High Tatras Slovakia. The awesome place you’re overlooking but shouldn’t
For any of you readers considering visiting a cheap hiking destination with alpine views and shimmering clear lakes that basically no one knows about, I’ve been researching and testing and I have advice for you:
Go to the High Tatras Slovakia.
The High Tatras Mountains (Vysoké Tatry) is like the Swiss Alps, only cheaper and much less crowded. Want to know how they look like? Picture thundering waterfalls, towering pine forests and crisp snow-capped mountains – that’s the High Tatras.
This post contains referral links for products I love. Adventurous Miriam earns a small commission at no extra cost to you if you make a purchase through my links. Thank you for your support ♡ Learn more
Tatra mountains Slovakia
So where exactly are those Tatras or Tatra Mountains? Well, they’re actually a mountain range along the border of northern Slovakia and southern Poland. The Tatras are divided into:
- The High Tatras (majestic peaks, turquoise glacier lakes, waterfalls)
- The Low Tatras (caves, waterfalls and forests)
You can do fun activities like hiking, cycling, bungee jumping, paragliding and skiing in both Tatra regions, but the landscape varies depending on where you go.
Where to stay in the High Tatras
The good part about visiting a hidden gem is that you have it almost to yourself. The bad part is that it’s more difficult to find information online, especially in English. One of the things I struggled most with was 1) figuring out what to see in the Tatras, and 2) where to base myself.
Since I only had little time in the area, I ended up basing myself in Košice, which is reached by train (1,50 hours each way). Although Košice is a lovely city, you’d probably want to avoid the commute, so I’ve rounded up some suggestions for where you can stay.
If you want to base yourself in a semi-big city, I suggest Poprad (the gateway to the High Tatras), which is what most hikers do, or Tatranska Lomnica; one of the biggest settlements in High Tatras.
Poprad – Hotel Mamut has comfortable rooms, free parking, and a restaurant. Everything you need right in the heart of Poprad. Find the latest prices here.
Tatranska Lomnica – Penzión Vila Park has very nice owners and is located right in the city centre. There’s also an ATM machine on site. Find the latest prices here.
Small mountain villages:
If you like a small mountain setting better, you could stay in Štrbské Pleso (a small lake town) or Ždiar, which is a lovely little alpine village.
Štrbské Pleso – Apartman Panorama 1001 is all about the VIEWS! Drink your morning coffee on the balcony while you enjoy the scenic surroundings. Find the latest prices here.
Ždiar – Stonegallery offers a modern furnished apartment (which is a rare sight in small alpine villages). Friendly and welcoming staff. Find the latest prices here.
Altitude: 1,346 m
I arrived at Štrbské Pleso ready to conquer the world or, er, a mountain. After lunch and cake with Martin from Košice Tourism Office, we said goodbye, I laced my trusty sneakers and headed towards the lake.
Štrbské Pleso is a lake at the foothill of the High Tatras. It takes about 1-1,5 hour to walk around it, but I spent that time taking pictures of the lake instead. It’s really beautiful, so it’s easy to spend hours here.
Štrbské Pleso is a glacial mountain lake and it seemed like a perfect starting point for hikers. Also, it’s a great destination for bungee jumping, paragliding, freestyle skiing and 16 km of cross-country track.
Hiking in the High Tatras
I’d heard from reliable sources (hi Google) that the hike from Štrbské Pleso to Popradské Pleso was easy… like a walk in the park.
I found that not to be the case.
I wouldn’t say that it’s difficult, but it’s certainly not easy either. Part of this is because the path is paved with spiky rocks, tripping tree roots and is pretty darned steep at several stretches. And for the sake of disclosure then yes, I might not be in the shape of my life, and yes I was outpaced by three grannies and a family with a two-year-old, all on foot. But they were all local. People who live in mountainous areas are used to hiking and they’re generally in better shape because of it.
My defence? I live in the flattest country in the world.
The hike is 4km long and it includes 14 signs that explain details about the forest, the Tatras, animals and plants. It’s almost impossible to get lost since the route is marked by signs all the way → take this from someone who gets lost a lot.
I wasn’t in a rush to reach Popradské Pleso so I took time to photograph and admire the alpine views that were in front of me. And wow, they were neat!
Now, I was aware that Slovakia has wild animals like wild-boars, lynxes, wolves and bears, but I wasn’t prepared to almost step on a snake on the trail. I had no idea if it was poisonous so I counted my blessings and used the zoom to photograph it.
Altitude: 1,494 m
After 1,5 hours (ok fine, almost 2) I finally made it to Popradské Pleso. Slovaks and people in decent shape should be able to do the hike in 1 hour, not including photo stops.
Popradske Pleso is this beautiful glacial lake in the mountains. I actually liked it better than Štrbské Pleso, maybe because I had to work hard to see it. It also felt closer to the mountains and much more serene.
I had made my goal for the day and after walking around the lake, it was time to head back down.
I’m so, so happy that I got to do this hike. The view was absolutely breathtaking, and the two lakes were gorgeous. If you’re in the area, I highly recommend going here.
Tips for hiking in Slovakia
- You can visit the Tatra mountains all year around. They’re very popular for skiing
- Many trails are closed due to snow from November to mid-June
- June and July are especially rainy, while July and August are the warmest and most crowded
- Other top hiking destinations: Zelené Pleso (green lake), Lomnicky Stit (peak), Krivan (peak)
- Wear hiking boots, dress in layers, bring water and band aids and check the weather forecast before you go
- Bring walking poles if the hike is particularly steep or you have knee problems
- If you wander off on your own, bring a map and tell someone where you’re going
- Spis Castle: Spis Castle, one of Europe’s largest castle ruins
- Kosice: Charming Košice is calling your name
- Where to stay: City Residence, Kosice – the best hotel in Slovakia
- Food: The most delicious food in Slovakia
A thousand thanks to Martin from Kosice Region Turizmus for showing me around Kosice Region. I was a guest, but all opinions are my own as always.
Ask me anything about hiking High Tatras Slovakia!
Our favorite place to hike on any sunny summer weekend! 🙂 Just to defend the hike to Popradske pleso, it is actually the shortest and easiest hike we know of in the High Tatras. But that doesn’t necessarily mean easy in general. 😀 And a bunch of steep, beautiful paths lead further from Popradske pleso, we still haven’t tried each.
It’s definitely worth noting that the hike to Popradske Pleso is one of the easier compared to others in the area. I just remember when hiking the Inca Trail, everyone told me that it was easy and it wouldn’t be a problem – and it turned out to be the toughest, most challenging thing I’ve ever done. I really wish someone would have told me that it’s not easy for everyone because then I could have prepared myself mentally and physically – it kind of ruined it a little bit for me. Since then I’ve been very cautious calling any hike easy because for someone with bad knees, low lung function or in bad shape, it might not be.
Yes, we totally understand your point, it happened to us as well. We read about a hike in the Tatras written by a local and she wrote something like “this hike was actually disappointing because I expected challenges and this hike didn’t offer that” – for us it turned out to be more than challenging, especially the steepest sections secured by chains. So yes… it’s always hard to define a difficulty for a hike. What we found the best is checking both the length and the elevation profile – if that information is available. That can give some idea about the difficulty.
That’s a very good idea. I will keep that in mind for my future hiking 🙂
Breathtaking! Reminds me of Glacier National Park in the US and Canada!
Oh, I’d love to go hiking in the US and Canada. Especially in Alberta!
Wow, your pictures are incredible. I have never thought of Slovakia as a must see travel destination but these photos have changed my mind, thank you for sharing.
I’m glad to hear that, Bianca. Slovakia is definitely worth a visit!
The snake…well,it’s called Vretenica (or people call it Zmija, which is also used as a curse word btw.) and it’s the only poisonous snake in Slovakia, so you were lucky in a way?? But despite the fact the snake is not terribly rare, not many people get actually bitten because it’s usually opting for running away than attacking. It won’t bite when it’s not feeling endangered. Also,the poison is not that strong that it will kill you on the spot but you definitely need to go to the hospital (it is quite dangerous for old people,kids and people who have heart problems etc.). But it’s never nice to encounter them. And they love to hang out around our family cottage which doesn’t make me happy.
Anyway, enough of the lesson on snakes…thank you for pretty article about High Tatras:) I am not much of an hiker myself these days (Popradske pleso hike was a bit of challenge for me too when I was there last time) despite the fact my hometown is Spisska Nova Ves (which is close), but I never got tired of my mountain view for sure. I especially appreciate it when I return home from Bratislava where I have been studying/working for the past 5 years.
Martina, I’m really glad to hear that I’m not the only one who found the hike challenging 🙂 And now I feel extra lucky that I didn’t step on the Vretenica or got bit!
Just for the peace of mind, the viper you saw has only enough poison to kill a small animal like mouse. It can only kill humans in extremely rare cases, like children with immunity problems or seniors with heart conditions. That being said, if your foot swells, you’re feeling sick and you’re still somewhere deep in the forest, it’s certainly not a comfortable experience. I’m glad you enjoyed hiking in the Tatras – it’s becoming slowly popular with western visitors only lately. In my opinion it’s a much more rewarding experience than just visiting the capital and the locals are quick to point out that this is the “real” Slovakia.
I’m relieved to hear that, Milos! I wanted to experience the “real” Slovakia, which is why I ended up spending my time in the Tatras and Kosice over the capital. I’m so glad I did – Slovakia has so much to offer especially when it comes to nature.
Hi Miriam, really nice article and pictures about my country and its most popular place to visit – High Tatras. Popradské pleso can also be reached by bike, or with a stroller if someone plan a trip there with baby or small kids. That way leads from the train station called Popradské pleso. There is an asphalt road with limited access for cars.
You are quite lucky with that snake, as a Slovak I haven’t seen it yet so far and I am already 38… 🙂 What other hikes did you make on your Slovakia trip?
Thanks, Julius! Especially for the tip about the stroller. I’m traveling with a baby now so that might come in handy!
About the snake, I’m not sure I’d call myself lucky 😉 but I know what you mean. Do you have poisonous snakes in Slovakia?
Hi. Me and my husband is going for an anniversary trip. I would love to go hiking in slovakia but no idea where, i can go far with no problem but my husband cannot really go on a difficult hike bcos he has muscle problems that is almost like fibromyalgia, so im hoping to find a place to hike where its not too steep and not too difficult. Do you have any suggestion? Thanks
Hi Arlinda, I think you would like the hike from Štrbské Pleso to Popradské Pleso that I described above. You can go at a slow pace if it’s too much for your husband. It’s not too steep.
Cool article, amazing photos. Thanks for sharing, your article is very useful for travelers
I’m glad you found it helpful, Bartosz 🙂
It’s really nice article. I’m surprised you met a snake. It was poisoned snake – Common European viper. It’s only poisoned snake in Slovakia. It’s not dangerous. It like sunny and peaceful places.
All the best,
Hi Martin, I can imagine snakes are a rare sight (luckily). Glad to hear it’s not dangerous!
Best from Denmark
Hi! Great post! Question: do you know if that track (from Štrbské Pleso to Popradské pleso) is closed from November to mid-June? Because I’m planning to go first days of June (1-2).
Sorry, I don’t, Andrew. But you can write the tourism board and ask them. They should know: https://regiontatry.sk/en/#
No, it’s not. And, btw, there actually are two trails parallel to each other. The green marked one is open all year round, but the red one can be closed as it may be risky to hike it due to avalanches if there is still some snow left.
Thanks so much for pitching in, Ján!
This is such a useful post – thank you. I’m heading to Slovakia on Saturday for just over a week and plan on spending at least half of that time in the High Tatras. I’m so excited! Your photos are absolutely stunning – I already feel compelled to book a return trip in the summer months.
Thanks so much, Rebekah! Have an amazing trip to the Tatras! 🙂
Thanks so much for this post. We are heading to the Tatras in the beginning of June and your pictures make me very excited to see this for myself.
Do you happen to know if this trail is already open before June, 16th? I cannot find proper information on open hiking trails.
I just saw that my very same questions was asked and answered above 🙂
Great 🙂 Have a wonderful trip, Jasmin.
Hey Miriam, amazing pictures! Really captures the mountains well. Apart from Poprad and Štrbské Pleso, I also found some cool places to stay in the village of Nova Lesna, on the way to Stary Smokovec from Poprad Tatry.
Cool, thanks for the recommendation, Shivya!
I love this post. I’m planning a two week trip to Slovakia in August and was getting bogged down on how to get around the High Tatras and where to go, but you’ve made it quite easy for me. I’m looking forward to reading the rest of your posts on Slovakia, and on Austria and Budapest as I’m going there too!
I’m so glad to hear that, Marlon! Have an amazing trip to Slovakia, Austria and Hungary 🙂
Thank you very much for this detailed description! I’m looking for places to travel a few days next week, and this looks great.
Do you know if there’s snow around these trails in summer? Or anywhere we can get by car? some of us are kind of scared of cable cars and we’d really like to see some snow.
Hi Yael, as far as I know, there’s no snow in the summer. But you should check with the Slovakian tourism board. They would know for sure!
Hello, is there any cable car to reach the top ? because I have some customers who can’t walk that far ? 🙁
Hi Riri, there’s a cable car/train to Štrbské Pleso lake. But not to the other lakes.
Quite funny to read article on Tatras from “lowlander” point of view. Don’t want to be a detailist, but there is actually different partitioning of these mountains. The Tatras (consisting of High and West) and Low Tatras. As a man living in Slovakia (Kosice) frequently visiting our mountains for hiking maybe I should mention something that is spirit of High Tatras that makes them recognisable and unique against of e.g. Alps. These are cabins (cottages) situated in very high areas above forrests, usually at the ends of valleys, in circa 2.000 meters above sea levels. After not so easy but doable hiking from vallley’s settlements you are rewarded by internal atmosphere of specific cottage with their staff and other tourists. Enjoy good meal, herbal tea , pick up energy for downhill hiking or stay for a night in modest but comfortable conditions. Nowadays , cabins are mostly supplemented by helicopter when needing proviant but there is also tradition of human carriers with 100kg load on their shoulders. Miriam don’t worry that you were outpaced by grannies. All of us (common tourists) are outpaced by these carriers , iI’s not uncommon to be outpaced twice by the same one. 😉 . Fauna of High Tatra is sometimes too close , like bears in evenings looking for something sweet to eat, or there are places where there is a quite good chance you will meet a fox on exact places etc. Anyway, good article promoting our mountains , hopefully you will return back to see other parts .
Thanks for your insight on the Tatras, Jaro – and for your comforting words 😉 I will come back, that’s for sure.
You should try to hike some peaks as well next time. Predné Solisko for example is not very difficult to hike.
You can check my blog if you want, I have some articles about the High Tatras. I like your blog, it is very well-written. Greetz from Germany
Thank you, Florian! I will remember that for my next visit 🙂
I didn’t know Slovakia was that beautiful until I visited Bratislava last year because of my business trip. Mountains, hills, rivers, lakes where ever you look you have beautiful sight. I decided to visit Slovakia this summer with my family and I don’t want to Bratislava his year but to some other city. Do you have recommendations? I was looking at different maps like this one https://www.mapaslovenska.com but can’t decide on city to visit. I doesn’t have to be big I like small cosy places as well.
Hi Enis, my favourite town in Slovakia is Kosice. I highly recommend it, and you can see why here: https://adventurousmiriam.com/kosice-slovakia/
As I love Slovakia and high Tatras. Nature is stunning! You got one thing wrong! It’s not cheap at all! Everything is overpriced in Hight Tatras!
Depends on how you look at it. Compared to prices in other European countries, it’s still cheap, although it’s a bit higher than in Kosice or Bratislava.