A historic jewel hidden away at the heart of Europe, the Czech Republic packs a lot of punch for such a small country. No bigger than Scotland or South Carolina, it's crammed with fairytale castles, medieval towns, elegant spa resorts and scenic national parks. And on top of all that, it's the birthplace of the world's finest beer.


of Czechoslovakia until the 'Velvet Divorce' of 1993, the Czech

Republic encompasses the ancient lands of Bohemia and Moravia, and

boasts a rich cultural heritage represented by the likes of classical composer Antonin Dvorak and writer Franz Kafka.

Almost everyone who visits the Czech Republic goes to Prague,

with its imposing castle, great museums and galleries, jazz clubs and

concerts and other attractions. Many day trips are possible from here,

including the spa resort of Karlovy Vary, the historic towns of M?lník and Kutná Hora, and castles like Karlštejn and Konopišt?.

But the rest of the country has just as much to offer the independent traveller, with no fewer than 11 UNESCO World Heritage sites including the picture-postcard town of ?eský Krumlov, the chateaux and landscaped gardens of Lednice-Valtice, and the Renaissance architecture of Tel?.

Among the most beautiful scenic areas are the Šumava National Park

in the southwest, which takes in the forested mountains and lakes

around the headwaters of the Vltava River, the wierd and wonderful rock

pinnacles and gorges of the Adršpach-Teplice Rocks in the northeast, and the spectacular caves and underground rivers of the Moravian Karst in the southeast.

The rich agricultural area of Moravia in the eastern half of the country offers rolling ranges of wooded hills, vineyards, folk art and yet more castles. Here wine is more popular than beer - a speciality of Bohemia - and life moves at an even more relaxed pace.