The High Tatra Mountains are an epic mountain range located at the border between northern Slovakia and Southern Poland. Formed of Granite the Tatra’s rise out of the Carpathian mountain range to over 2500m. Everyone we talked to as we approached Slovakia recommended the Tatra’s as a must visit location. They did not disappoint!
We had four days in the Tatra’s with a mixed bag of rain, sun, wind & some wicked lightening. The weather didn’t slow us, or any of the many other tourists down, and we managed to either hike or bike everyday we were there. With 25 peaks over 2500m there are so many trails to choose from, the ones that we stumbled upon were awesome and are worth checking out.
On our first night in the Tatra’s we randomly decided to camp next to a mountain lake called Strbske Pleso. Strbske Pleso, is located at 1350m a.s.l and about 600m above the valley floor to the south of the range. It turned out to be one of the famous tourist towns in the Tatra’s with multiple elaborate hotels and a chairlift running up the ridgeline of one of the peaks from the northern end of the lake. We camped in the public carpark for the night, the parking warden was happy for us to stay as long as we paid him 6 Euros for the following days parking.
In the morning it was teeming down, so we donned our Gore-Tex jackets and pants and set out to do a loop track to a tarn approx. 4km north of the town. Along the track there were a number of info boards which provided details on the fauna and flora of the mountain ranges; identifying the different trees, bushes, mountain cats, bears etc.
At the tarn there were a couple of restaurants and we enjoyed some hearty beef Goulash soup, while we got some respite from the rain! The restaurant workers told us that all the trails continuing on from the than were open. One of the hikes was to the top of Mt Rysy, a 2499m peak.
At the base of the hike was the sign shown below detailing how you could get a free cup of tea at the hut below the peak of Rysy if you carted up some fire pellets or some of the food in the safe at the base. Relishing the idea of a free cup of tea, and the opportunity to help the hut we loaded up and set off.
The hike to the top of Rysy goes up through the forest and emerges into alpine shrubs were it passes a couple of tarns, waterfalls and thick snowdrifts. The track then continues through rock fields were ‘lichen’ is the only living plant, over near via-ferratta terrain to arrive at the hut just below the peak.
By the time we arrived at the hut it was blowing pretty hard so we abandoned the idea of knocking the top off and enjoyed hot tea while it poured cats and dogs outside. When the rain halted we made our way back down to the van for some much deserved dinner and rest!
We awoke the following day to calm clear weather. Over breakfast we dried out our gear and then went to the Information Centre in Stary Smokovec to get a recommendation on where to hike for the day. They recommended that we hiked to Teryho Chata located up the valley next to another spectacular tarn. It was surprising how many people were on the track, we would have passed at least 200 people throughout the day.
The track to Teryho Chata winds up the valley from Stary Smokovec passing more amazing waterfalls, forests, terminal moraines and massive rock walls.
At the top we treated ourselves to a sauerkraut soup and a desert of pancakes, with chocolate, cream and maple syrup too. Supposedly a local dish so we had to try it… Pretty damn tasty!
On our final day in the Slovakian side of the of the Tatra’s we camped at the base of the ski area in Tatranska Lomnica.
Halfway through dinner we were joined by a wild, but very friendly deer. Lachie even patted him & fed him some grass.
The following morning, we rode from the carpark up to Zelene Pleso.
The track is a four wheel drive track the whole way, but is not for beginner riders! From about halfway the track is made up of large boulders that require a reasonable level of skill to navigate.
At the top we braved the icy cold waters of the tarn, and quickly headed into to get warm in the hut over a strudel and coffee.
We spent the last day on the Polish side of the Tatras in Zacopane, a busy tourist town with more shops than you could point a stick at. There is a reasonably good market here, but the throngs of tourists were tough to deal with.
The one highlight of Zacopane was the pork knuckle and kebabs that are cooked over open fires in the restaurants throughout the shopping district. Certainly worth a try!