High sky-reaching peaks, deep valleys, mountain meadows full of flowers, ponds, forests where beeches, firs, spruces and sycamores grow, wind blowing among rocks and alps, unique species of plants and animals, the majesty of the mountains… Nature and mystery make this part of Małopolska absolutely exceptional. The Tatra Mountains are our national symbol, an icon of beauty, a unique combination of nature and culture protected in the Tatra National Park and the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Even at the peak of the tourist season, it is a good idea to put on comfortable shoes, pack a backpack and set off on the trail at dawn. This will help us avoid crowds and – for sure – see more… Perhaps this is the time to make the dreams of youth come true, leave the everyday life behind and hike from one shelter to another, delighting in the beauty of nature and the atmosphere of authentic mountain hiking.
Not only the mountains compose the Tatra landscape; it is also the vivid folklore of Podhale, with its music, costumes, dance, fire in the eyes, and the rebellious highlander’s soul. Zakopane is also the cradle of the poetry and art of the so-called Young Poland period. You can thus follow the path of Kasprowicz, Przerwa-Tetmajer, Witkacy… to explore the town from an entirely different perspective, one of the places where an artistic bohemia once flourished.
It is not only the Tatra Mountains and Zakopane that have spurred artists’ creativity for centuries: it is also Orawa that has inspired numerous folk musicians, poets, painters and sculptors. Here, among dense forests, pastures, colourful meadows and peat bogs, you can see the remains of traditional wooden architecture in the Orawa style. The Orawa Ethnographic Park in Zubrzyca Górna, an extraordinary open-air museum, where the fragrance of wood and the local stories take you travelling back in time, is the tourist showcase and the heart of the region.
From Orawa, we are only a step away from paying a visit to the Queen of the Beskids, the Mother of Bad Weather: Babia Góra (literally Old Wives’ or Witches’ Mountain). Making it to the top at dawn at least once is well worth it: the unforgettable view will always remain in your memory.
The area is famous for its hospitality and excellent local cuisine. After a night spent in one of the numerous hostels, family guesthouses or agritourism farms, we will be strong enough to follow in the footsteps of robbers, Wallachian shepherds, foresters and craftspeople: toy makers from Stryszawa, carpenters from Zawoja, folk sculptors, painters and woodcarvers.
Podhale is also a real paradise for cyclists. You won’t be willing to stop cycling up and down the Wokół Tatr (Around the Tatra Mountains) and VeloDunajec trails, admiring the magical panoramas of the Tatra Mountains, Gorce, Babia Góra and Pieniny. The routes are available to everyone, professional cyclists and amateurs alike. Even the youngest ones can cope with them. All the more that Małopolska’s most beautiful, scenic cycle loop awaits you nearby, around Lake Czorsztyn. Two castles that once guarded the border with Hungary, reflected in the lake’s surface, beautiful mountain views, numerous places for rest and recreation, shepherds’ huts with local cheeses: all this makes up a brilliant idea for a trip for all bikers.
Further on, on the eco-hiking route, you cannot miss the gorges of the Dunajec and Białka, the emblematic peaks of the Pieniny and Gorce Mountains, which every hiker should conquer, and the many clearings with huts, where traditional sheep grazing is still practiced. Among these landscapes you will find historic towns on the Hungarian route, such as Krościenko on the Dunajec river with its historic Market Square, and Szczawnica. When wandering around Podhale, you can find places offering you a view of as many as four national parks on the horizon at the same time! This is an absolutely unique opportunity for every ecotourist.
The youngest ones will for sure be charmed by Rabka-Zdrój with its spa climate which favours the treatment of different diseases, but also greenery, space for carefree play, theatre traditions and retro atmosphere. It is a great place to actively spend time with your family.