Spilling over Poland’s southern border into Slovakia, the Tatra Mountains are the highest part of the Carpathian range and make up Tatrzański Tatra National Park. Protected as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, this wild and mountainous region is rich with snow-topped peaks, alpine lakes, and sparkling waterfalls.
Most visitors opt to explore the Tatras Mountains on a day trip, and tours run from Krakow in Poland or from Poprad in Slovakia. Popular destinations for a day tour include the resort town of Zakopane, where you can visit the Tatra Museum and ride the funicular to the top of Mt. Gubalówka; Morskie Oko Lake, where horse carriage rides are a fun activity; the mountain village of Zdiar in Slovakia, known for its traditional log cabins; and the ski resort of Kasprowy Wierch, reached by cable car. If you want to venture farther into the mountain landscapes, you’ll also find plenty of options for hiking in the High Tatras Mountains.
Things to Know Before You Go
- The Tatras Mountains are a must for avid hikers and outdoor adventurers.
- The weather in the mountains can change quickly, and it can get cold at high altitudes even in the summer months, so pack for all seasons.
- Unless you are an experienced hiker, it’s recommended to hike with a local guide.
- A 4WD is recommended for driving in the Tatras Mountains.
- Facilities for hikers are very limited, so take everything you need, including sunscreen, snacks, and plenty of water.
How to Get There
The most convenient entry point to the mountains on the Polish side is Zakopane, about a 2-hour drive south of Krakow. To reach Zakopane by public transportation, it’s a scenic 3.5-hour train ride or a less-scenic but quicker 2.5-hour bus ride from Krakow. To get around in the mountains, transportation is limited so it’s best to book a group or private tour.
When to Get There
May through September are the best months for hiking and visiting the lakes. While resorts like Zakopane can get busy in July and August, the vast mountains make it easy to escape the crowds. For winter visitors, the main ski season runs from December to early May.
Outdoor Activities in the Tatras Mountains
During the summer months, you can hike the Tatras’ 155-mile (250-kilometer) network of trails, ranging from challenging mountain summits to short scenic walks, or venture into the caves around the Koscieliska Valley. Other popular activities include mountain biking, horseback riding, rock climbing, and even paragliding. In winter, Kasprowy Wierch is the go-to destination for skiing and winter sports, with around 9 miles (15 kilometers) of runs.