Zakopane (Southern Poland)
A bustling resort surrounded by the Tatras
Zakopane is by far the most popular mountain town in Poland. It teems with visitors regardless of the season and has a strong tourist vibe. Therefore, authenticity can be difficult to discern but it’s there hidden in the 19th-century architecture, folk culture and traditional local food. To escape the crowds and enjoy the real Zakopane, it’s best to choose less-frequented trails. That’s where the breathtaking beauty of the Tatra Mountains shows.
Along with the stunning scenery, Zakopane is also renowned for its folklore. The International Festival of Highland Folklore attracts thousands of tourists every summer and provides a unique opportunity to see regional artists from Poland and many other countries. It is usually accompanied by parades, workshops and craft fairs, which lets visitors experience even more of the local flavour.
Things to do & see in Zakopane
Kasprowy is the iconic Polish mountain popular with skiers. Have a ride to the top in the cable car or go on a hike from Kasprowy to the Czerwone Wierchy. Impressive vistas guaranteed.
This is a favourite spot for tourists who want to enjoy panoramic views of the Tatras without going on a strenuous hike. Simply take the funicular from the centre of Zakopane to get to the top.
The Chocholowska Valley
With extensive carpets of flowering crocuses, this valley is a must-see in spring. The beautiful purple colour contrasts with the snow-capped mountains creating some of the most spectacular views in the Tatras.
Popular Walks & Hikes
To see the largest lake in the Tatras, take a walk from Palenica Bialczanska. This 6-mile (10-km) trail twists its way through beautiful wooded valleys and takes up to 3 hrs. Allow for about 2.5 hrs to return.
The Koscieliska Valley
For an easy yet scenic walk choose the Koscieliska Valley. Crowded as it is in high season, it’s well worth a visit because of the interesting terrain features. Rocky caves along the way wait for those who’d like to add some adventure to their walk.
The Strazyska Valley
Another fairly easy hike in The Tatra National Park. A towering waterfall located near the end of the trail is the main attraction here. For unbeatable views of Zakopane and Giewont continue the walk and climb Sarnia Skala (might be pretty strenuous though).
Rysy and Giewont
To reach the top of Rysy (the highest mountain in Poland), take proper walking boots and be prepared for a difficult and steep climb. Giewont is considered to be a much easier hike but still the trail gets steep and narrow near the top, plus it’s extremely crowded in summer.
Restaurants serving traditional food are called karczmy. They’re made of wood and usually have a log fire. Paradoxically, finding a good one in Zakopane can be quite a challenge. Some of these restaurants simply have nothing to do with the authentic local cuisine. When you come across a real karczma, make sure you order some of the local specialities, e.g. oscypek (smoked sheep’s milk cheese), kwasnica (sour cabbage soup) or moskole (potato pancakes).
Aqua Park Zakopane
With indoor and outdoor pools, saunas and whirpool baths this place is a must after a long hike or a day spent on the ski slopes.
Staying in Zakopane, you’re only a one-hour drive from one of the most iconic attractions in the Polish mountains: rafting down the Dunajec River. The rafts are steered by professional raftsmen so relax and enjoy the scenery.
Terma Bukovina, Terma Bialka and Termy Szaflary. These three modern thermal pools are situated only half an hour’s drive from Zakopane (please note they are in different locations).