The Bohemian Forest (Šumava) is located in the very south of the Czech Republic, just a short distance from the border with Austria and Germany. The Bohemian forest is one of our most beautiful, if not the most beautiful, national park in the Czech Republic. There are many picturesque places, but for me, there is only one winner – Plešné Lake (Plöckensteinsee) and those mountains that rise above the lake. Plešné is a glacial lake situated at an altitude of 1090 m above sea level. The lake wall, which lovingly surrounds it, is 260 m high. Right around the Plešné lake leads up the adventure trail from where you have wonderful views of the surrounding countryside. At the top, you will also find the highest mountain of Šumava – Plechý (Plöckenstein; 1378 m). From there it is just a few meters to our Austrian friends. Austrian love this place. Czechs love it. For God’s sake – you will love it too!
The most amazing places in the Bohemian Forest – contents:
My difficult trip to the Bohemian Forest
But the crazy thing first – my spectacular plan. As I said, I wanted to stay near the Plešné Lake (and the mountain tops above it) for only a few hours and then head home again. Why? Well, because of the coronavirus-related restrictions, there was no place to stay. The only option was a tent. At the same time, there was no place to eat, etc. Yes, I could carry supplies with me for several days, but I did not want to. Even tho, I had two full backpacks, which together weighed about 20 kg (mainly photo equipment …). Besides, I knew that at this altitude there would be still snow and cold overnight.
My goal was to shoot the night sky and sunrise at the glacial lake. And I wanted to see the Milky Way with my naked eye. Yes, I admit, I have never seen the Milky Way – there are very few places in the Czech Republic where it can be seen. We have a lot of light pollution here. And whenever I was traveling abroad, I didn’t think of watching the night sky. The weather forecast had promised a clear sky. So the chances to fulfill my wishes were good.
Around 6 pm I arrived near the Bohemian Forest – specifically to the village Nová Pec. From there a 3-hour hike awaited me to Plešné Lake, where I wanted to build a tent for one night. I stuck to the plan. Around 9 pm I found myself in this fairy tale place. It was practically dark, but it was still possible to see a huge lake rock wall that towered above the lake. Along the way, I met only one small group of teenagers, otherwise no one. In the place where dozens of tourists are normally present, there was absolute silence and tranquility. Even the wind wasn’t blowing.
I quickly set up a tent, ate dinner, and set off on a trail around the lake that led to the mountain tops above it. I can say that I’ve never experienced such darkness. If I didn’t have a flashlight on my phone, I wouldn’t see a meter ahead. The stony hike soon turned into a snowy hike. But that didn’t bother me, I was ready. But I wasn’t ready for what I saw when I found myself on the ridge. The beauty of the night that was going on over my head. A plethora of shining stars in contrast to the dark sky. Shooting stars. Still calm and silent! At a height of almost 1400m! I felt like the Little Prince in some of his fantasies.
But there was a major problem – tn the direction of Plešné Lake, Milky Way and Polarka, a lot of clouds appeared. That really made me… angry. And it discouraged me from taking pictures. But Uncle Google said the sky would clear again around 3am. But I would have to wait almost 3 hours. Well, I didn’t want that. So I lay down on the back and for a while enjoyed the paradise where I found myself. Then I went down again to the lake and … Olá! The sky was much brighter! I saw the Milky Way with the naked eye! I took the camera enthusiastically and … You know the story – clouds.
The result of that night? I did not sleep. I lay in the tent for about an hour, but I didn’t fall asleep. My head was full of thoughts. I was both sad and happy. Lucky to finally see the Milky Way. Sad that I couldn’t take a picture from above. After a while it was time for me to rise to the early sunrise – I must say that as the sun slowly began to illuminate Plešné Lake in red, it was a very powerful experience. The reward that allowed me to forgive my failure at night on the mountain ridges above it. I took the camera enthusiastically and … You know the story again.
A bit of math – 5h trip to the Bohemian Forest + 3h hike to Plešné Lake + 1h hike to mountain ridge above it + a few hours on top + 1h hike down to the lake + few hours shooting at the lake + 3h hike from Plešné Lake to the train + 5h way by train to Prague => practically almost continuous hike and sleepless travel – when was the last time you made such an adventure?
The best place in the Czech Republic to take pictures of the night sky
Yes, we can say that the Bohemian Forest (Šumava) is the best place to shoot the night sky in the Czech Republic. There are other places (such as the Jeseníky Mountains in the northeast of Bohemia), but that’s it. In general, there is a lot of polluting light in the center of Europe. So if you want to see the Milky Way like me, you have to follow the light pollution map. For complete information about taking a night sky, see one of my previous articles, Astrophotography for Beginners – 9 Tricks and Tips on How to Shoot Night Sky and Stars.
How to get to Plešné Lake and Mount Plechý (Plöckenstein)
If you are coming from Prague like me, it will take almost 5 hours by train to the village Nová Pec, which is the best starting point. By car it would take just over 2 hours from Prague. From here you can either cycle through the yellow marked trail (1.5 hrs) or walk along the green trail (3 hrs). See the map below. The path leads mostly through the forest, but you’ll still get some nice views. At the same time, you will see several smaller waterfalls and part of the way you will go along the Schwarzenberg Canal, which has been used for floating wood since 1793 and is 44 km long. Along the way, you will also meet a lot of small “living hills”, which will be more than a meter high – they are giant anthills. Proof of how pure the local nature is. Of course, you can also reach the Plešné Lake from the Austrian or German side. Once you reach the glacial lake, the trail up to the peaks and the Plechý mountain leads directly along it. Getting up takes just over an hour. But you have to do it! The views from above are clear highlights of the trip! But don’t forget that even in the case of a weak winter, there is snow by the lake and on the peaks until the end of April.
Where to stay in the Bohemian Forest
The nearest place to stay is Nová Pec, where I was accommodated a year ago. You will also find some nice wellness guesthouses here. However, the choice is not large, so if you travel by car, you can stay nearby in the town of Horni Plana, where the offer of accommodation will be more varied. But just below Plešné Lake, you can camp! Drinking water is also available! Definitely a great idea in the summer!