Czechia's oldest national park celebrates 60 years with record attendance and events

Krkonoše National Park, which saw a record number of visitors last year, will open a renewed visitor center.

Raymond Johnston

Written by Raymond Johnston Published on 18.05.2023 15:00:00 (updated on 18.05.2023) Reading time: 3 minutes

Krkonoše National Park turned 60 this week. The park was established in then-Czechoslovakia on May 17, 1963, making it the oldest national park in the country.

It is also the most visited Czech national park and one of the most visited in the world. The park as well as the rest of the Krkonoše mountains last year saw a record number of visitors, following a two-year dip due to pandemic restrictions. Several events are planned throughout 2023, including a big celebration on May 19.

The park also spans two countries. The mountains on the Polish side of the border already became the Karkonosze National Park in 1959, so once the Czech side joined the flora and fauna on both sides had equal protection.

Sunrise over Sněžka in the Krkonoše Mountains.  (Photo: iStock, Petr Zbranek)
Sunrise over Sněžka in the Krkonoše mountains. Photo: iStock, Petr Zbranek

Together, the parks are the largest protected natural area in Central Europe, covering 425 square kilometers, with 370 square kilometers on the Czech side. There is also a 184 square kilometer buffer zone around the parks. The administrations of both parks work together.

The most visited sights in the Czech side of the park include the Sněžka peak, the surroundings of Labská bouda and Pramen Labe, the Memorial to the Mountain Victims, and the Úpské rašeliniště peat bog. Read more about them here.

The Czech side had already seen various forms of protection since 1904 when Count Jan Harrach established a nature reserve on the slopes of the valley of the Labe river. But it took over a century for the wider area to get the full protection it needed. The park administration was originally quite small, but by 1994 it grew into five departments.

“Today's state of nature conservation in the Krkonoše mountains is the result of the joint work of many hundreds of workers of various specializations who have passed through the park administration’s departments,’” the park administration said.

“No one can even count the number of external scientists or contractors. The involvement and connection of such a large number of people clearly underlines our current motto, which is ‘Man and Nature,’” they added.

New logo and commemorative events

As part of the anniversary year, a new multicolored logo has been introduced incorporating the dates and the number 60.

New logo for the anniversary. Photo: KNAP
New logo for the anniversary. Photo: KNAP

The main event to celebrate the anniversary takes place on May 19 in Vrchlabí. There will be three concerts on náměstí T.G.Masaryka and an evening video mapping and laser show on the former Augustinian monastery. The first concert starts at 4 p.m. The videomapping starts at 8:30 p.m. and repeats until 9:30 p.m. A complete list of events is on the park's website.

Other concerts and events take place at various locations in the Krkonoše area until Sept. 22 and a photo exhibit is at the park’s environmental educator center in Vrchlabí until Aug. 31. The most significant event, though, is the opening of a new visitor center in Vrchlabí in the fall in the former Augustinian monastery. The building closed to the public in 2017 for much-needed structural repairs. It will have a new entrance and new exhibits.

The name Krkonoše refers to the Czech folklore figure Krakonoš, a protector of forests and mountain pastures who brought luck to shepherds and others who lived off the land. He apparently was the inspiration for Gandalf in J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic The Lord of the Rings. In English, the range is sometimes called the Giant Mountains as the Krakonoš is sometimes depicted as a very tall figure.

A record year

The mountains and the park saw a resurgence of visitors last year, breaking the previous records from 2018. The area had seen drops in 2020 and 2021 due to pandemic restrictions. The figures are based on anonymized phone data and park trail counters.

The Krkonoše mountains recorded a total of 12,111,212 visits in 2022, or about 250,000 more than in 2018. The Krkonoše National Park alone recorded 5,763,996 visits in 2022, almost a million more than in 2018.

Waterfall in the Krkonoše mountains. Photo: Kudy z nudy, CzechTourism.
Waterfall in the Krkonoše mountains. Photo: Kudy z nudy, CzechTourism.

In 2021, the entire mountain range was visited by 8,888,416 people, or 3.5 million fewer visits than in 2022. The park saw 4,073,944 visits, or about 1.75 million fewer than last year.

Both the mountains as a whole and the park recorded the highest number of visitors last year on Feb. 12 due to school vacations, and on Oct. 28, which was a national holiday and the start of a long weekend with pleasant weather.

Residents of the Czech Republic accounted for 82 percent of visitors to the mountains, while the rest were foreigners. For last year, SIM cards registered to Ukraine were counted as domestic visits, since it was likely the phones belonged to refugees.  

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