Hiking the Tatra Mountains


My trip to Southern Poland has taught me one thing: the region boasts one of the most underrated natural sights in Europe: the Tatras.

While you can do some excellent skiing here in winter, the summer months are perfect for exploring the region by foot. Because there are 275 kms of marked trails with various degrees of difficulty that even reach across the Slovakian border, everyone (including hiking nitwits) gets the chance to enjoy Tatra National Park.

The most famous sight in the Tatras is Morskie Oko, a picture-perfect lake reflecting the mountains looming over it. From the carpark it will take you 2.5 hours to reach its shore, but keep in mind that the trail is paved from start to finish, and that you’ll share the road with Polish families and prams.

If you hike a little up, you'll have a wonderful view over Morskie Oko ©Maaike
Morskie Oko ©Maaike
Hiking enthusiasts are therefore better off ditching the main road and exploring the unpaved trails in the area. They’re a tad more challenging but much more rewarding; nature is best enjoyed in solitude after all. You could also decide to camp at designated spots and stay overnight, but I opted for an intensive one-day-trip and hiked to Dolina Pieçiu – the 'valley of the five Polish lakes'. 

And intensive it was! The hike involved plenty of steep climbs and slippery stones, but the views were more than rewarding. Since we had climbed as high up as 2000 meters, we had an amazing bird’s eye-view over the whole mountain range, including the two lakes as well as dramatic cliffs, swinging trees and cascading waterfalls.
We're going up, up, up, up, up ... ©Maaike
One of the five lakes in the valley ©Maaike
A lake with a view ©Maaike
Don't know how they did it, but these ducks were nearly 2000 meters up, casually swimming in the lake ©Maaike
Reflection ©Maaike
The lakes as seen from the top of the mountain ©Maaike
I’m in love!

We chose to make a big loop and end our day at Morskie Oko, which turned out to be a wise decision: most tourists had already gone home and we only had to share the road with some other hiking fanatics, a ton of bugs and a wild deer.

Wild deer ©Maaike
The walk back home ©Maaike
After ascending and descending mountains for 9 hours straight, our legs reminded us we were human beings, not mountain goats. Absolutely shattered yet incredibly satisfied, we travelled back to Zakopane by bus and hit the hay as soon as we arrived.

How to get there: The easiest way to get to the Tatra Mountains is to fly to Kraków (Poland), from where you can catch a bus (20 zl, €5) to the Polish city of Zakopane. From Zakopane you can hop on a mini-bus to Morski Oko, which costs 10 zl (€2,50) and takes about 30 minutes. Remember that the last bus returns to Zakopane at 9pm.

2 comments:

  1. Oulalala! My youth nostalgia! Maybe underrated by the foreigners, but certainly not by Poles. It is actually not no1 summer destination due to number of tourists..

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. True, we were the only foreigners there! :)

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