Day trip to Tatra National Park

Driving towards the parking lot of the Tatra National Park, the majestic mount Tatra (showing in above photo) slowly magnified through a thick haze of fog and precipitation. The immensity of it and the fog created a mystical atmosphere. After a day of pampering in the Aries Hotel & Spa in nearby mountain village and ski resort Zakopane, we had planned an adventurous, more active day in the Tatra National Park. Our final destination was to be Morski Oko, a beautiful lake surrounded by snowy mountains deep into the national park at the border of Slovakia.

After paying the entrance fee (PLN 4 per person) our choice was twofold; we could either walk up to Morski Oko in approx 3 hours, or we could take a horse-drawn sleigh which would take us up in 90 minutes (one way fare is PLN 50 per person). Although the walk up isn’t difficult and accessible for all ages incl kids, our limited time span favored the sleigh ride. It was already mid day and it would get dark around 4 p.m. [continue reading after photos]

The walk or sleigh ride is magical (and deadly cold so dress the part). The trail treats you to breathtaking views of the wild mountain range and woodlands. The Tatra National Park is one of the largest parks in Poland covering an area of over 215.56 km². Combined with the Slovakian part of Tatra Mountain National Park it forms a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Be amazed by the snow covered peaks, rolling valleys, and many mountain lakes, streams, waterfalls, or hidden caves. I can only imagine how beautiful it will be in summer or autumn. We got a small preview of the autumn hues when we passed a part where the trees were still in orange tones.

Once you arrive at Morski Oko drop off point, the horses get to rest because the last part of the journey may only be accessed on foot due to avalanche risks. It takes another 1 km (30 min) gradual walk up to reach the lake. Before you start that last part you can warm up and make a pits stop at the local restaurant.

The Tatra mountains National Park is often called the “mini Alps” due to its altitude and similarities with the alps. It’s origin is quite interesting too. It is in fact a remnant of a glacier that once covered the whole area and the mountains. By its movement it left behind sharp ridges, waterfalls and glacier lakes.  The Morski Oko lake is such a glacier lake. The peaks that surround the lake rise about 1,000 meters above its surface.

And now the anti-climax. Unfortunately I didn’t make it to the lake. Disaster struck at the drop off point and I got terribly ill. I had been dodging the stomach flu for weeks while everyone around me got sick. Just my luck that it hit me exactly that day at that exact moment. I do believe that the deadly cold and my inexperience with altitudes also played a role. The 1 km walk up was too much for my then already weakened and dehydrated body. Nonetheless I did enjoy the Tatra National Park and the small adventure and I hope to return some day to finish the trail.

Distances to the Tatra National Park from:

Krakow: 116km
Zakopane: 2km

Official website for the Tatra National Park:

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2 thoughts on “Day trip to Tatra National Park

  1. Oh no Louise, such a shame you didn’t make it to see the Morski Oko. It is so beautiful at the top. Although I almost didn’t make it either and I nearly died on the way up. We decided to take the sleigh ride too and I’m actually seriously allergic to horses. I thought I’d be ok as I wasn’t planning to touch the horses and we were outside. However, the sleigh driver covered us in a huge horse hair blanket before I had a chance to protest and by then I was already covered in horse hair. We removed the blanket from me obviously but I could feel my lungs closing down and before long I could barely breathe. Luckily I had my inhaler with me but it didn’t really help. I struggled to the top desperately gasping for air and by the time we started our journey back down again I was seriously thinking about the possibility that I might need the help of an air ambulance. Thankfully I made it down ok but it did take me quite a few hours to recover from the ordeal. Apart from my near death experience it was a great trip up the mountain lol. Hopefully you can go back one day and get all the way up to the top! It was worth it!

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