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Zakopane, Poland

What to do in Zakopane?

Zakopane is THE city to visit in the mountains. It´s a Mecca for those who want to see the mountains even if they don´t necessarily want to hike one 🙂 that’s where we started our journey through the peaks. And there are a few things to do to get in the mood 🙂

  1. Eat oscypki like there is no tomorrow

Oscypek is a typical smoked cheese from the mountains. From every baca (old man from the mountain) you will hear a different story of how it was first made. We like the one where it was supposed to be always in baca’s pocket waiting for rough times to come and then when it would come baca would nibble on it a bit to ease his hunger. From that activity came the name and from the pants the pattern on the cheese. Every product needs a bit of a legend. We heard the real ones are made only from May till September.

It’s best to eat them grilled with cranberry sauce. They are just insane!!!

  1. More good food at the the U Wnuka restaurant

The first two floor house in the region built around 1850, then the first post office, shop and even a casino 🙂 now it’s “just” the oldest and probably best restaurant in Zakopane that serves insanely good food and looks sooooo charming and cosy!! It has obviously oscypki but also a lot of other local dishes like moskole (kind of potato pancakes) and a selection of local meat for example sheep meat 🙂

  1. Feel like a star next to the Zakopane sign

Maybe Hollywood’s one is bigger, maybe the one in Amsterdam is more known but just look at the one in Zakopane, it is amazing! It was built for an International Mountain Folklore Festival a few years ago and they just kept it. The sign itself is as folklore as it can get and the view just behind it on Giewont (The Sleeping Knight Mountain) is just unbelievable.

  1. Warm up your muscles going to Gubałówka mountain

There is a cable car going there but it’s cheaper and greener to just walk there. It’s not really challenging and it doesn’t take long (around an hour) and it’s nice to warm up your muscles before hitting the real deal. The walk itself is quite nice as it goes through the forest but once on the top it’s actually quite disappointing. There are a lot of shops, restaurants, cars etc. It’s more like a circus than a mountain. But there are beach chairs that you can use for free to sit around and read a book or just enjoy the view.

  1. Go on an amazing hike- Małołączniak mountain (2096 meter above sea level)

It’s a very spectacular hike which begins at Mała Łąka. It’s really easy to get here from Zakopane you just take a bus that passes through there and the bus driver will leave you by the road. It will take maybe 15 minutes and cost 4zl pp. After paying the 5 zl entrance fee to the path you are free to start the adventure. Mała Łaka Valley is actually already pretty. It will take you slowly through the forest and next to a small river and then slowly you will go up. It’s not too difficult and the views are insane. First you take the yellow path and then the blue one. The only surprise might be a few chains almost at the top of Małołączniak but once there, it will all be worth it. The views on the peaks, the air and when we were there the clouds… all spectacular. From there we took the red path to get to Kopa Kondracka which is another peak with amazing views. From there we followed the yellow path and went down up till Wielka Polana where we picnicked a bit. We just really couldn’t resist. It was such a stunning forest glade with views on the mountains and the end of the hike 😀 Yep from there it’s literally just a walk in the park to get to Mała Łąka and from there a bus to Zakopane.

It took us a day to do the hike stopping all the time to take pictures, drink water and enjoy the views. You can download our hikes for Maps.ME not to get lost (Małołączniak-Mountain-Hike and Gubałówka-Mountain-Hike) or use this life saving app (Android, IOS, Windows Phone)…. That will take you there (only in Polish unfortunately but still great to have).

Interested in more hikes in the Tatra mountains? The're right here.

Salkantay Trek, Peru

Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu

To get to Machu Picchu you can take a train, walk or do many of the offered treks. Only money is the limit. To go for the Inca trail, which is the most famous way, we would need to book in advance, sell a kidney (or two) and let an old man drag our stuff through the mountains in sandals (animals aren't allowed to carry everything). So that was not an option. By train it seemed just not that special and we wanted to make some effort before coming there. And I wanted to sleep in a tent, just because I have never done it before and I have always wanted to try:) and so we went for the Salkantay trek. It was probably the most beautiful walk in our life!!!Salkantay Trek, Peru

In our group we had three Peruvians who were not really interesed in meeting us, so the usual here in Peru, but at least they didn't want to sell us anything either. Luckily we also had a really lovely Australian-New Zealand couple who were just amazing companions in sweat, rain and pain. First day we walked through an old Inca canal to reach our first campsite in Soraypampa with an amazing view on snow peaks and glaciers around. I was really excited to sleep in the spot, Jandirk was a bit less excited just because he doesn't like tents in general and he definitely likes them even less in freezing weather. Shivering but he survived.
On the next day we reached the Salkantay pass just next to the sacred Inca mountain- Salkantay. It was just amazing, the feeling of accomplishment and satisfacion and the surrounding of snow and glaciers. Just unforgettable. And then going down the climate changed drastically. Out of the sudden we were in the "cloud forrest" full of butterflies, wild plants, orchids and.... bugs. I was absolutely sure that our 40% DEET would make me invisible but there were really many bugs who managed to get me, on their (I hope) suicidal mission.
Through the next days I felt just like in a botanic garden, bananas, passion fruit, avocados, coffee beans everywhere!!! And plenty of suicidal bugs too. On the 4th day we reached the Llactapata ruins on a mountain.Llactapata, Salkantay Trek, Peru There are many theories of what it was, maybe an astronomical observatory or ceremonial spot. But what we know for sure now is that it has an amazing view on Machu Picchu! Absolutely surreal!!! From there we convinced David and Janelle (our fellow couple) to walk with us to Aguas Calientes, the village just next to Machu Picchu. It seemed more of a fair way to get there walking then by train, and way cheaper too. Since walking is (still) for free (rumors say it won't next year) the road is not really a road just stones next to the railroad. But it was still a really nice hike with amazing companions. We reached the village sweaty, dirty but excited. After a cold shower in Aguas Calientes (the irony of the name "Hot waters") we passed out to wake up at 3.50 a.m. to start lining up for the first bus (after a 5 day walk around 2000 steps in an hour didn't sound like an appealing way to get to Machu Picchu). At 5.30 the first bus took off with us on board. It was a free roller coaster ride that made us all wide awake. Up and down, through a rocky, bumpy road and with the speed of light we got there within 20 min. And we lined again this time in front of the entrance.Machu Picchu, Peru
Honestly I didn't expect much of Machu Picchu. I thought it would be crowded and overpromoted. So I was pleasantly suprised when we entered. Covered in early morning fog it looked mystical and just ingenious. Perfect rock constructions closed between Machu Picchu mountain and Wayna Picchu mountain. Agricultural terraces, temples, houses, storage places everything looked out of this world. And even lamas on the terraces looked just in place. Even the crowds were not that overwhelming as the people just spread everywhere and around 1-2 p.m. most of them disappeared. Probably their bladders were not as strong as ours. There are no toilets on the site because it's sacred (I'm sure the Incas didn't pee or poo at all there) so you need to get out which is quite a long walk and then re-enter and you are only allowed to do it twice. Also you can't eat there so that might be another reason for the early evacuation of the majority. We decided to put our needs on hold which was not as much of a challenge mostly because we were sweating all of our liquids away. Especially while climbing more than 2000 steps to get to the top of the Machu Picchu mountain....
From the top of it we saw how dense the vegetation covering the surrounding mountains is and it wasn't such a shock anymore that the Spaniards haven't found it but we were still shocked that in 1911 when Bingham discovered the site there were few families living there and even farming....
After an exhausting but great day we packed ourselves on the train and then bus back to Cusco. Me already with ideas for new treks, Jandirk in hope to say goodbye to sleeping in tents... At least for a while:)