Welcome to the High Tatras – the largest mountain range and the oldest national park of Slovakia where the jagged peaks, long mountain ridges, valleys full of beautiful flowers and numerous fascinating animal species meet on an area of only 738 square kilometers. A UNESCO heritage site since 1993, the area is particularly well known for its crystal clear mountain lakes, fantastic ski resorts and the Tatra Chamois – a subspecies that can only be found in the alpine zone of High Tatras.
During the summer months, the High Tatras region is be visited by more than 1 million travellers seeking to relax and recharge their energy in the beautiful surroundings. The mountains offer holidaymakers many activities, including an aquapark, a few museums, a cave, a number of beautiful wooden churches and many, many hiking trails of various difficulty.
The High Tatras is a huge draw for hikers, and there are plenty of very well marked trails, which use a color coding sytem. You’ll see these marks on trees, or stones, so it’s very hard to get lost. There are some very demanding hikes in the High Tatras, but let’s have a look at some of the less demanding trekking options.
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A walk around Strbske Pleso
Strbske pleso (pleso means mountain lake) is the second largest mountain lake in the Slovak part of High Tatras (the biggest one being Velke Hincovo Pleso). An “educational path” runs around the lake and focuses on its history, fauna and flora, famous people who were active in the area in the past, sport events and many other interesting facts. There are 40 wooden panels with information both in Slovak and English. The path is accessible all year round.
The walk starts at the Strbske Pleso railway station which is also the final stop of the Tatra Electric Railyway. Take the stone staircase on the right hand side of hotel Toliar. This will bring you to hotel Kempinski (or just start from the Kempinski if you’re staying there). Turn left and follow the road to one of the most beautiful viewpoints in High Tatras. It is from here you will get to admire Strbske pleso with its dark blue waters and the jagged mountain peaks behind it for the first time. Follow the promenade clockwise, past the newly refurbished hotel Solisko and you will reach a narrow peninsula with a war memorial in a few minutes. On the north-eastern edge of the lake, take the path continuing on to hotel Patria. Turn left and follow the path to hotel FIS for great views of the ski jumping hills and the popular waterfall “Skok” (skok = jump) in Mlynicka valley. Follow the road back to the center of the village and turn left at the main crossroads. This path will lead you to Nove Strbske Pleso, where you can marvel at yet another wonderful vista. The path to your destination – back to Strbske pleso – follows the northern edge of this lake. The railway station is right behind the spruce forest.
Length: 5 kilometers
Duration: 3 hours
Ascent: 45 meters
Some other hikes starting from Strbske Pleso
If you’re staying in Strbske Pleso (and if you are, you really should stay at the magnificent Kempsinki Grand Hotel) you’ll find it’s a great base for several hikes.
From Strbske Pleso to Popradske Pleso
From one mountain lake to another, this 10 km hike, described in detail here, should take at least four hours, because you’ll need to stop for breaks, and to take pictures of course.
From Strbske Pleso to Skok Waterfall
We’ve already mentioned the Skok waterfall, so how about taking a hike to the bottom of it. Another 10 km hike of moderate difficulty, you’ll reach the waterfall by following the yellow-marked trail, then turn round and retrace your steps back to Strbske Pleso.
Hike From Stary Smokovec to Skalnate Pleso
This half-day hike of moderate difficulty will take you along comfortable paths that are a part of the Skalnate Pleso – Hrebienok educational trail.
The tour starts at the Stary Smokovec railway station (so you’ll need to take a train there from Strbske Pleso). Follow the green tourist marks until you reach Hrebienok – one of the most popular tourist destinations in High Tatras. In case you do not feel like walking up the hill, you can take the funicular that will bring you up in mere 7 minutes. You can have a picture taken with the local mascot – Kubo the bear (Kubo=short for Jakub/ Jacob) here. Kubo, made of iron, is 2.4 meters long and weighs 350 kilograms.
From Hrebienok, join the “Tatranska Magistrala” and follow the red signs as well as the signs for the educational path Skalnate Pleso – Hrebienok. The initial traverse along a wide paved path leads to the Starolesnianska Polana (polana = a kind of meadow) in Velka Studena Dolina (Great Cold Valley), where there is a rare tourist facility – Rainer’s Cottage, which is the oldest in Tatras. It was built in 1863.
From the meadow, climb a large serpentine to the opposite slope, then cross the bridge along the Obrovsky Vodopad (Giant Waterfall). The white-foamed water tumbles down the trough passing between two rocks into a 20 meter deep profusion in here. The path then rises into the rhododendron zone and another large serpentine will take you to a crossroads in the Mala Studena Dolina (Little Cold Valley). You can make a short stop in the valley and visit the Zamkovsky Cottage for some rest and refreshments.
Return to the main road and continue southeast. A slight ascent will take you to the Lomnicka lookout with unique views of the Great and Little Cold Valleys as well as the ridge of the Prostredny Hrot (Middle Point) that separates them.
Change the direction here and start walking northeast. The stony path continues to rise slightly and offers nice views over the rhododendron to the Popradska Kotlina (Poprad Basin). Just before reaching Skalnate Pleso you will walk past Skalnata Chata (chata = cottage/ chalet) that dates back to 1841. It underwent a major refurbishment in 1993. The interior of the hut is dedicated to topics like Tatra nature and sherpa skills and it serves as an information centre for the National Park High Tatras, too.
If the cable car from Tatranská Lomnica is operating, it is very lively around Skalnate pleso. In winter, this place is especially popular with skiers who use one of the most sought downhill slopes in Slovakia – the slope below the Lomnicke Sedlo (Lomnicke Saddle).
You can take a cable car to either Lomnicke Sedlo (2190 m.a.s.l.) or to Lomnicky Stit (2633 m.a.s.l.) from Skalnate Pleso for more breathtaking views.
The fastest and most comfortable descent to Tatranská Lomnica is also provided by a cable car.
Duration: 6 hours
Ascent: 906 meters
Never Underestimate the Mountains!
Even though the above mentioned hikes are classified as easy/ moderate it is essential to wear proper shoes and clothing while walking around High Tatras. Never underestimate the weather in mountain regions – what seems to be a warm and sunny day in the morning can change within a couple of minutes and snow is not unlikely around the peaks even in the dead of summer. Always carry enough water and some snacks, too. There are far too many cases every year of the mountain rescue services having to get people out of trouble, and sadly some fatalities too. Stick to marked trails and never exceed your own abilities.
Charlie is head of marketing at JayWay Travel. A long-term Prague resident, his interests are cooking, eating out, cycling, skiing and of course, travel.