Zakopane in autumn

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Although autumn in the mountains can be both sunny and colourful, often there are frosty nights and it may even snow. So if you are planning an autumn trip to Zakopane, you should be prepared for any kind of weather. If, however, you are caught by low temperatures, do not worry, but instead go to the market and buy an inexpensive, hand-made woollen hat, a pair of gloves, a sweater and beautifully embroidered furry slippers (on the picture below), which at the same time also make great souvenirs from your trip to the Tatras.

Zakopane in autumn

Although autumn in the mountains can be both sunny and colourful, often there are frosty nights and it may even snow. So if you are planning an autumn trip to Zakopane, you should be prepared for any kind of weather. If, however, you are caught by low temperatures, do not worry, but instead go to the local open-air market and buy an inexpensive, hand-made woollen hat, a pair of gloves, a sweater and beautifully embroidered furry slippers (on the picture below), which at the same time also make great souvenirs from your trip to the Tatras.

furry slippers

The Polish Tatras are divided into two areas that are very different – the rather more gentle Tatry Zachodnie (the Western Tatras) and Tatry Wysokie (the High Tatras), craggy and reminiscent of the Alps. I suggest visiting both:

Koscieliska Valley in the Western Tatras

Tatra National Park Koscieliska Valley

Dolina Koscieliska (Kościeliska Valley - on the picture above) is one of the most picturesque valleys in the Tatras. To get there from Zakopane catch the minibus going to Kiry (the entrance to Kościeliska Valley). A walk through Kościeliska Valley to the shelter on Hala Ornak (Ornak Alp) takes 2 hours if you follow the green trail. It is definitely worth sitting down for a moment at the shelter, ordering a cup of tea or coffee and a piece of delicious apple cake (interestingly, apple cake is served in all the shelters in the Polish Tatras) and having rest before making your way back to Kiry, following the same green trail. En route it is possible to follow the yellow trail for a short time which leads to Wąwóz Kraków (Kraków Gorge). More experienced hikers can continue through the gorge and then climb up the ladder to a cave called the Smocza Jama (Dragon’s Den).After crossing the cave, follow the path through the woods down to Hala Pisana. This addition to your walk takes about 45 minutes. You can return from Kiry to Zakopane by minibus – the bus stop is located a few metres beyond the bridge, on the left.

Morskie Oko Lake in the High Tatras

Morskie Oko lake

Morskie Oko Lake (on the picture above) in the High Tatras is the most popular destination in the Polish Tatras, so you might want to set off early in the morning to stay ahead of the numerous school trips heading there in the autumn. There are plenty of buses and minibuses going there from the bus station in Zakopane - very often on the time table you will see Polana Bialczanska instead of the Morskie Oko - this is the name of the last bus stop. The walk to the shelter at Morskie Oko takes approximately 2.30 hrs (9km) and is very easy (a paved road) but, unfortunately, not very exciting. One can get there by the large (12 seats) horse-drawn cart (sleigh in winter), but I do not recommend this option if only you are fit enough to walk 9km. After reaching Morskie Oko, which is the largest, and considered by many to be the most beautiful, lake in the Tatra Mountains at an altitude of 1,395 m. above sea level, with an area of 34.93 hectares and a maximum depth of 50 metres, you can either relax in the shelter, take an hour-long walk around the lake or climb up to Czarny Staw (Black Pond), lying above Morskie Oko at the foot of Rysy (2,499 m.). Rysy is the highest peak in the Polish Tatras. .

Zakopane in Autumn

historical cemetery in Zakopane

An autumn afternoon can be spent taking a short walk to visit the old church (1847) and its historic cemetery located in ul. Kościeliska. There are many interesting tombstones, often decorated by local folk artists, including the very popular Podhale image of the Sorrowful Christ. Cemetary is especially worth to visit on All Saints' Day and a few days later, when the graves are beautifully decorated (on the picture above). It is also worth walking through the nearby open-air local market, located at the foot of Gubałówka. The first part, which I call Oscypek Alley, consists of a few dozen stalls which sell local cheeses, mainly the smoked sheep’s cheese known in Polish as oscypki. Further on, you can buy wooden souvenirs and a large selection of sheepskin products.

An autumn evening in Zakopane is best spent in one of the regional highland inns, of which there are several in the centre of Zakopane. Choose one in which a live highland band is playing. As far as food is concerned, I recommend our regional appetizers, either oscypek, smoked sheep’s cheese served with hot cranberries or moskol, a potato cake served with garlic butter. When it comes to drinks, the most popular on cool autumn evenings are either the mulled wine or the Highland tea (black tea with pure vodka or other spirits).

Barbara / discoverZakopane.com