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Slovakia - officially known as the Slovak Republic - is a relatively small country of less than 50,000 square kilometres nestled within Central Europe. An area that has seen human inhabita-tion since the Palaeolithic Era, Slovakia’s history is long and somewhat turbulent - it has under-gone numerous invasions and wars, been torn apart and put back together before finally achieving independence in 1993. A landlocked country, it has an array of next-door neighbours all around its borders - with the Czech Republic and Austria to its west, Hungary to its south, Ukraine to its east and Poland to its north.

Despite its rather small size, Slovakia supports a population of more than 5 million and is consi-dered one of the world’s best tourist destinations - it was once included in Lonely Planet’s list of top countries for travelers, and is famous for its ruins of ancient castles, fortresses and battle-ments, lush green forests, rugged mountains and medieval towns.

Getting around

One of the best ways to get around Slovakia is by train, as the country’s rail network is very ex-tensive, efficient and generally well-maintained. Most of Slovakia’s major cities can be accessed via the rail network, but if you’re planning on heading to places off the beaten track then renting a car may be a better option for you. Do note that the Slovakia transport authority requires for-eign drivers within the country to hold an International Driving Permit, so be sure to get one be-fore you set off on your road trip.

What to see and do

Slovakia is known for its majestic ancient castles, so don’t leave the country without having per-sonally laid your eyes upon their rustic finery. If you’ve only got time for one, go for Spiš Castle in Žehra village. Considered one of Central Europe’s largest castles, the castle - built by Hungari-an kings in the 12th century - stands on a pedestal of dolomite rock, towering over the surround-ing lands. Though built by Hungarians, ownership of the castle changed hands many times over the course of history (according to who was rich and mighty in that era), to eventually end up the property of Slovakia in 1945. Today Spiš Castle is classified as UNESCO World Heritage Site, and - surrounded by pristine greenery as it is - is a truly magnificent sight to behold.

Nature-lovers in Slovakia also shouldn’t miss a trip to the stunning High Tatras mountain range or the National Park Slovak Paradise, two excellent spots for outdoor recreational activities amidst spectacular natural beauty.

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