Discover the enchanting lake Morskie Oko in southern Poland! Check out this article for an amazing Morskie Oko hike and practical tips.
Morskie Oko: An Introduction
Morskie Oko is a beautiful gem located in the heart of the Tatra mountains in southern Poland, in the Malopolska region. The name Morskie Oko means “Eye of the Sea” in Polish. This beautiful lake, located at an altitude of 1395 meters above sea level, is the largest and deepest lake in the Polish Tatra Mountains and is known for its shimmering turquoise water.
With an area of about 34 hectares and a depth of 51 meters, Morskie Oko is not only a visual spectacle but also an impressive natural wonder. The water is incredibly clear, on some days the visibility is 15 meters. The lake is surrounded by steep mountains, partly covered with pine trees. This makes it look mysterious and enchanting. It would be a great background for a fairy tale or legend.
On the shore of the lake stands the oldest mountain hut in the Tatra Mountains. It was built in 1907-1908 and the rooms are almost always fully booked. In the mountain hut, you can get food or enjoy a hot cup of tea. Morskie Oko is the most popular destination in the Polish Tatras, on some days the lake is visited by thousands of people.
Hiking to Morskie Oko: A Trail Journal
To see Morskie Oko, you will have to hike there. The easiest hike to Morskie Oko is along a wide asphalt road, but there is another more beautiful and adventurous route to hike to Morskie Oko. I hiked this trail in September 2023, which was a perfect time to hike in the Tatra Mountains. In this article, I’ll share a report with many pictures of this wonderful trip.
Just follow the crowds
From Zakopane, I take a shuttle bus to Palenica Białczańska, a large parking lot at one of the entrances to Tatra National Park. The road winds up slowly among the pines; I still see little of the park’s spectacular mountains and rock formations. But I will see plenty of that later!
There are many toilets in the parking lot, so I make quick use of the restroom. Then I enter the park; a ticket costs only 9 Polish złoty (about €2). There are a few stalls where you can buy some food, but I don’t need anything and quickly leave them behind.
I soon see the sign with the red arrow to Morskie Oko; this is the route I will follow first. This one is very easy, as it is an asphalt road. I’m not the only one walking here, I see many groups of people walking in front and behind me.
After about 40 minutes I see to a waterfall a waterfall next to the road. There are also picnic benches and some toilets. Here is an important intersection of the trails. The “easy” route to Morskie Oko goes straight ahead, continuing on the asphalt road. However, I won’t take the easy road today, so I turn right and follow the green route.
Through the valley (Dolina Roztoki)
Leaving the asphalt road behind, I am in the mood for something more adventurous! And that’s what I get. At first, the trail consists only of steps. A tough climb up! But I am in no hurry and take it easy, one step at a time, I’ll get there.
Soon I end up on a normal walking path, which is a lot more comfortable. The dark forests lighten slightly and I walk into a valley called Dolina Roztoki along a river. I now also see the steep cliffs on both sides. What a wonderful landscape for a hike!
I noticed that hiking in the Tatra Mountains is for everyone. I see groups of schoolchildren, older people, large families with young children, and I even walk behind a couple of friendly nuns for a while.
Many people I meet while hiking greet me with “cześć” (hi, informal) or “dzień dobry” (good day, more formal). Everyone seems really friendly, even though we don’t speak the same language.
Follow the waterfall
As I am hiking through the valley, I’m already slowly climbing up, but I know there will be another tough climb ahead. At a junction, I have to choose: do I turn left via the black route, or do I keep on following the green route? I talked about this with a guide a few days ago. The black route is shorter but also much steeper, the blue is longer but not as steep and you’ll pass a waterfall. He indicated that is the most scenic route, so therefore I choose to stay on the blue route.
The path rises up almost immediately after the intersection. I can hear the water of the river flowing down below and I’m surprised that it’s so green here! Occasionally I have to climb up a staircase carved into the rocks and sometimes it is just very steep.
I stopped a few times during the climb to enjoy the view behind me. The climbing goes pretty fast, before I know it I’m dozens of meters higher. And the views of the valley also get more and more beautiful and beautiful.
Then I reach Wielka Siklawa, the highest waterfall in Poland. The place is buzzing, there are many people taking pictures here. I am trying to find the path among the people and that isn’t easy. The trail turnedsinto a slippery big rock and it goes up quite steeply.
I meet a man who makes a comment that I would be better off walking down than up, but I disagree. Going down on such a steep slippery rock seems much scarier to me than going up; I can see myself slipping like that. On the Arizona Trail, I got the name bandaids for a reason. Every time I walked down, I slipped or fell. Let’s not do that here!
I take it easy and move my weight only when I am sure my foot is in a good position and I cannot slip. Slowly but surely I reach the top of the waterfall. I look back at the valley one more time; today’s first big climb is over.
The valley of the five lakes
After the waterfall, I suddenly find myself walking on a flat path in a completely different landscape. I am now in the Valley of the Five Lakes (Dolina Pięciu Stawów Polskich in Polish) and soon see a mountain lake. The wind here is strong and quite cold, so I hike as fast as I can to stay warm.
Here the green trail ends and I turn left toward the mountain hut. This is the blue trail. Despite the cold wind, I really enjoy this scenic landscape. It is really incredibly beautiful and yet another very different part of Tatra National Park than I have seen in previous days.
Behind the second lake is a mountain lodge and here it is really crowded. I still find it amazing to see so many people in such a remote destination on a weekday in the off-season. This park is really incredibly popular, especially among Poles.
On the side of the hut, I find a spot on a bench out of the wind overlooking the lake. I have some snacks in my bag, so I munch on them while I’m enjoying this beautiful view. I feel good and incredibly grateful. I can’t believe that I’m out here hiking and exploring and calling it work!
One last climb
After half an hour the wind starts to pick up again and I get a little cold, it’s time to move on. I know there is a big climb ahead and I am ready for it. As soon as I am five minutes away from the mountain hut, the crowds are gone and I’m completely alone. This section of the trail is not as popular as the previous ones and it is wonderful to find some peace in this park.
In front of me, I see a steep staircase, this is really going to be a tough climb! I have the time, so I’m taking it easy. Step by step. The raincoat I just put on as a windbreaker soon goes off. The sun comes out and it gets very warm. During the climb, I take a few breaks. Not because I have to catch my breath, but mainly to enjoy the view and the silence.
Around me, I see lakes glistening among the high mountains. If I look closely, I can even see a few (difficult) hiking trails running uphill. I get some kind of FOMO, I definitely want to explore those trails someday. There is still so much to discover here!
I reached the top faster than I expected. That was today’s last climb! Now all I have to do is walk down.
The path down is not as easy as you might think, as it consists mainly of large stones. I have to put my feet down carefully because I don’t want to slip or sprain my ankle. Fortunately, I quickly find a rhythm and keep descending.
At some point I see a dark blue lake appear among the forests and mountains: there is Morskie Oko! I meet a couple of German tourists who are also very impressed with the views and we take some pictures of each other.
The way down remains tricky at times, sometimes even hanging from a tree branch I have to get my feet down a meter further. Hiking in Poland is quite adventurous!
Then I find myself on an asphalt road where dozens of other people are walking. What a difference from the last few hours when I saw virtually no one! A few minutes later I arrive at the mountain hut and see Morskie Oko in its full glory. It is indeed magnificent to behold!
Around the lake
I have an overnight stay mountain lodge, so I get to sleep right next to this enchanting lake. It drizzles a bit when I wake up the next morning, hiding some of the steep cliffs behind the lake in the clouds. Yet it is still great to see, giving it a mysterious atmosphere.
I would like to take a closer look at Morskie Oko, so I walk a lap around the lake. Despite the bad weather, it’s great. The deep blue color of the lake with the contrast of the green pines and the steep gray rocks, it’s an incredible sight. The mountains are so majestic!
On the sides of the lake, I see a few small waterfalls, making it even more fairytale-like. At a junction on the south side, I hesitate for a moment. In fact, next to Morskie Oko is another lake called Czarny Staw. You can walk here, but it is a steep climb and will take me at least 45 minutes to an hour extra. If the weather had been better I would have done it, but now I choose to return to the mountain hut. Next time!
Back at the mountain hut, I enjoy a cup of tea with this beautiful view and get ready for the trek back.
Back to the parking lot
To return to the parking lot, I walk back via the “easy” way. In fact, an asphalt road has been built between the parking lot and Morskie Oko. But since it’s still about 8 to 9 kilometers, it quickly takes you about 2 hours to hike back.
It’s quite easy so hiking back goes really fast. Again, I experience the popularity of this particular lake. I walk back in the morning, which is the time of day when most people walk right up to the lake. I see hundreds of people coming towards me.
I also see the occasional horse-drawn carriage passing by, the lake is also accessible to the disabled or those who are not very fit. On the one hand, I think this is unfortunate (then it is even more crowded), but on the other hand, it is good, this way everyone can enjoy nature.
What I do like is that you can occasionally leave the asphalt road for a shortcut via a hiking trail. This breaks up the otherwise boring trail for a bit. By the time I get to the parking lot, the sun is fully out and I sit down on a bench to look back at this amazing Morskie Oko hike. What a wonderful hiking trail to explore!
Morskie Oko hike: practical tips
Would you also like to hike to Morskie Oko? Here are a few practical tips.
Length & itinerary
You can divide my inerary into three sections:
- The hike to Morskie Oko via the Valley of the Five Lakes: 14.5 kilometers – first follow the red route, then the green one to the lake. Here turn left and follow the blue route until Morskie Oko. This trail is medium to strenuous.
- A lap around the lake: 3.5 kilometers – red route. This trail is easy but watch the slippery rocks.
- The route from Morskie Oko to the parking lot: 9 kilometers – red route. This trail is very easy
I did this Morskie Oko hike in two days, but it can also be done in one day if you start early. I myself started at 10 a.m. at the parking lot and was at Morskie Oko around 3:30 p.m. Hiking back to the parking lot will cost you about 2 hours. If you start earlier you can also add the round lake.
Do you want to see Morskie Oko, but don’t feel like walking a long and strenuous trail? Then just follow the shorter route from the parking lot. That one only goes on an asphalt road and is a lot easier to follow. This one has a length of about 17 or 18 kilometers and takes 4 to 5 hours.
By the way, the routes are very well marked, you can hardly get lost. To keep track, though, it’s helpful to have a map of the hiking trails in Tatra National Park. You can buy them in Zakopane or at the park entrance.
How to get there?
It is best to start at the Palenica Białczańska parking lot. You can come here by car, parking costs 35 PLN per day (about €8).
I myself took the shuttle bus and that is also very convenient. You can board the bus at the Zakopane bus station next to the Lidl. The bus says Morskie Oko and it goes regularly, so you can’t miss it. A ticket costs PLN 15, which you can pay for in cash to the driver. The ride takes about 40 minutes. The bus stops at several places, but you have to get off at the terminus. The driver will tell you when to get off.
To do the hike, you need to visit Tatra National Park. To enter the park, you have to pay 9 PLN at the entrance and then you can start exploring the wonderful park!
Food & lodging
It is always wise to bring plenty of water and a few snacks when hiking in the Tatra Mountains. At the entrance to the national park are a few stalls where you can buy some food and drinks.
With this itinerary, you will pass two mountain huts. Here you can choose to spend the night or get something to eat. The mountain huts have a (buffet) restaurant where you can get warm food and a small shop where you can buy snacks and drinks.
Make sure to bring cash as cards don’t always work. Also, keep in mind that food may run out during the day. Half the menu was already finished when I wanted something to eat at the mountain hut at Morskie Oko around five in the afternoon. Also, there are not very many vegetarian dishes, but the potato pancakes are incredibly delicious! Prices are higher than in other places in Poland, but I personally found them still very affordable.
Book a trip to southern Poland
These were all my tips for the hike to Morskie Oko. As you can see, this hike is highly recommended and this is certainly not the only beautiful place in the Polish Tatras! It is a great destination for an adventurous vacation and a great stop during a road trip in southern Poland. Would you like to visit this region? The websites below are useful for booking your trip.
✈️ 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. If you book on time, you can get a ticket for €7. Check Busbud for all options and prices.
🗺️ Tours & activities – You can do many fun tours and activities in Poland. Check Get Your Guide for all the options.
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I visited the Polish Tatras at the invitation of the Polish Tourist Board and Malopolska Tourist Organization. I always give my honest opinion about a destination. Read more about working with Op reis met Co on this page. This article also contains some affiliate links. If you book or buy something through these links it costs you nothing extra, but I get a small commission. This allows me to improve this website. Support this website.