Stag’s leap lookout
If you’ve come to Karlovy Vary to escape the crowds and tourist traps of Prague, you’re probably going to be a little disappointed with the spa-end of Karlovy Vary. It’s more of the same, same, same.
Escape the crowds
Luckily, there are lots of well-mapped and signposted walking trails in the hills above the town and when you’ve had enough of crowded streets and souvenir stalls, you can be climbing the hillside through the forest within just a few minutes. The most visible of the lookout points is on the hillside above Café Elefant.
Stag’s leap (jeleni skok) is the cliff where, according to the old legend, Charles IV’s hunting dog chanced upon the steaming mineral water springs. The statue of the stag on a rocky peak is one of the most recognizable symbols of Karlovy Vary and it finds its way onto a fair few of those silly porcelain spa-cups that’s everybody is sucking on.
Švejk shows the way
The path up to the lookout begins behind the Švejk restaurant. That’s the one with the red-cheeked soldier dummy in a wheelchair surrounded by a crowd of people posing for photographs. There are some stairs in this early part of the trail until you get up onto the forested hillside, the trail then leads along forest paths until you reach the small round pavilion that serves as a lookout point.
Peter’s great feat
If you look further uphill from here you’ll see another lookout point, this time with a cross. When you get up there you’ll see the plaque that commemorates Russian Czar Peter the Great, and his feat of riding a horse bareback up the slope at full tilt for a bet. Behind this upper lookout is restaurant U Linhartu, which is a great place to reward yourself with some refreshment. I had a coffee, but there’s Budweiser on tap, a good selection of meals and the views across the valley go well with whatever you order.
From this point, you can go back down the way you came up, or continue to the other side of the hill towards the statue of Karl Marx, the Orthodox church of Sts Peter and Paul, and the Russian embassy. This part of town has dozens of amazingly ornate old villas and you could do much worse than to spend an hour or so looking around up here.
Another landmark in the hills is the Diana lookout tower. You can walk up here on the blue marked trail that begins just to the right of Grandhotel Pupp, the palatial six storey building that gazes along the river valley from its southern end. The lookout tower is 30metres high and offers a full 360 degree view of the valley and surrounding hills. There’s also a nice restaurant with an outdoor area up here. If you’re more interested in the views than the actual hiking, it’s also possible to catch the funicular railway up the steep hillside from Pupp.