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Zakopane - The Hidden Gem of Poland!

Updated: Oct 3

Here is what happened after How I Accidentally reached Kraków?”

After 5 days in Kraków I had the same question in my mind, now where to?

Unplanned traveling can bring you beautiful surprises and that’s how Zakopane happened to me.

It was our last night in “Express hostel” in Kraków. Me, Tina, and Marie (2 girls from France) went out for a dinner; I was still undecided where I want to go next and those girls were trying to book a hostel in Zakopane but unfortunately all hostels in Zakopane were sold out for the whole week. Chris (the Italian guy) asked me to join his group and go to Budapest; I have already been to Budapest, so I wanted to travel to a new place. It was around 10 pm, when I decided to go Zakopane next day. As usual, I just wanted to travel without any bookings but Tina and Marie were afraid to do so, what if we don’t find any accommodation there. So we started making calls to the hostels as nothing was available on the websites. Since Zakopane was calling us, so here we got lucky again, in next 30 minutes we made calls to several hostels and finally found a hostel where they had exactly 3 beds beds left. I made a reservation on call and next day afternoon we took a train from Krakow to Zakopane. I have never even heard the name of this place and now I was going there. It’s a different kind of feeling when you are just traveling with the flow, sudden change in routes, meeting new people on the way, getting lost on the way and ending up exploring something unexpected. I just love it!

How to Reach Zakopane?

Zakopane is a town in the extreme south of Poland, at the base of the Tatra Mountains. The town is located only 2 hours driving from Kraków. You can either book a private car or travel by bus or train from Kraków Główny Station. Train usually takes 2.5 hours so bus or car would be a faster option. You can buy the Bus or Train ticket from the Kraków Główny Station or you can book it online booking in advance through these links:

For Train: PKP Intercity

For Bus: Download the FlixBus App

How I celebrated a Bachelor Party in the Train: Kraków to Zakopane

Tina and Marie had the Eurail Pass so they didn’t need any bookings. I bought my ticket at the train station and we took an afternoon train and then I met her, Veronika. Crazy, fun loving, polish girl. She was going to meet her sister in Zakopane. Veronika came back to Poland after 265 days of travel around the world. She had such a friendly smile and positive vibes, it took us only a minute to introduce ourselves and we started sharing our travel stories. The train started and after a few minutes I saw a few guys making a lot of noise outside our cabin and they were drunk. Veronika heard them talking that they were going to Zakopane to celebrate one of those guy’s bachelor party. I went out of my cabin and asked a guy for a lighter and that’s it, I was at their party now :D We were drinking until we arrived to Zakopane and then they asked me to join their party later in the evening too. Well, I didn’t plan to, but while I was out for dinner, one of those guys saw me on the street and once again I was at their party. Counting this day and my time in Kraków, I was sure about one thing, polish people drink like crazy and yeah they are very welcoming.

What to Expect in Zakopane?

Zakopane is a fairy town. This town is popular for beautiful nature, winter sports, and summer time mountain climbing and hiking. I am nature lover and I love mountains. When Tina and Marie told me about this place, I immediately said yes to myself, but I was a bit a reluctant to ask them if I could join them as we had just met. Anyways, we reached Zakopane and checked into our hostel and went out for dinner. Zakopane was charming in the night too, beautiful wooden chalets, the sound of a river flowing in between the town, trees all across, horse carriages on the streets, bridge full of love padlocks, live music, parks, lively shopping streets, cafes, bars, clubs, breathtaking lakes, majestic Tatra Mountains, food trucks, delicious local food, and so many restaurants with different international cuisines. Everything was so adorable, looked as if taken straight out of a fairytale. A perfect place to encourage your adventure streak in the mountains or just rejuvenate yourself in calmness of nature.

Interested to travel? Keep on reading!

Where to Stay in Zakopane?

There is a wide variety of accommodation options in Zakopane and nearby. It doesn’t matter if you feel like pampering yourself in a lavish hotel or if you’re on a budget and just want to sleep in an affordable, cosy guesthouse – you can be sure that you will find something suitable for your needs.

Find your accommodation close to Krupówki Street which is also close to Zakopane Main Bus Station/Railway Station, as you’ll be staying at a walkable distance from the center and would be easy to access the market, cafes and specially in the night if you want to go for clubbing or just enjoy a walk in the center. Nobody guided us for this, we just go lucky to find a hostel exactly in the center.

6 hours trek in the Tatra Mountains

Zakopane was crowded, there were families, groups of friends, and many professional hikers, not only the foreign tourists but also people from other corners of Poland to enjoy the summer trek in majestic Tatra Mountains. We got the hiking trails map from our hostel by paying 6 euros, took a bus from the main bus station to Tatra National Park, the base camp for all hiking trails (about 30 minutes drive). There are 275 km of marked tourist trails located in the Tatra National Park, with various degrees of difficulty from very easy to extremely difficult ones, fitted with safety equipment, such as chains, iron steps or rope ladders. The various colour (yellow, red, blue, green and black), that trails are marked with, don't indicate the degree of difficulty, but they help to identify the individual route in the open area and of course if you have the trail map it can be very useful.

You must start this day early morning around 7:30 or 08:00 am, because the hiking trails are really long and can be tiring if you are not physically fit. All the hiking trails leads you to a beautiful spot/peaks/lakes. The most famous ones are:

  • Morskie Oko (1395 meters above the sea level) - recognized as one of the most beautiful lakes in the world by The Wall Street Journal.

  • Dolina Pięciu Stawów, Czarny Staw, Wodogrzmoty Mickiewicza, Rysy (1,583- 2,499 metres AMSL).

  • Kasprowy Wierch (1,987 meters AMSL) - In the winter, this is definitely the best place for snowboarding and skiing in Zakopane!

  • Giewont (1,895 meters AMSL)

Along the way you will see picturesque waterfalls, river, beautiful valleys, lovely forest and meadows and it’s a great adventure if you enjoy hiking.

Tatra National Park | Hiking Trail

Packing Tips: Zakopane and Hiking Trip in Tatra Mountains

  1. Warm Clothes

  2. Water bottle

  3. Comfortable footwear to walk around the town

  4. Umbrella

  5. Camera (with extra batteries; you’ll get tired of clicking pictures)

  6. Hiking shoes

  7. Rucksack with waterproof cover

  8. Waterproof jacket and waterproof over-trouser (weather can change rapidly so be prepared for anything)

  9. A warm hat and gloves are useful additions

  10. Pack some light snacks for the hiking day

  11. Flashlight (would be required for hiking after sunset)

  12. Sunglasses and sun cream are useful if you come in summers

  13. Waterproof camps (if you are planning camping in the mountains)

  14. Other essentials if you are planning camping

  15. Good sense of adventure – absolutely essential!

Other Famous Spots to Visit and Activities to do

  1. Gubałówka - take a funicular ride to Gubałówka hill and enjoy the mesmerizing view of Zakopane. You may also find some musical events happening at the top of the hill and this experience was unique because of the spectacular view.

  2. Krupówki Street - the main pedestrian zone of Zakopane, full of shops, cafes, bars and restaurants.

  3. Terma Bania in Białka Tatrzańska and Terma Bukovina in Bukowina- Take a dip in the natural thermal pool. The best time to go there is winter, sitting in heated water with a view of Tatra Mountains feels is so incredible feeling.

  4. Aquapark Zakopane

  5. ATV Quad bike adventure in the forest.

  6. River Kayaking

  7. Horse Riding

Delicacies to try in Zakopane

  • Traditional Polish Soups

  • Traditional Polish Dumplings (pierogi)

  • Smoked Cheese made from sheep milk

  • Soplica - one of the oldest brands of Polish pure and flavoured vodka

I never recommend restaurants because I am not a foodie and I believe everybody has their own taste buds, so opinions can vary.

Budget for the Trip

You must plan minimum 3 days trip to Zakopane as you won’t feel like leaving this place if you planned only a day or two.

Hotel - Price may vary

Hostel - $10 per night

Average Meal - $5 per meal

Beer - $2.5 per pint

Wine - $2.5 per glass

Cup of Coffee - $2.5

You can also hire car on rent it, if you like driving

Watch out my adventurous journey from Lviv to Zakopane:

Wanna Stretch your Trip?

Slovakia is only 13 miles from Zakopane. This makes it an easy gateway to explore another country and hike on the slovakian side of the Tatra Mountains.

Trust me, it wasn’t easy to leave this place, but I am a traveller and I had to keep moving! Next Stop was Prague!

Hope this blog was useful to you and if you feel like traveling to Zakopane now, please leave a comment. Thanks.

Old Town Prague

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