Our search for the best roads to cycle on, back in the final throes of summer, took us to the north west of Kraków around the wooded area of Dolinki and Ojców National Parks.A loop of around 100km with rolling hills where shortage of major climbs is more than made up with an abundance of smooth tarmac, a lack of heavy traffic and impressive scenery.
Meeting at Błonia in Kraków, we head west through Zwierzyniec until we reach the suburbs near Balice Airport. The main part of the day’s trip starts between the Kryspinów lakes, where the local training group meets for an unsanctioned race every Wednesday evening.
At the foot of the Czułów hill we turn right and after a tiny climb land in Sanka Valley – the first of many. Heading north towards Frywałd along a quiet and pleasant road that weaves it’s way around the Sanka river, we find a smooth and steady climb, perfect for autumn rides when the surrounding oak and beech trees change from green to orange.
Just after crossing Krzeszowice we start the next uphill, a bit sharp but not too long and after that we reach Paczółtowice. Crossing the Racławka Valley we ride down to the Valley of Eliaszówka near to the barefoot Carmelite’s Abbey in Czerna. Turning right we then head to Olkusz exploring its local rolling hills before stopping in the old market square to enjoy a coffee and some cake.
One more valley still waited for us. From Olkusz we take the 94 to Sieniczno (this large road can be avoided using some dirt tracks around Olewin – see dotted line on the map), and turn left in the direction of Sułoszowa and Ojców.
Egypt has the Valley of the Kings and Poland has Prądnik Valley, which is one of the most important valleys in Polish history. There are two old castles along the Prądnik river; one in Pieskowa Skała with the “Bludgeon of Hercules” (a 30 meter tall limestone rock), the second one in the very heart of the valley – in Ojców. This is also the centre of the smallest National Park in the country. On a nice weekend day expect to be dodging Sunday visitors, but it is worth the effort.
We leave Ojców passing by Brama Ojcowska (a natural limestone gate) from where a small footpath leads to Łokietek cave. The old legend says that prince Łokietek, who later became king of Poland, was rescued there by a spider. When running away from soldiers of the Czech monarch he concealed himself in the cave and the spider happened to make a web across the cave opening just after his entry misleading the chase.
The next kilometres are spent heading south in Prądnik Valley. The road is very narrow and sometimes rough, but according to local racers, it’s a good place for cyclocross rides in the winter. Finally we escape the valley in Korzkiew and after the last small climb in Giebułtów we follow the Władysława Łokietka road all the way to Kraków, entering the city from the north. We weave our way to the market square in the centre and finish the ride with a cold beer.