“From wherever the wind blows, always like Tatras it scents”

Lake Morskie Oko with Tatras surrounding the lake - seen from Mt. Rysy

We guess everyone has their favorite places – places they like to go back to, where they feel like visiting family. The words of Jan Sztaudynger perfectly describe one of our favorite places. It’s Murzasichle – a small village close to Zakopane. When we step into pension house of Mrs. Maria, every time we’re feeling like visiting our aunt aunt. We know, that if we’d call that we want to come, we’d always have a room – even if the pension house would be full. We’ve been there both in summer, and winter. This time we’d like to describe our summer stay in Murzasichle, because Tatras look amazing in September.

Our Tatras Route

This time we did “the classics”. This doesn’t mean they’re less attractive or interesting.

Morskie Oko lake and Black Lake below Mt. Rysy

For the first route we chose Morskie Oko lake, with the red trail from Palenica Bialczanska. Price for the parking place shocked us, but turned out we didn’t other options at the moment. The whole walk, with small breaks for taking pictures, took us around 2 hours. Almost the whole route is asphalt, so sometimes one can meet a tourist in flip-flops or wedges – whatever suits them 😉 The weather that day was optimal – around 22 °C and sunny. Later on, when we were near Morskie Oko, some clouds started gathering.

We haven’t see Morskie Oko before, so we were really impressed – clean, cold, surrounded by mountains. No wonder that The Wall Street Journal recognized Morskie Oko as one of the five most beautiful lakes in the world (you can read the article here). A perfect spot for a little breakfast with beautiful view. The only drawback is that it’s always crowded. So we quickly packed up and moved on around the lake. There was significantly less tourists there. Even less was on the route that leads from Morskie Oko to the base of Mt. Rysy. The trail is fairly short – only half an hour, from the sign pointing to Black Lake below Mt. Rysy, but quite cobbled, so it’s harder for people in flip-flops. There’s no doubt that we got a bit tired (it’s quite steep road), but it was totally worth it. The top view at Morskie Oko was even better than the one down below. Sadly, we couldn’t enjoy this amazing landscape for too long, because the weather started to change from sunny to rainy. One thing is certain – if we’ll ever go to Morskie Oko again, it will be mainly to see it once more from the Black Lake below Mt. Rysy.

Dawid standing next to Czarny Staw pod Rysami, looking up to Mt. Rysy
Black Lake below Mt. Rysy (Czarny Staw pod Rysami)

Five Polish Lakes Valley

Our second route is also as well know as the first one. We started in the same place as previously – red trail from Palenica Bialczanska and after Wodogrzmoty Mickiewicza Waterfall we turned to green trail through Roztoka Valley. The route is picturesque, at the beginning fairly easy, but later on starts to be more steep. It leads partly through woods, where one can find numerous footbridges. Although forest certainly hides from mountain views, it also gives a cover, so one can take a rest from bright sun.

We’ve made a stop next to the biggest waterfall in Poland – Siklawa. It’s 65 meters tall, and its source are waters from lake Wielki Staw Polski. You can get really close to the fall itself, and of course we did it.

A view at Wielki Staw Polski with Tatras in the background
Tatras – Wielki Staw Polski

From that point, it’s really close to the Five Polish Lakes Valley. So we went around lake Wielki Staw Polski, towards lake Czarny Staw, where we collected some of the last blueberries and took a short break. After that we went along lakes Maly and Przedni Staw and started our way back. We didn’t go the the last of the five lakes – Zadni Staw – but we left it for another visit there.

Koscieliska Valley

For a summary of our hiking, on the last day we’ve chosen to have a walk in Koscieliska Valley and with trail to Hala Ornak. It’s not the hardest route there is, but it’s certainly very charming and ideal for a rest after our adventures earlier that week. After getting to the PTTK shelter in Hala Ornak, we’ve made a little break to enjoy the great surroundings – woods, a view at Blyszcz Bystra and Kominiarski Wierch. Then we went to see lake Smreczynski Staw. After taking few pictures and resting for a while – we turned back.

In Koscieliska Valley there’s many interesting places, which are worth stopping for a while to enjoy amazing landscapes, but there’s more to do. We really enjoyed sightseeing caves. The first one we visited was Mrozna Cave. To get there, one have to go on a quite demanding black trail, that starts with a wooden bridge next to wellspring Lodowe Zrodlo. The route inside the cave goes only one direction, so after getting out you have to get down with other route than you got up. Mrozna Cave is the only cave in Polish Tatras, that is completely illuminated. The temperature here is constant the whole year, at around 6 °C, and on the walls you can see drip-stones that look like rime, hence the name of the cave, that in Polish “Mrozna” means “frosty”. The cave consists of one long corridor, with almost 775 meters length, from which around 480 meters is accessible to tourists. In some places it’s pretty spacious and high, but still there are some places so low, that sometimes you have to cross them crouching. To be completely honest – we got a bit cold in that cave 😉

A view at a narrow corridor in Mrozna Cave in Tatras
Mrozna Cave

The other cave we visited was, Raptawicka Cave. To get to it, one has to go with the black trail. The last part of the trail requires grasping a steel chain while climbing almost vertical wall. After that, one has to climb down 4 meters ladder to get inside the cave. The only light that makes it inside the cave is through the 3 meter whole that is the entrance. Main chamber has the area of 400 m2, and there are several dead end corridors that start here. Just next to the entrance is one, 20-meters long corridor, that leads to very narrow gap. Supposedly through that gap one can make it to a smaller chamber, and from that other chamber to a small chapel, at the end of a corridor there. We cannot confirm it though – we didn’t try, because we didn’t have a light other than a flashlight in phone.

From Raptawicka Cave we went towards the last one we wanted to visit – Mylna Cave (you can translate the name as ‘confusing’). The name already suggests that something is wrong with it. Before getting here, we read that it’s dark, with a lot of corridors leading to different directions – all creating a real maze. We also knew,  that some corridors are are so narrow, that you have to crouch or even prone. We wanted to go inside, but three things stopped us from doing that. First of all, our flashlights in phones we’re no efficient enough, and the batteries were already almost empty. Second, in front of the entrance we met a couple, that we’ve seen in Raptawicka Cave earlier that day. After a short chit-chat, they decided to go inside. The man entered first, after him went his girlfriend, saying “keep your fingers crossed”. After a while we started hearing their voices – “Marcin, where are you?”, “Here!”, “Marcin…?”, “Magda…!”, “Where are you?!”, “I’m taking the first corridor…”. Then, the girl came out of the cave and asked us – “Did he come out?”. He didn’t, so she went inside again. Just a minute after that, Marcin came out and asks us – “Where is she?”. She just got inside, so he also went inside. “Magda…, Magda…”, “Marcin, where are you?”, “Come to the exit, let’s go back…”. And they came out one after another. They haven’t met each other inside the cave even once. Third (although after first two things, it didn’t really matter at all), few moments later, a group of tourist came out of the cave totally wet and with mud stains on their pants. So we let go sightseeing of Mylna Cave. For future references let’s say, that our flashlights weren’t good enough, and not that we chickened 😉

Tatras with a bike

We guess that not everybody knows, that in Tatras there are several cycling routes. Shortest one has 16km, and the longest – 40 km.
We had our bikes with us and decided to see how those routes look like. One day we did a “bike day” and we went from Koscielisko to Chocholowska Valley. Our route was slightly modified – we started from Zakopane, so from 25 km it has become 32 km. We guess that we also somehow missed the information that this route is more moderate than light.

Dawid trying to cross a stream on a bike in Chocholowska Valley, Tatras
Dawid trying to cross a stream on a bike in Chocholowska Valley

The beginning was rather easy and pleasant, but quickly we discovered lacks in shape (escpecially Patrycja), when cycling uphill. Planned 3 hours suddenly started to be longer than expected. From Zakopanege with an asphalt road we went to Kiry and later on towards Czarny Dunajec. Then we took a turn into Chocholowska Valley, entering the National Park area. We continued our road (still asphalt) through Siwa Polana, and made it to Huciska. We’ve made a short stop near the stream and suddenly Dawid felt like an explorer. The stream wasn’t too deep or strong, so he thought he could make it to the other side on bike. At first it was going well, but after a moment it turned out, that rocks are quite slippery and the bold attempt ended up with wet shoes and loads of laughter. When Dawid got rid of all the water from his shoes, we moved on. Sadly, in Huciska asphalt changed into a cobbled road uphill, and the trip slowly stopped being so joyful. We passed Polana Chocholowska, Nizna and Wyzna Brama Chocholowska and Wywierzysko Chocholowskie. After getting to Polana Chocholowska, it was the time to finally rest for a longer while. If it wasn’t for some motivational speeches, the “smaller half” of us would get back to Zakopane pushing bike instead of riding it 😉

A view at wooden houses on Polana Chocholowska and tourists waiting by the table
Polana Chocholowska

The road back up to Roztoki was the same.  In Roztoki, we took a turn onto a narrow path leading through forest. Every once in a while we were coming across some roots or bigger stones, and for a longer while we were pretty worried, that tires will not make it on the next obstacle. Fortunately, we passed a bridge and entered an asphalt road again. We followed it all the way to Zakopane. Despite cars and many uphill parts, it was a nice ending to what we had to survive over an hour earlier.

After that one-day bike trip we know, that cycling in Tatras is not for us.

And perhaps Slovakia?

One day the weather prognosis wasn’t very optimistic. It was expected to be raining the whole day, and perhaps some storms could show up. But it was supposed to be better on the other side of the border, in Slovakia. So we decided to go and see Slovak Paradise. Allegedly, it’s one of the most beautiful mountain ranges in Europe. There are many different trails available for tourists in that national park, where sometimes one has to go over a footbridges and ladders. We were mostly interested in a route that goes along river Hornad, where the most narrow parts are walked over small, metal shelves fixed to the rocks, several meters above the river.

A view at an empty road going through Slovakia. In the background - dark, stormy clouds over Tatras.
Road through Slovakia

When we got there, it turned out that the trail is closed. It was also raining heavily and there was a fog so dense, that we couldn’t see much in front of us. There was no possibility to hike that day, so we decided to go to one of the best water parks in Europe.

Tatralandia

Tatralandia can give loads of fun to everyone. The park is located among beautiful mountains, with a panorama of West Tatras. It’s divided into several parts, i.e. 9 covered, all-year-round pools with lots of attractions (air massage beds, water  beds, water springs), 5 summer pools, and over 20 water slides of different kinds, celtic saunas and wellness area. Additionally, there are restaurants and bars – some of them even situated in pools, so you can have a little something without getting out of the water. There are also thermal pools, which source is a mineral spring from a very deep bore with a high temperature, so you can warm up even on cold days. It supposedly has a healing effect on your locomotive organs and respiratory system 😉

A view at legs of Patrycja and Dawid, lying in a pool in water park Tatralandia in Slovakia. Water bar in the background.
Relax zone in Tatralandia

We stayed in the water almost whole day, getting from pool to pool and from slide to slide. We had fun like we were kids, that came for the first time to such a big water park. Our skin almost melted, but it would be a shame not to test all the attractions. Finally, we got hungry and after a dinner we got a bit lazy, so we took a quick nap on sunbeds. After that, we once more checked which water slide has the most fun 🙂

We spent the whole day in Tatralandia, and despite we didn’t see the Slovak Paradise, we count this day as a successful one.

 

Practical tips:

  • Almost all the parking places near the routes are paid. For example: parking under Wielka Krokiew in Zakopane costed us 5 PLN (aroung 1,5 USD), parking in Koscieliska valley 10 PLN (3 USD), and Palenica Bialczanska 20 PLN (6 USD). You can park for free on a roadside, but it’s not allowed everywhere. It’s worth checking the map for parking. Something 500 meters earlier you’ll find a spot, that will save you some money.
  • For people without cars, there’s no problem to get to most of starting points. Public transportation is well organized and there’s many stops. You can find more info on www.tatry.pl, in the pop-up menu on the left (entry “Komunikacja” – sorry, but it’s in Polish only).
  • National Park entry fee is around 5 PLN (1,5 USD) per adult (one entry) and 2,5 PLN for reduced ticket. You can also but 7-day tickets (25 PLN/7 USD per adult and 12,50 PLN/3,5 USD reduced) or for groups.
  • The caves accessible for tourists can be visited on your own or with a guide. The only cave that has entry fee for visits without a guide is Mrozna cave. Entry fee for an adult in that case is 5 PLN (1,5 USD).
  • If you want to go cycling in Tatras, there’s a plenty of places to rent it. You can find rentals in Zakopane and some surrounding towns – especially close to the recommended cycling routes. You can find the list of routes on www.tatry.pl (precisely here – again, only in Polish).
  • From Zakopane to Slovak Paradise you can get by car or buy a one-day trip from one of the local travel agencies. It takes around 2,5 hours to get there by a car. Organised trips prices are somewhere between 60 PLN to even 110 PLN per adult (16 USD to 30 USD), depending on the agency. Apart from that, there’s additional fee for National Park entry 1,5 € per adult and 0,5 € for kids up to 15 years old.
  • It’s worth having an additional insurance when going to Slovak Paradise (or generally when hiking mountains). Sometimes it’s easy enough to twist your ankle, so it’s better to have it covered.
  • There are also one-day trips to Tatralandia from Zakopane available in travel agencies, but you can get there with a car or a bus as well. Aquapark entry fee depends on the ticket type – you can find updated prices here.
  • Beware of frauds on Gubalowka hill – sometimes you can find a group of men luring tourists to play a game of 3 cups (or its variation). We’ve heard of people loosing a lot of money on that. We’ve witnessed a young man loosing 200 PLN (around 50 USD) in such game.
  • If you don’t want to get lost on trail, we recommend compact maps – we use maps “Tatry Polskie – Schematy szlakow turystycznych”, from WIK (you can see them on their site – again in Polish only).

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