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The Banská Bystrica region is the largest and the least densely populated region of Slovakia. It is situated in the southern part of Central Slovakia and is formed by lowlands in the south and mountains in the north.
The region shares a common national border only with Hungary. It shares its remaining borders with five other regions of Slovakia: Nitra, Trenčín, Žilina, Prešov, and Košice. The region has several types of settlements, ranging from the city of Banská Bystrica itself to medium-sized cities, towns, villages, and small settlements throughout the mountains and lowlands. The region is divided into 13 districts.
Some strong points of the region are an abundance of the workforce, high education level in regional centers, the big base of raw materials for many sectors, good position in export of metallurgy (aluminum), wood processing, glass processing, ceramic and chemical industry, affluence of brown and greenfields suitable for the building of industrial parks, favorable climate and cultural conditions for the development of tourism with the source of the mineral, as well as thermal and healing springs. Some main foreign investors in the region are Continental Automotive, Kronospan, and Nemak.
Mainly because of the region's long mining tradition, its dominant industry is metallurgy, which represents more than 60% of all industrial exports and is the primary area of activity of the region's largest enterprises. Other important sectors are woodwork, engineering, chemistry, pharmacy, and food processing. The regional center is Banská Bystrica, which once aspired to be the administrative center for the whole of Slovakia, is becoming more service and trade-oriented.
There are four national parks: Národný park Nízke Tatry, Národný park Slovenský raj, Národný park Muránska planina, and Národný park Veľká Fatra. Four protected landscape areas iclude Poľana, Cerová vrchovina, Štiavnické vrchy and Ponitrie. There 10 national natural monuments, 54 natural monuments, 34 national nature reserves, 87 nature reserves, 39 protected areas and seven special protection areas.
The region has a long tradition in the field of mining. At present, the local mining activities are in decline and the branch of mining is moving to areas with non-metallic minerals. Significant silicate deposits are located in the silicate zone near Lučenec with the occurrence of non-metallic ceramic, refractory, and various additional raw materials for the production of ceramic materials and glass. Magnesite ore is mined and processed in the vicinity of Revúca. Building stone occurs mainly in the north, brick raw materials in Poltár district, gravel in the southern districts, and quartzite in Žiar nad Hronom district.
In the field of culture, Zvolen is an important center, with a seat of the drama scene of the Jozef Gregor Tajovský theatre. There is an annually organized festival of drama – Zvolenské zámocké hry. The Banská Bystrica is the seat of the opera scene and ballet scene of this theatre. In 2019, there were 13 scenes in permanent operations in Banskobystrický kraj.
The town castle in Banská Bystrica was once formed by several ancient buildings in the central Slovakian metropolis. Its task was to protect the income proceedings of copper and silver mining for the royal treasury. The town castle was built gradually. The parish church was built as the first structure in the 13th century and fortifications were added to it in the 15th century. Earth ramparts and palisades were later replaced by tall stone walls fortified by bastions and a water dike. In the 16th century, the Turkish threat called for further fortifications. Only a quarter of the original town walls and three bastions - Farská (Parish), Banícka (Mining), and Pisárska (Scriveners) - of the original four have survived.
The castle's surrounding area includes not only a parish church and fortifications but also the Church of the Holy Cross; Slovak Church, which was built in 1452, as well as a barbican with a tower. It used to be the entry gate to the castle. The barbican acquired its present Baroque facade after a fire in 1761. Between 2005-2006 the barbican was restored again. The castle also features Matej's House (Matejov dom), which was built in the 15th century in the late Gothic style, and the Old Town Hall; Praetorium which, for its part, was originally designed in the Gothic style, but later was reshaped into a Renaissance building. The latter is currently home to the Central Slovakia Gallery which holds graphic biennials plus a variety of temporary exhibitions on a regular basis.
Banskobystrický kraj offers many cultural and natural monuments. The towns Banská Bystrica, Banská Štiavnica and Kremnica have been declared for urban monument reserves, while Banská Štiavnica has been inscribed on the World Heritage List. The municipalities Špania Dolina, Štiavnické Bane and Sebechleby - Stará Hora are monumental reservations of rural settlements. The natural beauties of the northern part of the region are widely used as centers for winter tourism. In 2019, the region was visited by 744 thousand visitors, who were accommodated in 645 facilities. According to the territorial-administrative arrangement in compliance with the Act of the National Council of the Slovak Republic No 221/1996 Coll. the region is divided into 13 districts – Banská Bystrica, Banská Štiavnica, Brezno, Detva, Krupina, Lučenec, Poltár, Revúca, Rimavská Sobota, Veľký Krtíš, Zvolen, Žarnovica and Žiar nad Hronom. There are 516 municipalities, 24 of them are towns. The largest district is the Rimavská Sobota district (it occupies 15.6% of the regional area), the smallest is okres Banská Štiavnica (it occupies only 3.1% of the regional area). The towns with the highest population exceeding the number of 40,000 inhabitants at the end of 2019 are Banská Bystrica and Zvolen. Almost 19% of the regional population lives in them.
Banskobystrický Kraj is the largest region of the Slovak Republic with an area of 9,454 km squared. Its share of the total territory of Slovakia is 19.3%. It is located in the southern part of central Slovakia, bordering the Republic of Hungary in the south, Košický Kraj in the east, Trenčiansky Kraj and Žilinský Kraj in the north, and Nitriansky Kraj in the west. The territory of the region belongs to the basin of the rivers Hron, Ipeľ, and Slaná. Banskobystrický Kraj is characterized by relatively great geomorphologic diversity, from alpine locations in the north of the area, through rugged central part with mountains interrupted by valleys, to the slightly undulating lowlands of Juhoslovenská kotlina basin in the south of the area. The highest point of Banskobystrický kraj is the hill Ďumbier (2,045 m above sea level) located in Nízke Tatry mountain in the Brezno districts. The lowest point in the region is the outflow of Ipeľ river from the region in the cadastral area of the municipality Ipeľské Predmostie in Veľký Krtíš district (126 m above sea level).
Although the land next to the meander of the Hron river is rather limited for Banská Bystrica of today, in Middle Ages it was an ideal area for founding a prosperous town. Two important trade routes crossed here. Moreover, the environs were rich in ores. The main source of income of the medieval town was mining. Deposits of gold, silver, and copper had been used since the 13th century, especially in towns Kremnica, Banská Štiavnica, and Banská Bystrica. Banská Bystrica was a member of the exclusive trio of the richest central Slovakian mining towns. The economic structure of Banská Bystrica changed in the 18th century. Extraction of copper ore was replaced by extraction and processing of iron and the riches of forests surrounding the town were more intensively exploited.
In the mid-20th century, the town entered history when in August 1944 became the center of the Slovak National Uprising. The second largest insurrection against the German Nazi regime following the Yugoslav Partisan war took place there. The Monument to the SNP and the open-air museum situated in the park near the town center commemorate these events. The second half of the 20th century brought great changes for Banská Bystrica. It expanded to a modern central Slovakian metropolis and became the sixth biggest town of Slovakia.
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