Tatra Mountain fun all year long only 2 hours drive from Krakow
National Parks for mountain biking and paragliding. Raft the Dunajec River or enjoy the Festival of Highlanders’ Folklore in summer.
Well-known as the winter capital of Poland, Zakopane, about a 2-hour drive fromKrakow, is one of the busiest tourist areas in the country, due mainly to its location, its magnificent scenery and wide range of activities throughout the summer and winter.
Zakopane is a large town in the Tatra Mountains, where Poles have gone for decades for rest and recuperation. It has fresh, clean, country air and during winter hosts up to 3 million winter sports enthusiasts annually.
In summer it is a pleasure to stroll among some of the most beautiful scenery in Poland, take in its lakes, caves and mountain creeks, go hiking, trekking, mountain climbing or get really close to nature by camping out. The more adventurous can take in paragliding, mountain biking or ballooning above some of the national parklands, or kayak or raft down the Dunajec River, which borders with Slovakia.
It is also possible to bathe in the thermal waters of Zakopane’s outdoor swimming pool, visit the picturesque towns and villages close by (Zakopane has its own architectural style set by Stanislaw Witkiewicz – beautiful wooden homes and buildings, unique to the area) and then soak up the panoramic views of the Tatra Mountains and the National Parks.
The main street of Zakopane (Krupowki Street) is pedestrianized and boasts many fine restauracjas, and karczmas (restaurants and taverns) built in the Zakopane style, with traditional furnishings, serving local specialities. A meal in any of them is an experience of Poland at its best – excellent, traditional home-cooked food, served with local beers to the sounds of highlander music! What a treat! (Of course MacDonald’s and other chains have also made their way here, for those who can’t live without them).
While in the area you must sample the local tipple, Piwo grzone z korzeniami (mulled beer with spices and syrup) and Wino grzone (mulled wine) – both are simply delicious! Miod pitny (hot mead) is also served in all the taverns (karczmas) while the zurek and borsch (soups) also top the list for comfort food, and their dumplings are certainly worth trying.
Having a local Polish person with you as you tour the area makes the experience much more interesting, as you learn about their customs and try out their language, food and drink.
But if you’re searching for a little more calm and stillness, consider a therapeutic drive through the Pieniny National Park, not too far from Zakopane. A great way to absorb the beauty of the area is to take a leisurely raft-trip down the Dunajec River bordering both Poland and Slovakia. You could possibly take a little detour into Slovakia if you spoke nicely to your local rafters before heading back to base!
Another healthy option is a visit to Krynica, now the most famous Health Resort in Poland, known as ‘The Pearl of Polish Spas’. The fresh, clear air and the town’s sanatoriums have long made this an ideal location for rest and recuperation throughout the year, while in wintertime,
Krynica has also become an important ski resort for winter sports enthusiasts, particularly in the last 10 years since a gondola was built on Jaworzyna Krynicka overlooking the town. In summer, many enjoy mountain biking nearby, while the less active can soak up the restorative therapies available in the growing number of hotel spas locating in the area.