The Tatra Mountains are a beautiful and rugged range that straddles the border between Poland and Slovakia. With a maximum elevation of 2,655 meters, the Tatras are the highest mountains in the Carpathian range and one of the most popular tourist destinations in Poland. The highest mountain is Gerlach located in Slovakia just north of Poprad. The north-western peak of Rysy (2,499 m) is the highest Polish mountain.
Hiking & nature
The Tatra Mountains are a true paradise for hikers and nature lovers. The Tatras National Park covers a vast area of 211.6 square kilometres and is home to many species of flora and fauna, some of which are endemic to the area. The park offers a range of hiking trails of varying difficulty, from easy walks through forests and valleys to more challenging hikes that take you to the mountain peaks. Some of the most popular hiking trails in the Tatras include the Morskie Oko trail, the Kasprowy Wierch trail, and the Giewont trail.
One of the highlights of hiking in the Tatras is the stunning scenery. The mountains are characterized by steep cliffs, crystal-clear lakes, and alpine meadows that are blanketed with wildflowers in the summer. There are also several picturesque mountain huts in the Tatras that offer hikers a place to rest and refuel. Many of these huts serve traditional Polish dishes like pierogi and kielbasa, as well as hot drinks like tea and mulled wine.
The Tatra Mountains are also a popular destination for winter sports enthusiasts. The ski resort of Zakopane, located at the foot of the Tatras, is the most popular ski resort in Poland and offers a range of slopes for skiers and snowboarders of all levels. The resort also offers other winter activities such as cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and ice skating. The Tatras are also a popular destination for backcountry skiing, with many experienced skiers venturing off-piste to explore the backcountry.
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.
Museums & culture
For those who want to learn more about the history and culture of the Tatra Mountains, there are several museums and cultural sites to visit. The Tatra Museum in Zakopane is a great place to start, with exhibits on the natural history and culture of the Tatras. Other cultural sites to visit include the Wooden Architecture Route, which showcases the traditional wooden architecture of the region, and the Chapel of the Sacred Heart of Jesus on Giewont, a mountaintop shrine that has been a pilgrimage site for over a century.
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.
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.
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.
In conclusion, the Tatra Mountains are a must-visit destination for anyone who loves the great outdoors. With its stunning natural beauty, diverse hiking trails, and world-class skiing, the Tatras offer something for every type of traveller. Whether you’re looking for a relaxing nature getaway or an adrenaline-packed adventure, the Tatra Mountains in Poland are a destination you won’t forget.
For detailed tourist information about Poland, please visit our travel partner, the Poland Travel Agency.