| Zakopane is one of the best-known tourist towns in Poland. Zakopane, which was
"discovered" as a tourist attraction in the second half of the XIX century, is not going out of fashion, but on the contrary, every year it attracts more and more tourists, who are so happy with their stay at the foot of the Tatra Mountains that they hope to come back here. Zakopane owes its popularity to various facilities it offers its visitors. In winter - there are numerous ski lifts and perfect weather conditions for skiing for both experienced skiers and beginners. In summer - there are difficult rock climbs on precipitous trails in the Wysokie (High) Tatras as well as easy ones available for everyone, which lead along the picturesque valleys and the ridges of the hills surrounding Zakopane. Visitors are attracted to the town's unique atmosphere, which combines two factors: the authentic folk culture of the highlanders of the Podhale region and the very sophisticated repertoire of the "Witkacy" Theatre and Szymanowski's music. They are also attracted to what "lies between" these two factors - the charm of the cafes, jazz and rock concerts in the cellars, a glance at the mountains, lazy colourful crowd in Krupówki Street.
Zakopane is situated in southern Poland, about 100 km to the south of Krakow,
close to the border with Slovakia. It lies in a valley at the foot of The
Tatras, the highest mountains in Poland (Mount Rysy 2499 m). On the map Zakopane
can be found at 48( 18" latitude and 19( 57" longitude. The centre lies at about 840 m above sea level, but some parts are even as high as 1000 m above sea level on the slopes of Gubalówka - a hill that surrounds it from the south.
Zakopane is a town commune. It neighbours on Koscielisko and Poronin villages. It is not very far from the well-known villages of Bukowina Tatrzanska and Czarny Dunajec and the town of Nowy Targ.
Arrival and moving around
Zakopane has a railway connection. It can be reached by train from all the major cities of Poland. The nearest major junctions are Chabówka, Sucha Beskidzka and Krakow. the nearest hotel to railway station is Giewont located on Kosciuszki st.
Zakopane has a connection with Krakow also by the national road No. 95. Other roads join it with Silesia and Nowy Sacz.
The nearest international airport is in Krakow (about 100 km) and in Poprad in Slovakia (70 km). Near Zakopane there are three twenty-four-hour border checkpoints in Chyzne, Lysa Polana and Chocholów and a daytime one in Niedzica. The border can be crossed also at small border checkpoints in Szczawnica, Kacwin, Jurgów and Lipnica Wielka but these are only for those who are registered, even temporarily, in one of the border communes. In summer season you can cross the border without any problems on the top of Rysy and Magura Witowska - the only thing you need is your passport. There are plans to set up some more tourist border checkpoints so look for the news in the press and at the tourist information centres.
Although the best way of moving around Zakopane is on foot, our town is also prepared to receive quite a big number of cars. The main entrance from Krakow goes along Kasprowicza Street and ends at the roundabout, which is to slow down the traffic inside the town - in the peak of tourist season you can expect some difficulties and delays in reaching the centre. In the center of Zakopane there are hotels: Sabala and Villa Marilor. We also recommend Belvedere Hotel located near center. There are two main routes that begin at the roundabout. In the west-east direction these are Nowotarska and Koscieliska Streets, which lead to Koscielisko, Koscieliska Valley, Chocholow, Czarny Dunajec and the border checkpoints in Chocholów and Chyzne. In the mountain direction these are Chramcówki Street (with railway and bus stations), Jagiellonska Street and Chalubinskiego Street. Visitors, however, are recommended to leave their cars at the car parks and use the public transport. By using buses and private minibuses you can get everywhere quickly and cheaply.
High altitude and surrounding high mountains are main factors of Zakopane's mountain climate. The average yearly temperature is approximately +5(C. The hottest month is July - approx. +15(C, the coldest is January - approx. -6(C. The average winds are not too strong, they blow from the west and the south-west. In autumn, winter and early spring there is a local wind called "halny". It is a warm and dry wind, which blows from The Tatras - from the south. It often blows at 100 km/h, makes a lot of damage and causes snow layers to melt. Halny blows from a few hours to 3-4 days and makes some sensitive people feel terrible. The average rain- and snowfall amounts to 1000 mm yearly. The highest rainfall is in June and July - in these months there are often thunderstorms. Snowfall constitutes 40 percent. Snow appears in November and disappears in March - April. In the mountains it forms the thickest layers in late March - then in the spring sunshine there are the best conditions for skiing.
In September and October it is characteristic of Zakopane and The Tatras to have long periods of beautiful sunny weather. During such periods hiking along mountain trails is the most charming even despite ground frost. There is also often stable weather in winter - in January - February. You can frequently experience the inversion of temperature. With beautiful, quiet and sunny weather the temperature on the peaks of The Tatras is a few degrees higher than in the valleys.
Zakopane district is considered the most attractive tourist region in Poland. The Tatras, the hills of Podhale as well as the town itself are ideal places for walks or longer or shorter hikes. A walk around the town can be combined with visiting its monuments and other interesting places. Here are some of them that we would like to recommend:
- Northern part of the town: the centre of Zakopane - Krupówki St - The Tatra Museum - market at the foot of Gubalówka - taking a tram up Gubalówka (panorama of the Tatras and Zakopane!) - walking downhill along the yellow trail - Droga na Szymoszkow± - Ko¶cieliska St (the old church and cemetery) - the centre. About 5 hours.
- Southern part of the town: the centre of Zakopane - Krupówki St - Zamoyskiego St - Bulwary Slowackiego St - Antalówka hill - Koziniec (Dom pod Jedlami, art. Gallery) - Bystre - KuLnickie roundabout (Natural Museum TPN) - COS Sports Centre complex (ski jumps etc.) - Dolina Bialego - Grunwaldzka St - the centre. About 4,30 hours.
- Along the ridges of Gubalówka: Chocholów (by bus, visiting the village and the Chocholów Uprising museum) - Ostrysz - Butorowy Wierch - taking the cable car downhill. About 4 hours.
- The Tatra walk at the foot of The Tatras: the centre of Zakopane - Orkana St - Kasprusie St ("Atma", Karol Szymanowski Museum) - Str±zyska St - Czerwona Przelecz - Przelecz Bialego - Kalatówki (Albert Sisters' convent) - KuLnice. About 5 hours.
- Through the valleys of The Western Tatras: Gronik (by bus) - Dolina Malej L±ki - Przyslop Mietusi - Dolina Ko¶cieliska - Hala Pisana - visiting Zimna cave - Ko¶cielisko-Kiry. About 5 hours.
- The Tatra lakes: KuLnice - Kasprowy Wierch (by cable car) - Dolina Stawów G±sienicowych - Karb - Czarny Staw G±sienicowy - Murowaniec chalet - KuLnice. About 5,30 hours.
- To Morskie Oko lake: Wierch Poroniec (by bus) - Rusinowa Polana - Gesia Szyja - Wodogrzmoty Mickiewicza - Morskie Oko - back to Lysa Polana (by bus to Zakopane).
Advanced tourists can take trails along the ridges of The Zachodnie (Western) Tatras (e.g. from Kasprowy Wierch reached by cable car to the west, climb up Czerwone Wierchy, around Dolina Chocholowska) or trails in The High Tatras (from Kasprowy to ¦winica, from Zakopane through Zawrat and Szpiglasowa Przelecz to Morskie Oko, difficult trails of "Orla Perc", climb up Rysy). The trails in The Tatras are marked well with plates and colour stripes. In difficult areas there are special buckles, chains and even ladders. However, to use them you must not be afraid of heights, need to be fit and have good health.
In the Tatras you can also do some winter hiking. However, it requires high tourist qualifications, good equipment (clothes, boots, alpenstock and crampons) and good skills in using them. You should take your first steps under supervision of some qualified Tatra guides.
The Tatra National Park has made some trails available for cyclists. These are Droga Pod Reglami, Dolina Chocholowska and Suchej Wody G±sienicowej, trail to Kalatówki.
The Tatras are high mountains and can be dangerous. You must always remember about the changeability of the weather - even in midsummer there may be some snowfall, beautiful sunny weather may turn to thick confusing fog. Another serious danger are storms; when you see there is going to be a storm you must take the nearest trail down from the ridge to the lower areas. When planning climbs in the higher parts of the mountains you should ask some experienced people for advice or hire a guide. In case of an accident you should call for help by using the international signal - light or voice signals six times a minute. The injured or lost in the Tatras are rescued by TOPR which uses a helicopter if necessary.
Zakopane can be a starting point for longer trips - to the Gorce Mountains, to Babia Góra and to the Pieniny Mountains. On such trips you can find unique monuments in the nearby villages: Chocholów, Debno, Orawka and Zubrzyca (heritage park). Another attraction is rafting along the gorge of the Dunajec River in the Pieniny Mountains, which has been popular for 150 years.
Zakopane is also famous because of the excellent conditions for skiing. This sport has been popular here for over a hundred years - that is why the town is considered the birthplace of Polish skiing and the Winter Capital of Poland.
If You wish to come to Zakopane for skiing best hotel for You will be Mercure Kasprowy located on the sloped hill of Gubalówka with beautiful views of the Tatra Mountains.
It offers numerous skiing sites - from flat and easy ones for learning to steep and difficult ski runs. Every winter skiers can use about 50 ski lifts and this number is constantly growing.
The best skiing conditions can be found in Kasprowy Wierch area. The top can be reached via the cable car from KuLnice. On its slopes, in Kociol Goryczkowy and G±sienicowy the chairlifts take skiers uphill. The skiing season usually lasts here till the early May. Another well-known place for skiing is Gubalówka, which can be reached via the tram and which offers several T-bar lifts. The slope has got lighting and artificial snowing systems. Excellent skiing conditions can be also found on Polana Szymoszkowa (next to the Orbis-Kasprowy Hotel) which has got a lighting and artificial snowing systems and a chairlift that takes skiers to the top of Gubalówka ridge. Another popular place is Nosal, also with lighting and artificial snowing systems, which offers a dozen or so T-bar lifts and a chairlift. Beginners can learn to ski on well-known Koziniec, which also has lighting and artificial snowing systems, but there are many more such places for them. Very good skiing conditions can be found in the nearby villages such as Poronin, Bukowina Tatrzanska and Bialka.
Gubalówka and Magura Witowska are perfect for ski touring. In winter the ridges are calm, almost deserted, and the natural snow stays on for a long time thanks to big heights. The cross country fans will find good conditions near Krokiew (close to the ski jumps). In the Tatras there are also some trails for ski touring.
Those who don't have their own skis or snowboards can rent the equipment at numerous ski rents, and those who would like to learn to ski can find professional ski instructors on almost every slope.
Zakopane is also a centre of professional sports. In 1910 it hosted the first ski competition, which had 150 competitors from several countries. At the same time it organised the first ski jump competition, and actually the Nordic skiing made Zakopane popular world-wide. Through the years the town has been visited by professional skiers from all over the world.
So far Zakopane has hosted: three FIS World Ski Championships (1929, 1939,1962), three Winter Universiades (1956, 1993, 2001), Biathlon World Championship, several Ski Jump World Cups, and several Nordic Combined, Nordic and Alpine European Cups. It hosts different international competitions almost every year.