Northern Slovakia and Tatra Mountain region was a place I had been anticipating my entire Europe trip, and because of its supreme hiking scene, I had to make it a priority.
Part of the Carpathian Mountains, the Tatras consist of the highest peaks of the chain, exceeding 8,500 ft.
I arrived to the regional hub, Poprad, with my Portuguese friend Ana, and we were all set to stay with our Couchsurfing host for 3 days. Branko, along with his wife and two young children were a pleasure to spend time with and shared plenty of advice with us about the surrounding area.
The next morning we woke up early excited for a long day at Tatra National Park, and since we planned to stay the night on the trail at one of the mountain huts, we packed up plenty of snacks and supplies.
To reach the start of the trails we jumped on the Tatra Electric Railway to the resort town of Stary Smokovec, where we then followed the road on foot for about 45 minutes until we reached Hrebienok, a small ski resort.
From here you have several options, but after discussing our route with Branko we opted to follow the green trail to the Teryho Chata mountain hut.
With an altitude of 2,015 meters the map says that it takes about 3 hours, but with the beautiful photo opportunities, give yourself a bit longer. Along the way we passed the Studenovodske Waterfalls, an awesome spot where the Hornad River flows through a few different levels of rocks.
The next hour or so was pretty straight forward, passing a couple other chatas and through lush green vegetation. Getting closer to Teryho, you are treated to stunning views of the valleys below and in the distance, which are well worth the steep struggle of switch backs to reach the chata. After reaching the hut, we treated ourselves to a nice lunch next to one of the stunning glacial lakes that the area is known for.
Since we arrived to Teryho in the early afternoon, we decided to carry on to the next chata before settling in for the night. After talking to a couple locals we realized there were a couple difficult passes along the trail still covered in snow and without proper gear, we were encouraged to consider a different route.
We carried on despite their advice, promising ourselves that if things became too rough we would turn back and make it back to Poprad for the night. We continued on up the ridge above Teryho but with heavy mountain fog and one steep passing that was way too icy without proper gear, we indeed decided to turn back.
Even though we were disappointed, going the extra distance was totally worth it when the fog cleared and we had the most incredible view of three glacial lakes below.
How to Get to Poprad
From Bratislava: 4.75 hour train, several per day – 15 euros for adults, free for students under 26
From Krakow: 2 hour bus to Zakopane, several per day – 6 euros
Zakopane to Poprad:
- Peak Season (June 15-October 15): buses run directly to Poprad at 6am, 9am, 11am, and 4pm – 1 hour and 45 minutes – 5 euros
- Off season: Leave every 40 minutes from 7:40am-6:40pm to the border at Lysa Polona. Once at the border walk to the Slovakian side where you’ll see a bus stop near the convenience store. Buses leave for Poprad at 7:05am, 10:40am, 2:30pm, 3:30pm, 5:05pm, and 8:15pm
Getting to the Mountains
From Poprad, head to the upper level of the train station – this is where you’ll find the Tatra Electric Railway. Take the train towards Strbske Pleso and get off at Stary Smokovec – they run every hour, 1.50 euros. From here follow the signs to Hrebienok. If you follow the main road it will take about 45 minutes on foot. Another option is to take the blue trail from Stary Smokovech to the red trail, which will take a bit less than 2 hours.
Things to Know
- Generally, all trails are open between June 15-November 1
- Snow can impede your hiking late into the season (I faced some heavy snow in late June)
- Bring good shoes and a raincoat, the weather can change very quickly
- You can leave luggage at the Poprad Train Station if you want to hike lightly
- During the July and August the park becomes extremely crowded with student groups