Tatra National Park is one of my Poland’s favorite places that few people know about it. I came to Tatra in the winter with fanciful white snow, so magical and beautiful, but my hotel owner also advised to come back again in spring or summer, or preferably in March. At that time, there will be less people, mostly animals, feel free to listen to birds chirping, murmuring streams, immerse in lush greenery, flowers bloom everywhere… I really like Poland! Cheap prices compared to the common European level, beautiful nature and cities that are both ancient and full of history! So, how to visit and what to do in Tatra mountains Poland (Tatra Poland, Tatras Poland, Tatras Mountains Poland, Tatra National Park Poland)? Let’s check out our fullest Tatra guide (Tatra mountains guide) to find out the answer!
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Tatra mountains guide: When is the best time to visit Tatras Mountains Poland?
Surely when you are planning a trip to explore the Tatra Mountains, you will wonder when is the best time to go? The answer depends on yourself. Because depending on your preferences, you will choose the good time to travel. Whenever you like, it’s a beautiful time for you to take a Tatra Mountains trip. Actually, you can visit Tatra all year round.
However, if you like to participate in sports activities here such as skiing, winter when the snow is thick will be the ideal time for you to experience. In addition, if you like to hiking or climbing and visit nature reserves, then summer is the right time to make your trip.
Tatra guide: How to get to Tatra Mountains Poland (Tatra Poland)?
Specifically, Tatra is a very large national park with many villages and towns. Among them Zakopane is most famous because it is near Krakow (a very gentle and lovely tourist city of Poland). So, getting to Zakopane is the most convenient. This city is about 1.5 hours drive from Krakow and 6 hours from Warsaw capital. You can easily self-drive to Zakopane if you want. But I did not go this way, so please don’t talk about it.
There are many buses to Zakopane from Krakow, every fifteen or twenty minutes with a trip, there is almost no waiting. There are two or three bus companies that alternately run from Krakow’s Bus Station, such as PolskiBus (Polish huge red buses, service quality is very good), or you can take minibus of other companies at that station. Please ask clearly what bus platform it is because there are several companies that run this route to avoid go wrong platform.
The bus price is around 17-18 ZL (1 EUR is about 4 ZL), so the bus ticket price is around 4 to 5 EUR, very cheap. I recommend you should bring cash in Poland. Although it’s easy to use the payment cards, but when you take a train or pay at milkbars, cash is prefer.
Buying bus tickets direct from the driver is also no problem, even more convenient than buying from the counter. In the low seasons, you should buy from the driver. But in peak seasons like winter (from mid-December to late January, the “whole world” flocks to Tatra to bathe in hot springs and ski) or summer (from early July to mid-October, the whole world goes on vacations) then buying from the driver means you have to prepare for the jostling with the locals. But the bus runs continuously from early morning to late evening so you don’t have to worry about lack of buses.
Tours are also available from Warsaw or other cities. But depart from Krakow is the most convenient. Moreover, you can still spend a few days to visit the beautiful city of Krakow, it is great, right?!
There is also a train from Krakow to Zakopane, the price is about 15, 17 zl or more, I don’t remember clearly but it takes longer than taking the bus. Bus usually takes 2 hours to 2 and a half hours (in peak season, it takes about 3 hours). The train time is probably 3 hours. If you are afraid of the rush in the peak season, you can take the train and it’s ok.
Tips: Right next to the Zakopane station, there is a Polish milkbar with wooden doors, the food is extremely cheap but quite delicious. The soups range from 10 to 15zl (3, 4 eur). The main dishes are about 15 to 20 zl (5, 7 eur). After arrival, you can stop by to fill your stomach before continue your journey.
With typical topography is the border area of Poland and Slovakia. Therefore, you can getting here in 2 directions. One from Poland as mentioned above. If you choose Slovakia as your starting point, train will be the most convenient way to get to Poprad city (the most important transit point from the plain to the Tatra Mountains) from the capital Bratislava or Kosice city for less than 20 euros/one-way. From Kosice, you can also catch a bus to Poprad for a relatively cheap price. From Poprad, there are bus routes to mountain resorts.
Tatra guide: What to do and where to go in Tatras Poland?
Tatra is a vast and majestic national park near the Polish border with Slovakia, very close to Krakow. This park is a favorite vacation spot for Poles with many pleasant relaxing activities, and the nature is fresh, lush greenery! Moreover the price is very moderate. Very suitable for my “budget” pocket.
Thermal water parks
There is nothing better than soaking in a thermal water park in the cold season. Imagine taking a dip in the warm water while the snow falls on your head and surrounded by a backdrop of mountains covered in snow. In Tatra, there are many hot water parks such as Bialka, Bukovina (both of these parks are well-known, but they will be very crowded. You have to prepare mentally for the crowds, especially in the high season). I will recommend another park, Chocholow Termy, just opened a few years ago, the largest thermal bath in Poland, everything is brand new and the service quality is very good.
How to get to Chocholow?
Because I booked a room at MTB hostel, so getting to Chocholow is even easier, just catch the right bus with the same name as Czarny Dunajec (in the same direction up the mountain, not in the opposite direction to Zakopane) and take about 18 minutes to get there. When you get there, you will realize it right away because the bus stops right at the park gate. Or if you are not sure, you can show its name to the driver.
If you don’t depart from this hostel, you can still get to Chocholow by that bus. Or ask for more information from your hotel, usually there will be a shuttle service.
What to do in Chocholow?
Chocholow is newly built so it’s very new and very well in operation, with a wave pool, a normal swimming pool, a children’s area an and outdoor swimming pool. The water is warm and not chemically too strong. Right upstairs is the dining and bar area, very reasonable prices, not much more expensive than regular milk-bars. Your locker key watcher can also be used to get food. You grab a tray, choose foods, use the locker key watcher to record your bill and then after meal, you can pay at the door. No need to bring money or cards when bathing, very convenient.
On the second floor of Chocholow is the sauna and spa area. Sauna has a package with regular termy, while spa must be purchased separately and booked in advance. You should book early, then going to the spa, then the sauna, then bath is the best.
For more information on pricing, please visit this page.
Tatra has a lot of ski resorts. The most complete ski resort is Bialka Tatrzanska, suitable for even beginners. There are also short slides for professionals. However, this resort is located outside of Zakopane, so it is a bit difficult to reach. For those who just want to try it, you can find small resorts inside Zakopane, like Kasprowy Wierch being the most famous. Or the smaller one is Polana Szymoszka.
There are many ski schools around Zakopane, so you should take a course before joining. In Tatra, the ski season lasts from late December to early April. So if possible, avoid the peak season from late December to late February.
There are many beautiful hiking routes in Tatra. During my trip, I chose the Koscielisko valley. The difficulty of the hike is very moderate, not too difficult, even good for family. Along the way, there are majestic mountains, dense trees (in my case, white due to snow), with a stream right next to it which is very poetic. Don’t have to spend much effort, moreover, after about 2 hours of hiking, you will see a fairly large wooden house (a resting point), selling delicious soups, meals, wine, cheese, Polish dry tea… The price is also very soft.
I went in the winter with white snow, so I chose a simple hike, enjoying the atmosphere and scenery is the main purpose. However, I will be back in the spring to visit Morskie Oko Lake (Eye of the Sea in English). This lake is known as one of the most beautiful lakes in the world. Maybe, I will climbing Mount Rysy on the border with Slovakia too. If you go in the spring, summer, and autumn, do not miss these great spots!
Take a Horse-drawn Carriage/or Dog Sledding
In Polish, they call the horse-drawn/dog-sledding Kulig. You should try it once, especially in winter, when thick snow. Must prepare glasses and thick towels, it will be very cold. Usually, you can easily book a tour to your favorite places from the hotel. But I combined with hiking in the Koscielisko valley. I climbed up and down by myself by horse-drawn carriage.
There are two reasons why you should try a horse-drawn carriage tour in Poland:
- Horse-drawn/dog-sledding in Poland are the traditional means of transport here, due to thick snowfall. When I was there, snow only fell for just 4 hours, but it was already thick to the calf!
- Value for money: If you ride a horse-drawn carriage in Rome, it’s 200 euros per trip! While in Krakow, it costs about 50 euros per round for about 30 minutes. But in Tatra, it’s only about 30 euros (150zl for a four-seat car), it takes nearly an hour from halfway down the mountain to the foot of the mountain. You can also see the beautiful nature along the way, so cheap and value for money. Right?!
One of the most famous streets in the beautiful Polish town of Zakopane is Krupowki. This is also a place that you should visit when you have the opportunity to explore the Tatra Mountains. Here, visitors can find many unique restaurants, cafes and souvenir shops.
Here, visitors also can leisurely sit, relax, admire the scenery and enjoy a cup of tea and coffee at the shops located on this street. In addition, there are many shops specializing in selling souvenirs, so you can conveniently stop by to buy small and beautiful items to give to your friends and relatives after the trip.
Lake Morskie Oko
Ranked in the list of the most famous and beautiful lakes around the world for its magnificent, spectacular beauty. This place that has been included in the list of the most beautiful lakes in the world by The Wall Street Journal. The path leading to Morskie Oko is also very easy to go, whether you travel on foot or by horse-drawn carriage.
It’s also one of the most beautiful valleys in Poland. To reach this valley, you can take a bus. Traveling from Zakopane to Kuznice by bus will be more appropriate. This is also the starting point to lead you to the Dolina Gąsienicowa valley.
Tatras Poland guie: What to eat in Tatra Poland?
In addition to the dishes that are found in every region in Poland such as dumpling, sausage and cabbage soups, stewed pig’s feet (leg)… Of course, Polish food is great.
You should try the following specialties when traveling to Tatra:
- Smoked cheese (Oscypek): This is an extremely greasy sheep cheese, soft with wood fragrance. Smoked cheese stalls are everywhere, especially outside of thermal water parks. Tatra is home to many sheep farms, so the cheese here is both fresh and fragrant. You can even come to a specific farm to visit and try.
- Mulled wine (Spiced wine): This is a classic drink in cold countries. But I have a traditional Polish mulled wine recipe for anyone who wants to try making it yourself. There’s nothing better than sipping mulled wine when it’s cold.
- Bryndzové Halušky: Also known as potato noodles with sheep cheese. This is a traditional dish of… Slovakia. Very greasy, with crunchy bacon and very fragrant chive on top, not greasy at all. After eating, there is nothing better than drinking Czech-style Kofola soda.
There are plenty of restaurants to choose from in Zakopane, just check out Tripadvisor. The reviews are all pretty believable. However, a tip for you is to eat cheaply in Poland in general as well as in Tatra in particular, just come to milk-bars. Milkbars in Poland are subsidized by the state, similar to a cafeteria for workers. Milkbar prices are usually quite low, but most of the food is quite tasty and filling. Décor style in milkbars is also not “cheap” at all, often quite like coffee shops.
On the Slovak side, Goral (highland restaurant) restaurants serve goat cheese and energizing soups. If you are unfamiliar with these dishes, you can still find many pizzerias, fast food joints or bakeries in Poprad and the towns of the Smokovec region.
Where to stay in Tatras Mountains Poland?
In Tatra, there are many picturesque small villages, like Bialka near Bialka thermal water park, or Bukowina also near Bukowina thermal water park. Tatra in winter is extremely famous for its thermal water parks as suggested above. It’s also famous for its skiing resorts but I don’t know how to ski, so I skipped, just went to hot springs.
I chose the MTP hostel in Kościelisko in Zakopane. I know this hostel from an Uber driver in Krakow, when he drove, he happily told me. Later, he even booked a room for me. The price is very soft, you can refer here for more information. This place is extremely lovely, brings a family atmosphere, clean and comfortable, the room is just like in the picture. During my stay, looking at the white snow garden in the morning, It was completely magical. If you do not understand Polish, you can go to booking.com to book, or directly email to the hotel, in the Kontakt section. When I rented it, it was 20 euros for a double room for 2 people a night. It’s so cheap in high season. Note: check-in after 10pm will add 10 zl of service.
This village is halfway up the mountain, not in the center of Zakopane town. From the station, you have to take a bus called CZARNY DUNAJEC at platform 6, right where the buses from Krakow drop off passengers. Going to Nedzowka station, then get off (about 18 minutes by car, price 4 zl, remember to prepare coins). There is no name of the station, so before you go, you should check Google map first to know where to get off. Or show the stop name to the driver. They don’t speak English but give them its name they will let you know when come. Or just base the time, because there are very few stops there. After getting off the bus, that hostel is across the street, go deep inside, walk for 1, 2 minutes to arrive. There is a signboard outside.
Tip: If you come to Poland and stay for a long time, you should buy a domestic sim card from Orange to use. 30 zl for 15gb of data, yes, very cheap compared to Europe. Moreover, free wifi is also everywhere. On the bus, tram sometimes available, take advantage.
Bonus tip: This hotel has a sauna in the garden. If you don’t want to buy more sauna sevice at water parks, you can use it here. 30zl for 1 hour of use. Inform the hotel owner an hour before use so he can heat the room. I think 30zl is quite cheap. Sauna at the water parks is also very cure, but everyone has to be naked. They don’t mind but maybe we’re shy.
Below we recommend more best budget, mid-range and upscale hotels with good ratings and reviews you can refer to.
- Aries Hotel & Spa Zakopane (Agoda.com or Booking.com)
- Mercure Kasprowy Zakopane (Agoda.com or Booking.com)
- Bambi Zakopane (Agoda.com or Booking.com)
- Hotel Aquarion (Agoda.com or Booking.com)
- Grand Hotel Stamary (Agoda.com or Booking.com)
- Belvedere Hotel (Agoda.com or Booking.com)
Check out more top and best hotels in Zakopane Poland on Agoda.com or Booking.com.
Don’t worry about where to eat or drink. Just walk about 10, 15 minutes to the town of Koscielisko at the foot of the Koscielisko valley with many restaurants, bars, and restaurants, a bit more expensive. But you can rest assured, the prices are reasonable and the food is delectable too. Or spend an extra 4zl for a bus ride to go to Zakopane town, also various choices.
Of course, there are many other options, from budget to upscale, but I will only talk about my own experience and guarantee. I usually prefer to book through Hostelworld or Booking. Airbnb is also a great choice. Ah, but I also suggest that you consider the options at hotels with hot water pools. That’s very convenient.
Tatra guide: Getting around Tatras Poland
This is a national park of Poland (Tatra National Park Poland), so there is not much public transport. It’s almost nonexistent. The vehicles are only mini vans, with a piece of paper with the name on which direction to go (for example, going to the MTB hostel, take the bus named Czarny Dunajec and then get off at the middle of the road). If you rent room in another place, remember to ask the hotel how to get there. Or book the hotel’s pick-up service, not much more expensive. Like MTB hostel, the pick up service is 10zl.
What should you be prepared when coming here?
In addition to the basic must-have items when traveling, I suggest that you bring:
- Hiking shoes, or comfortable athletic shoes. You should choose a waterproof type because the mountain weather is unusually easy. Or you can buy a waterproof spray in shoe shops. Back then, I climbed the mountain in the snow using a spray bottle, I hiked for 8 hours without being soaked at all, very reassuring. The valleys here are not particularly difficult and tiring to climb or hike like mount Triglav in Slovenia or Dolomites in Italy. If you don’t have hiking shoes, you can still hike. But it depends on your health.
- Windbreaker: Old reason, unpredictable mountain weather. I used Uniqlo windbreaker, especially light and compact, good wind resistance but warm. When I climbed mount Rila in Bulgaria, it was 10 degrees Celsius and but I only needed it.
- Energy candy bars and dry food, sweets: For precaution and quick energy recharge when needed.
- Cash: In the mountains, you can’t swipe your card everywhere. Like taking the bus, you always have to use coins, or if you want to use the hostel’s sauna service, you also have to pay in cash.
- Paper raincoat.
Happy traveling! Read more about Poland travel guide here.