Český ráj (Czech Paradise) Rock Cities

Date of Submission: 19/01/2001
Category: Natural
Submitted by:
Ministry of the Environment of the Czech Republic
Coordinates: 50°19' - 50°31' N / 14°58' - 15°19' E
Ref.: 1511



When visitors from Bohemia and all of Europe call a part of this Earth "Paradise", they must certainly have a good reason. The name "ttesky rij" (Czech Paradise) has become a symbol for the delight felt by the intellectual and social elite in the second half of the 19th century over the beauties of nature in this country. The name was soon accepted and the professional public was required to give the name a professional framework and to increase the care devoted to preserving the quality of nature. Recognition of the values of this territory was manifested by proclaiming the Prachovskd skily Nature Reserve in 1933 and the tesky rij Protected Landscape Areas in 1955, the first large protected natural territory in the Czech Republic.

The chief phenomena in the territory are sandstone rock cities of Mesozoic age with various characters and various stages of development. Together with the rich variety of other geomorphic forms, valuable biotic components in the surrounding nutritive habitats make this territory quite unique and impart to it very high aesthetic and scientific value.


Cesky raj is located in a temperate, mildly humid climatic area with mild winters. The average annual temperature lies within the limits of 7?8 °C and the average annual precipitation is 550 ? 650 (700) mm.

Area of the Territory

The rock cities, in themselves, have a discontinuous boundary and cover an area of about 17.6 km2. The actual area of the territory involved equals about 200 km', of which 93 km' constitutes the Cesky raj Protected Landscape Area and 30 km~ corresponds to the Maloskalsko Nature Park.

Description of the Territory

The proposed natural monument consists of several separate rock cities and rock walls formed from sediments of Cretaceous age, with a thickness of 240 m in some places. A description and their characteristics are given below. The territory has enjoyed various levels of protection from the standpoint of nature protection. A number of small protected territories have been proclaimed here, which partly overlap the tesky raj Protected Landscape Area or the Maloskalsko proclaimed Nature Parkm.The ltesky raj Protected Landscape Area contains four zones of increased nature protection and the rock cites are mostly classified in the first category with the strictest regime. In addition, each small protected territory has a specific protective zone with a width of at least 50m around its boundary. An extended Protected Landscape Area is being prepared for the whole proposed territory as a natural monument (about 219 km2), creating unified protective zones for all the local rock phenomena. These isolated rock cities with protective zones form a unified territory of exceptional universal importance from both a scientific point of view and in connection with protection of the natural environment.

The territory consists primarily of Mesozoic Cretaceous sandstones of various ages (Cenomanian, Turonian, Coniacian). The sediments were formed primarily in the shallow beach zone of a Cretaceous sea. The macro?relief of the entire area is very varied ? consisting of a mixture of low hills, highlands and basins. There are also numerous canyons and valleys with well?developed flood plains.

The surface modelled in the Tertiary by block movements in the vicinity of or directly on the Lu2ice fault forms a dominant feature. Thus, a number of cuests were formed. In the Tertiary, volcanic bodies and veins penetrated through the sandstones. The significantly changing river beds of water courses (especially the Jizera and Paleo?Jizera) participated greatly in modelling the terrain and creation of the mezo?relief.

The landscape contains a number of historical monuments, emphasizing the natural dominant features and accenting their aesthetic value.

The tesky raj rock cities

The rock cities and formations are the main natural and aesthetic phenomenon of the landscape of the tesky raj. In spite of some common features, the individual rock cities are very different in their age, manner of sedimentation, grain quality and cementing material, thickness of the individual layers, character of the exogenic formation factors or stage of development of the rock city.

Hruba skala Rock City (PR, area of 2.2 km2)

This is a typical pillar rock city in Coniacian sandstones. It contains a number of isolated towers, rock windows and gates. The height of the continuous rock walls reaches a value of up to 60 m.

Apolena Rock City (PR, area of 0.2 km2)

This is a small but perfectly shaped rock city consisting of light grey sandstone with numerous rock gates, niches, caves and cavities. The sandstone has a low content of mostly kaolinic cement with rounded rock tops. When viewed from a distance, it contrasts with the phenomenal basalt towers of Trosky. The Nature Reserve contains the largest chasm cave in the Czech Republic.

Pcihrazske sk61y (PR, area of 5.2 km)

This is a rock city formed at three height levels in Coniacian block sandstones. Ferric incrustations are a conspicuous feature. In part of the territory, blocks are shining along the plastic basement. The territory has a wide range of various forms of meso? and microreliefs and also contains well?developed rock gates.

Plakanek Valley (PR, area of 0.9 km)

This is a canyon?shaped valley with side branches and rock walls and towers. It contains caves and. cascades with occasional waterfalls. There is an exceptional number of limnocrennic springs, which enable the growth of hygrophillic vegetation and travertine waterfalls.

Suche sk61y (Dry Rocks) (NNR, area of 0.2 km=)

A jagged rock ridge made of hard quartz sandstones of Cenomanian age. The originally horizontal sedimentation layers were rotated to an almost vertical position along the Lutice fracture. The rocks bear the traces of frost weathering and clearly defined tectonic mirrors as a residue of tectonic movements. This is an aesthetically and geomorphologically unique site in the highly silicified Cenomanian sandstones.

Prachovski skely (PR, area of 2.6 km=)

This is a complete rock city, divided by a dense network of canyons and gorges and geotectonically delimited fault lines and is the residue of a barrier island. The well?developed rock towers with preserved traces of ocean currents consist of very pure sandstones. The rock city is a unique varied mosaic of a micro?environment, that enables the development of diverse communities of flora and fauna.

Kloko6ski and Betlimske skily (PR, area of 2.3 km 2)

This is the most typical cuesta in the tesky ritj, with small rock cities developed in narrow valleys. The territory contains the greatest number of hollow formations (over 300 caves in only about 3 km~).

Maloskilskd Drfbovna (part of the Maloskalsko Nature Park, area of 2.3 km2)

This area contains typical rounded rock tops with well?developed rock dishes. There are a number of caves, niches, windows, gates, tunnels, cavities, balancing boulders and rock mushrooms.

Skaly na Sokolu (part of the Maloskalsko Nature Park, area of 1.5 kmI)

This is a rock city that was greatly affected by the penetration of neovolcanites and the steeply cut valley of the Jizera. There are frequent ferric incrustations in the sandstones and a number of collapsed blocks.

MEsOnf udoli (Moon Valley) (part of the KozAkov NNR, area of about 0.5 km2)

Substantially tilted blocks ? cuestas of Cenomanian sandstones ? are located at the edge of a steep narrow valley. The territory is characterized by the overthrust on the Lutice fault and Tertiary volcanic activity.

Beech Stands at Rakousy (NR, area of 0.2 km)

Side valley of the canyon?shaped valley of the Jizera River, with outcrops of rock walls .of Middle Turonian sandstones. These fine?grained calcareous sandstones form continuous rock walls and, with their high carbonate content, enable the formation of some phenomena more typical for karst areas ? sinter filling of cracks, calcareous tuff waterfalls,. shallow holes and debouchures. They contain a variety of fossils.

The nutritive component

It follows from the geological structure and geomorphology of all of the teskjr rij that this is a very varied territory. It contains a number of species bound to specific habitats ? both thermophilic, alpine and xerophytic species as well as wetland species. The forest communities are to a considerable degree secondary; however, geomorphologically, the varied rock territory also contains representative examples of relict pine forests, acidic pine oak forests and flowering beech forests. The rock cities are a suitable environment for the life of a number of protected and endangered species of fauna, especially chiroptera, entomofauna and avifauna (e.g. Bubo bubo, Corvus monedula, Corvus corax).

Historical connection

A number of historical monuments that supplement the natural dominant features in an exceptional manner significantly accent the aesthetic values of the landscape. Tourism has a tradition in the Czech Republic since the 19th century. This is an important area of the economics of the region and the lives of its inhabitants.