Zakopane is the largest mountain region in Poland and as we got closer to the area driving from the north, the hills started to rise and little pretty colourful villages sprayed across the forested hillsides. We arrived fairly late in the day and the town itself is a very touristy, typical sky resort. Its busy year round with the obvious skiing season in the winter months and with all the great hiking opportunities in the summer months. We had a quick look around the town and after struggling with parking, we decided to drive a few kms out of town to find somewhere to spend the night. Our spot was right in the nature surrounded by trees, next to a pretty river, there are various walks worth doing right from where we parked the van. A really nice spot to explore the town and surrounding area and great to spend the night.
Coordinates to this great free parkup; 49.291401 19.851601
We spent a couple of days in the area, exploring the town and although ridiculously touristy, its still nice to wonder around and has a very nice relaxed vibe to it. There is a huge pedestrianised market area with stools selling all sorts of souvenirs and a crazy amount of stools selling the famous sheep and cow cheese that they grill for you and serve with fruity jam. At the end of the Market, there is a funicular station taking you up the long steep hill behind the town.
We left the market and took a stroll along the main street across the road, Its a long pedestrianised street with restaurants, bars and shops, all the way down on both sides, bustling with tourists and a fair amount of street performers too. We stopped for a beer in a typical ski resort looking bar with an open fire and log benches before sampling some local snacks from a couple of takeaway eateries.
Before heading back to the van, we decided to walk up the hill behind the town to hopefully get nice views looking back. We choose to walk up rather than getting the few minute up funicular. it was a very hot, steep climb as the sun was beating down on us and we were glad to get to the top, although a little disappointed as we expected perhaps a relaxed area to enjoy the view over the town and surrounding mountains but were instead greeted by just another area so touristy with the same stools and busy vibe as down in the town. There was a view of the surrounds but unfortunately it didn’t live up to our expectations and wasn’t really worth the hard hot walk up, at least we worked off that beer and snacks!
There are so many different long hikes you can do in the Zakapne national park, but as always, we were limited with how long we could stay in the area. We decided to pick one of the main hikes ‘The Morskie Oko’, this hike takes you up to two stunning lakes and on to the base of the summit climb of Poland’s highest peak. We decided that we would see how the hike goes as to weather we would have time to climb the peak. From the carpark its a long 8km walk along an asphalt road through the forest that is fairly boring as there is no views, the road was tarmacked to condensate for the amount of tourists and there are also horse and carts going back and forth all day, we didn’t like to see this and we read that the horses are not treated well and sometimes collapse from exhaustion in the warmest months. So if you visit here, please don’t support this and take the hike instead. After the uneventful 8km walk, you reach the beautiful lake. We knew upon arrival at the lake there would be alot of tourists this time of year and we were right and there is also a very busy bar/restaurant. The lake itself is stunning and you can soon escape all of the people by walking away from the crowded side. There’s a lovely stoned walkway all around the lake and we soon managed to escape the crowds and enjoy the beauty of the pristine lake which is in a crater surrounded by mountains, the views are mesmerising from all angles and its name translates to; Eye of the sea.
After reaching the far side of the lake you then can continue to the next lake, which is said to be as beautiful and alot quieter as its quite a long climb further up the mountain. We zigzagged up with stunning views behind us back down the valley. On reaching the next lake, this one called the black lake, we again were blown away. This smaller but equally as lush lake is beautiful, so calm and didn’t look real, there wasn’t a single ripple and the reflections are absolutely insane, the backdrop is fabulous, looming mountains and just below Poland’s highest peak. The lake is like a mirror and its difficult to tell where the mountain ends and the lake begins, just beautiful. We hung around for a while taking it all in and as the weather had changed and become abit cloudy, we thought attempting the 5 hour summit walk from this point probably wasn’t a great idea, there was a high chance of no view once reaching the peak because of the cloud cover and the fact we didn’t want to be walking back in the dark with no torches, not to mention that this mountain range is home to grizzly bears, so we decided to turn back and made our way down the mountain. We walked the opposite side of the first lake on our way back to the van for a different view. By the time we got back to the van, we had already been out for around 8 hours and it was starting to get dark, the weather wasn’t great either and we were really glad we didn’t do the peak after all.