The High Tatras are one of the most popular mountain ranges in Europe, a real natural treasure for enthusiast hikers and families with older kids. Located in the northern part of Slovakia, the tourist paradise offers sights such as the Lomnicky Peak, Lake Strbske Pleso and the Krivan Mountain.
Slovakia is known all over the world for its unique folk architecture, huge medieval castles, natural beauty, ski paradises and of course the High Tatras.
Due to its excellent infrastructure, it is easily accessible from the surrounding countries. The country is spending more and more on its natural attractions. The trails to the attractions are well maintained and well painted.
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Slovakia and the High Tatras can be excellent destinations if you are looking for an adventurous trip, but do not want to go too far from the heart of Europe.
Where are the High Tatras?
The most important city in the High Tatras is Poprad, which even has an airport. Nevertheless, the most popular form of travel is driving, as we are talking about a central European country.
High Tatras by plane
There is an airport in the historic town of Poprad, which is only a 30-minute drive from the High Tatras. The small Poprad-Tatra Airport (TAT) has regular flights all year round - mostly to London.
From the airport, you can reach the Tatra Mountains in about 25 minutes by train with the Poprad Tatras line. There are also bus services available, but these save you neither time nor money, so we recommend the train.
Tatras - High Tatras: What's the Difference?
It’s easy to mix the areas, especially if you haven’t been to the Tatras or Slovakia yet. Therefore, let's take a quick look at the most important information.
The High Tatras are part of the Tatras (Tatry) - more specifically it is located in the Eastern Tatras. The Tatra Range itself can be divided into 3 major parts:
- Liptov Mountains or Western Tatras (Západné Tatry)
- Eastern Tatras (Východné Tatry)
- High Tatras (Vysoké Tatry)
- Belianske Tatry - closed area
- Polish Tatras
There is also the Low Tatras (Nízke Tatry), but officially - geographically - it is not part of the Tatras, as it lies further south! The two mountains are separated by a valley called the Vah. In common parlance, however, the two mountain ranges often blur, so don’t be surprised if someone also calls the Low Tatras part of the Tatras.
Most tourists in the region are Czech, Polish, Romanian, Hungarian and German. Therefore, most tourist services are available in Slovak, Polish, Hungarian and German language. English is less popular but still relatively common.
The Polish Tatras are no longer part of the High Tatras, so we will only mention a few words about Zakopane. The mountain village is just as famous and sought after by those who like active recreation as Poprad. On the Polish side, Zakopane is the most important city.
Zakopane is located near the Slovak-Polish border, at the foot of the Tatra National Park. It is surrounded by a huge forest to the south and the Gubalowka mountain range to the north.
- Distance from Poprad: 67 km / 1.5 hours
Tatra National Park
The High Tatras have also been a national park since 1949, which was expanded in 1987 and is now part of the Western Tatras. The area of 738 km² in Slovak is Tatranský národný park, ie TANAP. The symbol is the chamois - which you might have already seen on many fridge magnets, badges and stickers.
Rules in the park
- It is forbidden to camp or camp anywhere in the national park.
- It is forbidden to light a fire or set up a campfire.
- It is forbidden to swim, bathe or fish in the lakes of the park.
- Only use the designated, marked hiking trails.
- Hiking is only possible during the day, between the hours after sunrise and hours before sunset.
- Do not disturb or touch the park's plants and animals.
- Littering is prohibited. Pack all your trash in your bag (Including the bag!).
- Light and noise pollution (loud music, loud noise) are prohibited.
Peaks of the High Tatras
Although the High Tatras are the smallest alpine mountain range in Europe, they are the highest in the Carpathians. Its jewel is the Kriváň mountain with a height of 2495 meters - its famous curved profile is an important symbol in Slovak art and culture.
When the Slovak people voted on which national symbol to put on the back of the euro coins, Mount Krivan finished in second place.
The highest peaks in Slovakia are in the High Tatras, and many of them are located along the Polish border. The popular Rysy is located on the border of Slovakia and Poland, and while it is the highest peak in Poland, it ranks only seventh in Slovakia.
The highest peak is the Gerlachovský peak (2655 m) and the second-highest is the Lomnicky peak, which is the most visited point in the Tatras due to the cable car system, which lifts us all the way to the top.
- Gerlachovský štít (2,655 m)
- Lomnicky Stit (2,634 m)
- Rysy (2,503 m)
- Kriváň (2,495 m)
How High are the Tatras?
None of the peaks in the High Tatras reaches three thousand meters, so you don’t have to deal with acclimatization. The higher mountains peak at around 2500 meters. Its highest point is the Gerlachovský štít (2,655 m).
A weekend in the High Tatras costs less than in Austria or Slovenia. The prices of tourist houses are affordable for many, travel by public transport is cheaper, and you can save a few euros on accommodation.
You can end the day with a good beer snack for 2.50 euros. In the mountain chalets, a hearty meal is roughly 7 to 8 euros.
Skiing in the High Tatras
There are a total of 8 ski resorts in the High Tatras. The snow transforms the High Tatras region into a spectacular winter wonderland, so you are sure to enjoy skiing and snowboarding in the stunning mountain surroundings.
When hikers pass the mountains to skiers (end of November), they can slide on the following ski slopes:
|High Tatras's ski resorts
|blue, red, black
|Zdiar - Strachan
|Ski Monokova dolina
|blue, red, black
The ski paradise season runs from the end of December until March or April. If you’re planning a ski trip in the High Tatras, the best snow is likely to be in January and February.
Best time to visit the High Tatras
Plan your trip around the activities that interest you, and take into account the weather in the High Tatras!
For hiking, you should arrange the trip between June and October. Although there are hiking trails open all year round, if you arrive between 15 June and 31 October, you will have more opportunities to discover the best of the Tatras.
Despite the crowds, feel free to organize your trip for the summer months, as there are more events and festivals.
It’s also worth noting that the higher peaks, such as Rysy, are often covered in snow even in mid-July, so there are more hiking opportunities available in late summer.
If you want to avoid the high season crowds, you will find excellent weather and fewer people if you travel in September or in the first half of October.
The formation of the Tatras
The Tatras collapsed as part of the so-called Alpine mountain formation about 100 million years ago, in the Middle Ages of the Earth. The sea, which had been rippling there for millions of years, had deposited its sediment, and beneath it, the crystalline core of the mountains, along with other significant mountains, rose high. There was a sea around it for a long time.
The Tatra Mountains formed at that time were not very similar to the mountains known today, they may have been sloping mountains with a regular shape.
Transport in the High Tatras is easy and convenient thanks to the Tatra Electronic Railway Network. It connects all mountain resorts.
Trains run frequently and stop in several villages in the area, so you can always reach the route you are looking for with a simple walk from the train station.
Although you can travel by car, parking can be difficult and very expensive (up to € 20 per day) near the most popular trails. Parking can be even more complicated if you choose a route that ends at a location other than the parking lot.
The electric train in the Tatras (one way) costs only 2 euros, but if you travel frequently, you may want to buy a weekly pass for 14 euros. If you stay here longer purchase the one-month pass, which is only 16 euros.
- Ticket: 2 euros
- Weekly pass: 14 euros
- Monthly pass: 16 euros
Accommodation in the High Tatras
In the High Tatras, you will find 3 main resort towns. You will find quality hotels in all of them, so any can be a good choice.
- Lake Štrbské pleso
- Starý Smokovec
- Tatranská Lomnica
Hotels near Strbske Pleso
Štrbské Pleso is a picturesque holiday town near the breathtaking lake of the same name. It is popular with families and has plenty of great short and long hiking opportunities. You will also find a ski resort here.
Hotels in Starý Smokovec
Starý Smokovec is another popular holiday town in the central region of the High Tatras. Here is the centre of the Tatra Electric Railway, which makes it easy to explore the whole region.
Hotels in Tatranská Lomnica
The resort town of Tatranská Lomnica is most famous for its ski resorts. The cable car up to Lomnický štít peak starts from here.
There are a number of small villages along the electric railway line that are cheaper. They are easily accessible by train:
- Poprad - Penzión Slávia Hotel
- Nová Lesná - Privát Nataša Hotel
- Stará Lesná - Hotel Penzion Deni
- Rysy Mountain Chalet
- Dolný Smokovec - Téryho chata
Hiking in the High Tatras
There are so many fantastic routes in the High Tatras that you wouldn’t even be able to try them all in one trip. In addition to world-famous ski resorts, the area boasts more than 600 km of marked hiking trails. Whether you’re looking for a short and easy challenge or a longer and harder one, there are plenty to choose from.
#1 Easy, half-day trails
Tours of just 2-3 hours are easy to complete. They are below 300 m in elevation and between 1.5 and 10 km in length. There are also beautiful panoramas and views on these trails. Examples are:
- Strbske Pleso lake hike
- Poprad Lake hike
#2 Moderate, full-day trails
There are plenty of opportunities for longer, full-day hikes. These will test both your abilities and your endurance:
- Mt Rysy hike
- Zelene Pleso lake hike
Those looking for a challenge should not miss the incredible Rysy hike. The peak on the border of Slovakia and Poland is the highest ridge in the region, where you can climb without a guide.
The Green Lake (Zelené Pleso) tour, where you can admire the most beautiful landscapes of the Tatras for more than 20 km, will test your stamina.
#3 Multi-day, hut to hut trails
- Poprad round trip in 4 days
- Tatranská Magistrála
Starting in Poprad, the tour connects the most popular destinations in the High Tatras over a period of 4 to 5 days, including the Green Lake (Zelene Pleso), the Zamkovského Chata, the Poprad Lake and the Rysy peak.
If you want to go hiking for several days, the Upper Hiking Trail is for you (Tatranská Magistrála). The approx. 60 km long route connects the eastern edges of the High Tatras with the westernmost points of the region.
You can complete the route in about 3-4 days and in the meantime the attractions such as the Zamkovszky Shelter, the Skalnate Pleso Lake, the Strbske Pleso, etc await you.
There are, of course, many climbing routes in the park. National park regulations state that climbing activities are only allowed to those who are members of a climbing club and have a membership card.
If you have this, climbing is allowed almost everywhere in the park, with a few exceptions. Contact the High Tatras National Park directly for more information.
Dangers of hiking
The safety standards of the High Tatras are similar to many other mountainous regions. Make sure you choose routes that are appropriate for your skills and fitness. Pack first aid kits and other safety items such as communication equipment, food, and water. Some things to look out for in the High Tatras:
- In the first half of the summer, watch out for the snow left on the higher routes.
- Listen to the weather forecast. Sudden hail and thunderstorms can quickly form in the mountains, even if the sun starts to get sunny and clear. Although such storms are rare, it can be very dangerous to get caught unprepared at a summit.
- Be sure to use sunscreen. Sunburn is more common at higher altitudes, in part because hikers pay less attention to sunlight due to cooler weather.
- Keep a safe distance from wildlife while hiking and never try to approach the animals.
- It is rare to see a bear or wolf in populated areas, but note that these animals live in the surrounding areas.
Are there bears in the Tatras?
It is estimated that there are 800 brown bears in Slovakia, most of which roam the mountainous areas of northern Slovakia, including the High Tatras. Bears usually avoid populated areas, but you should take reasonable precautions when hiking and keep a safe distance.
Dictionary: some useful words
Learning some Slovak terms can be fun and useful when preparing for your trip:
- pleso = lake
- štít = peak
- dolina = valley
- sedlo = saddle
- chata = mountain house, hut
- vodopád = waterfall
Now you know almost everything you need to know about the High Tatras. There is nothing left but the journey. Have a great trip and don’t forget to send us a few lines of reviews.