The Tatras are a mountain range situated right on the border of Slovakia and Poland. My first stop in the Tatras was Ždiar, a small village in northern Slovakia. Ždiar is quite isolated and it took me several hours to get there from Košice. To get to Ždiar, you need to take a train from Košice to Poprad and then a bus from Poprad to Ždiar.
Views from the Ginger Monkey Hostel veranda in Ždiar. A night in a dorm costs 13 € and includes breakfast.
About an hour’s drive from Ždiar, you can find Spiš Castle, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Emil, who was staying at the same hostel, offered to drive a group of us to take a look at the ruins of the castle built in the 12th century.
Entry to the massive castle grounds is usually 5 €, but the first Sunday of each month is free!
The castle kitchen rules: ”Avoid arguing or whispering. Always keep a tablecloth clean. Don’t wipe your nose into it and never spit. Take a pinch of salt with a knife only and never sleep. Sing little or avoid doing it. Be careful and don’t ever have a greasy knife licked. Don’t scratch your body too much and don’t pick your teeth. And if you still eat something you better not drink.”
There are many hikes starting from Ždiar. One of the most popular ones is the hike to Široké sedlo, 1825,5 metres above sea level.
The vegetation at the bottom of the mountains is very green.
The entire hike is approximately 16 km long.
September is a great month to visit the Tatras, since the colours are just starting to change from green to red.
Views from Široké sedlo, 1825,5 metres above sea level.
The hike to the top is steep and exhausting at times. But with a view like this, it’s definitely worth it in the end.
Gorgeous views of the mountains before it started pouring down rain and hail…
A beautiful lake with some of the clearest water I’ve seen.
At 1550 metres, there is a cosy restaurant, with views onto this lake. A warming broccoli soup will set you back 3 €.
After a couple of days in Ždiar, I crossed the border to Poland. My first stop was Zakopane at the foot of the Tatra Mountains.
I stayed in Hostel Stara Polana. Not only is the hostel building extremely cute, but the staff wash your clothes for free! One night in an eight bed dorm costs 32,80 złoty (approximately 8 €).
I ate a delicious dinner at Dobra Kasza Nasza on the main street, Krupówki. This restaurant is probably the best (or only) choice for vegetarians.
Zakopane is a highly touristy city, but it’s a good starting point for exploring the Tatras.
One of the most popular day trips from Zakopane, is to visit Morskie Oko, a huge lake in the Tatra mountains. I went to Morskie Oko with three other people from my hostel. To get to Morskie Oko, you need to catch a bus (10 złoty) from Zakopane to the national park where the lake is located. Regular entry to the national park is 5 złoty and reduced entry 2,50 złoty.
The views on the way to the lake are nice, but the path is a boring concrete road.
After a couple hours of walking, the track goes into the forest.
The air is fresh here and the path is more interesting after walking on concrete for such a long time.
Unfortunately it was extremely foggy, so we missed out on what has been called one of the most beautiful lakes in Europe.
At least this couple got some magical wedding photos.
From Morskie Oko, you can hike even higher to another, smaller lake, Czarny Staw pod Rysami. We took the steep hike to see more fog…
Back at Morskie Oko, the fog had cleared a bit and we got to witness the lake’s deep turquoise colour.
Not only did Hostel Stara Polana have an amazing atmosphere, I also met some really fun people there!