Małopolska is located in southern Poland, and borders on Slovakia in the south. Apart from its many manor houses, churches, castle ruins and picturesque villages, the region is also home to ancient forests, wild mountain rivers, breathtaking rock formations and alpine mountains.
Poland’s High Tatras featured as Kashmir in an Indian film, Fanaa, which was shot in a number of locations around Małopolska. The region and what is possibly its most picturesque area, the Krakow-Częstochowa Upland, also known as the Polish Jura, have also appeared in numerous Polish films. A great many of the sequences in Andrzej Wajda’s Katyn were filmed in Krakow. The city has also become a shooting location for a number of filmmakers from around the world, featuring in a list of titles which includes the Steven Spielberg feature, Schindler’s List, Petr Zelenka’s Karamazovi (The Karamazov Brothers) and Prashant Chadha’s Aazaan.
The Małopolska region is a land of highlands and mountains. The highest summit in the region is Rysy, Poland’s highest mountain, which is located in the Tatra Mountains, themselves the highest between the Alps and the Caucasus. Małopolska is also home to the Pieniny Mountains, the picturesque Gorce and the gentle slopes of the Beskids. The mountains of the region abound in deep caves, the largest of which has a depth of eight hundred and twenty-four metres. The legendary Łokietek and Ciemna caves are located in the Jura region and form part of the Ojców National Park, which is also home to numerous other fascinating rock formations, some of them as much as one hundred and fifty million years old. Finally, the Małopolska region is the site of Poland’s only desert, Pustynia Błędowska (Błędów Desert).
The largest of Małopolska’s sixty-one cities and towns are Krakow, Tarnów, Nowy Sącz, Nowy Targ, and Zakopane. The region is also home to half of Poland’s UNESCO World Heritage sites, including the historical centre of Krakow, the Wieliczka Salt Mine, the Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp, the Mannerist Architectural and Park Landscape Complex and Pilgrimage Park in Kalwaria Zebrzydowska and the Wooden Churches of Southern Poland, which are located in Binarowa, Dębno, Lipnica Murowana and Sękowa.
Other significant architectural sites include the Benedictine Monastery in Tyniec and the castles on Pieskowa Skała (Little Dog’s Rock) and near the village of Niedzica. Some of the most picturesque villages and smaller towns in the region are Porąbka Uszewska, Biecz, Krynica-Zdrój, Lanckorona and, perhaps most famously, Zakopane.
The best-known historical city in the region is Krakow. Wawel Hill, the city’s most acclaimed landmark, is home to the Royal Castle and Wawel Cathedral, both excellent examples of Renaissance architecture. Other key sites are located in and around the Główny Rynek (Main Market Square). They include the Sukiennice, the Old Town Hall and a Gothic basilica. The main square is surrounded by a number of historic townhouses. Kazimierz, Krakow’s former Jewish district, is famous for its narrow streets, old townhouses, shops, restaurants, and synagogues.