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Morskie Oko, or Eye of the Sea, is the largest lake in the Tatra mountains. It is also one of the most popular destinations for hikers and casual walkers, as the lake is easily reachable on foot or a horse-drawn cart. However, if you wish to have a real mountain-hiking experience, you must extend this to be a Morskie Oko and Rysy hike in the Tatra mountains.
Rysy is the highest summit in the Tatra mountains and it can be reached both from Polish and Slovakian sides. The mountain is intimidating, but reaching its peak doesn’t require any special equipment, only good hiking boots would be needed.
In this post, a hike from the Polish side is described, as that gives several options on how to extend or shorten it depending on the skill and fitness level.
How to get there
If you are going to Morskie Oko from the Polish side, the chances are your accommodation is somewhere in Zakopane or Krakow. There are several options on how to get to the hike starting point – going by car, public transportation, or a guided tour.
From Zakopane to Morskie Oko by car
As this is a very popular destination, be prepared that the parking might be full in a high season of the summer months. So you might want to be there quite early to get a spot. Or if you plan a shorter version of the hike only to the Morskie Oko, without hiking further to the Rysy, then a late arrival could be a good option. Then the early-birds would already be down from the mountains and would free up some parking spaces.
From Zakopane to Morskie Oko by public transportation
There are regular minibusses going to Morskie Oko from the bus stop near the train station. It takes around 40 minutes to get to Morskie Oko if there are no traffic jams.
The returning buses are quite frequent as well in the high season, just make sure to be down from the mountain no later than around 18:30. If the weather is rainy and there aren’t many tourists then you should consider an earlier return, as the busses will be less frequent.
Options how to hike Morskie Oko and Rysy
There are several trails in the area to choose from. You can easily discover them by using this handy app. You can choose the distance and difficulty according to the available time and your level of fitness.
Only Morskie Oko
The easiest and most popular route is to just go to the Morskie Oko lake. It takes around 2 hours to reach the lake on foot. The road is mundane and gets interesting only in the last couple hundred meters.
The road is wide, asphalted, and very crowded. Each time when I’ve been there it just seems that these are a dozen school busses worth of children starting to go to the Morskie Oko at the same time as me.
There are horse carriages as well. Beware of the horses as they might bite you if they think that you are too close to them.
One option to go up or down almost all the way is to use horses. However, several concerns have been raised about animal well-being and mistreatment, so I’d recommend just go on foot.
When you reach the lake, there will be Schronisko PTTK Morskie Oko Hut (New Hut). There is a busy restaurant with traditional Polish dishes and beer.
The lakeside is usually full of people. The trick is to go a little bit further around the lake. There is an easy trail all around it which takes less than an hour and offers beautiful and less crowded views.
It is prohibited to swim in the lake to protect the lake’s ecosystem, so even on hot days, no one is actually going in the crystal clear water.
Morskie Oko and the Czarny Staw pod Rysami lake
The next level of the hike includes climbing up to Czarny Staw pod Rysami lake. There is a quite steep trail leading to it from the other side of Morskie Oko which takes around 30 minutes and some level of fitness to climb.
The reward for the climb is a view of the second lake with the majestic Rysy behind it, and a view of Morskie Oko from the top. There are even a waterfall and some stream, where the upper lake is slowly trickling down to Morskie Oko.
Morskie Oko and Rysy
If you are adventurous, then the previous hike can be continued along one side of Czarny Staw pod Rysami lake. The trail leads up to Rysy.
According to the app, it is only 3 kilometers long, but there are 920 meters of ascent. It takes around 3 hours to go up. The last part at the top is quite challenging, as there are even some chains available to provide support on the grainy and slippery trail.
When I was there the previous time with some friends, we decided to split. One guy absolutely wanted to reach Rysy and continue to climb down at the Slovakian side. The rest of us decided to go up as far as it seemed safe in just sneakers and then turn back and get to the car to go get the friend from the Slovakian side.
As we weren’t particularly well trained and I was in my fourth month of pregnancy, we climbed only so far so that we could get both lakes in a picture. After that, we returned to the car parking just in time, as it was already getting dark.
Morskie Oko and Rysy with descending in Slovakian side
Our friend, however, continued his climb to the top of Rysy. After that, he got down on the Slovakian side and ended his hike at Štrbské Pleso.
According to him, the Slovakian side of the climb seemed easier, but that’s maybe because it was a descent.
What to take with you
There are some things that you need to take with you when you go:
- Cap/scarf to protect yourself from the sun
- Hiking boots
- Drinking water, at least one liter
- Windbreaker, as it gets cold at the peak
Where to stay in Zakopane
I stayed near Zakopane, but not exactly in the center of it. Our guest house Polakówka was quite cheap, but it had several bonuses:
- It was clean and the rooms were nicely furnished;
- There was a kitchen area with a pool table for common evenings with our friends;
- It was quite close to Zakopane, but far enough that we didn’t have to wait in the usual traffic jams to get out of Zakopane if we wanted to go to Dunajec rafting or Slovakia side of the mountains;
- There was one big cat with two babies, which were the cutest!
Overall if you are traveling with friends I’d suggest taking a house like this outside of Zakopane itself (if you have a car) or checking out Airbnb’s in the city center. If you use this link, you will get around 20 Eur discount for your first stay (and I will get a few Eur as well, which is a win-win).
If you don’t have a car or aren’t comfortable organizing the hike on your own, you can always join a guided tour to Morskie Oko. Check some of the best-rated tours here:
Other day trips from Zakopane
These are some other things I recommend seeing and doing during a vacation near Zakopane: