Many of you probably heard of some of the biggest and most beautiful cities in Poland. There is the city of Kings – Kraków, the business centre and capital – Warsaw and the port city of Gdańsk, a part of the Tri-City. But what if instead of just visiting the largest metropolis you want to see the nature? Or even more, what if you would like to have a glimpse at both? Well, in such case you will have to visit the Polish Tatra Mountains. Not only are they true art pieces of nature, but with the city of Zakopane at their feet, you can get the best of both worlds – long hiking trails with astonishing views, but also fantastic restaurants with local food and busy streets. Let us take you on a trip to one of Poland’s most important natural wonders and its astonishing surroundings.
The Tatra Mountains
First, let’s talk about the mountains. The Tatras lie on the border between Poland and Slovakia. Their landscape is alpine and they occupy nearly 800 square kilometres and they are almost 60 km long. However, only around 22% are on the Polish side. The Mountains are divided into the Belianske Tatras, Western Tatras, High Tatras and the Siwy Wierch. Of course, the High Tatras are its tallest part, with the highest peak – Gerlach on the Slovakian side. The highest point of the Polish Tatra is Rysy at 2499 m, although it lies between both countries.
The Tatra Mountains are protected as a part of the World Network of Biosphere Reserves of UNESCO. Two national parks also lie in the mountains, the Polish Tatra National Park and the Slovakian Tatra National Park.
The Peaks to Reach
Since we are talking about the mountains, we have no mention their most important peaks. Of course, we do not want to bore you with naming them all, but we will briefly introduce you to the best known of them all.
Firstly, of course, the highest peak – Rysy. The mountain actually has three peaks. The highest one is the middle one, lying on the Slovakian side. The northern peak at 2499 m above sea level is the highest point of Poland and belongs to the Crown of Europe.
Kasprowy Wierch peak in the Western Tatras has a height of 1987 m. This summit is especially interesting due to many rare plants that grow there. And if you are not fond of walking, but love gorgeous views, there is a funicular that takes you all the way to the top.
Also in the Western Tatras lies Giewont – a mountain massif 1894 m above sea level. Its main peak is the Great Giewont, although the Hard Kopa is in fact higher.
While it does not lie in Poland, it is impossible to speak about the Tatras’ peaks and not mention Gerlach. It holds a few records, as the highest peak of the Tatra Mountains, Slovakia and the entire Carpathians.
The Must-See Spots
If you are seeking some breathtaking views, you came to the right place. The Tatras have some of the most incredible sights of this part of the World. We will mention only a few of them, but you’ll get the point, even from this short list.
Dolina Pięciu Stawów (or The Valley of Five Lakes) is by many considered the most beautiful place in the Tatras. The longest lake of these mountains lies in this valley. It has the alpine, post-glacial and stretches for 4 km. All that creates a spectacular view, where you are surrounded by the walls of Tatras. Truly a must-see spot.
Another valley, Dolina Kościeliska (The Kościeliska Valley) is perfect for hiking and nature lovers. Unlike the previous one, it is much more green, with grass growing on both sides of the trail, trees and some rare plant species. It is of course very popular but might be the ideal place for families. Truly a spectacular view and a fantastic walk.
Yet another famous spot is Morskie Oko (The Eye of the Sea) lake. It lies at the base of the Mięguszowiecki Summit. This lake is the largest of the Tatras. It is very touristy, with a small cafe and tens of people there at all time. However, you cannot miss on seeing it, as it truly is impressive. Later we will discuss a less popular route to get there, so you do not get overwhelmed by the crowd.
Lastly, Dolina Chochołowska (the Chochołowska Valley) must make it to your list. While it is stunning all through the year, the best time to visit it is during the Spring. That’s because it is famous for the crocuses that grow there, making it look out of this World. It is also the longest valley in Tatras, making it the ideal place for a long walk.
The Best Trails for the Beginners
The Tatra Mountains have dozens of beautiful trails. However, it is important to know, that they vary significantly in difficulty. That is why I’ve divided the trails section in two.
For the beginners, so those who rarely visit the mountains, do not want to get tired, do not have the proper outerwear, or parents with children, there are still many fabulous options to choose from. We actually recommend you simply hike to one of the spots from the previous paragraph.
You can get to The Valley of the Five Lakes via the green trail that goes through the Roztoka Valley to the Wielki Staw (Grand Pond). On this trail, you can see some real alpine scenery, while remaining at a fairly low difficulty level.
To get to the Morskie Oko you can choose one of a few options. Many tourists opt for the easy (yet not so pretty) asphalt trail. I would, however, recommend you try another route. First get to the Rusinowa Polana (an easy, 30-minutes walk from the bus stop). There you will find a lovely view, and a possibility to go up to the Gęsia Szyja (Goose’s Neck). From there, you can also go through the woods, almost parallel to the asphalt trail, and only join those who chose it at the end. Quite a nice option for when you want to actually feel the nature and escape the crowd.
If you want to try something a little bit more challenging, yet still fairly easy, go through to trail to Mała Wysoka (literally translated into ‘The Small Tall One’). The peak is actually the fourth tallest one accessible by a set trail. You can start from the Łysa Polana (Bald Glade). The hike, however, will be a long one. It will take you approximately 6 hours to reach the top. And you will still have to get back. So bear that in mind when choosing this trail.
The Best Trails for the Experienced
But what if you have more experience and want to truly see what it means to climb the Tatra Mountains? Well, we also have some options for you!
Starting from semi-difficult routes, you could go up to the Kasprowy Wierch, starting from the Valley of Five Lakes. It is a gorgeous trail, but you will have to have proper shoes, food and water to make it without the risk of injuries. Go back the same way you got there to make sure you keep the same level of difficulty.
You can also go up the Krzyżne Pass (or Cross Pass). It is surely one of the most spectacular parts of the Tatra. You will be in for a treat. You can get there through Roztoki Valley, go (similarly to the previous option) through the Valley of Five Lakes and from there head towards the Pass. What you will see is simply mesmerizing.
You can also choose to reach Giewont. If you’re not scared to go through a more challenging route choose the one that will take you to the Małej Łąki Valley (the Valley of a Small Meadow).
But let’s move on to something even more difficult – reaching the highest peak of the Polish Tatra Mountains – Rysy. You definitely have to be very fit to choose this trail. It is not made for the amateurs and you have to be prepared for that. It is a fairly popular peak, so remember that it may not be ideal if you like peace and loneliness. But if you do not mind meeting a few people on the way – do not hesitate to climb it. From there you can see an impressive view, many other peaks, and if the weather is good, even Krakow!
Orla Perć (The Eagle’s Path)
Lastly, a truly difficult, really challenging rout – Orla Perć (The Eagle’s Path). It is actually considered to be the most difficult and potentially dangerous of all the Tatras. So please, only choose it if you really know what you’re doing. We do not want anybody to hurt himself. But if you are an experienced climber and are looking for a challenge in the Polish mountains – this is the trail for you. It is a long and steep path, with many narrow cornices and places requiring come actual climbing. Orla Perć is not as picturesque as some other trails. It is a path. A difficult path. Made for you to enjoy the road, and to be satisfied with what you’ve achieved.
The Cities and Villages
We cannot talk about the Tatra Mountains without mentioning the city of Zakopane. It is one of the most popular destinations in Poland, especially during Winter. It is not a big town, but it surely has a lot of charm to it. While there you have to visit the most popular street in the city – Krupówki, where hundreds of tourists go for a stroll or a nice, traditional dinner. That is also one of the best things about Zakopane – the abundance of fantastic restaurants with typical Polish food, including the cuisine made only in this part of the country.
Below you can find some of the best hotels in Zakopane.
Another gorgeous little village and a popular destination for tourists is Kościelisko. It lies close to the Tatra National Park, making it the perfect spot to start all of your expeditions from. The village is also very charming on its own, with the gorgeous view of the mountains and lovely, wooden houses making it feel truly special.
One of our favourite hotels in Kościelisko is the Osada Kościelisko – https://www.bidroom.com/hotel/PL/Osada_Koscielisko.
And if you want to get some extra pampering? Try visiting Białka Tatrzańska or Bukowina Tatrzańska, known for their hot baths. A perfect choice after a long day of hiking.
The Tatra Mountains are a true wonder of nature. If you only have a chance, make sure you visit them. You will be swept off your feet.
To find more hotels in the Tatra Mountains visit www.bidroom.com