Zakopane, Poland: What To Do In The Tatras

Zakopane, Poland

Nestled in the Tatra Mountains is Zakopane, Poland. The Polish mountain town serves as a great base to this stretch of the Carpathian Mountains. It is an outdoor wonderland that provides visitors access to snow-capped peaks, waterfalls, alpine forests, mountain lakes, wildlife, quaint towns, and the meadow filled valleys. 

The Carpathian Mountains are the second highest mountain range in Europe behind the Alps. Zakopane the mountains offer visitors a wide range of sports such as mountain biking, hiking, skiing, and even paragliding. The mountain town makes for a great base Zakopane is the about as far south as Poland gets, bordering the Tatra National Park, and offers its visitors great access to the surrounding area.

Zakopane, Poland

Why Visit Zakopane?

As time has passed Zakopane, Poland has only become fonder in our memories. It was one of earliest destinations as bloggers, and we had truly fantastic time despite the fact the weather was lack luster at times during our visit. There are a handful of destinations that really stick out in our memory and one of them has to be Zakopane. Mountains surround the quaint town that is filled with charm and culture. For us Krakow was cool, but everyone goes to Krakow. So, instead head out of Krakow to Zakopane for a unique experience. While, it may be very popular for the Polish it is relatively unheard for the rest of the world.

on top of the world in Zakopane

Things To Do In Zakopane

Hike the Tatra Mountains

Zakopane makes for a great base for hiking in the Polish mountains. The town is right next to the Tatra National Park and trails are abundant. Most trails are day long hikes, allowing for a full day hike up to a peak, only to later return to town and relax in your well-equipped guesthouse. Or if you’re feeling your muscles could use a little R&R you could head to a wonderful Zakopane Spa to relax.

Explore Alpine lakes

There is no shortage of mountain lakes around Zakopane. Similar to the mountain peaks there are some great hikes out to see the areas pristine lakes. The most famous being Lake Morskie Oko, “Eye of the Sea”, which requires a bus ride to the base of the trail. It’s about a two-hour walk from the drop off point, each way. The payoff? Probably one of the most beautiful lakes in the world. We suggest packing lunch in your favorite daypack and having lunch along the lake.

Eat Awesome Cheese!

Or “Oscypek” is a delicious smoked sheep’s milk cheese. It is a local staple and you will find stands selling the stuff all over the town of Zakopane and various other mountain lodges throughout the region. The recipe is strictly followed and dates back to the 14th century. You can only find the stuff in the region since it’s made in small batches and is hard to export given regulations against unpasteurized sheep’s milk, but damn is it good. You can also find dishes of the cheese pan fried and served with cranberries, I highly recommend this if you’re a fan of cheese, or food for that matter.

Cheese Zakopane Poland

Get Cozy With Mulled Wine

Hot Mulled wine or “grzaniec galicyjski” is prevalent throughout the mountains when the temperatures drop it’s perfect to warm you on those cool fall evenings, or after a day on the slopes. It’s also cheap with prices ranging from 3zl to 8zl ($1-$2). Although it is not limited to the region it exhibits the warm Polish spirit you can find in the bars. Many restaurants in town are open late; people eat and drink late into the evening after a long day in the mountains. Maybe a few shots of that polish Vodka? Try some “Zubrowka” vodka, that’s the one with a buffalo on it. We may not be vodka experts, but they are here.

Hot Beer Zakopane Poland

Climb Rysy Mountain

The highest peak in Poland sits on the border with Slovakia. The trail up the mountain is difficult and can be steep at points, but it does not require any technical climbing and can be done by most outdoor enthusiasts. On a clear day, the peak offers the best views encompassing the Tatras; it’s said to offer views to over 100 peaks in the surrounding area. So cross your fingers and hope you’ll catch it on a clear day, although, any day is exhilarating on the mountain.

Find Some Wildlife

Asides from the wildlife you can find throughout the rest of Poland. Zakopane and the Tatras are home to a number of rare wildlife. Animals such as brown bears, lynx, mountain chamois, marmots, and eagles are all some wildlife you may see while hiking through the mountains. We may have missed a bear ourselves, but crossed paths with a couple locals on a trail warning us of a bear up ahead, we walked on tentatively. Here you can experience the wild and find truly remote places to relax and cut away from the crowded cities of Europe.

Hiking Zakopane Poland

Podhale Culture

The architecture is a famous facet of the town. It is a great place to embrace the spirit of Podhale. Stanislaw Witkiewicz is known as the creator of the style having transformed the town in the late 1800’s. The use of wood, rounded windows, and embellishments is fantastic. The style is all its own. What makes it better? The most popular form of accommodation is guesthouses, with over 500 unique places to stay giving visitors a chance to stay in one of the homes themselves.

Architecture in Zakopane, Poland

Skiing and Winter Sports

The skiing in Zakopane is not quite as known as the Swiss Alps. However, it comes at a fraction of the price, with lift tickets topping out at $35 in Zakopane. Winter here may be one of the best times to visit. The town fills up with people coming to enjoy the winter activities including many families. The slopes here are family-friendly, perfect for beginners to learn the ropes. However, for the more advanced there is Krasprowy Wierch, which offers world class skiing and a 6km long descent from the top lift. It is sure to give skiers plenty of time to work their way down the mountain.

Hotels In Zakopane

  • Aries Hotel & Spa: Is a wonderful  5 star hotel for affordable pricing. They offer wonderful service with great services. The hotel itself is built in typical Zakopane style. With a great location just off of Krupowski street, if you’re looking for a proper mountain retreat Aries is a wonderful choice.  {Check rates here!}
  • Tatra Chalet: This small chalet is a wonderful choice to have a chalet experience, while getting the distinct Zakopane feel. {Check rates here!}

How To Get To Zakopane?

There are only a handful of ways to arrive in Zakopane. The bus was the easiest choice for us. The bus system in Poland is pretty reliable, cheap, and generally the best way to travel. It is possible to travel around the country by train, but considering it’s only a two-hour bus ride from Krakow to Zakopane we felt that was the best route. Majer operates the bus route and you can find the timetable here.

Plan Your Trip to Zakopane

Accommodation in Zakopane: We like to use Hotelscombined to compare various booking engines and make sure we are getting the best possible deal. To feel more at home we use Airbnb. Here is a coupon for your first stay!

Flights to Zakopane: Compare airlines, dates and prices all in one place with Skyscanner.

Car Rental in Zakopane: Auto Europe is a car rental booking service that compares all the major brands like Hertz, Avis, Alamo, and Europcar.

Travel Insurance: We never travel without travel insurance with World Nomads. We ALWAYS travel with travel insurance. Natasha is a bit of a worry wart and would rather stay safe than sorry. World Nomads offers incredible flexible and great plans!

Water: We found the water in Poland fine to drink, if you want extra assurance then we love traveling with our Lifestraw Go Waterbottle


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