söndag 28 juli 2013

Adventure #6 - Hiking in the Tatra mountains

Our Light my fire adventure for July took place in the south of Poland, in the Tatra mountains. We wanted to go hiking this summer, and we wanted to find some place different. After a bit of searching online we decided on the Tatra mountains on the border between Poland and Slovakia. We booked an apartement in Zakopane, and also added a few days in Krakow.

Now we're back at home and ready to summarize this adventure. In fact, this holiday contained lot's of different elements. The hiking was the highlight but we also had time for some sightseeing, history, culture, geocaching, shopping and of course enjoying the Polish cuisine.

So, what about hiking in the Tatra mountains then?

On the plus side:
The views are spectacular. The trails are clearly marked and well maintained. There are plenty of refuges/chalets to visit for a meal or a drink. The mountains are easy to access with minibuses going to all the main entrances to the mountains. It is great for day trips, staying in Zakopane.

On the minus side:
It is crowded!! This is basically the only mountains in Poland, so it seems like all Polish people looking for a hiking holiday goes to the Tatra mountains. We did one hike on the Slovakian side as well, and that was not at all as crowded. But it is possible to get some solitude if you choose some more distant trails. For example, we walked from Chocholow to Zakopane for half a day without meeting a singe hiker.

One odd thing that we realized was that Polish hikers don't seem to wear the same things as we're used to... We always walk with walking boots and with clothes suited for hiking (breathable, waterproof). But here most people looked like they were on a Sunday stroll, wearing jeans, t-shirts and sandals. The hikes were not that advanced, but still quite steep and rocky at places so it must have been a challenge to walk in pretty gold sandals and a hand bag over the shoulder...

We had four hiking days, and I'll add more information and photos from each hike later on in separate blog posts. But here's a summary of the hikes we did.

Kuźnice - Murowaniec - Czarny Staw Gasienicowy
Very popular route, with magnificient views of the Tatra mountains. After an hour or so climbing up through the woods the trail comes into the open with a nice walk along the slope of Skupniow Uplaz. A bit too crowded for our taste, but we had a great day with lunch overlooking the beautiful lake Gasienicowy.

The trail to Murowaniec
Steep descend and as you can see we were not alone

Kuźnice - Schronisko Kondratowa - Giewont - Gronik
Another popular route, but actually not as crowded as the Murowaniec route. The first part went through the woods and then a quite steep ascent to mount Giewont. We actually decided to skip the final ascent to the peak, both because of the fact that there were plenty of people but also to save our knees. The views from "nearly the peak" was actually really impressive, so we were quite content anyway. We took another route down from the mountain to Gronik, and a mini-bus back to Zakopane.

A long line of hikers going up the mountain

Nice view from our lunch stop
Chocholow - Grubalowska 
The teenagers got the day off and the adults made another type of hike, this time on the grassy slopes opposite of the Tatra mountains. We took a taxi to the charming village of Chocholow and walked about four hours from there back to Zakopane. We could admire both the landscape of the valley and the Tatra mountains on our walk. This trail was not as clearly marked as the others, and it seems like not many people find this trail. We didn't meet a single hiker all day, not until we reached Grubalowska. After admiring the views from a bar in Grubalowska, we took the chair-lift back down to Zakopane.

The main street through Chocholow
Grassy slopes and high mountains in the background

Tatranska Kotlina - Chata Plesnivec (Slovakia)
Hiking on the Slovakian side of the mountains was just as easy. We parked the car in Tatranska Kotlina and went to the refuge Chata Plesnivec (Edelweiss). This day was mostly a hike in the woods, but with some places with nice views. This hike is on the outskirts of the White Tatras and you can see many traces of the big storm Tatranska Bora which in 2004 destroyed about half of the forested area in the Slovakian part of the Tatra National Park.

Easy to find your way on the trails

The White Tatras with broken trees from the big storm

Another beautiful place for lunch

We had a great time and everyone enjoyed the hikes (yes, the teenagers as well). The Tatra mountains are definitely not for those looking for solitude and desolate mountain trails, but it is a very accessible place easy to hike even if you are unexperienced.  And Zakopane is a touristy but charming place with some shopping and nice restaurants. To make the trip even better, we added a few days in Krakow as well. We spent some time exploring the city and also learning about the horrible history of the genocide that took place here and in nearby Auschwiz during the Second World War.

All in all, a good mixture of adventure, culture, history and just pleasure and relaxation.


1 kommentar:

  1. Dear Author! Well... we've got also Bieszczady, Beskidy, Karkonosze and the other beautiful mountains in Poland but they aren't as high as Tatry. Zakopane is crowded that's the fact. But another fact is that you've seen only small part of Tatry and you've spend three days choosing most popular and most crowded routes! Choose some higher or longer routes in High or West Tatra Mountains and you'll find some places of total quiet and silence. "Very accessible place easy to hike even if you are unexperienced" Well I'm not sure is it really true... I advise you to come back to Poland and find more difficult trails. You'll love it and change your mind:)