- Tatra & Carpathian Mountains
A good place to base yourself to explore the region is the town of Zakopane, about 250 miles south of Warsaw and just 65 miles from Krakow. It is a lively town of 25,000 plus inhabitants and has a good selection of accommodation and restaurants.
About a 2 hour drive south from Krakow, Zakopane developed as a popular resort and holiday centre back in the second half of the19th century with the discovery of the glacial lake Morskie Oko and the charming Koscieliska Valley. In addition to stunning views and pristine nature, there is a long ski season in winter and hiking, rock climbing, cave exploration, cycling, paragliding throughout the rest of the year. Zakopane is host to a variety of hotels, inns, restaurants, cafes, shops and art galleries, sport facilities and nightclubs. Many guests to Zakopane limit their visit to the town’s main streets and its interesting old wooden houses, typical for the region in the 19th century. Don’t miss the Wladyslaw Hasior Gallery, established in an old wine cellar of the Warszawianka Hotel. This is one of the most interesting author's galleries in Poland, and a place where theatre shows and exhibitions are organised.
Zakopane is also a centre of Gorale culture. The Gorale are the Polish highlanders and the local inhabitants of the Podhale/Tatra region. They are well known in Poland for their music, traditional clothing, wood-carving and wooden houses. Try visiting Bulwary Slowackiego 39 where the Szymanski family houses an interesting ethnographical collection. The collection includes examples of Gorale everyday objects such as clothes, folk art, musical instruments, etc.
For nature and health enthusiasts, the area around Zakopane is highly recommended for scenic walks and hikes at all levels and abilities. For those who prefer not to hike, the walking paths around Zakopane are very popular including the Droga pod Reglami or "Under the Forest Walk" which is a relaxing unmarked path at the ground altitude of about 940m. Beginning your walk at the Great Ski Jump and ending at the entrance to the Strazyska Valley will take 1.5 - 2 hours.
Other options for walks include Giewont (1694m). This is the mountain you can see from Zakopane with the cross on top. It is so popular with the locals that the last section has one path for going up and another for coming down.
At 3km south of Zakopane, the very popular cable car will take you up Kasprovy Wierch from Kuznice. During the high season try hiking up Kasprowy (altitude 1987m) which by foot should take about 2.5 hours.
Not to be taken lightly and a good walk from either the Polish or Slovakian side is Rysy. The summit of Rysy touches the frontier between the two countries and is the highest peak in Poland. At 2499 metres one should prepare properly with good equipment and by reading the weather reports. The climb can be accomplished in a day, or you could stay at a mountain hut on the way up.
HOW TO GET THERE
Direct flights to Krakow are available on British Airways from London Gatwick airport. Krakow is also served by most major European airlines from their city hubs.
UK budget airlines Easyjet and Ryanair both fly direct London to Krakow, with Easyjet operating from London Luton and Ryanair from London Stansted. Ryanair also flies to Krakow from Dublin, Glasgow and Liverpool. Easyjet has additional flights from Bristol, Dortmund and Liverpool. Skyeurope.com flies to Krakow from Birmingham, Dublin, Edinburgh, London and Manchester. It also has a daily flight leaving from many European hubs including Amsterdam, Brussels, Milan, Paris Orly and Rome.
Transferring from Krakow south to Zakopane can be done either by car (approximately 2 hours driving time) or train (approximate 5 hours).