Zakopane is a tourist hub that lies in the wake of the breathtaking Tatra Mountains, making it a fantastic base for venturing out on hikes in the summer. Here’s a few tips for planning your summer stay, including how to hike to Morskie Oko.
The Zakopane area is brimming with beautiful wooden chalets, both large and small, available for rent. Airbnb has a good collection of smaller ones, for example I recently rented a chalet that sleeps 5 – for the small fee of £40 a night. With their wood burners and furs, these cosy chalets are perfect for those wanting to fully delve into mountain life.
There are a couple of buses that frequently run around Zakopane and the local area, which are easy to work. For 3zl, 1.5zl if you’re a student (60p or 30p), these make a very cost-efficient mode of transport. Make sure you work out your nearest bus stop when you arrive and take a photo of the schedules as they’re not frequent enough to warrant you showing up without plan
Once in central Zakopane – by the main bus station – it is incredibly easy to get to Morskie Oko. There are constant buses that run to and from the lake, for the small fee of 10zl (£2) per person. It’s probably best to catch one of these in the morning as later on in the day they’ll be looking to bring people back from the lake so their frequency may decline.
Morskie Oko is a cheap hike for all. 5zl entry to the national park plus a 10zl bus fare either way brings up your total costs, from central Zakopane, to 25zl per person (£5).
As you’d expect from a hike it involves lots of walking so wear comfortable clothes, although most is on the road so advanced gear is not necessary. It can pour (trust me) with rain on the way up so take a rain jacket as once you’re on the road there is minimal shelter. I’d also recommend taking some food up for the journey (although there are a few restaurants on the way up) and loo roll as most of the portaloos are lacking.
The trip itself should take around 6-8 hours, depending on a variety of factors. Depending on your walking speed it takes about 1.5-2 hours to get to the lake, about an hour to walk round the lake and another 1.5-2 hours to get back. When you take into account further stops for food, toilets, waiting for bus, queuing for tickets etc, you’re probably best off assigning 8 hours to do the whole thing.
There is the option to get a horse & carriage to the lake and save yourself a walk – do not do it. The horses are worked to exhaustion – in 2009 a horse died, in 2012 another collapsed and in 2014 another died. This is unsurprising when they’re only fed by a bag of hay which is hung around their necks, yet regulations let them to lug up to 2 tonnes. Most horses can only survive 2 seasons before they’re too weak to continue. This is animal abuse so don’t be a part of the problem – walking makes the seeing the lake more rewarding anyway.