After visiting Krakow for my birthday, we decided to head south to the Polish winter resort of Zakopane. The town is nestled at the base of the impressive Tatra Mountains and is known for its ski slopes, wooden cabins and stunning mountain views. With November just arriving, the weather in Zakopane was cold but clear, with blue skies and sunshine despite the low temperatures. We dedcided that (Almost) winter in Zakopane would be pleasant; even in a camper van.
Things to do in (Almost) Winter in Zakopane
The ski slopes were not open in November when we visited Zakopane but everything else seemed to be. We stayed in the area in our camper van for almost a week, finding a great spot by a river with stunning views and quiet roads nearby for bike rides and walks.
After staying here for a week we decided to book into a hostel. We decided to do this for several reasons: Firstly it was very cheap, costing us £10 a night for the two of us. This price was for a private double room with shower and access to a shared kitchen. It was decent enough and a bargain! Secondly, we needed a postal address as my phone had flown back to England to be repaired and was on its way back to me in Poland.
Kasprowy Wierch – (Almost) Winter in Zakopane
The main attraction in Zakopane is this cable car trip to the top of Mount Kasprowy (about 2000m) up. Tickets can be bought online or from various computer kiosks located around the town center. A return trip (advisable unless you like hiking and are well equipped) costs the equivalent of £20 in high season per person. To reach the cable car station, there is a long but steady walk from the town centre. If you don’t feel like making the walk, there are free buses from the town centre.
Aqua Park Zakopane
This place was great. It is located heading out of town towards Mount Kasprowy and you will probably see it on your walk to the cable car station. The park has some good slides for all ages, some especially for kids and a selection of different saunas. The pool is heated and is very nice after being in the cold outside. There is also an outdoor heated pool which is a great place to admire the views and the cold crisp air from the comfort of the warm pool. The saunas include dry heat, steamy and icy (not their technical names). Remember to take a towel to sit on in the saunas or you will have to hire one.
Zakopane Town Centre
The town centre is largely geared at tourists (Polish and foreign) with plenty of places offering excursions. There are lots of bars and restaurants serving hearty and comforting Polish grub. There is a small shopping arcade here as well if you need some retail therapy. You will also find various street vendors cooking the traditional Polish Oscypek; a smoked cheese made from Sheep’s milk.
Tatra National Park
A great place for nature lovers and hiking enthusiasts. The national park is a great place to visit; weather permitting of course. One of the most popular walks within the park is climbing Mount Giewont from Strążyska Valley. In good conditions, this walk takes about 2 and a half hours.
Churches and Graveyards
Ok, so this one sounds a bit morbid but the churches and graveyards in Zakopane are massively different from those in Western Europe. The ‘Church of our Lady’ is an ornate stone church just outside of the town centre and the ‘St Clements Church’ is a wooden building in the town centre.
Our visit to Zakopane coincided with All Saints Day meaning that the cemeteries were even more spectacular than usual with lots of decorations and shrines celebrating the dead.
We enjoyed our time in Zakopane! It had good food, great scenery and friendly people. We would definitely visit again either in summer or in the depths of winter.