Earth : Europe : Central Europe : Slovakia : Eastern Slovakia : Vysoké Tatry
Vysoké Tatry (High Tatras) is a national park in Slovakia, mostly consisting of the High Tatras mountain range. As the mountains form a natural border between Slovakia and Poland, a smaller part of the mountain range is located in Poland where it is called Tatra National Park.
High Tatras (Vysoké Tatry) stretch in the northern part of Slovakia bordering Poland and belong to Carpathian mountain range. High Tatras are divided into three parts - Western, High and Belianske Tatras. High Tatras belong to the national park (TANAP) and also are registered in UNESCO because many protected animals and plants are found in High Tatras. High Tatras consist of peaks, mountain lakes and basins. The most notable peaks are Gerlachovský štít (2,655 m), Lomnický štít (2,633 m), Rysy (2,503 m), and Kriváň (2,494 m). Gerlachovský štít is the highest peak in Slovakia.
In November 2004 a severe storm destroyed a part of the forest and disturbed natural fauna and flora, but most of the damage has been cleared away. The trees that used to protect the soil from erosion are gone now and the topsoil is being exposed to rain and erosion. The disaster did not have such catastrophic impact on tourism, and all ski centers, hotels and cottages go on providing their services.
As most towns in the region are connected to the rail network, this is one of the fastest and most convenient ways of getting into High Tatras. There are 9 express IC standard trains operating between Bratislava and Košice, the 'Tatran' ,'Kriváň', 'Gerlach', 'Rysy', 'Chopok' and another 4 untitled IC trains which all stop in Poprad-Tatry.
If you're coming from Prague (Czech Republic), and want to get as much time for sightseeing as possible, consider the overnight trains. EN 'Slovakia leaves Prague in the evening (get a full day in Prague), and you can get a very cheap ticket for a sleeper booth, plus you wake up in the Tatras with the whole day in front of you. EC 'Košičan leaves Prague in the morning and comes to Poprad-Tatry in the afternoon. Both operating between Prague and Košice.
At the Poprad-Tatry station there are direct tram services for Stary Smokovec, Strbske Pleso and Tatranska Lomnica with many stops along the way. All of those stops are within the Vysoké Tatry region.
From Czech Republic and Austria, and west and east Slovakia you can use motorway 'D1', from Hungary roads of 1 class and part of motorway 'R1'. The way from Poland is a bit more complicated, with only one road connecting Zakopane and the Slovak part of the High Tatras through the border check point in Lysá Poľana.
However, if you are on a hiking trip, it is possible to cross from Poland on foot at several places.
For those wishing to travel from Krakow: There are many buses, every twenty minutes of so during daytime, to take you from Krakow to Zakopane on the Polish side. Journey is about 2.5 hours. In Zakopane, there are buses connecting to Stary Smokovec and Poprad. These run from out-front of the bus station where you will be dropped off. However, many only run in peak season (which, in the summer, starts from June 16). The bus company's name is Strama. You will see the signs out front of the bus depot. Check their website for exact times. Last one is about 5 p.m. There are approximately four buses daily. When these buses do not operate, simply go across the road from the bus station, and get a bus to Lysa Polana, which costs about 10 zł (takes about 20 minutes). From where you will be dropped off, cross a small bridge up 50 m and to the left and you will be in Slovakia - there is a small restaurant, gift shop, and another small shop on the border, where you can change remaining złoty for Euros, should you not yet have any. There are no ATMs. From here, there is a bus that waits at the top end of the carpark and runs through the Vsyoke Tatry to Poprad, about once every hour or two. It costs €2.2 for a single ticket. Journey time is about 30 or 40 minutes to Stary Smokovec.
There are also flight connections available to the Poprad-Tatry Airport.
Transportation and orientation in High Tatras is very easy. Trains, cog railways, cable railways, and trams are possibilities how to get to any locality in High Tatras. If you want to see High Tatras from a bird's eye view you can take the cable railway from Tatranská Lomnica to Lomnicky štít or take a tram and travel under the highest peaks and take delight in magnificent nature. The easiest access to High Tatras is from Poprad or Tatranská Štrba, where are two main railway stations with an access to cog railways or trams leaving for the mountains.
The trains running between Strbske Pleso, Poprad and Tatranska Lomnica are an inexpensive way to get around, although the schedules are not the most convenient. Trains run mostly on an hourly basis, and unfortunately the schedules do not always overlap. Coming back to Strbske Pleso from Tatranska Lomnica can take nearly two hours on account of the schedules. For convenience sake, either rent a car or stay in Poprad as all the trains come through High Tatra towns and then onto Poprad on a regular basis.
While trams are often the most convenient option, the villages and towns in the region are also connected by roads, so driving is always an option, though you might have to pay for parking.
There is a great variety of hiking and cycling trails as well.
The purchase of the tourist map of High Tatras is highly recommended, as they are cheap and show a very detailed map of High Tatras with all the hiking trails marked along with the time it takes to walk them. There are numerous opportunities for hiking, depending on the fitness level of the hiker, ranging from an easy stroll to difficult all day hikes.
Popular all day trips include:
High Tatras do not just offer opportunities for hiking but also for a number of other sports activities. Snow conditions during the winter are perfect for skiing or snowboarding. Funiculars are accessible to many alpine localities, such as Solisko (1840 m) or Skalnata chata (1751 m) where tourists can take another funicular and go to Lomnicky štít (2632 m) and see whole Tatras below. In High Tatras it is possible to ski in nine localities and each one consist of two to nine slopes. Cycling is another activity that is very interesting for people who love adrenalin. Cyclists can choose either between asphalt or field roads. Different kind of roads with various level of difficulty are suitable for less or more demanding people.
Skalnatá chata in Skalnatá dolina, Zamkovského chata in Mala Studena dolina, Téryho chata in Malá Studená dolina, Bilíkova chata in Hrebienok, Rainerova chata, Mountain hotel Sliezsky dom in Velická dolina, Mountain hotel at Popradské pleso, and the highest cottage Chata pod Rysmi offer accommodation to hikers on the road. Among others, these cottages are located in high altitudes above the sea level. Each cottage offers accommodation and food, but most of them offer their service only during the summer because of limited accessibility during the winter.
The most attractive cottage for hikers who look for a difficult ascent Chata pod Rysmi (2250 m). This cottage was built in 1932 and was enlarged in 1977 and now offers 14 beds for €15 each. Teryho chata (2015 m) is situated in Mala Studena Dolina and is the highest cottage accessible all year round. This cottage is attractive for tourists who want to see incredible scenery either in winter or summer. The cost for one bed is €22 or emergency accommodation in your sleeping bag for €16. Sliezky Dom is the highest situated hotel in Slovakia at 1670 m above the sea level and offers 123 beds.