In the opening lyrics to Queen’s mega rock hit "Bohemian Rhapsody," the singer asks:
Is this the real life?
Is this just fantasy?
Well, those same questions come up when I think of South Bohemia, the enchanting region of the Czech Republic dominated by fairytale castles,magical landscapes and storybook towns.
Left: A tour of South Bohemia usually starts in the lovely city of Český Krumlov. Right: Enchanting Zvikov Castle.
South Bohemia, you see, truly is a fantasyland set in reality. And it all starts in Český Krumlov, a gem of a city whose skyline is dominated by castle towers, stately pastel-coloured buildings and cobblestone streets that date back centuries.
Český Krumlov, located just over two hours south of Prague, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with the second largest castle and chateau complex in the Czech Republic — the biggest is Prague Castle. Český Krumlov is also the cultural hub of South Bohemia, offering a delightful array of museums, art galleries and festivals.
The city is cut in half by the mighty Vltava, the Czech Republic’s longest river and one of the great waterways of Europe.
Český Krumlov’s theatre scene is second to none — it even has a unique Revolving Theatre in the Baroque Gardens of Český Krumlov Castle.
Above: The castles in South Bohemia sit like crowns on the top of hills that overlook fairytale towns and villages.
Not far from Český Krumlov you’ll find an array of castles and chateaus that will make you think you’ve jumped into the pages of a romantic novel. The most dramatic are:
Zvíkov Castle: It’s surrounded by water and is one of the area’s finest structures. Interestingly, it was never seized during the many wars fought in South Bohemia.
Hluboká nad Vltavou Chateau: It’s traditional turrets give it a regal look and its 140 rooms and 11 towers make it something special.
Červená Lhota Chateau: This regal summer home is so beautiful, it prompted the original town to change its name to Červená Lhota.
Above: The castles in South Bohemia are surrounded by lovely gardens and lakes and come with some stylish trappings.
South Bohemia is also a land of 6,000 lakes and small charming regions like lovely Treboñ, a famous spa town where the waters are clear and the ponds are filled with carp that end up on the dining tables of local restaurants for the tourist to enjoy.
Nature lovers will find all they are seeking, and more, in Šumava Nartional Park, which snuggles up against the Bavarian border and is blessed with glacial lakes and hiking trails.
There are few areas in the world as picture-perfect as lovely South Bohemia.