If you’re a lover of nature and want to take a bit of time to enjoy the Czech country side during your visit to Prague, one of the most spectacular and easily accessible sights to check out is the Velka Amerika (Large America) quarry. The quarry is now disused, and has an 18m deep lake at the bottom of it. At 800m long and 200m wide, the quarry is quite simply huge and really impressive to see up close (it has even been called the Czech Grand Canyon). It is connected via a selection of underground tunnels to a couple of smaller quarries, which are known as Mala Amerika (Small America) and Mexico. Although these quarries are nowhere near as big as Velka Amerika, they are still pretty spectacular and well worth seeing.
This weekend I had some friends in town and decided to enjoy the last few days of Autumn with them by going to see the quarries. If you want to check them out too, the first thing you need to do is take a train to Karlstejn. The town of Karlstejn is really quick and convenient to get to from Prague. The journey itself is just 40 mins by train and trains leave regularly from Prague’s main train station (Hlavni Nadrazi).
Of course, there’s a lot more to see in the area than just the quarries. The picturesque town of Karlstejn is probably most famous for being home to Karlstejn Castle, which is one of the largest and most visited castles in the Czech Republic. It really does look like it’s come straight out of a fairy tale. The town of Karlstejn boasts a distinctively quaint and old-world feel, with some charming little houses and winding streets. It’s a popular destination for visitors from all over the world, so it can get busy during the summer season, but right now is one of best times to visit if you want to avoid the crowds.
A trip to the town of Karlstejn, followed by a quick look around the castle and then a pleasant hike through leafy Czech countryside to the quarries is a perfect day trip for anybody looking to get out of the city. The walk from Karlstejn Castle to Velka Amerika followed the trip back from Velka Amerika to the Town of Karlstejn takes a little over 2 hours and the route is clearly marked throughout. The hike is a little hilly in places but will take you through beautiful forests, lush open meadows and of course, there are a few interesting sights to see along the way.
The Important Stuff…
- Once you get off the train at Karlstejn, cross the bridge and take the road uphill into the main town.
- If you want to see the castle (which we definitely recommend), you need to follow these red trail markers up hill.
- Once you get to the main castle gate, the red trail will take you off to the right. You will need to follow this to get to the quarries, but there’s plenty of time to have a look around the castle first.
- It’s only possible to go inside the castle by paying for a guided tour. However, you can have a good snoop around the castle courtyard and enjoy superb views from the battlements at no cost.
- You can also purchase tickets online for guided tour which costs 190 CZK (basic tour) or 330 CZK (exclusive tour). For more information about the guided tours, including cost and duration, have a look at the castle’s website.
- Once you’ve had your fill of the castle, you can get back onto the red trail. The markers will be painted onto trees, fences and lampposts, keep an eye out for them. If go for about 30 mins without seeing one, the chances are that you’ve wandered off course.
- After walking for around 1km, you will need to turn off the red trail and start following the yellow trail. Don’t worry, the yellow trail is clearly marked. As soon as you see the first painted yellow symbol, this is what you should start following.
- If you want to skip the castle, it’s possible to avoid the up-hill climb and simply follow the yellow trail markers immediately after crossing the bridge from the train station.
The first quarry you will come across is Mala Amerika. It’s 165m long and 57m wide and is full of water. The water here is so clear that it’s home to crayfish and other marine life.
Around 1km from Mala Amerika, you’ll find Mexico, which despite being less than half the size of Velka Amerika, we all agreed was maybe the most spectacular of the 3. This may have been because it felt distinctly more abandoned than its neighbours, it also had something to with the fact that the quarry was so deep and the walls were so perilously steep.
This quarry has a sad history, as it was where many political prisoners were forced to work in inhumane conditions during the 1950s. Today, you will find a poignant memorial to their suffering at the side of the quarry.
The last one is the biggie (Velka Amerika) and it’s just a few minutes walk away from Mexico. This is one of the most photogenic spots in the Czech Republic and it’s possible to walk all the way around the quarry’s edge to get some really spectacular shots.
The Journey Back
You can either walk back the way you came, or if you want a little more variety, just continue along the yellow trail. You will eventually come to the village of Morina. From here you can change onto the blue trail, which will take you directly back to Karlstejn. Both return routes should take approximately the same amount of time.
Why not celebrate a successful trip with a good meal and a glass of Czech beer at one of the many local watering holes?