style of climbing you are not allowed to use it.
Climbing the sandstone towers of Cesky Raj is quite the adventure but the unique experience is worth the effort. The routes are up to twenty five metres long and the style is typical of sandstone: slabs, vertical and slightly overhanging faces with tiny foot holds and small hand holds. Climbing on sandstone is a great technical challenge and will test your balance.
The Bohemian Paradise area is a great place to spend your rest days as well. It has been recently proclaimed as a UNESCO Geo-Park, which is further proof of its unique charm. There are plenty of hiking trails that lead to one of many historic observation towers, castles and chateaux.
The weather in Czechia is not that easy to predict but in general the best period to enjoy the sandstone climbing runs from early spring to late autumn. Occasionally it can get too cold in the spring or too warm in the summer, but the short term weather forecast is usually accurate enough to choose the best days to climb.
There are a few campsites in the area or, if you prefer a little more comfort, you can choose one of the many B&Bs in Hrubá Skála or Libošovice. Even though public transport within Czechia is not bad, you will appreciate hiring a car and having the option of exploring the area more thoroughly.