The High Tatra Mountains in northern Slovakia are the crown jewel of the country. In the distant communist past, this area was a playground for the wealthy from the Soviet Union, but those days are long gone. The nature is nothing short of spectacular and contains no fewer than twenty-five mountain peaks above 2,500 meters. The region is a series of impressive valleys and lakes, with unmissable viewpoints. Top attractions include the mountain lake Strbske Pleso and the trek to the top of Lomnicky Stit. Don’t forget the beautiful waterfalls and underground caves. There are also many unforgettable walks: enough to keep you busy for days. Which sights should you not miss in the Tatras?
- Discover the High Tatra Mountains and its sights
- 1. Strbske Pleso and walks in the area
- 2. Stary Smokovec
- 3. Belianska Jaskyna
- 4. Skalnate Pleso and Lomnicky Stit
- 5. Waterfalls in the Tatras
High Tatras Mountains / Source: Manufaktura82, Pixabay
Discover the High Tatra Mountains and its sights
It is no surprise that the Tatras are considered Slovakia’s top attraction. The beautiful snow-capped peaks rise majestically from the green valley. They are the highest mountains in Slovakia and part of the Carpathians. No fewer than twenty-five mountains are higher than 2,500 meters. The highest, Gerlachovsky Stit, is at 2654 meters, closely followed by the 2634 meter high Lomnicky Stit. These two peaks are located approximately in the middle of the High Tatra Mountains.
Wide valleys lie between the almost parallel mountain ridges and peaks. They are the work of glaciers and also contain more than a hundred lakes (plesy in Slovak). The largest mountain lake is the Vel’ke Hincovo pleso. It is located at an altitude of 1946 meters with an area of twenty hectares and has a depth of fifty-three meters.
The High Tatras (‘Vysoke Tatry’) are protected in the Tatra National Park together with the Bela Tatras (‘Belianske Tatry’) in the east and the Zapadne Tatry in the west. It was founded in 1949 and was the first national park in what was then Czechoslovakia.
Where to stay?
The town of Poprad is an important gateway to the national park, but you are still a long way from the mountains. Closer to the foot of the mountains are small villages such as Stary Smokovec and Tatranska Lomnica, two ideal bases where you can also spend the night in one of the various hotels. There are also ‘chatas’ spread throughout the region: Slovak wooden mountain huts where you can spend the night and often also eat. For those who want to make long mountain trips and would rather not camp, a ‘chata’ is often the only option and, moreover, a night in such a mountain hut has a certain charm.
The High Tatra Mountains are above all a hiking paradise, with enough hikes to keep you busy for years. The main artery within the network of hiking trails is the 65 kilometer long Tatranska magistrala trail, marked in red. It runs along the entire southern flank of the Tatras and several side paths lead into it.
The High Tatras are also a popular ski area in the winter months, with Strbske Pleso as the main resort. The high altitude always ensures a lot of snow. You can reach dozens of slopes with different levels of difficulty using cable cars, ski lifts and chair lifts. The season runs from late November to April. February and March are the months with the most favorable conditions.
Strbske Pleso in the Tatras / Source: Redakcaky Cz, Pixabay
1. Strbske Pleso and walks in the area
Strbske Pleso is located about five kilometers in the mountains from the town of Tatranska Strba and is a breathtaking mountain lake at an altitude of 1350 meters. This twenty-hectare lake is the second largest in the Tatras. It is nice to relax in this beautiful environment or take a walk around the lake. Unfortunately, the view is somewhat wasted by large, bulky hotels along the lake. Several beautiful walks into the mountains start from here. For a short walk you can go to the Skok Waterfalls or to Popradske Pleso, but more demanding day trips are also possible.
A popular tour goes to the Skok Falls. This is an unforgettable walk of about three hours there and back on a yellow marked path.
Can’t get enough of the beautiful lake and want to see another one? Then the easy walk to Popradske Pleso, a mountain lake at an altitude of 1494 meters, is for you. From Strbske Pleso you follow the red marked ‘Tatranska magistrala’ path for one to one and a half hours.
Velke Hincovo Pleso
Still haven’t seen enough lakes or are looking for a longer walk? Then from Popradske Pleso you can go even further into the mountains along a blue marked path that climbs from here to the largest mountain lake in the Tatras: Velke Hincovo Pleso, at an altitude of 1946 meters. This trail is considerably more difficult and steeper than the hike to Popradske Pleso.
An alternative is to continue east from Popradske Pleso on the red magistrala path to the chata Sliezsky cathedral, from where you descend back down to the town of Stary Smokovec. This is a long trip that can easily take a whole day.
Walks from Solisko
You can also take the cable car from Strbske Pleso to Solisko, where you will find a chata. For a short walk, follow the red marked path for about an hour to the top of Predne Solisko at 2093 meters altitude. A long, arduous day hike from the top of the cable car to Solisko runs along a yellow trail to Nizne and Vysne Wahlenbergovo and on to the Furkotsky stit mountain peak at 2405 metres. From here you descend back to the valley, where you also pass the Skok Falls.
2. Stary Smokovec
The small town of Stary Smokovec is one of the nicest places at the foot of the Tatras. Here you will find hotels and other accommodation, but also nice restaurants and kolibas: these are dining options in traditional Slovak chalets where you can taste traditional cuisine. Stary Smokovec is also known for its many sanatoriums for those who suffer from respiratory diseases. From Stary Smokovec you have a wide choice of walks for half or full days.
Would you like to take a nice half-day walk? Then first take the cable car to Hrebienok in the mountains. From there you walk west on the red marked ‘tatranska magistrala’ path to Sliezky dom, where you follow a yellow path back down to Stary Smokovec.
For those who really want to discover the Tatras, longer walks are possible from Hrebienok. From the Bilikova chata at the top of the cable car, a green trail leads to the Studeny potok waterfalls, from where a four- to five-hour blue trail goes through the valley to the Zbojnicka chata. You can eat and spend the night here if you have made a reservation in advance. Have you planned an extra day? Then from Zbojnicka chata you can go to the top of Vychodna Vysoka (2429 meters), where you will be presented with the best view of the Gerlachovsky mountain peak in the entire national park.
Numerous other walks are also possible. For example, from Hrebienok there is also a red path to the Zamkovsheko chata. Along the way you will pass several waterfalls. From the chata a green path leaves through the Mala Studena valley, from where you can continue to the Teryho chata in about four hours. This chata has a beautiful location next to a lake at an altitude of 2010 meters.
3. Belianska Jaskyna
The eastern part of the Tatras remained undeveloped for a long time to protect the ecosystem. Near the town of Tatranska Kotlina you will find a large network of subterranean caves, of which the Belianska jaskyna (Belianska cave) is accessible to the public. This spectacular cave is worth a visit, but you have to be prepared to do so. You first follow a hiking trail that gradually climbs up for thirty minutes. But the expedition through the cave over a distance of one kilometer is worth the effort.
Lomnicky Stit in the High Tatras / Source: Vikino, Pixabay
4. Skalnate Pleso and Lomnicky Stit
Tatranska Lomnica is a quiet town at the foot of the Tatras. There isn’t much to see, but the trek to Lake Skalnate Pleso and to the second highest mountain peak Lomnicky Stit is one of the Tatras’ top attractions.
From Tatranska Lomnica a cable car runs from the valley to the mountain lake Skalnate Pleso at an altitude of 1751 meters. From here you can take a steep second cable car to the top of Lomnicky. The views alone make the trip worth it.
Please note that there are often long queues and during high season, cable car tickets sometimes sell out early in the day. The trip to Skalnate Pleso takes ten minutes. The second ride to the top takes about twenty minutes.
5. Waterfalls in the Tatras
The Tatras also have many waterfalls. The most majestic is the 80 meter high Kmetov vodopad waterfall in the Nefcerka Valley. Unfortunately, this valley in the western part of the Tatras is not always accessible. But you will also find beautiful waterfalls at Studeny potok in the Velka Studena dolina valley, just like a high waterfall in the Mala studena valley.
The best way to discover the beautiful waterfalls of the High Tatra Mountains is to explore one of the numerous trails. You really experience nature this way!
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