On a cool spring day, below the nice and cozy blue sky, I set out mountaineering alongside jagged peaks, by means of forests of tall spruce and Scots pine timber. Alongside gushing rivers I walked, previous waterfalls so intense that I couldn’t hear my very own jumbled ideas. A wild fox ran previous me on the path, stopped just some ft away and turned to face me earlier than darting off; my coronary heart skipped just a few beats as I believed: rattling, I’m mountaineering alone within the Excessive Tatras of Slovakia!
I’ve been fortunate sufficient to hike by means of some unbelievable landscapes in Europe. The alpine Berchtesgaden Nationwide Park of Germany, the Tyrol area of Austria and the gorgeous Julian Alps of Slovenia. However Slovakia felt totally different. Assume rugged magnificence, solitude on the paths with solely wild creatures to maintain me firm, locals who converse not a phrase of English, the lingering traces of a communist previous, the surreal feeling of being someplace far off the overwhelmed path.
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Why go to the Excessive Tatras of Slovakia?
Dramatic mountain landscapes, wildflower-filled meadows, fields of blooming yellow rapeseed flowers, jagged peaks typically clad in mist, pristine rivers and waterfalls, wooded mountaineering trails – want I say extra? I fell in love with the Excessive Tatras – designated the “Tatra Nationwide Park” – not only for their surreal magnificence, but in addition as a result of they’re good to hike solo and independently.
Fact be advised, scripting this submit makes me really feel fairly conflicted. On the one hand, I fear that its pristine magnificence may now not stay if phrase bought round. However on the opposite, I feel the one strategy to fight overtourism is to unfold out, journey seeking our personal paradise (for consider me, it exists) and within the quest, realise what we’ve bought to lose if we don’t journey responsibly.
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Tatra Mountains mountaineering: Greatest brief mountaineering trails in Slovakia
Though mountaineering trails within the Tatra Mountains are well-marked, I like to recommend getting a mountaineering map in Poprad, the principle city, and determining which hikes you intend to do. The parents on the vacationer info workplace within the central space of Poprad converse nice English and are very useful!
Hriebienok to Zamkovskeho Chata / Teryho Chata
Whereas Stary Smokovec might be the preferred vacationer settlement within the Excessive Tatras, the true fantastic thing about the mountains begins after Hriebienok – accessible by means of a one-hour uphill hike on a paved street or by the Tatry Movement Practice, which prices 11 Euros for a return journey, runs each half hour, has a glass roof and climbs up the steep observe in a couple of minutes.
The one-hour mountaineering path from Hriebienok to Zamkovskeho Chata follows a wooded path with gorgeous views, picket bridges, a crystal clear river and a few gushing waterfalls. A wild fox crossed me on this mountaineering path, and I beloved taking just a little detour to sit back at by the river. Chata is the Slovakian phrase for hut, and at Zamkovskeho Chata, I used to be delighted to seek out heat vegan lentil soup on a cold afternoon. Two hours additional, the path leads as much as the gorgeous Teryho Chata with extra rugged Tatra surroundings on the way in which.
Hriebienok to Slavkovska vhyliadka
My Airbnb host advisable the longer and steeper path from Hriebienok to Slavkovska Vhyliadka, which takes about three hours, and results in what he believes is among the most stunning elements of the valley.
Strbske Pleso to Pleso Hincovo
Whereas the stroll across the glacial lake Strbske Pleso feels extra city than alpine, there are some spectacular mountaineering trails as much as different glacial lakes like the most important within the Slovakian Excessive Tatras – Pleso Hincovo. This one takes about three hours a technique and climbs up alongside stunning forests and rugged mountain terrain; cease for snacks / drinks on the mountain hut Pri Popradskom Plese.
Slovak Paradise Nationwide Park
The attractive Slovak Paradise Nationwide Park – with alpine forests, waterfalls and rivers – is simply half an hour from Poprad Tatry, although poorly related by public transport. In line with the vacationer info workplace within the metropolis centre, just one bus plies there at 10:30 am and again at 4:23 pm, which is how I bought there. Taxis price 12-15€ a technique.
Sucha Bela is the preferred hike, however on a wet day, I didn’t suppose doing it by myself was a good suggestion, contemplating it has a vertical gorge to be climbed with ladders, sheer drops into rivers / waterfalls and a one-way path so there’s no turning again. I’d have beloved some firm to try this adventurous path. As a substitute I picked the much less adventurous blue path by means of a quiet previous forest.
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The place to remain within the Excessive Tatras of Slovakia
Given how little is written on-line about good lodging within the Excessive Tatras in Slovakia, I had a tricky time deciding whether or not I ought to keep in Poprad, decide a mountain lodging within the Tatras, splurge on a Excessive Tatras lodge or discover a Tatra mountain hut once I bought there. I lastly ended up staying at a family-run cabin on the outskirts of Poprad, in a small village with rapeseed fields and a shocking panorama of the Excessive Tatras.
Poprad is a mountain metropolis with a small inexperienced centre and stellar views of the Excessive Tatras, but in addition has fashionable malls, trend shops, two vegan-friendly cafes and even a co-working house! Poprad prepare station provides easy accessibility to the mountain trails, with electrical trains departing each hour from morning to nighttime.
The place to remain in Poprad Tatry:
- Pension Barborka: This was my first decide in Poprad, however sadly offered out for my last-minute journey. Set in a historic constructing, this charming pension (the European equal of a guesthouse) is constructed primarily with wooden and stone, and provides a conventional Slovakian expertise; 30€ per evening.
- “Misplaced in view” Airbnb: I ended up staying on this unbiased rustic cabin, hosted by a pleasant Slovakian household, in just a little village within the suburbs of Poprad. I had entry to a kitchenette, fire, radio, previous bicycle and gorgeous mountain vistas. However the bus connectivity was fairly terrible, Google Maps didn’t work nicely and the entire expertise was fairly DIY. I’d suggest it for seasoned travellers who’re completely happy to be on their very own; 50€ per evening.
- Lodge AquaCity Seasons: The one eco-luxury lodging I got here throughout within the Excessive Tatras, a part of town’s well-known AquaCity advanced, powered completely by geothermal water and photo voltaic vitality. I met locals who stated they journey all the way in which to Poprad from round Slovenia simply to pamper themselves with a keep right here, which additionally permits entry to the geothermal swimming pools and different wellness zones; 108€ per evening.
- House centrum n8: A attractive self-catering lodging; fairly a steal at 55€ for the whole residence.
- Lodge 63: A cool, small, hip boutique lodge simply off town centre of Poprad; 40€ per evening.
Nova Lesna is a small village, simply 2 stops from Poprad Tatry on the way in which to Stary Smokovec – the place most of the common hikes within the Excessive Tatras start. Not like Stary Smokovec and different mountain settlements which have been particularly arrange for vacationers, Nova Lesna is an actual village with a neighborhood inhabitants, a village centre, an previous church, meadows with wildflowers in spring and majestic views on the Excessive Tatras mountains.
I solely spent my final afternoon exploring Nova Lesna, and left feeling like that is the village I’d keep in if I ever got here again. It feels nicely off the overwhelmed path, and though there are few choices to remain and eat, it is just a brief trip to Poprad and additional up into the mountains.
The place to remain in Nova Lesna:
- Penzion Tri Klasy: I walked previous this charming wooden and stone family-run guesthouse and was fairly smitten; 56€ per evening.
- Villa Tatranit: A self-catering lodging with pleasant hosts, a well-equipped kitchnette and bicycles for rent; 100€ per evening.
- Vila Zvonika: An extremely fashionable, luxurious, design villa in case you’re within the temper to splurge on a mountain hideout; 130€ per evening.
The furthest cease (and one of the vital common) on the Tatra Electrical Railway line is Strbske Pleso – a glacial lake surrounded by a paved, wooded strolling path, with a view of the mountains past. This can be a good place to begin for hikes to additional glacial lakes.
The place to remain in Strbske Pleso:
- House Home Oliver: A fantastically designed and well-equipped self-catering residence, rented as a part of a small family-run setup; 99€ per evening.
- Grand Lodge Kempinski Excessive Tatras: A sizzling favourite amongst locals and guests, Kempinski at Strbske Pleso is among the many most luxurious Tatra Mountains lodging, set in conventional buildings with gorgeous views over the glacial lake and Excessive Tatras; 235€ per evening.
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Different Excessive Tatras lodging
- Bluebell: A comfortable, price range homestay positioned within the gorgeous village of Mengusovce, with panoramic views of the Excessive Tatras; 27€ per evening.
- Mountain Lodge Bilikova Chata: If you wish to be away from all of it but have creature consolation on a price range within the Slovakian mountains, this Excessive Tatras lodge perhaps for you. It’s positioned close to Hriebienok, the start line for some superb hikes close to Stary Smokovec – accessible solely by mountaineering or the Tatry Movement prepare; 30€ per evening.
- Villa Pod Gerlachom: This distinctive Tatra hut lodging is a standalone picket chalet, surrounded by the mountains and forests. Preferrred in case you’re travelling in a much bigger group; 141€ per evening.
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Bratislava to the Excessive Tatras by public transport
The Excessive Tatra mountains lengthen from Slovakia to Poland. From what I’ve heard, the Slovakian facet is much less developed and relative much less visited- and that’s the place I spent all my time.
Whereas it’s doable to lease a automobile and drive, I desire public transport for its comfort, worth for cash and eco-friendliness. The small mountain metropolis of Poprad Tatry (casually known as Poprad) is the gateway from Bratislava to the Tatra mountains – and it takes about Four hours to get there by prepare.
I used to be fairly stunned to note that the prepare costs from Bratislava to Poprad within the Excessive Tatras diversified considerably on totally different web sites; I discovered one of the best value on Slovakrail (14-17€ a technique). The bus is barely cheaper, however takes 9-11 hours for a similar distance! The prepare journey from Bratislava to the Excessive Tatras (Poprad) is kind of spectacular, crossing rivers, mountains and meadows alongside the size of Slovakia.
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Public transport within the Excessive Tatras
From Poprad, the mountain settlements and mountaineering trails are accessible by the Tatra Electrical Railways – single observe, slender gauge electrical trains that run each hour. Of those settlements, Stary Smokovec and Strbske Pleso are the preferred; the one-way journey upto Stary Smokovec prices 1.5€ and additional to Strbske Pleso 2€; an all day go is offered for 4€.
Tickets may be purchased on the prepare stations in Poprad, Stary Smokovec and Strbske Pleso, and should be validated within the machine on the prepare. Nobody ever checked mine, however the fantastic for not having one if there’s a shock examine is 50€!
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Solo journey within the Excessive Tatras of Slovakia: Is it secure?
Despite the fact that few individuals converse English, I felt very secure residing, mountaineering, consuming and chilling alone within the Excessive Tatras. The mountaineering trails are well-marked and straightforward to comply with; the locals don’t smile typically however do exit of their method to assist (hi there Balkans!); and I felt no risk biking and hanging out all on my own, by gurgling streams and yellow fields, with nobody round for miles, within the little villages between Poprad and Nova Lesna.
A smartass taxi driver did overcharge me by a few Euros in Poprad, once I missed the uncommon bus, however I learnt my lesson to be extra cautious with the beginning price on the meter.
A wild fox crossed me just a few ft away whereas mountaineering, however appeared fairly innocent! That is additionally wild bear territory, so it’s finest to be indoors after darkish (which is submit 8:30 pm on summer time days); seek the advice of with native hosts on staying secure within the season you go to.
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Vegan meals within the Excessive Tatras, Slovakia
One of many causes I made a decision to remain on the outskirts of Poprad was to have entry to atleast some vegan meals amid the meat-obsessed Slovaks. Looking back, this isn’t obligatory for 2 causes: One, the prepare connectivity from the mountain settlements within the Excessive Tatras to Poprad is far more frequent than buses to town’s suburbs. And two, the meals in Poprad isn’t too nice so I ended up whipping fundamental fast meals with produce from the grocery store at residence anyway.
Vegan meals in Poprad
- Lahodnesti: A cool house with loads of vegan choices like smoothies, burgers, paninis, couscous and so forth. The smoothies have been yum, however the remaining a bit bland; my favourite was the Lahodnesti burger.
- VEG: Regardless of the unappetizing identify, the house is kind of cosy, with a bunch of vegan choices like wraps, curry, kombucha, and so forth. I attempted the quinoa tofu wrap which was first rate, although might do with extra taste.
Vegan meals in Stary Smokovec
- Zamkovskeho Chata: A 2 hours hike / Tatra Movement prepare + 1 hour hike from Stary Smokovec, this mountain hut provides one vegan choice on their restricted menu – a lentil soup with potato cubes, good after a hike on a cold day.
- Soul: Positioned in Stary Smokovec near the prepare station, I noticed this restaurant promoting vegetarian meals, although I didn’t have the prospect to take a look at whether or not they have been vegan or what they entailed.
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Different journey ideas for the Excessive Tatras
When to go to the Excessive Tatras of Slovakia?
The shorter hikes within the Excessive Tatras are accessible all 12 months spherical. The longer trails additional up into the mountains open solely after the snow melts, sometimes from July to October. I used to be there in finish Might 2019, which felt like spring in Slovakia, with wildflowers in bloom. The climate forecast wasn’t correct, so I needed to keep ready for each rain and robust solar on all days.
How lengthy must you keep?
I spent 5 days exploring the Tatra mountains and will have simply stayed longer. I’d suggest a minimal of three days.
Methods to journey responsibly within the Excessive Tatras?
- Don’t purchase plastic bottles. Carry a refillable bottle, drink faucet water (secure to drink throughout Slovakia) and fill actual glacial water from streams alongside the way in which.
- Use public transport. The electrical trains run steadily, are very reasonably priced and make for a singular expertise on their very own.
- Keep away from common mountaineering trails on weekends in case you can. They’re much more pleasurable with fewer individuals.
- Persist with the mountaineering trails. Don’t go loopy making an attempt to get the right selfie!
- Struggle the FOMO (worry of lacking out) and decelerate; take the time to actually expertise this unbelievable a part of the world.
Have you ever explored the Excessive Tatras of Slovakia?
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