Lesser Poland Voivodeship (Polish: Województwo małopolskie) is
located in southern Poland, with the capital in Kraków. Apart from the
capital, there are two more independent cities, Tarnów and Nowy Sącz.
The voivodeship borders on Silesia in the west, on Świętokrzyskie in the
north and on the Subcarpathian region in the east. In the south, on the
main ridge of the Carpathians, is the border with Slovakia.
With its six national parks and five world heritage sites, the Lesser Poland Voivodeship is one of the most attractive tourist regions in Poland. Six of Poland's 23 national parks are located in the Lesser Poland Voivodeship, making Lesser Poland the number one national park. The Lesser Poland national parks protect particularly beautiful mountainous regions of the Tatras, Gorce, Babia Góra, the Pieniny, Magura and Kraków-Częstochowa Jura, where wolves and brown bears can also sometimes be found. Here are the highest mountains in Poland.
Lesser Poland also ranks first in Poland in terms of the number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites: it is home to five out of thirteen Polish sites. The former capital Kraków is considered the most beautiful city in Poland and was European Capital of Culture in 2000. The old town with the Wawel complex is on the list of the 12 most worthy monuments of mankind.
Kraków's nightlife with its numerous student basements is legendary. There are also numerous monasteries, castles and Renaissance palaces in the region. Zakopane is considered the winter sports capital of Poland with apres ski at its best. Bukowina Tatrzańska, Białka Tatrzańska, Zawoja, Krynica-Zdrój and Rabka-Zdrój are other important ski resorts. Water sports are possible at the reservoirs, for example near Czorsztyn, Czchów, Klimkówka, Mucharz, Rożnów and Dobczyce. Raft and kayak tours in the Dunajec Gorge in the Pieniny are a special experience. A must-see is the 800-year-old Wieliczka Salt Mine.
The name Lesser Poland derives from the High Middle Ages and has
nothing to do with the size of the region. Since the heartland of the
Polish state developed around the fortifications on the Greater Poland
Lake District in the early Middle Ages, this heartland was called
Polonia Maior. Lesser Poland, which initially belonged to the Great
Moravian Empire and only became part of Poland as a province around 990,
was thus referred to as Polonia Minor.
Most of the voivodeship is made up of the south-western part of historic Małopolska. In the west, small parts of Upper Silesia also belong to the Lesser Poland Voivodeship, and in the south, parts of the historic regions of Spis and Arva. On the other hand, parts of the historic Lesser Poland are today in the voivodeships of Silesia, Łódź, Świętokrzyskie, Mazovia, Lublin and Subcarpathian and to a small extent also in Slovakia.
Lesser Poland can be roughly divided into four further regions from north to south, the Kraków-Częstochowa Jura, the Vistula Valley, in which Kraków is located, the low mountain ranges of Beskids, Gorce and Pieniny, and the high mountains of Tatra with Podhale, Spis and Arwa.
In the northwest, the Kraków-Częstochowa Jura stretches from the Vistula to Silesia, to which the Mechau Plateau adjoins to the east.
In the south, the Jura is broken through by the Vistula Valley in the Kraków Gate, which continues behind Kraków in the Sandomier Basin.
In the eastern Vistula valley, south of the river, lies the primeval forest of the Niepolomitz Heath, the favorite hunting ground of the Polish kings.
South of the Vistula begin the low mountain ranges of the Carpathian foothills:
The Silesian Foothills are on the border with Silesia.
The Wieliczka Mountains adjoin the Silesian foothills to the east.
The Wiśnicz Mountains adjoin the Wieliczka Mountains to the east.
To the east of the Wiśnicz Mountains lies the Rożnów Mountains.
To the east of the Rożnów Mountains begins the Ciężkowice Mountains, which are already merging into the Subcarpathian Voivodeship.
The already significantly higher Outer Carpathians begin south of the Carpathian foothills:
The Little Beskydy lie on the border with the Silesian Voivodeship.
South of the Little Beskids are the Saybuscher Beskydy with the highest point, the Babia Góra at 1725 meters above sea level.
East of the Little Beskids are the Makow Beskids.
East of the Makower Beskids are the Inselbeskyden.
South of the island Beskids begin the Gorce.
Southeast of the Gorce are the Sandezer Beskids.
To the east of the Sandezer Beskydy, the Low Beskids begin with the Magura, some of which are already in the Subcarpathian Voivodeship.
South of the Beskids is the limestone pine belt with its bizarre rock formations:
In the east of the belt, the limestone cliffs of the Pieniny rise up from the depression between the Beskids and the Tatras.
South of the pine belt are the Inner Carpathians:
In the west of the Inner Carpathians, Lesser Poland shares the Arva.
Most of the Inner Carpathians of Lesser Poland are formed by the Podhale.
In the west of the Inner Carpathians, Lesser Poland has a share in the Spis.
In the extreme south of the voivodeship are the alpine high mountains of the Tatra with the High Tatras (East Tatras) in the east and the West Tatras in the west.
Dunajec River Gorge
Pieskowa Skala Castle
Wieliczka Salt Mine