Part 1 of the Poland series (April 2015).
Sometimes, you just have to laugh at your own ill-thought travel decisions. See, I’m from Canada. I know it’s still cold in April, especially up in the mountains. But that didn’t stop me from deciding to take a day trip from Kraków to hike to Morskie Oko (“Sea Eye”), the largest lake in the Tatra Mountains.
To get to Morskie Oko, you first have to make the journey from Kraków to Zakopane — a winter resort town at the base of the Tatra Mountains, and a popular destination for mountaineering, skiing, snowboarding, and other alpine sports.
The bus ride takes approximately two and a half hours, and I wanted to make the most of my day so I started at 6 a.m. Thankfully, the Dizzy Daisy hostel in Kraków was just a short walk from the bus station.
Upon arriving in Zakopane, there are tons of shuttle buses/mini vans outside the bus station which depart every ten minutes or so for Tatra National Park — and the start of the hiking trail. The drive is very scenic and gives a good sense of what a bustling place Zakopane would be during the peak winter season, though business has mostly died down by April.
The hike itself is mostly uninteresting (paved road with little side detours, which were unfortunately just slick ice at that point), but very scenic. For the less walking-inclined, covered horse carriages are another option, which take visitors halfway to Morskie Oko.
The start of the trail was deceptively spring-like and devoid of snow. There were even deer playing in the woods!
The steps got more icy and death-defying, and I got colder. Though still doing better than the guy who showed up at the start of the trail in dress shoes (seriously?)
I told myself to push on for that view of gorgeous turquoise lake and…well, I made it, but not quite how I had expected!
In short: Due to my own silliness, I trekked for hours to get to a still-frozen, snowed-over lake, and couldn’t carry on to Mount Rysy (to my disappointment), but still had an incredible time because hey, nature is incredible and beautiful.
Even if you’re not into hiking or trekking, Morskie Oko still makes a great day trip from Kraków (especially in the summer, just look at that lush greenery and perfectly clear water).
Bus from Kraków to Zakopane: 15zł each way
Shuttle from Zakopane to Tatra National Park: 10zł each way
Tatra National Park entrance fee: 5zł
Wow, that is beautiful! And I definitely know what you mean about being Canadian but making terrible weather-related decisions… In fact last April I chose to hike up a snowy mountain wearing boots with basically no grip, bare hands and all! No regrets, though!
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Morskie Oko is very nice but there are even more beautiful lakes in that area. They require hiking and staying though
Yeah, I was intending to hike up to the High Tatra but as you can see the conditions weren’t good and there was no visible trail heading up the mountain 😝
Yep and conditions are very important there. I headed up to Czarny Staw beneath Rysy which is often fine. Then I walked to the Valley of the Five Polish Lakes (Dolina Pięciu Stawów Polskich) and stayed at the mountain hostel there. From there I waalked to the Zawrat pass but beyond there thechains were terrifying alone. I first went to m Oko in 1993 btw.