Wherever we live we need to find our mountain paradise. Because we feel the same way as the quote from John Marsden states:
“I’m a person of the mountains and the open paddocks and the big empty sky, that’s me, and I knew if I spent too long away from all that I’d die; I don’t know what of, I just knew I’d die.” (John Marsden)
We feel that our soul would die without our mountains. Without the sound of wild creeks, without the smell of pine forests, without feeling the breeze on our face and feeling so small surrounded by the giant peaks, without all the green and blue… And without all those long talks or quiet walks hand in hand through nature’s treasury.
Have you ever heard about the High Tatras?
Living in Central Europe now, our mountain paradise here is the High Tatras of Slovakia. You would have guessed the Alps, right? The high and huge mountain range that stretches across 8 European countries. We’ve hiked in the Alps several times, but they are too far from our home, Budapest, for a weekend getaway. Not like the Tatras.
The Tatra Mountains are the only mountains of Alpine type in the whole Carpathian Mountain range. The Tatras are quite small compared to the Alps, they lie on the border between Slovakia and Poland. But you know, size isn’t everything. And we were truly amazed what a paradise we’ve found in the High Tatras National Park of Slovakia.
Our favorite day hikes
This blog post series is to show you some stunning day hikes in our beloved High Tatras. Our favorite day hikes. In each new post we share our experience about one of these hikes – click on their names to read more:
Amazing Lesser-Known Day Hikes
Once we explored the most famous trails and conquered the highest peaks, we started to look for lesser-known hikes. We did find quite some and they are no less amazing than the popular ones. We just met fewer people on the way. Or no one. So here they are, the “off-the-beaten-path hikes in the High Tatras of off-the-beaten-path Slovakia”…. 😀
Best time for hiking
There are two high seasons in the High Tatras: winter is the season for skiing and summer is for hiking. Most of the trails are closed until the middle of June due to snow. They are usually open from the 15th of June to the end of October.
Summer weather is… hm… unpredictable. It’s a high mountain with lots of peaks above 2000 metres (the highest is 2665), so weather can and do change quickly. Summer thunderstorms are common, and temperature can drop significantly. We don’t remember any weekend during the past three summers that was rain-free. And we spent most of our weekends hiking there.
But unpredictable doesn’t always turn out bad. We had perfectly clear and hot summer days, too. Then there were foggy days with some drizzling. Then there were days with sudden showers and some sunshine. Then there were days when it was raining all day. Just be prepared. Dress in layers. Have waterproof hiking boots, waterproof jacket, waterproof whatever. Know your route and know where to find shelter (there are a lot of mountain huts). And have fun! 🙂
Where to stay
There are tons of options for accommodation. Campsites, mountain huts, hotels and apartments in nearby towns and cities. We prefer sleeping in bed, so we always plan to do day hikes and book something in a nearby town.
The biggest cities close to the High Tatras are Poprad and Liptovský Mikuláš. None of the trailheads are more than an hour drive from any of them. There are smaller towns which can be closer to a certain area – like Strbské pleso, Stará Lesná, Nová Lesná, Tatranská Lomnica, Tatranská Polianka.
We usually choose cheaper guest houses or privately owned rooms with shared bathroom and kitchen. Our personal favorite is Villa Butterfly in Nová Lesná. It’s a beautifully renovated house with spacious rooms and a well-equipped shared kitchen. Hosts are kind and helpful (and they also speak English).
But all in all, the High Tatras are not such a large mountain range, and anything in the Poprad – Liptovský Mikuláš area will be close if you have a car. As for cars… we usually drive there from home with our own car. If you’re looking for rental cars, Poprad Airport might be your best chance to pick up one. (Yes, Poprad has an airport, too, it’s the closest airport to the High Tatras.)
Ready to start planning this trip? Click here to find great rental car deals!
What to wear
These trails are definitely not to do in jeans and flip-flops. High mountains can be harsh any time of the year, so let us give you some useful tips about what to wear to stay dry and warm :
- A pair of comfortable waterproof hiking boots: footwear is the most important thing when you go hiking! We prefer those hiking shoes that support our ankles, too – like this one for men, this one for women -, but the downside is that they are a bit heavier. Whatever you choose though, make sure it’s waterproof, because you might need to walk in pouring rain for hours on a bad day. And wet feet can make you extremely grumpy, we can tell that.
- Convertible hiking pants (for men/for women): we usually wear shorts when hiking up to a peak, then we zip the legs on for the rest of the day. It’s so comfortable! Also, make sure that they dry quickly and are easy to clean. For short showers (khm… and sudden thunderstorms) we don’t cover our legs with any other layer. Our hiking pants dry within like ten minutes once the rain is over. Long hours of rain is another story though…
- Waterproof full-zip pants (for men/for women): these are to put on top of your regular hiking pants for long hours of rain! You won’t look pretty, but you’ll stay dry. We like if they’re full-zip, because then they’re extremely easy to put on, even without taking our cumbersome hiking boots off – and you’d be relieved about that in the middle of a heavy storm, believe us.
- Windbreaker: ridges and peaks reward with breathtaking panoramas, but you’re also exposed to the wild wind there. You need a windbreaker, no matter how hot that summer days feels when you strat your hike in the valley. Needless to say, make sure your jacket is waterproof, too.
- Warm middle layer: a pullover (for men/for women) that you can put on below your windbreaker if temperature drops.
- Waterproof soft shell jacket (for men/for women): a light windbreaker might not be enough on colder days, especially in spring or autumn. but a soft shell jacket should be warm enough in the California winter (well, unless you go skiing in the high mountains). Just make sure it’s waterproof.
- Waterproof flashlight: we like having a flashlight with us all the time while hiking in case we don’t reach our destination in daylight.
- Trekking poles: most of the trails in the Tatras are steep and demanding. Trekking poles can help reduce the strain on your knees, especially when walking downhill. They also improve your balance when hiking on rough terrain or crossing a wild mountain stream.
- Hiking socks: any kind of comfy socks, because you need to spoil your feet when hiking. 🙂 Merino wool is a good material because it keeps your feet warm and fresh, you can benefit from it both in cold and warm weather.
Let’s hope it will be nice and sunny, but always prepare for the worst weather.
The facts. There are bears in the Slovak mountains. They are rarely seen and no one has died from a bear attack in Slovakia since long years now. (We’ve actually never seen any bears yet while hiking in Slovakia.)
But. It’s always good to keep the general bear safety tips in mind. In a nutshell: make noise (talk and laugh loudly, sing, clap) to make your presence known, in case of an encounter don’t ever turn your back to the bear and try to leave the area slowly. Don’t hike after dark. You can check this for more details, but you can find tons of good advice out there on the internet about bear safety.
Trail map of the High Tatras
Finally, we want to share the most useful link we found about the High Tatras so far: an online map of all the hiking trails. Since English descriptions and maps about the trails are not very common (we are about to change that, hah), we were happy to find this detailed map – even though we don’t understand anything else on the website. You’re welcome. 🙂
Do you have any favorite hike in the High Tatras?
Disclosure: We paid for our trips in the High Tatras ourselves, and our hotel stays were not sponsored either. However affiliate links are used in this post, and at no additional cost to you, we earn a commission if you make a purchase. If you are ready to book your trip and would like to support this website in some way, here’s your chance. Thank you! 🙂
This post was updated in February 2020.
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