Tatra Mountains, Known as 'Polish Alps', and the Town
of Zakopane, Poland's Ultimate Mountain Resort.
Alps-like Tatra Mountains, or the Tatras (Polish Tatry),
is the highest range of the Carpathian Mountains and lie
along Poland’s border with Slovakia. Two hour’s drive from
Krakow one finds stunning views and pristine nature as well
as the best skiing in winter and hiking, rock climbing, cave
exploration, cycling, paragliding, etc. through the rest of
the year. As tourism has been the area’s main business for
over a century, visitors are thoroughly catered to. Annually
some three million of them turn up in the Polish alps,
mostly getting along well with wildlife preservation which
is paramount seeing that twin national parks cover the whole
of the Tatras both sides of the national border.
The Tatry Mountains' Features.
The Tatra Mountains rise to the greatest elevation in the
entire northern half of Europe, with the 2655m (8711ft)
Gerlachovsky Stit in Slovakia and the 2499m (8198ft) Rysy
peak in Poland. The range is 53 km long and takes up 785 sq
km, the bulk on the Slovak territory. Three distinct parts
make up the Tatra Mountains–the High Tatras, the Western
Tatras and the Bielskie Tatras. The former, with their
dramatic vistas, steep peaks, sharp rocks, deep glens, and
crystal lakes are the most attractive. At the same time the
Western Tatras’ lower slopes clad in pine forests offer
wider horizons, diverse wildlife, and somewhat less
The Town of Zakopane.
Visitors to the Tatras largely head for Zakopane, the biggest
mountain resort in Europe north of the Alps. The town of 28,000
receives about two million holiday-makers a year. Due to its
central location on the verge of both the High Tatras and the
Western Tatras, and its accessibility, Zakopane is the best
gateway to the whole area. The town also abounds in varied
hotels, inns, and boarding-houses, restaurants and cafes, shops
and art galleries, sport facilities and nightclubs. Zakopane is
a major center of winter sports of all sorts.
The townsfolk take pride in their own brand of the traditional
Polish highlander culture–Poland’s highlanders are as emblematic
to other Poles as Scotland’s to the British, albeit more
colorful by far.
Noteworthy is the region’s old wooden architecture.
Czarny Staw (Black Pond), the
austere sister lake
of the nearby gorgeous Morskie Oko
The Tatras' Musts.
The Morskie Oko (“Sea Eye”) lake with its more elevated
twin, the Czarny Staw lake–for great views, hiking and
climbing. The Kasprowy
peak (1985m)–for cable railway, great views and skiing. The
Koscieliska Valley–for great views, easy hiking and
wildlife. Dolina Pieciu Stawow (“Five Tarns Valley”)–for
hiking. Hala Gasienicowa–for hiking. The
Rysy peak (2499m or 8198ft)–for the exclusive view on
hundred peaks and twelve major lakes after an exciting climbing
up the Polish highest mount and the most visited one in the all
Tatras. The Orla Perc (“Eagle Ridge”) trail–for the
thrills of quite demanding if amateur climbing. The
Valley–for easy hiking and wildlife. The Regle
dales (when you are in Zakopane town)–for relaxed hiking,
wildlife, and accessibility.
Weather in Zakopane and in the Tatry Mountains.
The Tatras’ mountainous climate is cold due to high altitude,
with much precipitation. What might produce superb ski
conditions for many months–most of the year, actually, on some
elevated slopes–proves unwelcome to non-skiers. Anyway, even in
foothill Zakopane allow for a drop in temperature of 2C to 5C
vis-a-vis lowlands, and the higher the colder. Fierce rainstorms
or snowstorms all of a sudden are common, as gales.
Wildlife in the Tatry Mountains.
Besides species common also elsewhere in Poland, such as deer,
roe, fox and badger, the Tatras boast rare animals–lynx, brown
bear, eagle, heath-cock, and alpine chamois and marmot.
Tips for visitors to the Tatry Mountains.
Skiing December through May, and hiking May through
September. Many do the latter October to April as well
but slippery tracks make it dangerous even for
experienced mountaineers with special equipment.
Book well in advance if you want to come on Christmas,
New Year, Easter, Polish national holidays, during
school recesses, or on any weekend December through
September. Allow for slow traffic on the afternoon
before and on the last one.
Those who shun crowded resorts may well give up Zakopane
hotel and opt for quieter–and cheaper– lodgings in any
of the region’s villages. There are also resorts on the
Be extremely careful on mountain tracks, notably in
The Tatras’ local snack is oscypek, a piece of
smoked sheep cheese.
Krakow is Poland's tourist mecca, and also a gateway to many
other must-see sites in the region.
City of Krakow map
nation, geography, climate, wildlife, visitors,
Poland's prime tourist attraction and a must in Central
Europe boasts numerous world-class monuments, charming vistas,
delightful atmosphere, and the best restaurants.