Snow capped mountains on a budget: The Tatras

We’ve all seen those stunning photos of the Swiss alps, the perfectly lush green grass, vibrant white snow and log cabin dreams come true, but we also known that Switzerland is probably not the place where you want to be on a budget.

I never expected to find such an incredible mountain range in Poland, excuse the ignorance, but the old google search of ‘hikes in Poland’ (and a rather adventure inclined Polish housemate) lead me to the well overdue mountain escape I’d been dreaming of.

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The Tatras stand at 2665 ft.and have a land area of 175 squared km in Poland (a further 785 square km can be found in the neighbouring Slovakia). That meaning, you can spend a day or month here hiking different trails dependant on your mountain love, and skill…

I only had 2 nights to spend in the main township of Zakapone, which is very touristy, these mountains are famous amongst the Poles. I personally liked Zakapone, the main village lives out every ski village stereotype you could dream up (Polish style). You can also find a great range of outdoor stores, those big name ones you are familiar with, if you come unprepared for the chilly temperatures. If you are one of those tourists that hates tourists there are plenty of surrounding towns to chose from; DIY research.

Back to Zakapone, it is very easy to get around, with hiking trails leading out all throughout the town and a great mini bus service to get you about the trails. The main attraction here is Morskie Oko, an aqua blue gem of a lake with the purest of waters (no swimming allowed) nestled into the surrounding mountain range (dusted just enough with snow to be the perfect mix of stunning alpine and not below freezing for my viewing/walking pleasure). Being so stunning it’s a pretty straight forward ‘hike’ to this beauty. Just a gentle (if not incredibly wet and cold) 2 hour incline along a forest surrounded bitumen pedestrian pathway. If you’re feeling less energetic, or slightly romantic you can grab an old school horse and cart that will do the hard work for you, and for only about $14 AUD it’s probably worth it if walking isn’t your thing.

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When you get to the lake you’ll be greeted by (probably a whole bunch of others here to enjoy the beauty), a damn good view and a gorgeous (read rustic) log cabbing serving up cheap, hearty Polish food and bloody good hot chocolates (to thaw out them bones).

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After this brief reprieve head around lake Morskie Oko, along the very well laid stone paths, be amazed by the clarity and aqua vibrance of the water and climb up to Czarny Staw; another stunning lake nestled in to the imposing cliff like backdrop and with the jaw dropping view over Morskie Oko and the forest beyond. This place is mouth-dropingly majestic. Even when the sky is not so blue, the mist and clouds race up through the jagged mountain peaks in a mesmerising dance.

Then begin the decent back down to where you started (remember those horse and carts okay), as a round trip it’s roughly 6 hours.

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If you are more adventurous and skilled you can hike up Mt. Rysy’s peak, Poland’s highest peak at 2,503 m, or walk along crest of the range, where Poland will form one side, the other Slovakia. If you don’t mind the dark there is a day hike incorporating a 1 hour scramble through a completely dark cave, I’ll leave that one to you.

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