The Tatra Mountains in southern Poland are a true hiking paradise! In this article, I’ll tell you about exploring the Polish Tatras and the best hiking trails.
About the Polish Tatras
The Tatra Mountains, or Tatry as it is called in Polish, form the natural border between Poland and Slovakia. It is a spectacular destination for anyone who loves hiking and nature. It is located in the south of the country, in the region of Malopolska, also called Little Poland.
The Tatra Mountains are actually part of the Carpathians, but they have a character all their own. They are known for their rugged peaks, crystal clear lakes, and vast forests. I can tell you, as an adventure traveler and hiking enthusiast, this was truly paradise for me.
In total, the Polish Tatras are home to some 275 kilometers of hiking trails that vary in difficulty. Some are very easy, like an asphalt road with little elevation change, and some are incredibly difficult. You might need to hold on to chains and bring some climbing equipment as you climb along the cliffs.
Let’s also talk about Zakopane, an atmospheric town at the foot of the Polish Tatras. Here you can not only enjoy delicious Polish food, but it is also the starting point for many hiking adventures. You can also buy or rent gear here and be well prepared to set off into the mountains.
If you ever get the chance to visit the Polish Tatras, I highly recommend it. I visited the national park myself in September 2023, hiking from mountain hut to mountain hut, and I absolutely loved it. It is a place that will enchant you with its natural beauty and adventure opportunities. And of course, don’t forget to pack your hiking boots, because you will definitely need them!
Tatra National Park
The Polish Tatras are a spectacular landscape, which is why this mountain range is part of Tatra National Park (or Tatrzański Park Narodowy in Polish). The park stretches across the mountains in southern Poland and covers an area of about 211 square kilometers.
How do you get to the park?
The park has several entrances, but the main ones are in Zakopane, a popular base for visitors. There are also entrances in Bukowina Tatrzańska and other surrounding villages. Zakopane, however, is the most convenient gateway for most travelers.
There are parking lots at the entrances, but it is even easier to take a shuttle bus from Zakopane to one of the entrances. Prices range from 4 to 15 Polish złoty, equivalent to about €0.85 to €3.25 (price 2023).
At the entrance you have to buy a ticket, the regular price is 9 Polish złoty (price 2023). There are also discount cards for students and seniors, for example.
What is there to see and do in Tatra National Park?
So what can you do in Tatra National Park?
- Hiking, of course, is one of the most enjoyable ways to explore the park. There is an extensive network of hiking trails, ranging from easy routes suitable for beginners to challenging mountain climbs for experienced hikers.
- Enjoy the spectacular views. The panoramas of the Tatra Mountains are very impressive. Don’t forget to bring your camera! If you’re not much of a hiker, you can also take the cable car up to Kasprowy Wierch (1987 meters). The views are fantastic here.
- In the winter months, the park transforms into a winter sports paradise. There are numerous opportunities for skiing, snowboarding, and cross-country skiing.
As you can see, there are plenty of ways to enjoy nature in the Polish Tatras. Bring plenty of drinks and some snacks because you can’t get food and drinks everywhere. Although you can use ATMs in many places, it does not work everywhere, so it is wise to bring some cash with you.
Hiking in the Tatra Mountains: practical tips
For me, the Polish Tatras was a great hiking destination, so I’d love to tell you more about that. I myself stayed three nights in the Polish Tatras and went on many beautiful hikes. Would you also like to hike in Poland’s Tatra Mountains? Then there are a few things you need to know.
Types of hiking trails
There are many trails in the park and almost every trail is different. You have a few paved trails and a few gravel paths, but most of the trails have large slippery boulders. As a result, it is sometimes difficult to walk and there are many differences in elevation. So watch carefully where you put your feet and don’t rush. There are plenty of places where you have room to pause and enjoy the beautiful views.
When looking at the map, you can’t really tell which trails are easy or difficult, but occasionally there are exclamation points. If that is the case, then you can expect it to be really difficult. Then there are steep cliffs and sometimes you have to use your hands to climb up and down. There are also chains hanging on several peaks. If you are unsure of your own ability, it is wise to pass up those routes. There are plenty of other great hiking trails in the park!
Navigating is pretty easy in the park. At all entrances, there is a sign with the routes, with that it is useful to have a map with the trails with you. You can buy this map when you arrive in Zakopane.
On the map, you can see that each trail has a color, for example, red, green, or yellow. These colors say nothing about the level of difficulty but make navigating in the mountains really easy because they are also on the signs and along the trail.
In the mountains themselves, you have arrows at the crossroads, which show how long it is to walk to the next point. You can also find these times on the map. In my experience, the times on the map and signs were quite optimistic. I usually took a little longer to get from A to B, so when it said 40 minutes, it would take me about 50 minutes.
There are no kilometers on the signs or the map, because because of the elevation changes and difficulty, you can sometimes take 15 minutes to cover a kilometer, but also as long as 45 minutes.
It’s crowded in the park
Tatra National Park is perhaps the most popular place in Poland, the locals love spending their vacations here. Therefore, it is always crowded. I was there during the week in the off-season (mid-September) and even then there were many people. But from what I have heard, it is even busier on weekends and in the months of July and August. Therefore, I would definitely avoid those periods or go out very early (even before sunrise).
Best travel time
The best time to go hiking in the Polish Tatras is from April to November. Summer (June to August) is finest in this regard, with mild temperatures. This is also the busiest period. Spring and fall (April, May, September, and October) are also great for hiking in the park and it is a little quieter. The weather is still pleasant, but it is changeable.
I myself visited Tatra National Park in the second half of September and had both rainy days and incredibly sunny days. In terms of temperature, it was the perfect time to hike.
Beautiful hiking trails
During my visit to the Polish Tatras, I did two different hikes that I would like to share with you.
Hiking route 1: by gondola via Kasparowy Wierch
This route is perfect if you want to climb several mountain peaks and love beautiful views.
- Length: 14 kilometers
- Duration: approximately 7 hours (including cable car and breaks)
- Difficulty: Medium
- Highlights: Kasparowy Wierch and Giewont
This route starts at the station of the Kasprowy Wierch cable car. It can get pretty crowded here, so arrive on time (preferably before 9 a.m.). Here you take the cable car up to Kasprowy Wierch at 1987 meters. Enjoy the beautiful views!
From here, walk along the ridge westward on the red trail. This ridge is also the border of Poland and Slovakia, and the trail goes up and down a bit. On the border posts, you can see which country you are in. At the Kondracka Kopa (2005 meters) turn right on the yellow trail.
At the next junction, you can choose to follow the blue trail to the right, but if you still have energy and feel like an adventure, you can also go straight ahead and climb Giewont. This is a popular activity and especially suitable for the experienced hiker, as you have to hold on to cables on the last stretch (sounds more violent than it is). From the top, you have a beautiful view of Zakopane.
Then walk back and follow the blue path all the way down until you reach the cable car station again.
Hiking route 2: circular walk through Morskie Oko
This route is perfect if you like variety. You hike through a forest, see a high waterfall and some beautiful mountain lakes.
- Length: 23.5 kilometers
- Duration: approximately 8 hours (including a few short breaks)
- Difficulty: Medium
- Highlights: Valley of Five Lakes and Morskie Oko
This route can be broken up into 14.5 and 9 kilometers if you stay overnight in the mountain hut at Morski Oko.
This circular hike starts at the parking lot of Morskie Oko. You start with a walk on the asphalt towards Morskie Oko (the red route). After about 45 minutes you will have a fork and turn right (the green route).
This is a nice alternate trail leading up through a valley. You cross the river several times. Continue to follow the green route. Along a waterfall, you climb up and emerge at a lake. You are now in the Valley of Five Lakes (Dolina Pięciu Stawów), a stunning landscape with several mountain lakes. Here turn left and follow the lakeshore (this is the blue route).
Halfway up, you’ll pass a mountain hut where you can get something to eat or drink. This is followed by a considerable climb and an even greater drop to Morskie Oko, the most beautiful lake in Poland. There is also a mountain hut here where you can get something to eat and drink.
From Morskie Oko you can walk back to the parking lot via the asphalt road (the red route). This takes about two hours but is very easy.
Read more about this hike: Morskie Oko hike: a great hiking itinerary to the most beautiful lake in Poland
Staying overnight in the Polish Tatras
To get the most out of your stay, it’s wise (and fun!) to stay overnight in Tatra National Park or nearby Zakopane. There are several mountain huts in the park. These are often basic but are in a wonderful location in the park. Mountain huts often fill up early, so make your reservations early. These are some fine mountain huts to spend the night:
- Hotel Górski PTTK Kalatówki – for a mountain lodge, it is quite luxurious, some rooms have private bathrooms. There is a large restaurant with tasty (good affordable) meals and a cozy bar.
- PTTK Morskie Oko Mountain Hut – this is the oldest mountain hut in the park and is in a beautiful location next to the most beautiful lake in Poland. There is only 1 shower, so you may have to wait a while. There is a buffet restaurant and a small store where you can buy snacks and drinks.
In addition, Zakopane is a good option, because from here you can also easily get to the national park. These are fine places to stay in Zakopane.
- Hotel Bambi Boutique – An incredibly cozy hotel in a green location just outside the center of Zakopane.
- EnHotel – Very nice hotel on the edge of the park, next to the cable car to Kasprowy Wierch. You walk from here straight into the Tatra Mountains.
- Nosalowy Park Hotel & Spa (5⭐) – Luxury hotel in a beautiful location in the center of Zakopane. The accompanying restaurant is really very good, as is the very extensive breakfast. It also has a spa where you can relax after a day in the mountains. I myself slept in one of the apartments next to the hotel, which was very spacious and fully equipped.
For more options, availability, and prices, visit Booking.com.
Book a trip to Poland
These were all my tips for visiting Tatra National Park. Do you also enjoy exploring the Polish Tatras and other beautiful places in southern Poland? Then book your trip now!
✈️ Plane tickets – The closest international airport to the Polish Tatras is the one in Krakow. From there you can make your way to Zakopane and the Tatra Mountains. Check WayAway to find the best deals and get cashback on plane tickets.
🚘 Rental Car – A rental car is very useful if you’d like to see more in Poland. Check out Rental Cars or Discover Cars to find the best deals. The drive from Krakow to Zakopane takes approximately 2 to 2.5 hours.
🚍 Bus tickets – From Krakow you can also travel to Zakopane by bus. Many bus companies are driving this route, like Flixbus. If you book on time, you can get a ticket for €7. Check Busbud for all options and prices.
🚐 Tours – You can also book various day tours to the Tatra Mountains from Krakow. Then you travel with a guide who can tell you everything about the landscape. Some tours also include time to go for a hike. Check out the different tours to Tatra National Park on Get Your Guide.
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I visited the Polish Tatras at the invitation of the Dutch Polish Tourist Board and Malopolska Tourist Organization. I always share my honest opinion about a destination. Read more about collaborations on this page. This article also contains some affiliate links. If you book or buy something through these links it will not cost you anything extra, but I will receive a small commission. This allows me to improve this website. Support Travel with Co.