Tatra mountains are known as 'Polish Alps', and the Town of Zakopane, Poland's Ultimate Mountain Resort.
Alps-like Tatra Mountains, or the Tatras (Polish Tatry), is the highest range of the Carpathian Mountains and lie along Poland’s border with Slovakia. Two hour’s drive from Krakow one finds stunning views and pristine nature as well as the best skiing in winter and hiking, rock climbing, cave exploration, cycling, paragliding, etc. through the rest of the year. As tourism has been the area’s main business for over a century, visitors are thoroughly catered to. Annually some three million of them turn up in the Polish alps, mostly getting along well with wildlife preservation which is paramount seeing that twin national parks cover the whole of the Tatras both sides of the national border.
Tatry Mountains' Features
The Tatra Mountains rise to the greatest elevation in the entire northern half of Europe, with the 2655-meters (8711 ft) Gerlachovsky Stit in Slovakia and the 2499-meters (8198ft) Rysy peak in Poland. The range is 53 km long and takes up 785 sq km, the bulk on the Slovak territory. Three distinct parts make up the Tatra Mountains – the High Tatras, the Western Tatras, and the Bielskie Tatras. The High Tatras, with their dramatic vistas, steep peaks, sharp rocks, deep glens, and crystal lakes are the most attractive. At the same time the Western Tatras’ lower slopes clad in pine forests offer wider horizons, diverse wildlife, and somewhat less demanding tracks.
Visitors to the Tatras largely head for Zakopane, the biggest mountain resort in Europe north of the Alps. The town of 28,000 receives about three million holiday-makers a year. Due to its central location on the verge of both the High Tatras and the Western Tatras, and its accessibility, Zakopane is the best gateway to the whole area. The town also abounds in varied hotels, inns, and boarding-houses, restaurants and cafes, shops and art galleries, sport facilities and nightclubs. Zakopane is a major center of winter sports of all sorts.
Noteworthy is the region’s old wooden architecture. The townsfolk take pride in their own brand of the traditional Polish highlander culture - Poland’s highlanders are as emblematic to other Poles as Scotland’s to the British, albeit more colorful by far.
The Morskie Oko (Sea Eye) lake with its more elevated twin, the Czarny Staw lake – for great views, hiking and climbing. The Kasprowy peak (1985 meters above sea level) – for a cable car, great views and skiing. The Koscieliska Valley - for great views, easy hiking and wildlife. Dolina Pieciu Stawow (Five Tarns Valley) - for hiking. Hala Gasienicowa – for hiking. The Rysy peak (2499m) - for the exclusive view on hundred peaks and twelve major lakes after an exciting climbing up the Polish highest mount and the most visited one in the all Tatras. The Orla Perc (Eagle Ridge) trail - for the thrills of quite demanding if amateur climbing. The Chocholowska Valley - for easy hiking, cycling, and wildlife. The Regle dales (Zakopane) - for relaxed hiking, wildlife, and accessibility.
Kasprowy Wierch cable way
Top station of the cable car near the peak of Kasprowy Wierch mountain (1985) in the Western Tatras.
The Tatras’ mountainous climate is cold due to high altitude, with much precipitation. What might produce superb ski conditions for many months–most of the year, actually, on some elevated slopes–proves unwelcome to non-skiers. Anyway, even in foothill Zakopane allow for a drop in temperature of 2C to 5C vis-a-vis lowlands, and the higher the colder. Fierce rainstorms or snowstorms all of a sudden are common, as gales.
Wildlife in the Tatry's
Besides species common also elsewhere in Poland, such as deer, roe, fox and badger, the Tatras boast rare animals–lynx, brown bear, eagle, heath-cock, and alpine chamois and marmot.
Tips for visiting
Skiing December through May, and hiking May through September.
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