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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.

Our Favourite Hikes in Tatra’s Chochołowska Valley

Tatra Mountains around Zakopane are definitely not off the beaten track in Poland but they are still quite extraordinary and a must see. Especially being so close to the most popular city in Poland- Kraków. Tatra Mountains are perfect to visit all year long. During the winter you can enjoy skiing, hot wine and looking at the snow peaks. On the other hand in the autumn you will see incredible colors of red, green and yellow spread all over the slopes. Some say that the best period to go to Chochołowska Valley is spring as it’s covered with purple crocuses. The worst season to go would probably be summer as it gets really crowded (july-september).

Although you can see the Chochołowska Valley in one day going from Zakopane, it’s preferable to stay there. There is a certain charm in staying in an old mountain shelter and waking up surrounded by the sheep.

The hikes 🙂

Chochołowska Valley is a great base for some incredible hikes. They are all quite easy meaning no chains or difficulties 🙂 Here are the ones we have done

  1. Trzydniowiański Wierch easy half day walk 🙂 perfect for the first day, 8 km

First we took the yellow path through a nice forest then it turned into the red path and that’s when the going-up-part started. It wasn’t steep or difficult, just a nice walk up through a forest with a sneak peek on the mountains every now and then. At some point we left the forest behind and we started walking up the mountain itself. And that’s when it got pretty spectacular. The colors were just unbelievable, the slopes were red and with patches of yellowing pine bushes and purple flowers that looked a bit like lavender. I guess a perfect hike for the autumn time. And it’s not too high, it’s only 1765 m at the top.

To go down we took the red path to the other side and then the green to get back to the Valley and the shelter. I would say it’s better to go down the same way, it’s way prettier as on the other side we didn’t see much except for bushes that surrounded us and toilet paper.

  1. Ornak Shelter and Smerczyński Lake- easy although you go up and down twice, 15.5km

With this one it’s all about the destination and not about the way. We started by going back with the green path and then turning on the yellow path that leads to the cutting tree area where people from local villages work. The sight of fallen trees and the sound of the chainsaw didn’t really make it the best mountain hike ever. At least not until in the middle of the path when we reached the Iwaniacka Pass (1459 m above sea level) after which we went down through a forest straight to the shelter.

Ornak shelter is a pretty small one but it’s charming and beautifully situated in a small valley. It serves meals, beer and other drinks so you can chill out here or go straight to the Smerczyński Lake. It’s around 20 min walk on the black path, a bit up but not too much and the lake is just breathtaking. It’s small but the reflection, the peace and the fact that there is a terrace build right onto it where you can chill out… Amazing! A must see.

  1. Grześ mountain and then Rakoń and Wałowiec- definetely the most demanding of the three although still not difficult, 10km

First you take the yellow path to get to the top of Grześ. We decided to take a shortcut and go on the blue path which was much shorter indeed… but just in meters. It was very steep so it probably took us the same amount of time or even more. It was pretty fun though to walk on the steep rocks through the forest. Once we got on the top and passed some bushes we got some amazing views on all of the mountains. Later it was very clear that we had to continue on the blue path to reach Rakoń and then Wołowiec. Afterwards we had to go back a bit and go on the green path to get back to the shelter.

The shelter… how much and how to get there?

The cheapest option is sleeping in a 14 bed-dorm, it’s 25 zl. You need to pay additionally 5zl for sheets or bring your own sleeping bag. The prices for a private vary depending if it’s low or high season. The whole list of prices (and it’s in English).

You need to book the shelter in advanced either by just calling them or sending them an email. They will ask you to pay some money in advance to secure your booking.

The shelter has a restaurant. It’s not super expensive but it’s not cheap either. You can buy your dinner for around 25 zl but it’s not a big portion so it might not be enough. They serve breakfast as well but starting from 8 am so if you want to leave early to the mountains it’s better to have your own food. They do have boiling water for freeJ it calls for noodles 🙂

To get to Chochołowska Valley you need to take a bus from Zakopane to Siwa Polana (6zl). Once there you can walk (2h, pretty flat) or take a kind of train to Huciska Glade (30min) and then walk or take a bike (wouldn’t dare on the stones but whatever floats your boat) or lazy people can take a horse carriage that will bring you straight to the shelter 🙂

ps. To enter the valley from Siwa Polana you have to pay an entry fee of 5 zl.

Life saving app 🙂

During our hikes we used “Szlaki turystyczne Małopolski” app (Android, IOS, Windows Phone) which is just great. Ok, it’s in polish but it shows you all the paths, tracks where you are, shows you elevation, nearby attractions or shelters.

Enjoy the mountains 🙂

And remember you can download the hikes for Maps.ME: Chochołowska Shelter Hike, Grześ Mountain Rakoń and Wałowiec Hike, Ornak Shelter and Smerczyński lake, Trzydniowiański Wierch Hike.