Tag: Hiking

Tag: Hiking

Zakopane

The Winter Capital of Poland

Zakopane is a town in southern Poland. The location is informally known as “the Winter Capital of Poland,” and lies in the southern part of the Podhale region at the foot of the Tatra Mountains, the only alpine mountain range in the Carpathian Mountains.

The town is located in southern Poland near the Slovak border. It can be reached by train or bus from Krakow, which is about two and a half hours away.

It lies in a large valley between the Tatra Mountains and Gubałówka Hill. It is the most important Polish center of mountaineering and skiing, and is visited annually by some three million tourists. The most important alpine skiing locations are Kasprowy Wierch, Nosal and Gubałówka Hill.

It also has the highest elevation (800-1,000 m) of any town in Poland. The central point of the town is at the junction of Krupówki and Kościuszko Streets.

Championships

Zakopane hosted the Nordic World Ski Championships in 1929, 1939, and 1962; the winter Universiades in 1956, 1993, and 2001; the biathlon World Championship; several ski jumping world cups; and several Nordic combined, Nordic and Alpine European Cups. It hosted the Alpine World Ski Championships in 1939, the first outside the Alps and the last official world championships prior to World War II.

The town recently made unsuccessful bids to host the 2006 Winter Olympics and the 2011 and 2013 Alpine World Ski Championships.

Climbing, Skiing & Hiking

Climbers from all over Europe travel to Zakopane to climb in the High Tatras and thousands of people arrive in Zakopane to go skiing in the winter, especially around Christmas and in February.

Zakopane has many hiking trails and ski slopes. This makes Zakopane a tourism mecca for all seasons. The downtown bustles with outdoor wear shops and ski rental stores. Tourists come here in large numbers in summer and during the Christmas and New Year Season.


Tatra Mountains

The Tatras

The Tatra Mountains, Tatras or Tatra, constitute a mountain range which forms a natural border between Slovakia and Poland. They occupy an area of 750 km², the major part (600 km²) of which lies in Slovakia. The highest mountain is Gerlach at 2,655 m, located in Slovakia just north of Poprad. The north-western peak of Rysy (2,499 m) is the highest Polish mountain.

Alpine Landscape in Poland

The Tatras are the highest mountain range in the Carpathian Mountains. Although considerably smaller than the Alps, they are classified as having an alpine landscape. Their high mountain character, combined with great accessibility, makes them popular with tourists and scientists.

The area is a well-known winter sports area and includes the resort of Zakopane, the “Winter Capital” of Poland.

Temperatures

Temperatures range from -40 °C in the winter to 33 °C in warmer months. Temperatures also vary depending on altitude and sun exposure of a given slope. Temperatures below 0 °C last for 192 days on the summits. Maximum snow thickness on the summit amounts to around 320 cm (125 in) in March. Peaks are sometimes covered with snow throughout the year. Avalanches are frequent.

Fauna & Flora

The Tatra Mountains are home to many species of animals including Tatra chamois, marmot, snow vole, brown bear, wolf, Eurasian lynx, red deer, roe deer, and wild boar. There is also a diverse variety of plants.

Skiing in the Tatra Mountains

For skiers, the Kasprowy Wierch Peak is serviced by cable-car, and there are chairlifts in the Goryczlowa and Gasienicowa valleys. For hikers, there are 250 kilometres of trails in the park, ranging from leisurely strolls to hair-raising ascents for serious climbers. Entrance to the valleys is possible by bus, but from there you must continue on foot to the heart of the Tatras. Mountain bikes are permitted only on a few paths. Owing to the unpredictability of Mother Nature, there are basic safety precautions which are essential to bear in mind.

Hiking in the Tatra Mountains

With the collapse of the Iron Curtain, border relations are now freer than ever. Thus for dedicated hikers, the opportunity to explore the region in depth is very much an option. Poles are the first to say how wonderful the Slovakian Tatras are, and it’s well worth bearing this in mind if you want to get a full flavour of this wild region.

Probably the easiest way to get to the Polish side of the Tatras is to take a plane to Krakow and then take the train (five hours) to Zakopane. If you want to get to the Slovak side then Bratislava airport is currently rebranding itself as a low-cost hub (Vienna East!). Alternatively, Vienna to Bratislava is only about an hour and-a-half by train. From Bratislava take the train via Poprad to Stary Smokovec. Poprad also has an airport.


Bieszczady Mountains

The Wild East

The Bieszczady Mountains are not typically a tourist destination as places such as Krakow, Warsaw and Gdansk are usually the first places tourists go when visiting Poland for the first time and only the seasoned Polish tourist will have ventured into the area fondly known as the, ‘Wild East’.

Bieszczady (sometimes called the Bieszczadzkie Mountains) is the Polish name for a mountain range in the extreme south-east of Poland, extending into Ukraine and Slovakia. It forms the western part of what is known in Polish as the Eastern Beskids (Beskidy Wschodnie), and is more generally part of the Outer East Carpathians. The mountain range is situated between the Łupków Pass (640 m) and the Vyshkovskyi Pass (933 m).

In a narrower but very frequent sense, Bieszczady refers only to the Western Bieszczady or even only to the part of the range lying within Poland.

The highest peak of Bieszczady is Mt. Pikuy (1405 m) in Ukraine. The highest peak of the Polish part is Tarnica (1346 m).

A popular tourist attraction in the area is the Church of the Visitation in Lesko, the oldest Roman Catholic church in Bieszczady, founded by count Piotr Kmita in 1539.

History

This area was mentioned for the first time in 981, when Volodymyr the Great of Kievan Rus took the area over on the way into Poland. In 1018 it returned to Poland, 1031 back to Rus, in 1340 Casimir III of Poland recovered it.

Bieszczady was one of the strategically important Carpathian mountains bitterly contested in battles on the Eastern Front of World War I during the winter of 1914/1915.

In 1991, the UNESCO East Carpathian Biosphere Reserve was created that encapsulates a large part of the area and continues into Slovakia and Ukraine. It comprises the Bieszczady National Park (Poland), Poloniny National Park (Slovakia) + Uzhansky National Nature Park (Ukraine). Animals living in this reserve are, amongst others, black storks, brown bears, wolves and bison.

Why go to the Bieszczady Mountains?

The Bieszczady Mountains are pleasantly devoid of the trappings of mass tourism and offer visitors the opportunity to discover the, ‘Wild East’ without venturing into Ukraine or the Soviet Union.

The scenery in the region is wild and rugged and includes flora such as the Dacian Violet, Carpathian Beech and the Hungarian Violet, all species which cannot be seen further West. The wildlife in the area include bears, lynx, beavers, wolves, European bison and red mountain deer.

The area is a bird-watchers paradise and here you will find 9 species of Woodpecker (inc. Syrian, White-backed and Three-toed), Black Stork, Ural and Pygmy Owls, Collared and Red-breasted Flycatcher and both Lesser spotted and Golden Eagles.

How to get there

Sanok, known as the “Gateway to the Bieszczady”, is the most important town in the region. There are bus links with the majority of the cities in the south and east of Poland, including Krakow, Katowice, Warsaw, Gliwice, Przemysl, Krosno and Mielec.

From Sanok, one can easily visit the smaller towns of either Ustrzyki Gorne or Ustrzyki Dolne – both forming popular jumping-off points for trips into the mountains. The Bieszczady is surrounded by two major road systems, known as Mala and Duza Petla Bieszczadzka. The former runs from Ustrzyki to Lesko, the latter passes the Solinski Reservoir from the south and heads to Lesko.

Together they form the main transport artery for Bieszczady, with regular bus services connecting all the communities of the region. The region’s railway junction in Zagorz lies 6 km from the central Sanok. You can get to Zagorze via Sanok by fast train from Warsaw, Krakow, Lodz or Gliwice.