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Malopolskie Voivodeship is one of the 16 voivodeships of Poland. It is located in the southernmost part of the country, contributing to the state border with Slovakia. The Dunajec river forms part of the border. The Tatra Mountains, the most prominent mountain complex in Poland, is shared across the borders with Slovakia. Świętokrzyskie Voivodeship also borders the territory to the north, Podkarpackie Voivodeship to the east, and Śląskie Voivodeship to the west. Malopolskie stretches across an area of 15,182.87 square kilometers. The capital city, Kraków, is situated in the central part of the region. Kraków used to be a Polish capital city for centuries and thus is filled with historical and cultural sites. The territory is inhabited by approximately 3,408,505 people, which adds up to a density of population of 224.5 people per square kilometer.
Malopolskie Voivodeship and Kraków, in particular, have been the center of culture, science, and economy for centuries. Kraków used to be the capital city of Poland. The city is filled with cultural and historical sites. The Kraków old city offers numerous attractions, such as the Main Square, where the St. Mary's Basilica is located. The church is a brick building that was built in gothic style during the 14th century. In the city is also located the Wawel Royal Castle with a museum located at Wawel Hill. The castle is considered the most historically and culturally significant site in Poland. For centuries, it used to be a residence of Polish kings and a symbol of Polish statehood. Nowadays, the castle features various exhibitions and is open to tourists. Under the Main Square in Kraków are situated some of the collections of the Kraków Museum. The museum teaches about the history, culture, and traditions of Kraków and the Malopolskie Voivodeship. Part of the Kraków Museum exhibition is located in the Oskar Schindler's Enamel Factory building. The award-winning movie Schindler's List was based on the story of Jewish factory workers and German factory owner, Oskar Schindler, who saved over a thousand Jews during the holocaust of World War II. The factory is now open for tourists as part of the Kraków Museum.
Among other historical sites located on the Malopolskie territory is Auschwitz-Birkenau, a former Nazi concentration and extermination camp, situated in the suburbs of Oswiecim. Over time, Auschwitz became a symbol of the World War II holocaust and is now presumably the most famed and visited of the former concentration camps. Nowadays, Auschwitz is open for the public to educate and report truths about the Holocaust of the Second World War.
In close proximity to Kraków is located the Wieliczka Salt Mine. The mine has been continuously excavated from the 13th century until 2007, being one of the longest continuously-operating mines. The mine has nine levels; only 2% of the total area is open for tourists. The mine is inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage List, with various tourist exhibition routes available.
The Tatra Mountains on the southern border of the voivodeship are popular touristic destinations for various hiking, skiing, and water sports options. According to Poles, the town of Zakopane is the winter capital of Poland. The city is located on the foothills of Tatras and is a popular winter tourist destination, as numerous ski resorts are located in its close proximity. Pieniny National Park is an area shared across the border with Slovakia. The Dunajec river serves as a natural border between the two countries and is located within the destination. The river has areas where visitors can participate in various water sports and is also available for rafting. The Dunajec River was an essential way of transporting the wood all the way to the Baltic Sea. Gorals who inhabited this territory would build wooden rafts in order to transport wood to the Baltic sea. Nowadays, it's possible for tourists to raft the river on those historic wooden rafts as well. Also located in the area are various castles and chateaus. One such example is Dunajec or Niedzica Castle, built in the 14th century.
The Malopolskie territory is situated in the mountainous area of Poland. The highest mountain complex in Poland, Tatras, protrudes through the northern borders of Slovakia. The highest peak in Poland, Mount Rysy, with an altitude of 2,499 meters above sea level, is part of the Tatra mountains. Other significant mountains in the area are Krakowsko-Częstochowska Upland, the Carpathian Hills, the West Beskid Mountains (the Beskidy), the Middle Beskids, and the Podhale, which includes the Pieniny Mountains. Opposing the mountainous southern and central part of the voivodeship, the northern part consists primarily of flat and lowland landscapes.
As a result of numerous hills and mountain complexes stretching over the territory, the area has an abundance of ski resorts, winter sports, and hiking destinations. The area comprises six national parks, eleven landscape parks, and over 80 nature reserves. Among predominant national parks is, for example, Tatra National Park, which is shared with Slovakia across the southern borders of the voivodeship. The national park consists of granite peaks, postglacial and glacial lakes, and a considerable number of caves.
Concerning the vegetation of the Malopolskie territory, 28.6% of the area is covered in forests. Most of these forests are part of national parks or other preservation areas. The most common trees are beeches and spruces. Forests in national parks are often a refuge for endangered species, such as the golden eagle, marmot, and chamois. The Niepołomice Forest, stretching to the east of Kraków, is home to a herd of European bison (European buffalo), otherwise extinct in most parts of Europe and Asia. Desertlands are a rather uncommon type of ecosystem in the northern parts of Europe, where Poland is located. However, situated in the Malopolskie Voivodeship territory the Błędowska Desert can be found, which reaches temperatures as high as 70°C during the summer.
Due to the different altitudes of the southern and northern parts of the region, the climate in the north is mild and warmer, whereas southern areas are more characteristic of a nordic and mountainous climate. The warmest month is July, with an average daily temperature of 25°C. January is the coldest month, with an average temperature of 2°C. The driest month is February, with an average of 32.0 mm of rainfall. The most precipitation falls during July, with an average of 101.0 mm. The sunniest month is July, with an average of 203 hours of sunshine throughout the month.
In the 19th century, the regions of Malopolskie were inhabited by the Slavic tribes. However, in the 10th century, the territory was subdued by Piasts. Thus it became part of the Polish state. Since the beginning, the region has developed rapidly. The capital city of the Malopolskie, Kraków, became the Polish capital city in 1038. The area was rich in silver, lead, and rock salt, which led to not only mining development, but economic and business development as well. Gradually, the territory became a trade hub, attracting German and Jewish settlers. By the 14th century, Kraków and Malopolskie territory was considered a state's political, cultural, economic, and scientific center. The first university in Poland was established in Kraków in 1364.
In the 16th century, the Malopolskie territory started to lose importance due to changes in succession. King Sigismund III Vasa of Sweden, who became the Polish king at that time, moved the Polish capital from Kraków to Warsaw simply because of Warsaw's more central position, as his objective was to create a Polish–Swedish union. The following years were marked by wars with Sweden, Saxony, and Russia, which led to economic and humanitarian crises, as epidemics often accompanied the battles.
Partitions of Poland occurring between 1772 and 1795 resulted in Poland losing its autonomy altogether and ceasing to exist as an independent state. The Poland territory was divided between Austria, Russia, and Prussia. The Malopolskie region became under the rule of Austria, under the name the Kingdom of Galicia and Lodomeria. Later, in 1809, the northern part of the region was incorporated into the Duchy of Warsaw, which was under strong Russian influence. Galacia gradually became a self-governing part of Austria, with Kraków as a cultural, economic, and scientific center once again. During the Second World War, part of the region was occupied by Nazi Germany.
Nowadays, the Malopolskie territory is divided into 19 self-governing counties and three cities with county rights. Most seats in the local parliament are occupied by representatives of the eurosceptic, national conservative, Christian party. Due to the close proximity to Slovak borders is the most represented minority of Slovakian nationality. Other significant minorities are Ukrainians, Jews, and Armenians. Concerning the ethnic groups, the most populous groups are the Lemok and Roma people.
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