With over 24,000km of marked trails through wild forests and lonely mountains, Poland is a destination made for hikers. The country’s temperate climate, dipping to 3°C in the winter and an average of 20°C in the summer, means that you can make plans in whichever season you prefer and get out exploring on foot. Here are our top three hikes for you to check out when visiting this magnificent country...
One of the gentler walks available in the Western Tatras, the Strazyska Valley is easily one of the most stunning areas of Poland. The walk itself is around 10 kilometres, mostly on flat-pathed terrain, making it manageable for all age groups regardless of hiking experience.
However, the journey is far from dull. The route will take you through the deep forests below the Tatra Mountains, and following babbling brooks through a valley cut straight from a Brothers Grimm fairytale. The final stretch will lead you to a spectacular view of the great Giewont (the mountain-landmark of the Zakopane region).
If you get hungry on the way you can take a break at the Mountain Restaurant, found near the forest clearing. For those who want a bit more adventure you can continue from the valley track to climb to the pinnacle of Sarnia Sakla or to the Giewont Mountain - but be warned, these are challenging climbs and you will need to be equipped for the weather.
- The trail is located on the outskirts of Zakopane and can be accessed via the Szlak pieszy czerwony road.
- For those using a car to access the walk, there's a nearby parking lot 0.8km prior to the trail.
- You can access the trail all year round. However, if you are planning to come in the winter months wear grippy footwear as the path can get slippery underfoot.
- The path on average takes around two hours to walk, there and back.
Tatra National Park
In the same region as the Strazyska Valley is the spectacular Tatra National Park. Home to the Polish side of the Tatra Mountain Range and countless hikes (275km of marked trails to be exact), the national park is located right on the border of Poland and Slovenia. These 20 hectares of national park are home to an estimated 10,000 plant and animal species and have been UNESCO listed for the impressive biodiversity. Rare mammals such as lynxes, marmots and chamois are common sights, as are the many vibrant wildflowers and buzzing insect life.
The park specifies that all visitors must either leave the park come nightfall or take shelter in one of the eight available hostels. If you plan to stay overnight be sure to book your bed in advance as it can get busy.
With so many options available, picking which hikes to do can be tough. There are a great range of trails from easy through to very challenging. All the trails are well-marked and indicate in advance if any section has had to be closed due to conditions. Regardless of the type of walking you choose to do, be sure to pack good quality all weather clothing as the mountain environment can change quickly. For those who want a bit more guidance, private walking tours are available and can be booked online.
- Tatra Park can be accessed via the local town of Zakopane. There are also specific bus routes from major cities like Warsaw.
- Entry to the Tatra National Park costs 5 PLN (approximately $1.89 AUD) and around 2,50 PLN for children.
- Before setting out make sure to add the Tatra Mountain Rescue Team emergency number to your phone: +48 601 100 300.
- Visitors must keep to the marked trails at all times to protect the biodiversity of the area.
- Dogs are allowed in the Chocholowska Valley and on the Droga pod Reglami but must not be in any other areas of the park.
Babia Gora National Park
Though the vast country has many varied landscapes, it is the mountains that rightfully attract the most attention and are the dominating theme of the spectacular Babis Gora National Park. Another UNESCO site on account of its impressive biodiversity, the Babis Gora Park makes up part of the Beskids Mountain Range which covers a total of 600km.
The park offers a great number of trails - most of which can be completed by hikers of all abilities - but by far the best experience is walking the highest peak in the park. It is appropriately called the Babis Gora or Witches' Mountain.
There are a few different track options for ascending Babis Gore. On the way up you can take either the red trail or the yellow trail and once at the summit of Babis Gore you can enjoy views of the surrounding mountains and the valley you have just scaled.
The red trail is the easiest trail available. It is not technically difficult, but it can be demanding as it is continuously going uphill. The hike will take around two and a half hours to reach the top, longer if you need more breaks.
The yellow trail is for very experienced hikers only. It's a one-way trail and depending on the time of year, you may require crampons.
To get down from the peak you can either return on the same trail or take the path from the peak to Markowe Szczawiny Mountain Hut. This offers a welcome break from the cold winds and some refreshment. A blue trail track then takes a very gentle route through the forest to return to Krowiarki Pass.
- The hike begins and ends at Krowiarki Pass, located on the 957 road just outside of Zubrzyca Górna. It's best to get there via car as public transport to the area is limited.
- The whole loop will take five to six hours depending on your uphill speed. If you plan to take a break at the hut it may take up to eight hours.
- Don't be too proud to take breaks - this is a tough hike and you will need to take care on the climb.
- The weather on Babis Gore is famously changeable and it can be dangerous if you are not prepared. Make sure to pack waterproof, warm clothing that will protect you if the temperature drops. Plenty of water and snacks are also advised.
If you're ready to get out your hiking boots and take on some of the finest walks Poland has to offer, get in touch with your local Travellers Choice agent today.