After arriving in Southern Poland we headed straight for the mountains to do as much hiking in Zakopane as possible. This is the type of town where everyone is outdoorsy and adventurous during the day, while at night you can head to one of the many local restaurants for a massive plate of food and cold beer. The crisp summer air of the Tatra Mountains in Poland makes for the perfect hiking weather! In this post, we’ll break down the best hikes in Zakopane, getting to the famous Kasprowy Wierch, and much more!
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How to Get to Zakopane from Krakow
Zakopane is a small town set under the Tatra Mountains in Poland in the southern part of the country. Traveling to Zakopane from Krakow is the most common route as it’s the closest major city. Whether you’re driving a car or taking the bus, expect delays with so much traffic coming in and out on the tight country roads.
Major bus companies such as Flixbus run multiple times a day ($10-15 USD one way) and take a little over two hours. However, if you go to the bus terminal and book directly with a Polish company you will pay almost half the price!
The train actually takes longer at three and a half hours and only does select routes a day. No matter the time, it’s still a very cheap way to get to Zakopane from Krakow. This is actually said to be one of the most beautiful train rides in Poland!
Quick Tips Before Hiking Zakopane
The main town is small but lively, with a long pedestrian walking street called Krupowki. Here you’ll find many great restaurants, bars, and retail shops with hiking and skiing gear. Zakopane is packed from morning to night and everyone looks either like they’re about to climb a massive mountain, or just have come back from doing so.
You may not have heard of Zakopane, but you’ll see it’s VERY touristy. Even so, we were surprised to find out the majority of visitors were actually Polish! Most visitors are people who came with their friends and families to do some of the best hikes in Zakopane.
Keep in mind Zakopane is also Poland’s biggest ski resort. The town is perfect to visit in the winter or summer! You have to travel by shuttle or car 15-30 minutes to the start of the trails. All of the Zakopane hikes can be reached easily from town.
You can book your Zakopane Cable Car tickets online here, or at any of the tourist hubs around town. Just remember they sell out fast, and there’s a huge line if you show up without a ticket!
Shuttle Bus to the Zakopane Hikes & Cable Car
It doesn’t matter if you have a car or not. If you want to go to the Zakopane Cable Car or hike any of the trails at Kasprowy Wierch, you’ll need to take the shuttle from Zakopane or walk!
There isn’t a ton of parking like there is for the Morskie Oko, but shuttles run constantly all day and only cost 3 Zloty each way. The shuttle starts at the main bus station in Zakopane and then travels along the main road picking up people at different stops throughout town.
The Beautiful Kasprowy Wierch Hike
Over the course of 6 hours with a break for lunch (and lots of photos stops) we hiked over 10 miles at Kasprowy Wierch. This was hands down our favorite hike we did in Poland as well as the most physical.
Long story short, on the day we wanted to do the Kasprowy Wierch hike the cable car tickets were sold out. We had originally planned to take it up and then spend our time hiking down one of the many beautiful trails that cut through the Tatra Mountains in Poland. In the end, hiking up was more challenging, but worth every step!
Our Hiking Zakopane Route
- Start at the Bottom of Kuznice
- Hike Towards Dolina Gąsienicowa
- Detour to Czarny Staw Gasienicowy
- Complete the Long Final Climb to the Top of Kasprowy Wierch
On Top of Kasprowy Wierch in Poland
After the long climb and final push to the top, we stared out over the peaks on the dividing line between Poland and Slovakia. If you didn’t know, the tremendous Tatra Mountains create a natural border between the two countries! The views are stunning and from here you can see a dozen Zakopane hikes that cut down on both sides.
Remember that both Poland and Slovakia are part of the Schengen Area so you’re free to hike between them without a passport check. When you see how beautiful the views are it will be hard not to want to continue onto more of the best hikes in Zakopane. However, the weather had a different plan for us!
After only ten minutes of being at the top of the Kasprowy Wierch hike, a massive fog cloud rolled in making it impossible to see more than a few feet in front of us. We waited for several minutes, but with no signs of it getting better we headed towards the Zakopane Cable Car.
Riding the Zakopane Cable Car
On the day we decided to do the Kasprowy Wierch hike we were disappointed that the Zakopane Cable Car was sold out. We had originally planned to take it up and then hike the way down. Luckily, we got a great tip from the women at the information center! She told us to buy a one-way ticket for the way down at the top, as most people do the opposite.
You just have to make it up one of the largest mountains in Poland first! Hopefully, you can tell by this post that as long as you’re ready to hike and moderately fit you’ll be fine.
After hiking the steep incline of the Kasprowy Wierch hike we were more than happy to pay the 79 Zloty each. We grabbed our tickets, got in the short line, and hopped on to the next car.
As we left the fog and the Zakopane Cable Car dipped below, it was hard to comprehend how far we had hiked! In around 12 minutes we undid what took almost 6 hours on foot as we traveled back to the base of the Tatra Mountains in Poland.
Where to Eat After the Best Hikes in Zakopane
After a long day in the mountains, there was nothing better than a plate of warm food to relax and recharge our bodies. If you’re coming to Zakopane from Krakow you’ll surely be hungry for more traditional Polish food! So what’s on the menu? Find out below where we have linked the restaurants to their locations.
Marzanna: This is widely known as one of the best restaurants in Zakopane. We tasted it firsthand with the unreal pork schnitzel! No alcohol is served at Marzanna, but they more than make up for that with their old-school Polish cuisine.
Bar Mleczny: Translating directly to “Milk Bar,” this is one of the most local restaurants we went to in Zakopane! They’ll be a steady line around lunch and dinner time for their delicious pierogi, but it moves very quickly.
Groski: What separates Groski from other great Zakopane restaurants is its yummy vegan menu! They also serve regular Polish food as well, but give their alternative menu a chance for a healthy change after taking on the best hikes in Zakopane.
Karczma U Starego: From the outside, it may look like nothing more than a dark dive bar, but the food here was a huge surprise! The warm goulash and strong mulled wine were just what we needed on a cold rainy day.
Browar Watra: Great beer and Polish food in the center of town. Nice outdoor seating and Browar Watra also gets pretty lively at night!
What are some of the best hikes in Zakopane you did? Was it the Kasprowy Wierch hike, or did you cut into Slovakia? Let us know along with any questions on the Zakopane hikes you have in the comments below!
Brigitte & Jake
Where in the world are we? Follow our daily adventures on Instagram @nothingfamiliar!
Where to Stay in Zakopane Poland
Ultra Luxury – Aries Hotel & SPA – This high end hotel is every ski fanatic or hiker’s dream with cozy rooms and a luxury cabin feel. It’s close to Zakopane’s walking street. So when you’re not out exploring you can swim in the indoor pool, or hit the spa and hot tubs!
Fun Vacation – Hotel Aquarion – Zakopane is all about hiking in the summer and hitting the slopes in the winter. So what better way to relax after a long day than at a hotel connected to the town’s water park? Aquarion features modern rooms, on-site spa with Turkish baths, and is a quick walk to the hiking/ski shuttles.
Hostel Life – MTB Hostel – Just a short bus ride from town, MTB Hostel is in a large home surrounded by nature. Spacious rooms, kitchen, winter sauna, and sun terrace are all available. It’s also a great base for hiking, skiing, or mountain biking if you’re going to Zakopane from Krakow.
For more places to stay in Zakopane Poland you can explore the latest prices here!
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Poland Travel Planning
Tours: Check out Get Your Guide for hundreds of activities around the country. Book a Chopin Concert in Old Town Warsaw, skip the line at the Wawel Castle in Krakow, or enjoy Zakopane with Hot Bath Pools.
Rental Car: We use Discover Cars to rent vehicles on our travels. In Poland, there are many beautiful cities and mountain towns to experience.
Travel Insurance: Never travel abroad without being covered! We’ve been using SafetyWing for the last few years on the road and they are there when we need them.