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Zakopane is a dreamy town in Southern Poland surrounded by the High Tatra mountains. It is a well-known hiking destination in summer and skiing destination in winter. In this post, several ideas are listed for great day trips from Zakopane to the nearby cities, popular hiking trails, and thermal water parks.
Morskie Oko And Rysy Hike
Morskie Oko is the largest lake in the Tatra mountains. It can be easily reached on foot as there is a wide asphalted way almost until the lake. The lake is stunning – surrounded by high mountains and crystal clear, as it’s prohibited to swim there.
The hike can be extended to reach the highest summit in the Polish Tatra mountains – Rysy. On your way, you will see one smaller lake. As you climb higher the views get even more breathtaking, as both lakes can be seen together from the top.
Lomnický štít and Poprad
Lomnický štít is one of the most visited mountains peaks in the High Tatra mountains. For the general public, it is accessible by a cable car. It rises to 2634 meters above the sea level and offers amazing views of Slovakia stretching below it. You can check the cable car timetable and prices here.
After visiting Lomnický štít you can drive down the mountains to explore Poprad. It has a nice historical center, and the Tatra mountains are visible in the background. If you wish to relax, the perfect place for that is the Aquacity water park with many pools, saunas, and different attractions.
This day trip is great for families with small children, as all points of interest are easily accessible.
Štrbské Pleso and Rysy hike
Štrbské Pleso is a popular resort on the Slovakian side of the High Tatras. There is a beautiful lake of the same name in this small town. As the resort has a large parking and is easily accessible by train from Poprad, it is a starting point for many popular hiking trails.
My recommendation is to try to reach Rysy from Štrbské Pleso. This hike is challenging, especially at the end. If you are traveling in the spring or the beginning of summer the summit might be unreachable due to snow. However, if the trail is not covered in snow, the surrounding views are quite inspiring and totally worth the climb.
Belianska cave and Bukowina Tatrzańska aquapark
Belianska cave is located in the High Tatras. It’s quite long – reaching 3,829 meters with an elevation range of 168 meters. Many tunnels and halls are accessible during a guided tour. One of the most noticeable is the Music hall due to the sounds made by water dripping in the pools. Here you can find more information about entrance fees and working hours.
There are many thermal pools near Zakopane, and one of my favorites is the Thermal Baths of Bukovina. If you like hot baths and the weather forecast promises a rainy and cold day then thermal pools are the way to spend the day. In Bukovina, both indoor and outdoor pools are filled with the soothing thermal water of 30 – 38 degrees C.
Wieliczka Salt Mine and Krakow
It takes a little bit more than two hours to get from Zakopane to Krakow, as the road is narrow, curvy, and often has a traffic jam. So when you are going to Krakow, plan to visit some nearby places as well. Wieliczka Salt Mine is a good choice, as it’s quite near Krakow.
Wieliczka Salt Mine is of the world’s oldest operating salt mines. Visitors can choose from several tour options and see underground corridors, chambers, and even a chapel.
As this is a popular tourist destination I recommend booking a ticket online. Otherwise, you might end up spending an hour waiting in the ticket queue.
Krakow is the second-largest city in Poland and one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. Its old town has been declared UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Some of the best things to do in Krakow include visiting Wawel Castle and Cathedral, exploring the Main Market Square, and visiting the Underground Krakow Historical Museum.
Kasprowy Wierch hike
Kasprowy Wierch is a beautiful peak of the High Tatras. It is quite a popular hiking destination, as Kasprowy Wierch can be reached on foot from Zakopane and doesn’t require any transfers out of the city.
One more reason for its popularity is the ease of access. There is a cable car regularly giving rides from Zakopane to the summit of the mountain and back, so everyone can get to the amazing view from it as if from the top of the world.
Demanovska Cave And Tatralandia
Demanovska Cave of Liberty is one of the biggest stalactite and stalagmite caves in Slovakia. It’s located in the Low Tatra mountains and accessible to public via long or shorter guided tours. Here you can check the entrance fees and opening hours.
Tatralandia is my favorite aquapark in the Slovakian side of the Tatra mountains. It offers a wide range of pools, slides, and other attractions. And the best part? The majestic Tatra mountains are always in the background. Even in the winter, there are a few thermal pools available outside, and it is just magical to relax in hot water with an amazing view of the mountains.
Riding a bike to Polana Chochołowska
Hiking is not the only sports activity you can enjoy in the Tatra mountains. If you wish to mix things up, go to Polana Chochołowska, which is the longest valley in the Tatra mountains. There you can rent out a bike and make the otherwise plain hike through the valley a bit more dynamic.
Here is the parking spot where you can leave your car. Then go on foot until the entrance into the National park. Near the entrance, there are a few bike rental places.
The road to Polana Chochołowska is not as even as it is to Morskie Oko, but it is also less steep. It will take some effort from unexperienced bikers to go the 10 kilometers at a slow climb, but you will be rewarded with some great views of the surrounding mountains. And don’t worry, all the effort going up will be repaid when you go down the same way.
Dunajec river rafting
Dunajec is a scenic river that forms a border between Poland and Slovakia for 17 kilometers. There are many options on both the Polish and Slovakian side to have a rafting experience on the river.
You can choose the traditional wooden rafts, or you can seek more adventure in smaller kayaks.
Overall, Dunajec might be deep in some spots and a bit tricky with its streams if you are in a boat on your own. But rafting here is more about some relaxation and enjoyment of views than an exciting adventure.
Where to stay in Zakopane
Depending on your budget there are three approaches for staying in Zakopane.
If you don’t have many restrictions then stay as close to the Krupówki pedestrian street as you can. It is the central spot for restaurants, shops, markets, and generally an attractive place to be.
If you wish to save a bit of money then staying outside of Zakopane is perfect for you. There are numerous guest houses in close proximity to the city. An advantage of staying outside of Zakopane is that you won’t have to be stuck in a traffic jam each time when you want to leave Zakopane or get into it.
And if you wish to save a lot of money and test your luck, you might try out not booking accommodation online but finding it on your arrival. The Polish people are quite entrepreneurial, and there is a room for rent in almost any house in the region. Usually, the prices are lower and you can even try to bargain if you are staying for several nights. Unfortunately, many of these offers aren’t available anywhere online or are available only in Polish sites. So this is a game of luck – to find accommodation in a high season without pre-booking.
Luckily, there are the usual online booking options available as well.
Bigger hotels and some guest houses are available in Booking.com. I’d recommend searching the smaller guest houses as they have personality and give more local experience.