the highest mountain in the CR (1602 m a.s.l.)
This dominant feature of the Krkonoše – a stone pyramid shaped by a glacier during the Ice Ages – is a popular destination for hikers. From the top there are beautiful views far and wide across the Czech Republic and Poland. Standing on the top is the circular St. Lawrence Chapel from 1665, a Polish building from 1976 with a meteorological station, and the new Czech post office built in 2005-2006. Nearby there stood the original post office building from 1899 to 2009; this was the highest point in the Czech Republic which issued a postage stamp. The old post office was dismantled in 2009 and transferred to Javorová skála (some 7 km southwest of Sedlec-Prčice), where it was later rebuilt. From 1850 there also used to be the old Polská (originally Slezská) bouda chalet, which was replaced in 1976 with the Polish building that stands there today, as well as the Česká bouda chalet, demolished in 2009.
The first recorded ascent was in 1456, when a certain Venetian was looking for precious stones in the mountains. In 1563–1566 the Silesian scholar Kryštof Schilling tried to measure the mountain’s height above sea level. He measured an incredible 5880 m (1000 metres higher than Mont Blanc). In 1569 Mr Jiřík of Řáseń measured 2035 m. At just 1602 m, Sněžka is still the highest mountain in the Czech Republic.
You can get from Špindlerův Mlýn to Sněžka on foot only, via several routes (the shortest is around 10 km). There is also an old cable car to the top of Sněžka from Pec pod Sněžkou (approx. 45 km by car or bus around the mountains).
Pramen Labe (Source of Elbe)
The Source of the Elbe is the name of a place on a ridge of the Krkonoše, for tourism purposes symbolically referred to as the start of the River Elbe. It is situated at a height of 1387 m in Labská louka (Elbe Meadow). The real source of the Elbe is situated in peat bogs some 150 to 300 m away and is inaccessible to the public for conservation reasons.
In 1968 a stone wall was built here with the coloured emblems of 26 prominent towns and cities through which the Elbe flows on its way to the sea. The wall was designed by Jiří Škopek. There are also two commemorative plaques. The first is devoted to the Czech Tourists Club to mark the seventieth birthday of Jan Buchar, the promoter of Czech tourism in the Krkonoše Mountains, and the second to honour the eightieth anniversary of organised tourism and the hundredth anniversary of the birth of Jan Buchar. The red route from Jilemnice which ends here is also named after Jan Buchar.
The site is one of the most popular destinations on the Czech side of the mountains; as testimony to its importance it was visited and blessed by the Bishop of Hradec Králové, Jan František Kryštof of Talmberk, as far back as in 1684.
Sněžné jámy (Snow Pits, German Schneegruben, Polish Śnieżne Kotły) are one of the most famous and most photogenic places in the Krkonoše Mountains. The characteristic landmark there can be seen from a long way away – the Wavel chalet on the peak of Vysoká Pláňe. In the past this was used as a tourist chalet, but now houses merely a Polish television transmitter.
Here, the main ridge falls steeply away down rock walls on the Polish side into deep pits – kind of basins carved out by the glacier – at the bottom of which there is a small glacial tarn. As in other glacial cirques, it contains some of the botanical treasures of the Krkonoše.
1198 m a.s.l.
A mountain chalet built on the Polish border on the main ridge of the Krkonoše on Slezské sedlo below Malý Šišák. The original chalet was built in 1784 by František Špindler (a reeve from Bedřichov). The chalet has burned down three times, but has always been restored afterwards. In 1914 an 8-kilometre road was built to the chalet from Špindlerův Mlýn. During the Second World War Špindlerova Bouda was used as an internment camp for French, British and American prisoners of war. The chalet is now a restaurant and hotel.
The chalet is the ideal starting point for hikes along the main ridges, following the ridge trunk route (red markers) or to the Polish side of the mountains. You can only reach the chalet along the road in your own car with a Krkonoše National Park permit (issued by the KRNAP Information Centre), although there is a tourist bus running along it several times a day, as well as a cycle-bus in the morning around 10 and 11 o’clock, which will also take you up with your bike. Yet it would be a shame not to walk the mere 4 km along this lovely route, following the green markers past Jeleníce or taking the longer route (around 7 km) along the river following the blue markers to the U Bílého Labe chalet and then along the yellow route back up to the saddle.
1250 m a.s.l.
The Martinova bouda guesthouse and restaurant lies on the border of the 1st zone of the Krkonoše National Park below the main border ridge on the slopes of Vysoké kolo. This is one of the oldest chalets in the Krkonoše Mountains; it was established in around 1642, when the people began to resort to the mountains during the troubled times of the Thirty Years’ War.
The chalet’s current name derives from its former tenant Martin Erlebach, who restored the chalet in 1795. The famous Czech tennis player Martina Navrátilová, who spent the first years of her life here and whose father managed the place, is named after the Martinova bouda chalet.
The best way to get to Martinova bouda is on foot from Špindlerův Mlýn (around 7 km, 540 m elevation) following the green markers. The chalet is inaccessible to cyclists. The chalet lies on the crossroads of hiking routes. You can take the blue route up almost a kilometre to the main ridge at 1350 m, which is where the main ridge route runs (red markers). You can follow the green markers to the west to get to Labská bouda chalet and the Elbe Waterfall.
Bouda u Bílého Labe chalet
1000 m a.s.l.
A popular destination for walks or bike rides into the immediate surroundings of Špindlerův Mlýn. The chalet lies some 5 km from the town centre at a height of exactly 1000 metres. The way there leads through the picturesque White Elbe Valley (left tributary of the Elbe). By the chalet is the start of the Čertová strouha educational trail, with well-preserved examples of our ancestors’ skilful art of damming.
For guests of the chalet boudy there is a spacious and cosy dining area with a bar, and an outdoor terrace open in summer. The chalet serves classic Czech cuisine.
educational trail in Čertův důl (2.5 km)
Besides its natural beauties, this educational trail features the extraordinarily well preserved flood barrier at Čertová strouha, which is more than 100 years old. After a series of devastating floods at the end of the 19th century, an extensive series of dams was built here, as well as throughout the drainage basins of the Elbe, Jizera and Úpa. The example at Čertová strouha, which has been preserved almost complete and working to this day, is a fine display of our ancestors’ skill in the art of damming using extremely modest means. It features 43 lateral and 194 longitudinal stone flood barriers. As the stones in the beds of the Krkonoše streams and rivers were too round and hard to work with, approximately half of the stones were brought from the quarry created for this purpose above the mouth of Červeny potok stream.
The educational trail through Čertův důl starts by the U Bílého Labe chalet and goes upstream along Čertová strouha. This takes you to the remains of an old smithy. Return using the same route. The entire circuit is around 2.5 km.
Moravská bouda chalet
1225 m a.s.l.
The Moravská bouda restaurant and hotel is a pleasant stop-off on the way from the ridges of the Krkonoše, especially for families with children. It lies just three quarters of a kilometre from the main ridge, in a meadow with views of Špindlerův Mlýn and Kozí hřbety.
You can get here the easy way from Špindlerova bouda along the red ridge route, from which you turn off below Petrova bouda onto the green route (around 2.5 km in total), or from Dívčí lávky following the yellow markers. The blue markers will take you to Dívčí lávky from the centre of town.
You can also get to Moravská bouda by bike – using the marked Krnap cycling route No. 15 – circuit via Špindlerova bouda and Moravská bouda.
Luční bouda chalet
1410 m a.s.l.
Luční bouda (Meadow Chalet, German Wiesenbaude), lies in Bílá louka (White Meadow) on the left bank of the White Elbe just a short distance from the Úpa peat bog where the White Elbe rises, as does the river Úpa. This is the largest chalet in the Krkonoše Mountains and one of the largest in Europe. It covers an area of 5600 square metres and had its own self-sufficient economy and its own bakery.
You can still buy excellent homemade bread here today. Luční bouda is also the oldest chalet on the Krkonoše ridges – the first simple building was erected in 1623. It gradually became an important economic, commercial, research and tourism centre. Its source of livelihood was cattle, harvesting hay from the surrounding meadows, and later offering accommodation and refreshments to tourists on their way to Sněžka. The local specialty was mountain herb cheese. The chalet has burned down several times over the years, yet has always been rebuilt and expanded. In 1914 the new large chalet was completed, 120 rooms and several dormitories. Following the resignation of the border to Germany after the Munich Agreement Luční bouda and the nearby Rennerova bouda burned down on 2nd October 1938 in rather ambiguous circumstances. The current chalet dates back to 1939–1940.
Luční bouda is the ideal place for a rest before or after a walk up Sněžka or en-route to the Polish side of the mountains.
As a trial, since 2008 cyclists have been permitted to use the asphalt supply road from Výrovka (the route runs from Pec pod Sněžkou). As the chalet is in the 1st zone of the national park, cyclists are not permitted to use any of the other routes, but may leave their bikes and hike up to Sněžka.
Labská bouda chalet
1340 m a.s.l.
Labská bouda chalet lies in Labská louka (Elbe Meadow), extensive plateau, just a few hundred meters from the source of the Elbe and directly above the Elbe Waterfall. Its position makes it an important orientation point, especially in winter.
The original building with an inn stood on this site from the mid-19th century. In 1878-9 Count Jan Harrach had it rebuilt. On 24th March 1913 a 50-kilometre race was held here, during which the Czech sportsman Bohumil Hanč died, together with his friend Václav Vrbata. The chalet was open until 1965, when it burned down.
The modern reinforced-concrete nine-storey building from 1975 bears the same name as the original inn. It was designed in a rather megalomaniacal style by the communist regime. It doesn’t really blend into the local surroundings - in the extreme mountain conditions the concrete began to flake off. Despite extensive reconstruction from 1998 to 2004, it is still afflicted by a number of problems. The Krkonoše National Park administration is trying to purchase it so it can be demolished.
Labský vodopád (Labský waterfall)
The Elbe Waterfall is a 35-metre-high chute waterfall on the uppermost stretch of the river Elbe. It falls into Labský důl below Labská bouda, approximately 1 km southeast of the source of the Elbe.
In 1859 the owner of the nearby Labská bouda chalet, Josef Schier, created a smaller reservoir to hold water above the waterfall in 1859. Once there were enough paying tourists, the floodgate was lifted and the waterfall opened – it now looked much more impressive. This attraction was later closed for nature conservation reasons. The remains of the reservoir below Labská bouda can only be spotted by the most sharp-eyed observers.
The highest and most spectacular waterfall, however, is nearby Pančava Waterfall.
Pančavský vodopád ( Pančavský waterfall)
Pančava Waterfall is the highest waterfall in Bohemia. It is 148 m high (the water falls from 1298 m a.s.l. to 1150 m a.s.l.), and can reach 162 m in the season. The waterfall has four main cascades with a height (from the top) of 36, 39, 23 and 20 m. It is formed by the Pančava stream (right-hand tributary of the Elbe), which falls into the top of Labský důl.
The name of Pančava stream comes from the German pantschen, or planschen or plantschen, which translates as splash or slosh.
The waterfall has been a popular destination since the early days of tourism. In 1859 the owner of the nearby Labská bouda chalet, Josef Schier, built a small reservoir with a floodgate above the top edge. Once there were enough paying tourists, the floodgate was lifted and the waterfall was reopened, with a much greater flow of water. Small kiosks were set up above and below the waterfall with refreshments and a viewing platform at the top. The reservoir and the kiosks and platform were closed in the 1930s.
Nowadays access to the waterfall is restricted, as it is situated in the 1st zone of the National Park. Near the waterfall there is a viewpoint, from which the top of the waterfall is visible; it can also be seen from the nearby Ambrožova vyhlídka viewpoint.
Vrbatova bouda chalet
1400 m a.s.l.
The Vrbatova bouda chalet is the only notable building on Zlaté návrší – the ridge between Medvědín and Kotel. It was built in the 1960s. The older Jestřábí boudy chalets further to the west are no longer there.
The chalet takes its name from the skier Václav Vrbata, who met a tragic death there. The tragic demise of Vrbata and his friend Hanč is commemorated by the Mohyla Hanče a Vrbaty cairn, which stands on a rise near Vrbatova bouda.
Leading to Vrbatova bouda is the Masaryk Mountain Trail, which was built before the Second World War in 1934 - 1936 during the construction of the Czechoslovak border fortifications to defend against Nazi Germany. However, the irony of fate decided otherwise: after the forced retreat of the Sudeten border as a result of the Munich Agreement, Wehrmacht units had easy access into the country. The surface of the road was originally paved, and was not asphalted until the turn of the 1960s and 70s to facilitate the construction of the Labská bouda chalet. The roads runs from the Jilemnická bouda chalet in Horní Mísečky (1035 m a.s.l.). Cars are prohibited, although in the summer there is a tourist bus running along it as far as Vrbatova bouda (from Jilemnice). The route to Vrbatova bouda and to the whole of Zlaté návrší can be made easier by using the cable car to Medvědín.
All that remains of the border fortifications are a few small bunkers - series 37 light fortifications. The inside of one of them can be seen a short distance from here along the red route towards Labská bouda chalet.
Mohyla Hanče a Vrbaty
The Zlaté návrší ridge runs along the ridge between the mountains of Medvědín and Kotel. On one of the smaller peaks, known as Vrbatovo návrší, there is a cairn. This is devoted to Bohumil Hanč and Václav Vrbata – a competitive skier and his friend – to commemorate their tragic death during a 50-kilometre international cross-country skiing race held on 24th March 1913. To try to save Hanč, Vrbata gave him some of his clothes, which eventually cost him his own life – his frozen body was found right around here.
The date March 24th is now Mountain Rescue Service Day in his honour. The cairn, which is sometimes known as Mohyla přátelství (Cairn of Friendship), was built in 1925. Hanč was found half dead around 300 metres form here. He died as he was being taken to the Labská bouda chalet; attempts to revive him were in vain. The Hančův pomník memorial now stands on the site where he was found. You can find it on the red route towards Labská bouda chalet.
The Vrbatova bouda chalet stands some 150 metres to the southeast of the summit.