The Tatra mountain range forms the border between Poland and Slovakia, and is a somewhat undiscovered destination for outdoor sports enthusiasts from Western Europe. Lying in the Podhale region at the base of the mountains, Zakopane is regarded as the ‘winter capital of Poland’, offering hiking, skiing and a great range of tourist facilities, as well as unique and comfortable holiday rental accommodation.
The main reason people head to Zakopane is to enjoy outdoor sports amongst the beautiful scenery of the Tatry Mountains. The main downhill skiing runs descend from the 6,514ft Kasprowy Wierch peak, which can thankfully be reached by virtue of a cable car. Beginners can first try their hand at the Antalowka run on the western outskirts of the resort, and there is also cross-country skiing on offer in the nearby forests.
The bravest of the brave can have a go on the Wielka Krokiew ski-jump ramp – the biggest ski jumping ramp in Poland, which is a regular venue for the FIS Ski Jumping World Cup. There are also four smaller training jumps that you may wish to start on.
Do not be confused into thinking Zakopane is a ‘winter-only’ resort. The mountains also make for great hiking during summer months, within the tranquil surroundings of alpine lakes and valleys. The resort is also well equipped in terms of ski shops, cafes, bars and restaurants, the majority of which is in the attractive town centre. This means that even if skiing is not your thing, you can still enjoy a holiday in Zakopane, and huddling over a hot drink and taking in the fabulous views that the region offers is an enjoyable and relaxing experience.
The region around Zakopane also has plenty to offer. A short bus journey will take you through the valleys of the Western Tatras to many small towns and villages that will give visitors a true taste of the real Poland. The Ojcowski National Park is around 40km from Zakopane, and contains dramatic scenery, ancient castles and many dozens of caves.
As you would expect with a popular ski resort, winters in Zakopane are cold. December, January and February are the coldest months, with an average temperature of well below zero. The mountain climate means the summers are pleasantly warm, the snow melts and the weather is perfect for hiking. Depending on your interests, any time is a great time to visit Zakopane.
The easiest route to get to your destination is a flight to the popular tourist destination of Krakow, which is around 100km from Zakopane. Many budget flights can be found to John Paul II International Airport (KRK), and the city makes for an excellent stop off on the way to your Zakopane holiday accommodation.